Everybody’s talking about Portland and Kenosha. Trumpian Republicans feel certain if they can just fan the flames hot enough to get a few people killed, people they can hold up as martyrs, then they can instill enough fear to get their autocrat re-elected. Trump not only needs the votes of his racist far right wing to get re-elected, but he needs this far right wing for provocation and intimidation. (Take note: I am not accusing all Republicans of being racist. I am accusing Trump of currying the support of militant racists in order to stay in power.)
The name of the man shot dead in a truck bed in a caravan of Trump supporters in Portland last Saturday came out last night, Aaron “Jay” Danielson. He is the new martyr. He’ll be portrayed as the innocent, unfortunate good guy just out exercising his 1st and 2nd amendment rights. Even the CNN headline reads, “Aaron J. Danielson: Portland shooting victim was a ‘freedom-loving American,’ says friend.” He’s not “the man shot dead in Portland,” but the “shooting victim.” FoxNews.com on the morning of Tuesday, September 1st, is chock full of articles suggesting that Portland, Oregon, is riven with unrest, and it is all the fault of Democrats. One article, almost gleefully announces that the Portland police are investigating a potential shooter as a man who identifies as “100% antifa.” The same article is illustrated with a tweet from Mr. Trump that says “Rest in Peace Jay.” Trump has his martyr.
The NBC News headline is clearer: “Far-right Patriot Prayer group says fatal shooting victim in Portland was a supporter.” If you dig deep enough you can even find an article on Fox that discusses Patriot Prayer and Joey Gibson.
The new martyr, “Jay” Danielson, was a member of the group “Patriot Prayer,” so staunch a member of the group that when he was shot, Mr. Danielson (aka “Jay” Bishop–what sort of man has an alias?) was in the company of the founder of Patriot Prayer, Joey Gibson. Gibson is a Washington State Republican provocateur hailing from Vancouver, Washington.
Have we heard of Joey Gibson before? It turns out he has numerous local Spokane connections. Mr. Gibson has appeared as an agitator in Spokane twice in the recent past. On May 1 he was one of a far right group of marchers and speakers with Matt Shea and company, spewing invective in a downtown demonstration against Governor Inslee’s pandemic stay-at-home orders. Joey Gibson made local news again demonstrating with a megaphone in front of the home of Spokane Regional Health Officer, Dr. Bob Lutz’s, on the South Hill on July 17th. Last year in Portland, Oregon, Mr. Gibson and his Patriot Prayer were accused of inciting a riot in which a woman was beaten senseless. As I wrote in “Belligerent, Whiny Adolescents“: It seems that “Patriot Prayer” is more like “Brownshirts for Trump” than what their pious name tries to suggest.
So now Joey Gibson has ridden through Portland, Oregon in a caravan of provocateurs shooting paintball guns and pepper spray at counter-demonstrators. Mr. Gibbon himself, of course, did not take the bullet that made a Trump-hailed martyr out of “Jay” Danielson. No, Mr. Gibson lives on to preach his twisted gospel, the same way Ammon Bundy, Matt Shea, and company live on after the Malheur Wildlife Refuge illegal takeover, live on after they got their martyr, LaVoy Finicum. Finicum’s death has been a rallying point among these gun-toting would-be revolutionaries ever since.
This whole affair with its multiple links to local and regional belligerents like Matt Shea and Caleb Collier gives me a profoundly uneasy feeling as Mr. Trump, with his dynastic family and Republican National Convention, purposefully fans the flames of discord in a desperate attempt to cast himself as savior.
Pay attention to who these people are, the network they serve, and what they’re doing.
My uneasiness was fueled by watching parts of the Republican National Convention. The best video distillation of that event is John Oliver’s RNC 2020 & Kenosha, a must-watch.
Two more sober influences on my uneasiness are Thomas Edsall’s highly-reasoned “I Fear That We Are Witnessing the End of American Democracy.”
Stoking violence by condoning, even encouraging, behavior like that of Joey Gibson, his martyr “Jay” Danielson, and Kyle Rittenhouse (the self-important 17 year old who killed two protestors with an illegally carried assault rifle in Kenosha) is shameful, autocratic behavior, worthy of a would be dictator. Today, condoning such behavior is the bedrock of the Republican Party. Vote them out, vote them all out.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Joey Gibson is dignified by Fox News as a “former Washington Senate candidate.” What they don’t say is that he ran against Maria Cantwell in 2018 as one of six primary candidates for U.S. Senate from Washington State. Despite (or because of?) his notoriety as founder of Patriot Prayer he garnered all of 2.3% of the vote. To dignify this man as a serious candidate should be an embarrassment to Fox News–but hardly anyone will likely notice.
P.P.S. It is remarkable how these names, once you know them, pop up again and again. Radical right “Christian” Casey Whalen of Boise, Idaho, was the organizer of the group that paraded around with Joey Gibson in front of Dr. Bob Lutz’ house on the South Hill on July 17. He was seen again in Shawn Vestal’s article, “Tale of Bundy and his melon highlights this sick, but silly, season in conspiracy world,” noting Whalen’s Facebook post saying, “The solution is simple, tried and true. Violate my rights and you will be shot.” Gadfly that the belligerent Mr. Whalen is, he surfaced again in the Spokesman on August 31 in a tiny article titled “Open carry rally leader arrested for warrant.” Mr. Whalen was arrested “for falsifying and/or concealing public records” just before an event he had organized for the “Open carry if you care” rally in downtown Coeur d’Alene last Saturday evening, August 29th. Apparently, stirring up trouble and discord and threatening people with mayhem is a full time job for these people. (Only a few showed up for Whalen’s march. Facebook had removed the event page for violating “community standards.”