Order on the Border: Prologue or Retrospective View?


Trump chose to visit the border wall for a final time in his Presidency, in a disarmingly valedictory way, to offer a summing up of his achievements as chief executive, that combined the ceremonial fanfare with which he had visited the groundbreaking of a new hotel, accompanied by city officials, but as if he was now inhabiting the role of the public official, the enabler, and the fixer all at once in the unveiling of an even more majestic and far more grandiose national monument. If the visit of the U.S. President recalled the triumphal visits to sites of real estate developments, Trump announced in Alamo that the border wall had progressed from a development project as “completion of the promised four hundred and fifty miles of border wall” transformed what was but a “development project” to border wall sections in either “construction or pre-construction,” situated as prominently in our national memory as the legend of The Alamo and its defense. The very structure of the wall, designed to force migrants and smugglers to be stopped for the needed time that they can be apprehended by agents of U.S. Border Patrol, demands further augmentation by a system of surveillance, and is in a sense but a gauntlet for a broader project of border security–hardly a done deal!

Trump never openly referenced the historic site of battle to defend a garrison flying “Old Betsy” by Tejano settlers. But he needed to magnify the fact that only eighty miles of the border that was walled created an obstacle to transit that did not exist. His ceremonial visit was a visit to a mythic border was a rhetorical exercise in mapping the nation, combining a real geography of the border wall with an imaginary border, rooted in Texas history–his visit might have been not to the town Alamo TX, on a symbolic level, but to the set “Alamo Village” that John Wayne had built at expense, north of Bracketville, TX, based on a 1938 commemorative map, near a fort from the old Indian Wars defended by black seminole–and foregrounded the border wall that merged a national map with a monumental line of defense. But the town near the actual US-Mexico border, itself a station of Customs & Border Protection, in Kinney County, placing the town founded to escape enslavement in the southern states that lies some forty miles form the US-Mexico border on the landscape of nativist as a major site Border Patrol has found human smuggling and arms trafficking–a site of international tension hardly visible in the terrain of the USGS topo map.

Bracketville, TX

The overlapping of border imaginaries–and the evocation of the border as a site of danger, a limit over which lay chaos and confusion, was served by the invocation of a film set in which the patriotic defense of the nation was entrusted to white men with guns, affirming that shooting straight from a multi-gauge rifle of the sort Richard Widmark used to defend the border garrison in the 190 technicolor extravaganza confirmed in semaphore that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” exponentially expanded in scale, as he conjured the danger of drug cartels, gang members, child traffickers, and coyotes in place of men bearing Mexican flags. The late addition to the western genre that glorified the use of guns for self-defense against Mexican invaders was, in a sense, the first “border” or clash of nations between Mexico and the United States, and while remembered as commemorating the first major battle for Texan independence in local state history and in the militia groups of patriots who guard the southern border, despite its little strategic consequence in the Texas Revolution, became a talisman of the defense of borders as Alamo TX was planned as a town along the post-1848 US-Mexico border as part of the patriotic frenzy of border protection after the Spanish-American War–an invocation of the nativist perspective on the border’s expansion dear to Wayne, a white supremacist, casting the cowboy a leading figure in the nation’s emergence.

The confluence of a spatial imaginary of the legendary line drawn in the sand, at Alamo, as a defense of the nation, the border town Alamo, the map, and a spatial imaginary of the border overlapped in Trump’s visit, in ways we would do well to understand better at the close of the Trump presidency, that has done more to map the dangerous nature of the border, far removed from the migrant, in our national imaginary. While the film set that was built close to the actual border than The Alamo in downtown San Antonio, the “open space” in the Rio Grande Valley, a long demonized as a site of cross-border migrant traffic, in need of expanded border security. Trump made building additional border barriers his central campaign promise in 2016, and he leaves office slotting a “barrier system” costing $1.375 billion in FY 2021, having built only forty miles of wall in formerly open border lands–a number some report as more like twelve–far from the “big beautiful wall” he had promised voters in 2016, to run continuously along 1,954 miles. Did the small scale of new border wall demand evoking a grandiose setting of the most famous breached wall in the nation’s memory, The Alamo? Or was The Alamo historical evidence of the right to own guns in self defense, embracing the place of firearms on the frontier and affirming that for “well-regulated militias” that patrol the border Militia, that the Second Amendment indicates “necessary to the security of a free State,” includes firearms. This Alamo was a site of nativist pride and protection, a site of the “battle between Americans in Texas and Mexican forces,” as is still taught in Texas curriculum, in a Crash Course on Manifest Destiny. If The Alamo is the regular site of staging a Fourth of July celebration, where is Alamo, TX on the mental map of nativists?

“The Alamo” (1960)

Trump’s suddenly announced border visit formally celebrated the redesign of the open space of the border by the erection of a permanent border structure, but echoed the photo ops Trump long used to announce the transactional relation of special permits and permissions for building developments in midtown Manhattan, when he came to autograph a new section of reinforced concrete. He joined by his long-time friends, the Border Patrol members, instead of the New York officials who arrived for breaking ground for a new skyscraper or luxury complex, but the visit featured as part of a “Promises Kept” tour suggested a triumphal tour to the limits of empire of reciprocal reinforcement, contrasting the “dysfunctional open border” he inherited to the current border wall. In visiting developments in New York City, Trump had regularly presented his latest deal for luxury developments as a victory for all New Yorkers. He fulsomely praised the concrete and rebar border wall over four hundred and fifty miles as a victory for America, despite its steep price tag, conjuring the dangers dismantling by the border wall would expose the nation. He listed dangers–much as, perhaps, those first American settlers and Tejanos faced at the valiant loss of Battle of The Alamo–ranging from human traffickers, international drug cartels, and an escalation of criminal violence as octopian tentacles of transborder dangers that the wall prevented, opposing sovereignty and “immigration chaos,” focussing most enthusiastically on the physical construction of the panels of border wall as complete, as if to conceal the chaos that had just incited in Washington, DC, enlisting a range of familiar border fantasies.

The Alamo was so often dramatized in film, as a national sacrifice on the border of the open space of the west, from D.W. Griffith’s historical drama Martyrs of the Alamo (1915) to the present, perhaps most monumentally, for Donald Trump, by the 1960 technicolor “The Alamo,” produced and directed by his very own cinematic “hero,” John Wayne, that used color film to emphasize the subject as a film about race. Trump did not address race openly, but in his words about the “open space” of the border at the Rio Grande Valley protected by Border Patrol almost invoked the border imaginary of Anglo defenders the Mexican garrison at San Francesco de Bexar known as a site of a race war against Mexican tyranny, inspired by patriotic love of liberty. Lest American women be exposed without defense to the murders and rapists Trump conjured as about to cross the borderline, and the corps of well-armed citizens and vigilante groups be disbanded, the defense of the border must be continued–“The Alamo” the movie confirmed that shooting was in American’s blood, “granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright, ” as Wayne LaPierre has put it. Most efficiently, Alamo TX must have invoked the sense of the border as a line–as a barrier in space, jumping right off of a map, with the security of a thick line of black ink, whose security obscured and outweighed the fate of migrants or the setting of borderlands.

What spatial imaginary of the border did Trump so easily suture to the nation? The considerable power of the thirteen-day siege that settlers resisted at The Alamo has for long held particular power in a spatial imaginary of the nation that has cast a long shadow of a thirteen-day battle over American expansion to the west among heroic battles of national defense. The battle was not pivotal in any way in itself in the Texas Revolution, but the martyrdom of white settlers have risen to the status of defending the nation, that Trump has proposed the central character John Wayne performed to occupy a central role in the National Garden of American Heroes of the “giants of our past” to “show that America is a land of heroes”–even if the Garden of statuary of Confederate figures, James Fenimore Cooper, Walt Disney, Ronald Reagan, Theodore Geissel, Christopher Columbus, and Alex Trebek will probably never be built. Psychologist Mary Trump, Donald’s niece, who has spent considerable time but not more than the rest of us pondering and trying to clarify her uncle’s psychology, harbored no doubts that the President was more familiar with the idea of The Alamo as a heroic movie of border defense, than anything about its place in American history, the agreement to visit the U..S. Border Patrol in Alamo TX was not only to celebrate the victory that he did win over Joe Biden in border towns. It was a deeply transactional relation to Border Patrol, who had long endorsed his candidacy, and regain stability days after the Siege of the Capitol, to deliver a final Presidential performance with men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol. He triumphantly returned to the theme of order and showcased the future need for national order at the international US-Mexico border, rather than the process of Presidential impeachment or the insurrectionary siege of the Capitol by members of his base, with the encouragement of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and other supporters of second amendment rights.

Donald Trump's life in pictures Photos - ABC News
Donald Trump unveils New York Hyatt with Mayor Ed Koch, Governor Hugh Carey, Robert T. Dormer of the Urban Development Corp
June 28, 1978/Associated Press
Donald Trump's life in pictures Photos - ABC News
Donald Trump and Mayor Rudy Giuliani Break Groundbreak for Trump International Hotel,/AP
June 21, 1995

Trump was reminding the base that he stood for order, after the disorder of the insurrection he had fomented in Washington, DC. The optics of authority were important, and the border wall had to be foregrounded as a prop of his leadership as never before. So often had Trump evoked the border wall for his base as the grounds for his election that he seem to have responded to the sense of a gaping hole in the demands of the Border Patrol in America. Barack Obama joked with some desperation in 2011, exasperated after appeasing Republicans, that if the border barriers at El Paso, TX were “basically complete,” They’ll want want a higher fence—maybe they’ll need a moat! Maybe they want alligators in the moat!” Trump in 2019 adopted that very cinematic fantasy, per Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration, by seeking cost estimates to stock a trench with alligators to ward off migrants from border-crossing to end cross-border flow on what he saw as his property, gloriously removed referential data to place. A moat may have been the ideal image of stoppage by terror, not rooted in place, but conveying the bravura of a builder. As the image gained currency in photoshopped images, Trump was furious at his staff, convinced a leak had occurred that held him up to ridicule. “You are making me look like an idiot! I ran on this. This is my issue!”

It was his issue, but enlisting aquatic reptiles was implausible in an arid desert –even if some speculated that the subsidies to Florida alligator breeders would secure the state’s votes. The planning of an adequately prohibitive trench opened the President to a range of questions about the feasibility of a border wall, and suddenly opened the project to ridicule–as the visit to Alamo opened speculation that Rudy Giuliani would join Donald Trump at the Alamo car rental agency at an airport in Texas. But the visit would showcase front lines of border protection by Border Patrol, the foot soldiers to stop migrant transit, and this time: in Alamo, the sheer concrete of the border wall existed at a real place–if “Alamo” was more evocative in the national imagination as a reminder of the perpetual vulnerability of the border as much as its defense. Trump visited the border wall to restore dignity to the office which he was leaving in disgrace–far less gracefully than he had departed NBC after fifteen seasons of The Apprentice. If affirmed as a law and order President beside the officers of Customs and Border Protection. If the moat caricatured border protection in photoshopped images, Trump wanted to promote the remaking of the Mexican-American boundary reveled as no fantasy game of alligators extending on a thousand-mile lazy river leading to the Rio Grande, but an occasion to praise heroes “who risk their lives every day to protect our families and our country” in a scared duty that compared to the patriotic moment of border defense at The Alamo mission, in the heroic adventure film of John Wayne, set in San Antonio,–even if that shrine to the nation lay a full two hundred and twenty miles north, or three and a half hour by car, and about eight days by foot—or summoned he movie set that John Wayne had built for “The Alamo,” far closer to the actual US-Mexican border.

Trump magnified the border wall as a monument to the nation by a place-name able to evoke the image of national defense over a thirteen-day siege by foreign forces, transcended its role in the creation of Texas, or Texian pride, as a defense of flying the American flag as an icon of continental destiny and hemispheric dominance, monumentalized as an American Thermopylae, preserving American democracy and the expansive rule of American destiny before a Mexican threat, as Thermopylae turned all Greeks against the invading Persians. The status of the mission as a shrine to Texas martyrs and the struggle of liberty against Mexican tyranny gained a patriotic consensus ruffled when Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbit–later Interior Secretary–scoffed at The Alamo in 1979 not as a national monument, but “symbol of the problem in our relationship with Mexico” as a nation–a view that Mexican-Americans saw as epitomizing a paternalistic relaiton to Mexico. For while it is continued to be commemorated as “a sacred symbol to Texans and an extension of the American ideal–but to Mexico it’s a symbol of territory lost, a nation plundered by overbearing gringo neighbors.” Nonetheless, the heroism of the defense of the garrison was returned to in television films from the 1987’s The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory, the 1988 IMAX spectacle Alamo: The Price of Freedom; and in John Lee Hancock’s 2004 film The Alamo–that elevated the national identity of America in terms of a struggle against Mexican culture and authority.

The major television dramas of the battle from the 1980s foregrounded the role of Mexican Tejano members in the Texan army, dislodging The Alamo from the race battle John Wayne staged, even if as many black settlers–enslaved, to be sure–died in the battle but are omitted from its list of martyrs as Seguín heroically rejects Mexican tyranny, more than Tejano identity; foregrounding the contribution of the insurrectionist Captain Juan Seguín, Travis’ partner in insurrection, in the filmed versions of the border battle from the 1980s reflects an effort to foreground Tejano diversity, but enlisted Mexicans as heroes of The Alamo led many to reject conscribing Mexican protagonists as defenders an American ideal of nationhood in an event that stripped Mexico of territory in a narrative whose “master symbol serves as a critical map for the exploitation and displacement of Mexicans” and triumphant narrative of American expansionism.

While The Alamo was not even a critical battle in the Texan Revolution, compared to others, the dramatic conceit of a forging of the nation naturalized a rights-based myth of the claiming of American identity by a line in the sand at the same time as the US-Mexican border was defined . The ongoing nature of a threat to American liberties and democracy was channeled in a visit to Alamo, TX. Never mind that the that the Texian insurrection at a munitioned garrison was in Mexico: the siege raised by Mexican forces of General Antonio López de Santa Anna may have even glorified the moment of insurrection to the groups that had contributed to the insurrection at the White House, known as the Capitol Siege, echoing the admiration and sympathies Trump had declared to the insurrectionists, who might find precedent for their own invasion of a joint session of congress in the insurrectionists and anti-federalists of the past. On the eve of increased buzz among far right extremists in the United States of renewed interest in staging disruptive events during the incoming Presidency and inauguration, even the slightest reference to glorifying the thirteen-day insurrection as a national defense broadcast messages. Was the insurrection holding of ground not a national defense against against all odds? The valiant attempt to hold the fort dignified an insurrection quelled by Mexico’s army to give it a centrality as a patriotic defense of national constitutional liberties. But the siege only acquired patriotism as it was reinvented as the cry of patriotic injunction to “Remember the Alamo!” to rally troops and revolutionaries in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48–its patriotic cry reverberated in the jingoist “Remember the Maine!” launched to start the Spanish-American War, just before Alamo TX was founded after World War One.

The place of “The Alamo” in the national memory was effectively inscribed on the border town, founded shortly after the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor was taken as a grounds for declaration of war. The declaration of war promoted by the Hearst newspapers’ yellow journalism used the very jingoist terms that the foundation of the Texas border town embodied by summoning memories of national offense and pride, born of the increased trafficking of patriotism that almost bore the imprint of Hearst newspapers. And although San Antonio was a site of American illegal immigration into Mexico, far from the current border wall, its commemoration of alleged rights of independence in the border town geographically removed from The Alamo reminded us of the power of mythic enlistment of an ideal of national defense, echoing the notion defending national ideals encouraged just days earlier when the Capitol building was seized for four hours–and would have in 1905 commemorated the national defense of the border at the “new” border town.

Was the image of The Alamo insurrection in San Antonio, a shrine of national memory glorified by white supremacists and Texan militia, a confirmation of the place of insurrections in a defense of national territory?

Distance of The Alamo from Alamo TX, by Car

This time, the President wanted to remind the base, the place existed, the wall was rooted in space. Trump wanted to share a moment of bonding with Border Patrol that might moreover root the border wall visit in a moment of national memory. And what better way than by evoking a sacralized site of American history at The Alamo, recalling a distant siege of 1836 that some might see as the origins of the Border Patrol, or the first defense of a southern border on Texan land,–if not the transformation from Tejas, the Mexican state, to Texas in defending the garrison in San Antonio, if not the blood shed by the defense of territorial claims of Tejanos that were commemorated in patriotic cries of United States soldiers who defended American sovereignty over Texas?

The critically foreshortened perspective on the US-Mexico border, and indeed on the border wall, have a long pedigree, whose genealogy might be said to begin from The Alamo, if not the perpetuation of the Alamo myth as a staking of rights to hold land–and, as it happens, to seize munitions and pistols at a fortified garrison. The preservation of the place of The Alamo as a mythic site for standing one’s ground on a line drawn in the sand–a legend without basis in historical fact–testifies to the history of the mutability of the US-Mexico border which was, of course, not firmly defined as a latitude before the two hundred and seventy-six obelisks were set in the ground to mark the US-Mexico border in 1848, after the US-Mexico War fought to define the southern perimeter of the nation–long before the idea of a “border fence” or “border boundary.”

When David Taylor undertook in 2006 to document the boundary markers that were result of the Mexican-American war, he used them to move along the landscape he knew in his native Arizona across California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. His photographs capture the space that this early borderline created, in ways that make sense to re-examine after the increased spectacularity of the border wall’s rebuilt complex. Taylor’s project began before the militarization of the border by the United States and capture monuments that describe an almost surreal relation to place in 276 views of the border the art practice offers a snapshot that froze and preserved each border monument before the inevitable progress of militarization of the boundary as a security complex in the Trump years. Taylor’s corpus of monumentalism suggest the reduced monumentality of the first survey of the border, taken in the boundary line surveyed after the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, remembered for having purchased rights to run the border and cede California Alta, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and much of Arizona to the gringo for $15 million, “in consideration of the extension acquired by the boundaries of the United States”–before expanding allocation of resources to fortifying those boundaries that almost destroyd the border landscape.

View from Emorys Monument South, Looking West along the Parallel of 38°20

The jointly qualitative and quantitative project of surveying that was a testament to the skill of deploying a national surveying team along treacherous terrain, engaging astronomers, cartographers, mountaineers, and artists, often the veterans of the US-Mexico War, was a massive national project of sovereign aggression, cementing the map to the land by assembling piles of rocks, cairns completed in 1852 but later replaced by obelisks every to to four miles apart to be able to be seen by an individual line of sight, transforming the arbitrary line to a the landscape. Given the difficulty of “tracing upon the ground” the boundary negotiators of the treaty concluded, the essentially arbitrary line was to be surveyed, measured and drawn on the very ground, to make the arbitrary line manifest as a part of the landscape, transforming what was a line in the sand across two thousand miles “to cement the words on the page and the line in the sand . . . both legally and physically.” Obelisks situated on the border in the 1890s long formed a permeable space marked by a sequence of obelisks, each in visble proximity to one another, make the survey manifest in the landscape.

David Taylor, from Working the Line: Border Monument 2-3, November 2012, west of El Paso/lat 31°47.032’. long 106°32.239’

The obelisks later affirmed as a patriotic point of reference from which flew flags marking territorial claims, but which increasingly look antiquated, a past notion of open-ness that the border barriers built beside them obstruct, and in a sense overshadow, as they create a protective barrier in place of a permeable membrane.

David Taylor, Working the Line: Boundary Monument No. 210, 2009

When Donald Trump ran for President on the promise to expand the border as a monitory wall, the border was already militarized, but expanding the investment in a border infrastructure to solidifed in the national imaginary and memory. Announcing a visit to Alamo as he left office sought to recognize the militarization of the border and the threat of its breaching simultaneously, by evoking without every having to the memory of the loss of The Alamo, and the conquest of the border, by creating an imaginary continuity in the historical militarization of this border line. Donald Trump, a huge fan of John Wayne, whose birthplace he visited int eh Iowa Caucuses of 2015, when running for President, must have remembered the stirring defense of the nation that was imagined in the 1960 historical epic, “The Alamo,” where Crockett shoots as many Mexican soldiers as he can, before his ammunition is exhausted, in his defense of a “line in the sand” for the conceit of a Republic. The visit that promotec the defense by Tejano soldiers of the garrison in San Antonio, then a border town to the Mexican interior of the Mexican state of Texas, evoked the myths of claimed sovereignty by an early historical imaginary of a line in the sand, commemorated in historical epics of the American cinema. For American films from D.W Griffith’s Martyrs of the Alamo to John Wayne’s technicolor epic magnified the patriotism of the defense of a racialized line in the sand that evoked the nation over the region. The defenders of the garrison commandeered by Tejans never agreed to defend a line in the sand–nor did their leader, Lt. Col. William Barrett Travis, even draw one–the image of a “line” that emerged by 1873 in printed accounts of The Alamo, that mythologized the siege as a defense of a Texan state, evoked the boundary of the 1848 Treaty as a line that the fort’s defender drew with unsheathed sword on the old Mission’s grounds.

“Legend states in 1836, Lt. Col William Barret Travis unsheathed his sword and drew a line on the ground before his battle-weary men”

The nineteenth-century American migrants who fought to reclaiming what they understood as their Constitutional rights would, after all, lead the United States to recognize Texas as a state in 1845, and defend Texas’ southern borderline. While the vision of the a moat filled with alligators seemed a flight of fancy, the reference to another Alamo seemed rooted in space, if it was not exactly geotagged. By evoking the myth of border vulnerability, bravery, and militarized valor in one of his final public appearances as President, Trump celebrated his creation of a wall in “this great outdoor space” in what he called only recently “a broken, dysfunctional open border.” The implicit message that it might soon devolve as an open border–and “the most secure border in U.S. history” might soon be breached. While “we got it done” to meet the letter of the request of the U.S Border Patrol, “the completion of the promised four hundred and fifty miles of border wall” what was a “development project” in either “construction or pre-construction,” the border wall system must remain, Trump implied, a part of the Texas geography as central as The Alamo itself. While he pronounced the border wall complete, enshrining it in a nationalist, the section at Alamo was always in danger of reverting to the dangers evoked in the diorama of thousands of Mexican soldiers attacking its walls that lies in The Alamo in San Antonio, able to be evoked, without even naming it, in his audience’s minds.

Diorama of The Battle of the Alamo

This, at least, seemed a real place–and seemed the conclusion of a history where the walls of the Alamo were besieged and new walls, truly unbreachable, existed at Alamo TX, in their memory. The ruins of the fort that were a shrine to national memory had provided a living memory to the nation, preserved in the oppositional terms that they had been recorded in the diary of the member of the volunteer Revolutionary Army of Texas, Dr. John Barnard, as the very Mission and church whose masonite walls were stormed as “the foes of liberty came and dealt death and destruction to all around.” They site of pillage would be claimed by a Mexican army that had “exulted in their carnage and gloried in the conquest of a handful of brave men, who overpowered by numbers, fell as those heroes of old did Thermopylae,” where 7,000 Greeks had held off what were said to be a million Persian invading troops in ancient three-day battle that had raged in a mountain pass. The topos of invasion had cast the Alamo as itself a divide where the Texian revolutionaries held the garrison that had fallen, but was preserved in popular and national memory something akin to the early wall–the line that, legend had it, the commander of the garrison, Cl. Travis, traced in the sand with his sword, as he asked fellow-defenders to choose to defend “in freedom’s cause” or to accept the surrender to General Santa Anna demanded. If historical legend has it that all but one of the “heroic defenders” still commemorated in Texas High School history books had chose to defend, their canonization as martyrs was enshrined in the adoption of the battle charge “Remember the Alamo!” to among Texan Revolutionaries, revived in the defense of Texas’ southern boundary in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 and the Spanish-American war.

Just three years after The Alamo was retaken, before American forces had occupied Mexico to provoke the United States-Mexican war, Mitchell’s Family Atlas had mapped Texas as lying outside Mexican sovereignty, a decade before the state entered the union, four years before Mexico’s foreign minister warned Washington that annexation of Texas as a state would be an act of war–even if cotton production in Texas had encouraged the extension of slavery, competing with plantations in southern states for pricing their primary cash crop.

While the defense of the United States’ new southern boundary after the annexation of Texas by Congress, as the military occupation of the territory led Mexico to sever relations with the United States government, the State of Texas was mapped as Anglo land grants above the Rio Grande (or Rio Brava), during the Texas Revolution, against longitude from Washington, DC according to acts of the U.S. Congress, as Texas militia invoked The Alamo decades before the United States’ southern border officially extended to the Rio Grande.

San Antonio was far from the southern border, but as a crucial trading post to the Mexican interior, and trading post, the city where the Alamo lay was a The mythic line for holding ground against the Mexican forces was never drawn by defenders of the garrison at the Mission whose masonite walls afforded a border outpost and fortress; but the line was mythologized in the service of the defense of a longitudinal boundary line, and is commemorated for all visitors to the Alamo, a shrine to revolutionaries as the site of burial of its defenders, marked by a bronze rod inset in paving stones twenty feet before the church’s door, as a line that Texian separatists pledged to defend to the death until they exhausted their supply of canon balls and bullets. The line, even if it does not commemorate an actual place, and was never drawn, has been enlisted in a project of national memory in a celebratory history of the start of “the geopolitical structure of the Americas” and an exclusion of Mexican history and Mexican memory from the map, as it inscribed a myth of belonging to the occupiers of The Alamo, and their defense of a territory which we imagine we vicariously continue: the naming of the city of Alamo at the entrance to the Rio Grande Valley, in Hidalgo County, was named after the shrine of Texan liberty in San Antonio, as it lay just north of the US-Mexico border.

The place-name not only erases Mexican presence from the Rio Grande valley at a place where the river regularly overflowed its bounds, but reduces the wilderness wildlife refuge that abuts the border, the lush region still fed by seasonal overflow of the Rio Grande in an area of massive water diversion, one of the few areas in the region amid cleared lands where flooding was curbed by settlers, an ecological niche for migrating birds. If the memory of The Alamo was an erasure of Mexican land claims in Texas up to the border, the expansion of levees, concrete panels, and border wall system would erase delicate avian habitat along the Rio Grande or, as it is known in Mexico, the Rio Bravo has nourished. If these ecological niches were encouraged in wildlife refuges established in the 1940s, to counteract water diversion and land clearing, elevating the perspective of the border complexby imposing a perspective privileging construction of the border wall along sensitive habitat–and erasing the serpentine border that runs through the Rio Grande Valley wilderness complex–

Rio Grande No Longer? Agriculture, Development, and Border Patrol Threaten  Valley's Future - News - The Austin Chronicle
https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2001-10-26/83444/

–privileging the fear of a “flood” of migrants over the seasonal flooding of the river that long enriched riverside “resecas” by water bearing loamy soils, through the imposition of dikes, levees, and dams for water diersion, erasing the flooding of ecoystems by clay-rich waters by expanded sheer concrete of a border wall.

Slicing a Corridor in Two: A Report from Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge  - Wildlands Network
Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge - Maplets
Mobile Maplets/Refuge Wildlife Complexes

–as a grid of urban development, land clearance, and habitat destruction advances along the border, increasingly threatened by the very construction projects that have completed existing segments of border wall. The triumphalist image of the progress of construction promotes a dangerous vision of border defense, erasing the protection of sensitive habitat in wildlife refuges critical for migrating birds, privileging the fear of migrating humans above migration patterns of birds and butterflies, by imposing the perspective of the imperative of continuing the construction of further levees in the Rio Grande Valley for border wall.

Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge/Refuge Planning Documents

1. The dividing line of the bronze bar before the mission that was a garrison channels the defense of the border. The evocation of this bronze line set in The Alamo evokes a military defense of the border that imbued with sacred purpose. As the defense of the border was commemorated in the historic epic of border defense, directed and produced by John Wayne, featuring the cowboy actor massacring “invading” Mexicans in a celebration of commitment to a fateful line for the nation, the mapping of the border wall removes the edge of the nation from its environment. In ways akin to a line of longitude, maps a divide of territorial defense in the name of the nation, even if the choice to defend the garrison was made by Anglos who entered Mexico as illegal migrants, only later remembered as sacrificing their lives to assert inalienable rights: the echo of the falsification of the preservation of rights was echoed in the name of the border town Trump visited to commemorate completion of panels of a border wall designed and in the process of completion to deprived migrants of rights. And while Trump may know little American history, or is widely read in Texas history, despite the many rallies he has had in the state, U.S. Border Patrol is so keen to have the completed border wall recognized as if it were a line of national defense, that Joe Biden’s administration might allow Mexican immigrants to breach, that Trump arrived in Alamo TX.

The name of the border town is itself a commemoration of the Americanization of the Alamo–an old Mexican fortress, the Fortress of San Antonio de Valero, that has entered the nationalist lexicon of many of the militias commemoration at Alamo emphasized the primacy of a border, over a borderland, and in visiting the wall at the end of his Presidency performatively enacted a telling bond to the nation, fulfilling the fully transactional nature of his relation to the U.S. Border Patrol’ union whose board early endorsed his Presidential candidacy, thrilled by the commitment and seriousness with which he tool the construction of a border defense system. It was time for Trump to restore his sense of pride, in the days after the Siege of the Capitol, and to try and restore his sense of himself as a Law and Order President, who had promised jobs, not mobs.

Who could deny that the primal scene of the border-like invasion of the breaching of the garrison walls of a building known as The Alamo, and not the Fortress of San Antonio de Valero, was at the back of his mind, given its place in the national psyche as a site of national defense? The commemoration of the Alamo of the struggle of Fortress of San Antonio de Valero, is after all its own sort of confederate monument, commemorating the attempt of settlers from the southern states who would expand slavery to Texas, as it was established as a Republic–before joining the United States–making it the most retrograde of nations as the only one to sanction second-class status for blacks–or to deny them citizenship. In the calls for the removal and reassessment of Confederate monuments in Texas and around the nation, the Alamo is one of the most deeply racist–with national status, but little international value, and indeed an insult to Mexicans, who should see the garrison where so many lost their lives as a shrine to the Mexican nation, even if it lies in United States territory.

For The Alamo is a shrine of the agenda of white supremacy that distinguished nineteenth century Texas history, and a racially inflected line of battle, as much as a defense of the nation, which is a touchstone for gun rights activists, and even the leader of Branch Davidians, followers of a self-anointed prophet, David Koresh, who had announced the end of times, who staged a showdown with federal forces at Waco TX called a “wake-up call” for Americans akin to Waco–perhaps more apt comparison than any–and should be reassessed as a battle, historian H.W. Brands argued, as an engagement with Mexican forces that in terms of its “contribution to the strategy of the Texas Revolution was nil or negative,” rather than a turning point or watershed of local history, meriting commemoration as a national sacred shrine. The Alamo is often, however, iconographically remembered as a fortress over which flew the Gadsden Flag, recently adopted by the Alt Right and southern secessionists, white supremacists, or states rights activists, even if the Mexican soldiers who stormed its barricades to restore order in the garrison that anti-federalist Texians held for thirteen days in a stand-off had only arisen during the heady rhetoric of states’ rights, liberties to own guns, and religious freedoms that the Waco massacre itself provoked among white supremacists and white terrorists who were energized to action during the Waco siege, and which have found renewed focus among varied militia groups which grew in fears of a Hilary Clinton victory, and have  multiplied in Donald Trump’s presidency–groups with strong ties to the U.S. Border Patrol. Did Border Patrol invite Trump to Alamo to evoke the depths of their commitment to preserving the border wall, and the apocalyptic imagery of ending the wall complex defined as critical to border security?

The recent salute to the heroism of Border Patrol members at Alamo, TX was a clear reference to another cinematic fantasy of national defense, this time of sacred origin. The symbolic nature of the huge assault Santa Anna waged at The Alamo brought a massive 1,800 assault troops to lay siege to the munitioned garrison that the settlers desperately defended, resolved to hold to the end, perhaps, legend has it impelled to bravery by their commander drawing of a “line in the sand” refusing to cede land. The war ending in bloody hand-to-hand combat left dead almost all hundred and eighty nine defenders of the fort, save a few women and children gallantly allowed to leave the garrison’s besieged walls as the mission and its walls became the target of enemy canon fire to retake the garrison, earlier abandoned, in December, 1835, using canon onslaught to retake the strategic fort and its munitions, March 6, 1836.

Texas, 1836, Alamo, Manuscript Plan, Texas Revolution | Battlemaps.us
Plan of the Alamo, by José Juan Sánchez-Navarro, showing military operations of Mexican Siege on March 6, 1836 (1836)

Was the border wall a similar instance of martial valor, and, indeed was enshrined by many militias and white nationalists as a canonic turning point in the border’s defense in future histories of the American West, trying to retain a garrison filled with munitions as from its walls, as they faced canon fire on two flanks?

The construction of the border wall on the southwestern border of the nation was central to the very notion of nationhood, Trump insisted. Trump so compellingly made a central issue of his first Presidential campaign, has been showcased in his Presidency to created a wedge driven into the nation, if the border wall promised to protect national security in ways that previous administrations, for a lack of clear bearings on the situation or blinded by political incompetence that prevented them from endorsing measures of sufficient strength. “All of you people, incredible,” Trump waxed, trying to soar to patriotic heights, as he praised a secure southern border and reformed immigration system as if the border wall stood as but a synecdoche for a complex ensuring border security, prefigured, however ahistorically, in the undying defense to the end of the Alamo.

Trump was offering during his visit a new narrative of his Presidency rooted in law enforcement, not the expansion of anti-migrant hostility or escalation of violence against migrants systematically separated and detained at the border to discourage immigration in almost psychological warfare. The border wall was a synecdoche for national defense: “When I took office, we inherited a broken, dysfunctional, and open border.  Everybody was pouring in at will..  Everyone here today is part of an incredible success story.  This is a real success story.”

Instead of asking what sort of film was playing in his mind, it makes sense what sort of map he was creating for the nation. The tenor of President Trump’s somewhat valedictory visit to the border town of Alamo, TX reenacted his relation to the nation, by affirming the border not only as a boundary enforced during his Presidency to affirm the nation’s integrity. The flight down to Texas to visit the border wall at the border town Alamo in his first public appearance since the Siege of the Capitol was not only an attempt to feel, but to steal the headlines and turn the attention of the media, and, unbelievably, offer further trigger words after inciting mobs to storm the Capitol building.

The visit was Trump’s first public appearance after the nation was destabilized and shocked by the January 6 Siege–and he sought a new photo opportunity to look Presidential that restored an image of law and order long cultivated and projected onto the border and its blockage, if often from a repertory of performance more imbued in cinematic fantasy than immigration law.

January 12, 2021
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Filed under Border Patrol, border policy, border wall, Donald Trump, US-Mexico Border

Mobs and Jobs

We had been waiting for the barbarians for some time. The President had been, over four years, mapping the threat of the barbarians advancing from across borders. But we imagined that they would arrive from the edges of empire, the edges where the acting President had been mapping threats of their arrival for five years, informed by the images of a border that without adequate defenses, as he evoked a breaching the ramparts of defense as the primary threat to national security.  Maybe that was a feint. For the crowds assembled on the Washington Mall, a mob crowd-sourced, whose fight or flight responses were stimulated across their vagal nerves, were ready to sack the Capitol building, invading the offices of congressional representatives as if to interrupt a peaceful transition of Presidential power. These were not the barbarians of whom we had been repeatedly warned as arriving from without borders. Rather, it was those who had been alerted to the danger from the southern border, and had arrived on busses from across its states, carrying not their belongings but the sense of resentment and anger nurtured on the apparently unjust maps of electoral votes, to stall consensus about the end of Donald Trump’s presidency–then were a crowd that had been energized and nurtured on social media, at Trump rallies, and in chat rooms that bewailed the fear of a loss of liberties.

FOX News

In the very final Presidential debate, Trump had taken pains to evoke the marauding crowds that would fill the streets after the election of his opponent, to illustrate that Biden should be trusted–he promised the public the mantra “jobs not mobs,” ensuring that the jobs would materialize as he kept “illegals” who had undercut wages out, and ensured an America First policy. The barbarians had arrived at the Capital, not at a frontier settlement, but at its center, as they hoped to promote America First; rather than arriving as migrants from across the border, they came on busloads, airplanes, and cars, in busses paid for by Trump evangelist, the Republican donor who believes the President chosen by God–or by itineraries to Washington, DC, that PeacefulRedStateSecession had mapped.

This invasion did not cross national divides, or defend anything other than endangered liberties. It was not on foot, but they were dressed for cold weather. But it was an actual seizure of the U.S. Capitol, by an inside job, utterly unlike the visions of invasions threatened during a series of National Emergencies in recent years–from the Migrant Caravans, enabled by the “humanitarian visas” given out by the Mexican government, that had made it so urgent to “fix” America’s immigration laws–a pedestrian pilgrimage on a sacred calendar that had necessitated the first $1 Billion to be transferred from the Department of Defense to remedy “critical readiness issues facing our military” as the caravans “thumbed their noses at our drug and immigration laws” as they advanced in four massive caravans “in an effort to enter the US” and threatened to breach borders.

Migrant “Caravan” Approaching American Border (March, 2019)

Their routes were longer, and were not conducted on foot–but these barbarians were truly at the gate, if they didn’t come as vectors that wold pierce our borders. They were, rather, crowds that were sourced on social media, in reaction to the threats of regime change that would come by elections, by the creation of consensus.

They could not be traced to transnational cartels or the “historical routes” of migrant caravans; these threats at the perimeter of the U.S. Capitol were crowd sourced, promoted in multiple Facebook groups, where, in hours after the refusal to accept the results of the U.S. Presidential election had been called in several states, verb tenses became unhinged from reality in the waning hours of election night, as what would be the largest-growing Facebook groups ever in the history of the platform grew online, a virtual crowd, not able to be tracked by GPS or viewed as puncturing our borders, but rather aimed at puncturing sovereignty from within: the boundaries of states were less important know, despite threats of migrants overwhelming those fortified border check-points by rushing them en masse, but the crowd that was assembling on January 7 before the sun rose was threatening to pierce the perimeter of the Capitol, to finally stream down the Mall, down Constitution Avenue, down Pennsylvania Avenue, energized by having been urged “we’re going to have to fight much harder” and reverse the betrayal by “traitors” in the U.S. Senate of the electoral maps that they were all convinced were rigged. They advanced not on the edges of empire, for over two thousand miles–

–but by moving several thousand feet to cross scaffolding set up for inauguration day, tearing down fencing that separated them from the Capitol, pushing past barricades into a citadel of governance.

New York Times

The barbarians were not of migrants, this time, approaching the border, that animated their sense of urgency, but of a certification of the deep danger of an end to the Trump Presidency–even though President Trump had, equipped with with U.S. Border patrol statistics, traced national threats and states of emergency throughout four years of his Presidency, in the specter of invasion evoked by transnational threats.

But if all maps depend on consensus–few migrants saw themselves as crossing a border that was a crime to cross–the Despite images of the Caravans we had watched as they arrived from Central America, determined to cross our national boundaries, these barbarians looked as if they were all white–a crowd celebrating, signing, and dancing as they wore red MAGA hats, scarves, and carried TRUMP 2020 signs and other campaign paraphernalia, and had arrived to conclude a campaign that had not gone as they had expected, while the collective mug shots of those guilty of “immigration crime suspects” that had popped up on billboards throughout the nation had effectively under-written the need for racial profiling.

Mug Shots of Immigration Crime Suspects

Rather than crossing the fortified border at the edges of empire, this threat grew before and as if in opposition to the chambers of representative government occurred from a stage erected in previous days, but an event that was promoted since the electors had met in individual states to confirm popular votes for U.S. President. They had been alerted by the dangerous maps of a subversion of votes by electors or at the ballot box, specters of which had haunted viewers of FOX and

How two polls predicted Trump's surprise victory | Fox News

and the several states that were “still in play” and “what if” maps of the battleground states that Trump might need to win to secure a nearly materialized victory in 2020. As if egged on by the charges that corruption had disrupted this map, and interrupted the hopes for Trump 2020 many banners bore, charges of voter fraud, doctored ballots, and the ability to flip what was once a “magic screen” to show red states created a sense of the danger of making any predictions, as if unveiling the strength of Trump long underestimated, as if to dull the minds of a nation by a “very tight race” where “despite predictions” many challenges were being waged on the ground. Why not stage a challenge to the certification of electors, to press the charges of challenges that seemed. The foregrounding on Fox of Trump’s deep opposition to ‘shutdowns’ that would hamper the economy, or cast the process of selection of a President lay in counting votes more than casting ballots. As pro-Trump attorneys launched a “stop the count” movement on November 5, was a “stop the steal far behind? As the Trump campaign continued over six and a half weeks to express confidence and predicting victory, asking how much the live counting of votes that showed a margin of 100,000 votes in Pennsylvania, then 14,000 in Georgia, or entertaining the possibility of one elector in Nebraska made the democratic process almost openly venal and ridiculously debased.

So why not debase democracy and restore a diret vision of process, unclouded by faulty tallies and unobserved vote counts? This crowd was crowd-sourced on social media, by hashtags like #StoptheSteal, Large crowds had begun to arrive before sunrise, occupying the rows of seats on the Mall. They seemed benign, but would set up a conflict between the power manifest in crowds and the allocation of representational government by states’ electors. The confrontation before the primary seat of representational government was arrived at by varied routes–busses organized to Washington DC, often by the same groups who had sponsored Rallies for Trump but the underlying map was a call for a new form of governance, interrupting smooth progress of transition of power that had been mapped out from Election Day in November to the meeting of electors in respective states on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to the certification of electors by a joint session of the U.S. Congress. This timed progression of an assembly of representative structures dedicated to mediate the popular vote was interrupted by a crowd that claimed the American flag, lest it be desecrated, as certification was interrupted by an alternative manner of government of acclamation by a crowd, eager to oppose the immediacy of its collective unruliness and deep conviction to the stately dome.

2021 storming of the United States Capitol - Wikipedia
East Side of Capitol before Crowd-Sourced insurrectionist Crowd

These were not the barbarians that had overwhelmed empires of the past. They were not the caravnas we were long told to be expecting from across the southwestern border, but they posed a far deeper national security threat, and lay in the electoral system. Those who arrived to rectify the vote arrived dressed the for part, displaying their patriotism. Some were in revolutionary or paramilitary garb; others who had attended of past Trump rallies wore election garb of the concluded 2020 campaign. They channeled a mythological past of the defense of the constitution,–more than crossing from “barbarian” lands, to destroy a vision of empire that had promised civilization to the world, they arrived from the red states to the center of corruption in Washington, DC, hoping to stop the change of government, and change the course of history.

Emmanuel-Auguste-Dieudonne Las Cases, A map, exhibiting the . . . . destruction of the Barbarians, that invaded the Roman world (1800)

The detail of the routes by which those barbarians had arrived from all Europe and Asia were detailed with elegance in post-Napoleonic Paris, where they must have been prepared with reassurance of a sense of some stability after the restoration of the July Monarchy, from a place of security before 1848 revolutions brought a new wave of urban uprisings across much of Europe from a large urban working class.

“Invasion of the Barbarians,” E. Soulier Paris, 183

Rather than arriving from outside our frontiers, as we had been warned, this invasion came from within, by those who ostensibly sought to set the Empire right, rather as an invasion in the sort of ur-maps of invasion and historical decline that were framed in the elegant color-coded historical maps of the post-Napoleonic July Monarchy, that looked back on the invasions that eroded political stability.

This was a crowd of believers, and was not a spontaneous crowd: it was truly crowd-sourced, sourced and summoned by sirens of social media. This consensus assembled from all America would not be an invasion, but would invade Washington, DC, to ensure not its destruction, but an alternative universe of electoral victory: the results would change the course of global history as consequentially as that ur-map of invasions, mapped in detail in a masterpiece of historical geography, that condensed barbarian invasions at the fall of the Roman Empire, collapsing many years in a moment of destruction. If hard to map with any comparable historical or analytic distance, they seemed to seek to awe us with their spontaneous presence, as they were seeking to impose a judgement on the process of the election, to take back the clock not to just the early hours of election night, when Donald J. Trump appeared from initial results to be in the lead, but to the height of his President, if not to the first inauguration; he nourished fantasies of his own of accepting acclamation as President for Life, jokingly entertained the possibility of accepting as an honorific half way through his term, in 2018, proposing in a private speech at Mar-a-Lago to Republican donors he would “maybe . . . have to give that a shot someday” at the position, planting the seed to claim by April 2019 his base may well just “demand that I stay longer” as President or extend his term “at least for ten to fourteen years.”

1. The culmination of Trump rallies and crowd management techniques that had developed since the summer of 2015: this time, the crowd was reliably sourced. The assembly of the crowd improvised a new form of government, a new form of staging a putsch of the sort never seen in America, whose members would themselves rectify Donald Trump’s own disappointment and inability to process an election he argued “we were getting to win,” until the tallies changed as absentee votes were tallied, in ways that didn’t fit his narrative: convinced he in fact had won and did win the 2020 election, in keeping with models of fringe news media sources that had predicted his victory, early tweets that warned “They are trying to steal this election” had set up an alternative reality over two months–“Frankly, we did win this election” and then “We are up BIG but they are trying to STEAL this Election. We will never let them do it!” —that set in motion the logic of an alternate reality by an alternative structure of governing, in the arrival of a huge crowd eager to preserve the vision of an electoral victory that did not occur. As the crowd’s momentous size was described to its members repeatedly, that had its own entity able to overpower representative structures, they gained momentum to overpower the representative structures that had badly served the President’s plans. This was the map to project the vision of Donald J. Trump’s second term by a crowd in the Mall bigger than on Trump’s inauguration, a crowd joined to their President, more than the faithless Vice-President or Secretaries of State who had confirmed what Trump appeared convinced were faulty tallies of votes.

The invasion by these barbarians was animated by a different mythical vision of the historical past. They attacked, possessed by starting an imagined revolutionary uprising to appeal to a revolutionary fervor of asserting belonging and agency. They arrived inspired by claims that the vote had been stolen on a scale of “widespread, nationwide, massive voter fraud” since mid-November, even if his lawyers were hard-pressed to say where the fraud lay, even as allegations shifted to charges of “good-faith errors in operating machines,” or to corrupt tallies in machines themselves that were operated by companies lying outside the United States, or just glitches in electronic voting machines–if not the fraud of mail-in ballots that Trump had warned since the spring of 2020 might have been fabricated en masse in foreign countries. The evanescence of any sense of agency as to who was manipulating fraud on such a scale had driven them to desperation that they could only correct by taking the Capitol building themselves, to stay the election at the very last minute.

The crowd came to impose an alternative reality he demanded, to interrupt the due process of the electors’ certificaiton. Busses paid for by one of the last remaining Republican donors, the MyPillow Guy, Mike Lindell, ferry millions of patriots to Washington, DC, a Trump Base meant to replace institutional distortions that had allegedly obstructed the election’s transparency.

The Patriots who arrived on The Ellipse where they had been invited by Donald Trump, immediately sensing belonging, removed from the social isolation of being sutured to screens since the election, from fears of the disruption of a stolen election in the confidence of the crowd, listening to music as they warmed up from before seven in the morning. If the crowd met a moment of what crowd theorist Elias Canetti termed “release”–the moment of cohesion–as they were harangued for an hour by a President who described the failure of all the structures in place he had expected would lead to a second term. Upon hearing Vice President Pence, acting as President of the Senate, would not disrupt the certification of electoral votes at 10:02, reminded again by Trump how “they rigged it like they’ve never rigged it before,” they took matters into their own hands, with the agency they felt the U.S. Constitution promised. The invitations offered a time to meet with President Trump, and make their voices heard to representatives in unison with his complaint about the certification of the electoral vote.

The FB Group PeacefulRedStateSecession.com, which long nourished the secessionist fantasies, set the stage for an overturning of the very structures of government–assembled at a red star on Constitution Avenue, to Save America. The project of national salvation reveal the deeply corrosive of an increasingly oppositional mapping of the nation into “red” and “blue” states that has increasingly been mis-mapped around the defense of constitutional freedoms, before Trump promoted the constitutional crisis by inciting crowds to storm the Capitol to interrupt a joint session of Congress. The crowd that had been released as Trump finished his speech, stormed the capitol with anger and entitlement, indignantly yelling at Capitol Police, “We were invited here. We were invited by the president of the United States” as if entitled to bring down the state in an “exercise in patriotism,” an undefined “call to action” that promised to change the election’s outcome–an invitation extended widely on social media surviving only as screenshots apprehended from a social media sea. And once they arrived, these messages were reinforced, urged by the Tea Party activist who founded Women for America First to protest the first impeachment of Donald Trump in 2019. This time, Trump urged the assembled crowd-sourced crowd that it was imperative to show strength, in this final effort that awaited them: “It is up to you and I to save this Republic! We are not going to back down, are we? Keep up the fight!”

Rushing the chambers of the U.S. Congress would forestall not only the tally of electoral votes and their certification responded to the need to overturn the illegitimacy of the “hoax,” widespread corruption, and sullying of American democracy and the civic ritual of the in-person ballot. Those storming of the Capitol as not exactly a siege, but would trigger the sudden pressure of an energized mob to shatter the bureaucratic process of Congress, meeting in their chambers without cell phones, by needed pressure, to overturn the election Trump had assured them was indeed a landslide that audits had not yet fully revealed, but the demand for full transparency would immanently reveal, and create consensus only waiting to be mapped.

2. This crowd sourced mob assembled with a sense of urgency, listening in an almost relaxed manner to Village People’s rousing choruses of YMCA as they developed their identity in a sea of flags of discontent long before they were activated and directed energy to the Capitol building before which they’d been asked to assemble. Crowd theorist Cannetti argued the most important moment of the transformation of the crowd from within is “discharge,” the moment of unification behind a sense of purpose that mobilizes and realizes is new identity as a crowd. Before that moment of collective self-knowledge, the crowd does not actually exist in the same way, but it suddenly erases any sense of distance in a shared purpose, and shared identity, a feeling of equality and relief where they are collectively oriented in a moment of release in a blessed moment of orientation. When did the moment of discharge arrive? The process of assembling this crowd had begun of the sixty five days since the election, as snowballing #StoptheSteal groups took Trump’s tweets to nourish faux stoic solidarity. When Trump urged,”You have to show strength,” the words percolated with desires to defend Constitutional liberties in ways that masked the contradiction that they were disobeying the law.

Discharge arrived at the crowd over several stages in the rally, boosted by the simultaneity of being addressed by the President and being tweeted to by him, that “Mike Pence doesn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country,” as he refused that he would ever concede, live, and growing in their minds while hearing him wield truthful hyperbole as magnified it to beyond a million, bending time and space, while investing the crowd that had been assembling since 3 AM with a directionality and purpose that became clearer over time. The goal of changing the election that brewed behind all those optimized electoral maps crystallized around the goal of forestalling of the goal of Pence changing the certified electoral, as if he was empowered to do so, their goal strengthening their common identity, energizing the crowd with a renewed sense of immediate purpose. How much did it help that a Black and a Jew had been elected to enter the Capitol building the previous night, electrifying the Base by alerting them this was not business as usual, and demanded interruption? This crowd arrived filled with the sense of indignity as if entitled to overthrow their government when it took their rights away–the promise was embedded in the Gadsden flags that they waved, as much as the MAGA ones, and the banners that they took pains to bedeck the Capitol in a major media event, as they arrived with cell phones and Trump 2016 hats and Trump 2020 banners in a four-hour Siege of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, long after the election was lost.

Their sense of urgency was apparently echoed in their use of survivalist rock-climbing skills, knee-pads and gloves, some in paramilitary outfits and some in fantasy garb, they scaled the neoclassical facade, wrapped in American flags and bearing Gadsden Flags to forestall regime change and equipped with cell phones. They also brought, in those backpacks, unregistered ammunition, unregistered firearms, tasers, ropes, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks, and megaphones, to fulfill a patriotic duty to the nation, filmed on iPhones to make sure it would be covered in global media markets and across the nation. Enraged at the identification of the Vice-President presiding over the certification of electoral votes, who they called a “traitor” the crowd seem to have stormed the Capitol for their own duly elected representatives, as Secret Service members tried to secure the Senators, representatives, and VP who had become targets of wrath by an almost entirely white mob bearing weapons, storming the chambers of Congress like a lynching mob. The image of Pence as a traitor and turncoat, betraying a President who refuses to accept electoral results. Had the evangelical Catholic Pence been replaced by those who believe Trump was “chosen by God”?

Scaling the Perimeter Wall at the NE Corner/Michael Robinson Chavez/Washington Post

They cheered as they planted American flags atop the Capitol building, hanging banners reading “Trump 2020/STOP THE BULLSHIT,” equipped with signage to keep hope alive after the election was lost. They weren’t the barbarians we had expected and were long announced as at the gate. But they came with a sense of vengeance, gripping the walls they had prepared to scale the stone facade on a mission with tenacity and a sense of duty after having received a Presidential benediction. They had just been chanting “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!” as the black-gloved President told them he would never concede, and “We will not take it any more, . . . and to use a favorite term that you people will came up with, we will stop the steal.” Trump bemoaned the state of corruption in the nation, alerting the crowd of the dangers posed by fake news media and big tech as surrogates for a global war. He placed the certification of votes as the final chance for populist groups to defend freedoms as if it were the eve of a monumental battle of civilizations, not at the border between the United States and Mexico, but to rush the Capitol building, where the senators and congressmen were cloistered, without cell phones, voting to confirm Trump’s removal as President as the end of an era.

3. If Trump did not directly communicate plans for staking siege to the Capitol, on that day, but communicated indirectly to the assembled crowd who seem to have understood the plans for an insurrection or seizure of power. Just after Christmas, images predicted the arrival of a storm as if by an act of divine vengeance to break the delivery of the electors’ vote. The size of the crowd was difficult to estimate, but seems to have been difficult to estimate, but the number was far fewer than seems to have been widely expected by each of the groups who predicted “low number a few hundred thousand, in high numbers 2-3 million, imagine the scene” drawn from all fifty states, in a scene of mass consensus achieved by massive-crowd sourcing from vigorous online promotion to the announcement at rallies of “Stop the Steal” held as electors met on December 12.

We know Trump’s words, whose intention was transparently clear, but can only imagine their effect. Amidst a befuddling tally of votes he insisted were misreported by a Fake Media, he had bemoaned again the scale of the “egregious assault on our democracy” in the theft of a landslide that was itself a a threat “our country be destroyed” and a threat to “America First,” with urgency. The invitation to advance–where was there left to go?–got only crisper as the speech advanced. Truthful hyperbole allowed him to exaggerate the crowd that he imagined stretching to the Washington Memorial, as if it were a new inauguration audience. The date had been grimly pre-announced, and the urgency to “Save America” hardly needed to be spelled out.

The urgency grew, as the crowd had entered an alternate reality, as the hour continued. Trump bemoaned that “our media is not free” asked them all to turn on your cameras, as “we’re going to walk down to the Capitol,” “that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” ramping up the energy of the crowd that had been listening to music for hours, thanking his “incredible supporters” as he asked them to refuse all hoaxes, to remember why they had come to the event, how they were all waiting for the Vice President to act as President of the Senate, and join him in demanding “sweeping electoral reforms” and asking them, his soldiers, finally and conclusively to drain the swamp, to restore vital civic traditions of in-person voting, as the representatives and senators who owed their election to him alone would not. Without such a renewal of the Tree of Liberty, the worst would happen, beyond a feared end of liberties: “they want to take down the wall” and “let everyone flow in,” Trump concluded with urgency, imagining the destruction of his long-vaunted project to raise the stakes. Instead, the MAGA minions would “be pouring in to Washington, DC” to restore order and affirm the intensity of their personal relation to the state in a transparent manner that the corrupt tally of the vote obscured.

“We are going to–we are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we are going to the Capitol,” he wrapped up his remarks to the audience he cherished. “. . . So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he urged his minions, asking them to retake the very halls of government that obstructed his second term, making the transactional nature of the march clear. Even the President did not incite the crowd to violent entrance of the Capitol Building, the publicity that announced the “march” showed its target–and the site to demand election integrity–clear. The rapt audience was ready to assault the building and strike down the police guards they encountered with flagpoles to answer the President’s personal “call to action to us to come back to Washington on January 6 for a big protest” by “taking back the country from corrupt politicians,” and wrest the nation from the political class, intensifying its sense of urgency.

They all knew the endpoint of the Save America March and had iPhones in their hands, but weren’t using their mapping functions, as they recorded the scene that the news media would not report. They were being invited to reveal their patriotism, and stand up for the U.S. Constitution and the country by the Commander-in-Chief in the face of “pure theft” of what was a landslide, and came dressed for re-enacting a drama of insurrection and revolution, in a rally that would consume the halls of government, uniting the size of the momentous rallies of the five-year Presidential campaign that Trump had been boosted to the empyrean, beyond Reality TV, to a new level of transcendence. But few have spent much attention to map from where they came. Few members of the mob needed to use their devices’ mapping functions or GPS, as the mission of retaking the government could be seen behind the bullet-proof glass from which Trump had addressed them.

Trump had magnified the size of the crowd considerably, describing the “tens of thousands” he saw before him, inviting those in attendance to turn their cell phones back to cover the size of a crowd he said the media would underestimate, and magnifying what was estimated as a crowd of 10,000 by trademark “truthful exaggeration” by magnifying it to “hundreds of thousands of people here” and describing the “hundreds of thousands of American patriots [who] are committed to the honesty of our elections” across the nation. The number was guesstimated at “several thousand people . . . even 10,000, maybe.” After Trump’s moment of truthful hyperbole, social media photographs and claims magnified the crowd and multiplied its loyalty on social media. The filming of the breaching of the Capitol’s perimeter spread on social media, as members of Congress without cell phones remained in the dark, and protestors counted on the element of surprise: even as Trump insisted that “the media will not show the magnitude of this crowd,” recalling the disputes he had had with the crowd on Inauguration Day, describing “hundreds of thousands” to rival even an inauguration crowed, famously falsified as the largest ever, estimated at 300,000-600,000, to keep the Trump flame alive. Trump insisted that the marchers themselves film the event for history and the nation, from the start of his hour-long harangue to turn their cameras on, and to “Turn your cameras please and show what’s really happening out here because these people are not going to take it any longer.” “Go ahead,” he urged, making the audience part of the spectacle, “Turn your cameras, please. Would you show?” In his subsequent public address, at the United States southwestern border, the President fondly remembered how “Millions of our citizens watched on Wednesday as a mob stormed the Capitol and trashed the halls of government,” before pivoting to affirm his respect for America’s “history and traditions” and “the rule of law.”

They existed on the media they created and streamed. Live-streaming the assault was a way to trigger a national movement, if not to create a testimony of the great attempt to keep an outgoing administration alive, and with it an alternate reality. Amidst cries of disbelief from “They’re going up—go, go, go, go!” and “Oh! They’re climbing up the wall!” to ecstatic rejoinders of “Let’s go, let’s fucking go!” to “There’s so many people! I can’t believe this is reality! We accomplished this shit! Together! . . . We’re all part of this fucking history!,” to “Holy shit, there’s so many people!” the ragtag group wrapped “TRUMP NATION” banners and “Trump 45” jerseys, the oddly dressed one said “Wait a second, I’m filming this!” a mob advanced past guards they saluted as “bro” as they sought to seize the House chambers, blowing vuvuzelahs chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” saying You guys gotta follow the Constitution!” and, more festively, “Fuck, that was awesome! Let’s burn this shit down!”

As this potential orgy of destruction was unfolding, President Trump had assured his overeager audience that he would be marching with them to the Capitol–“after this, we’re going to be walking tot he Capitol, and I’ll be there with you.”–but retired from the lectern of the Save America March to enter an awaiting limousine in his motorcade, to watch the fate of the joint session of the U.S. Congress on cable news in the White House, as the rest of the world watched in disbelief and shock the last fruits of the Trump Presidency unfold.

If the National Guard had been activated across the nation in response to the George Floyd protests, as social injustices and police profiling were protested in a scenario of reckoning with systemic injustice, in what was described as national disorder, the protesters seems to move “going wild” to Washington DC, concentrating their pent up rage as observers of a changing country into an uprising against a representative system that seemed to have failed to recognize their urgent needs.

The New York Times on Twitter: "Protests have erupted in at least 140  cities across the United States over racism and police brutality. Some of  the demonstrations have turned violent, prompting the
Weiji Cal, Juliette Love, Jugal K Patel and Yuliya Parshina-Kottas/Daily Kos

A false social media post had eerily circulated in the summer of instability that had claimed protestors had caused Trump to flee the White House, including the image of the same Capitol Building that these protestors would assault. Disseminated on Facebook, YouTube, and news sites of uncertain authority as well as Twitter, the breaching of the boundaries of “Fake News” seemed a cause for global panic, prefacing the destabiization of authority for a global market–with some qualifications confined to the comment section.

Did Protesters Storm The White House? A Fact Check
June 1, 2020

The mock up concealed that the footage was not even in Washington DC, but this time the crowd had assembled in a real place, at the Capitol, even if the war they were waging was Fake News.

Their ears were already electrified by their President, as POTUS allowed the crowd to discharge, and even to envision this pathway to the future, and the they vital fight they would wage, affirming that he would never concede, and with the gestures of a television preacher he evoked how “we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give —” before breaking off his thoughts in midstream, and entering a limousine, having planted plans for an insurrection to his best ability.

The routes to the Capitol building itself would be less direct, but would flow about the building that the Capitol police tried to secure, and to overwhelm them in the immense discharge of their collective energy, overwhelming the limited number of Capitol Police they had already judged insufficient to protect the legislators, or obstruct a crowd of their size: Trump had given a benediction to move forward as Christian soldiers, and to surge beyond the Ellipse in an illustration of their own agency and apparent liberty.

Save America March/Pete Marovich, New York Times

Reports are that Trump watched the insurrection as it unfolded with excitement, pleased at what he saw on television. On the ground, cheers drowned out reality, elevating to a vertiginous ecstasy the idea of a seizure of power of which the participants ensured a live stream continued, as they breached the upper chambers. “We did this shit! This is surreal scene! What reality is this? Fucking did this shit!”Hell, yeah!” “About time!” “Oh, my bad–I didn’t know I hit it that hard.” The mob paused in the Rotunda for selfies while chatting up guards, reminding them of the futility of resistance and admiring the cupola, amazed at the scale of their accomplishment, pinching themselves that this “was real life,” urging one another to “treasure this moment,” and bursting, without anything else left to say, into chant–“We want Trump! We want Trump! We want Trump!” to make their voices heard. They were confident there were too many people to for bullets to be used against a crowd whose size they seemed to magnify, until the arrival of the police. Then, they were shocked a gun was actually fired and someone entering the chambers–amazed a moment of violence had in fact occurred, but also glad and still excited to have gotten it on film, not noticing Donald had left them alone.

Roberto Schmidt, AFP/Getty/Quartz

Born on a sea of insurrectionist flags of all stripes–Gadsden flags, American flags, Trump flags, Confederate flags, and sporting a range of Trump gear, they were ready to confront forces of Darkness. It may not have mattered that Trump was no longer with them, as he was presiding over the entire event, and they had internalized his litany of baseless complaints and groundless assertions. Waving triumphal flags overhead as they approached the Capitol, they entered the House of Representatives’ and Senate chambers, chanting “Our house! Our house!” and “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” they told guards not to put their hands on them, telling them they were impotent before events that were unfolding as they clung to their freedoms. Among these America Firsters, the right of “the people to alter or abolish any government that does not secure inalienable rights” seemed, on the morning of January 6, 2021, the only agency that remained in their power to stop the transmission of power that they felt a rigged system of elections about which they had ben warned for years was about to take place in the pro forma certification of electoral votes underway in the Congressional chambers as the Save America March had assembled to hear purported heroes of an outgoing administration. Did America First entail subverting the electoral process, or was it about defending liberties?

4. President Trump did not directly encourage the crowed to enter the joint session of the U.S. Congress, but affirmed its logic. Students of revolution have long studied the crowd as an actor of revolutions, and tried to study the logic of crowd behavior: fear is a major motivator of crowd behavior, and the fear of a loss of rights, an impending restriction of rights, from the panic of the Great Fear of 1789, as rumors spread of an “aristocratic conspiracy” to overthrow the king created a massive rural panic that triggered a convulsion of possibly anarchic character at fears of a restriction of grain supplies in the near future: the logic of the fear of a loss of liberties was fed by the growth of rumors across the countryside of the impending absence of a great protector, which historians have tried to map across rural regions as transmitted by their own rural circuits of considerable historical consequence, most powerfully in the work of Georges Lefebvre:

If Lefebvre worked hard to map the overlooked spatial and temporal progression and identity of the fear that spread through France, the twitterverse registered similar waves of panic transmitted among online groups. For if we are still unsure of labeling the even an insurrection or act of sedition or uprising, looking only at the movement on the ground near the capitol reminds us of the need to examine the charges and accusations that were long coursing on social media, increasing expectations for a day of wrath, imagined to attract up to three million, if permissions only expected 5,000, the rumors of millions of marchers suggested easy overwhelming of the Capitol police.

Their size increasingly magnified to punctuate the lists of grievances Trump listed for just over an hour, the magnification of the crowds who had felt isolated with the mandate for social distancing many so deeply opposed were released as they gained a new density on the Ellipse, no matter where they had come from. They were encouraged to tap into a sense of being wronged, and the hectoring of the audinece must have heightened their already long-nourished fight-or-flight response, as the representative structure of the capitol was in sight. The speech didn’t need to list the other grievances that Trump might not have mentioned theis time, but were implicit–a curtailing of freedom of gun ownership, a silencing of speech, a turning back of religious freedoms–which were fought over in the election. Those fears of a loss of liberties and change in administration had already been amplified through social media across the nation, far more electrically than Lefebvre’s spatial map of primary currents of the Great Fear through rural France that demanded historians recast their research of what was long seen and studied as an urban revolution: this revolution was born on social media, if it arrived in busloads or by plane, to witness an event they could only dream, but seemed to call for their own participation in nothing less than a new model of government.

The intensity of currents of fear that had run through chat rooms, TheDonald, and various citizen militias and Trump supporters came to a head at the condensation of these groups as a false populist force outside the Capitol building as the certification of the 2020 Presidential election was tried to be obstructed. Rather than fear spreading on the ground, however, or through popular movements, the mass-based nature of rally based on Facebook groups assembled a sense of purpose and direction that might be embodied in the busses that stopped in twenty-five American cities to collect Patriots, often in parking lots or airplane hangars from Arizona, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Florida seemed to summon a virtual confederacy to Washington. Riders foud collective experiences on the bus, having had their vagal nerves electrified by barrages of claims that the electoral vote had been distorted on NewsMax, FOX, OANN, that Trump had promoted–seeming to bestow his favorites to escalate temperatures across the nation that seemed evidence that the election raged, as “news bubbles” of 2016 bore fruit in adherence to different sets of electoral maps.

We had all watched how the margins of votes broke in different states, parsing them by voting groups, but as we watched them, the nation that had hived into groups broke into different alternate realities that called into question the election’s validity before it was even held, and drew out debates about its validity. And as they did so, the very institutions of representative government had been eroded. In polls that promised to refresh “the most up-to-date and accurate tallies in the Presidential race” from OANN, the contest had become a horse-race, undercutting the validity of the results that would be announced on Election Night, and creating a fake drama that ran against the predictions of most major news networks, hiving off America into two separate media silos which doubted the validity of the mainstream media. In what was seen as only an attempt to out-Fox News, the electoral maps that were projected on news sites predicted clear signs of victory that undercut the representational value of the electoral map, before and after the election-, that dislodged the ontological status of the electoral map, long before protest of certifying electoral votes–to turn back the clock, perhaps, to the very first tallies of votes, made before Democratic and internationalist tampering, when Trump led in Georgia and Pennsylvania by credible margins of victory–the provisional and unstable nature of all electoral tallies were made apparent, even after states had certified results. If FOX projection models long predicted a certain victory for Trump, the aftermath of the election and the contestation of votes eroded the ontic stability of the electoral map in a strategic way, as if playing a long game for overturning the vote.

Electoral Prediction
OANN November 16, 2020
DigiKai Marketing (@digikai_mj) | Twitter
November 11, 2020

These maps erased contingency, increased conviction, and unmoored a map once the bedrock of democratic representation, validating assertions “Trumpland doesn’t believe the election results” and would contest them, and denying any consensus of a map that had no role but to create consensus.

The squabbles between the size of crowds nominally assembled by joint crowds brought to Washington by Women for America First who organized the March to Save America and the Stop the Steal and MAGA crowds came to bolster the claims that this was a “real Million Man March. Unlike the Women’s March, that once embodied the Trump Resistance, or the Million Man March, these foot soldiers embodied the true electoral map that the size of crowds at this rally confirmed: as Trump had argued that he knew he won the election in Georgia by the greater size of his crowds compared to those reported for the Democratic ticket, the size of crowds provided a true direct illustration of democracy that the electoral maps based on fault tallies only disguised. The logic of the crowd’s behavior was promoted as evidence of fears of the loss of liberties a Biden administration would bring, planted long before their arrival in Washington DC. The fears were magnified in the increased urgency that Donald Trump gave to the erosions of liberties as a direct result of an illegitimate transition of power to convulse his audience. The fears rendered evident the need to stop the joint session of Congress. lest they validate the false electoral map Fake News had promoted. Until Trump agreed to concede, they would provide the defense of rights and liberties a Biden presidency would erode, and the declaration of a victory for two Democratic senators in Georgia the night previous only augmented the intensity of pressure on embodying a physical presence that would overturn the tally of electoral votes by a sea of supporters in bright red MAGA gear that embodied a real, authentic electoral map before the Capitol itself.

Trumpland did not believe in counting, so habituated had they been to rallies, rather than just tallies. With such systematic ontological destabilization of the electoral map, evident in the sea of distinctive bright red hats, could the end of the protracted drama of the election be announced? The sense of being on the side of righteousness was affirmed in the Invocation that proceeded the Capitol Siege, as Donald Trump was prayed for as the divinely sanctioned leader of the nation, chosen by God to lead America, in ways that invalidated the need for electoral approval of the President God had selected for the nation.

The fear and the logic of a loss of liberties promoted online was very old regime and premodern, if they were cast in an imaginary of defending early modern nationalism. For while the Capitol Siege has been argued by Jill Lepore to be considered a race riot, the conflict cannot be captured save as a deeply anti-parliamentary tactic, a coup, as Fiona Hill insisted, a “self-coup” of the sort strongmen like Recep Erdoğan staged in 2016, before Trump came to power, to seize power outside established parliamentary process by an autgolpe that renders impotent the parliamentary system. The confusion of a sense of lawlessness and the demands of restoring a legal order that was in danger of being eroded was considerable, as the crowd was augmented by the possible and alleged presence of off duty police officers from Seattle, Rocky Mount, Virginia, and Fire Departments in New York City, Florida, ready and willing to help strategize as they entered the building, unlike a disorderly mob. It might be that the two-color division of map might reveal, but the range of those light blue states, that weren’t such strong blue, belied the far, far greater intensity of a MAGA crowd.

5. The right to declare a separate region of like-minded liberties was promoted in the maps in online Facebook forums that promoted “peaceful secession.” Maps provided for online Facebook forums redrew the nation with the promise that red states might secede from the nation that had been gaining steam on Twitter and elsewhere, while we all socially distanced, the need for DIY nation-making emerged, as local Republican Party Chairs sanctioned, endorsing Rush Limbaugh in suggesting the not so secret conspiracy that Republican-governed states exercise their “rights” and freedoms in what was a compact of states. The need to “keep the American parts of America American,” as the Facebook group had it, would become clear as Limbaugh urged they “band together” as Texas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, Montana, Alabama, and Mississippi join others–and break from the nation that the electors were about to saddle with a new President they had not chosen and did not want, and in America liberty was, in the end, that everyone should get what they want.

The moment of violence from which this birth of a new nation would begin might be commemorated in the future as January 6, 2021, bundling national security, sacred identity, and second amendment rights that defined an ecoystem of identity-based authoritarian systems, but ensured a good sleep at night. Yet as Lindell continued to tweet proof of broad hacking of the election–and eagerly contested Democratic margins of victory in a full six states–he undermined any sense stable resolution might be expected in electoral maps.

5. The potentiality of secession was sketched as a redemption of rights began atop the Manichean antagonism of battle lines, as they were encouraged by chromatic oppositions of red v. blue state maps to nourish secessionist fantasies as overlays atop the two-color dichotomy of electoral maps: by pooling the resources of all those smaller red dots, and overpowering or just excluding those blue dots–and sacrificing some, as in the Central Valley of California or upstate New York, in hopes they might migrate to North Dakota or Montana, and getting creative in Arizona and Colorado, but focussing on the parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota that in “a county formed from red states–or individual counties–“would follow the constitution.” Gerrymandering the nation, rather than only a few states, might more fully proceed to actual secession, confounding the map with the territory, and obscuring that the excision of backed-out counties would offload actual sites of wealth-production, major centers of population, and impose consensus in falsified ways in an eroded union.

The next time they are in control,... - Red-State Secession | Facebook
PeacefulRedStateSecession

This vision of secession would be nominally “peaceful,” but any sense of tranquility would be for observers of an online map. The cartographic fantasy adapted newsmaps everyone had seen on election night, and used to draw a new sense of sovereignty, which might be imagined as meriting an even more insurmountable wall:

Red-State Secession: “Potential Borders if Trump States and Hillary States Split into Two or More Countries, and States Allow Certain Counties to Join another Country”

Secession need not be a bad thing, those who held high Gadsden Flags realized. This was about defending the imaginary of a new nation, forever resilient, and might create either the basis to restore the rightful ruler or if not trigger the secessionist movement that might follow in the country, as a number of simultaneous protests were planned across state capitols–demonstrations that might be pushed to create a unifying protest that awoke a sleeping red giant, and many of the overlapping groups of Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, secessionist movements in varied states and alt right groups.

Demonstrations at State Capitols on January 6, 2021

Severed from national laws that were no longer representing their interests, the members of Red State Secession (when exactly was the modifier added?) had been cut off from the laws that DC sought to impose on them, and had, they convinced themselves, the longer that they looked at the Gadsden Flag, perhaps, and the map that it created as a call to arms and indeed military recruitment to defend the denial of liberties: the image that Benjamin Franklin had devised as a rallying cry to join an army against Great Britain and throw off the yoke of British Sovereignty: only by being divided into segments would the power of the nation be denied, but the “duty, to throw off such government” after a long series of abuses and usurpations described in the Declaration of Independence would merit the altering or abolition of “any government that does not secure our inalienable rights,” from second amendment rights to gun ownership to religious freedoms. The disparate segments of vigilant MAGA groups, from the Proud Boys and militant Oath Keepers and 3%ers, offspring of Patriot movements formed lest the Obama Presidency diminishing freedoms, would storm the Capitol united for “We the People,” with aims far beyond rights of assembly or freedom of expression.

III%ers Tweet Promoting January 6, 2020

The rally that had long been planned was, after all. Those who attended anticipated an orgy of open carry, and an affirmation of religious identitarianism, where rioters, as the original American revolutionaries who fought for their inalienable freedoms, might assemble beneath the Washington Monument with thousands of AR-15s in an unstoppable show of force, equipped with high-capacity feeding devices, even if carrying handguns without a permit is an offense in Washington, DC.

The event was, after all, planned in mid-December as a major event of Free Speech, shortly after the electoral college had met, and Pennsylvania electors had cast their ballots for Biden, as a conclusion already envisaged if the attempts to audit the vote and suits to dismiss votes as invalid would fail; it would celebration of Second Amendment rights by fiat; and if one wonders at reports that the rioters had come to Washington, DC, having widely shared maps of tunnels under the Capitol Building to concretize their plans for surrounding and taking the Capitol building. While described as insider knowledge, and perhaps facilitated by taking tours of the site in advance, they probably had only cobbled together tourist maps of the tunnels under the Capitol building that seemed routes to prevent Congress members they sought to make their views known to from not hearing the demands that they, the crowd We The People, felt it was their right to make: the protection of rights to assemble, freedom of speech, and rights to bear guns had all been obscured by how fake news had stolen the election. The recent escalation of #StoptheSteal tweets confirming the stolen nature of the election in 1.3 million tweets since election day suggested something like a seismic register for the Base that had jumped on the eve of the rally.

Popularity of hashtags

While the President did not directly invite the marchers who had assembled in the Ellipse to breach the Capitol, the incessant reminders of the stolen nature of the election had baited them since state electors had delivered the Presidency to Joe Biden. Trump tweeted out falsehoods with vigor, questioning the legitimacy of the transfer of power, as many flagged as false grew from Election Day throw the day of protest.

Washington Post

6. The indignation that tweets channeled was mapped onto real space on January 6, in ways that drove momentum to real moment of release. While announced as a First Amendment Activity, this was a second amendment rally, a rally asserting religious freedoms and religions nationalism, with fervent conviction, with many other fellow travelers convinced of the infringement of their rights and the need to Save America and their duty to do so. As their Commander in Chief animated the crowd assembled by affirming “we will never concede” and that at this moment, “we will stop the steal,” the heady disorientation clarified a map of affirming what was just ‘right.’

The claims of purifying the Capitol and the center of power was not a cry of a Presidency in its death throes, but a concerted effort that might prompt the restoration of a form of government transparency in asserting and protecting rights by reclaiming the chambers of government in misguided hopes to start a revolution. Many might have procured the maps of these tunnels in anticipation of storming the Capitol to defend the “true” results of the election by downloading them off an ESRI story map; a map of entrances to tunnels would also be confirmation of the plans of action that readied their disparate forces to enter the grounds to force the election. Online chat groups had already reasoned and spread the news in anticipation: “He wouldn’t be calling us to Washington unless there was a purpose that would ultimately end in him winning the election.” The maps could be easily gotten; the marchers would retake the Capitol building from entrances off of the ellipse that must have illustrated not only the vulnerability of the Capitol to attack but direct access to government.

Washington Tunnels on Capitol Hill/ESRI

Maps of tunnels available from visitors map circulated as “the most important maps of the day,” the basis to look for anyone fleeing the Capitol, rather than as a point of entry; it was disseminated in color-coded urgency with instructions to form “a TRUE LINE around the Capitol and the tunnels” in conspiratorial tones:

TheDonald.win/Distributed Map of Underground Exits from Congressional Chambers to be Blocked as Congress Certified Electors

The hopes for surrounding the Capitol, in hopes not to allow any legislators to leave the premises, and indeed to paralyze the government’s regular function, as it prepared to, in the words of the planners of the event, “certify the steal,” led rioters to enter the building from numbers of sights, to overwhelm security by multiple breaches of the building, first from the east, approaching the west front by breaking open doors (5), having scaled rim of the portico (3) as others scaled the walls on the northeast portico (6)–all areas marked “very important” to man–to enter the Senate wing (7). Security was at the same time clustered at the west front (2), as reinforcements were unable to be called. Only after crowds broke into the House chamber and the Speaker’s Gallery did law enforcement officers draw guns, hoping to disperse the rushing rioters at the buildings entrance (4).

But is the on-the-ground assessment of the movement of rioters only able to scratch the surface of the ways fears were incited and communicated across the masses of marchers who moved on, like Christian soldiers, animated by a sense of duty that had cascaded into different causes and chatgroups, constituencies of the movement Trump had triggered that were swirling under all those different flags–flags of Confederates, Gadsden flags of insurrectionists of 3%’ers and Oath Keepers or Second Amendment groups, and Trump 2020 banners that created a sense of a sea of red, American flags and the Thin Blue Line flags, popular among pro-police groups that won broader currency among White Supremacists after Black Lives Matter, emblems that placed those who flew them in the space Trump extolled the police as occupying “between civilization and total chaos. The uniting of these groups, in an echo of the “Unite the Right” rally at Charlottesville, assembled to fight forces of darkness.

“Visualizing a Riot,” Curbed

While these graphics of mapping the on-the-ground situation suggest the coordination of forcing entrance and taking the building, the hope was perhaps that the logic would unfold as a mob scene, able to be deflected from responsibility, but generalized an image of crowd violence that would “build momentum and pressure and the on the day change the hearts and minds of Congress, peoples who weren’t yet decided, or who saw everyone outside and said ‘I can’t be on the other side of that mob,’” as a right-wing activist who helped organize Stop the Steal claimed he planned with U.S. Representatives since late December, or since the electoral college met, when plans to interrupt congressional certification of the electoral votes began. As those who saw the seeds of dangerous crowd behavior, in mid-nineteenth century Paris, in prisons, brothels, and asylums as grounds for breeding criminal behavior, the proliferation of falsified revolutionary fantasies of seizing the state and interrupting processes of government to prevent loss of liberties proliferated online.

As much as map the routes of the entrance of what has been called a mob, we might pay more attentio to mapping how it was crowd-sourced. How did social media channel the Stop the Steal votes in multiple states by magnifying calls in chamber of accusations of illegitimacy to prepare for a populist putsch on January 6? To be sure, the manufacture of crowds asserting false populist claims began not only online, but in Stop the Steal rallies in individual states, as individual rallies for “stopping the steal” in Arizona, Philadelphia, and Virginia grew in November and December, as “President Trump’s path to victory appears to shrink,” according to national media group Nexstar.tv, leading Trump allies in Congress, as Arizona Representative Dr. Paul Gosar, to tweet a demand tha President-Elect Biden “should concede” on the eve of the certification of electoral votes in Congress, tagging the Stop the Steal movement. With Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, Arizona’s Andy Biggs he had planned since mid-December the massive rally on January 6 in DC.

As much as focus on the routes of an angry mob, filled with whites dressed in gang-like colors of passionate intensity, was there a possibility that tours of the Senate Chambers were given to members of such populist groups agitating for Second Amendment rights or Christian Nationalism the day before crowds assembled?

The anticipation was fanned on chatrooms and TheDonald amplified as they intersected with the script of historical re-enactment that Second Amendment defenders defended, far more than a mere First Amendment activity: the images of a threatened end of times asked viewers to envision the capitol in apocalyptic terms. Gun ammunition websites had explained that “a failed state is to post-modernity what the nation-state was to modernity,” and the incapability of our current states from “exercising authority over all of its nominal territory” was in fact a “hallmark of our age,” but the rights to overthrown government that denied rights, as was not doubted for gun owners, sanctioned the state of emergency to Save America. The “map” attributed to founding father Benjamin Franklin survives in the Gadsden Flags many held at the insurrection that they imagined would be the start of a new revolutionary war to defend local liberties, to defend the “sacred landslide election victory” Donald Trump had affirmed that morning by the “trial by combat” Rudy Giuliani had ominously foretold. The compact was able to be secured by “We the People,” and invited contingents to identify themselves by Gadsden flags that illustrated their commitment to the cause, diffused by the “3%ers,” a militia group of Patriots who since 2008 have vowed anti-government extremism, often based in Canada.

Engraved Map of Thirteen Colonies, Philadelphia Gazette, ed. Benjamin Franklin (1754)

There was something more than deep theater here: Trump, who had lost the election, was desperate, with a group of lawgivers who had decided to stall the confirmation of electoral votes that day for as long as necessary, saw the “Stop the Steal” rally as a final attempt to give those who remained in his base a sense of their agency as true patriots, attracting disparate groups from Oath Keepers to Q Anon to deep loyalists, to claim their new identity as domestic terrorists, convincing them that they might stage a new revolution, and be part of a truly historical “experience” that transcended them all, using the Capitol building as a prop in a final Reality TV show that exposed the falsity of the official popular vote by the sheer force of passionate intensity, in a last-minute attempt by which true patriots could move collectively to Stop the Steal definitively.

There was a sense of collective brainwashing at that Rally as they readied for combat, ready to have their adrenaline and fight or flight impulses energized as they had at other rallies in the past. But this time was different, and they had packed nooses, axe handles, hockey sticks, heavy duty zip ties and flexi cuffs, repurposed cattle prods disguised as flagpoles, molotov cocktails and other handmade armaments, and backpacks concealing ammunition: as improvised police, they arrived to take control of the congressional chambers. Despite the DIY nature of many improvised weapons at the riot at the Capitol, many counter-terrorism experts believe encouraged or animated as an inside job, if one that betrays the Commander in Chief’s fragile state of mind–an inside job that was allowed by the absence of any security cordon, the long-term denial of an electoral loss, and the false urgency of preventing a ratification of an electoral tally Trump willfully wrongly argued might be stopped. When the crowd entered, Nancy Pelosi had to place a personal phone call to Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam, to secure the arrival of the National Guard, as other representatives turned to their offices to ask why more security forces were not on the way.

As for the fear of invasions, it was not that we had long mapped it wrong–it is just that the Deep State was within, and a lynching mob that went straight into the Capitol, without pausing for nicety, might fulfill the needs of the moment that allowed the disbanding of laws, and defense of liberty, fueled by escalating claims of voter fraud, and summoned to defend the system of elections that were sacred to the nation, in the “Second American Revolution” that the secessionist group announced was scheduled to start “on Jan 6,” to be noted on one’s calendar. The night before the rally assembled, Trump again promoted it on social media, reminding his base on Tuesday evening that “thousands would be pouring into Washington DC” to shake things up, if not shut down government for the specific aim of preventing the certification of electoral votes, the final “line in the sand” that the Trump administration seemed to see fit to draw.

7. We had told the barbarians were coming from the start of the Trump Administration, and it was reliably mapped from the southern border. This invasion of Washington, DC was not an overthrowing of empire, but rather the final chance to punish the Deep State, and change world history by securing and defending the liberties of the Gadsden Flag. It aimed at a major historical change, reversing the election by a false populist putsch for broadcast on global media. After all the attempts at audits, lawsuits, and recounts, the confrontational Schmittian Moment of a “state of exception” with the enemy began–to quote the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, who adopted a vision of politics structured by the dichotomy between “enemy” and “friend” that gained new traction for Trumpers as those who were ready to allow the certification of electors to proceed became clear, and the image of Mike Pence certifying the election grew–even if Joe Biden’s victory had been almost uniformly projected by news outlets in mid-November and had been officially confirmed by Electoral College votes in mid-December. At the heady moment when electors were certified at the Capitol building, the formal decorum of the roll call could be punctured in a final revelation of agency and anger, as the Vice President made it clear he would not reject the electoral college in the manner the President wanted, overturning the law in the way that Schmitt argued followed a “higher law” than parliamentary procedures.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images

This depended on the continued loyalty of the crowd who attended the march to their leader. From his arrival, Trump readied himself behind the bullet-proof glass, steeling himself for the appropriate moment for stepping out of the law, into a State of Exception, adopting parliamentary decorum and shattering the reverence for the norm that was manifest in the largely ceremonial joint session of Congress, whose procedural function was going to be shattered, after the final objections for discarding Biden electors had been launched, but failed to delay the procedural vote whose outcome was now clear, and the time to create a crisis at the Capitol had arrived.  “I hope Vice President Pence has courage today,” prayed a marcher on the Ellipse, echoing the words Trump had just spoken and proceeding to Pennsylvania Avenue with the President, “and I hope any politician who thinks he has a future shows courage to stand up and do what’s right.” “I hope,” President Trump had just told the rally, “Mike Pence does the right thing, because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election . . . ”

Was he readying himself for the advance of rioters on the parliamentary chambers? They had betrayed him. Unlike the representatives, these groups would advance in an incarnation of will of “We the People” groups would affirm the direct tie of people to sovereign, a principle of fascism, embodying Carl Schmitt’s notion of “present government” and the invoking of a higher law, in a negation of democracy, and a determining moment of rejecting norms akin to other revolutionary moments in world history: the impending certification of the vote constituted a need to reject norms, in the “decisionist” school of thought Schmitt nourished, and promised the rioters a sense of agency. For the moment of rushing the Capitol would incarnate a will able to substitute for elected representatives needing to be stopped, physically in the process of betraying the people’s will; at the very moment of the ceremony that would start the formal transition of executive power, the walls could be breached, one of the lucky groups of rioters could seize Pence and his family, Pelosi, Schumer, and Clyburn, and place their heads on pikes outside the Chambers, as Steve Bannon had boasted the heads of FBI Director Christopher Wray and public health officer Anthony Fauci be placed on picket as a public warning on both sides of the White House in Trump’s second term, following the precedent of Tudor England or medieval Italy, but that Bannon argued gained precedent as “how you won the Revolution” in November, 2020. The rumor that Trump had peevishly demanded to place the heads of any Republicans who supported his first impeachment on pikes suddenly seemed more credible than ever. If we had been sloppy in using the political term of fascism as a label for disparaging the anti-democratic, the political enthusiasm of broad-based mass organizations that were manifest at the Ellipse for what was announced as a rally and a protest march as senators and congressmen were meeting.

The rally assembled a convergence of mass movements to contest the certification of the democratic election. In contesting electoral certification fascism in America seemed to have arrived, as pro forma certification of electoral votes they refused to accept compelled the overthrow of the government that had now been complicit in falsifying the election. The need for accountability had led the crowd to assemble in defiance of the very dangers of a new international order that Schmitt had feared, promoting globalist agendas threatening the national legal order, calling for defiance.

The President enjoined the audinece to fight “big tech and the fake news” who stood for the internationalists who demoralize and control Americans by rigging the election. Mike Lindell was all too ready to blame China and Iran for the Democratic victory, although Trump seemed to have refrained from going there. Trump insisted on allegedly falsified election results on a variety of fronts, leaving it vaguely situated between miscounted the ballots counted by machines in other nations, resolving to “finally hold big tech accountable” for concealing his victory now that no other means than direct action remained. If the rioters have effectively suspended the speed of such transition to occur, or forestalled the formation of a new administration, they did so not only through the rehabilitation of an image of a confederate past or “Lost Cause,” but the precipitation of the very “State of Emergency” Trump clearly felt, and that some believed would precipitate a break from the political order and a leap into the state of exception that Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic feared in 2016, before the election and even start of his Presidency, suspending a constitutional transition of power, inaugurated, as it were, from the sovereign’s own articulation of the state of exception by virtue of the “extreme peril” that the transition of power poses to the state. As the rioters were encouraged to fight for Donald Trump’s second term and his survival, as if trapped in his narcissistic fantasies that blinded them to actual events.

They were not really invading the Capitol, but provoking the transition to a new stage of history that, despite earlier marches, needed to finally clear the bureaucratic obstructionism of the liberal state that might be poised, in future weeks, to dismantle the very Border Wall that had given America its sovereign integrity. The moment of breaching the citadel instead occasioned a release of vertiginous empowerment for those who we were waiting to preserve democracy and ensure the safety and security of the accuracy of the Presidential vote. Their arrival had been something we were long envisioning, and many indeed also knew was coming. They had, indeed, been planning to dash hopes for a peaceful transition and to save America, more than overthrow it, but the crisis of destabilization of national security was far greater and far more immediate: in order to fulfill plans for Making America Great, they had downloaded travel routes to DC and memes to promote the march from the Washington Monument, across the Ellipse, envisioning scenarios by which “we’ll storm offices and physically remove and even kill all the D.C. traitors and reclaim the country.” The forum called “The Donald,” which had addressed “patriots” from 2015, if it migrated from Reddit until the excited agitation of the subreddit expressing solidarity with the President who had lost the election was removed, in June, 2020, after it began bubbling over with Donald Trump memes for the election, now migrated to alternative media, moved to TheDonald.win, had promised a virtual apocalypse of a shitstorm. Proud Boy Joey Biggs, well schooled to “stand down and stand by” by his leader, boasted on a video uploaded to Parler, “Watch out, January 6 — you ain’t gonna know who the fuck it is standing beside you!” with glee.

Envisioning the storming of the U.S. Congress and routes of breaking into all federal buildings on the day electoral votes were due to be tabulated, readers of the online forum known as “The Donald” ruminated about the prospect of bringing their own guns to D.C., even if doing so would be a crime in Washington DC, due to the capitol’s stricter and perhaps more reasonable gun laws. Rather than carrying guns on routes across borders, they would illustrate Second Amendment freedoms on the President’s Park, while it still “belonged” to President Trump. After all, many of the communities where they had found most meaning were disrupted, and this was their historical legacy: they had been invited to take back a seat of power for the final chapter of a long-promised draining of the swamp to prevent the stealing the vote–surrounding the Capitol in a burst of glory. Marchers who rebuffed police as they had been “invited by the President” reflected the crisis of authority that would be a culmination of the Trump Era, offering the last time to Make America Great Again, even by subverting gun control laws and destruction of federal property, as part of a new revolutionary tide.

They were, after all, invited in, even if they did a bit of breaking and entering, and invited to partake in a redemptive act–and could not be able to believe their good fortune as what seemed to be starting as they entered the Peoples’ Chambers, and the chant turned to another Trump Rally cry, “Stop the Steal!, Stop the Steal!” as they wondered what the officers were doing to contain their movement, and tried to film as much as possible of what was an almost orgiastic experience of iPhones, elevated banners, and a huge effort to enter the locked doors of the chambers, incredulous that they had gained access to the building and could break down the chambers’ doors, or jimmy them with a knife, pausing reflectively amidst everything to wish that they had only thought to bring boom boxes to play music that might match the drama of the occasion.

They had all, in the end, been invited to an event to which Donald was himself the master of ceremonies and host of a final melding of his career in public politics and DIY Reality TV.

Donald had, after all, started the machinery of the MAGA crowd on December 19, several days after the electoral college voted, as he begun to plan the massive rally that he might bring to Washington as a direct manifestation of democracy and patriotism that was a last attempt to “Save America” from Joe Biden. Trump let let his base know, as Rudy Giuliani was running a smokescreen by distracting the nation with claims of widespread fraud, to plan a “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th.” The President hectored the crowd about what really matters on social media, and Jack Dorsey must rue that tweet which had seemed so harmless when it was sent on Dec. 19, cryptically addressing his base, “Be there, will be wild!” as he sanctioned abandon at the biggest Stop the Steal rally ever at the Capitol, the one they’d all been waiting for. And he continued to hector the crowd angrily, mentioning the upstanding nature of Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who had recently lost their elections, reminding them of the danger of granting a Democratic majority to the US Senate, reminding them of the need for only 11,779 votes–just 11,000 votes and 779–and the scale of the fraud that must have occurred, in a tormented world salad of obsessions that had so filled his mind in previous weeks.

Members of the Facebook group whose members were already visualizing secession read remarks urging them to put aside other business for this truly Manichaean battle, not waged at the polls: “If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism!” Is it enough that Facebook has barred Trump, now that the base has had time to migrate to Parler and Gab? Was it surprising that cellphones were the weapon of choice, as if they might unleash the revolution online that would cascade across the country in the same way that they were alerted and summoned to Washington, DC? In case any one had missed it, and was not planning to arrive, Republican Attorneys General both helped fund the “Stop the Steal” rally, and promoted it by robocalls that rallied the troops with the heady news “At 1 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal,” in a rally at the Ellipse in President’s Park, with doors opening at 7 AM, . . . we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal!” After disclosing the plans of action, the robocall concluded with the reassurance “We are hoping Patriots like you will join us to continue the fight to protect the integrity of our elections,” nothing its sponsorship by the “Rule of Law Defense Fund,” a group to which anyone reasonable Republican would want to belong. 

 Rule of Law Defence Fund and other Groups sponsoring March to Save America

The battle seemed truly world changing, and a moment of history where the opportunities for martyrdom might abound, as well as true heroism, a new historical age beginning, or a sun kept from setting, seen with the sudden clarity of newfound depth of field as a contest of civilizations in which they could partake.

Albrecht Altdorfer, Battle of Alexander at Issus [Alexanderschlacht] (1529)

The gap in understanding in the nation was captured by the Newspaper of Record. To capture the Capitol Siege underground journalist Elijah Schaffer captured by following the crowd into the chamber offices, the riots were described for all who were not there to witness as anti-climactic in the absence of violence, even after the huge rush of adrenaline breaching the walls of the Capitol building met. The riots were not an invasion or desecration of a house of government, but oddly unplanned as those who waited to incapacitate the officers of the Deep State in their tracks may have realized they had no plans–or been so overcome with the ease of entering the Capitol building where they found such limited resistance until the arrival of Police from Washington, D.C., that they abandoned all plans for using subterranean corridors to plant explosives and aimed to rush the chambers of Congress directly.

8. The New York Times did the nation a deep disservice in describing a tragedy as low-level comedy. The Times characterized the arrival of rioters at the Capitol who had rushed suspiciously few number of capitol building police to enter the inner sanctum of power as a moment as awe-struck protestors per the newspaper of record. After breaching the walls, they paused, as if utterly at a loss that seemed more giddy than violent, filled with awe rather than breaking all sense of order and respect for lawfulness: “inside, there was a strange mix of confusion and excitement, and the almost lack of police presence in the beginning amplified the feeling of lawlessness” as an extreme game which they had only tried to visualize in the past unfolded. Struck by the grandeur that comes from not having visited museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was time for selfies. “They gawked at the place of wealth and beauty, adorned with art and marble, a domain of the powerful,” as if it was all wrongfully procured by their tax dollars, feeling for a moment, in those four hours of insurrection that left five dead, “for a short while on Wednesday afternoon, [they] were in control . . . [and] could not be ignored.” The odd assortment of DIY equipment, zip ties to take prisoners, and even the occasional noose suggests something much more terrifying was at hand as the chambers were vandalized.

But if this was a tragedy of national proportions, it was also a farce, a battle that was enacted in costume, and with imaginary weapons. The Washington police who arrived rightly treated them as folks who were possibly dangerous, but could be most sensibly escorted out of the building after ensuring that they were not laying the sort of pipe bombs that had arrived, that very day, at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee alike, by domestic terrorists who the administration may well have facilitated, in a marriage of convenience that demands broad investigation.

Was this only for four hours, or was this a declension of how the government was to be understood in post-Trump America, where the promise of democracy was only about breaking walls? After all, this would be the last time in a while that they would be invited in. There was a sense of the declension of history in the member of the mob that entered the Capitol posing with loot from the Speaker of the House, before a picture of the surrender of General Burgoyne who attempts to present his sword to General Horatio Lloyd Gates, Adjutant General to the Continental Army,–

Protesters enter the US capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/AFP/Getty

–and the landscape scene of the honor of U.S. Military was a sharp contrast to the looter who mugged for the photographer Win McNamee: a story of the declension of patriotism, perhaps. The young Floridian father who was leaving the Rotunda with the Speakeer’s podium had devoted hours to social media alternately mocking Black Lives Matter and defending pro-Life groups. He church-going Baptist who was also animated about attacking abortion rights shared his mounting anticipation at being part of the March, filling his Facebook feed with images chronicling his itinerary to Washington, DC, to stall confirmation of electoral votes, and taking the speaker’s podium was sort of doing his part.

Back at the real American Revolution, after General Gates had defeated the British forces at Saratoga, he graciously showed his honor to posterity by offering Burgoyne hospitality and refreshment in his battle tent, as a motley band of American soldiers of disparate rank looked on to witness the former British soldier’s decorum, in which he seemed to show himself forever the gentleman, burnishing his reputation despite rumors of his participation in a conspiracy to take General Washington’s place at the charge of the revolutionary army. The historical painting of the former British soldiers was planned by John Trumbull for a series of historical canvasses that would serve to “meditate seriously the subjects of national history, of events of the Revolution,” including Bunker’s Hill, Trenton, Saratoga, and Yorktown, based on local landscape studies.

John Trumbull, Surrender of General Burgoyne (1826)

The 1777 Battle of Saratoga that was fought by the white men who joined the Revolutionary Army were being led by a man accused of having sought to replace Washington, and it was fitting that this picture was the background of a misguided attempt to disrupt the completion of electoral process if not stage a coup as an inside job. The scene was a model of America First.

Blurred in the background of the widely shared news photo of the man participating in the mob that rushed the Capitol building to obstruct the lawful transmission of power, an iconic image of the Siege of the Capitol, is perhaps a reminder of the plaintive nature of the frayed bonds of government to people that led some to enter the chambers of members of the U.S. Congress. This time, they arrived to pry open locked doors that had failed to represent the common will, and would break into congressional offices to liberate information, seeking to steal unlocked “open” laptops, private property they eagerly removed from the capitol building to scour for evidence of corruption which they had hoped to cleanse the nation.

One rioter boasted on social media he had found a mine of needed information on Pelosi’s laptop as if its seizure provided a moment of clarity: it revealed in transparent ways “all facets of this complex Election Theft using Vatican Bank to give Obama CIA 14 pallets of $400 million cash to Leonardo!!” at military bases in Texas. Luckily, Trump was on his way to arrive in Texas, that bastion of liberty, to decode the conspiracy that the man who stole the laptop would present to him, on his final lap of victory of a long campaign. Another stormer of the Capitol, citizen journalist Elijah Schaffer of BlazeTV, channeled the coursing adrenaline flowing through everyone’s veins who illegally entered the government building, shocked at the vertigo of having penetrated the Capitol building, and detailed the pleasure of collective cosplay before he was banned from Facebook and Instagram: “I am inside Nancy Pelosi’s office with thousands of revolutionaries who have stormed the building. To put into perspective how quickly staff evacuated, emails are still on the screen along side a federal alert warning members of the current revolution.”

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Filed under Capitol Riots, Donald Trump, Red States vs. Blue States, Secession, social media

Coronavirus Advances

While we are increasingly deadened by data visualizations that track the infectious spread of COVID-19 across the world and country, their logic has often been implicit. As much as tracking real-time data of deaths and “hot-spots” in the world and the nation, we trust the data viz to orient us to the infectious landscape to better gain understanding of viral spread. We seek to grasp nature of the virus’ transmission, and perhaps hope that we can better grasp its spread. We depend on these daily updates to retain a sense of agency in the chaos, but realize that they are provisional, contingent, and selective snapshots, based on testing, and exist at a time delay from the virus’ actual distribution–without much predictive value. We maddeningly realize they are dependent on testing rates and reporting, and only as good as the datasets which they re-present.

On the heels of a 5% statewide positivity rate on December 5, 2020, California was declared in a state of shut down in all its counties. It almost seems that such graphics have started to fail us, as the spread of the virus overflows the boundaries of the map and permeates its space. The choropoleth renders individual counties all but indistinct, the state drowned in widespread infections, with only a few of its less populated regions as refuges. With a flood of purple overflowing the coastal counties, the delta, the Central Valley, and the entire south of the state, was there even any point in mapping the danger of viral spread beyond a state of red alert?

Dec. 5, 2020

While mapping offers little comfort in the era of saturation of heightened risk, the color-codes alert inhabitants to the danger of increased stresses on the public health system–as much as visualization challenges to translate tools of data aggregation to visualize the pandemic., as December 6 rates grew by December 19. As we shift to map a decreasingly multi-colored state by the moderate, substantial and widespread virus, and widespread cases seem to flood the state, the map offers a security of some sort of monitoring of the pandemic’s spatial spread.

The sea of purple is like Spinal Tap going raising the volume “up to eleven,” and are a sign that we are in unexplored territory that won’t be accommodated by a simple color ramp–or, indeed, a familiar cartographic iconography among our current tools of styling space. While we are used to maps embodying meaning, what the colors of the map embody–beyond risk–is unknown. To be sure, at a time when fatalities from the coronavirus in the south of the state have skyrocketed from the middle of the month, hitting records in ways terrible to even contemplate, the field of purple is a deeply human story of loss, as a surge of hospitalizations have flooded the entire healthcare community, and stretched facilities of critical care beyond anything we have known, filling half of intensive care beds in LA County at Christmas. 2020 enough to make it hard to feel any relief in the close of a calendar year, as if that unit still held any meaning, and very grim about 2021: and while the CDC allowed that there may already be a new, more contagious strain, in the nation two days before Christmas, the arrival of the more contagious strain in California and Colorado increased alarm before New Year’s.

San Francisco Chronicle, December 6 2020
SF Chronicle, December 19, 2020

How to get a handle on the novel coronavirus that we have been pressing against COVID-19 dashboards since March to grasp better, and will we able to do so in 2021?

Whatever sense agency the maps impart, it is an agency that is only as good as the compromised sense of agency that we expect in an era of geolocation, on which most maps track reports of infection. Even as we face the rather grim warning that we are waiting for the arrival of a vaccine that, in the Bay Area, rates of immunization face steep obstacles of vaccine distribution due to pragmatics of freezer space required, training of extra health care workers, and monitoring and tracking the two-stage process of vaccination, we will depend for public sanity on maintaining clear communication in maps. The actual tracking of the novel coronavirus doesn’t translate that well to a state-wide model, or a choropleth, although it is the method for public health advisories that makes most sense: we do not have small-scale public health supervision in most of the nation, although they exist at some counties. The stressed Departments of Public Health in areas are without resources to manage COVID-19 outbreaks, public health compliance, or retaliations for public health violations: and the effort to create public health councils to manage compliance and violations of public health orders may be seen by some as an unneeded bureaucracy, but will give local governments resilience in dealing with an expanding epidemic, at the same time as governmental budgets are stressed, and no body of law about COVID violations exists.

Rather than map on a national or state-wide level, we can best gain a sense of how much virus is out there and how it moves through attempts of contact tracing–even if the increasing rates of infection may have gone beyond the effectiveness of contact tracing as a methodology that was not quickly adapted by a federal government the prioritized the rush to a vaccine. The basis for such a map in LA county can reveal the broad networks of contagion, often starting in small indoor gatherings across the region, and moving along networks of spatial mobility across the city and San Fernando Valley, and help embody the disease’s vectors of transmission as we watch mortality tallies on dashboards that give us little sense of agency before rising real-time tolls.

ESRI

If such ESRI maps suggest a masterful data tracing and compilation project, the data is large, but the format a glorification of the hand-drawn maps of transmission that led to a better understanding of the progress of Ebola on the ground in 2014, used by rural clinics in western African countries like Liberia and Rwanda to stop the infectious disease’s transmission and monitor the progress of contagion to limit it–as well as to involve community members in the response to the virus’ deadly spread.

We may have lost an opportunity for the sort of learning experience that would be most critical to mitigate viral spread in the United States, as no similar public educational outreach was adopted–and schools, which might have provided an important network for diffusing health advisories to families, shifted predominantly to distance learning and providing meals, but we became painfully aware of the lack of a health infrastructure across America, as many openly resisted orders to mask or to remain indoors that they saw as unsubstantiated restrictions of liberty, not necessary measures.

Hand-Drawn Public Health Map of Ebola Transmission in Liberia (2014)

We are beyond contact tracing, however, and struggling with a level of contagion that has increased dramatically with far more indoor common spaces and geographic mobility. Yet the broad public health alerts that these “news maps” of viral spread offer readers omits, or perhaps ignores, the terrifying mechanics of its spread, and the indoor spaces in which we know the virus is predominantly acquired. The rise of newly infectious mutated strains of the novel coronavirus was in a sense inevitable, but the rising tension of what this means for the geographical distribution and danger of the coronavirus for our public health system is hard to map to assess its wide distribution, and we take refuge in mitigation strategies we can follow.

Why have we not been more vigilant earlier to adapt the many indoor spaces in which the virus circulates? It bears noting that the spread of virus in the state was undoubtedly intensified by over a hundred deaths and 10,000 cases of infection to spread in the density of a carceral network, which seems an archipelago incubating the spread of viral infections in the state. We only recently mapped the extent of viral spread across nineteen state prisons by late December 2020, tracked by the Los Angeles Times, but often omitted from public health alerts–

Coronavirus Cases Reported in Nineteen California Prisons, Dec. 21, 2020

–and the density of Long-Term Care centers of assisted living across the state, which were so tragically long centers of dangers of viral spread, as the New York Times and Mapbox alerted us as the extreme vulnerabilty of elder residents of nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, retirement homes, assisted-living facilities, residential care homes who cannot live alone was noted across the world. The data that was not provided in the grey-out states interrupted the spread of infections among those often with chronic medical conditions was not surprising, epidemiologically, but terrifying in its escalation of the medical vulnerability of already compromised and vulnerable populations–and steep challenges that the virus posed.

unlike those greyed out states that fail to release data on deaths linked to COVID-19 infections, congregate on the California coast: while the New York Times depicted point-based data of the over 100,000 COVID-related deaths in nursing homes are a small but significant share of COVID deaths, exposure for populations with extraordinarily high probability of possessing multiple possibilities for co-morbidities is probably only a fraction of infections.

Coronavirus Deaths linked to Nursing Homes in United States, December 4, 2020

We strain to find metrics to map the risk-multipliers that might be integrated into our models for infectious spread. It seems telling to try to pin the new wave of infections in a state like California to increased contact after Thanksgiving–a collective failure of letting up on social distancing in place since March–as the basis for a post-Thanksgiving boom in many regions of the state, using purely the spatial metrics of geolocation that are most easily aggregated from cell phone data in the pointillist tracking of individual infections in aggregate.

New York Times/CueBiq Mobility Data

Based on cell-phone data of geolocation, a proxy for mobility or social clustering that offered a metric to track Americans’ social proximity and geogarphical mobility–including at shopping centers, oceanside walks in open spaces, and even take-out food curbside pickups, as well as outdoor meals and highway travel, few counties curbed aggregation as one might hope–although the fifty foot metric accepts the many outdoor congregations that occurred, well within the Cuebiq metric, wearing or without masks. A magenta California registered pronounced proximity, grosso modo, discounting any mindful innovative strategies in the state.

Increased Spatial Closeness within Fifty Feet/CueBiq/Graphic NBC News, Nigel Chiwaya and Jiachan Wu

It is stunning to have a national metric for voluntary mobility, rough as it is, to measure internalization of social distancing protocols and potential danger of a post-holiday COVID-19 bump. To be sure, we are stunned by geolocation tools to aggregate but risk neglecting the deeper infrastructures that undergird transmission, from forced immobility. While geolocation tools offer opportunities for collective aggregating whose appeal has deep historical antecedents in measuring contagion and anticipating viral transmission by vectors of spatial proximity, geospatial tools create a geolocation loop in visualizations which, however “informative” perpetuate a spatiality that may not clearly overlap with the actual spatiality of viral transmission.

Even if we demanded to map what were the novel coronavirus had “hot-spots” in mid- to late March, as if processing the enormity of the scale we didn’t know how to map, aggregating data without a sense of scale.

March 26, 2020

Across the summer, it seems best to continue to map daily numbers of cases, relying on whatever CDC or hospital data from Hopkins we had, trying to aggregate the effects of the virus that was spreading across the country whose government seemed to provide little economic or medical plan, in maps that tallied the emergence of new cases, as new hotspots appeared across the land, meriting attention difficult to direct.

We are plowing infections and mortality with abandon in a steady diet of data visualizations that purport to grasp disease spread, that were once weighted predominantly to the New York area, even as they spread throughout the nation by the end of March, but remaining in the thousands, at that point, as even that low threshold was one by which we were impressed. The tracking of the local incidence of reported cases seemed to have meaning to grasp the meaning of transmission, with a pinpoint accuracy that was assuring, even if we had no way to understand the contagion or no effective strategy to contain it. But we boasted data visualizations to do so, focussing on the nation as if to contain its spread in antiquatedly national terms, for a global pandemic, not mapping networks of infection but almost struggling to process the data itself.

After all, the John Snow’s cholera maps of John Snow are the modern exemplars foregrounded in data visualization courses as game-changing images as convincingly precise pictures of infection progressing from a water pumps in London neighborhoods is often seen as a gold standard in the social efficacy of the data visualization and information display. The elevation of the pinpoint mapping of cholera mortality in relation to a water pump from which the deadly virus was transmitted in a nineteenth-century London neighborhood:

John Snow, “Cholera Deaths in Soho”

The Snow Map so successfully embodies a convincing image of contagion that it has taken on a life of its own in data vis courses, almost fetishized as a triumphant use of the plotting of data that precisely geolocated mortality statistics allow, and can indeed be transposed onto a map of the land to reveal the clustering of death rates around the infamous Broad St. pump, that created a legible vector of the transmission of diseases in the Soho neighborhood, so convincing to be touted as a monument of the data sciences.

Open-Air Water Pumps Tainted by Cholera measured in John Snow’s Map

Snow is lauded for having effectively showed that, in ways that changed scientific practices of collective observation and public health: rather than being communicated by miasmatic infections that spread to low-lying London from the Thames, mortality rates could gain a legibility in proximity to a pump that transmitted an infectious virus, often presented as a conceptual leap of Copernican proportions (which it was, when contrasted to miasma that emanated from the Thames to low-lying areas–if it anticipated a bacteriological understanding of viral transmission). The association of danger with the water procured on errands from neighborhood pumps however replaced the noxious vapors of a polluted river, as in earlier visualizations of the miasma that lifted the noxious fumes of the polluted Thames river to unfortunate low-lying urban neighborhoods, who were condemned by urban topography to be concentrations of a density of deaths of more striking proportions and scale than had been seen in the collective memory.

Snow made his argument by data visualizations to convince audiences, but he mapped with a theory of contagion. But if Snow’s maps works on how the virus is communicated in outdoor spaces–and how a single site of transmission can provide a single focus for the aggregation of mortality cases, COVID-19 is an infection that is most commonly contracted in indoor spaces, shared airspace, and the recycled unfiltered air of close quarters. And the indoor spaces where COVID-19 appears to be most often transmitted stands at odds with the contraction in outdoor common spaces of the street and service areas of water pumps, that create the clear spacial foci of Snow’s map, and the recent remapping by Leah Meisterlin that seeks to illuminate the urban spaces of the contraction of cholera in a digital visualization as a question of intersecting spatialities.

Current visualization tools compellingly cluster a clear majority of cholera deaths in proximity to a publicly accessible pump where residents drew water where viral pathogens that had colonized its handle. But we lack, at this point, a similarly convincing theory of the transmission of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

But the logics of COVID-19’s communication is nowhere so crisp, and difficult to translate to a register that primarily privileges spatial contiguity and proximity–it is not a locally born disease, but a virus that mutates locally across a global space: a pandemic. And although contact-tracing provides a crucial means of trying to track in aggregate who was exposed to infection, we lack any similarly clear theory to metaphorically grasp the contagion–and are increasingly becoming aware of the central role of its mutation to a virus both more infection and that spreads with greater rapidity in confronting the expansive waves of infection in the United States–as if an escalated virulence grew globally in the first months of this rapidly globalized pandemic.

Our dashboards adopted the new versions of web Mercator, perhaps unhelpfully, to offer some security in relation to the nature of viral spread, which, if they served as a way of affirming its truly global scope–

NextStrain

–also suggested that global traffic of the virus demands its own genomic map, as the virus migrates globally, outside strictly spatial indices of global coverage, and that perhaps spatial indices were not the best, in the end, for accounting for a virus that had began to develop clear variants, if not to mutate as scarily as many feared, into a more virulent form.

And it may be that a genomic map that allow the classification of viral strains of genomic variability demand their own map: for as we learn that genomic mutation and variation closely determines and affects etiology, communication of the viral strains offers yet a clearer illustration that globalization articulates any point in terrestrial space to a global network, placing it in increased proximity to arbitrary point not visible in a simple map, but trigger its own world-wide network of markedly different infectiousness or virulence.

NextStrain

From December 4 2019, indeed, we could track emergent variants of the virus best outside of a spatial scale, as much as it reminded us that the very mobility of individuals across space increased the speed and stakes of viral contagion, and the difficulty to contain viral spread, in the interconnected world where viral variation recalled a flight map, set of trade routes, or a map of the flow of financial traffic or even of arms. Mutations were understood to travel worldwide, with a globalism that a spatial map might be the background, but was indeed far removed, as we moved beyond questions of contact tracing to define different sizes of genomic mutation and modifications that we could trace by the scale of mutations, not only the actual places where the virus had arrived.

Was place and space in fact less important in communicating the nature of COVID-19’s increasing virulence?

The maps of genomic variation traced not only the globalization of the virus, but its shifting character, and perhaps etiology across some thirty variants by late April, that show both the global spread of the virus, and the distinct domination of select strains at certain locations, in way that researchers later theorized the ability to “track” mutations with increasing precision. If researchers in Bologna defined six different variants of coronavirus from almost 50,000 genomes that had been mapped globally in laboratory settings to map variants of the virus whose signatures showed little more variability than strains of the flu in June, variations of signatures seemed a manner to map the speed of coronavirus that had traveled globally from by February 202 to the lungs of the late Franco Orlandi, an eighty-three year old retired truck driver from Nembro, Italy, whose family could not place China on a map when, following diagnostic protocol, attendant physicians in Bergamo asked if Orlandi had, by chance, happen to have traveled to China recently.

NextStrain

Despite lack of serious mutation, thankfully, the data science of genomic sequencing of the COVID-19 cases triggered by genomic mutations of SARS-CoV-2 genome of just under 30,000 nucleotides, has experienced over time over 353,000 mutation events, creating a difficult standard for transmission into equivalent hot spots: some hot spots of some mutations are far more “hot” than others, if we have tried to plot infections and mortality onto race, sex, and age, it most strikingly correlates to co-morbidities, if all co-morbidities are themselves also indictors of mortality risk. While the mutations have suggested transmission networks, have the presence of different levels of mutations also constantly altered the landscape of viral transmission?

Global Distribution of Sars-CoV-2 Variants, March 15, 2020/Los Alamos National Laboratory

It makes sense that the viral variant was tracked in Great Britain, the vanguard of genomic sequencing of the novel coronavirus as a result not only of laboratory practices but the embedded nature of research in the National Health Services and the monitoring of public health and health care. Enabled by a robust program of testing, of the some 150,000 coronavirus genomes sequenced globally, England boasts half of all genomic data. Rather than being the site of mutations, Britain was as a result the site where the first viral variant was recognized and documented, allowing Eric Volz and Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London to examined nearly 2,000 genomes of the variant they judged to be roughly 50% more transmissible than other coronavirus variants, magnifying the danger of contagious spread in ways feared to unroll on our dashboards in the coming months. As teams at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine studied the variant in late 2020 in southeast England, they found it to be 56% more transmissible than other variants, and raised fears of further mutations in ways that rendered any map we had even more unstable.

The virus SARS-CoV-2 can be expected to mutate regularly and often. While England boasts about half of all global genomic data on the virus, of the 17 million cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the United States, only 51,000 cases of the virus were sequenced–and the failure to prioritize viral sequencing in America has exposed the nation to vulnerabilities. And although California has sequenced 5-10,000 genomes a day of the novel coronavirus samples by December, and Houston’s Methodist Hospital have mapped 15,000 sequences as it watches for new viral variants; an American Task Force on viral variants will be rolled out early in 2021, as the discovery of viral mutations haves spread across five states in the western, eastern, and northwestern United States. While it is not clear that the viral variant or mutations would be less susceptible to polyclonal vaccines, most believe variants would emerge that would evade vaccine-induced immunity.

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Filed under Coronavirus, data aggregation, data maps, data visualization, global pandemic

A Socially Distanced Franchise?

While I was phone banking in Texas, Nevada, and other states in months before the 2020 election, I fielded a surprising number of questions of access to absentee ballots and mail-in voting, as well as being assured by many voters that they had refrained from mailing in ballots, and were planning to drop their ballots off directly in polling stations, or brave the lines, to ensure their votes counted. I’d like to think they did. (The woman I reached in Texas who had moved from Nevada and was awaiting an absentee ballot to arrive two days before the election, past the deadline of registering in Texas, may have not.) Even as we advance through “Trump’s final days of rage and denial,” and charges of fraudulence and the robbery of red states from the Grand Old Party’s self-appointed King haunt public White House pronouncements and social media posts, the electoral map that provide the formal reduction of how votes were tallied is cast as a contested ground, questioned on the basis of voting machines, absentee ballots, and socially distanced voting practices, as if these inherently distance the franchise and undermine democratic practice. Donald Trump invites the nation to squint at the map, examine its mediated nature and instability, querying the resolution of any election as, shockingly, only a handful of congressional Republicans admit he lost a month after voters cast seven million votes for his opponent, whose victory 88% of Republicans in Congress refuse to acknowledge.

Unlike other elections, for a month after Election Day–November 3, 2020–the nation waited in eery limbo, uncertain about the legitimacy of the election so that even by December 2, CNN was projecting victors in several “swing” states. Although the New York Times and AP projected the conclusion of the election on paper, announcing late-arriving news of electoral victory almost a full week after Election Day, seeking to invest a sense of conclusion in a protracted debates–if oddly channeling “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

New York Times, November 8, 2020

The inset map still indicated three states still “not called.” But the new President Elect appeared boosted by the classic alliance of Democratic voters that Donald Trump saw as unlikely, and had failed to align in 2016.

Months after Election Day, CNN was still “projecting” Biden’s surpassing the electoral vote threshold of 270, shifting two midwestern and one southern state to the Democratic column, with Arizona: the delay of verification in a range of legal gambits still being followed by the Trump campaign, which raised over $170 million to press its case for recounts, investigations into allegations voter fraud through the Save America PAC, disorientingly stubbornly refusing to admit the validity of the electoral map, and even repeating, into December, hopes that  an opening for a Trump victory materialize if one state select electors, to reassemble the swath of red that flooded the national map back in 2015 as if playing a puzzle: “If we win Georgia, everything falls in place!” The electoral map was something of an idol of the Republican Party, as Donald Trump’s hopes for electoral victory faded, but refused to recede into mid-December.

CNN, December 2 2020

Weeks after Election Day, we entered into a weirdly protracted attempt to game the electoral map, long after the initial tallying of votes had ceased. A range of recounts, hand-counts, investigations of absentee ballots and even querying of the legitimacy of voting machines have been launched to challenge the representational validity of the electoral map in ways that should give us pause for how it aimed to undermine the representational value of the voting practices. In querying the functions of the map as representation–by querying the tabulation of votes that comprise the electoral map–Trump has stoked tensions in representational democracy. With unsettling abandon, Trump stoked national tensions by refusing to acknowledge he did not win the election, as if determined to break with Presidential decorum for a final time, as if seeking to leave a legacy of disruption in his wake.

To be sure, gaming the electoral college has emerged as a recognized campaign strategy in 2020, increasingly distancing the franchise of the nation, as campaigns focussed with assiduity on the prospect not of “swing state” voters as in the past, but in flipping or holding a slate of states, that left the electoral map rendered as a sort of jigsaw puzzle that would add up to 270 votes from the electoral college, as the Wall Street Journal reminded us by mapping the Republican “game plan” that Donald Trump long knew he faced for holding onto tot the states where often slim majorities put him in office, as Democrats aimed to flip states to their column: the rhetoric of “gaming” the map to create the victorious outcome was echoed in the news cycle,–and not only in the Journal–in ways that seemed to have dedicated the distribution of public rallies that Donald Trump held long before announcing his candidacy officially, almost as soon as he entered office, in an attempt to solidify the bonds of the red expanse he celebrated as America’s heartland with his political charisma.

If Trump may have wished he didn’t take the southern states so much for granted, he had targeted Pennsylvania, Florida, and Montana–as well as Arizona and Nevada–by staging rallies, in those pre-COVID years, as if to shore up his support as if investing in the electoral votes of 2020.

https://www.npr.org/2019/06/18/733505037/trump-set-to-officially-launch-reelection-but-hasnt-he-been-running-all-along

If that map from National Public Radio, based Cook’s Political Report and the White House, only takes us through 2019, the campaign stops of Biden and Trump show a density to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, and North Carolina that suggest the depths of commitment to the gaming of the electoral map, and a deep battle in Arizona between the population centers in Phoenix and its suburbs and more rural regions.

The metaphor of “gaming” the map was hard to stop, and its logic seems to have inevitably led to the endless endgame that may result in clogging the nation’s courts with suits about the circumstances of mail-in voting in multiple states. Trump’s insistence in claiming the election not “over,” as if unfamiliar with someone else setting the parameters for television attention, speechless at the unfolding of a narrative shattering conviction of his inability to lose–that “in the end, I always win“–is not only a deepest reluctance to admit losing.

The logic of the gaming of the electoral map clearly has him and his campaign in its sway. The deeply personal sense of the election as a referendum on him and his family may have been rooted in a sense o the legal difficulties that his loss might pose: among the many emails that were sent to his base, pleading for campaign donations to the “Save America” PAC, which seemed the last line of defense to Make America Great Again,” supporters were begged to do their part in “DEFENDING THE ELECTION” and hope they hadn’t “ignored Team Trump, Eric, Lara, Don, the Vice President AND you’ve even ignored the President of the United States” given how much was on the line. The sense of impending alarm reminds us of the confidence that Trump lodged in preserving the red electoral map of 2016, a confidence that seemed almost born from his ability tot game the electoral map yet again, and overcome the polls even after they pollsters had tried to recalibrate their predictive strategies and demographic parsing of the body politic.

1. The very close margins voting margins suggest we narrowly escaped an alternative history of a second Trump term, and can explain the tenacious grip that Trump seems to have had on an alternative outcome, an outcome that he has tried to game in multiple ways and strategies that eerily echoes with the strategies of gaming the electoral map that seems to have occurred through the orchestration of telling postal delays, delayed returns of absentee ballots, and the strategic gaming of the distribution of a distanced franchise. It forces us to contemplate the counterfactual history of the far darker reality of a scenario where his expectations came true. Indeed, it should make us consider the closeness of overturning democracy. In was as if the reporting of the timestamped electoral map of Saturday, November 7 that was an inset of the Times only encouraged resistance to admitting the failure of Trump to preserve the “red swath” of 2016 across what coastal elites long bracketed as “flyover country,” where the effects of economic recession had never stopped.

New York Times, November 8 2020, “Results as of Saturday at 10:30 Eastern/ Map Shows Maine and Nebraska statewide vote

It had almost happened. In Trump’s White House, a boisterous watch party was underway, crowded with FOX anchors, watching the big screen that FOX results showed to the audience, anticipating the reality of a second Trump term. But all of a sudden, Trump was so incredulous he refused to admit seeing Arizona called at 11:20 as a Biden victory, shouting to no one in particular, “Get that result changed!” Hoping to calm her triggered boss, who must have been catapulted into alternate scenarios of having to leave the White House where he had expected to encamp, former FOX employee Hope Hicks fretted about the newsfeed.

Could the map be changed? Trump was frustrated at his in ability to manipulate the news, and already apprehensive at what endgame was in store. At this point, it seems, Trump’s every-ready servile son-in-law, Jared Kushner, hurriedly placed a direct call to Rupert Murdoch to rectify the call, assuring better data would arrive from Arizona’s COVID-denying governor, Doug Ducey (R), to restore the state’s redness on the electoral map, in desperate hopes of jerry-rigging his electoral fortunes. Back in 2016, Trump had indeed only won Arizona by the narrowest of margins–by about half of the margin by which Romney won in 2012–and only third-party candidates’ popularity concealed that Democrats boosted margins of victory in precincts beyond Republicans, flipping seventy precincts to their column–perhaps as Maricopa County featured a PAC that attracted millions of dollars to defeating Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s bid to consolidate an anti-immigrant agenda.

Trump quickly recognized the danger a flipped state posed to hopes for another red swath, as the contestation over the state that he had hoped to pry from the Democratic map was a poor omen of the election, and needed to be stayed.

In 2017, Trump was so enamored of the expanse of his electoral victory to given paper copies to White House visitors–until he framed a version for the West Wing, five months after the election. And if the state is visibly fragmented in an identical mosaic in the map that Trump framed in the White House, the brilliant red of nearby Nevada and bright red diagonal suggest the state was more firmly in Republican hands than we might remember. After hoping that The Washington Post might celebrate his hundredth day in office by featuring the “impressive” the electoral map on its front page, his pride in the map led it framed the map in the West Wing, a reporter from One America News Network obligingly showed.

This alternate world of electoral victory created what must have been a prominent counter-factual map that had dominated the Trump team’s plans for victory in 2020. The White House watch party must have been haunted by the very same map of which Trump was so proud.

Trey Yingst (ONN), May 11, 2017/Twitter
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Narratives, Agency, & Electoral Maps

The entry of the data visualizations into the pitched narrative of the Presidential election is not new. If thought to begin in the collective unfolding of the election-night drama on television screens, as the casting of ballots long understood as a collective action of union has prompted a narrative of division, CNN offers a new model to personally intervene on one’s iPhone or android, as if to offer the means to ramp up agency on social media, inviting users to tap on one’s personal screen to build-your-own electoral map, perhaps to assuage one’s heightened anxiety, granting the illusion to allow yourself for entering your own alternative future. Echoing the algorithmic thinking of tallying “pathways to victory” we’d been following to exist the Trump Era with increased desperation, courtesy FiveThirtyEight and others, we imagined scenarios of the electoral constellation that might prepare for the dawning of something like a new age.

We’ve rarely had so divisive a President as Donald Trump, who has sought to divide the country by race, region, religion, and income, and the hopes for emerging with a new vision of the union are slim–making the amount of weight and meaning that rests on the map appear greater than ever. How it would spin out was unclear, but the red block that Trump had pulled to the considerable surprise of all political pundits was promised to be able to be chipped away at in multiple ways, sketched by so many algorithmic story maps as “paths to victory.” The array of paths each candidate faced–though we focussed on Biden’s range of options and winced at those of Trump–could be organized in what seems a rehearsal for the glossing of possible eventualities, as multiple data visualizations that led to alternative futures like so many forking roads out of a dark, dark wood.

The hope to find coherence in the map seems even greater than ever, as if it might finally purge the divides of the last four to six years. There was a grim sense of being defeated by the electoral map during the 2016 and 2020 election, with the skewing of electoral votes to low-density rural states–skewed further by the increasing distance at which those local problems appear from Washington, DC. The configuration of the electors, as the configuration of the federal representative government, are compromised by giving more pull to residents of many rural states and creating a red block that one can only hope to chip away at in the age of coronavirus either by online donations, phone-banking, or, at this late stage, by imagining alternative futures, and playing around with the map to see how the post-election endgame will play.

This election, sequestered behind our walls, often having already cast our ballot, the parlor game of playing with the CNN interactive graphics may come as a relief offering an interactive model for adjusting and tweaking the electoral map, playing out alternative scenarios whose conclusion and potential endgames we can indulge ourselves and to an extent confront our fears in this most anxiety-producing of elections by imagining alternative scenarios playing out, using a tentative set of color choices, more familiar from polls than television, to suggest the possible outcomes of the elections as we try to assemble the final tabulations of the vote, and the disputes that may arrive in each locality about margins of victory this time round, hoping to heal the abrupt chromatic divide still huring from 2016, using polls’ take on “battleground” states to game outcomes of potential electoral maps.

Polls and Potential Electoral Distribution of 2020, CNN

The above (imagined) electoral map would be the narrowest of Democratic victories, but affirm some deep divides across the nation from 2016, but might be arrived at only after recounts and disputes. The fantasy map suggests not only the open-ended nature of the vote this year, where the large number of absentee ballots tabulated during the pandemic poses problem of tabulation exacerbated by local restrictions on when the tally of votes is able to begin.

But cognitively trained as we were over the previous months–conditioned?–to entertain multiple contingencies of electoral paths “to victory” in the ecosystem of data visualizations, schooled by the acumen of considering “paths to victory” entertained by Nate Silver, the CNN maps offered not only a parlor game, but a rehearsal for glossing electoral configurations based that might emerge on November 3, 2020, should we be forced to entertain multiple “pathways to victory” that might emerge–or, as it happened, remain–as the evening proceeded. They cued possible narrative scripts.

In retrospect, of course, we could barely imagine an electoral map that was so delicately balanced on tenterhooks. The dramatic unfolding of multiple “roads to 270” suggested a possibility to reclaim the dominant metaphors from sports, pace Silver, to a narrative of democracy. Although some petulantly suggested that the mail-in ballot was more than a bummer but a trap, presenting more possibilities of limiting votes and discarding ballots, by making us more dependent on mail delivery and USPS, the expectations for vote-counting that were a byproducts of the COVID era may well have furthered democratic discourse, and the focus of the voting drive, as well as affirming the democratic centrality of the mail: as much as provide a route for the current joyless hack of a Postmaster General to intervene in the expression public will, the narrative of tabulating every vote and creating a true paper record was an unexpected reform of the tally of votes and voting process, as tabulation foregrounded political participation as a schooling in votes nowhere more evident than in the unexpected drama of the slowing down of the tabulation of votes and arrival of data into the electoral map provided an unexpected lesson of democracy.

Electoral Map as Ballots Tallied in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania

We expected little conclusiveness in the electoral map on election night, even into the wee hours, unlike the intense drama of earlier years. The election will continue even after the counts are finalized in each state, as it is bound to be contested in perhaps ongoing and painful ways, if it proceeds not only to polling places but up through the federal courts, as new complaints about the validity of votes are posed by the Republican Party. The hope to restrict the franchise in any way possible plays to fears not only of aliens who are exercising a vote, but a new array of restrictions on the franchise.

2020 Electoral Projection of Nate Silver, Election Day 2020

And we could fear an endgame destined to subvert the narrative drama once located only on the electoral map, its narrative unhinged from the map, pursued in cases that debate the ways votes were tallied, compiled, tabulated beyond November 3. Nate Silver’s map as not purely prognostic. If it reinforces the deeply divided nation fractured on broad-based faults of terrifyingly portentous contiguity, it suggests a painful endgame narrative, as court cases were pressed, recounts demanded, and charges of illegal voting launched in the face of attempts to aggregate votes from mail-in ballots in states predicted to “go blue.” The possibility of such “I can’t go on, I’ll go on” was not at all appealing.

Even if static, the alternative electoral maps staged a sort of drama of hypotheticals that anticipated the dangers of deep dissatisfaction across the nation. There is a deep fear that if no souther state “flip blue,” even a truly “tenuous win” might be almost pyrrhic. The narrative is grim, if its end result may have positive elements. Is its biggest impact not in delivering a President–the outcome of the electoral system–but, this year, it is also a map of the painful endgame of litigating the vote, even if the nation is haunted by a Mason-Dixon latitudinal divide among electors which most of the nation valiantly hoped we somehow might soon put behind us.

The narrative is displaced from the election. While Nate Silver notoriously went wrong in prognosticating 2016, he reminds us, in case we forgot, “Trump didn’t win the last election by that much.” This year the true terrifying story may well be the aftermath, and the difficulty to call the election, and what this means for the nation–which is a narrative that one may only gloss from the map, which threatens not to materialize in any trustworthy way until all the votes are counted–and all legal battles around their tabulation are hopefully resolved. But the most despicable sort of battles about VOTER ID, and the deeply divisive questions of the legitimacy of who could cast a ballot, were immersed in the heady waters of debates about immigration, seemed game for inclusion, as eighteen states now require VOTER ID, in ways that pose broad risks for disenfranchisement that local administration of elections threaten to perpetuate, after the refusal to amend the historic Voting Rights Act whose teeth were removed.

As other nations puzzle over the arcane methods for employing an electoral college that dilutes the actual popular vote that is distributed among apparently aristocratic holdovers of electors, but is in fact far closer to an ideal model citizenry of those honorable to place nation first over sectarian interests, the passionate intensity of division made such ideals seem destined for planned obsolescence, for reasons maybe not far removed from media technologies.

The liberating nature we find in designing our own DIY electoral maps on our peripherals offer more than a fun exercise in alternative realities in a national compact; playing with the maps are far more effective and engaged than most other forms of narcotics for assuaging anxiety, and do lower blood pressure. There was some pleasant chutpah to seeing Phillipe Reines put out his own prediction of an overwhelming Biden electoral victory that kept Trump below 200 electors, on November 2 2020, with a prescience reveals that the narrative was indeed there to be unpacked.

https://twitter.com/PhilippeReines/status/1323473321107857408

There was a sense of liberation in the ability to easily enter alternate futures, thanks to CNN graphics team and your smart phone, of greater national harmony–if the possibility of harmony seems in many places pretty illusory or lost, across the red dust bowl of arid lands Great Plains, echoing John Wesley Powell’s “lands of the arid region,” now only starting to be imagined to be rendered other than red, and Appalachia. This alienated “forgotten” American persists even in the DYI electoral map that not based on tabulations of votes. But such a map seems telling: tapping states to flip their votes invest a sense of agency in our ability to make possible predictions, even more important than the vote: we have ingested so many polls in news maps, there is something liberating in playing with the electoral map ourselves, gaming multiple scenarios, fidgeting with the map as an outlet for nervous energy as we wonder how those polls will translate to an electoral map,–

Fantasy Electoral Map, Built on CNN

–and how those states will add up to produce the only numeric legend the will really in the end count.

If we once relied on television pundits to explain the translation of the “raw” popular vote and the possibility of a win of electoral victory without a popular vote victory–then a deeply doubted as an eventuality–in describing the contest for “the percentage of the republican vote” as an obscure statistical construct. When even in the 1980 election, pundits bemoaned this “long electoral season,” the “magic map”

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Filed under 2020 election, data visualization, electoral maps, interactive maps, Red States/Blue States

Air Quality

The tracking of local air quality is a contemporaneous way to track the effects of the fire seige that initiated clusters of fires across the western seaboard to be ignited at the end of a long, dry summer from August 25. We were not really struck unawares by the dry lightning, but had left forests languishing, not beneath electricity lines–as last year, around this time–but under a hot sun, and high temperatures that we hardly registered as changing the ecosystem and forest floor. This year, the sun turning red like a traffic light in the middle of the afternoon, we were forced to assess the air quality as the blue sky was filled with black carbon plumes from nearby fires that at times left a grittiness in our eyes.

Scott Soriano, September 27 2020
October 1, 2020

Confronted with a red sun through pyrocumulus haze, we followed real-time surveys of air quality with renewed attentiveness as an orange pyrocumulus clouds blanketed usually blue skies of the Bay Area, obscuring the sun’s light, suffusing the atmosphere with a weirdly apocalyptic muted light, that were hardly only incidental casualties of the raging fires that destroyed houses, property, and natural habitat–for they revealed the lack of sustainability of our warming global environment.

EPA/World Air Quality Index/New York Times September 15, 2020

The soot and fog that permeated “clean cities” like Portland and San Francisco came as a sudden spike in relation to the black carbon loads that rose in plumes from the fires, as if the payload of the first bombs set by climate change. The shifting demand for information that evolved as we sought better bearings in the new maps of fires that had become a clearly undeniably part of our landscape was reflected in the skill with which the sites of incidence of dry lighting strikes that hit dried out brush and forest floors, the growing perimiters of fires and evacuation zones across the west coast, and the plumes of atmospheric smoke of black carbon that would leave a permanent trace upon the land, liked to the after-effects of holocausts created by atom bombs by Mike Davis. The measurement of wind carrying airborne smoke emerged as a layer of meaning we were beginning to grasp, a ghostly after-effects of the fields of flams that began from sites of lightning hitting the earth in a Mapbox wildfire map of fields of fire across the states, radiating resonant waves akin to earthquake aftershocks, a lamination on hex bins of the fires that seemed a new aspect indicating their presence in the anthropocene.

The suitably charcoal grey base-map of the state integrates approximate origins of fires, fire spread and greatest intensity of hotspots from satellite imagery courtesy Descartes Labs and NOAA, and air pollution data integrates the fires’ spread across our picture of the state. While human reviewed and sourced, the satellite data embodies the ravages of fire across the state in ways echoed by its black charcoal base map, and reflects the need to develop new visual tools to process their devastation.

Mapbox Wildfire Maps/CalFire Data/OpenStreetMap/Los Angeles Times Sept 28, 2020

While we began to measure air quality to meet new needs to track ground-level ozone, acid rain, air toxins, and ozone depletion at an atmospheric level, the increased tracking of more common air pollutants since 1990 included airborne particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3), we track the effects of wildfire smoke by hourly levels of each at local points, parlaying sensors into newsfeeds as wildfires rage. If stocked with labels of each chromatic layer, are these real-time updates lacking not only legends–but the temporal graph that would clarify the shifting data feeds that lead us to give them the illusion of purchase on the lay of the land we are trying to acknowledge this fire season?

Berekeley, CA October 1, 2020/Clara Brownstein

Watching slightly more long-term shifts in quality of air that we breath in the Bay Area, we can see striking spikes of a maximum just after the lighting siege began on August 19, 2020 across much of the state, as air quality decisively entered into a hazardous zone, tracking PPM2.5 concentrations, but entering the worst fifteen air days since registration four times since 1999, when Bay Area Air Quality Management District began reporting the levels of fire smoke in inhabited areas.

Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) Concentrations in Bay Area, August 15-Septmeber 13, 2020/
Bay Area Air Quality Management District

We measure fires by acreage, but the sudden spikes of air quality, while not exceeding the smoke that funneled into the Bay Area during the North Bay Fires in 2017, when the Tubbs and Atlas Fires devastated much of the Wine Country, created a run of high-smoke days, were followed by a set of sudden spikes of the atmospheric presence of particulate matter that we tried to track by isochomes, based on real-time sensor reading, but that emerge in better clarity only in retrospect.

It is true that while the AQI maps that offer snapshots of crisp clarity of unhealthy air might serve as an alarm to close windows, remain indoors, and call off school–

AirNow AQI map in Bay Area after Lightning Fires, August 22, 2020

–as particulate matter spread across the region’s atmosphere. We are used to weather maps and microclimates in the Bay Area, but the real-time map of particulate matter, we immediately feared, did not only describe a condition that would quickly change but marked the start of a fire season.

Not only in recent days did the sustained levels of bad air suggest an apocalyptic layer that blanketed out the sun and sky, that made one feel like one was indeed living on another planet where the sun was masked–a sense heightened by the red suns, piercing through grey smoke-cover that had seamlessly combined with fog. Although the new landscapes of these AQI maps generate immediate existential panic, we should be more panicked that while we call these fires wild, they release unprecedented levels of toxins once imagined to be detected as industrial pollutants. The seemingly sudden ways that black carbon soot blanketed the Bay Area, resting on our car hoods, porches, windowsills and garbage bins were not only an instant record of climate emergency, but the recoil of overly dry woods, parched forests and lands as overdue payback for a far drier than normal winter, months and a contracted rainy season that had long ago pushed the entire state into record territory. The lack of soil moisture has brought a huge increase of wildfire risk, not easily following the maps of previous fire history, and persistence of “abnormally dry” conditions across a third of California, focussed in the Sierra and Central Valley–the areas whose forests’ fuel loads arrive carbonized in particulate form.

Local monitors of air quality suggest the uneven nature of these actual isochromes as maps–they are reconstructions of what can only be sensed locally, and does not exist in any tangible way we can perceive–but presented what we needed to see in a tiler that made differences popped, highlighting what mattered, in ways that left cities fall into the bottom of the new colors that blanketed the state, in which local sensors somehow revealed what really mattered on August 20: if the “map” is only a snapshot of one moment, it showed the state awash in ozone and PPM.

AirNow/August 20, 2020
Air Quality Index

We were in a sort of existential unfolding in relation to these maps, even if we could also read them as reminders of what might be called “deep history”: deep history was introduced by Annalistes to trace climatic shifts, the deep “undersea” shifts of time, on which events lie as flotsam, moved by their deep currents that ripple across the economy in agrarian societies, suggesting changes from which modern society is in some sense free. “Deep History” has to some extent been reborn via neurosciences, as a history of the evolution of the mind, and of cognition, in a sort of master-narrative of the changes of human cognition and perception that makes much else seem epiphenomenal. If the below real-time map was time-stamped, it suggested a deep history of climate of a more specific variety: it was a map of one moment, but was perched atop a year of parched forests, lack of groundwater, and increased surface temperatures across the west: Sacramento had not received rain since February in an extremely dry winter; its inter was 46% drier than normal, and the winder in Fresno was 45% dryer in February. They are, in other words, both real-time and deep maps, and demand that we toggle between these maps as the true “layers” of ecological map on which we might gain purchase.

The levels of dessication of course didn’t follow clear boundaries we trace on maps. But at some existential level, these flows of particulate matter were not only snapshots but presented the culmination and confirmation of deep trends. We have to grasp these trends, to position ourselves in an adequate relation to their content. For the deep picture was grim: most of California had enjoyed barely half of usual precipitation levels after a very dry winter: Sacramento has had barely half of usual rainfall as of August 20 (51%); the Bay Area. 51%; parts of the Sierra, just 24%. And wen we measure smoke, we see the consequences of persistent aridity.

August 28, 2020/AirNow
Air Quality Index

These are the layers, however, that the maps should make visible, And while these shifts of particulate matter that arrived in the Bay Area were invisible to most, they were not imperceivable; however, the waves of smoke that arrived with a local visibility that almost blanketed out the sun. Perhaps there was greater tolerance earlier, tantamount to an ecclipse. Perhaps that seemed almost a breaking point.

For almost a month after the first fires broke, following a sequence of bad air days and spare-the-air alerts marked our collective entrance to a new era of climate and fire seasons, fine soot blanketed the state at hazardous levels, leaving the sense there was nowhere left to go to escape.

September 13, 2020
Air Quality Index

We had of course entered the “Very Unhealthy” zone. If real-time maps condense an immense amount of information, the snapshot like fashion in which they synthesized local readings are somewhat hard to process, unless one reads them with something like a circumscribed objective historical perspective that the levels of PPM5 provides. In maps that are data maps, and not land maps, we need a new legend, as it were, an explanation of the data that is being tracked, lest it be overwhelmed in colors, and muddy the issues, and also a table that will put information on the table, lest the map layers be reduced to eye candy of shock value, and we are left to struggle with the inability to process the new scale of fires, so unprecedented and so different from the past, as we try to gain bearings on our relation to them.

Of course, the real-time manner that we consume the “news” today

militates against that, with feeds dominating over context, and fire maps resembling increasingly weather maps, as if to suggest we all have the skills to read them and they present the most pressing reality of the moment. But while weather maps suggest a record of the present, these are not only of the current moment that they register. Looking at them with regularity, one feels the loss of a lack of incorporating the data trends they depict, and that are really the basis of the point-based maps that we are processed for us to meet the demand for information at the moment, we are stunned at the images’ commanding power of attention to make us look at their fluid bounds, but leave us at sea in regards to our relation to what is traced by the contour lines of those isochrones.

Bay Area Air Quality Management, PM2.5 Concentrations, August 15-September 13, 2020

We can, in the Bay Area, finally breathe. But the larger point re: data visualizations is, perhaps, a symptom of our inflow of newsfeeds, and lies in those very tracking maps–and apps–that focus on foregrounding trends, and does so to the exclusion of deeper trends that underly them, and that–despite all our knowledge otherwise–threatens to take our eyes off of them. When the FOX newscaster Tucker Carlson cunningly elided the spread of wild fires ties to macro-process of climate change, calling them “liberal talking points,” separate from climate change, resonating with recent calls for social justice movements to end systematic racism in the country: although “you can’t see it, but rest assured, its everywhere, it’s deadly. . . . and it’s your fault,” in which climate change morphed to but a “partisan talking point” as akin to “systematic racism in the sky.”

While the deep nature of the underlying mechanics by which climate change has prepared for a drier and more combustable terrain in California is hard to map onto to the spread of fires on satellite maps, When climate denialism is twinned with calls for reparations of social injustice or gun control as self-serving narratives to pursue agendas of greater governmental controls to circumscribe liberties, befitting a rant of nationalist rage: the explanations on “our” lifestyles and increased carbon emissions, only pretenses to restrict choices we are entitled to make, Carlson was right about the depths at which both climate change and systematic racism offer liberal “lies”–especially if we squint at tracking maps at a remove from deep histories, and cast them as concealing sinister political interests and agendas, the truly dark forces of the sinister aims of governmental over-reach in local affairs.

“Structural racism” is indeed akin to the deep structure of climate change if the cunning analogy Tucker Carlson powerfully crafted for viewers did not capture the extent of their similarities. For if both manifest deep casualties created by our society, both depart from normalcy and both stand to hurt the very whites who see them as most offensive. The extent of inequalities of systematic racism as present in our day-to-day life as is the drying out landscape. And the scope of climate change is able to be most clearly registered by the evident in trends of diminished precipitation, groundwater reserves or temperature change that create environmental inequalities, too often obscured by the events of local air quality or maps of social protests that respond to deep lying trends.

To be sure, the tracking of environmental pollutants underlay the national Pollution Prevention Act of 1990, and led to a number of executive orders that were aimed to set standards for environmental justice among minority communities who long bore the brunt of industrial pollutants, from lead paint to polluted waters to hazardous waste incinerators. And, as we are surrounded by racial inequalities that are visible in systematic inequalities before the law, and have lowered life expectancies of non-whites in America by 3.5 years, increasing rates of hypertension, cancer, and systematic disenfranchisement of blacks–these extensive inequalities hurt whites, and hurt society. As Ibrahim X. Kendi perceptively noted, White Supremacists affirm the very policies that benefit racist policies even when they undercut interests of White people; they “claim to be pro-White but refuse to acknowledge that climate change is having a disastrous impact on the earth White people inhabit.” Is there a degree of self-hatred that among Carlson’s viewers that informs Carlson’s frontal attack on climate change and structural racism as myths, more content to blame non-Whites for structural inequalities.

But these inequalities are evident in the differences in air quality that climate change creates. For if the AQI maps tell us anything, it is the absence of any preparedness for the interconnections of fire, smoke, and large dry stretches of a long story of low precipitation that have created abnormally dry conditions–indeed, drought–across the state.

California Drought Monitor, Sept. 17, 2020/Brad Rippey, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The intensity of severe drought across the conifer-dense range Sierras raises pressing questions of federal management of lands: the moderate to severe drought of forested lands intersect with the USDA Forest Service manage and the over 15 million acres of public lands managed by the federal government manages or serves as a steward.

–that crosses many of the dried out wildland and rangeland forested with conifers and dense brush, a majority of which are managed by federal agencies–19 million acres, or 57%– but with climate change are increasingly drier and drier, which only 9 million are privately owned.

Ownerships of California Forests and Rangeland
USDA Forest Service Management (Purple), National Parks (Lavender), Bureau of Land Management (Orange)

Yet the reduction of Wildland Fire management by 43.98% from FY2020 to FY2021 in President Trump’s budget continued the systematic erosion of funding for the United States Forest Services. As California weathered longer and longer fire seasons under Donald Trump’s watch, Trump made budget cuts $948 million to the Forest Service for fiscal year 2020, after defunding of US Forest Services by reducing mitigating fire risk by $300 million from FY 2017 to FY2019, cutting $20.7 minion from wildlife habitat management, and $18 million from vegetation management–a rampage beginning with cutting USFS research funding by 10% and Wildland Fire Management by 12% in FY 2018! While blaming states for not clearing brush in forests, sustained hampering of managing federal lands rendered the West far less prepared for climate change. As the costs of containing wildfires rise, the reduction of the Forest Service budget has provoked panic by zeroing out funding for Land and Water conservation–alleged goals of the Trump Presidency–and cuts grants to state wildfire plans by a sixth as fire suppression looms ever larger.

By defunding of forest management, rangeland research, and habitat management, such budgetary measures pose pressing questions of our preparedness for the growing fire seasons of future years; stars that denote public land management might be targets for future dry lightning.

Ecosystems of California (2016)

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