We really do have (at least) two Americas at this point. One America, led by President Joe Biden and his Democratic party in Congress, who have now triumphantly signed into law the largest climate bill in U.S. history, which also includes landmark measures to make healthcare cheaper for tens of millions of Americans. And another America, which is calling for violence, mayhem and murder of American law enforcement officials, and they are led there by the disgraced former President of the United States. We discuss both Americas on today's BradCast. Apologies in advance for the whiplash. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
On Tuesday, Joe Biden signed the historic, if somewhat misleadingly named, Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a trimmed down version of his Build Back Better Act which was blocked by all 50 Senate Republicans and two Democrat last year. The IRA, however, includes some $400 billion to finally begin tackling climate change and moving the nation from dirty fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy; institutes a $2,000 annual cap on prescription drug costs for seniors; allows Medicare to negotiate for cheaper prices with drug companies for the first time ever; and increases taxes on hugely profitable corporations that currently pay no taxes at all. It also helps pays down the deficit and a bunch of other things.
It was passed in both chambers of Congress, where Democrats hold the thinnest of majorities in each, without one single Republican vote, as the President took pains to note during his White House signing ceremony today.
"Let’s be clear," Biden said, "In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people, and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interests in this vote — every single one. In fact, big drug companies spent nearly $100 million to defeat this bill. A hundred million dollars. And remember: Every single Republican in Congress voted against this bill."
"We’re delivering results for the American people," the President boasted. "We didn’t tear down; we built up. We didn’t look back; we looked forward. And today offers further proof that the soul of America is vibrant, the future of America is bright, and the promise of America is real and just beginning."
"I know there are those here today who hold a dark and despairing view of this country," Biden said. "I’m not one of them. I believe in the promise of America. I believe in the future of this country. I believe in the very soul of this nation. And most of all, I believe in you, the American people."
As to those who do "hold a dark and despairing view of this country," many of them have been showing their true, dark colors over the past week since the FBI obtained a lawful warrant to search Donald Trump's Florida compound for highly classified and sensitive national security documents that he stole from the White House upon leaving office last year.
After Trump revealed the search publicly last week, using rhetoric seemingly chosen to incite violence --- falsely citing "prosecutorial misconduct," "weaponization of the Justice System," describing the U.S. as a "broken, Third-World Country" --- there has been what the DHS and FBI described in a bulletin last week as an "unprecedented" number of "violent threats" against federal law enforcement, courts and government personnel and facilities.
"These threats are occurring primarily online and across multiple platforms, including social media sites, web forums, video sharing platforms, and image boards," the bulletin warns. It was published the day after a Donald Trump supporter was killed following his attempt to attack an FBI field office in Ohio with a nail gun and an AR-15, and as another Trump supporter was taken into custody and charged for issuing graphic calls to "slaughter" federal officers on several different social media cites.
And while threats on far-right, neo-Nazi Internet sites reportedly spiked following Trump's announcement of the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, it has also spiked on "mainstream" Rightwing media outlets like Fox "News", where the rhetoric --- from many of its prime time hosts and elected Republican officials alike --- has become hauntingly similar to that found on the darkest, far-right cesspools of the Internet.
We're joined today by STEPHANIE FOGGETT, a Research Fellow at The Soufan Center and Director of Global Communications at The Soufan Group, where her areas of expertise include terrorism, online extremism and the rise of white supremacy. She has a great deal of perspective to offer on this issue.
"This rhetoric is alarming, but it is not surprising, especially given the online spaces and activity that I watch every day," she tells me. "I monitor the darkest and most violent corners of this information ecosystem, and I really think, above all, it's important to know that these threats and attacks on law enforcement, they're not coming out of a vacuum."
Indeed, as Matt Gertz at Media Matters observed last week "Fox and other right-wing outlets describe the search as 'the worst attack on this republic in modern history,' part of a 'preemptive coup' to prevent Trump’s reelection, and a sign the country is now a 'tyranny.' They say the FBI is acting like 'the East German Stasi in the Cold War' and the Nazi 'Gestapo,' and call its agents part of a 'lawless criminal organization' that 'planted evidence,' bugged Trump’s bedroom, and may be planning his 'assassination.'"
"And they are quick to tell their viewers that they should fear their own persecution in the wake of the search," Gertz writes. "According to right-wing outlets, 'the real target of this investigation is you'." Just last night, Tucker Carlson, the most popular host on the nation's most popular cable "news" outlet, told viewers that President Biden is now "declar[ing] war on his own population."
"It's rinsing and repeating narratives and concerns that we saw with the Stop the Steal campaign and things like that," Foggett explains. "It's really tapping into this narrative on the far-right that if they can go after a President they will be able to come after you one day."
She worries even more "about what comes next," while offering both historical context for this current moment --- in which "every agency in America, from intelligence agencies to law enforcement agencies [have] come to the assessment that the far-right and domestic extremism is the greatest threat that America is facing today" --- and ways in which responsible Americans can respond in hopes of decreasing the threat.
"It is tricky, and there is no silver bullet. There's no one single thing that can be done to address this," Foggett asserts, before describing how individuals can be mindful of what they share online --- stuff that is meant to go viral with misleading messages --- and how "it's really about individuals in positions of power to be much more careful about the things that they say, and how they interact with the violence that this movement promises."
In short, solving this problem won't be easy, and things may get much worse before they get better. But there are ways to educate Americans about these now main-streamed extremists and ways to "isolate them by rejecting them, by ignoring them, and by denouncing them."
Finally today, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with more on the Democrats' historic climate bill and several alarming new reports underscoring how the measure has finally become law not a moment too soon...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)