Opinion: Why the ‘People’s Convoy’ of anti-vaccine truckers is fizzling out

cigaretteman

HR King
May 29, 2001
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You can see the “People’s Convoy” that has come to the Washington area as many things: a righteous cry for freedom, a joke, a failure or a harbinger of things to come. It might be any or all of these things, which is why it provides such an interesting window into the state of conservative politics at the moment.
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You probably haven’t heard much about it unless you’re unfortunate enough to use the Capital Beltway for commuting, which tells you something already. The convoy gathered at a speedway in Hagerstown, Md., drove down to circle the Beltway on Sunday, then proceeded to do it again Monday.
The organizers of the event seem keen to keep things from getting out of control. They’ve been in regular touch with the authorities and resisted the desire of some in the group to descend on downtown Washington or blockade the Beltway. As one organizer warned, the convoy will not welcome anyone out to cause “violence and disruption.”











The best account of the convoy might have come from historian Terry Bouton, who described in a Twitter thread the complexities he saw at the gathering area. On one hand, organizers talked about infiltration by agents provocateurs from the FBI looking to create violence to discredit the protesters, while on the other there was “lots of talk of resorting to other (unspecified) means if non-violent protest didn’t work.”
But overall it had the feel of a county fair, albeit a far-right one. The threat of violence was all hypothetical, even if the crowd was peppered with QAnon conspiracy theorists and Trump supporters.
The convoy’s biggest problem is that it’s protesting something that essentially doesn’t exist. The main target of the participants is the supposedly freedom-killing effect of government vaccine and mask mandates. But the only federal vaccine mandates that exist are on military service members and on health-care workers in facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds, and mask mandates are rapidly being lifted in every corner of the country.


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So the protesters shifted their complaint from the specific to the general, saying that liberty is under assault from everywhere. That creates an umbrella under which almost anything can fit, whether what bothers you is building codes or the microchip Bill Gates and the CIA implanted in your brain.

But here’s something revealing. When truckers in Canada brought chaos to Ottawa last month and shut down a bridge that carries much trade between the two countries, Fox News couldn’t have been more excited. The network gave it hours upon hours of coverage and then tried to create and promote a similar protest here in the United States.
Yet at FoxNews.com on Monday morning, the sole story about this convoy was pushed way down the homepage, belowdozens of stories about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Apparently the protest was a disappointment precisely because it wasn’t disruptive and chaotic enough to capture Fox’s interest.



This protest thus seems to have missed the conservative zeitgeist of the moment, which is characterized by both the constant threat of violence and the conviction that right-wing violence is justified. The justification flows from the danger liberals supposedly pose to the country and left-wing violence, even if the latter is largely imaginary.
The Jan. 6 insurrection was only the most visible manifestation of that perspective, which says that what liberals are doing to the United States is so horrific that violence is a perfectly reasonable response. If they really are stealing elections on a grand scale, or there really is a globe-spanning conspiracy of satanic pedophile cannibals in the highest reaches of government, how could violence not be justified?
Likewise, conservatives have convinced themselves that liberal political action is itself brutally violent, and one must be armed and ready to fight it. The 2020 Black Lives Matter protests play a key part in this narrative: Though they were overwhelmingly peaceful, a steady stream of propaganda convinced conservatives that those protests were an orgy of murder and destruction in which entire cities were burned to the ground.



So whenever questions are raised about right-wing violence, the response is always, “At least it’s not as bad as what those BLM lunatics did!”
When violence does break out, it’s likely to be valorized and celebrated on the right as understandable, even thrilling. Imagine if a liberal protester killed two people and wounded a third at a protest. Would they have been hailed as a hero, brought to meet a former president and given a soft-focus interview on MSNBC? Of course not.
This is a key irony in the story conservatives tell about the United States today: They portray the country as a nightmare of chaos created by President Biden and Democrats, even as they work to create more chaos wherever they can.
The organizers of the “People’s Convoy” don’t seem to have gotten the message, at least not yet. If they want to get back on Fox News and become heroes of the right, they’ll have to shut down the capital, cause mayhem and destruction, and maybe bring out the guns some of them surely brought with them. Unless they do that, those who claim to be their allies will quickly lose interest.

 
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