By precluding criminal proceedings against the unnamed officer who killed Ashli Babbitt as she tried to climb through a window into the House speakers’ lobby on January 6, the U.S. government meant to shield itself from embarrassment. Instead, its indefensible manipulation of the justice system further confirms the patent dishonesty of the narrative by which it tries to frighten potential critics.
The Babbitt family’s $10 million lawsuit against the Capitol police and the officer who killed Ashli will force the government to defend an obviously indefensible act, and the even more indefensible attempted coverup thereof. Unless Babbitt’s attorneys and Republican elected officials prove to be extraordinarily stupid, the lawsuit will discredit the pseudo-security narrative our oligarchs are using to rule us.
The hard facts are not in dispute. On January 6, Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old woman weighing around 110 pounds and carrying no weapon of any kind, tried to fit through a broken window. As she struggled to get through, an armed male officer, who was presumably much bigger and stronger, shot her in the neck and killed her.
The allegations surrounding those facts are irrelevant. It seems to be common knowledge that the officer who shot and killed her is black. That may embarrass some. But race is legally and morally irrelevant. And while it is certain that Babbitt meant to demonstrate her lack of faith in the 2020 election’s management, that, too, is irrelevant to the fact that she was killed while posing no physical threat to anyone or anything. Tendentious even more than irrelevant is speculation about to what extent her beliefs paralleled those of “QAnon”—something that may or may not exist and that would be irrelevant to the facts if it.
An Incredible Defense
What did the government do with the fact that one of its big, strong, armed agents had killed a small, weak, unarmed woman who was not harming anyone? The statement by which the Justice Department sought to close the case reads: “[T]he investigation revealed 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-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber.” This assertion of justifiable homicide consists of trying to overwhelm the obvious lack of “reasonableness” by compounding two absences of evidence. Because there is nothing this stratagem would not justify, it does not work. No jury will buy that.
Why this swiss-cheese defense? Because without it—and despite equally fraught attempts to establish the remote possibility that someone in the crowd might have had some ephemeral effect on the death of Capitol policeman Brian Sicknick—the government must admit that neither Babbitt nor countless others who trespassed on the Capitol on January 6 were making war on the U.S. Constitution, and hence that nothing justifies their making war against them—never mind stigmatizing conservative political opposition to the current administration. The government’s defense in the Babbitt case cannot survive “discovery” and a jury trial.
Right off, the trial would leave no doubt about the wrongfulness of the officer’s decision to shoot Babbitt. Odds are the government will offer a generous settlement in exchange for silence.
But as the government’s defense in the Babbitt case collapses, the regime-relevant question becomes inevitable. It is not whether Americans are subject to a multi-tier justice system. That has been undeniable for years.
Rather, the question is nothing less than what the government and its associates in society are doing by pretending Babbitt and others posed a danger to what they call “our democracy”? How? What democracy? What regime? What cause is served by the transparent lies, about Babbitt, Sicknick, and above all about hundreds of people whose actual offenses, if any, amount to trespassing but who are being held and maligned as if they are worse than murderers?
This is a political question, properly to be pursued by politicians who purport to represent the millions of Americans whose opposition the current administration and its allies are trying to suppress.
Separation of Narrative and Fact
The answer to this question proceeds from separating the “narrative”—i.e. the set of lies—that the regime has purveyed about what happened on January 6 from reality. From what did happen and did not happen.
That separation itself must begin by noting the narrative’s purveyors. The cast, it turns out, is identical with the list of those inside government (intelligence agencies, the Justice Department, assorted bureaucrats) as well as in what used to be called the “private sector” (media outlets, corporations, etc.) who acted jointly between 2015 and 2020 to forestall an electoral challenge to their growing power over our republic. These are the very people and institutions on behalf of which Time magazine published a valedictory, praising their interference in the 2020 election. In short, this was an operation by a set of oligarchs to excise permanently the opposition to their consolidation of power over that of American voters. The narrative—repeat, the set of lies—about January 6 means to cap off the earlier one.
The substance of the January 6 narrative, as well as the manner of its purveyance, parallels that of 2015-2020, namely: America’s loser class—ignorant clingers, racists, neanderthals, etc.—aroused by demagogy, threatened the integrity of “our democratic institutions.” Of “democracy” as in “voting?” No. Instead, they threatened the authority of precisely the bureaucrats, corporations, media, academics, et al., who run America’s institutions. Pretensions about voter sovereignty by these alleged dregs of society, their demands to use procedures to assert their role, was an attack on what oligarchs call “our democracy,” to be punished as a regime crime.
And that punishment is to be part of the warning to whomever might sympathize with them that failure to support earnestly what is now effectively an oligarchic regime will ruin them personally.
The Babbitt family’s lawsuit opens the underlying question about the truth of the narrative by which an oligarchic regime has largely substituted its sovereignty for that of the voters. That narrative’s forceful falsehood enables, among other things, one of the oligarchy’s components, Facebook, to decide in its own sovereign court whom it will and will not allow to communicate to a general audience about who did what to whom on January 6.
If ever there was a frontal attack on the Constitution, of which the First Amendment’s safeguards of freedom of speech and of the press provide the bedrock, this is it. Any politician who claims to represent the republic’s remnants must begin by calling out the official narrative’s fraudulence for what it is: the oligarchy’s attack on our democracy.