January 6 vs BLM Riots

Shockingly, they're not remotely equivalent.

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington. As Congress prepares to affirm President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, thousands of people have gathered to show their support for President Donald Trump and his claims of election fraud. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

In “One of These Riots Is Not Like the Other,” National Review‘s Kevin Williamson points out the obvious.

Why make such a big deal about January 6?

Sean Hannity, radio host and off-the-books Donald Trump adviser, demands to know. After all, Hannity points out, there have been scores of riots, some of them deadly, over the past couple of years. Why fixate on that one?

Sean Hannity apparently believes that he has the dumbest audience in America.

Honestly, that’s a perfectly reasonable hypothesis. Even when he was posing as a garden variety conservative thirty years ago, when he was occasionally guest-hosting for Rush Limbaugh and hadn’t yet been paired with Alan Colmes, it was obvious that he was not particularly bright. Anyone voluntarily listening to him for hours on end, night after night, presumably isn’t sharp enough to pick up on that fact.

But I digress.

The sacking of the Capitol on January 6 by a gang of enraged Trump acolytes acting on the president’s complaint that the election had been stolen from him is different from other riots because of its particular political character. Stealing Nikes is one thing, and stealing the presidency is another. Hannity knows this. Most of you know this.

Again, I’m not absolutely sure that Hannity knows this. I’d put it at 50-50.

Consider: There were 21,570 homicides in the United States in 2020. If one of the victims had been the president of the United States, we would have made a pretty big deal about it. It would have been on the news. There might have been congressional hearings. Why? If we take Sean Hannity’s view, then we should treat such a murder as one murder among the thousands of murders the United States sees in a typical year.

But, of course, we do not treat the murders of political leaders that way. We even have a special word for such murders — assassination — because they are different from your average Saturday-night recreational shoot-’em-up in Chicago.

That’s a solid point that even Hannity would understand. Probably.

After some diversion, Williamson lands on another good point:

Even Sean Hannity knows this is a problem. That is why he — along with fellow Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade — texted Trump’s chief of staff to ask the president to try to put a stop to the riot. It is strange that these people, who today insist that Trump had nothing to do with the violent events in question, believed at the time that he was in a position to stop them.

[…]

What has been clear to some of us for a long time — and what is becoming more difficult to deny every day — is that the events of January 6 were part of an attempted coup d’état, one that proceeded on two fronts: As the rioters occupied the Capitol and disrupted the process of certifying the Electoral College votes, Trump’s legal minions sought madly for some pretext upon which to nullify the election. Meanwhile, Trump allies occupying several points on the far-right tail of the bell curve of glue-sniffing madness hatched all kinds of supplementary schemes, some of them involving the military.

A riot that is part of a coup d’état is not very much like a riot that is part of a coup de Target.

You would think.

Look, jokes about the dimness of Fox News hosts aside, most of them instinctively understood that the game had gone too far when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, threatening to kill Members of Congress and the Vice President of the United States in order to stop the counting of votes that Trump and Fox News had convinced them were illegitimate. But they are apparently so addicted to the grift that they can’t stop play-acting even after privately texting the White House Chief of Staff to end the madness. Hannity and his co-conspirators are therefore deliberately adding fuel to the fire, with predictable consequences.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    Anyone voluntarily listening to him for hours on end, night after night, presumably isn’t sharp enough to pick up on that fact.

    I carpooled with a guy way back when Hannity had a afternoon radio show. The schtick was grating, from calling his callers Great Americans to the non-sequiturs of the patter. I found myself just totally irritated at the wave of illogic, false assertions, and just BS.

    That carpooling didn’t last long.

    On the other hand, I made him listen to NPR when I drove.

    4
  2. mattbernius says:

    When even the author of “Liberal Fascism” can point out the deep hypocrisy between these hosts private reactions on the day of the riot and their public behavior since you know its become blindingly obvious:

    So it’s no surprise that Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Brian Kilmeade were aghast at the spectacle. (It is a bit surprising however, that Donald Trump Jr. was appalled.) The only person who we know for sure wasn’t appalled by what Trump had wrought was Trump himself.

    The significance of those texts isn’t that they recognized the truth of that day. What’s relevant is the contrast of that private behavior with their public behavior over the 11 months that followed.

    Last night, Laura Ingraham made a huge deal of the fact that she condemned the violence on her show on the evening of January 6. And she did. Although she sprinkled it with all sorts of fan service nonsense about Antifa provoking the violence and insinuations that the mob was right to be angry about the allegedly rigged election. But she did say, “Political passions boiled over today, and it will only serve to make the lives of MAGA supporters more difficult and even imperil this movement they fought so hard for.”

    What she didn’t say is that the mob’s passions boiled over because of Donald Trump’s lies—and the megaphone she and her colleagues gave to those lies. From her texts it’s reasonable to assume that she believed—rightly—that this mob was Trump’s to command because the mob believed it was doing Trump’s bidding.

    But that truth is what she left out that night—and, as far as I can tell, every night since. In other words, the central truth of the texts isn’t that what the mob was doing was condemnable, but that Trump was responsible for the condemnable behavior. By the time the cameras went on, Laura was still willing to condemn the president’s mob, but not the president. And if you read the transcript, much of the show was dedicated to rationalizing the mob’s behavior, with various GOP congressmen changing the subject to the supposed real outrage of the stolen election. “Laura, this is bigger than the president of the United States,” Rep. Lee Zeldin explained. “This is bigger than 2020. What we saw in this administration of the 2020 presidential election, rogue state actors, state elections officials, secretaries of state, courts, they usurp state legislative authority. They decided to administer elections however they see fit. And we need to have that conversation today.”

    Yes, that was the pressing conversation we needed the day a mob chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” and bludgeoned cops with flag poles.

    Laura spent the next 11 months cleaning up the president’s mess.

    https://gfile.thedispatch.com/p/donald-trumps-megaphone

    And after quoting Goldberg, I’m off to take a shower. It’s great that he has finally come around to this side. But he has yet, to my knowledge, really address his role in helping create the conditions that allowed this to happen.

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  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    The job description of Fox hosts: Tell lies to morons for money.

    14
  4. matt bernius says:

    But they are apparently so addicted to the grift that they can’t stop play-acting even after privately texting the White House Chief of Staff to end the madness. Hannity and his co-conspirators are therefore deliberately adding fuel to the fire, with predictable consequences.

    They had some reason to be concerned about that. At the time of the riot, Fox News was losing ground to Newsmax TV because, after calling Arizona for Biden, they were perceived as not being as loyal to Trump.

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/08/media/newsmax-fox-news-ratings/index.html

    This also speaks to an issue with developing a business model around telling your audience what they want to hear and calling it “news.”

    5
  5. gVOR08 says:

    @matt bernius: There have always been elements of the media that made a living telling people what they want to hear. But I don’t think there has ever been anyone as shameless about it as Rupert Moloch. He, IMHO, is more responsible for the current state of partisanship than anyone else.

    Williamson said,

    Sean Hannity apparently believes that he has the dumbest audience in America

    How do we get the Base to see how Hannity, and Trump, and the rest of them see the Base? DeSantis is literally killing members of the Base, and they love him. Is there an emoji for shaking one’s head slowly and sadly side-to-side?

    4
  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Another aspect of this worth noting is that the riots of last year were over Racial Injustice, prompted mostly by the killing of George Floyd.
    I old enough to remember that Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested Racial Injustice. Instead of recognizing the protest for what it was, Trump mocked and lied and turned Kaepernick’s efforts into something completely unrelated to what they were. And so the gallons of ink spilled over the Kaepernick protests were, as usual, mis-directed. Imagine had all that press actually been focused on Racial Injustice?
    In addition, some of Trump’s militia (Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, 3%ers) have been found guilty of inciting violence at those riots.
    And Trump remained an animating force for the protests, and remained an oppositional force to racial equality, right thru the Rittenhouse trial and today.
    Now I’m not saying Trump bears direct responsibility for those riots. But he certainly isn’t an innocent bystander to those events.
    My point is that the “whataboutism” of those riots is not as erudite as those bandying it about think it is.
    Beyond that, I simply love this line from Williamson;

    Stealing Nikes is one thing, and stealing the presidency is another.

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @gVOR08:

    How do we get the Base to see how Hannity, and Trump, and the rest of them see the Base?

    How do you de-program a cult-member?

    3
  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Cult members are essentially the victims of a con. The reason why con men seldom get caught is because victim becomes co-conspirator. People would rather lose the contents of their bank account than admit they were fleeced. There are millions of people out there who have based their identities around Fox and their ilk. They are not going to suddenly wake up.

    People have been telling themselves Jesus was just about to re-appear and do some serious smiting. They bought that con 10 years after Christ, and 100 years, and 1000 years. How long does it take to realize you’re a sucker? Evidently longer than two millennia.

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  9. gVOR08 says:

    There is one point of similarity between the BLM protests and the 1/6 riot. Despite repeated GOP claims to the contrary, participants in both are being routinely prosecuted. The BLM prosecutions are going on quietly in various states. The 1/6 guys chose a location that made it a matter for the DOJ, FBI, and national media.

    A point of difference is that the BLM protesters expected to be prosecuted if identified as commiting violence. The 1/6 guys seem to have somehow thought they wouldn’t be. Hence the BLM guys weren’t dumb enough to take selfies of crimes. Unlike the 1/6 guys.

    Also too, there was video of Chauvin murdering Floyd. BLM was protesting something very real. The 1/6 idiots were protesting a myth.

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  10. Modulo Myself says:

    When the Access Hollywood tapes dropped, I remember thinking that maybe that was enough to sink Trump. There was just a ‘holy shit’ aspect of listening to this man talking about sexually assaulting numerous women. When the Capitol was stormed, that moment didn’t exist. I honestly can’t believe that anyone in Fox was worried. What did they think was going to happen?

    2
  11. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I think shutting down the brain and doing hard reboot should help.

    Maybe install a new operating system, too. I like Critical Thought 5.1

    1
  12. CSK says:

    @mattbernius:
    To be fair to Goldberg, he’s been opposed to Trump, as he was to Palin, from the beginning.

    4
  13. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “People have been telling themselves Jesus was just about to re-appear and do some serious smiting. They bought that con 10 years after Christ, and 100 years, and 1000 years. How long does it take to realize you’re a sucker? Evidently longer than two millennia.”

    Uh-oh. Michael just guaranteed us a Republican congress again!

    12
  14. matt bernius says:

    @CSK:
    Agreed. And he’s been consistent on that. It’s also worth noting that he was willing to put up with Fox New’s BS for quite some time and probably would still be appearing on it if 1/6 didn’t happen.

    I’m happy that he has seen the light and is speaking out about this issue. And I think he should take more responsibility for his role in helping create and legitimize (not to mention benefit from) the very right-wing media ecosystem that he’s now critiquing.

    2
  15. Blue Galangal says:

    @Michael Reynolds: There is an interesting article in the Rolling Stone on the moment of clarity for Stockton and Lawrence, the gadfly MAGA performance artists. They expected Trump to unveil real, solid evidence the election was stolen at his speech on January 6th and when he didn’t, they (finally) realized they’d been had.

    Of course, millions of others just kept believing.

    2
  16. inhumans99 says:

    @wr:
    I also did a double-take at Michael’s Jesus Christ comment, what does that have to do with anything? If has already been said by many a person (all over the net, not just this blog), that if Jesus Christ was beamed down to earth and walking amongst us, there is a high probability that if he was walking through a ritzy enclave that he would have the cops called on him or someone would sneer at him and say get a job!

    Because the odds are good that he would look like a “dirty hippie” if he walked amongst us. This would mean that the average person (not just Republicans) would have no clue that the individual that they just looked down on is actually their lord and savior made flesh by God to look like man.

    Anyway, Michael being Michael does not bother me at all.

    1
  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr:
    Well yes, with my vast following of acolytes who hang on my every word, I will define the battlefield.

    Except that the way I talk here – deliberately under my legal name not one of my public-facing pseudonyms – is not the way I talk to the general public in my responsible general public role. OTB is old political junkies discussing issues freely without fear (or hope really) of consequences. A club, if you will.

    In my job I am so even-handed in treating religion that I’ve been accused of secretly advocating for Christianity and of secretly advocating for atheism. In fact I don’t advocate secretly or openly for either, I tell stories about characters who have different beliefs, and I treat those characters equally. I present a story and I trust my readers to reach their own conclusions.

    In my most popular work there are three characters who identify as religious, and three different character arcs. A brilliant girl who is Christian and loses her faith; an abused and abusive thug who finds redemption in faith; and the single most respected character in the books who is from start to finish, quite religious. See, I’m writing for smart kids who don’t need me hammering my beliefs into their heads or loudly insisting on my own virtue.

    You Hollywood folks might consider trying that some time.

    4
  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @inhumans99:

    I also did a double-take at Michael’s Jesus Christ comment, what does that have to do with anything?

    Well, we were talking about deprogramming cult members, and I was pointing out that cults are cons and cons are self-perpetuating. See: looooong waits for promised saviors.

    2
  19. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “You Hollywood folks might consider trying that some time.”

    US Hollywood folks? My last four gigs were in Beijing, Taipei, Amsterdam and Stockholm. Pretty sure you’ve spent a lot more time on the Disney campus than I have over the last few years.

    But you might as well identify me as the problem. I mean, you can’t pin everything on some naïve freshman at Swarthmore!

    8
  20. Gustopher says:

    The sacking of the Capitol on January 6 by a gang of enraged Trump acolytes acting on the president’s complaint that the election had been stolen from him is different from other riots because of its particular political character

    BLM is absolutely political. You can make a distinction between the bulk of BLM and the most rioty parts of BLM — and that’s a good distinction to make — but even there, along people just smacking things because they can, you have some very political rioting in Seattle and Portland (not sure about other spots, this is just where my focus was).

    In Portland, night after night, protesters were deliberately triggering police brutality once it became clear that’s how the police would respond. (I was very amused by the leaf blowers that blew tear gas back at the cops).

    And in Seattle, the police withdrew, and protesters took over a neighborhood for a month. (It was basically a weeks long block party)

    It’s not the political nature that separates them, it’s the cause (a lie on 1/6, vs very real deaths) and the simple fact that 1/6 was encouraged by the President, and then embraced (at least retroactively) by basically his entire party.

    3
  21. just nutha says:

    “Sean Hannity apparently believes that he has the dumbest audience in America.”

    Sean Hannity may be right about that.

    2
  22. just nutha says:

    @wr: True, but you’re forgetting that unlike you, I can see those filthy-lucre stained hands through my computer screen, the Blessed Michael has never succumbed to the blandishments of Hollyweird. The fact that the resistance stems from not being able to get the levels of control or compensation, IIRC, is simple happenstance. He would have remained pure and unstained even if he’d prevailed.

    So it is written.

    2
  23. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Just a note that, as more and more information about Republican efforts to install an un-elected dictator come to light, today is the anniversary of The Boston Tea Party…a major milestone in our nations war to rid ourselves of an un-elected dictator.

    1
  24. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Also, oddly enough, the beginning of The Battle of the Bulge…an offensive by the Axis Powers that lasted over a month, and was a turning point in WW2. After being defeated in this effort Germany was in retreat for the rest of the war.

  25. dazedandconfused says:

    @gVOR08:
    Rupert handed effective control of FOX News to his son Lachlan some time ago. Lachlan is reputed to hold views further to the right of his father, and his ego is tied to the net-profit line to an even greater degree. If anything, Lachlan is more ruthless.

  26. Ken_L says:

    It’s not correct that “most of them instinctively understood that the game had gone too far”. Most of them believed that the game had gone too far. They were wrong. Trump instinctively understood that “the game” had gone pretty well, albeit not quite far enough. Subsequent events have proved him right. He’ll go to the ’24 election with a huge tailwind of passionate support grounded in fury about the ‘stolen election’, outrage about the January 6 ‘political prisoners’, and the desire to avenge the heroic martyr Ashli Babbitt.

    So many Americans look at the right-wing seizure of power taking place before their eyes in real time, and think “Nah, that couldn’t happen in America”.