At the sentencing hearings for the five Proud Boys convicted for some of the most serious crimes related to the January 6 insurrection, the crocodile tears were flowing. Perhaps hoping for mercy from the Donald Trump-appointed federal judge, Timothy Kelly, one member of the neo-fascist gang after another claimed to have seen the error of their ways and promised to walk a better path from here on out.

Dominic Pezzola, who had joined the group only weeks before the January 6 attack, declared himself “a changed and humbled man” ready to return to a quiet life as an apolitical father and partner to his girlfriend. Joseph Biggs, who was functionally second in command of the Proud Boys on the day of the riot, claimed, “I was seduced by the crowd” before claiming that he’s “so sorry.” Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio claimed to be “profusely sorry” and called the cops he sicced his gang on “heroes.”

It doesn’t matter if the Proud Boys are remorseless.

“I’m done with politics, done with peddling lies for other people who don’t care about me,” said Pennsylvania-based Proud Boy Zachary Rehl, while wiping away tears. “There is no excuse for what I did,” Ethan Nordean declared.

There’s plenty of reason to be skeptical of a single word of remorse offered by any of these men, however.

Pezzola, after getting sentenced to 10 years, raised his fist in the air and yelled “Trump won!” While the other Proud Boys were less dramatic, it was also not so hard to see how few, if any, genuinely feel bad about what they did. After being sentenced, Biggs called into a vigil held by pro-insurrectionists outside the jail and declared that his 17-year sentence was “insanity,” even though it was half what prosecutors had asked for. “They can kiss my ass. We’re still fighting all the way to the end,” he told the crowd, imploring them to “never give up.” He also called into “Infowars” to insist, “We didn’t do anything wrong.”

As Brandi Buchman of Emptywheel, who has been covering the Proud Boys and Oathkeepers trials from the beginning, pointed out, Nordean’s pleas for mercy were flat-out dishonest. He kept insisting had only shown up “to keep people out of trouble and keep people safe,” and that he was only guilty of a failure to “deescalate.” That’s a lie, as evidence showed he not only egged people on before the attack but that he was texting his fellows about plotting for “absolute war” in the days after. Similarly, Rehl has lied throughout this process. He lied on the stand, saying he didn’t pepper spray cops, until video evidence was produced showing him doing it. Even after being found guilty, Buchman notes, “Rehl continued to mock proceedings and not just that, but lie about them” to far-right media outlets.

Meanwhile, Tarrio’s lawyers continued to push silly lies, such as the claim that Tarrio was there to “fight antifa,” despite all the evidence showing his intent was to block the counting of electoral votes.

The Trump-appointed judge was skeptical, reminding Tarrio many times that he told the Proud Boys “don’t f*cking leave” during the riot:

Tarrio’s sentence of 22 years — so far, the longest of any January 6 insurrectionist — speaks to how skeptical the judge was of his “remorse.”

This lack of real contrition is the norm with insurrections top to bottom, from Trump to the lowliest window-smasher. The Capitol riot wasn’t the result of misguided people who just needed to be set straight. These folks are fanatics who lie with ease in service of their goal, which is toppling democracy. It’s dispiriting to realize they aren’t going to give up, no matter how destructive their obsession turns out to be. Trump and his minions have egos that are way too big to sincerely admit they were wrong, no matter how much they stand to lose by being stubborn.

It would be nice if these men would reflect on how they lost their way, but the good news is that we don’t need their penitence. Punishment is enough, especially when it comes to what really matters, which is deterrence. There’s ample reason to believe that the prosecution of the Capitol rioters — and increasingly of the coup leadership — is having the desired effect. MAGA America may still quietly wish that January 6 would have worked, but they are also showing signs that they’re unwilling to try again, for fear of ending up in handcuffs.

This lack of real contrition is the norm with insurrections top to bottom, from Trump to the lowliest window-smasher.

That’s most evident in how little violence there’s been in response to Trump being indicted on 91 felony charges in four different jurisdictions. Trump has been out there pathetically begging his followers, in unsubtle ways, to riot or commit acts of terrorism against people who are prosecuting him. His followers haven’t even really shown up in significant numbers to protest. At every arraignment, the most he’s gotten is a few relatively harmless cranks.

We know this is due to cowardice and not any real loss of support with the MAGA base because polling shows GOP voters still back Trump as their presidential nominee by wide margins. Mostly, this is petulance, as those voters refuse to admit liberals were right about him all along. And, unfortunately, the people involved in holding Trump legally accountable — prosecutors, judges, and even grand jury members — have also been subject to threats and abuse.

But what we’re not seeing is many people who are willing to risk their own safety or freedom to lash out for Trump. The people making threats are doing so from anonymous forums, where they think their identity will be concealed from authorities. Or, in the case of the woman who threatened federal judge Tanya Chutkan, after allegedly drinking too much to be in her right mind.

Republicanism has long been about recasting selfishness as a virtue. While that’s helpful in justifying bullying behavior, it also makes it hard to convince people to take personal risks in the name of fascist ideology. Most of them are content shaking their fist at Fox News, rather than do something foolish that risks prison time. Even those that broke windows on January 6 seemed to do so because they were dumb enough to think they’d get away with it.

This fear of consequences could restrain not just the violence, but other future schemes to overturn elections. After a couple of years of getting away with it, people who agreed to be fake electors for Trump are starting to get arrested. And rather than be good soldiers for Trump, their fingers are starting to shakily emerge, pointed straight at their leader. As Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein report for Politico, three fake electors in Georgia, after being charged in a RICO case alongside Trump, “recently said in court filings that nearly all of the charges they face were the result of instructions from Trump and his lawyers.” They may not be ready to turn state’s witness. But already that’s three people who won’t be answering the call next time a Trump lackey asks them to forge paperwork to try to steal an election.

Pezzola likely told himself a story about how courageous he was, pumping his fist and yelling, “Trump won!” In reality, the gesture only underscored how pathetic he and the other Proud Boys are. They lie like sniveling babies to the judge, feigning remorse in an impotent effort to get mercy. The defiant face shown to the MAGA crowd is play-acting, done only when they think there will be no added consequences for doing it. But after their behavior at the sentencing hearings, there can be no doubt that they’d do things differently if they had another chance. Not because they sincerely wish to be better people, which they clearly don’t. But because punishment works as a deterrence. It’s also why it’s so important for Trump to be tried in a timely fashion. Nothing will scare the MAGA hordes straight like seeing Dear Leader take the fall for his various crimes.

  • CrabAndBroom@lemmy.ml
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    10 months ago

    IMO this is why it’s super important that the Republicans, especially Trump, don’t win the next election (even more so than usual.) There are already literal nazis outside Disney Land, the absolute last thing anyone needs is some dickhead pardoning the Proud Boys and emboldening the far right even further.

    • Flaps [he/him]@hexbear.net
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      10 months ago

      How do you see the dems stopping the rise of fascism? Not asking in bad faith, it’s just that the things you describe are happening under a democratic president.

      The sentencing of these proud boys truly is a good thing, don’t get me wrong (but we must also add that their convictions only came after threatening the state, not the threatening of marginalized people). The rise of fascism however isn’t stopped with this ruling. The conditions that foster it aren’t adressed.

      What do you think the democrats should do after an electoral victory in 2024 to achieve this?

      • CrabAndBroom@lemmy.ml
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        10 months ago

        I mean honestly I think the dems being in power is kind of like sticking a band-aid on a gunshot wound at this point, but the Republicans in power is like treating it with… more gunshots or something lol. I think the US needs pretty fundamental change to actually fix anything substantial, but I don’t think that’s realistically going to happen anytime soon. Not trying to “lesser of two evils” it or anything, I just meant that the first step is to probably to shut the nazis down.

        • CatoPosting [comrade/them, he/him]@hexbear.net
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          10 months ago

          to shut the nazis down.

          And are the dems taking meaningful action to do this? From where I’m sitting, I’d say they are not as the fash is only gaining steam under the current administration.

          America delenda est.

        • GarbageShoot [he/him]@hexbear.net
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          10 months ago

          But the Nazis aren’t getting shut down, and we have a Dem president already. Clearly something other than red/blue elections are needed to shut Nazis down, as history hopefully helps demonstrate.

          • Adkml [he/him]@hexbear.net
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            10 months ago

            Right but all those other things get shit down immediately, its just the harm reduction argument again.

            If the options are do nothing, elect the fascists who want to murder Trans people, or elect useless libs who aren’t actively calling for the execution of trams people seems like one of those options is preferable even if still shitty.

            So I guess I’d turn the question around, what are the better alternatives to shut this shit down at this point.

            Again not arguing that anybody should feel like voting for libs is gonna solve anything but if it means the people literally explicitly calling for violence against minorities have slightly less direct access to governmental power that seems like the least worst option available at this point.

      • Adkml [he/him]@hexbear.net
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        10 months ago

        I’m not going to lecture anybody on voting for dems but the bar is so low that “what are they gonna do to stop the rise of fascism” they aren’t going to pardon all of them and embolden them. I don’t think they’ll ever do anything to really meaningfully oppose them but not pardoning them and showing people there’s literally no consequences from it is the least most bad option.

          • Adkml [he/him]@hexbear.net
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            10 months ago

            Yea I’m basically at the point where I don’t think things will get better under a democrat but a lot of people far more vulnerable to fascists then me have talked about preferring to not have the president using them as a scapegoat everyday.

            Although as somebody who lives in the boonies all the chuds around me get way more fired up and antagonistic when there’s a dem president. There’s a shitload of flags telling me to go fuck myself on the way to work and the numbers increased in the last couple years.

            Although it has been interesting to take the temperature of your average chud by checking to see if the one trump/ DeSantis flag is still up.

                • spaceghoti@lemmy.oneOP
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                  10 months ago

                  Out of curiosity, what do you mean by “dems are in power now”? Are you saying they have complete and unfettered control over the entire government to do as they wish?

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                I am encouraging you to be honest, not to sacrifice yourself, though if you think my complaint with the dems is “ideological purity” then you clearly don’t understand why liberals are so terrible to begin with.

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      10 months ago

      Yup. You look at the nazi rise to power and there’s a TON of similarities that make this really unsettling.

      Republicans cannot be trusted. They’ve been compromised by fascists.

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    After being sentenced, Biggs called into a vigil held by pro-insurrectionists outside the jail and declared that his 17-year sentence was “insanity,” even though it was half what prosecutors had asked for. “They can kiss my ass. We’re still fighting all the way to the end,” he told the crowd, imploring them to “never give up.” He also called into “Infowars” to insist, “We didn’t do anything wrong.”

    No one has been scared straight here. The ones who got got are martyrs to the cause and the ones who flip are traitors or plants.

    They’ll either be more careful next time or they’ll be just as sloppy but convince themselves it’ll work out, because this time is different.

    • PuppyOSAndCoffee@lemmy.ml
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      No doubt. It hasn’t hit home…yet: the American public is unhappy with THEM.

      So, for now, they are deluding themselves with magical thinking that a pardon is in their future. When it’s 2030 & their ass is still stuck in jail, and nobody gives a shit about whatever petty grievances they thought they had … then, and only then, will it sink in: it wasn’t worth it, and they wasted whatever platform they thought they built on a cause that used them like the tools they are.

      • 420blazeit69 [he/him]@hexbear.net
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        10 months ago

        The American public isn’t unhappy with them, though. Republicans are at worst annoyed and the large segment of non-voting/non-political people aren’t invested either way. It’s Democrats who are unhappy with them, but they already knew that.

        then, and only then, will it sink in: it wasn’t worth it, and they wasted whatever platform they thought they built

        If this comes to pass it still has nothing to do with “scaring the rest of MAGA straight.” At best you’ll have these assholes crying into their pillow in prison, forgotten by any significant movement outside.

        Then there’s the possibility that they never get pardoned but become martyrs/celebrities on the right (already happening), or the possibility that Trump wins in 2024 and they do get pardoned. Again, nothing here to dissuade the broader MAGA movement.

        • PuppyOSAndCoffee@lemmy.ml
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          MAGA will go the way of 2004 George Bush voters; sure, he was elected, but try and find someone who admitted they helped him to his second term. "Oh no, I didn’t vote, I voted independent, I … " sure buddy.

          “Republicans are at worst annoyed” – read what Pence has to say about that, alongside GOP senators + congresspeople who were cowering next to Democrats, wondering if that day was going to be their last. The killing of cops, the destruction and storming of the federal government, the strong arm of a private policy over foundations of democracy … that did not set well with the voting electorate. NeoNazis? Sure, they ate it up.

          The guy who owns his own plumbing outfit and has three other plumbers working for him? That did and does not sit well, not at all.

          Honestly, what Trump showed is that there is a thirst for politicians to reach out to issues that the majority cares about, and this majority doesn’t see identity politics as helping them. They/them, black lives matter, even MeToo, none of that shit is on the agenda of most Americans. People want to hear- we are helping protect your way of life, the life of your mother and father that you are trying to pass onto your son and daughter. That’s all Trump did, plus the worst overtones imaginable, despite having zero ability to deliver, which didn’t matter as he had zero intention of trying.

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            10 months ago

            MAGA is the 2004 Bush voters, my friend. Did you forget that Karl Rove engineered a win in Ohio by getting gay marriage on the ballot? Now those same hogs are squealing about “groomers” and attacking drag events. They didn’t go away before, and they’re not going to go away now.

          • Adkml [he/him]@hexbear.net
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            10 months ago

            “Republicans are at worst annoyed” – read what Pence has to say about that, alongside GOP senators + congresspeople who were cowering next to Democrats, wondering if that day was going to be their last.

            And then when asked he said he’d still vote for hum if he was the candidate.

            Im not sure how you haven’t figured out to recognize performative outrage from republicans at this point.

            • PuppyOSAndCoffee@lemmy.ml
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              10 months ago

              good point. I still think when 10 MAGA 4 LIFE types go into the voting booth come the general election, Trump is not going to get 10 votes. He may not get 10 votes in the primary.

  • maniajack@lemmy.world
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    10 months ago

    Republicanism has long been about recasting selfishness as a virtue.

    Great line

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      10 months ago

      It started with Reagan and the rise of Neo-liberalism

      Every president we’ve had since has been neo-liberal. It’s what Clinton meant when he said he was a “third way” democrat.

      Obama promised change but then nothing changed. He got us out of the Great Recession, sure, but that was cuz he loosened the rules on corporate property ownership, and look at us now, with corporations buying entire neighborhoods to rent out. They actively hold houses empty rather than reduce the rents, while financing against any efforts to build more “missing middle” housing or density of any kind.

      That’s a big fucking poisoned pill if you ask me. Biden’s done alright. Sandbagging the railroad workers was/is bullshit but, I guess we’re back to the status quo.

      I just don’t think it’ll ever get better than this in America. Not with the law how it is now, and not while we play the NeoLiberal game. Neo-lib, or Corporatocracy, is just a stop on the road to Authoritarianism or Fascism.

      Look at the organizational structure of a corporation. An hierarchy to the CEO. That’s exactly how the world will look like underneath their thumb. There’s no other option, you can’t make applesauce from a bag of oranges.

      Techno+democracy=a further dilution of power. And I will always, always, support the dilution of power to the masses.

      There’s no reason we can’t vote on individual bills ourselves. We have the tech. We just need to remove entrenched power.

      • Sean@liberal.city
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        @SoylentBlake @maniajack direct democracy isn’t anywhere close to a panacea and doesn’t address the neoliberal mindvirus that you identify as the root cause. Individuals voting on legislation won’t be much better than the representative “democracy” we have now, with most of the adult population determining their vote on tribalism not any effort to take a deep dive understanding in the content of the legislation. We’d end up at Idiocracy before fascism but that’s a mob of dictators instead of one

    • mustardman
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      10 months ago

      Unrelated, but your hashtag showed up as:

      Fascists (kbin.social) view mercy…

      At first I was like, I guess they are a little different than Lemmy but can’t be that bad, right?

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      Yep, I’ll consider them reformed after like ten years of honest, serious, and not self-promoting work to undo the damage they did and not sooner.

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    Each of these folks is now a hero in the eyes of MAGA enthusiasts. They’ve been martyred after a fashion. They’ll be able to generate a steady flow of cash for probably a solid decade whether behind bars or released.

    Maybe they will be pissed that Trump and the rest of the really fashy right wingers in the USA political establishment have left them out to hang, but the next time a right wing populist gets them all riled up they will know to go full force and not waver like they did during January 6. They got to experience first hand what “going halfway” gets you and will learn from it.

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      They’ll probably get a good cash stream at first. But I’m not sure most people in America have enough object permanence to care about these folks after a few years. Won’t they be like a Reality Winner, where almost no one remembers them a few years later except as a trivia answer at trivia night?

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        10 months ago

        Not saying these people are going to be millionaires… But they’ll be able to make the rounds on right wing radio, local church speech circuits, all the neo fash militia groups that are around and be probably be able to have a nice safety net that most of the rest of us won’t have when we need it.

  • BrianTheeBiscuiteer@lemmy.world
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    Straight? Nah, some will just go back into the closet. The rest won’t go anywhere unless the GOP grows some balls and outright says their views are not welcome in the party (but they’ll never do that because they need the white supremacist vote and their goons to intimidate voters).

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    Doubtful. These are the same idiots who yell “trump won!” when being hauled off after sentencing. They haven’t learned a thing. Look at Mike Huckabee’s war mongering quotes that came out today.

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    10 months ago

    alternatively, morons can’t be frightened, they never see themselves as being in the wrong or having to suffer the consequences of their actions, morons are bereft of wisdom which comes from learning by watching other peoples actions and experiences. magats are morons by definition. ipso facto.

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    [ Biggs called into a vigil held by pro-insurrectionists outside the jail and declared that his 17-year sentence was “insanity,” even though it was half what prosecutors had asked for. "They can kiss my ass.]

    Nobody is going to be kissing your ass in prison, dumbass. You are going to be kissing other people’s ass.

  • AOCapitulator [they/them]@hexbear.net
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    And the evidence for them changing their positions at all is…. That trump is leading the primary again and the GOP is doing the same fuckin shit but arguably MORE?