Communicating in real time

Wednesday’s failed coup attempt raises troubling possibilities about the state of the world’s most self-congratulatory democracy. It also highlighted the impossibility of providing accurate context when events unfold quickly.

Image courtesy CNN

Bill Mahr has described the whole administration of the 45th President as a “slow moving coup.” On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, it accelerated.

Politicians and pundits scrambled to describe what was really happening, as well as to provide context, from the midst of the chaos and violence. And inevitably, the pressure to provide the “real” story immediately, to feed the insatiable maw of the 24-hour news cycle, led to a lot of errors.

  • “The Senate has been evacuated!”—No, they were taken to a secure site within the Capitol.
  • “A reporter has been attacked!”—I heard this in passing on Wednesday, but it was never repeated, so probably was an exaggeration.
  • “One woman has been shot!”—This was especially fast-moving. Ahli Babbit, follower of right-wing conspiracy theories and sharer of lies about the illegitimacy of the November election, was shot by Capitol Police as she tried to force her way into the building. She died in hospital.
  • “Three more have died in the violence.” “Four people are dead.” “Five people are dead.” Different news stations broadcast contradictory numbers of casualties for two days. First were reports of three insurrectionists who died of “medical issues.” Then came a report that one Capitol Police officer had died. Then a report that the officer was in hospital. It wasn’t until late the next day that all agreed the officer had passed away.
  • “Police have removed the barricades!” Incredibly, this appears true: after some of the mob had penetrated the building, police moved metal barricades out of the way of the entrance to the Capitol.

Portraying the context

Professional news channels immediately tried to provide context, linking the attack to the President’s incendiary speech at his rally in the morning. But accurate context is impossible when events move this quickly.

The professional journalists and analysts (not Fox Noise; they’re neither professional, nor news) tried to describe this as something that “got out of hand,” as Republican devotees who got over-excited.

They spoke and wrote about law-enforcement being strangely unprepared for the numbers of people; how strange it was there were so few security officers on the Hill.

Many quickly compared the security response of January 6 to earlier responses to Black Lives Matter protests, particularly the one at Lafayette Park in June, which featured thousands of security personnel in full riot gear and a cavalry charge against peaceful protesters to protect a Presidential photo-op. “Baffling double standard,” the analysts said.

“White privilege” say others.

Sometimes, there is a conspiracy

There is another explanation. Admittedly, this will sound like a conspiracy theory. But there have been real conspiracies through history that have taken down governments: Russia in 1917; Mexico in 1910; the American colonies in 1776. It was a conspiracy that assassinated Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 and led to the First World War and the destruction of empires.

It was a conspiracy that brought the Nazis to power in Germany in 1933.

Printing sweatshirts can be fast, but this shows planning.

I’m not going to claim the existence of a single organization behind the events of January 6. But I will connect a few dots here:

  • the number of right-wing and white supremacist militias across North America, from the Boogaloo to the Sons of Odin and unashamed Nazis
  • “prepper” groups who have made a lot of noise about how they’re preparing for civil unrest
  • decades of gerrymandering and voter suppression in support of Republicans
  • the delegitimizing of dissent from the Republican line, and its extreme elements, for decades
  • the delegitimizing statements, for years, about any election that did not return the 45th President to office
  • the delegitimizing statements about the November election of Joe Biden
  • social media communications about plans for a new civil war beginning on January 6, 2021
  • the men wearing t-shirts, prepared in advance, reading “MAGA Civil War January 6, 2021
  • a rally in support of the defeated President, with an address by the loser of the November election, scheduled for January 6
  • Rudy Giuliani’s exhortation to “trial by fire” in defence of the losing President
  • exhortations by Republican congress members who call for violence to overturn the November election
  • the low number of security forces on hand for a clearly planned event, in stark contrast to the deployment for BLM events last summer
  • security officers who posed for selfies with members of the mob even as they stormed into supposedly secure areas
  • insurrections who flashed police ID at security officers on the Capitol and were given unopposed access
  • the deliberate delay in response by the National Guard and Department of Defence to municipal requests for assistance on January 6.

Look at history

It was not just a bureaucratic error to prepare adequately for a demonstration on January 6. It was not just white privilege at work—although that helped.

January 6, 2021, was a coup attempt that failed. It was a coup that involved people with power. It failed mostly because it depended on the ability of idiots to succeed.

The Q’anon believers and the supporters of the President I have succeeded in not naming in the post are pathetic. Stupid, venal, self-centered, deluded and weak.

But still dangerous.

1 Comment

  1. There actually was an AP photographer who was grabbed by the mob, called antifa, and subjected to a very frightening series of threats. He seriously appeared about to be beaten, if not to death, then seriously injured as the mob chanted “f@ck antifa.” Someone in the mob helped to get him out as the poor man kept flashing his AP credentials.

    The police officer that died had been swarmed by the mob, beaten and hit in the head with a fire extinguisher. He was pulled from the swarm then later collapsed in an office and died the next day.

    They arrested one guy who had a backpack full of molotov cocktails. They arrest a guy who was driving a truck with a bunch of weapons and ammo. They diffused two real and deadly pipe bombs. At least one laptop computer was stolen. Elected official offices were ransacked and looted and any number of computer network breaches and threats, including surveillance and other electronic warfare methods, are probably still working within the building.

    At the same time all of this was going on, there were bomb threats in capitol buildings in a number of states, mobs attacking people on the street, at least one state capitol building was mobbed and the list goes on and on. They wanted to, not only overturn an election, but start a civil war.

    In truth, I think we are simply in a lull. This isn’t over. They are emboldened now. Canada should prepare for a wave of refugees, especially people of color.


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