Last Sunday it seemed reasonable to state that many of the stories which are being told in the January 6 committee hearings in the US are already known.
This Sunday it would still be reasonable to maintain that position — and it would also be quite wrong.
Much of this material originally appeared in the form of journalism — indeed, it shows us exactly why the ‘authoritarians’ hate this inky trade of ours with such fervour, why they rightly regard the ladies and gentlemen of the press as ‘the enemy’.
And yet it is precisely because the first draft was done by journalists, that its effectiveness had not been realised until these hearings.
Journalism is always moving on to the next thing — especially at a time when it is dealing on a daily basis with scandals of such depravity that any one of them would in normal times have brought down any government in the western world.
Last Wednesday alone, there were US stories about Congressman Barry Loudermilk giving a tour of the Capitol on January 5 to these characters who seemed to be casing the joint for the big show on January 6.
And there was also more on Ginni Thomas, the increasingly notorious far-right wife of far-right Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas, and her machinations to overturn the election.
Yet these jaw-dropping tales are just relatively small features of a hydra-headed narrative of sedition, every part of which is so striking in itself, it is constantly distracting from every other part — which is why the committee has emerged as such a powerful force.
All they are doing, really, is gathering a lot of this information into the one place. Putting a beginning, a middle and sometimes an end to it.
Everyone knew they were going to do that — but you suspect that even the committee members themselves didn’t quite realise how strong this would turn out to be.
Trump and his minions are relentless in their abuses — they are never not at it.
The obvious comparison is the government of Boris Johnson, which in some perverse way at this stage could probably not survive a week without some breath-taking scandal.
Now we realise that perhaps one way to break this apparently endless cycle of blackguardism, is to do whatever this January 6 committee is doing — which is not just to tell it like this, but to show that this is probably the only way it can be told.
It is not just a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. It is also starting to look like some form of therapy for a broken people.
America seems to be in a state of post-traumatic stress, knowing that something terrible has happened, and is still happening, but too traumatised until now to start the process of a coherent response.
Trump, like any predator, sought to isolate America from friends and allies — not unlike Johnson cutting off the British people from the support system of the EU by pursuing the worst Brexit. These men have told a million lies, but there was a moment that stays with me from a Trump interview, in which he was asked by a sympathetic reporter what policies he might pursue if re-elected.
For a few moments, Trump was completely baffled. He couldn’t even tell a lie. It was indeed a ridiculous question, given how clear it is that these ‘populist’ leaders have no ‘policy’ of any kind, other than to abuse whatever power they can accumulate.
Trump is not a politician, with ‘policies’, he is the most spectacular con-artist of the age, who set out to steal nothing less than America itself — and like any victim of an extravagant scam, America is still mesmerised by it.
In this state of shock and denial, even the better kinds of journalism are not enough — CNN’s New Day on Thursday had a long feature on the Ginni Thomas and Loudermilk scandals, yet they ended with a light-hearted piece on when Trump would declare his candidacy for 2024.
Even those who are most aware of the evil of Trump, seem addicted to these detours back to a non-existent ‘normality’. So they can segue from stories which correctly assess they are dealing with one of history’s monsters here, into other stories about the same creature which have him as a regular election candidate.
As if they are constitutionally obliged to change the subject from the imminent threat of full-blown fascism. As if somehow that isn’t real.
And that is understandable too — even hardened reporters have this sliver of doubt in their minds that the worst will come to the worst. A whole culture has been de-sensitised by the incessant abuse.
Now the second draft of history is being presented by the January 6 committee, where they don’t end their session with a funny story, but a solemn warning from the conservative judge Luttig that Trump is still “a clear and present danger” to American democracy.
There will be a third draft… but we don’t know yet who’ll be writing that one.
‘Sportswashing’ is now a word that is defined in all good dictionaries as “the practice of a controversial company or country using sports sponsorship to improve its reputation”.
But I have found a variation on the theme.
In the case of a controversial company which is already heavily involved in sports, and sponsorship, but needs to improve its reputation anyway — the Paddy Power Comedy Festival at the Iveagh Gardens in July can best be described as... Powerwashing.
It must be costing them a fortune. Looking at the line-up, there’s hardly a serious Irish stand-up comedian who’s not doing the gig.
You look for the names that aren’t there, the most obvious of which to me is David O’Doherty, noted for his incisive 2018 tweet: “F**K OFF GAMBLING ADS YOU MISERY INDUCING S**THEAD F**KS.”
Otherwise, at a time when gambling regulation is still being negotiated, this is a major triumph for the betting corporation — which is widely known for the badness of its own comedy.
Here it gets not only a weekend of actual laughs, but the “added value” which good comedy can bring to the “brand” — as we say at the cutting edge of the Powerwashing game.
Comedians and funny people in general have always been most prized by advertisers, since much of their schtick is about being sharp enough to see through the bullshit. Therefore if you can get one of them to front a campaign for some problematic corporation, you have achieved this thing that we will now and henceforth describe as Powerwashing.
Yes, I know the media can be a party to it too, and I don’t like that either.
But at least now we have a name for it.
We all seek meaning in life, but apparently we also seek meaning in golf too.
The crowd at the Canadian Open last week chanted the name of Rory McIlroy — just because he was there, rather than taking the Saudi shilling. And probably because they were amazed that someone, somewhere, had raised a question about the absolute omnipotence of Big Money.
Indeed we note that the golfing defectors to Saudi Arabia routinely say they are doing this for their “families”, though the unmarried Bryson DeChambeau improved on that by anticipating the benefits for a family that he doesn’t actually have yet.
Rory doesn’t need any of these lame reasons to convince himself he’s doing the right thing — though as it happens, this sense that his golfing life now has some deeper meaning, has given him an edge on the track. He won in Canada, and continued his fine play at the US Open which finishes tonight.
As a sportsman he would not be as politically significant as a Muhammad Ali. But that few extra ounces of moral energy has certainly done something for his short game.
And maybe for the long game too.