It looks like they are all going after Trump now, albeit four years too late. He urged his supporters to march on the Capitol and to cheer some senators, ‘and others not so much’. He droned that they ‘would never take back the country with weakness’.
Now, I am no expert in the technicalities of the law, but all this seems to fall short of the accepted understanding of ‘incitement’.
Incitement is an inchoate offence, which means that it is an incomplete crime. In essence, a crime of preparing for or seeking to commit another crime. Like an attempt.
All this is critical because when assessing the merits of a case, prosecutors have to stick withing the boundaries of the attempt or the preparatory part. Anything that then unfolds is immaterial. With incitement, the words themselves have to immediately conjure up a sense of what the speaker wants to follow and the intent that it will.
In this US case, those who were watching the speech would have to have thought, ‘Wow, he’s asking them to storm and smash up the Capitol’.
That appears not to have happened here. Onlookers have digested the actual events and have worked backwards in the direction of the words in order to retrofit the essence of incitement by considering as a whole what happened between speech and the Capitol clowning.
It is already looking like a pipe dream.
If Trump had encouraged his clown coterie just to go to march on the Capitol and make themselves heard, is that an incitement to violence if the crowd progresses to riot? Of course not. Equally, had he specifically encouraged them to tear the joint up, and they had rebuffed him, it might well nevertheless have been incitement. That is how it all rolls.
But in practice, arse-covering, flaccid fools typically look at outcomes and work backwards, particularly if it suits their agenda.
Indeed, there seemed to be a stronger link between Trump’s disinfectant musings and a handful of redneck deaths than is the case here, yet even that connection was tenuous. And the fact remains that any question of incitement would have needed to focus on his words not the actions of others. Nobody ever needed to progress to imbibition for an incitement charge.
In either event, nobody gave a toss then when action would actually have mattered. They might have removed him just on the basis of gross incompetence and also boosted the credibility of American democracy. It makes the current rush job even more unseemly that its own inherently threadbare logic.
If anything, Rudy Giuliani’s comments about ‘trial by combat’ were more provocative, but nobody has made a move to even prise a garrulous garden centre statement from him.
Yet however belligerent Giuliani’s gobwaffle was, it was equally arguable as metaphorical, as indeed were Trump’s comments when he implied that the country would be taken back only with strength.
Unless he really did intend that a gaggle of Hicksville bumpkins were going to wrest Washington from the most powerful armed forces on the planet? If that had been the case, the 25th Amendment would now be the way to go on the lost-his-marbles ticket.
In any event, all this imagery is the stock-in-trade of fiery political rhetoric. Again, it gains traction because of what ensued and not because of the words themselves.
What we are seeing here is the butthurt mainstream that is suddenly embarrassed by its own failures to address a longer history of presidential misdemeanours and incompetence.
The chickens are closing in on the roost, and in their desperation to absolve themselves of their sins and future-proof their politics, the establishment has knee-jerked into a shoddy fit-up.
Trump might now well be calling wolf with a cry of ‘FAKE NEWS!’ in the wake of all this impeachment and 25th Amendment tosh, had he not already had his Twitter balls snipped.
As it is, his enforced social media emasculation might be considered the most fascist move of this whole steaming mess. Allowing him to repeat the baseless claims of electoral fraud was probably the one single factor that most diluted the President’s specific and limited credibility in recent times while still laying claim to democracy.
The social media moguls have always known this very well, but of course they never shut him down for other reasons. The monster audiences he had racked up had made them gazillions in advertising fees. Now he’s shot his bolt, and the proverbial has hit the fan, they are ditching him pronto.
They don’t want any of that crap sticking when it comes to the post mortem on his earlier inexorable rise, and it will be strongly asserted that they had facilitated and stoked the Trump fire.
Incredibly, Twitter managed to reinterpret his hissy statement that he would not attend Biden’s inauguration as flagging a ‘safe target’ to domestic terrorists. That is one desperate but insanely creative re-imagination of a pseudo-teenage strop, and a brazen bandwagon hop to boot.
Supremely ironically, this arbitrary stuffing of Trump’s principal loudhailer is likely to whip up more of a shitstorm than any factually feeble, monotone drivel served up from behind a bullet-proof screen after a sound spanking at the ballot box. Even more so, this Twitter ban seemingly meets the platform’s own standard of proof for incitement to violence.
I am no fan of Trump, but I am a fan of factually based logic. If you are going to take down a rogue, you have to do it cleanly, with integrity and probity, and in a way that does not torpedo the system and your own cause.
And that is why this ‘incitement’ pony is a one poor trick.
The thirst for the President’s demise means that there will be no shortage of court cases on the horizon, and for Trump there will be plenty more trouble in sight.
But this charade will only keep his crazy candle burning long after it should have been put out for good.