June 14, 2022

ROGER KIMBALL: Show Trials, Then And Now.

Powerline’s Scott Johnson quoted a TV Guide reporter who described the viewership of the first January 6 House Committee’s prime-time television extravaganza as “decent.”

In context, “decent” means “dismal” since, as Johnson notes, “the networks graciously handed their prime-time slots over to the committee’s motley crew in unison, Soviet style.”

A show trial is a mock or make-believe trial in which the guilt of the party is predetermined.

The trial is just a form of theater.

Lenin called them “model trials.”

The aim was not to discover the truth—which was supposedly already known—but to stage a propaganda exhibition.

The Soviet Union specialized in the genre as did Communist China, Nazi Germany, and other totalitarian countries.

As the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland put it, it was always “Sentence first—verdict afterwards.”

If you turned on the television on June 9 and you weren’t tuned in to Fox News you were watching—or “watching”—a couple hours of Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney conducting a show trial.

They vilified Donald Trump while airing a few misleadingly edited clips from the events of that day.

As I have noted elsewhere, the Democrats went all out on this show.

They hired a former ABC consultant to make sure the production values were high.

It was only the substance that was clumsy, amateurish, unconvincing.

At least, that is what I think.

“The issue is never the issue.”

That’s what Democratic demigod and house philosopher Saul Alinsky taught.

If nothing else, the first episode of the January 6th show confirms that the actors have absorbed that lesson.

The announced issue was the protest at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

But the real issue was the person of Donald Trump and the populist movement he embodies.

That was the half-articulated obbligato that underlay the entire proceeding.

As The Wall Street Journal put it, the House Committee “made clear in its first hearing that its main goal is showing Donald Trump was to blame for the attack on the Capitol, raising the question of what legal or political consequences the former president might face at the end of the probe.”

They made it clear, but they did not really acknowledge it.

Why? Because the ultimate legitimacy of the Committee requires that it be seen as something other than what it in fact was: a nakedly partisan witch hunt.

The Democrats face several problems in putting over this blind.

For one thing, most of the American people do not really care about a brief protest in Washington, D.C., a year and a half ago.

Maybe the carefully curated clips broadcast by the Commission are dramatic.

But many commentators instantly pointed out the tendentious—i.e., untruthful—editing, as when Trump’s direction that protesters make their way “peacefully and patriotically” to the Capitol was clipped to omit the word “peacefully.”

H. L. Mencken once observed that no one “ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.”

That’s a nicely phrased comment.—

But I suspect we are on the verge of seeing it disproved.

Overreach is the Dems’ brand nowadays.

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