This one comes to us from long-time TTAC reader/contributor Piston Slap Yo Mama. It’s a standing policy of mine here at Riverside Green to engage with all and sundry in good faith; you can dehumanize me and Bark any way you want to, but we are unlikely to return the favor. Furthermore, there’s no sense in having an echo chamber here. Even if I could figure out a way to populate the commentariat with practical copies of me — populist snobs with a taste for Guns N’ Roses and chamber music, where will I find all of them? — I wouldn’t want to do that. In other words, a Riverside Green with no loyal opposition is no Riverside Green at all.
David, aka Piston Slap, has been wall-of-texting me on an early February post, largely arguing that the entire January 6 incident should be understood through the lens of Brian Sicknick. Officer Sicknick was initially reported as dying from blunt trauma to the face; that wasn’t true, and the Times knew it. Now they’re saying he died of bear spray; it’s in no way clear that this is true, either. All we know is this: two months after the fact, the FBI can’t even say that Sicknick was murdered, much less by whom — this, in an “insurgency” covered from multiple angles at all times by myriad phones and security cameras.
Normally, I’d use this discussion as a jumping-off point to discuss the manner in which “tribal’ affiliations have completely overtaken any individual point of logic, fact, or even rhetoric in the America of 2021. All last summer, we saw Blue Tribe members braying for the blood of cops, throwing rocks at them, attempting to blind them with illegal lasers. At the same time, Red Tribers were festooning their cars in “thin blue line” flags and whatnot. Come January 6th, and everyone effortlessly switches sides. In a true “we have always been at war with Eastasia” moment, the Blue Tribe penned a thousand sobbing editorials about the critical role of law enforcement at a time like this. Meanwhile, the Red Tribe was preparing to give Ashli Babbitt’s killer the full Horiuchi, if the government would only identify him.
In other words, neither tribe has a fixed stance on the worth of police. If they’re rolling tanks through the kids’ playground at Waco, they are heroes; if they are closing down CHAZ/CHOP, they are pigs. Or vice versa. This absurdly facile approach is, of course, born of a 24-hour news cycle in which both tribes scrabble for advantage any way it can be gained. Indeed, it’s the only way a tribe can operate. If you want to stand on principle, you’ve already been consigned to the dustbin of history. You’re boxing in an MMA ring, which means your ass is about to get kicked.
The above is a boring discussion, and it’s too depressing to consider in the middle of the week. Let’s instead look at David’s rather interesting statements regarding what he is for and what he is against… also, let’s examine the people with whom he shares these qualities in real life, as opposed to fantasy life.
As to your first point, if any “friend” of mine aligns with NAZIS – that’s it. Line crossed. I have standards. Defending fascists might come easily to you, not me. I don’t often wave my wrench in anger, but when I do it means a door has shut.
Let me give you some context for this: David is talking about a confrontation he had with a co-worker regarding the infamous “Charlottesville Challenger incident”. About thirty-five people were struck by James Fields Jr.’s Challenger. One of them, a woman named Heather Heyer, died. (Ms. Heyer is remembered here, if you are interested in her life.) David’s co-worker repeated something that has been widely said on the Internet: that Heyer died of an obesity-related heart attack rather than from being struck by the Challenger. David then claims to have threatened his co-worker with a wrench.
I suggested to him that “internet bantz” are not worth threatening a co-worker with a wrench over. The above was his response. I love David’s spirit, but let’s be real: the only way you’re going to “align with NAZIS” nowadays is if you have a functioning time machine. There aren’t enough real neo-Nazis in America to fill a high-school gymnasium. What David means by “NAZIS” is just “people with whom I disagree, usually on the right wing”.
Now, if this dude had come to him and said, “David, I have an idea. Let’s go out and do a little Kristallnacht this evening, preferably in these stunning Hugo Boss outfits I’ve just had designed,” then I think David would have been right to wave his wrench in a threatening fashion, and I would have accepted his “NAZI” comment at face value. What happened instead is that his co-worker made a derogatory-sounding comment about someone not personally known to either of them. David is legally and morally in the wrong here, I think. If one of my co-workers said to me, “Jaco Pastorius died because he was an addict, not because Luc Havan beat him to death” — well, I might take that person off my Christmas-card list, but I’m not going to threaten him with a wrench.
You wrote “The common thread to me here seems to be that you have an emotional connection to situations that don’t involve you” – said the guy who writes constantly on political topics. Hypocrisy much? It very much involves me – your people were trying to overthrow the election! Unlike you, I care about situations I’m not precisely in the center of. FFS, I’d have been part of the German resistance, I’d have sat at the Woolworths lunch counter with the Black civil rights leaders, I’d have fought with the Union to end slavery. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Yes, I write on political topics, and usually without much emotion. I was a little unhappy that Ashli Babbitt was shot in cold blood, but that’s as far as I will go. David charges me with hypocrisy on this but then immediately retracts the charge a sentence later by noting that I do not, in fact, appear to care much about these situations. He tells me that “you people” were “trying to overthrow the election!” It’s not clear who “you people” are here. Given that no Baruth was anywhere near the capital on Jan 6th, I think “you people”, like “NAZIS”, just means “people with whom I disagree.” Anyone can be a “NAZI”, and anyone can be “you people”. It’s very flexible.
Finally, we get to the truly interesting part of David’s comment: his rather impressive assertion that at all times in the past, he would have unerringly been on the “right side of history”, doing the most difficult things. He would have been part of the German Resistance! He would have helped to end slavery, whether in 1863 or 1963! A man like this, should be actually exist, would be a tremendous asset to society because you could essentially always bet on him to both be right and to be on the winning side.
(The iron band between those two concepts, of rightness and side-choosing? It’s best not to think about that too much.)
Let’s test this assertion two different ways. We should first ask: During the moral crises of his lifetime, where did David Sanborn stand? Assuming his 1969 birthdate from his altered “Kraftwerk” license is correct, he was far too young to sit at any lunch counters. Luckily for him, however, we are aware of one moral crisis during our lifetimes in which Sanborn could have taken action: the decision by George HW Bush to attack Iraq, and the decision by his son, George W Bush, to finish the job.
I’m just two years younger than Sanborn and I can remember feverish protests against both wars. Thousands of people were arrested for protesting the Forever War in Iraq. The true believers were often arrested again and again as they attempted to call attention to the absurdity of attacking Saddam Hussein for the actions of Saudi nationals.
Your humble author, sad to say, was on the wrong side of history for nearly two decades regarding our actions in the “sandbox”. It wasn’t until I wound up as a musical director at a rural church in 2010 and saw all the casualties firsthand that I started to doubt the wisdom of sending young Americans to death or dismemberment for the most muddily stated of political goals. So from 1992 to 2010, I was dead wrong about Iraq. My brother Bark, I suspect, is still on the wrong side of history there; his opinion of George W Bush differs sharply from mine.
Sanborn, however, is made of sterner and more adamantine moral stuff than either Baruth, and would not have suffered from this fascist delusion for one moment, let alone eighteen years. He would have led the fight against the corrupt Bush regime. He would have protested, firebombed, sabotaged. We should know his name the way we know Manning or Snowden or the curiously-yclept “Reality Winner”.
Except we don’t, because in actuality he did nothing. Sixty thousand dead and wounded American citizens. Millions of Arabic people of color killed. Children torn apart by drones. Oil fields set ablaze as families ran screaming into the desert. And Sanborn, like Robert Browning’s God, sat in his Heaven of self-righteousness and did nothing. It now seems clear that our “regime change” was nothing but one extended, decades-spanning war crime, about which “Piston Slap Yo Mama” took precisely no action.
In 2015, the New York Times told us that what we all suspected was true: namely, that the United States frequently launched drone strikes in which innocents were often killed at random. David could have protested against this institutionalized murder of PoC; alas, he was too busy getting a funny driver’s license in a Kraftwerk outfit. Hey, it’s happened to all of us.
The horrors of what Sascha Cohen’s Borat called the “WAR OF TERROR” never seemed to touch David’s heart, but today he has found a true moral calling in the battle against modern Nazis. He’s part of a modern equivalent to the German Resistance!
What was the German Resistance, you ask? Practically, it wasn’t much. There was just one major operation undertaken by any formalized Resistance: the 1944 assassination attempt featuring Prince Friedrich zu Solms-Baruth, who was imprisoned and tortured for nine months after the fact. He also had to cede Castle Baruth to the Nazi Party, a forcible surrender that was adjudicated after the fact by the East German government to be, like, totally legit, man. Castle Baruth became a science lab for the GDR.
Cousin Freddy got off lucky, because he was somebody. More than 77,000 Germans, most of them relative nobodies, were tried and executed by Nazi courts for various acts of sedition, conspiracy, and resistance.
In other words, being part of the real German Resistance was no joke. How much power did NAZI TRUMP wield in comparison? Well, it turned out to be less than this dude:
because that dude had the power to immediately countermand all of Trump’s executive orders. So if DRUMPF had tried to kill 77,000 people for conspiring against his NAZI REGIME, the Hawaiian judge could have just said, “Nah”, and that would have been that.
I don’t know how to say this without really offending people, but I get the feeling that Trump did not have as much murderous power as Hitler. I highly doubt that our loyal commenter David will be executed by the People’s Court for his work with the Resistance here.
Hitler didn’t just have the power to kill people, although that’s an important power. He also had pretty much every corporation and news organization on his side. The corporations executed his wishes with the force of law. The media reported favorably on him while demonizing the opposition. To a limited extent, he even had the schools, which were filled to bursting with people willing to report, denounce, or just plain do some ultraviolence on anyone who said anti-Hitler stuff.
I know David thinks he would have been part of the German Resistance. But I look at his stance on the Jan 6 incident, which is precisely identical to the stances taken by everyone from the Times to Strava, the fitness app. I read his social and political opinions, which are also held by Oreo Cookies and General Motors and USA Today. I observe his eagerness to terminate all discussion on American politics that falls outside his comfort zone, an eagerness shared by nearly every 19-year-old student in America. Oh, and there’s the end of his comment, which I’ve saved until now:
I’m going to tie you and your party to the rotting corpse of Trumpism and never let you forget what your party did lest you lot do it again.
I’m a registered Democrat, so I’m not sure what he means by “your party”, but I can understand the threat in his words.
In other words, David has the same opinions as:
* the current government
* all the brands
* all the universities
* 95% of the media
and he thinks he’s ready to join a “resistance”? Well, I don’t know how to say this, but a “resistance” sponsored by Oreos, USA Today, and Pepsi isn’t a resistance at all. If I had a time machine, and I could send David back to 1939, he probably thinks that he would stand alone against the whole world to defeat Hitler. But isn’t it more reasonable to suppose, based on his behavior in the present day, that he would instead continue his stance of being on the same side as all the brands, all the media, all the schools, and everyone in the government? Reading all of his comments together, I get the feeling he thinks there is a small, but powerful, group out to destroy the country and control it. He calls them “Trumpers”. There aren’t many of them, and they are evil, but they are also everywhere. If I sent him back to 1939, would there also be a weak but evil minority for him to tirelessly persecute? Don’t you think he would be absolutely unstoppable on the matter of the evil agitators who tried to destroy the Reichstag?
You know the answer to that, and so does he, even if he won’t co-sign it here.
So what would you call someone who sides with every power structure in the country in a tireless attempt to punish a small group of dissenters? Is that person a “resister”? Or is it fair to say that 1939 David would have had the same attitude to the evils of that time that 2002 David had to the Gulf War bait-and-switch? In fact, what are we to make of the fact that, judging on years of his comments, he didn’t get really militant about “NAZIS” until all the celebrities and CEOs had already gotten on board? Doesn’t that seem a little… timid?
Not to worry. I’m sure that David will continue to team up with Teen Vogue and Burger King to root out the secret evildoers in modern society. I’d like to think, however, that he’s a smart guy and he’s capable of seeing all this with a bit of perspective. He may not feel like giving my wall of text the same careful attention I gave to his — so I’ve also included a cartoon for him, with which we will close this episode of “The Critics Respond”.