Edited by Sam Thielman
ERIC GREITENS, THE VIOLENT MISOGYNIST who used to be Missouri governor and current GOP candidate for Senate, made a video fantasizing about purging the party of elements he deems insufficiently MAGA. It's done in a cowardly manner, deniable as a joke and accordingly set up to mock whomever takes it seriously, but the fantasy displays the violence MAGA valorizes.
Even in a debased time like this one, Greitens' infamy stands out. According to a harrowing 2018 investigation by Missouri's House of Representatives, Greitens coerced a terrified, blindfolded woman he had lured to his basement into performing oral sex on him, and then blackmailed her with revenge porn if she told anyone. Grietens resigned, a criminal case against him collapsed amid prosecutorial misconduct, and now he's attempting a comeback. While Greitens appears to be ahead in recent polls for the primary, his latest message to Republican voters is that it would be more satisfying to kill rival GOP candidates than to defeat them democratically. The Missouri legislature that validated his accuser was largely Republican, so that might be relevant context.
Holding a shotgun in the ad and announcing himself as a "U.S. Navy SEAL," Greitens goes to the house of an accused Republican In Name Only and brings the War on Terror inside. A small team of masked and heavily kitted cosplay SEALs breach the door, fire smoke grenades into the breach, and then storm the house. Once inside, they move to the strains of percussive music meant to evoke gunfire. The camera lingers on one of the ersatz SEALs’ helmets, which displays the all-black-American-flag patch, which, if you're not aware, means no quarter, kill everyone. The whole scene is a pantomime of a night raid, the signature "kinetic" spec-ops mission of the past 20 years in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. According to Phil Klay, Greitens, who deployed to Iraq as a reservist, "ended his time on active duty never having led SEALS in combat." He storms into the breach last. I could hardly have asked for more forceful confirmation of REIGN OF TERROR, soon to be available in paperback.
The New York Times called the ad "just the latest but perhaps most menacing in a long line of Republican campaign ads featuring firearms." Those ads are bad enough, but Greitens' is qualitatively different. Typically, such GOP ads show someone holding or firing a gun while cooing over its power. Greitens is showing you a death squad in action. He implies that he knows how to lead a death squad. Then he tells you it's time to "license" its use against the enemies of MAGA. Haha, j/k…unless..?
Greitens' ad has unsurprisingly been denounced by respectable politicians. "Anyone with multiple accusations of abuse toward women and children should probably steer clear of this rhetoric," commented the GOP leader of the Missouri Senate, who presumably would be on the Greitens kill list. Even Sen. Josh hail-the-insurrection Hawley thinks this is too far, and has previously said Greitens belongs in handcuffs.
But Greitens doesn't think the police will be inclined to arrest him, a belief he’s expressed to his ex-wife. In a gruesome Mar. 15 affidavit, Sheena Greitens efficiently recapitulates why Eric is unfit for any public office. She recounts the former governor "knoc[king] me down and confiscat[ing] my cell phone, wallet and keys so that I was unable to call for help or extricate myself… to prevent me from doing anything that might damage his political career." In view of Sheena, the big man inflicted "physical violence toward our children," such as yanking their three-year old son "around by his hair," and hitting their seven-year-old son so hard the boy lost a tooth. The cosplay Punisher "repeatedly threatened to kill himself unless I provided specific political support to him."
Then Sheena’s testimony suggests a reason Eric might feel he can get away with it all. When Sheena tried to take the children to the safety of her parents, Eric allegedly threatened to have her arrested for kidnapping, "saying that because of his authority as a former Governor who had supported law enforcement, the police would support him and not believe me, and I would lose our children." (Emphasis mine.) She recounts a later episode where Greitens "continued to threaten to use his influence with law enforcement" to defame her when she accepted a job that would move her and their children to a different state. On multiple occasions in her court filing, Sheena notes that Eric calls her his "enemy."
I don't know whether Greitens is right or wrong about his pull with the police. But it strips away the veneer on what backing the blue is about: a compact predicated upon impunity. Maybe it won't be retired Navy SEALs who staff the Greitens Battalion. SEALs, as we've seen, don't tend to respect officers who didn't experience combat like they did. Cops, on the other hand, enjoy the fetishization. Bernie Kerik, the ex-con and former NYPD commissioner, campaigned for Greitens last fall.
Having never set foot in Missouri for more than a couple days, I have no idea whether Greitens will make it to the Senate. But if he wins, watch the right to see which figures currently denouncing Greitens' death squad fantasy come to cheer his bold leadership.
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WHILE GREITENS PLAYS COUNTERTERRORIST, a panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a so-called "terrorism enhancement" to the prison sentence of Jessica Reznicek. Reznicek didn't fly any planes into any buildings, open fire on any schoolchildren, or harm anyone at all. She helped vandalize construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the property of private corporations—not the state, as terrorism enhancements require. Not that the letter of the law matters to the judges. Natasha Lennard recently covered the appellate decision for the Intercept and summarizes: "Those who take direct action against rapacious energy corporations can be treated as enemies of the state."