Political Commentary

Distortion and distraction

Replied to Tennessee House votes to expel 2 of 3 Democratic members over gun protest (

House Speaker Cameron Sexton compared the incident to Jan. 6: “What they did today was equivalent, at least equivalent, maybe worse depending on how you look at it, to doing an insurrection in the State Capitol,” he said.

Misconstruing words and intentions is an integral tool for fascists, reflected in the importance of ‘doublethink’ in Orwell’s 1984. Here, a powerful politician pretends not to be aware of the difference between a peaceful protest and an insurrection. With his comparison, he equates using a megaphone and peacefully occupying a space (potentially on recess?) with showing up at the nation’s capital with weapons and zipties while calling for the head of the politician charged with peacefully transferring power from one elected leader to the next. The silenced, disenfranchised populace making themselves heard by the politicians theoretically representing them (but not due to horrendous gerrymandering) are equivalent to a lynch mob seeking to subvert the will of the people by blocking execution of electoral results. At once, he is dismissing the validity of protest and making protest out to be more dangerous than it is. Casting protest as something alarming rather than a very American exercise of First Amendment rights — particularly when led by two young Black men.

(This is the perspective that makes Feedly’s new AI tool lumping together protests and riots alarming.)

Having conflated a minor rules violation with a treasonous attack, he could justify subverting democratic representation by casting out the troublemakers under the guise of decorum. He can claim to be on the side of democracy by dismissing the democratic tactic of protest as disruptive to the legislative process of “representative” democracy, and may righteously return to ignoring gun control now that he has invalidated the protestors and distracted from the purpose of their protest.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *