Opinion | Help us, auto-correct. You are the last best hop for democracy.


If the texts to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that have been acquired by the House Jan. 6 committee reveal anything, it is that a lot of members of Congress wanted to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

“Mark, in seeing what’s happening so quickly, and reading about the Dominion law suits attempting to stop any meaningful investigation we are at a point of [unusual emoji] no return [unusual emoji] in saving our Republic !! Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall Law!! PLEASE URGE TO PRESIDENT TO DO SO!!” texted Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), according to Talking Points Memo, which obtained and published the text message this week.

“In our private chat with only Members, several are saying the only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall law,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) wrote, in a text first reported by CNN. “I don’t know on those things. I just wanted you to tell him.”

In other words: The only thing standing between us and an even worse situation for democracy is the fact that people who want to overturn the election cannot exactly spell what they want. The last, best defense of freedom is… auto-correct.

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The crew of the auto-correct all sit at their stations. Klaxons. The helmsman looks up at an incoming text.

“Captain,” he says. “Representative Norman is typing.”

“I see it,” the Captain says. She frowns. They watch as the words continue to build up on the screen: Mark, in seeing what’s happening so quickly and reading about the Dominion law suits

“Dominion ‘law suits’?” asks the First Officer.

“Could be clothing,” the Captain says. “Don’t engage. Steady as she goes.”

Our LAST HOPE is invoking Marshall Law!

“Do we engage, captain?”

“He said ‘invoke,’ ” points out the grammar officer, with a growl of dismay. “It’s got to be martial law. That’s got to be what he means. What a sad day.”

“Does it?” the first officer asks. “You can invoke other things. Precedents. He could think it’s a precedent set by Chief Justice Marshall, or something.”

“That wouldn’t be a law,” says the helmsman quietly.

“It could be case law!” pipes up the bright-eyed young ensign sitting in the auto-correct control center for the first time.

“After invoke?” the grammar officer asks. “It’s got to be martial law. No, that’s what the sentence is obviously building toward. It couldn’t possibly be anything else. I think we have to change it. We have to send a text to the president’s chief of staff asking him to get the president to invoke martial law.”

The helmsman sighs heavily. “I never thought this day would come,” he says. “What a sad time for our democracy. And it is not technically what he typed, so it’ll be on our hands.”

“Shall I engage, captain?” asks the First Officer. “After invoke?”

The captain raises her hand. “You have a good case with ‘invoke,’ ” she says. “But look at the capitalization. That’s capitalized like a name.”

“Are we so sure it’s martial law? There’s no hint of a ‘t’, or we would have wound up on a path toward Martian law. This person typed Marshal — a perfectly good word, and then kept going. Why would he do that, if he didn’t mean to do it? No. He must know what he means. I think he doesn’t mean a law at all. I think he’s thinking of a person, a person unknown to you or to me, and Marshall Law is his name. Maybe a cowboy of some kind. Maybe it’s a pun. Maybe he texts puns to his friends.”

“But captain,” the grammar officer begins feebly, “wouldn’t the pun be on the well-known phrase ‘martial law’?”

The captain ignores him. “No, we let it stand as written. I can think of lots of reasons to text a friend the name Marshall Law. It’s a funny name. But I can’t imagine texting the chief of staff that you want to end democracy just because you don’t like the outcome of the election. That strains my credulity. No. He must be talking about something else. Do not engage. There is no need for us here. If they want to end democracy, if they want to bring in martial law, they’re going to have to learn to spell it correctly. Or my name isn’t Captain Kathryn January.”

The starry-eyed ensign begins applauding and is quickly hushed.

“We’re getting another Marshall, Captain,” says the first officer. “This one’s a text from Marjorie Taylor Greene. Same spelling. Correct?”

“Do not engage. Steady as she goes.”

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