Let’s talk about ‘Foxitis’

On Jan. 6, Pro-Trump supporters and far-right forces flooded Washington, D.C. to protest Donald Trump’s election loss. Hundreds battled Capitol Police and breached the Capitol Building. Michael Nigro/Sipa USA

That, as you may recall, was the explanation attorney Joseph Hurley offered last week at a court hearing for his client, accused Capitol insurrectionist Anthony Antonio, who is facing five federal charges for his role in the attack. “You want war?” he reportedly yelled to police. “We got war! 1776 all over again!”

But as it turns out, the fact that he allegedly broke into the Capitol and threatened police wasn’t Antonio’s fault alone. As Hurley told the court, Antonio “believed what was being fed to him” on Fox News. Meaning the smorgasbord of lies, slanders, calumnies, hogwash and fraud the network has served up for 25 years. In the wake of last year’s election, it devoted that talent for mendacity to a dumb, but dangerous, thesis: Donald Trump was cheated of victory by massive fraud.

“I got wrapped up in what was being told to me and what was on the TV,” Antonio, newly contrite, told CNN Monday night.

In other words, he had contracted Foxitis.

Well, beg pardon, but if Antonio had “Foxitis,” then Osama bin Laden had “jihad-itis.” If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because you cannot imagine a Muslim terrorist trying to explain his fanaticism as some pseudo disease. He would know he had zero chance of empathy. In fact, if Antonio were revealed as a Muslim terrorist, we’d know exactly the word to use for the forces that influenced him. We’d say he was radicalized.

The more bellicose among us would already be demanding congressional hearings into that radicalization. And calling upon leaders of his community to disavow him. And pushing for surveillance of places where people who think like him congregate.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there will be no congressional investigation into the impact of Fox “News” or any of its fellow travelers. No one will demand the city council of Naperville, Ill., repudiate this particular citizen. Nor will the FBI send agents to chat up the locals over breakfast in farm-country diners.

Because Antonio wasn’t really “radicalized,” right? He only had Foxitis, which sounds like something you clear up with a shot of penicillin. The fact that Hurley frames his client’s actions in such relatively benign language suggests he is depending on us to regard Antonio with the same myopia that allowed the Capitol to be breached in the first place.

Meaning, a myopia that blinds us to threats when they don’t fit certain predetermined parameters. Many observers — not least among them, the Southern Poverty Law Center — have raised the alarm about the danger of right-wing terror for years, only to be largely rebuffed by a nation that seems to see a potential for violence only in police-brutality activists and followers of Islam. Note that in the days ahead of the riot, Capitol police ignored clear-cut warnings from the FBI. Note also that the Capitol’s defenders were denied backup and riot gear — even as the mob was surging through the building.

There are none so blind, says the proverb, as those who will not see. This particular refusal to see has survived Oklahoma City, Charleston, Charlottesville, El Paso, Poway and Pittsburgh, among others. There is every reason to believe it will even survive this. Certainly, that’s what Hurley is banking on.

But to whatever degree we accept his framing, we become complicit in minimizing the most serious threat to the U.S. Capitol since 1865. So, yes, let us talk about “Foxitis.” Or, here’s an even better idea.

Let’s not.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

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(3) comments


(1) People need to be held responsible for their own actions and decisions. "I'm insane," "I was drunk," "I'm only a kid," "I had a hard childhood," "I'm too rich," and "The media made me do it," shouldn't fly. If you are did the crime then you are a threat to society, regardless of the reason. We're not trying to deduce spiritual culpability in the grand scheme of things. We're the sum of our inputs and nobody is ultimately responsible for anything or to credit for anything. No, we're trying to diagnose a dangerous problem and fix it, and that starts with setting a public standard plainly calling for problem makers to fix themselves or get themselves into a situation where they aren't dangerous. (2) If some factor in society is making people dangerous, such a drug hypothetically, then that factor needs to be regulated or counterbalanced, if possible, by central planners. That's a separate issue from holding people responsible in the social contract, even if the philosophical case could be made that none of us are responsible for anything. A drug that makes people murderous should be banned AND people who take it and kill should be deprived of liberty while undergoing mandatory corrective training. (3) But in the case of speech and "the press," our social contract protects them so...the onus is entirely on the listener not the speaker. If a violent movie made you kill then it was your fault. That's the deal.


Where's the right wing counterbalance to this liberal nut? You won't find him/her in this paper.

hermit thrush

another excellent column from the wdt's best regularly appearing columnist.

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