Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
In a normal universe, the baseless and appalling QAnon conspiracy theory would be the plot to the worst action thriller you’ve ever seen.
If you don’t know by now, QAnon adherents subscribe to the utterly bonkers proposition that President Donald Trump is heroically fighting against a diffuse and secretive cabal of devil worshippers and child molesters scattered across the most elite levels of government, business, and the media.
To take it to its “Sharknado-iest” extremes, the theory also posits that a violent reckoning is coming, and that such high-profile pols as Hillary Clinton will be arrested and executed for their nonexistent role in it, according to the BBC.
But this isn’t a normal universe. It’s Donald Trump’s America, 2020. And QAnon adherents aren’t just harmless cranks.
They’ve been legitimized by Trump. Some of their number are on the fast-track to Congress. Others have resorted to violence, with one notably sentenced to prison for opening fire in a Washington D.C. pizzeria because he wrongly believed the false argument that children were being held there against their will in a sex-trafficking ring.
So, in what seems like a pretty basic ask, the Greater Philly chapter of the Anti-Defamation League would really appreciate it if U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, would disavow it.
And Perry, for reasons that defy all logic, absolutely cannot bring himself to do it, leaving ADL officials disappointed, but not entirely surprised.
“For people like him and President Donald Trump, to not call it out is just irresponsible,” Shira Goodman, the director of the Philadelphia regional office of the ADL, told the Capital-Star on Wednesday.
Perry’s central Pennsylvania seat is considered one of the most vulnerable in the country, and Democrats are intent on taking it from him.
During a pair of televised debates, Perry was twice asked why he joined with 16 of his GOP colleagues (including Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Erie’s 16th District) to vote against the non-binding resolution.
Perry, a veteran, fell back on the free speech protections of the First Amendment, saying that while he may personally disagree, Americans are still free to believe what they want to believe.
He said he also worried about government overreach. Admittedly, he said it in the worst way imaginable.
“A lot of people dislike a lot of things in this country, some people don’t like certain vegetables or what have you,” Perry said during an Oct. 19 debate on WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pa. “But it’s very dangerous for the government … to determine what is okay to like and what is not okay to like.”
Perry was deflecting.
The resolution doesn’t order anyone not to like QAnon, no matter how corrosively destructive it is. It makes the rather sane argument that it doesn’t deserve legitimacy in a civil society — something that the vast majority of Perry’s fellow Republicans were able to understand and vote in favor of without issue.
In a statement to the Capital-Star on Wednesday, Perry offered the same defense that he offered at the debates.
“Freedom of speech doesn’t exist just to protect the speech with which we agree. While I do not agree with or subscribe to QAnon, I am an ardent defender of the Constitution, which includes the right to free speech.” he said. “I continue to vehemently condemn racism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, and violence thereof in all forms – which I served almost 40 years in uniform fighting against.”
Based on that logic, Perry should be able to specifically condemn QAnon, a movement whose members have been have linked to a small but growing number of crimes, including kidnappings and a murder. That’s not speech. Not even a little bit.
I won’t question Perry’s patriotism. The man served his country in combat.
But it’s entirely legitimate to point out that QAnon adherents make up a growing and vigorous part of the Republican base.
In 2018, Perry fended off Democrat George Scott by less than 3 percentage points. In 2020, with Democratic voters energized in a district that’s become ever more purple, Perry needs every single Republican vote he can get — even from the whackjob fringe. And the only public polling in the race shows it as pretty much a toss-up.
But here’s the danger in that. All it takes is silence and acquiescence from those in power for the most hateful rhetoric to emerge from the shadows and walk in the light. And then before you know it, that light illuminates the path to boxcars.
“Hiding behind the First Amendment doesn’t get it,” Goodman told the Capital-Star on Wednesday. “It doesn’t work with what we’re seeing on the ground. When you normalize this, speech can lead to action.”
Goodman pointed to what she called the “Pyramid of Hate,” a hierarchy of hate that starts by people turning a blind eye or deaf ear to ethnic or racist jokes. From there, it escalates, moving to discrimination, gaining more legitimacy as it grows. At the highest level, there’s state-sanctioned violence against a persecuted minority.
That’s what Goodman sees happening with the Republicans and QAnon, as the movement gains more and more legitimacy, and as its members assume roles of power and influence within the government.
“We have to look to our leaders and say you have to be responsible here,’’ Goodman said. “The responsible thing is to call it out. It’s not right. It’s not okay. We can disagree about a lot of things. But there is no secret government cabal of pedophiles.
“We’re at a dangerous time. We have to hold ourselves accountable. We have to hold our candidates and leaders accountable,” she said. “You have to be able to denounce this.”
You wouldn’t think it would be that much to ask.
Former President Barack Obama was in Philadelphia on Wednesday evening, where he barnstormed for Joe Biden, Our Hearken Election SOS Fellow Kenny Cooper has the details.
Democratic voters in Pennsylvania were among those targeted in threatening emails sent to voters in four states, three of the key swing states. Officials in Alaska and Florida are investigating the emails, which, at first appeared to be tied to the hard-right Proud Boys. Officials in Pennsylvania have yet to launch a similar probe, your humble newsletter author reports.
Later on Wednesday, U.S. intelligence officials said Iran and Russia had obtained U.S. voter information and that Iran had sent the threatening emails.
Black business leaders are gratified by the attention they’ve been receiving from President Donald Trump and Biden. They just wish it didn’t only happen every four years, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.
On our Commentary Page, a University of Pittsburgh scholar explains why we have laws governing behavior at the polling place.
The state Senate GOP failed to advance legislation fixing the state’s rent relief program, depriving thousands of Pennsylvanians of the assistance they need, Spotlight PA reports.
Officials in Allegheny County are urging vigilance as COVID-19 cases rise, the Tribune-Review reports.
PennLive looks into central Pennsylvania’s ‘increasingly dysfunctional’ mail delivery service (paywall).
In the Lehigh Valley, the presidential race is pitting neighbor against neighbor, the Morning Call reports.
A Luzerne County man allegedly applied for a mail-in ballot for his dead mother, authorities say (via the Citizens-Voice).
Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day.
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📍Raccoon Creek State Park, PA🍁 . Orange ya glad it’s fall? 😏🍁😂 . I love the cheesy captions hahaha. But Raccoon Creek State Park was incredible! Here are some things you can do there! . “Take a hike! The park has 42 miles of trails to choose from. Catch some sun at the beach and stop by the concession for ice cream. Explore the 101-acre Raccoon Lake by kayak, canoe, row boat, or hydrobike. Enjoy a stroll through the Wildflower Reserve. Set up camp in the modern campground.” . Fun fact: “The Wildflower Reserve contains one of the most diverse stands of wildflowers in western Pennsylvania — more than 700 species of plants.” . I’m so glad I got to make it back in time for fall. Even though I didn’t get the peak fall photos that I wanted, I was glad to enjoy a little bit of east coast fall after being out west. . I’ll be posting more on Raccoon Creek State Park tomorrow and then it’s off to Harpers Ferry WV for the weekend! 😄🍁🍁 . “A good laugh is sunshine in the house” ☀️ . Hopefully this inspires you to Venture The Unknown! Follow and use #costahikes to be featured! I want to see where you Venture to next! . What do you think? . . . . . #raw_hikes #hikingbangers #hikingtheglobe #pennsylvaniaisbeautiful #pennsylvania #pennsylvaniaphotographer #pennsylvania_wild #naturalpennsylvania #hiking #hikingtrip #hikingviews #hikingadventure #hike #hikemoreworryless #hikemore #hikersofig #hikerslife #hikers #hikersofinstagram #hikersparadise #mobilephotography #landscapephotography #naturephotography #travel #travelphotography #travelgram #traveltheworld #travelblogger #explore
WHYY-FM looks at how the debate over housing is shaping the 2020 election.
A new Fox News poll has Joe Biden up 50-45 percent over Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, PoliticsPA reports.
A tough fire season is taking a toll on firefighters’ mental health, Stateline.org reports.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee will boycott what they’re calling a ‘sham vote’ to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, Talking Points Memo reports.
What Goes On.
Having failed to do anything remotely meaningful for Pennsylvanians this week, the House and Senate are on an election season break until Nov. 10.
10 a.m., Salus University, Elkins Park, Pa.: The Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee meets.
You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to PennLive food writer Sue Gleiter, who celebrates today. Congrats and enjoy the day.
The late Tom Petty’s 70th birthday was earlier this week. Friends have been playing this song, reminding us of how much he’s missed. From the soundtrack to ‘She’s the One,’ here’s the ever lovely ‘Walls (Circus).’
Thursday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
This is what audience-free football reveals about players and managers, the Guardian reports.
And now you’re up to date.