I cannot get the Jan. 6 terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol out of my head. At the same time, I am acutely aware that millions of Americans continue to either ignore or minimize the violent riot aimed at overthrowing our Constitution. This is despite the fact that there has been wide access to graphic video and body cam footage of rioters tearing down barricades, breaking windows, chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” constructing makeshift gallows on Capitol grounds, rummaging through the private documents of legislators and violently attacking police officers with an assortment of weapons, including pepper spray, stun guns, baseball bats and flagpoles.
Notwithstanding Trump’s undisclosed attempts to kill the Biden presidency in its infancy, Atlantic writer Adam Serwer highlighted the more open plots: cajoling secretaries of state to not certify, pressuring state legislatures to overturn the results, attempting to get the courts to overturn the results, pressuring Mike Pence to overturn the results and, ultimately, enlisting a mob to overturn the result.
The Jan. 6 Capitol riot was constructed on a campaign of misinformation. Before he first took up residence in the White House in 2017 Trump didn’t know the difference between a coup d’état and a coupé de ville. Nevertheless, he successfully convinced millions of true believers that he won a second election four years later and then incited hundreds to violently overthrow the government to restore him to power.
Harvard University professor Susanna Siegel debunked the idea that the riot was spur-of-the-moment: “The mob violence on Jan. 6 showed us, for the first time in U.S. history, a mass, nationwide movement willing to justify mob violence as a tool to gain political power.” She added that “however chaotic [and] disorderly . . . it may have appeared, it was not a spontaneous uprising.”
Siegel compared the attack on the Capitol to Hitler’s failed coup: the beer hall putsch in 1923. “The attempted insurrection on Jan. 6 was aided by paramilitary organizations coordinating with high-ranking political figures,” said Siegel. And, she said, “like Hitler’s coordinated attack, it mobilized crowds of armed men to directly threaten politicians holding office. Both mobs claimed to be enforcing a right to rule that has been unfairly and blatantly violated by their political opponents.”
In the 1923 Munich beer hall putsch, 2,000 Nazis marched and were confronted by a police barricade, which resulted in the deaths of 16 Nazi Party members and four police officers. Almost 100 years later in the GOP. U.S. Capitol putsch, 138 police officers were injured, of whom 15 were hospitalized. One rioter and one police officer died in the riot, and four police officers who responded to the attack died by suicide in the days and months that followed.
Jan. 6 was not unprompted and it was not a “normal tourist visit” as U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde inexplicably asserted. Any illusion of spontaneity or attempt to discount that the insurrection was a conspiracy plotted in advance is utter nonsense.
After the beer hall putsch Hitler was arrested and was involved in a month-long trial which provided him with a platform to spew his nationalist views to the nation. He was found guilty of treason and sentenced to five years in prison, where he wrote “Mein Kampf.” He was released less than a year later and focused his efforts on gaining power through advancing Nazi propaganda. No reminder is needed about how that turned out.
Whether or not Trump and his cohorts’ complicity in the riot is revealed by the bipartisan select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, he will not be deterred from advancing the grift that has already resulted in a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars, the lion’s share of which is available for his personal use. Nor will it discourage the legion of apologists determined to restrict voting rights all across this land (made for you and me).
Journalist Scott MacFarlane, who has covered the insurrection and its aftermath, said of the terrorists that many are still unapologetic and deeply entrenched in the belief that what happened was justified. He said, “People out there are hailing some of them as heroes…as people who did right. And there are those charged who are talking to me, saying they still don’t see what they did as wrong.”
He added, “I don’t know how we get out of that.”