The Hapless Demise of Trump Disciple Ashli Babbitt
Q: Who shot Ashli Babbitt? A: The people who keep asking that question.
All of a sudden, six months after the fact, some people are mighty concerned about the death of Ashli Babbitt on the floor of our Capitol during…you know when.
At a rally last week, ex-president Donald Trump fed his audience red meat by inquiring, “The person that [sic] shot Ashli Babbitt…boom, right through the head…Why isn’t that person being opened up, why isn’t that being studied?”
Far-right Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) issued a press release that simply asked, “Who shot Ashli Babbitt?”
White-Washing Jan. 6
Martyrs are compelling symbols for authoritarian movements. According to New York Magazine,
The John Birch Society commemorated an American missionary killed by Chinese communists in 1945…Horst Wessel, a German storm trooper killed by communists in 1930 inspired an eponymous song that became a Nazi anthem.NY Magazine Intelligencer
Of course there is a difference between “deep state actors” (in this case, the Capitol police) and communists. But it’s all the same for conservatives and Trump allies who seek to tread lightly on the events of Jan. 6.
In fact, some right-wingers have begun comparing the Babbitt shooting to George Floyd and other headline-worthy victims of police shootings, if only to invite chaos or even mock those tragedies. “If the Democrats and Crooked Media are ONLY ignoring the shooting in the Capitol,” disbarred Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani tweeted last Wednesday, “there must be something wrong with it.”
So What Happened?
Babbitt, an Air Force veteran who started goose-stepping to the most treacherous and serpentine conspiracy theories of Trump World, was shot while in the act of squeezing through a smashed window of a barricaded door that led to the inner sanctum where members of Congress were hiding from the insurrectionists.
Here is a minute and a half clip published by ABC News that shows the actual deed:
It appears that a masked Capitol police officer fired a single shot and Babbitt fell to the floor. In April, the US attorney’s office for the District of Columbia announced it would not press charges against the officer in question. Its statement concluded that the officer believed that “it was necessary to [fire the shot] in self-defense or in defense of the members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber.”
From Obama Supporter to QAnon Zombie
I don’t know of an exact timeline for the transformation of Ashli Babbitt. She was a 14-year veteran of the US Air Force. One of Babbitt’s Twitter posts revealed she once voted for Barak Obama for president. (As a veteran myself, I know of the tendency to support your commander-in-chief, no matter his or her politics.)
In May 2017, according to Babbit’s LinkedIn profile, she became owner of the San Diego-based Fowler’s Pool Service and Supply. Around that time, red flags began popping up about her aggressive behavior.
In 2016, Babbitt was charged with “reckless endangerment, dangerous driving and malicious property damage” in Maryland, but was acquitted. The next year, a former girlfriend of Babbitt’s husband filed a protection order against Ashli, claiming she ‘followed her in a car and rear-ended her three times.”
By February 2020, Babbitt was a committed libertarian, sometimes tweeting 50 times a day about mask requirements and public health measures. The state of California was enacting a stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Babbitt’s response: “This is commie bullshit.”
Along the way, Babbitt drank the kool-aid of QAnon, a conspiracy theory that holds that Donald Trump has mystical powers to save the world from a cabal of satanic pedophiles, who all happen to be Democrats or Hollywood celebrities. Babbitt’s Twitter feed in 2020 is filled with outrageous claims about Democratic congressmen being dangerous, evil pedophiles.
Feeding “The Big Lie”
After Trump lost the election, Babbitt retweeted the familiar false claims by Trump and his lawyers alleging without evidence massive voter fraud and pronounced Trump the winner of the 2020 election. Just like her hero, Babbitt thrived on Twitter. On election day, she posted 77 times.
Because of her Twitter feed, we have a good sense of Babbitt’s state of mind on the day before the Jan. 6 insurrection. She really believed that she would be a part of a “pivotal moment” for the country. Using QAnon nonsense imagery, Babbitt wrote: “Nothing will stop us…they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours…dark to light!”
Ashli Babbitt died the next day.
An Inconvenient Death
Another woman died during the breach of the Capitol on Jan. 6. Her name was Rosanne Boyland and she was, like Babbitt, a fervent believer in QAnon and a committed conspiracy theorist. You won’t hear a lot about her from those who are exploiting Babbitt’s death to rewrite history or for recruitment or revenge.
The difference was the manner of Boyland’s death. She was trampled to death by the mob surging through the well of the Capitol. Her body was crushed by her fellow “patriots.” There’s no scapegoat here: nobody to blame, no story to write.
The January 6 was sparked by a man who wanted to retain presidential power at any cost. And in the story of a woman whose blind belief in conspiracy led her to a lonely death in the middle of a mob is the tragedy at its heart:
Boyland died in the service of a movement that never cared for her, or others like her. They were just foot soldiers, pawns in the service of those seeking power at any price.NY Magazine