This was all precedented.

times are also very certain now

ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to, something to read, and something to listen to. Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.

This photo was taken last summer during peaceful BLM protests in Seattle. These guys were guarding the stores at Westlake Center, where no protesters had gathered. Yesterday, the National Guard was called to the Capitol at 3:30pm EST by the Vice President. Rioters began breaking through barriers to storm the U.S. Capitol two hours earlier, at 1;20pm, urged on by the President’s speech that had ended minutes before the destruction began. Photo credit: Kristin Leong, June 3, 2020, downtown Seattle.


It’s been one hundred years since last week’s misfit dispatch. Let’s catch up.

The Mahjong colonizers and Bean Dad have been canceled. Hilaria Baldwin has remembered the English word for ‘cucumber’. Kimye and American democracy are both either being obliterated, or being exposed for being fake news the whole time, depending on your perspective.

So. Here we are. Pence is pushing back on the 25th Amendment and the insurrection leader has had his bullhorns taken away from him for now, so it seems safe to say that we can step away from refreshing our Twitter feeds for a moment to look back to the past.

Like to 2016, a few days after the presidential election, when WNYC offered us this 7-minute dive into the Wilmington race riots of 1898: The Only Successful Coup d'Etat in American History.

Here’s what “success” meant in this case: a mob of hundreds of White supremacists led by a former congressman stormed through the South’s thriving Black community in Wilmington, North Carolina. They were enraged: a mixed-race cohort of leaders had just been elected to govern the city. The offices of the city’s Black newspaper were burned down. More than 100 democratically-elected Black officials were forced to leave their roles. Some 60—300 (this range!?) people were murdered. Black citizens were blamed as instigators. No one was ever prosecuted.

And lest you think this kind of racism and pillaging is a party problem instead of an American problem—this coup was carried out in the name of the Democratic party. Here’s more from The Atlantic about the massacre and what we might learn from it today.


What’s happening right now in the United States is extraordinary, but it’s not unprecedented. We should have seen this coming for the past four years. We should have seen this coming for the past 400 years.

In this story for Slate by Aymann Ismail, What I Saw Inside the Capitol Riot, we see photos of rioters posing for pictures in the ransacked Capitol—one flashing a peace sign with two fingers, another doing his best impression of a cool guy having a smoke—and we read about the cops inside, standing by while waiting for orders and gently requesting that cigarettes be extinguished.

I keep scrolling and scrolling seeking some kind of affirmation that things are really this bad and also that everything is okay—see! we’re still making jokes! here is Mitch McConnell as an actual turtle! here is the President saying I love you to White supremacists set to a Taylor Swift instrumental!

But the outrage and the rage-laughing is exhausting. Sometimes we just need a list. Here’s how many hours it took for the National Guard to be deployed. Here’s a Missouri senator giving a fist up to the end of democracy. Here’s corruption—banal, disorganized, stupid, and nevertheless dangerous to its core.



In the midst of the chaos of the last 24 hours, it’s easy to forget that just yesterday morning we were celebrating the historic triumphs of Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Georgia was flipped Blue, Vice President-Elect Harris will now be our tie breaker in the Senate, and two very wealthy individuals running on boredom and entitlement have been sent packing.

And also this: lesbians everywhere are rejoicing alongside the Atlanta Dream, the WNBA team that showed up with grace and force for Warnock after their team’s owner—Warnock’s opponent with a penchant for taking campaign pics with nazis—criticized the BLM and #SayHerName movements. There’s a few places to read about the strategic organizing of these athletes-turned-activists, but this Twitter thread by Michele Norris nails it.


That’s it for issue 23, friends. Hang in there and don’t let the news cycle eat you alive. I can’t imagine what we’ll be swimming in by next Thursday, but it’s sure to be interesting. Thanks for being part of our misfit fam and spreading the word in the meantime.

See you next Thursday.


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