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Macabre visions of dissection created by turn-of-the-century medical students. Photo from Burns Archive

A Sense of Dread

Abby Zimet

Sigh. This All Hallows' Eve, the Republic is awash in all-too-real ghouls and demons, with bloodshed in the air. Friday night's hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, already spun into a right-wing phantasma of gay trysts and crackpot revenge against the lady who drinks the blood of children, is the lurid, hateful culmination of all that's come before, a sort of grotesque coda to what one observer dubbed the growing "Beer Hall Putsch vibes" of our political discourse. Thus did David DePaper, a deranged, 42-year-old MAGA-ite who's been living in a garage for two years, break into the Pelosi home bearing zip ties, rope, rubber gloves, the delusion he's "fighting against tyranny," and a conspiracy-fueled plan to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage, interrogate her and break her kneecaps so "the leader of the pack" of Democratic lies "would have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions." And yes, there are.

The Justice Department has filed federal assault and kidnapping charges against DePaper - "of an immediate family member of a United States official with the intent to retaliate against the official on account of the performance of official duties” - that carry a maximum sentence of 30 and 20 years, respectively; San Francisco prosecutors also charged him with attempted murder, burglary, assault, elder abuse and threats to an official and their family, with a possible sentence of 13 years to life. Despite DePaper himself saying they'd never met, wingnut media quickly went berserk with homophobic, anti-Dem, even anti-vaccine hypotheses. Media Matters: "It took roughly 48 hours for the right-wing media ecosystem to turn a story about a man who committed political violence after becoming consumed by right-wing conspiracy theories about the depravity of the left into another right-wing conspiracy theory about the depravity of the left."

“This was not a random act,” declared police. "This was intentional." In other words, notes Digby. "This was not a boat accident, propeller, coral reef, or Jack the Ripper. It was Trumpism." And what it's given rise to, which is "dismantling the American experiment, boiling frog-style." "When you convince people that politicians are rigging elections, drink babies blood etc, you will get violence," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger. He didn't name "schochastic terrorism," but that's what it is: Using mass communication and demonizing others to incite supporters, usually lone wolves, to carry out statistically likely violent acts against perceived enemies. The terrorist knows there'll be violence; he just can't predict the what, who, when and where of it. Since Trump was elected, police say, the number of recorded threats against members of Congress has soared more than tenfold; many lawmakers now say they live with "a sense of dread."

The terrorist, meanwhile, is still spewing untruths - bad Fox News, election "RIGGED AND STOLLEN" (sic), Crooked Hillary Clinton (really?!) - still veering further right - QAnon slogans and Biden slurs like "PedoHitler" (really?!) - still trying to use the Supreme Court as his personal law firm, in this case to hide his obviously illegal tax records - and still fighting losing battles to obscure his other flagrant crimes. In his latest loss, a judge ruled the House Jan. 6 Committee can get eight emails that offer "possible evidence of the planning of crimes" - shocking, we know - specifically, that he and his lawyers lied in election challenges, and filed lawsuits just to delay democracy proceeding. He did manage to call the beating of an 82-year-old man nearly to death with a hammer "a terrible thing," though he blamed random crime in San Francisco, which is "far worse than Afghanistan." His mutant offspring went lower yet, making a deeply sick joke about the attack. "How depraved can you be?" asked Brian Klaas. We are in such a dark place."

Hence, the once-reputable New York Times didn't think the attempted assassination of the person second in line for the presidency was big enough news to put above the fold, so inured are they to rabid rhetoric like MTG raving Pelosi was a "traitor" guilty of "a crime punishable by death" and Jan. 6 rioters chanting for "Nancy" to "shoot her in the frickin' brain." And it keeps coming. Other zombies out last week: Steve Bannon warned after the GOP takes power, Dr. Fauci and his family will be "hunted...There will be payback." Nazi Stephen Miller crawled from his lice-infested cave to spout racist lies about "the left's anti-white bigotry." Fascist Michael Flynn proclaimed "the church and the state are one" and America is "one religion under God." Elon Musk created "a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequence" in his first 12 hours, when Twitter saw a 500% increase in use of the word "nigger." And Kari Lake is making Pelosi jokes. Lotsa laughs: "This is America now."

Last week three more men were also convicted in the 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; found guilty of training terrorists, each faces 42 years in prison. Prosecutors stressed all seven convicted to date were "armed terrorists" who planned "acts of civil unrest with the intent of causing mayhem and murder...These are not merely acts of 'harmless chatter.'" Similarly, a 22-year-old man pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Rep. Eric Swalwell and his staff; in two calls, he said he had "a lot of AR-15s" and planned to come to his office. Swalwell linked the threat to the Pelosi attack, calling out GOP inaction in the face of the madness. "I hesitate to share this, but how else do I tell you we are in violent times," he wrote. "Bloodshed is coming." This is the second death threat Swalwell's reported; in another call, a man left an incendiary message expressing the hope that "someone cuts that motherfucker's head off, you worthless piece of shit, cut your wife's head off, cut your fucking kids' heads off, motherfucker...Someone just needs to fucking kill all you fucking Democrats, you're a waste of fucking life...Die bitches...Trump 2024!"


Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email:

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