Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021 | 2 a.m.
“What did you do in the Great War, daddy?”
I don’t expect anyone to remember seeing that advertising campaign when it first appeared. That is because it first appeared in 1915 in Great Britain as a call to young men of battle age to volunteer to fight for king and country.
It was a poster of a young girl asking her father what he did when it was his turn to fight for his country and his family. Britain’s very survival depended on shaming enough men to volunteer so England could win the “war to end all wars.”
It worked. Not the part about ending all wars but the necessity of convincing enough fighting-age men to don the uniform of the British Empire and do the right thing.
I thought of that question posed to a nation in need over a century ago as I watched along with the rest a horrified world the insurrection being played out at our nation’s Capitol.
The question that will be asked by new generations of Americans must be, “What did you do, Daddy or Mommy, to prevent the coup attempt of the United States by the president of the United States?”
Or, conversely, what part did you play in allowing it to happen? And in the answer to that question there is plenty of blame to go around.
To add to the horror of American sedition that day, there was a Review-Journal editorial calling out its dismay at the “disgrace” at the Capitol and saying that “President (Donald) Trump did himself and the country no favors ...”
That’s the best they could do or the most they would say about the man who during his four years in office did his best to dismantle the institutions of democracy and convince a convincible minority of voters that up was down and right was wrong, all depending upon who was doing the telling?
In this case it was Trump telling fact-free people — people who had been softened up for years by right-wing media, which allowed them to believe they were victims of a government that denied them their American dream — his version of the facts and convincing them that anyone who disagreed was the enemy.
In doing so, he took a page or more from the playbook of all dictators — think Hitler, for example— the part about shutting down the media so that the affairs of autocrats hell-bent on complete control would remain their little secret.
All the R-J did was remind me how much that newspaper has done over the past four years to hoodwink its readers into believing that a Trump presidency was akin to the Second Coming. The entire time its owner, Sheldon Adelson, knew the kind of man he was advocating for political sainthood.
So what did Americans do to prevent the insurrection that has bloodied America’s history for the first time since the Civil War?
Some Americans, many Americans, have been screaming from the rooftops about the manner of man-child who occupied the White House and controlled the nuclear codes of this country.
Others, however, and you know who you are even though after this past week’s events you may deny it forever, rationalized your support because of some tax-cut Trump supplied, an embassy he moved, or a wall he promised to build. All were illusions of a sort intended to blind those who chose not to see the villain he really was.
And then, of course, there are the true believers. For whatever reason — and there are many — these folks latched onto Trump’s every word to the point of cult-like obedience, ignoring facts, common sense and a common sense of history they once shared with their friends and neighbors. They did so out of loyalty, not knowing that loyalty is a one-way word in the Trump lexicon.
Those were the law-breakers on the front lines of the the traitorous actions this past week. They are the people who stormed the barricades and violently dispossessed the elected legislative leadership of the United States. They defiled their offices and left them cowering behind their desks. They threatened their lives and the life of our democracy in the one place designed to stand as a beacon of freedom to the world.
And, of course, there are others. Some of the very people who were hiding under their desks and behind the locked doors of their offices — you know, people like Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley — are the same people who hours earlier were feeding the lies that fueled the mobs that broke through the doors of the Senate and House. And don’t ever forget Sens. Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham who gave aid and comfort to the man who made most Americans uncomfortable on a daily basis.
They and their colleagues who refused for four years to keep Trump’s worst instincts in check — like they took a solemn oath to do — are equally guilty of fanning the flames that allowed Trump to try to burn the house of democracy down.
But there are more people to blame for this permanent stain on American democracy and the blight that the insurrection caused on our ability to defend ourselves from within.
Someone had to finance this madness.
Yes, there are the millions of rubes across this country who sent in their $5 and $10 donations at the drop of every appeal made to their patriotism. They continued to do so right up until the time the treasonous stormed the Capitol. They gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Trump to do with what he will when he leaves the White House not soon enough. They are suckers to be sure, proving P.T. Barnum right yet again.
But, then, there are still others. The folks who knew better all along but played along all the time to curry some favor with Trump.
And that brings me back to the Review-Journal’s owner, Mr. Adelson, who fueled Trump’s un-American activities with tens and hundreds of millions of dollars from his back pocket. Without Adelson’s money, Trump would have had a much harder time trying to best America’s democracy.
On a personal note, I am sorry Sheldon is ill again and I wish him a speedy recovery. And when he is better, I hope he thinks about his next foray into political financing. He can choose a person of goodwill, good sense and good character just as easily as an autocrat in the making. I trust he will make better choices.
And on another note, I also believe Sheldon took Trump’s admonition about the media, ”the enemy of the people,” to heart.
We are in federal court as I write because I believe Sheldon tried to silence the Las Vegas Sun because we told the truth about Trump when the R-J would not. We also get in his way and under his skin when we thwart his newspaper’s alternative fact-telling on other matters of import to him and his business interests.
This past week, after years of silence, the R-J unloaded a fusillade of disinformation about me and my motives in the newspaper world. Those baseless claims will be answered in time but, until then, know this: Disinformation campaigns are not solely the province of Trump or the Russians.
So, when the question is asked of us all — and it will — about what we did to stop Trump or what we did to aid and abet his madness, those who were complicit will have to answer. If not directly to their children or grandchildren, then to the guardians of history as the story is written.
What did you do during the time of the great disgrace to the United States of America?
I have a worthy answer. Do you?
Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.