“On Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, the message board TheDonald, and Parler, a “free speech social network” created in opposition to Twitter, some users blamed antifa for the attack while others claimed credit for it. Meanwhile, others were angry at the president for posting a video Thursday acknowledging a “new administration” would take over.
Even as the online right is divided about how to react to the events of this week, loyalty to President Donald Trump is still strong. Many online supporters refer to him as “GEOTUS,” or Grand Emperor of the United States, and have called fellow members to stand by him.
But there is fracturing within the movement: Some are confused about why they were asked to come to the January 6 rally if not to take extreme action, others are angry at Trump’s concession video posted on Twitter Thursday night where he described Wednesday’s events as a “heinous attack,” and others still are developing new conspiracy theories.”
“It’s hard to know how seriously to take any individual threat or comment made by members of these forums. Distinguishing between legitimate threats and trolling is difficult — and that reality is mirrored by the president himself. Trump will make “jokes” that target groups or individuals and undermine democratic norms. His supporters casually dismissed criticisms of these comments, or chastised observers for taking the president literally.”
“While the effort to remove extremism from mainstream social media companies could help curb the spread of extreme ideas to casual users of the internet, the ever-evolving web of right-wing social media and messaging boards will likely defy the control of these tech giants. Just take a look at TheDonald, formerly a part of Reddit; once banned there, it managed to migrate to its own outpost on the internet.”
“the whiteness of the insurrectionists acted as a shield — protecting them from being seen as a threat before, and while, they stormed the Capitol. For activists who endured violence at the hands of police when they were merely asking for them to stop executing Black people, this inequity is why they protested in the first place.”
“As I reported in September, research from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found that out of 7,750 Black Lives Matter protests across 2,400 locations across the country, 93 percent of them were peaceful — yet images of burning and headlines of looting were plentiful, with the president referring to the protesters as “thugs.”
New research from the organization compares the difference in law enforcement response between left-wing protests (anti-Trump, pro-Biden, Count Every Vote, Black Lives Matter, Abolish ICE) and right-wing protests (pro-Trump, anti-Biden, Back the Blue, QAnon, Stop the Steal, etc.), finding that law enforcement was more than twice as likely to use force against liberal demonstrations between May and November.”
“What’s evident is that the organizers of Wednesday’s rallies were not taken seriously, as white extremists are often infantilized and given room to work out their feelings and blow off steam. We are told we need to listen to them, to try to understand their plight and psychology.”
“In the days since the infiltration, footage that Ryan called “disturbing” has emerged of Capitol Police officers standing by while pro-Trump insurrectionists file into the building. Other clips, including one where an officer appears to take a selfie with one of the rioters, have also elicited concern on Capitol Hill.
Additionally, the New York Times reported Thursday that a Capitol Police officer offered rioters directions to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office, while another rioter told CNN, “The cops were very cool. They were like, ‘Hey guys, have a good night.’ … You can see that some of them are on our side.”
Those reports emerge as a growing number of House Democrats express concern about how events unfolded Wednesday. On Friday, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told SiriusXM that rioters “went where you won’t find my name, but they found where I was supposed to be,” noting that they found his unmarked office, in which he says he does most of his work, while seeming to pass over his ceremonial one. “So something else was going on untoward here,” Clyburn said.”
“Beyond specific worries about potential internal USCP support for the rioters, some members of Congress have pointed out the jarring disparity in police use of force between Wednesday’s attack and Black Lives Matter protests in DC last summer.”
“Whatever the reason, Democrats appear set on ensuring accountability for this week’s failures by the Capitol Police and other congressional security.
“There was a strategic breakdown, for sure,” Ryan told reporters Wednesday after the siege. “You can bet your ass we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”
And there has already been a leadership shakeup. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund submitted his resignation Thursday amid sustained criticism, and after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for him to do so.
The Senate sergeant-at-arms also resigned earlier this week after Schumer said he planned to fire him upon becoming majority leader on January 20. Pelosi, meanwhile, indicated at her weekly Thursday press conference that a resignation from the House sergeant-at-arms would be forthcoming.”
“American insurrectionists, for the first time in the history of this country, stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday. Offices were vandalized. Windows were broken. Statues toppled. A woman was shot and killed. Four others have reportedly died, including a Capitol Police officer. It was ugly, embarrassing, and seditious.
But it wasn’t surprising.
We’ve been inching, inexorably, toward this moment for years. I know this because I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time over the course of this presidency thinking and writing about what you might call the “epistemic crisis” or the “post-truth crisis” or the “misinformation crisis” — it all refers more or less to the same thing.
The American mind, or a sizable chunk of it at least, has been deranged by a poisoned information system. The way millions of citizens learn about the world, the way they form core beliefs, is irredeemably broken. And because the media environment has been blown apart by digital technology, “there is no longer any buffer between mainstream thought and the extreme elements of our politics,” as Politico’s Tim Alberta put it recently.
If the depth of that crisis wasn’t apparent before Wednesday, it sure as hell is now.”
“The road to this dark place was paved by lots of hands over many years. But the evolution of right-wing media into a fantasy-industrial complex is at the center of the story.
Propaganda has always been a bipartisan game, but media-driven polarization has become more asymmetric in recent years. The left mostly receives its news from organizations like the New York Times, the Washington Post, or cable news networks like MSNBC or CNN. However biased some of this reporting can be (and there’s plenty of bias), most of it is anchored by basic journalistic ethics.
This just isn’t true on the right. A 2018 book called Network Propaganda by three Harvard researchers is probably the best survey on this disparity, and it shows that American conservative media functions very much like a closed system, with Fox News at the center (at least until recently). The people who inhabit this system rarely collide with information beyond it, and the competition within it — on the supply side — is continually intensifying in order to meet the demand from audiences consuming the high-stakes narratives. As Brian Stelter, longtime media reporter and author of Hoax, told me in November, anchors at Fox are now struggling “to keep up with their viewers’ demand for propaganda.””
“Consumers of this stuff have been fed a daily diet of conspiracies and panicked claims about the death of the republic and the plot to steal the election.”
“If you watch Newsmax and OAN every night, if you listen to talk radio hosts like Mark Levin claim that “Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are being destroyed by the Democratic Party and the media,” if you hear Sean Hannity (whose show pulls in 4 million viewers a night) insist, “We have a duty to investigate every legitimate claim of fraud and abuse,” if you’re inhaling QAnon fantasies online, you’re likely extremely deluded about the state of the world. Is it any surprise that we’re living in a golden age of conspiracy theories?
The president himself is the most consequential consumer of this stuff. Listen to his leaked hour-long call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and you’ll hear a hodgepodge of familiar conspiracy theories about hacked voting machines and forgeries and collusion among various election officials. It’s all laid out and distilled, just as you’d hear it on Newsmax or read on 4chan or Parler, the right-wing alternative to Twitter.
All these fictions have coursed through the conservative media ecosystem, and the insurrectionists who flooded the Capitol have imbibed it for months. It’s why they chanted, “Stop the steal,” and it’s why you can hear them saying, “They don’t get to steal it from us, they don’t get to tell us we didn’t see what we saw.” And it’s why something like 70 percent of Republicans do not believe the 2020 election was free and fair.
So we reached this precipice because millions of Americans have had a firehose of falsehoods blasted into their brains for months on end. They believe the election was rigged and stolen. And they believe that because they’ve been told exactly that, not just by the president but by a vast network of grifters and online provocateurs and political entrepreneurs who have cultivated and reinforced conspiracy theories about the election and god knows what else.
And all of this is facilitated by social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, both of which, as Warzel told me last year, pretend they’re not “arbiters of truth” and insist they “don’t want to weigh in at all” — but they’re already in that position and have been for a long time. These tech companies may not be putting their thumbs on the scale in the conventional sense, but as Andrew Marantz, author of Antisocial, pointed out to me in a recent interview, they’re “outsourcing those decisions to algorithms” that continually push users into blackholes of mutually reinforcing content. Whatever their intentions, these companies helped lead us to this moment.”
“If you believed — I mean really believed — that the president you supported won a landslide victory that was systematically undermined by seditious Republicans and Democrats, and that that conspiracy was being covered up by a crooked and compromised media, and at the same time you saw over 100 Republican House members and multiple senators questioning the validity of the election, and the president was telling you to do something about it, it’s not hard to see how quickly you might move from shitposting online to storming the Capitol.”
“Everyone who participates in this system of misinformation shares responsibility for what happened at the Capitol on Wednesday. We are reaping what they sowed. Still, Tucker Carlson goes on Fox News primetime hours after a violent assault on the Capitol and, naturally, casts blame elsewhere: “We got to this sad, chaotic day for a reason. It is not your fault; it is their fault.””
“It was obvious when a man walked into a DC pizza shop in 2017 with a gun because he believed a conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring. It was obvious when armed protesters occupied the Michigan Legislature to protest Covid-19 lockdowns after an incendiary Trump tweet. It was obvious when we learned the Nashville bombing suspect reportedly believed in various conspiracy theories about aliens and lizard people. As this Wall Street Journal report shows, it was obvious in recent weeks as various watchdog groups warned of growing threats online. And it’s painfully obvious now after we saw the Capitol ravaged by rioters who believed, without any evidence, that an election had been stolen from them.”
“Every member of the Republican Party — from senators like Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz to the toadies working in the Trump White House — bear special responsibility for this crisis. They’ve known exactly who and what Trump is from the start, and they rode the tiger straight into the abyss.
And so many of them performed this ridiculous two-step, parroting Trump’s nonsense in one breath and winking quietly while doing it. Even on Thursday, before the dust has settled at the Capitol, Republican House members like Paul Gosar (AZ) and Matt Gaetz (FL) are spreading baseless conspiracy theories suggesting the assault was some kind of “false flag” perpetuated by antifa. And despite everything that happened in the past 48 hours, nearly 150 Republican lawmakers formally objected to the election results anyway.
If the fantasy-industrial complex churning out lies and conspiracy theories wasn’t bad enough, we’re also dealing with a much more pervasive problem in the press. As I tried to explain last year, we’re facing a new form of propaganda that wasn’t really possible until the digital age, something known as “flooding the zone with shit.” It’s less about perpetuating alternative realities and more about overwhelming the public with so many competing narratives, so much misinformation, that even well-intentioned people don’t know what to believe.”
“Without some kind of reckoning in right-wing media, there is no sustainable path forward for the country. And even if the complicit pull back from the brink, it’s probably too late anyway. So much of the damage is already done. The conspiracy theories that radicalized that mob are already out there, already implanted in millions of minds. Like some kind of political pathogen, they will keep working their will on the body politic.
“It wasn’t just the building that had them horrified. In the past two decades, the Capitol Police has grown into one of the largest, best-funded and most single-focus police departments in the country, with a budget of more than $460 million and around 2,000 sworn officers to guard just 2 square miles of the capital. (By comparison, that’s half the size of the entire police force for Washington, D.C.)”
“Appalled experts, watching the crisis unfold, asked themselves: Where was the protective intelligence? Where was the quick reaction force? Where were the long guns? Where were the helmets and batons? Where were the tall, secure fences that normally ring the Capitol during high-profile protests? And perhaps most important: Where was the strategy? Word on Thursday evening that the Capitol Police evidently twice turned down offers of reinforcements only deepened the sense of disbelief.”
“Minute by minute, individual officers sometimes acted bravely, but hour by hour, Wednesday’s events demonstrated a top-to-bottom failure by a key federal law-enforcement agency. The crisis can’t even be called a failure of imagination, as 9/11 is sometimes seen, because in many ways the idea that the pro-Trump mob might march on the Capitol to disrupt the proceedings inside seemed all but obvious. Nor was this an incident that just slipped under the radar. The joint session inside was the single biggest news event in the United States that day, and the rioters had been planning disruptive protest for weeks, in the open.”
“The Capitol Police, which until the 1990s had perennially struggled for resources—more a team of security guards than an elite force—has undergone a sea change since four Capitol-altering events: The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, a 1998 attempt by a gunman to storm the House whip’s office, the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent spate of anthrax-laced letters targeting Capitol Hill leaders. Until those events, most members of Congress saw little value in its police force beyond, as one police leader told me, “Where’s my parking space, and can I get a better one?”
The Capitol Police, as much as any federal law enforcement agency, has been the huge beneficiary of the boom in government security spending, nearly tripling in size in the past quarter century—in no small part because it’s the agency in charge of protecting those who appropriate the money in the first place. It has also consolidated its control of Capitol Hill, merging in 2009 with the previously separate Library of Congress police.
Today, the Capitol Police boasts advanced resources equal to the largest and best police departments in the country, including a bomb squad, intelligence unit, hazmat units and specialized dignitary protection agents, as well as crowd control and riot gear and access to an arsenal of weapons that would impress many small armies. Its officers are well-wired with other local and regional police departments and participate in FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces. Plus it has the entire federal government and numerous local and regional D.C. police departments to call upon for help when needed.
And, at its core, its whole job is to protect about 270 acres, a land mass less than a third the size of New York’s Central Park—including, and especially, the 58-acre Capitol and grounds itself. That unusual balance—immense resources and an extremely specific zone to protect—makes its colossal failure Wednesday so much more stunning to law enforcement experts.”
“The Capitol Police should, in theory, have had the crowd-control skills to meet the moment. It’s an agency uniquely experienced in handling First Amendment protests and protesters—on issues as varied as abortion rights, health care or anti-war activists. After run-of-the-mill traffic offenses, protest-related arrests account for the majority of the department’s total arrests; it probably arrests and confronts more protesters than any other police department in the country. Nor are the Capitol Police a stranger to securing high-profile events, from presidential State of the Union addresses to the inauguration set for later this month on the very scaffolding and stands that the Trump mob rampaged over Wednesday.”
“The failure to plan meant that the die was cast as soon as the Trump mob began walking to the Capitol. In the military, the saying goes “prior planning prevents piss-poor performance,” and the Capitol Police lost the battle for Congress on Wednesday hundreds of yards away from its famous steps—as soon as the mob pushed over and past the first low metal fence far down on the west grounds of the approach to the building.
But from there, the department continued to fail, collapsing in a way familiar to any 19th-century general watching an army in retreat. At every turn, officers seemed at a loss to respond, indicating both training lapses and catastrophic leadership failures. There were failures at the start: A video, with unclear context, circulated on social media of Capitol Police even opening and removing barricades to allow the rioters close to the Capitol. There were failures as it unfolded: Other videos showed officers posing for selfies with rioters inside occupied Capitol office buildings. And there were failures as the crisis wound down: An officer even held a woman’s hand as she was escorted out of the building and down the steps. By late afternoon, police had made fewer arrests (13) in the storming of the U.S. Capitol than are typically made at the New York Giants stadium during a home game (21).
It took more than five hours for control to be reestablished, and only after thousands more law enforcement and military resources were rushed to the Capitol from across the city and neighboring states—resources desperately requested from the Pentagon and the FBI, among others, that Capitol Police leaders had turned down in the days and hours ahead of the mob’s arrival.”
“Far from a surprise, the insurrection on Wednesday had been in the works for a long time, with support from the president himself. On December 19, he tweeted, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” His supporters took the name Wild Protest, as ProPublica reports, and began publicly planning an occupation. “We came up with the idea to occupy just outside the CAPITOL on Jan 6th,” movement leaders wrote on December 23.
Meanwhile, DC officials had begun tracking incoming bus reservations in the days leading up to Wednesday and realized “this could be a stadium-sized crowd,” one official told the Washington Post. On Monday, Mayor Muriel Bowser began warning DC residents to stay away from downtown, the Post reported.
But despite clear warning signs from Trump and his supporters — and the fact that city officials were on high alert — Capitol Police did not prepare for the size or violence of the crowd. Relaying conversations he’d had with police officials, Rep. Ryan told reporters the threat assessment done by law enforcement seriously underestimated the potential threat.”
“Police set up only low barriers around the perimeter of the building and were wearing ordinary uniforms instead of riot gear, the Post noted. As many pointed out, this was in stark contrast to the law enforcement response to Black Lives Matter protests this summer, when members of the National Guard formed an intimidating phalanx outside the Lincoln Memorial, clad in military-style gear.
“Being candid, I think if there were Black people out there, I think there would’ve been a different response in what they did,” Ryan told reporters Thursday.”
“police were unable to prevent rioters from entering the building — or, in some cases, did not even try. One officer appeared to take a selfie with a Trump supporter as the mob roamed the building.”
“even after insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, making abundantly clear the seriousness of the moment, police appeared to let many of them simply leave of their own accord rather than making arrests. That’s in part because there simply weren’t enough personnel on hand to both ensure the safety of members of Congress and make arrests, officials told the Post. Around 52 people had been arrested as of Thursday morning, out of a crowd of thousands that gathered around the Capitol. (The exact number of rioters who entered the Capitol is unclear.)
By contrast, more than 150 people were arrested by Capitol Police after demonstrations against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October 2018. And last summer, more than 400 people were arrested over the course of a few days in connection with protests against police violence.
In all, officials described an unprecedented failure to plan for and respond to what should have been an entirely predictable event: angry Trump supporters, stoked by the president’s tweets and his speech on Wednesday urging them to “walk down to the Capitol,” descending on the seat of Congress to incite mayhem.”
“It’s not clear why Capitol Police were so unprepared for Wednesday’s obvious threat. The department has not responded to requests for comment from Vox or the Washington Post. In his statement on Thursday, Sund said that the department “had a robust plan established to address anticipated First Amendment activities. But make no mistake — these mass riots were not First Amendment activities.””
“some speculate that despite repeated public warnings, law enforcement just couldn’t believe Trump supporters would really storm the Capitol. “Would you imagine people were going to break into the Capitol and go into the chambers?” David Carter, director of the Intelligence Program at Michigan State University, remarked to ProPublica. “That failure of imagination sometimes makes us drop the ball.”
Others say that law enforcement might have been trying to use a lighter touch after criticisms of the way the summer’s protests were handled. “I’m pretty sure the Capitol Police were trying to do something a little softer, as we try to welcome protesters up there, but it got out of hand,” Terrance Gainer, former chief of the Capitol Police, said on CNN Thursday.
And while there were a few National Guard troops posted around the city, DC officials had reportedly asked them to maintain a limited presence, not wanting a repeat of the events of the summer, like the gassing of protesters in Lafayette Square, according to the Post.”
“some suggest that perhaps Capitol Police also had little interest in stopping the rioters, some of whom carried pro-police “thin blue line” flags. “The police might have been complicit because many sympathize with President Trump’s cause, or because many of the insurrectionists are the same people that support the ‘blue lives matter’ counter-movement,” Sabrina Karim, a professor of government at Cornell who studies security, said in a statement to media on Wednesday’s events. “They have been supportive of the police, and thus arresting ‘allies’ may not be in the larger interests of the police.”
And while police might have been trying a “softer” approach, it’s impossible to ignore the differences in law enforcement response with protests earlier this year.
On Wednesday, a group of mostly white Trump supporters were allowed to take selfies and roam freely in the Capitol because they falsely believed the election was rigged. This summer, a diverse group of protesters were subject to military-style control when they gathered to demonstrate against police brutality. Especially glaring is the contrast between the intentions of the two groups.
“There was zero intelligence that the Black Lives Matter protesters were going to ‘storm the capitol,’” Washington Attorney General Karl Racine said on CNN Wednesday. “Juxtapose that with what we saw today, with hate groups, militia and other groups that have no respect for the rule of law go into the capitol. … That dichotomy is shocking.”
And as lawmakers investigate what went wrong on Wednesday — and why — the events of the day raise serious questions about the security of the Capitol not just now but in the future, and about what happens the next time Trump decides to whip supporters into a frenzy. With President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration coming up on January 20, those concerns couldn’t be more urgent.”
“On the morning of January 6, first-term Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican chiefly notable for her support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, tweeted that the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results amounted to a new American Revolution.
“Today is 1776,” she wrote.
It turned out that describing Wednesday as a violent revolution was more apt than Boebert may have intended. Several hours later, on the heels of a speech by the president decrying the 2020 election as stolen, a pro-Trump mob descended on the US Capitol, overwhelming Capitol Police and storming the building. Trump supporters waved Confederate flags and seized control of the Senate chambers; police drew their guns. At least four people died as a result of the chaos.
Blaming President Trump for this violence is, at this point, stating the obvious. He has been inciting his supporters for weeks, telling them that the election has been stolen and they need to stand up to save freedom. If you really believe that — took what the president said seriously — why wouldn’t you take dramatic action?
But the blame needs to go beyond Trump and land squarely on the Republican Party itself — an institution that, for decades, employed a political strategy that sowed the seeds of an uprising against the American state.
The animating force of modern Republicanism is this: Democratic Party rule is an existential threat to America and is by definition illegitimate. It is a belief that explains much of what we’ve seen from the GOP in the past few decades, the glue that binds together Republicans ranging from shitposters in the QAnon fever swamps to much of the GOP congressional caucus.”
“their delegitimizing rhetoric has been the fuel of the conservative movement for many, many years now. Trump’s presidency, and the violence with which it is ending, represents the logical next step for the modern GOP — and where it goes from here will determine our future as a democracy.”
“In 2010, during the height of Tea Party fervor, then-Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) told talk radio host Lars Larson that she believed Americans might need to take up arms against the tyranny of Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress”
“Angle’s story is illuminating. Initially, she ran as an insurgent, casting herself as the rock-ribbed alternative to a weak, corrupt Republican establishment. The party actually tried to stop her, but she was embraced by the GOP once she won the Republican primary in Nevada. The party held a glitzy fundraiser in Washington for Angle several months after the “Second Amendment remedies” comment.
Hardly a relic of the Tea Party era, it’s a story that’s emblematic of the contemporary GOP. The party leadership has created an institution where people like Angle can win primaries; though leaders may resist extremists at times, they end up admitting them as members in good standing when it becomes clear that the choice in a given election is either a right-wing radical or a Democrat. As a result, there’s a one-way ratchet toward an increasingly extreme party, one that has convinced itself over time that Democratic rule is so dangerous that getting in bed with anti-democratic radicals is preferable.
There are at least three critical features of the GOP as an institution that have allowed this process to go on as it has.
First, there is the argument, offered by mainstream Republicans at the highest levels, that freedom itself is on the ballot: that the Democratic agenda is so catastrophic that it might spell the end of America as we know it.”
“This rhetoric might not be so bad if it weren’t for the second prong of the problem: the alternative conservative media ecosystem that disseminates those messages.
From practically the inception of the modern conservative movement in the 1950s, a central tenet has been that the mainstream media is irredeemably biased against them — an agent of liberalism, not to be trusted. The conservative response has been to relentlessly delegitimize the media in their public discourse and to construct alternative media institutions for its base to consume.
This created space for extreme voices who, out of sincere belief or rank opportunism, chose to peddle dangerous falsehoods.”
“If you are a rank-and-file Republican, the kind of person who listens to your party’s elected officials and friendly media outlets, you have been marinating in anti-democratic beliefs for years: that Democrats are fundamentally hostile to the American way of life, that people telling you otherwise cannot be trusted, that you have an obligation to fight against tyranny on your own.
In a 2020 survey, 51 percent of Republicans agreed with the claim that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.””
“The day after President Trump incited a mob to attack the Capitol, he called in to a Republican National Committee winter meeting. The assembled Republicans did not greet the president with horror or anger; instead, he was met with cheers.
Of course, not every Republican is as corrupted as the ones on that call. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted for Trump’s impeachment and has gone after him in the day since the attack on Capitol Hill. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has called for a second impeachment after the mob.
But even the “responsible” leaders have often been complicit. Lest we forget, Romney courted Trump’s endorsement during his 2012 presidential run — while Trump was in the midst of his birther crusade against Obama. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), famous for his thumbs-down vote on Trump’s Obamacare repeal proposal, is the man who unleashed Palin on the world by making her his vice presidential pick in 2008.”
“They knew who they were enabling. In 2016, Ted Cruz called Trump “utterly amoral” and a “pathological liar.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) described him as a “race-baiting xenophobic religious bigot.” And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), in comments that proved prescient, describes him as someone who was inciting violence among his supporters”
“The dangers of Trump were obvious to these men. But they chose to enable him after his victory anyway, much in the way their party chose to embrace Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle and Glenn Beck and all the other extremists who have proven useful to it. The Republican establishment created the conditions for Wednesday’s violence and chaos, and these conditions will persist even if Trump is removed prematurely. QAnon supporters are now sitting in Congress; Newsmax, a more unhinged version of Fox, has only grown in recent months; Trump was greeted by applause by House Republicans Thursday morning.
Just hours after her 1776 tweet, Rep. Boebert tweeted fearfully about the attack on Congress. “We were locked in the House chambers,” she said, as if the chickens weren’t coming home to roost.
But the fact that they don’t really want a violent uprising doesn’t mean their most committed supporters feel the same way. Republicans — not just Donald Trump, but the entire political movement — own that mob. If they do not change course, they will own the next one, too.”
“On Nov. 5, 2020, just days after the election, Vice President Mike Pence offered a classic of the genre. As Trump declared the election stolen, in terms as clear as a fist to the face, Pence tried to take him seriously, not literally; to signal solidarity with Trump’s fury while backing away from the actual claims. “I stand with President @RealDonaldTrump,” he tweeted. “We must count every LEGAL vote.”
But Trump did not want every legal vote counted. He wanted legally counted votes to be erased; he wanted new votes discovered in his favor. He wanted to win, not lose; whatever the cost, whatever the means. And every day since, he has turned up the pressure, leading to the bizarre theory that took hold of Trumpists in recent weeks that the vice president was empowered to accept or reject the results of the election on Jan. 6; that Pence could, single-handedly, right this wrong. And so, after years of loyal service, of daily debasements and constant humiliations, Trump came for Pence, too, declaring him just one more enemy of the people.”
“On Wednesday, at the Capitol, those who took Trump seriously and those who took Trump literally collided in spectacular fashion. Inside the building, a rump of Republican senators, led by Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, were leading a feckless challenge to the Electoral College results. They had no pathway to overturning the results and they knew it. They had no evidence that the results should be overturned and they knew it. And they did not act or speak like they truly believed the election had been stolen. They were there to take Trump’s concerns seriously, not literally, in the hopes that his supporters might become their supporters in 2024.
But at the same time, Trump was telling his supporters that the election had actually been stolen, and that it was up to them to resist. And they took him literally. They did not experience this as performative grievance; they experienced it as a profound assault. They stormed the Capitol, attacked police officers, shattered doors and barriers, looted congressional offices. One woman was shot in the mayhem and died.
If their actions looked like lunacy to you, imagine it from their perspective, from within the epistemic structure in which they live. The president of the United States told them the election had been stolen by the Democratic Party, that they were being denied power and representation they had rightfully won. “I know your pain,” he said, in his video from the White house lawn later on Wednesday. “I know your hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it.” More than a dozen Republican senators, more than 100 Republican House members, and countless conservative media figures had backed Trump’s claims.
If the self-styled revolutionaries were lawless, that was because their leaders told them that the law had already been broken, and in the most profound, irreversible way. If their response was extreme, so too was the crime. If landslide victories can fall to Democratic chicanery, then politics collapses into meaninglessness. How could the thieves be allowed to escape into the night, with full control of the federal government as their prize? A majority of Republicans now believe the election was stolen, and a plurality endorse insurrection as a response. A snap YouGov poll found that 45 percent of Republicans approved of the storming of the Capitol; 43 percent opposed it.”
“The Republican Party that has aided and abetted Trump is all the more contemptible because it fills the press with quotes making certain that we know that it knows better. In a line that will come to define this sordid era (and sordid party), a senior Republican told The Washington Post, “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change.” What happened on Wednesday in Washington is the downside. Millions of Americans will take you literally. They will not know you are “humoring” the most powerful man in the world. They will feel betrayed and desperate. Some of them will be armed.”
“The problem isn’t those who took Trump at his word from the start. It’s the many, many elected Republicans who took him neither seriously nor literally, but cynically. They have brought this upon themselves — and us.”
“Speakers, including the president himself and his adult sons, called on Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to “stop the steal” — the certification of Biden’s Electoral College win.
“We will never give up! We will never concede!” Trump said during his Wednesday speech, before demanding Pence (unlawfully) reject the Electoral College results. “All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify — and we become president.”
The president calling for an authoritarian putsch in front of throngs of fervid supporters, including QAnon conspiracy theorists and members of the Proud Boys militia, seems bad enough. But as the day went on, it got even worse. In the afternoon, attendees stormed the Capitol, clashing with the police protecting it and eventually breaking into the building.
Before the event, websites and social media platforms popular with MAGA types lit up with posters’ threats to start killing people after the rally if Congress refuses to make Trump president. On Monday, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested while carrying a high-capacity magazine for his guns. The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer, reporting on the ground on Wednesday, said that every single attendee he spoke with raised the prospect of violence if they don’t get what they want.
“They better start worrying about the 80 million people who voted for Trump and are armed,” rally participant Carmelo Prochilo told Sommer. “This will be a second American revolution.”
This is not, in short, an ordinary political rally. It’s not even an ordinary Trump rally.
The breach of the Capitol is an expression of what Trumpism has become, and maybe what it always was: an anti-democratic cancer on the American body politic that threatens to plunge an already-rickety democracy into even deeper chaos.”
“Wednesday’s March for Trump was the third such pro-Trump rally organized in DC to protest the election result. It was originally planned in late December by a group called Women for America First, chaired by former Tea Party activist Amy Kremer.
But in the month since Kremer’s outfit filed its permit, Trump’s campaign to undermine the 2020 election escalated. His near-total focus in the past month has been delegitimizing the results, working overtime to convince Republicans that Democrats somehow stole the election from him — a campaign that polls suggest has been largely successful.
As options for staving off a Biden inauguration dwindled, Trump has focused on January 6 as the decisive day. He successfully convinced a majority of House Republicans, and some 2024 presidential hopefuls in the Senate, like Josh Hawley (MO) and Ted Cruz (TX), to support a challenge to the legitimacy of the election. He has privately and publicly pressured Pence to unilaterally invalidate the results, something Pence is not legally capable of doing.
The effort is flagrantly undemocratic, a kind of legal coup, but it doesn’t bother Trump’s hardcore supporters one bit. Because they have swallowed Trump’s line that this election is stolen, they are convinced that overturning an election is actually saving the Constitution — hence the slogan “stop the steal.” This long-scheduled rally has thus evolved into an event aimed at convincing Pence and Republicans in Congress to go along with Trump’s anti-democratic and illegal demands.”
“The “stop the steal” slogan that dominates the protests itself implies that such a thing is possible, that their efforts may actually reverse the election. These are people who watch the fervently pro-Trump news networks One America News (OAN) and Newsmax; many are believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump is secretly working to defeat a cabal of pedophiles who run the Democratic Party and the world.
These hardcore MAGA supporters exist in a kind of symbiotic relationship with Trump and his sycophantic media — the beating heart of the movement we call Trumpism.
“We’ve seen OAN and Newsmax basically regurgitate baseless conspiracy theories from QAnon world,” Travis View, the host of a leading podcast on QAnon, told the New York Times’s Farhad Manjoo. Such theories “get into Trump’s brain, and then he regurgitates them back, and of course because he’s regurgitating the conspiracy theories he heard on the internet, all the internet conspiracy theorists believe that their conspiracy theory is validated, because Trump repeated it.”
This rally, then, has long since transcended its origins. It has become a vehicle for a pure personality cult, expressing the belief that Donald Trump cannot fail — he can only be failed. In such a worldview, whatever lengths Trump goes to in order to seize power is justified, because Trump tells his supporters that Democrats have so thoroughly corrupted the system that nothing can be trusted, and they believe what Trump tells them.
Such unquestioning loyalty, when wielded by a man with demonstrable authoritarian instincts, is toxic to democracy. And on Wednesday, we saw just how bad this can get.”
“At one of the prior DC MAGA rallies in December, four people were stabbed outside a bar popular with the Proud Boys — a pro-Trump street brawling group that the president specifically told to “stand back and stand by” during the first presidential debate. The Proud Boys are a very strange group; in an explainer for Vox, Jane Coaston describes them as an “amalgamation of a men’s rights organization, a fight club, and what some may see as a hate group.”
The most characteristic Proud Boys activity is street brawling, particularly with antifa counterprotesters. To climb the ranks in the organization, a member is required to get in at least one physical fight with its ideological opponents.
The heavy Proud Boys presence in DC right now underscores the threat that lurks behind the protests: If you don’t give us what we want, we’ll try to take it by force.
Almost from the get-go, the events were marked by violence: On Tuesday night, pro-Trump demonstrators engaged in violent clashes with DC police.”
“Again, some kind of violence was predictable before the event. The posts on pro-Trump social media prior to the rally were chilling: One Reddit user told others on the r/The_Donald subreddit to “travel in packs and do not let them disarm someone without stacking bodies.”
Trump himself has hardly calmed the situation. His heated rhetoric, particularly on Twitter, can easily be read as a call to arms by rallygoers”
“But nobody anticipated just how bad things would get during the day on Wednesday. Shortly after the president himself spoke at a rally, demanding action, its attendees staged an attack on America’s legislature — literally disrupting the proceedings of Congress that would confirm Biden’s presidency.
That gives reason to think the Trump movement is not merely anti-democratic, but increasingly willing to use extrajudicial force to accomplish its authoritarian political ends.