On Savannah Maddox, photos, and terrorism

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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Rep. Savannah Maddox has sown the wind, and is reaping the whirlwind.

Let me come to her defense. Partially.

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Rep. Maddox is a Tea-Party Republican state rep from Grant County. She has been making a name for herself (good or bad) for some time by her actions and her statements, such as filing an amendment to let citizens sue the state over the COVID-19 restrictions, and shouting “nobody’s ever going to force me to get a vaccine!” at a political rally.

Unfortunately for Ms. Maddox, her extreme Libertarianism and strident rhetoric attracts certain elements of the far right, who then want to have their picture taken with her. She got in trouble a few weeks ago by having her picture made with a woman who was clearly (and knowingly) throwing a white supremacy symbol (the “OK” sign).

After getting called out for taking part in a racist display, Maddox claimed she didn’t know what the symbol meant. We could perhaps give her the benefit of the doubt for that one, even though most people said “Where have you been hiding, that you wouldn’t know this?” And of course, there was the accurate “how can you be a state representative and not know this?”

But now comes the Three Percenter who hung Governor Beshear in effigy, caught on camera for all to see. The internet did its thing, and he was identified in about an hour after the picture was posted. And then the internet did some more of its thing, and found a picture (at least one) of Maddox and the effigy-hanger from a few weeks back. And Maddox got called out for associating with people who would hang the governor in effigy on the Capitol grounds, then march on his house, chanting for him to come out.

And here is where I’m going to come to Savannah Maddox’s defense, to some extent. She claimed that she wasn’t at the rally on Sunday (she wasn’t). And, she said that she has her picture made with all sorts of people all over the state, and every politician does that as well. (Also true.)

So, to accuse her of supporting the effigy-hanging on Sunday just because she was in an earlier picture with the perpetrator is unfair. I agree with her on that.

BUT …

Here, Rep. Maddox, is where my defense of you ends. When challenged about your support of the Three Percenters and their actions because of the picture, you wrote many sentences about how you were the victim before you ever got around to saying something negative about Sunday. And when you did, it was only “I condemn hatred of any kind, but …” before you were off and running again about how you are the victim in this.

Never once did you directly condemn what happened on Sunday. Never once have you said “the actions of this group are despicable and do not belong in our state, and I disavow any connection with them.” Never once did you express any sympathy for the Governor, his wife, or his young children, who were home at the time and got to watch armed men march on their home.

Never once, Savannah Maddox, have you called this what it was: terrorism. This was not free speech. This was terrorism, taken to show the Governor and those in elected office “this is what’s going to happen if you don’t change.”

Have you heard of stochastic terrorism, Rep. Maddox? It’s when the rhetoric of a leader encourages others to actually carry out terrorism.

That’s what you did, Savannah Maddox. You carried out stochastic terrorism. As Governor Beshear said just now, “You can’t fan the flames and then condemn the fire.”

And you have the nerve to make yourself the victim … when all you had to do was to take a clear and unequivocal stand against this group and their actions.

Why didn’t you? I’m not you, so I don’t know for sure. But I suspect it is for one or both of two reasons:

  • You want their praise, their votes, and their money; or,
  • You actually support their actions, their racism, and their extremism.

So, Rep. Maddox, let me be clear: You are right that condemning you for being in a picture is wrong. It’s not necessary to use the picture as a justification for the whirlwind you have sown.

We don’t need the picture. Why? Because your own actions condemn you well enough.

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