With Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, the new president proves neither warmonger nor dove

(Arc Illustration)

The United States bombed a group of buildings in Syria, and condemnation came from both left and right.

Progressive Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) asserted that Biden ran “roughshod over Congressional rules & procedures to launch military strikes abroad.” Nathan Robinson, editor of the left-wing Current Affairs, claimed Biden committed a “serious abuse of power” by “ordering the deaths of 22 people in sovereign foreign territory in violation of the Constitution and international law.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called the strikes “foolish military adventurism” and said “dragging the US into Syria’s civil war is a huge mistake.” Fox host Tucker Carlson


The uproar over Disney’s decision to fire the Mandalorian actress highlights some difficult questions

Pedro Pascal and Gina Carano at the premier for The Mandalorian, November 13, 2019 (Jesse Grant/Getty)

Disney and its subsidiary Lucasfilm announced that actress Gina Carano won’t be on The Mandalorian anymore and people got mad. Not just Star Wars fans who like her performance as bounty hunter Cara Dune, but also critics of cancel culture, for whom this was yet another sign of a vengeful, speech-restricting ideology run amok.

New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait said Carano was fired for “being conservative” and compared the “current treatment of right-wingers” to the infamous 1940s-50s Hollywood blacklist of suspected communists. Daily Wire editor Ben Shapiro announced that he’ll fund a movie project with Carano, writing that “Hollywood cancelled…


The 11 most common defenses and why they’re wrong

Trump impeachment defense attorney Bruce Castor in the U.S. Senate, February 12, 2021 (congress.gov via Getty)

The January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol is indefensible and Donald Trump’s role in inciting it is obvious. Yet a sizeable contingent of Americans — including most Republican Senators and right-wing media figures — have committed themselves to defending it. Well, not really defending it, but finding ways to excuse it, and to avoid holding the former president accountable.

It’s a pathetic, shameful effort. You can tell it’s a search for an excuse rather than a serious defense because Trump’s apologists flit from fig leaf to fig leaf, almost as if asking “Do you buy this one? No? …


The Democratic Congresswoman’s Instagram video created emotional connections some would rather suppress

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a House Financial Services Committee meeting December 02, 2020 (Pool, Getty)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) went live on Instagram to recount her experience of the January 6 attack on the Capitol building. In a 90-minute video, AOC described her rising sense of anxiety as protest turned into riot, and a spike of fear as someone started banging on office doors. She and her legislative director hid, and when they heard a man come inside and yell “where is she?,” AOC says she “thought everything was over.”

The man said he was a police officer, but she wasn’t sure if she could trust him. He told them to leave, but not where…


On the very noticeable and welcome absence of Donald Trump

The sun rises over the Statue of Liberty on January 21, 2021 (Gary Hershorn/Getty)

I’ve thought about Donald Trump every day for almost five years. Every single day, usually many times. I didn’t want to, but couldn’t help it. I bet many of you could say the same.

In spring 2016, as it became clear Trump would be the Republican nominee, I started saying my day was punctuated by “occasional moments of existential dread.” I was joking, but not really, in the way you do when processing something big, something you know you can’t change.

That discomfort jumped a level after he got elected and increased throughout his presidency, spiking in the worst moments…


An open letter to QAnon, “stop the steal,” and other communities involved in the Capitol attack

A QAnon symbol at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty)

To the QAnon community, and others involved in storming the Capitol:

The Deep State is real, but it’s not what you think. The Deep State you worry about is mostly made up; a fiction, a lie, a product of active imaginations, grifter manipulations, and the internet. I’m telling you this now because storming the Capitol building has drawn the attention of the real Deep State — the national security bureaucracy — and it’s important you understand what that means.

You attacked America. Maybe you think it was justified — as a response to a stolen election, or a cabal of…


A sad day for America that might inadvertently lead to some good

Trump supporters storm the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 (Evelyn Hockstein/Washington Post via Getty)

It was a sad day for America. A mob stirred up by lame duck president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building as Congress met to certify the November election, smashing windows, ransacking offices, and taking photos on the Senate floor. Five people died, including a rioter shot by Capitol police and a police officer hit in the head with a fire extinguisher (the other three involved medical complications).

I love the Capitol. It’s a gorgeous piece of architecture and symbolizes American democracy, which is something I care about a great deal. On my last night living in D.C., I made…


You un-American, anti-democracy, lying sack of sh*t

Senator Ted Cruz in a hearing, November 17, 2020 (Hannah McKay-Pool/Getty)

Liar or believer? I’ve asked that a lot these past four years, as Republican politicians and media figures spout falsehood after Trump-supporting falsehood. Do they really believe it? Or are they cynically going along with claims they know have no basis in reality — or are even the opposite of reality — because they don’t value truth, don’t respect their supporters, and see personal advantage in the lies?

Do they really believe Vladimir Putin is right and the U.S. intelligence community is wrong about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election?

Do they really believe “there is no longer a nuclear…


One teenager used a racial slur in a video, another made it go viral, and adults made the whole thing worse

(Wikimedia Commons)

This weekend, The New York Times reported on some teenage drama. In 2016, a high school freshman named Mimi (who is white) posted a short video to Snapchat of herself saying “I can drive, n*****” in a rapper-like cadence. In spring 2020, it circulated around the school again, and a classmate of Mimi’s named Jimmy (who is half black) saved a copy. In June, during protests over the police killing of George Floyd, Jimmy posted the video. It went viral, people got mad about it, and denounced Mimi on social media. Some contacted the University of Tennessee, which Mimi was…


Undermining democratic legitimacy and conning supporters, but not actually affecting results

A Trump supporter in a shirt alleging “fraud” at the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC, November 14, 2020 (B.A. Van Sise/NurPhoto via Getty)

I saw this coming. As President Trump denigrated vote-by-mail and installed crony Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General, his unsubtle plan to manipulate the election came into focus. I called it out in July, and again, step-by-step, in August:

Nicholas Grossman

Senior Editor at Arc Digital. Poli Sci prof (IR) at U. Illinois. Author of “Drones and Terrorism.” Politics, national security, and occasional nerdery.

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