Why We’re Spending So Much Time at Home

This week we explain why we've been focusing on domestic terrorism and tease some upcoming episodes

For a show with an eye for the international, Angry Planet has been covering U.S. politics a lot lately. Maybe more than we would have liked. Unfortunately, the United States has been where the news is. That’s not to discount the people fighting and dying for causes most people have never heard of. Hell, Matthew and I believe that learning about those struggles and bringing them home is what Angry Planet is all about.

It’s not as if there’s nothing going on in the rest of the world. There are ongoing demonstrations in Myanmar following the military coup, there’s violence in Uganda following a contested election, and ever-evolving protests in Russia. We’re watching all that, and we promise to sort through the garbage news and provide you with the stories and analysis we think is worth a damn.

But it would be beyond irresponsible to ignore America’s democracy being shaken to its core, barely surviving the ultimate test and being weakened by it. Can our institutions stand another round of this? It’s hard to see how. Are Trump and his ride-or-die partisans still out there? You bet. As ludicrous as this may sound, it feels like an acquittal on incitement charges lends tacit approval to any future populist leader in America.

Trump’s been acquitted by a party whose only platform for their 2020 convention was “What he said!” And now that the census is complete, Trumpistas will have the chance to redraw Congressional districts as they like and do what they can to limit voting within their states.

As we’ve heard on the show, more than once, Trump is only out of office because he’s not a particularly good authoritarian, neither hard working nor particularly bright. His allies are boobs, his friends venal. 

But some are scarier than others and after his acquittal, Trump published a statement. “Our historic, patriotic and beautiful movement to Make America Great Again has only just begun,” it said. “In the months ahead I have much to share with you, and I look forward to continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.” It reads like both a threat and a warning.

The entire U.S. military was ordered to stand down so that the people at the top can figure out just how deeply white extremists are embedded in the force. The ex-military certainly made a good showing in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6. One-in-five of the schmucks served.

As for the rest, you know the names and we’ve done episodes on them: Special mention this week to the Oath Keepers who seem to have played a key role in the attack on the Capitol. The day before, the same group was out protecting the infinitely ridiculous-looking Trump buddy Roger stone.

And, if extremists in the ranks and independent militias don’t scare you, we’ll always have Congress.

For now, our focus will continue to be on the rising threat of domestic extremism in America. That doesn’t mean the rest of the world isn’t important or that we aren’t going to talk about it. It just means we feel the threat in our own backyard is pressing and unique.

That said, here’s a look at what we’re working on now.

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What’s coming up

Aram Shabanian, who previously explained the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan using music videos, will return to the show to walk us through how the Iraq War shaped the modern world. No, not that Iraq War. Not that one either. The Iran-Iraq War. It was wilder, weirder, and more influential than you know.

British journalist Simon Akamwill be on to talk about The Changing of the Guard, an exhaustively researched book about the modern British army. It’s a fantastic and well-researched book that almost wasn’t published, but that’s a whole other story.

Rick Perlstein will be back on the show to share his thoughts about the impeachment trial, Qanon, and what the future of the GOP’s populist movement may be.

Meghann Myers, the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times, is coming on the show to walk us through the DoD’s COVID-19 response and update us on how it’s tackling the extremism problem.

Producer Kevin Knodell has been covering military affairs in Hawaii for Civil Beat and is helping us make a multi-part series about sea crime and paramilitaries. We’re also going to talk about the absolutely wild world of organized crime in Hawaii and how Jesse James and other outlaws infected the West with romantic conceptions of honor and glory that were anything but.

Speaking of lost causes, we need to talk about tankies. We really do.

Also, if you’re a paying subscriber you’ll soon be able to get a commercial freeversion of the show through the Substack. It’s launching this week and if you’re signed up through the newsletter, you don’t have to do anything else.

Also, we’re thinking of setting up a Discord server if that’s something ya’ll would be interested in.

Angry Planet

The State Department declassified reports about the ‘sonic weapon’ incident at its embassy in Havana, Cuba in 2017. It’s the first official confirmation that the CIA closed its facility there after the incident, and also references a similar phenomenon that happened in China.

What once was cancelled can never die. The much maligned video game Six Days in Fallujah was set to release in 2010. It was shelved and has now returned. “For us as a team, it is really about helping players understand the complexity of urban combat. It’s about the experiences of that individual that is now there because of political decisions. And we do want to show how choices that are made by policymakers affect the choices that [a Marine] needs to make on the battlefield. Just as that [Marine] cannot second-guess the choices by the policymakers, we’re not trying to make a political commentary about whether or not the war itself was a good or a bad idea,” Peter Tamte, the lead publisher, told Polygon.

We’ll see how that works out for them. Matthew will be interviewing Tamte and playing the game soon.

In a fun twist, we learned this week that many of the people charged in the capitol riots are in financial trouble. It’s a finding that adds nuance to last week’s newsletter. We’re always learning. 

In Rwanda, a famous singer died in prison after releasing a song memorializing the Tutsi and Hutu killings. “‘I think they may kill me,’ he told a friend in the United States. ‘I’m not sure I’m going to make it.’ But in confinement, he achieved a kind of transcendence. ‘I had never enjoyed happiness and joy like the ones I found inside the prison,’ he wrote in the book, published posthumously.”

Over at Popular Front, Hugo Kaaman explained why Islamic State fighters bring flowers to suicide bombings.

The dissident financial newsletter broke down one of the great scams of the world’s militaries: nuclear weapons. Modernizing and upkeep will cost $1.7 trillion over the next 30 years. They’re the only weapons in the world where, if they don’t work, the manufacturer won’t be held accountable.

Canadian authorities arrested the conspiracy theorist Agent Margaritaville on February 3. Charged with two counts of uttering threats and criminal harassment, Gerald 'Guy' Brummell is in a lot of trouble and it’s sending ripples of worry through the online conspiracy community.

Speaking of conspiracy theories, over at the Columbia Journalism Review, Lyz Lenz explained the appeal and disastrous problem with following ‘meta-journalists’ like Seth Abramson. “It’s important to remember how easily we let conspiracy leak into our lives, into our TV shows and our punditry and our thinking. How quickly we smashed the retweet button, how little we thought about it. And how dangerous it is to live in a world built entirely of your own words, with no vetting, no editing, blocking critics, until everything is a mirror shining you back at you.”

image: the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville. Anthony Crider photo.