The refusal of the media, politicians – just about everyone in power – to give Ashli Babbitt’s death the attention it deserves is more than a wrong in itself.
More than seven months have passed since an unarmed protester named Ashli Babbitt was shot dead inside the US Capitol while attempting to climb through an opening in a glass door.
Six months after her death, her killer – a police officer who apparently shot her without warning, and certainly without having made any effort to stop her short of putting a fatal bullet through her chest – has never been publicly identified, let alone charged or disciplined.
During those same seven months – during which every self-respecting liberal demanded a criminal penalty for the policeman who killed George Floyd – Ashli Babbitt, the victim of an equally questionable police killing, has been the target of an orgy of media character assassination.
When Donald Trump recently mentioned her death as “a terrible thing” (hardly a radical assessment), New York Magazine’s response seethed with victim-blaming outrage, insisting that the unarmed Babbitt, with no criminal history of any kind:
was leading the mob [inside the Capitol] violently forward toward its goal of threatening or killing officials.”
There’s no evidence that Babbitt intended to kill anyone, let alone that she actually tried to. And there’s plenty of reason to believe that her fatal shooting was illegal. But facts about Ashli Babbitt have never counted for much in liberal media.
For the press, the top priority has been to ensure that in any story told about the 2020 election, Donald Trump and his supporters are the ones who tried to destroy American democracy, while Joe Biden’s Democratic Party heroically came to its rescue.
In this respect, New York’s slander is altogether typical. Refracted through the editors’ invective, in which (among other things) Republican politicians are, weirdly, accused as the real culprits in Babbitt’s death, the underlying message emerges as an ideological tautology: Ashli Babbitt had to die because she joined the wrong sort of protest.
No wonder New York concluded that the hapless 35-year-old was killed “for a very good reason.”
The January 6 demonstration in which she participated has been as relentlessly demonized in the press as Babbitt herself.
According to mainstream media, the men and women who marched to the Capitol to protest the machinations by which Biden ousted Trump from the White House were – take your pick – “fascists” (PBS), “white supremacists” (CNN), “terrorists” (MSNBC), or a violent “mob” bent on paralyzing the United States government (USA Today), while virtually every mainstream media outlet still insists – against all evidence – that, collectively, the demonstrators staged an armed “insurrection” that only just failed to turn the United States into a right-wing dictatorship.
And anyone who imagined that, after seven months of this, the slanders against Ashli Babbitt couldn’t get any more venomous reckoned without the inflammatory effect of mass media Trump-hatred.
When, on July 12, the former President suggested that Babbitt’s killer should at least be publicly identified, the New Republic swung into anti-Republican overdrive, claiming in a hysterical screed that the unarmed Babbitt was a monster who had hoped for “the mass execution of Democratic politicians and prominent liberals” when she went to Washington to be killed on January 6.
Merciful heavens, the woman was so freaking bloodthirsty that she actually used to watch – Tucker Carlson!
Even that wasn’t all. The same rant that accused Ashli Babbitt of harboring dreams of mass murder described the January 6 protest as “a mob of thousands who…rampaged through the halls of Congress,” when in fact only a small fraction of the protesters entered the Capitol at all, and only a handful of those have been accused of possessing “weapons” (most of which seem to have been flagpoles); with a single exception, not one of the charged “insurrectionists” even thought to bring a gun to the coup. (The lone protester facing criminal charges who did carry a pistol into the Capitol never drew it, according to police.)
But hey, fantasy breeds fantasy: for liberals like the TNR editors, where there are Trump supporters, there’s just got to be mayhem.
Lest I be accused of playing an after-the-fact role in the “insurrection” myself, let me emphasize that I do not share Ashli Babbitt’s politics, and that I do not approve of the actions of the protesters who broke into the Capitol on January 6. Nor do I regard the 2020 presidential election as having been “stolen,” at least not in the sense that many of the protesters evidently believed it was – of which more presently.
But whether Ashli Babbitt was right about Donald Trump or about the 2020 election is ultimately beside the point. The plain truth is that as far as anyone can tell she was the victim of an extrajudicial execution – an execution made even more heinous by the fact that Babbitt’s actual offenses inside the Capitol involved no violence and placed no one in jeopardy.
It is an outrage that in the United States of America a police officer can shoot a woman dead for trespassing. And it is doubly an outrage that so few ostensible civil libertarians have been willing to say so.
Scores of liberals, politicians, op-ed writers and public moralists demanded a full-scale investigation into the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor. Why couldn’t one of them utter a single word of protest about the lethally trampled civil rights of Ashli Babbitt?
The smear campaign against Babbitt is more than the product of a pernicious double standard. It also serves to distract the public from the very real issues that spurred the protest in the first place.
I repeat: I don’t credit stories about the ghost of Hugo Chavez rising from the grave to manipulate secretly-programmed voting machines on Election Day. (In fact, I suspect these “theories” have been amplified in popular media precisely because they’re relatively easy to refute.)
But the January 6 protesters did have excellent reasons to be angry about the electoral process that put an end to Trump’s term of office. And since the popular press refuses to discuss the protesters’ legitimate grievances, allow me to enumerate three of the most important ones.
1. The balloting procedures used in key jurisdictions were probably illegal.
In several closely contested states – Georgia, Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania among them – state executives made unilateral changes in the election laws in order to facilitate voting by mail rather than at polling booths, citing the “killer virus” as a pretext. Yet in every such case, the applicable state constitution assigns questions of public policy – including the extent to which people can vote by mail – to the state’s legislators rather than the executive branch; these matters cannot legally be determined by gubernatorial fiat except in strictly defined “emergencies.”
Nor can it be claimed that COVID19 posed such an emergency. Even Atlantic Magazine, one of the most sedulous organs of coronavirus hysteria, conceded barely a month before the presidential election that “voting with a mask on is no more dangerous than going to a grocery store with a mask on – something millions of Americans do every week.”
That means that the balloting procedures used in several important states were fundamentally flawed – not only violating the relevant state constitutions but probably transgressing the “due process of law” requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution itself. And while there’s no way to know whether these wrongly altered procedures actually changed the outcome of the election, Trump voters had every right to condemn them.
2. The election was effectively decided by mass media misinformation.
It is ironic that so much recent propaganda accuses Trump and his supporters of circulating “misinformation.” In fact, one of the most consequential misinformation campaigns of modern times was largely responsible for Trump’s defeat.
Post-election observers are in general agreement that Joe Biden – that mumbling mummy – would have stood little chance of besting Trump had it not been for the popular press’ relentless stoking of coronavirus hysteria.
Of particular impact was the claim – repeated in various forms in more venues than I can count – that Trump was “personally responsible for tens of thousands of deaths,” as one typical hit piece insisted in the run-up to the election.
But was he? For all the huffing and puffing, no one has presented any real evidence to support the accusation. Yes, the man in the bad wig behaved as anyone familiar with his record might have expected: he made some foolish remarks, picked needless feuds with Democratic governors, hogged the spotlight, reversed himself without acknowledgment, and took credit for things that would have happened just as well without him.
But the fact remains that presidential action had little effect on the virus or its consequences; nearly all the important decisions – including the disastrous lockdowns and small business closures, not to mention the suspension of representative democracy and the attacks on education, public worship and the arts – were made at the state level.
In all of this, the White House was largely irrelevant. Trump’s most culpable act – in my opinion – was backing the Food and Drug Administration as it cut the corners of the testing procedures that should have been required for the COVID19 “vaccines” and granted the manufacturers blanket legal immunity for any adverse medical consequences.
But on that point, remember, Trump was supported by the “experts” and even by his political opponents. Legitimate criticism never figured in the media blitz against the former President. Instead, he was blindsided over claims so vague they couldn’t even be specified, with dire-sounding but meaningless words like “downplaying” or “mishandling” repeated so often that eventually they seemed to prove themselves. It was an impressive display of emotion-churning propaganda. It contained little or no truth.
Did the avalanche of misinformation violate any election laws? Alas, no. But that fact certainly did not deprive angry voters of their right to protest.
3. Biden’s election guaranteed the worsening of the coronavirus coup.
The protesters’ conviction that Trump actually won the election probably won’t stand the test of time. But in one important sense, they did know perfectly well what they were fighting for – and so did we.
Joe Biden has never made a secret of his fondness for attacks on freedom in the name of “health” regulation. Less than two months into his term, Biden was openly mulling an executive fiat that would require the muzzling and six-foot separation of all American workers, even those who have submitted to the “vaccines.”
He has also suggested that anyone who declines to be a guinea pig for Big Pharma is unpatriotic, and has announced a plan to have “local health leaders” hawk the scantily-tested drugs from door to door to add even more pressure to the vaccination campaign – even as the unprecedented “gene therapy” has already figured in more than 5,300 deaths nationwide.
And this is clearly just the beginning.
Each passing week sees the lockdown-lovers flaunting still more contempt for the Bill of Rights. Mandatory muzzling has been reintroduced in Los Angeles County. Geraldo Rivera, a media stalking horse for the administration, has endorsed Jim Crow restrictions for the “unvaccinated” that would bar them from grocery stores and nearly all public places.
The US Surgeon General is publicly calling for still more censorship on social media (where dozens of accounts have already been canceled for disseminating information the authorities don’t like).
The nastiest aspect of all these police-state tactics is the growing intensity of the hate speech aimed at dissenters. “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Biden insisted (falsely) on July 16.
Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, took the incitement a step farther, blaming even infections among vaccinated Americans on “outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage.” In other words: if you get sick, you can thank those dastardly freethinkers who still imagine they’re entitled to civil rights.
It’s a dangerous and divisive strategy. And anyone unsure where it leads need only look to Italy, France and Greece, where officials are already forcing health care workers to submit to vaccinations on pain of losing their livelihoods.
French President Emmanuel Macron, not even bothering to seek parliamentary approval, is mandating “vaccine passports” for anyone who wants to eat at a restaurant or to travel by train.
And these strong-arm tactics are doubtless intended to prepare us for worse still to come. Anthony Fauci himself has declared that COVID19 vaccination should be compulsory in as many places as possible – even though federal law holds otherwise, since the drugs have only been granted “emergency use” authorization – because he thinks it “horrifying” that people should decide the fate of their own bodies. (The good doctor sings a different tune on the question of legalized abortion, but since when have our ruling mandarins been consistent?)
In short, to say that a lot was at stake in the 2020 presidential election would be putting it very mildly. Liberal pundits have expressed shock at the willingness of thousands of people to converge on Washington to denounce the election results that effectively intensified the coronavirus coup. I think it would have been shocking had they not done so.
It’s not just that our government – and its tame mouthpieces in the press – is using the pretext of “health regulation” to demonize those citizens who choose to exercise their right not to be injected with an untested drug. The entire vaccine-blackmail program is premised on a lie.
The campaign necessarily assumes that the COVID19 “vaccines” prevent transmission of the virus from one person to another. They do no such thing.
The manufacturers have acknowledged, and the FDA has explicitly confirmed, the absence of any evidence that the new “vaccines” prevent either infection or transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The argument that vaccination is necessary to “protect the public” against COVID19 is simply fraudulent.
Not only does the fear-mongering about “the unvaccinated” falsely assume that the “vaccines” prevent transmission, it completely ignores the presence of genuine immunity among those who have already been exposed. As with any respiratory virus, exposure to SARS-CoV-2 triggers the development of antibodies and T-cells that serve to prevent future infections and, therefore, to block the virus’ transmissibility.
In October 2020, the prominent Oxford University epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta estimated that “three months, maybe six is sufficient time for enough immunity to accumulate…that the vulnerable could resume normal lives” in the United States. More than nine months have now passed since Gupta’s assessment.
Even if her estimate turns out to have been overly optimistic, there can be no doubt that enough natural immunity exists in the general population to have a profound effect on the transmissibility of COVID19, with or without the experimental drugs the government wants us to use. Any “analysis” that omits that obvious fact is patently dishonest.
And suppose, for argument’s sake, that one overlooks all this and accepts the “case” numbers peddled by the CDC. Even so, the statistical basis for all the shrieking about “a pandemic of the unvaccinated” is riddled with too many inconsistencies to be taken seriously.
The southern states of Mississippi and Arkansas, for instance, are both at the low end of the vaccination-level range, at 33.6% and 35.2% respectively.
If the Biden-Walensky propaganda were correct, those states would be inundated in comparable outbreaks of new COVID19 infections.
In fact, after adjusting for the small difference in population size, Arkansas’ most recent 7-day average for “new cases” is nearly 2.5 times higher than Mississippi’s. Such a disparity in the official numbers clearly cannot be explained on the basis of COVID19 vaccination rates.
And things are no different at the high end of the vaccination spectrum. Maryland has “fully vaccinated” 57.6% of its population, while New York lags just slightly behind at 55.8%. Yet, after adjustment for the different population sizes of the two states, New York still has nearly 2.5 times the 7-day average number of new “cases” of COVID19 that Maryland has – as big a gap as that between Mississippi and Arkansas.
Or consider the wildly different “case” levels to be found in California, which has a “fully vaccinated” rate of 51.5%, and in Pennsylvania, where the rate is 51.1%. Again, after adjusting for population, California’s latest “new case” average is well over double that of Pennsylvania’s – even though the vaccination level in the two states is virtually identical. Anomalies like these make nonsense of any argument that the US is experiencing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
And what about the “vaccinated”? Here, too, the propaganda doesn’t withstand even cursory scrutiny. Recently, six “fully vaccinated” people at a single wedding – held in a “large, open-air tent” – all came down with COVID19. Of those six, two were hospitalized and one died.
In a rather desperate brush-off typical of mainstream media, Insider’s Hilary Brueck described this as a “small outbreak that underscores how effective vaccines are against even variants of the virus.”
Ah, how nimbly propagandists put about in a changing wind! A year ago, six symptomatic cases of COVID19 would have marked the ceremony where they originated as a dreaded “superspreader event” – it would have been touted as proof that anyone selfish enough to invite guests to a wedding ought to be treated as a public menace.
And if, on top of that, fully a third of those infected had been hospitalized, and over 16% of them had dropped dead – well, I will leave it to the reader to imagine the hysterical headlines that would have erupted about that. Are we really supposed to chant hosannas now that the identical evils are showing up in the wake of COVID19 “vaccinations”?
But let us return to January 6 and the conspiracy of silence surrounding the killing of Ashli Babbitt.
Apart from her violent death – the only one that occurred in the Capitol on January 6 – the incidents of that day were strikingly incommensurate with the media’s horrified depictions of the “storming” of Congress.
Yes, there were scuffles with police, but such things were hardly unprecedented in Washington. And the media’s obsessive use of the phrase “deadly riot” misrepresents the unfortunate but nonviolent deaths (other than Babbitt’s) that occurred during or immediately after the protest.
Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died the following day, and whose death – as we were assured by the New York Times on the basis of “anonymous” reports – resulted from being clubbed over the head with a fire extinguisher by one of the “insurrectionists,” actually died of natural causes (as did two of the older protesters).
The only other supposedly “violent” death, that of protester Rosanne Boyland, was determined by the D.C. medical examiner’s office last April to be the consequence of “acute amphetamine intoxication,” though that didn’t prevent the Times from offering its readers back in January a gorily detailed – and false – account of how Boyland was “trampled” and “crushed” to death by “the mob.”
(By the way, I am not aware that the ostensibly meticulous fact-checkers at the Times have ever printed a direct retraction of either of these two bogus articles. Innocent errors do sometimes merit a correction at the Paper of Record; malicious errors almost never do.)
The threat allegedly posed by the demonstrators to members of Congress seems also to have been greatly exaggerated. Despite the media’s early insistence that the “insurrection” was led by sinister “right-wing extremists,” only a handful of those who breached the Capitol had any ties to the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters or Aryan Nations.
“More than four-fifths” of those charged for their actions on January 6 “come from various backgrounds, from business owners to white-collar professionals,” the BBC reported in February. The claim that the “rioters” brought zip-tie handcuffs to use on Democratic politicians turned out to be another falsification: the one protester photographed holding the “restraints” actually found them on a table inside the Capitol. The police had brought them there.
And frankly, I find it a little hard to believe the stories of lawmakers who say they feared for their lives during the “siege” when one of them, a Democrat from the Virgin Islands, could generate straight-faced media reports by claiming that she preferred a “possible confrontation with the insurrectionist mob” to sharing a “secure location” with some Republicans who were – gasp – not wearing masks!
True, her insistence that masks on the Republicans would have protected her, while her own would not, is part of the magical thinking we’ve all been asked to swallow throughout the propaganda campaign.
But would anyone who genuinely thought she was running from a lynch mob refuse a safe haven just because “I wouldn’t be able to see the virus as it was coming toward me” from a few un-muzzled legislators across the room? What was evidently meant to sound like a horror story reads, to me, much more like farce.
So it turns out that anyone genuinely concerned about “deadly violence” during the January 6 protest can have only one real subject to investigate: Ashli Babbitt. And the more one investigates her death, and the circumstances surrounding it, the less justifiable the whole scenario appears.
Just how, for instance, did protesters manage to enter the Capitol in the first place?
No one in power has offered any convincing answer to that question.
Federal government buildings in Washington are normally among the most zealously guarded in the world. And everyone knew that a large political protest was planned for January 6, the day Joe Biden’s election as President was to be officially certified.
Why couldn’t Capitol police use tear gas to stop the unarmed demonstrators as soon as they breached the entrances, especially since “tear gas munitions were used by other federal police agencies against protesters in front of Lafayette Park” just a few months earlier? And assuming the local police force was somehow unable to handle the crowd, where was the vaunted National Guard?
Some of the protesters believe that they were deliberately entrapped. As one of them later told the FBI, “law enforcement purposefully did not have enough resources there so that supporters of the former president could overrun the Capitol and be subsequently labeled as ‘intruders.’” I cannot prove this theory correct – but I also cannot dismiss it as implausible.
As early as February 4, Time Magazine’s Molly Ball reported that a “conspiracy” involving “an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans” had orchestrated a “vast, cross-partisan campaign” to ensure Biden’s smooth entry into office.
This “conspiracy” was so effective that it “got states to change voting systems” and, on the day of the January 6 protest itself, saw to it that the protesters who converged on the Capitol “were met by virtually no counterdemonstrators” who might otherwise “be blamed for any mayhem.”
Surely a cabal capable of that much could also arrange for the protest to get just far enough out of hand to guarantee media images that would discredit Donald Trump with the nation’s political elites – which, of course, is exactly what happened. Or was it all just coincidence?
Along similar lines, the strange absence of the National Guard on January 6 has been widely reported – but only as an inexplicable blunder.
Yet couldn’t this, like the parallel absence of counter-demonstrations, have been deliberate?
We know that the deployment of National Guard or military personnel to the Capitol would have required the consent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And we know that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was General Mark Milley, a man who (according to a soon-to-be-published book) told his aides that Trump reminded him of Hitler, and whose determination to ensure that Biden was installed as President – “come hell or high water” – went so far that he “informally planned for different ways to stop Trump” after the election, including private telephone conversations with (Democratic) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In fact, credible reports maintain (though he denies it) that General Walter Piatt, director of Army staff, specifically refused to send National Guard troops to the Capitol on January 6 because “it wouldn’t look good.”
An honest press – if we had one – would be taking a hard look into the possibility that the “deadly riot” was really political theater, organized not by the protesters but by the very democracy-haters the protesters came to challenge. That would make Babbitt’s killing an even uglier miscarriage of justice.
Meanwhile, the refusal of the media, the pundits, the civil rights organizations, the politicians – just about everyone in power – to give Ashli Babbitt’s death the attention it deserves is more than a wrong in itself. It is part of a larger pattern of political gaslighting by which the victors in the 2020 election, while accusing Trump & Co. of an attempted “coup,” continue to advance a coup of their own.
Today the coup marches under the name “Delta variant.” But this is only a temporary phase. Specific terrors will vary from month to month, but there will always be some reason for whittling down our remaining freedoms. This latest scare is entirely typical.
Notwithstanding the ballyhoo, there’s no real evidence that the “Delta variant” is particularly dangerous – not even the CDC has attempted to make that case – and as a general rule, subsequent variants of a respiratory virus are less severe than those they follow.
(As a matter of fact, there’s only sketchy evidence that the new “variant” is even more transmissible than the original version, despite popular media’s insistence on this as a matter of fact: the CDC cites only one study about the alleged contagiousness of the “Delta variant,” which is based entirely on manifestly unreliable public “test” data. It’s also rife with anomalies, such as the finding that the variant spreads more rapidly among Asians than among white people, while among blacks it actually appears to be less transmissible. Go figure.)
In other words, like nearly everything the “experts” have claimed about COVID19 for the last seventeen months, the “deadly Delta” story is much less about facts than it is about maintaining public hysteria.
And the motive for the fear porn is perfectly clear. The Biden administration never intended to give the public anything more than a brief honeymoon from coronavirus terror.
True, there had to be some kind of reward for voting Donald Trump out of office. But now it’s time to get back to business – “business” being the deepening confinement of the American public.
“The carefree Covid season is over,” barked CNN on July 17. And the network was quick to identify the next targets of the crackdown: conservative media, for encouraging “vaccine hesitancy,” and “Republican-led states” that “have tried to outdo each other in limiting the power of cities and counties to impose Covid restrictions in case of a new outbreak.”
It’s a short step from condemning defenders of basic liberties to uprooting the liberties themselves. So if you thought this was all about roasting a TV commentator like Tucker Carlson or a politician like Ron DeSantis, think again: you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Can we still pry our country loose from the grip of the fear campaign? I hope so, believing as I do in the aspirations to which our political system is dedicated, and still more in the value of the human lives that have grown up under the influence of those ideals.
But if we want each life to matter, we have to prove that Ashli Babbitt’s life mattered too. We need to demand more from the federal Justice Department than the cynical conclusion that there was:
no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defence or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber.”
We need to seek an explanation for the fact that “the officer,” unlike Derek Chauvin – currently behind bars for killing George Floyd – has never faced charges of any kind for gunning down an unarmed woman under circumstances that placed no one in serious danger.
We must ask why there are no crowds in the streets to support the Babbitt family’s lawsuit against the Capitol police, as there would be if she had been killed by a cop during a Black Lives Matter rally.
It must be clear by now that the coronavirus coup isn’t going away of its own accord. If we don’t demand an end to it, there will be no end.
There will only be more fear porn, more manipulated elections, more wrecked livelihoods, more attacks on freedom – and more tragedies like the killing of Ashli Babbitt, who believed that by taking her protest to the seat of government she could make a difference.
Whether she was right about that is no longer up to her. It’s up to us.
Michael Lesher is an author, poet and lawyer whose legal work is mostly dedicated to issues connected with domestic abuse and child sexual abuse. His latest nonfiction book is Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities (McFarland & Co., 2014); his first collection of poetry, Surfaces, was published by The High Window in 2019. A memoir of his discovery of Orthodox Judaism as an adult – Turning Back: The Personal Journey of a “Born-Again” Jew – was published in September 2020 by Lincoln Square Books.