Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ronan Farrow's interviews with Capitol rioters uncover phrenology, threats of face-eating

Stephen Colbert, Ronan Farrow
Stephen Colbert, Ronan Farrow
Screenshot: The Late Show

Stephen Colbert welcomed current scourge of the duplicitous and downright terrible, investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, to Tuesday’s Late Show. Asking Farrow just how the day’s high-profile subjects feel about getting a phone call from the guy who helped expose some of recent history’s biggest jerks, Farrow was self-effacing, as is his professional demeanor, but did note that his ongoing investigation into the multiplying scandals surrounding accused sex creep and pandemic mis-manager, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been met with some stonewalling, sweaty hang-ups, and the like. Colbert brought up his recent joke (when Cuomo was only facing seven or so accusations of sexual misconduct and retaliation) that “one more, and you get a free article by Ronan Farrow!” (Farrow was announced as on the case for the New Yorker the next day.)

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Still, at least a sitting governor probably wasn’t going to respond to Farrow’s tough-but-fair questions by threatening to eat the faces of Farrow’s family. (You know, probably.) Such was emphatically not the case, however, when it came to Farrow’s other main investigative current project, an examination of those people who took part in that whole white supremacist coup against American democracy back in January. As Farrow noted from his remote (and hopefully secure) home library, such was the outcome of his interview with one Donovan Crowl, a heavily armed former Marine and current member of self-proclaimed “militia” (and actual white supremacist terrorist gang of law enforcement and military types) the Oath Keepers. Who, as referenced, not only told Farrow that he’d made a thorough, topographical study of the journalist’s skull (for purely scientific purposes), but that he knew where Farrow lived and would, in fact, entertain the idea of eating the faces of Farrow’s family in retaliation for exposing Crowl’s history of virulent bigotry. Noting that Crowl was finally arrested for being part of the January 6 coup attempt of Trump loyalists and assorted nutjobs, Farrow told Colbert that the seditionist and journalist-threatener Crowl is out on home release at the moment, because why wouldn’t he be.

But, as Farrow stressed, outright self-proclaimed cannibals-for-freedom like Crowl aren’t the norm, which is sort of a bigger problem. Explaining that the Trump era lent legitimacy to the sort of conspiracy-minded, right-wing groups and individuals who finally felt at home in Trump’s alternate reality America, Farrow warned Colbert that Joe Biden’s victory is only going to see those people entrench themselves further. Citing the surprising-to-the-the-easily-surprised Reuters poll showing that fully 50 percent of Republicans are all-in for the conspiracy theory that the murderous white supremacist assault on the Capitol was engineered by go-to shadowy Fox News boogeymen like the Black Lives Matter movement or Antifa, Farrow explained that assuming Trump’s ouster will dissipate the lunacy is not borne out by history.

“It’s not always a totally rational set of beliefs rooted in facts, let’s say,” was Farrow’s politic summation, as he told the host how his ongoing excavation of the ruins of Trump’s anti-democratic reign has shown that the same fantasies of white victimhood (amplified by Fox News and even righter-wing outlets) is keeping the subterranean “cult psychology” simmering. For evidence, Farrow told Colbert that the phone onto which he’s dutifully downloaded apps like Parler, Clubhouse, and Telegram (all the better to keep tabs on those exiled from Twitter and the like) pings constantly with truly alarming updates from the country’s face-eating fringes. “You stay safe,” urged Colbert, joking but not-joking. No kidding.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.