Must-See TV For Citizenry

Trump supporters beat a policeman while other Trump supporters scream “kill him with his own gun” during the January 6 insurrection.

Back in the 1990s, NBC promoted its Thursday night lineup with the catchphrase “Must See TV.” The original lineup under this promotional campaign featured several shows that became hugely popular: Mad About You, Wings, Seinfeld, and the then-brand-new Cheers spinoff, Fraiser. Today is Thursday, and tonight, there is a “must-see TV” event of a different sort.

The new version is the opening of the Congressional hearings by the January 6 Commission, being shown tonight on every network that has news every network that has news except Fox News. It starts at 8:00 p.m.

The events of January 6, 2021, are seared in my brain. I remember trying to meet a deadline for work while it was unfolding, which had become a theme at that point thanks to COVID: Trying to meet responsibilities as a giant national crisis is unfolding. I said to my wife that evening, as we watched video of MAGA-hatted cretins storming the Capitol and sat stunned at how close we came to things truly falling apart, “perhaps this will wake people up to what is going on right now.”

Her reply was less “optimistic” than mine: “No, it won’t. People will forget about how bad this is and start claiming Democrats do things that are just as bad.”

And…here we are.

The NBC News poll quoted in the story reflects what she predicted (wife is right, as always). The percentage of Americans who say Head MAGA Cretin Donald Trump was responsible for January 6 has fallen to 45 percent. This is a seven-point drop from January 2021. An additional poll showed Americans are divided over whether we should “move on.” A recent poll from the University of Massachusetts Amherst shows that 52% of Americans want to learn more about what happened on January 6, while 48% want to “move on.”

Any “We need to move on” statement is mostly a cop-out or a weapon, brought up when you don’t want something to be found, or do not want to deal with something out of laziness, or to shut someone up. No doubt, there are examples of all three in that 48% who think we should move on. When people defend that stance, I say “imagine someone did something terrible to you and it is not resolved, but after it happens someone says to you ‘you really need to move on.’ Who does that help more, you or the person who did the terrible thing to you?”

The January 6 hearings likely will not change anyone’s minds about what happened, and their view of the implications of that event for our nation’s future. Fox News will not show it and will alternate between ignoring it and distorting the findings. Way too many Democrats labor under the delusion that right now, Republicans are reachable, which is consistently proven not true by…Republicans. So, any expectations of the hearings causing a Come to Jesus moment among rank-and-file GOPers is naive at best.

But why the hearings are important is to shake the torpor out of the people who have at least a shred of decency. I am starting to hear way too much “well, both sides did some things” from those who should know better. Thinking “both sides are just as bad” is sheer madness at this moment, and if you are one of those folks, I have some questions for you.

And speaking of “both sides are just as bad,” January 6 was nothing like the BLM protests. The BLM protests were mostly peaceful despite the propaganda stating otherwise, and those protests were about making a nation more inclusive and fair. The January 6 insurrection was about violently overthrowing our democratic government.

It is hopeful that the hearings mobilize the number of people necessary to stop America’s slide into authoritarianism, to create a mass movement of defenders of small-d democratic civil society. The challenge we face is the conservatives who are working to severely restrict it or destroy it are highly motivated to do so. I do not feel like that is true for the pro-democracy folks.

This is despite words being spoken, and actions being done out in the open by Republicans that are clearly anti-democratic. There are active movements to suppress voting rights, political candidates expressing admiration for Adolph Hitler, and increasingly bold arguments against the idea that America is a democracy. Republicans have figured out that they can pretty much do or say anything, and it will not hurt them politically because the public’s short memory and general apathy enable them to play the long game. It is not enough that the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the Electoral College have greatly tilted the playing field in their favor. Domination is their focus.

Unfortunately, many in the media are no help. As our Fearless Leader of the Blog pointed out this morning, key media figures in our biggest outlets often just take the GOP’s word for it. Media critic Dan Froomkin pointed out yesterday that the usual media suspects are already declaring the hearings a big Nothingburger.

But we as Americans have a responsibility to pay attention now. So much is at stake. This is not the time for “I am focusing only on positive things” nor “both sides do it” nor “oh tee-hee-hee, politics, so silly I have better things to do.” Being a citizen means more than just flying a flag or clicking “share” on a patriotic meme on the Fourth of July. Sometimes you have to, in a small way, be a hero. As Noted Lyrics Guy Bob Dylan said “I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.”

Part of that responsibility is paying attention. Some Americans are so predictable, so I know what many will say about paying attention to the hearings: “It’s not healthy to doomscroll.” Paying attention is not “doomscrolling” nor obsessing on the negative nor whatever disingenuous defense of not giving a damn one can conjure up. It’s a civic responsibility.

It’s as simple as watching an hour or two of television tonight, on your comfy couch, and being reminded of what’s at stake. Then pay attention to the rest of the hearings, then at the very least, be motivated to vote this November with knowledge, a very real and true knowledge, that the defense of our very system of government and society is at stake.

Tonight is MUST see TV.

Given the comparisons to the televised Watergate hearings in 1974 that are flying around this week, the last word goes to Phil Ochs and his Watergate parody song that cribs from a certain Johnny Cash tune: