by John Daniel Davidson
Most of us are familiar with the infamous “vanishing commissar” photo of Stalin and Nikolai Yezhov, the secret police official who organized mass arrests, torture, and executions in the Soviet Union in the late 1930s, but was himself later arrested and executed. Yezhov’s likeness was subsequently removed from all official photos, including the one of him and Stalin at the Moscow Canal. Today, Yezhov is the primary example of how the Soviet regime would make someone “disappear,” as if they never existed, literally erasing them from the historical record.
Disappearing people in this way is something tyrannical dictatorships do because they feel no accountability to the people over whom they rule. Whatever the regime says, no matter how outlandish or patently false, is reality. If you dissent, then you might be disappeared too.
A milder but nevertheless disturbing version of the “vanishing commissar” played out over Sunday and Monday in Washington, D.C. Here’s what happened. During a series of contentious spending votes on Saturday ahead of a looming government shutdown, while House Democrats were trying to slow-walk a vote, Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman pulled a fire alarm in a House office building on Capitol Hill, forcing an evacuation.
Bowman’s stunt, which is under investigation by Capitol Police, was caught on a security camera. It’s clear he pulled the fire alarm as a delaying tactic, precisely to force the evacuation of the building and disrupt official congressional business (the kind of thing the media would call an “insurrection” if a Republican had done it.) Indeed, there’s no other reasonable way to interpret his actions. Everyone who has ever attended school knows what a fire alarm is and what happens when you pull it — including Bowman, a former school principal.
Here’s where things get a little Soviet. In the aftermath of the evacuation, Bowman insisted it was an accident — not that he pulled the alarm by accident, since the video footage clearly shows him doing so intentionally, but that he didn’t know what would happen when he pulled it. “I was just trying to get to my vote,” he said. “The door thatʼs usually open wasnʼt open. I didnʼt mean to cause confusion. I didnʼt know it was going to trip the whole building. I thought [the alarm] would help me open the door.”
BREAKING: Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) finally speaks out about pulling a fire alarm inside the Capitol:
"I was in a rush to go vote."
What on earth?? pic.twitter.com/hVBzcp7iGf
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) October 2, 2023
(On a side note, Bowman later called the Republicans trying to punish him Nazis, and then pretended that was a mistake when it blew up in his face.
But here’s the important thing: Bowman’s claim is that he thought pulling the fire alarm would open the door. That sounds like an outlandish lie, doesn’t it? The sort of patently false thing no one in his right mind would ever believe or even try to explain. Just a bone-crushingly idiotic fiction that requires us to believe Bowman is mentally ill or psychotic. Every single person in Washington knows it’s not true.
And yet, every single Democrat and the entire corporate news media immediately responded as if it were a reasonable and acceptable explanation for Bowman’s actions, like of course he didn’t know what would happen when he pulled the alarm. He thought it would open the door, OK? How many of us have encountered a locked door and immediately pulled the nearest fire alarm? Right? The fire alarm going off took him by total surprise!
Here’s Chris Hayes of MSNBC, for example, saying this whole thing is “silly and embarrassing,” and “not that big a deal.” But then he cites a Capitol Police statement, that Bowman tried to open the door before pulling the alarm, and claims it “lines up with” Bowman’s explanation.
This whole thing is a bit silly and embarrassing. Like the Boebert Beetlejuice affair, it’s deserving of lots of jokes, but in the end not that big a deal?
That said, the characterization here, that Bowman tried to open the door before pulling the alarm, lines up with his… https://t.co/Os649B4tdQ
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) October 2, 2023
The purpose of this little legerdemain by Hayes is to lend Bowman’s account credibility, to suggest that he is telling the truth — that he was just trying to get out of the building, didn’t do anything wrong, etc. In other words, Hayes wants you to suspend your judgment and common sense, and instead believe what is clearly, provably a lie
That’s the real problem here — the blatant lying with the expectation that you just have to accept it and pretend it’s OK. Over the last few years of the Biden administration, this sort of thing has become commonplace. Democrats, sometimes President Biden himself, will do or say something outrageous and unbelievable, and the press will either ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen or offer an explanation so disconnected from reality that only a total lack of accountability or any respect for their audience can explain it.
That’s how you get major media outlets trotting out the line, amid mounting and undeniable evidence of Biden family corruption, that Hunter Biden only sold the “illusion” of access to his father. That’s how you get coverage that suggests 17 or 22 years in prison for participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot is somehow normal and justified. That’s how you get news panels debating the merits of the criminal charges against Trump, as if the charges themselves are the story and not the unprecedented targeting of the president’s chief political rival ahead of an upcoming election. And on and on.
When the government and the establishment press just spout the most outlandish lies and excuses, demanding we believe them, it’s much more dangerous and frankly tyrannical than a government and press that subtly or believably lies.
When governments and politicians and the media dissimulate reality in this blatant way, it suggests they no longer respect or feel accountable to the populace, and are confident that all pretense to the naked exercise of power can be dropped. They will simply tell you what to believe, what reality is, and you will accept it — no matter what your lying eyes tell you.