Republicans have been parroting this attempted line of defense since Carlson first tried it in January and then continually doubled down and led a sort of “1/6 Truther” movement dedicated to spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories about the event. GOP members of Congress, who first tried to blame Antifa and Black Lives Matter, began vomiting at a local terrorism hearing in March.
Kelly made herself the newest leader in the gaslighting parade last week by stating on her podcast, “It wasn’t a riot. It wasn’t.”
“A faction has turned,” Kelly told her audience. “But there is no question that the media portrayed this as much worse than it actually was.” She added, “We’ve all seen the video of people yelling cops in the face, being totally condescending and defecating on the floor of the US Capitol, and lawmakers were understandably scared … and I didn’t like to see it at all. “
Kelly went on to argue that the mainstream media “tied into” the political rhetoric “of Trump’s repeated denials of losing the election, falsely claiming that there was widespread electoral fraud” what we saw that day, “despite the reality that Trump’s denials and allegations were the main motivation for the people who participated in the uprising, as demonstrated by the hundreds of charges (leading to arrests) against them.
Greenwald interfered on Twitter and agreed with Kelly’s claim that “it wasn’t a riot”:
Of course it wasn’t. But the media has spent 5 years tossing around every theatrical term – treason, traitor, Kremlin agent – so now all they know is how to express themselves in the craziest, hysterical way possible. Hence, a three hour riot turns into a * riot. *
Michael Tracey, a frequent sidekick of Greenwald’s, intervened similarly:
It has always been propagandistic nonsense that “insurrection” was somehow the only acceptable term to describe the events of January 6th. The term was chosen because it promotes the Democratic / corporate media political agenda and the law enforcement agenda of federal prosecutors.
Kelly also retweeted a comment from right-wing expert Byron York, who himself promoted a column in the Wall Street Journal by Debra Burlingame insisting that “It is a travesty to compare the Capitol siege to 9/11”.
Identical sentiments were expressed by protesters outside the Washington, DC Central Detention Center on Saturday, where many of the arrested insurgents are being held prior to trial. “Let them go! Let them go! Let them go!” the crowd sang.
The demonstrators carried signs that read “Protests are not riots” and “Patriots are not terrorists”. Protesters called the arrested defendants “nonviolent American patriots”.
One of the protesters told reporter Scott MacFarlane that the siege of the Capitol on January 6th did not meet the definition of an insurrection: “Insurrection has a legal meaning,” he said. “It means an armed attempt to take over government.”
The cognitive dissonance at work here is remarkable considering the man’s definition fully describes what the world saw on Jan. 6: A violent attempt by an armed mob to prevent government ballots from being certified with the intention to prevent the traditional peaceful transfer of power from outgoing president to new, a hallmark of American democracy and its stability. It was in every way an insurgent attack on our democracy in every way. But the gaslighters want the public to believe they saw something other than what they saw.
The protesters, estimated at about 100 and arriving on a group bus with participants from Illinois, New York, Idaho and other states, marched through Washington with their signs and banners, including an American flag draped upside down. They uniformly referred to the January 6 defendants as “victims”.
This, of course, is how the old right-wing trope of “waving the bloody shirt” – the one in which the violent tyrant is turned into a victim and the victim into a tyrant, all by the magical power of gas lighting – has always worked: First to minimize the violence committed so that the public will feel sorry for the perpetrators and doubt the motives of the prosecutors. The next step, namely to characterize the correct portrayal of violence as exaggerated for political or other motives and to slander the attacked, naturally follows.
Tracey previewed this second part of the dynamic that was already at work in his Substack essay, which Kelly promoted on Twitter, and insisted it wasn’t a riot:
Unless your brain has been permanently baffled by the barrage of exaggeration, no one who tries to be minimally objective can honestly say that a delay of several hours in legislative business is in any way an “existential threat”. We know this because the “existence” of the country has never been jeopardized by the actions of a marauding MAGA mob, most of whom seemed to have no idea what they were doing in the “Citadel” in the first place. The government was never in danger of being overthrown, and any suggestion to the contrary was always more than ridiculous.
Regardless, the evidence, reflected in the New York Times video investigation and elsewhere, overwhelmingly shows that the nation narrowly escaped a catastrophe on Jan. 6 in which the mob nearly overtook Vice President Mike Pence, and not just Vice President They demanded to be hanged – but also members of the house who have sought protection in the gallery. The idea that the mob was not just moments away from preventing the peaceful transfer of power and using Donald Trump as dictator is actually ridiculous.
Americans are not alone. The January 6 attack on our democracy shook our allies around the world – especially those who consider the United States to be the main beacon of stable democracy for other emerging nations – and worried about our future. These concerns grow as Republicans continue to not only apologize and rationalize the anti-democratic sentiments and beliefs that fueled the insurgency, but also openly embrace them.
“What really worries me is how similar things are going on in the US in a number of countries in the world where democracy has really taken a huge toll and, in many cases, has died,” says Staffan Lindberg, a Swedish political scientist who does Institute for Varieties of Democracy directs said. “I’m talking about countries like Hungary under Orban, Turkey in the early days of Erdogan’s rule, Modi in India, and I can go on the line.”
British political scientist Brian Klaas noted in the Washington Post:
The US allies see our democracy as a shattered, blurred past. We used to provide the world with a democratic model, but no longer. The chaos, dysfunction and madness of recent years have taken a predictable toll.