Last week the world watched in horror as a violent mob broke into and ransacked the United States Capitol, leaving dozens injured and five dead. There is no doubt that rioters were motivated by false claims about the 2020 election promulgated by President Donald Trump, who began making statements intended to delegitimize the election long ago, and who still refuses to concede to President-elect Joe Biden–a move without precedent in modern history.
At this point, over sixty election-related lawsuits filed in support of Trump have failed, including many suits brought before Republican and Trump-appointed judges. Investigations have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud, or fraud significant enough to impact any election outcomes. No credible institutions support Trump’s claim that the election was “stolen,” and key Republicans have abandoned the Trump Administration. Vice President Mike Pence has broken with Trump, saying that he will attend President-elect Biden’s inauguration.
Much has already been written about these events in a national context. We want to address the political situation within Alaska and explain how the Landmine intends to react.
The three members of Alaska’s congressional delegation, all of whom are Republicans, have acknowledged President-elect Biden’s victory. Congressman Don Young, the Dean of the House and longest-serving Republican in Congress, congratulated President-elect Biden just days after the election, stating in a November 7 press release that “it is time to put the election behind us.” Senator Lisa Murkowski also congratulated Biden on November 7. Senator Dan Sullivan acknowledged Biden’s victory in a statement on December 14, which read, in part:
“This is not the result that I, and the majority of Alaska voters who supported President Trump, had hoped for, ultimately as a U.S. Senator, my oath and fidelity are to the Constitution and the laws of our nation, which include the orderly transfer of power—one of the most sacred elements of our great constitutional republic—and the Electoral College process that took place today.”
The response among Alaska’s state and local leadership has been less consistent. Representative David Eastman flew to Washington, D.C. to attend Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in person, and repeatedly posted false claims that Antifa–and not Trump supporters–were responsible for violence at the Capitol. The FBI has stated that there is no evidence to support these claims. Other members of Alaska’s House and Senate have used their platforms to promulgate similar false claims about the election and post-election violence. Anchorage mayoral candidate Dave Bronson has re-posted a debunked conspiracy theory from Trump that “4,000 ballots” were “found” in Fulton County.
Alaska media has broken along predictable lines. The Anchorage Press has run several editorials by outside writers calling for Trump’s impeachment. The ADN editorial board called for accountability for those who engaged in the D.C. riots and encouraged a return to bipartisan cooperation. Must Read Alaska has published multiple op-eds falsely claiming the election was “fraudulent,” that “the 2020 presidential election was one of the most corrupt in history,” and that the “ballot box is broken.” One op-ed asks “when is it OK for Americans to rebel?”
The op-ed claims it cannot answer that question. We can. The answer is: Obviously not now.
Here at the Landmine we shy away from editorial pronouncements and endorsements, and we rarely comment on national topics. However, this moment compels us to make some positions clear, both as managers of an online news site and as individuals who live and work in a relatively small community.
First, we have a journalistic duty to report accurately about events, including the 2020 presidential election. We do not promote conspiracy theories. The Alaska Landmine has not published any content that advances or entertains debunked conspiracy theories about the validity of the 2020 presidential election, and we will not do so in the future. We urge other Alaska media outlets to make a similar commitment (internally or otherwise) to accurate reporting, including a commitment not to publish op-eds that spread election misinformation.
Second, we urge all of Alaska’s elected officials to gracefully acknowledge that President Trump lost his bid for reelection, and do everything possible to encourage peaceful acceptance of Biden’s victory in the coming days and months. Though we are far from D.C., words here have consequences too. As we saw last week, false claims about the election inflame unjustified feelings of dispossession and grievance that can swiftly tilt into chaos and violence.
We are especially concerned by calls for armed pro-Trump protests at all state capitols currently going viral on Parler and other conservative-leaning social media networks. Alaska’s political leaders and their staffers are our readers, colleagues, and friends. They deserve to live and work in safety. Moreover, freedom of the press–the freedom that we need to do our work at the Landmine–is utterly incompatible with political violence. Conflicts in our political system must be settled by the courts, not by violent individuals or angry mobs.
The events of the last week have raised many interesting subjects: whether Republicans should have acted sooner to oppose Trump, whether the responses to political violence over the last year have been consistent, the role of social media as a viewpoint-neutral platform, and much more. These are all valid topics and the Landmine will not shy away from addressing them as appropriate. However, over the next ten days these discussions pale in importance compared with ensuring the safe and orderly transfer of federal power that Alaskans deserve.
– Paxson Woelber, Special Features Editor
– Jeff Landfield, Editor-in-Chief
– Cale Green, Director of Photography