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The Costuming Offers Deniability

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A protester is seen inside the US Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral Colle... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: A protester is seen inside the US Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. Pro-Trump protesters entered the U.S. Capitol building during demonstrations in the nation's capital. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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January 8, 2021 3:22 p.m.

TPM Reader SS responds to my puzzling over the festooned, over-the-top, costumed insurrection:

Thanks for all your commentary and coverage on TPM, I’m a longtime reader (etc etc) — you guys do just vital, crucial work.

On your question today: “One of the elements of the Trump era I struggle with the most is how to explain to future generations that the threat to democracy arrived in a such a tawdry, low brow, gaudy and comical way. You can’t separate the genuine threat to democracy from the reality TV theatrics. The Capitol Police officer taking a fire extinguisher to the head and the horned fur cap are part of the same surreal tableau.”

This is all the aesthetics of dogwhistle politics. I’ve written about this in academic circles, but basically (as Josh has noted many times), dogwhistling relies on deniability “we’re not really racist, we’re not really fascist, we’re just reasonable people making reasonable political claims in time-honored ways.” There has to be some mechanism of concealment, or there’s no deniability.

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