Regime Propaganda, Ray Epps, and the New York Times 

Is the New York Times playing four-dimensional chess?

Or is it only tic-tac-toe with a three-year-old?

I ask because I cannot quite fathom the Times’ latest intervention into the January 6 miniseries, its aromatic aria bewailing the fate of Ray Epps.

Who is Ray Epps? 

We don’t really know—not yet. 

In the immediate aftermath of the January 6 jamboree, he was on the Stasi’s—er, the FBI’s—list of most wanted “domestic extremists,” “insurrectionists,” etc. 

He was also a star of several videos, a right-out-of-central-casting, MAGA-hat-wearing Trump nut telling anyone who would listen on the evening of January 5 that the next day they had to go “into the Capitol, into the Capitol.”

Into the Capitol, not “to” the Capitol. You see the difference.

Back in January 2021, the entire regime propaganda machine was indiscriminately fanning the line that “Trump sparked an insurrection, an attempted coup, an effort to overturn the 2020 election.” Glenn Greenwald, no friend of Trump’s, was an early skeptic about that overblown hysteria. “Condemning that riot,” Greenwald noted, “does not allow, let alone require, echoing false claims in order to render the event more menacing and serious than it actually was.” 

But that is precisely what the regime media did: twist, exaggerate, lie, and manufacture out of whole cloth a narrative whose sole purpose was to destroy Donald Trump and the populist movement he gave voice to. 

The New York Times, of course, was Johnny-on-the-spot. It was the Times that early on circulated the made-up story that Brian Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer, had been bludgeoned to death by a crazed Trump supporter wielding a fire extinguisher. That was shouted from the rooftops for a few days by the same sort of people who screamed that Nick Sandmann, the so-called “Covington kid,” was guilty of taunting a noble Native American when he was doing nothing of the kind. 

Sicknick, as it happens, died of a stroke at home the day after January 6. The Times eventually admitted its error, sotto voce, but only after the damage had been done.

Then, just a few days ago, the Times published another piece in which Ray Epps features prominently. The column, written by Alan Feuer, is titled A Trump Backer’s Downfall as the Target of a Jan. 6 Conspiracy Theory. It is the sort of column the Times fabricates when it enters damage-control mode and wants to salvage someone’s reputation in order to score political points. Back in January 2021, Epps was an enemy, a public face of a supposed “insurrection” that was going to overturn the 2020 election and install Donald Trump as dictator for life. 

But in the succeeding months, the Narrative had changed. The preposterous show trials of the “select” January 6 committee, Loopy Liz Cheney presiding, is not getting the traction it was supposed to get. People who work for CNN, MSNBC, or kindred outlets are all behind Cheney in her mad vendetta against Trump. But the mass of people across the country do not care one whit about the “findings” of the committee. Most people can recognize a partisan witch hunt when they see one, and this Star Chamber performance has done more to engender disgust at Congress than it has to turn people against Trump.

Moreover, with every passing week, evidence that the entire January 6 protest was planned and abetted not by Donald Trump and his nefarious agents but rather by elements of the anti-Trump regime has been piling up. Julie Kelly here at American Greatness and Darren Beattie at Revolver News have been at the forefront of the effort to uncover the truth behind the Wizard-of-Oz-like spectacle of January 6. Now the regime seems to be panicking.

Hence the Times is willing to transform Ray Epps from perpetrator into victim in order to influence the Narrative. Their proximate goal is signaled in the subtitle to their maudlin valentine: “Ray Epps became the unwitting face of an attempt by pro-Trump forces to promote the baseless idea that the F.B.I. was behind the attack on the Capitol.”

Ah. The “baseless” idea, you see. 

Yes, even in that video taken on January 5, 2021, when Epps tells the crowd that the next day they must go “into the Capitol, into the Capitol,” members of the crowd start chanting “Fed, Fed, Fed.” They knew.

Granted, there is no evidence—not yet, anyway—that Epps was working for the FBI. But that agency is only one of the dozens of deep state, anti-Trump agencies in Washington, D.C. Eventually, I’d wager, it will emerge that Epps was in the employ of one or another anti-Trump government organization. How else can we explain that he went from being on the FBI’s most wanted list to victim-of-the-week for the New York Times? More to the point, how else can we explain why he has not been indicted and tossed into jail with the hundreds upon hundreds of poor slobs who had the misfortune to find themselves in or around the Capitol that fateful day?

Darren Beattie speculates that the “hidden agenda” behind the Times’ earlobe-licking puff piece on Epps is an effort to “make any unsanctioned ideas about Epps too toxic and dangerous to print.” He may be right. In the course of Feuer’s piece, the idea that Epps might sue Revolver News, Tucker Carlson, and others is floated. Epps’ family is “searching for a lawyer to help them file a defamation lawsuit,” the Times reports. “Regime janitors like Feuer,” Beattie writes, “specialize in mopping up Fed dirty work.” They will now “go into overdrive as more embarrassing information about Ray Epps and the initial breach comes out.”

Unfortunately for those foot soldiers for Leviathan, it is too late. There are too many people onto their game. 

Feuer’s embarrassing piece in the Times at first seemed inexplicable. Why would the Times seek to exonerate, or at least to drum up sympathy for, someone who was caught on video urging the crowd to break into the Capitol? The whole thing seemed like a higher-order hermeneutical conundrum. Until, that is, one recognizes that Epps might just be a sort of double agent, an agent provocateur, laboring not on behalf of Trump’s supporters but his enemies. Then it all begins to make sense. 

To understand what the Times is up to, one needs to approach its stories as one would approach those emitted by the Soviet Union or other totalitarian regimes. One needs to engage in what Powerline’s Scott Johnson, taking a page from Matt Taibbi, calls a “Kremlinological reading” of the story. Feuer and other Times apparatchiks like Adam Goldman, Johnson suggests, are really part of the “public relations arm of the national security establishment.” Indeed. 

The Kremlinological reading is breathtaking. Anyone standing behind such a reading will surely be dismissed as a “conspiracy theorist” or worse. To all such accusations, however, I adduce both Delmore Schwartz, who pointed out that even paranoids have enemies, and William of Occam, whose famous tip for epistemological tidiness comes in handy on occasions such as this. Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem, Occam wrote, which we might translate as “If it smells like a rat, looks like a rat, and behaves like a rat, it is overwhelmingly likely that it is a rat.”

About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

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