By Glenn Greenwald – Jan 7, 2022
As Kamala Harris compares 1/6 to 9/11 and Nancy Pelosi introduces the cast of Hamilton to sing about democracy, today’s inanity should not obscure its dangers.
The number of people killed by pro-Trump supporters at the January 6 Capitol riot is equal to the number of pro-Trump supporters who brandished guns or knives inside the Capitol. That is the same number as the total of Americans who—after a full year of a Democrat-led DOJ conducting what is heralded as “the most expansive federal law enforcement investigation in US history”—have been charged with inciting insurrection, sedition, treason or conspiracy to overthrow the government as a result of that riot one year ago. Coincidentally, it is the same number as Americans who ended up being criminally charged by the Mueller probe of conspiring with Russia over the 2016 election, and the number of wounds—grave or light—which AOC, who finally emerged at night to assure an on-edge nation that she was “okay” while waiting in an office building away from the riot at the rotunda, sustained on that solemn day.
That number is zero. But just as these rather crucial facts do not prevent the dominant wing of the US corporate media and Democratic Party leaders from continuing to insist that Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory was illegitimate due to his collusion with the Kremlin, it also does not prevent January 6 from being widely described in those same circles as an Insurrection, an attempted coup, an event as traumatizing as Pearl Harbor (2,403 dead) or the 9/11 attack (2,977 dead), and as the gravest attack on American democracy since the mid-19th Century Civil War (750,000 dead). The Huffington Post’s White House reporter S.V. Date said that it was wrong to compare 1/6 to 9/11, because the former—the three-hour riot at the Capitol—was “1,000 percent worse.”
Indeed, when it comes to melodrama, histrionics, and exploitation of fear levels from the 1/6 riot, there has never been any apparent limit. And today—the one-year anniversary of that three-hour riot—there is no apparent end in sight. Too many political and media elites are far too vested in this maximalist narrative for them to relinquish it voluntarily.
The orgy of psychodrama today was so much worse and more pathetic than I expected—and I expected it to be extremely bad and pathetic. “House Democrats [waited] their turn on the House floor to talk to Dick Cheney as a beacon for American democracy,” reported CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere; “One by one, Democrats are coming over to introduce themselves to former VP Dick Cheney and shake his hand,” added ABC News’ Ben Siegel. Nancy Pelosi gravely introduced Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton to sermonize and sing about the importance of American democracy. The Huffington Post’s senior politics reporter Igor Bobic unironically expressed gratitude for “the four legged emotional support professionals roaming the Capitol this week, helping officers, staffers, and reporters alike”—meaning therapy dogs. Yesterday, CNN’s Kaise Hunt announced: “Tomorrow is going to be a tough one for those of us who were there or had loved ones in the building. Thinking of all of you and finding strength knowing I’m not alone in this.” Unsurprisingly but still repellently: Kamala Harris today compared 1/6 to 9/11.
That the January 6 riot was some sort of serious attempted insurrection or “coup” was laughable from the start, and has become even more preposterous with the passage of time and the emergence of more facts. The United States is the most armed, militarized and powerful regime in the history of humanity. The idea that a thousand or so Trump supporters, largely composed of Gen X and Boomers, who had been locked in their homes during a pandemic—three of whom were so physically infirm that they dropped dead from the stress—posed anything approaching a serious threat to “overthrow” the federal government of the United States of America is such a self-evidently ludicrous assertion that any healthy political culture would instantly expel someone suggesting it with a straight face.
Putting the events of January 6 into their proper perspective is not to dismiss the fact that it was a lamentable event—any more than opposing the exploitation of 9/11 and exaggeration of the domestic threat of Muslim extremism, which I spent a full decade doing, meant that one was denying the heinousness of that attack. The day after the 1/6 riot, I wrote in this space that “the introduction of physical force into political protest is always lamentable, usually dangerous, and, except in the rarest of circumstances that are plainly inapplicable here, unjustifiable.” I still believe that to be the case. There was nothing virtuous about the 1/6 riot.
But it is typically the case that fear-mongering and deliberate exaggeration of threats has an element of truth to them. Al Qaeda and ISIS really did want to carry out mass-casualty events on US soil. COVID is a fatal virus that can kill people and has done so around the world. There are right-wing extremists in the US bent on using violence to advance their political agenda, just as there are left-wing extremists and anarchist insurrectionary movements and many other types eager to do the same (more destruction was caused by the latter than the former over the last two years, to say nothing of the dozens of journalists physically assaulted by individuals participating in Antifa protests).
Far too many centers of political and economic power benefit from an exaggerated and even false narrative about January 6 to expect it ever to end.
Featured image: A pro-Trump protester carries the lectern of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi through the Roturnda of the US Capitol Building. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images