A Tale of Two Entrances… and Exits

StormingTheCapitol-TheMegaphoneAndTheFurHat-010621

The problem with striving to maintain a considered, reasonable, and truthful worldview is that major developments require painstaking work to incorporate into one’s observations, filter through one’s beliefs, and apply to one’s plans for moving forward.  At the same time, the propaganda floats down from all sides insisting that one must see events a certain way, and now.

Perhaps it’s counterproductive or perhaps it’s helpful, but at such times, I find myself unable to stop clicking around social media and the Internet.  This can be counterproductive in that it is a minefield of useless distractions and fruitless interactions.  It can be helpful in that it bombards the wanderer with many different opinions, which are typically either (1) obvious talking points or (2) not yet filtered, thus lightening the requirement for an additional layer of analysis concerning the editorial process thoughts underwent as they become words.

Quite clearly, last Wednesday is a tale of two entrances.  To some millions of Americans, the Storming of the Capitol looked like this — that is, like spectators being permitted into a concert or sporting event:

And to some millions of Americans, it looked like this* — that is, a civilian government building being invaded by force:

So, which is the more-accurate picture?  Both and neither.  Not only is it absolutely true that many people who attended the Stop the Steal rally went nowhere near the Capitol, but it is entirely possible that many who went so far as to enter the building had no idea what was going on elsewhere around it.  One can make similar points about causation.  Yes, President Trump spoke of marching to the Capitol (although it’s clear from the transcript that this was a call for peaceful demonstration to give his legislative supporters the backbone to go forward as he thought they should).  And yes, Democrats and the media contributed to this environment with explicit support and excuse-making for left-wing rioters, along with violent fantasies targeting the President and condescending rhetoric dismissing his supporters, all followed with contemptuous dismissal of concerns about the security of the election.

These are the true and complicated realities that we have a responsibility to digest.

 

What Happened?

To decide for ourselves what actually happened, and how these events ought to be characterized, we have to look past the rhetoric.  The entire news media has quickly flipped from a reluctance to call even the most violent, destructive riots anything more than “mostly peaceful” to the first-line-in-the-story assertion that Wednesday was “a violent insurrection by pro-Trump activists,” or some variation of those words.  Instead, go through original source material and judge it for yourself.

Watch, for instance, this lengthy video from an Infowars reporter, which begins around the time part of the crowd initially pushed through an exterior barrier, from a perspective farther back in the crowd, where nobody knew what was going on at the front.  The video follows the reporter’s journey all the way into the building until he witnesses the moment of Ashli Babbitt’s killing.  His commentary captures the change of tone.  As he gets closer to the building, he moves from an obviously peaceful protest, through a zone where people are somewhat amused at the appearance of tear-gas canisters in their midst, into an early wave of those pushing toward the building, who clearly see it as a move to “take back the People’s house.”  That they mainly file through one door and leave a group of police officers unmolested suggests that, for most in this group, the rhetoric was symbolic — “taking it back” meaning walking into the building and making sure their voice has been heard.

Outside, as evidenced by some of the comments from protesters who’ve lost their jobs because online cancel mobs identified them from videos, another wave of protesters moved forward with no idea what had happened or what was happening inside.  They were able to walk easily up to the building, and some left after doing so, while others continued on.

Inside, the impression of this particular video is more of a crowd going with the flow than a battle-by-battle infiltration. At one key point, when the crowd broke through a line of police, the videographer is right at the front and starts shouting, “I’m being pushed! I’m being pushed!,” suggesting that the crowd just swelled to the point at which nobody could stop it. Then people were wandering around, not really knowing what to do. When they came to the fateful entryway, it took just a couple of people to break the glass (more on this in a moment). You can see Ashli Babbitt shouting, and then a moment later, she pulls herself up into the window, and that’s it.

Because he was closer to begin with, video from John Sullivan (who has been identified as a BLM activist) comes closer to showing the “battle-by-battle infiltration,” although it’s much more a matter of pressure than fistfights.  The police find they cannot stop the crowd, so they fall back.  Several times, one can see that the word has been given to abandon a barrier.  Note, here, that this was not the Storming of the Bastille; police and others were not chased down.  Artwork was not torn off the walls.  Statues were not toppled.  (Indeed, from time to time, one hears the demonstrators telling each other not to do those things.)

At one lengthy standoff, about fifty feet from one of the actual chambers, the people at the front of the crowd stop and speak with the dozen of so officers holding that line in a conversation somewhere between a negotiation and a frank warning that the pressure of the crowd is just going to be too much to stop.  This is a key moment, so let’s focus in on it.  At about 55:33 in the video, Sullivan comes to the discussion underway.  It appears that this leading edge of the crowd and the police are having a discussion of how best to handle this situation (obviously, their preferred outcomes appear to differ some).

Seven minutes later, one of the demonstrators calls out with a megaphone, “We have permission to go into this room, but we have to be respectful, and there can’t be any violence.”  “Everybody needs to calm down.”  “We can go in this room if we are calm and if we commit there’s no violence.”  He asks, “Is everybody in agreement with this?”  It looks like the answer is, “yes,” at least among those nearby, but then something happens.

About a minute earlier, a young man with a fur-lined hat had strolled in from behind the police officers, shouting, “Heeeeeyyyyyy,” appearing crazy, on drugs, or perhaps playing a character.  With the question about agreement, he starts shouting at the police, turning to the crowd and screaming.  Demonstrators try to usher him more deeply into the crowd to stifle his effect, but he starts to fight back.  One of the demonstrators who had been helping to set the calmer tone walks over with a worried look on his face.  Then comes the massive thrust of people through the police.

Fast-forward to the fateful entryway where Ashlie Babbitt lost her life.  The embedded video on this page (at about 0:12) shows this same fur-hatted guy single-handedly breaking the windows on the doors with his fists over the shoulders of the police officers.  The viewer hears others shouting at him to “chill out.” The video cuts out and moves to John Sullivan’s coverage of the incident, with somebody saying “they’re leaving,” meaning the police.  As soon as the officers move out of the way, a handful of the crowd, led by the fur-hat guy, begin pounding on the door, despite shouts from those around him about a gun.**

Note, by the way, that as the officers had moved away, somebody apparently handed him a crash helmet and what looks to be a MAGA cap.  He takes off his fur hat (perhaps intending to put on the MAGA one for the pictures) and uses the crash helmet to bludgeon the doors, also smashing out the window through which Ashli Babbitt soon climbs. He’s right there behind her, when she falls, and he makes his escape down some stairs that tactical officers had just come up and the departing officers had gone down.

 

Counterfactuals and the Man with the Megaphone

We should keep at the front of our minds that this is only the story of one journey through the Capitol, and this one man was obviously not the only violent or destructive person on the property, but his influence illustrates how crowds can diverge from one reality to another.  The moment of calm negotiation and agreement suggests that things could have gone very differently.  It’s too easy to criticize decisions after the fact, but had the Capitol not been completely closed to the public and had there been some prescribed process and route demonstrators could have taken to be assured that legislators heard their actual voices, the violent elements would have been more easily isolated and controlled.  The tone of the entire incident might have been one of orderly protest.

That’s especially true, given the protest standards of our times.  The extra-legal rules for protests that the government and media have established over the past year have been that wrestling with police over barricades is not, technically, violent, that occupying public buildings is “what democracy looks like,” and that vandalizing public property is a (sometimes lamentable) expression of grievance from crowds that are “mostly peaceful.”  When people are arrested, celebrities bail them out of jail.  Judges let them go.  High-profile politicians rhapsodize about the voice of the people.  COVID takes a holiday.

The Storming of the Capitol didn’t occur in a cultural vacuum, and the question of which path to take is still very much on the table.  We’re standing at the entrance to a hallway, and on one side, a person with a megaphone is telling us we can move forward if we stay calm and respectful.  On the other side, a wild-eyed person is ranting and sowing chaos.  Which do we follow?

I’ll put myself on the line and be honest:  I don’t think Joseph Biden was legitimately elected to the presidency.  I think the next two years, at least, are going to be a time of disaster and peril, during which those on the Left will attempt to ensure that they can never be surprised again and hard-code their rule and their terrible policies into American law.

If you disagree with my confession, you can call me crazy, try to silence and shun me, go after my livelihood, blacklist me, and more.  Or you can try to understand why I come to that conclusion and offer contrary evidence.  You may not convince me, but we’ll each have a better understanding of the other side and perhaps a more nuanced view of our own, and if you do convince me, then I’ll have more credibility than you as I try to persuade others who have yet to be convinced.

That is the path of agreement to remain calm, and I fear powerful voices have already chosen a different path — did so almost instantly, perhaps in advance.  For a year, we’ve been instructed to focus on the grievances of rioters and protesters rather than the damage and violence they were perpetrating.  Last Wednesday, by contrast, I saw relatively mainstream Democrats calling for conservative protesters to be shot.  One national conservative commentator called for them to be jailed in numbers so large that new prisons would have to be built.

In short, there isn’t even a hint of considering their grievances.  The current standard bearer for the Democrat Party, Joe Biden, has insisted that we not even “dare call them protesters.” Congressional Democrats, including Rhode Island’s own David Cicilline, are charging forward with plans to impeach a President who has already said he’ll be peacefully leaving office at the end of his term in a matter of days.  The tech giants have exerted their massive power to shut down an alternative platform and ensure that we deplorables have nowhere to go to express ourselves as efficiently as social media.

This is sure to be a calamitous approach.  In a factional situation, one faction does not reconsider its beliefs when the other simply dismisses or attempts to crush it.  Rather, its members conclude that they cannot get a fair hearing.  That they are unrepresented.  That they have no choice but to go underground and to escalate.

Ultimately, when it comes down to fists in an ally, one person’s political office, social class, and institutional power mean nothing at all.  You’d think the Storming of the Capitol would have provided opportunity for that lesson, but apparently not, or perhaps like the fur-hatted rioter there’s something else there — whether lunacy, drugs, or dark schemes perhaps we’ll soon learn.

 

* Note that this video is labeled as the moment officer Brian Sicknick was beaten, ultimately to death.  Others have suggested that the fatal incident was actually this one, which accords with early reports that a fire hydrant was involved.
** One wonders if the shooter took these shouts to mean that somebody breaking through the doors had a gun.



  • Mario

    I appreciate the long look through the evidence, although I don’t personally find it very difficult to incorporate new events into my understanding of the world. This particular event didn’t take me by surprise, for instance.

    I don’t have a doubt that some number of the invaders were simply caught up in the moment, but I wholeheartedly reject the idea that they didn’t realize it was wrong. I also don’t have a hard time believing that they had some help from the inside (although I don’t think that’s what the first link shows).

    • Justin Katz

      You raise multiple points, and we’re in disagreement on pretty much all of them. The one I’d like to focus on (at least to start) is your notion that the activities of even just the “swept up” demonstrators were uniquely bad and must have originated with President Trump.

      Everything you mention has been a staple of left-wing activism since before I was born and amplified many times over in the past four years. Revolutionary talk? Check. “People are ready to die”? Check. (In fact a couple months before the election one of my friends told me her one left-wing, anti-Trump son had used exactly that language.) Intimidation? Check. Vandalism of federal buildings and other public property? Check. Fatal attacks on police? Check.

      This incident was much more mild, by an order of magnitude, than the protests we’ve all watched for months. In fact, unlike with left-wing protesters, no elected officials were actually harmed.

      That is the image these protesters (most probably doing this sort of thing for the first time) had in their minds as how it’s supposed to be done.

      And still, I maintain that there’s a plausible alternate reality in which a prepared security force, in cooperation with key organizers and the President, permitted protesters to enter the building, get within earshot of the chambers and do some chanting, then cycle out, would have gone without major incident. The true malefactors would have been more easily identified and excluded.

      • Mario

        There have been riots of some sort in all of human history. I’d argue this one was only smaller than other recent ones because the cause is a lot less popular, but the goal of this one wasn’t general mayhem or a redress of grievances, it was to overturn the constitutional order (and effectively install a dictator, but that’s a little more speculative I guess). I don’t expect you to agree that my description of it is valid (even as a bipartisan group is assembling to rebuke the President on exactly that basis), but can you at least agree that if my description were accurate, it would represent a much greater problem for the country than anything the left has tried to do?

        And even if it were a good idea to have someone in an official capacity bringing protestors into a Congressional meeting to chant and disrupt, and it absolutely is not, there is no scenario on Earth where that official is the President. He has no business being in the Capitol building at all without an invitation, let alone letting protestors inside. What you are describing is a massive violation of separation of powers.

        • Justin Katz

          Strange that you go with “smaller.” I really don’t think this demonstration, all included, had fewer participants than any of the left-wing demonstrations/riots over the past four years, certainly not all of them. It was more mild in duration and amount of damage. That doesn’t mean it was less popular; it means participants were, on the whole, better behaved.

          And it wasn’t to overturn “the constitutional order.” I’ve seen reasonable arguments that there was a legal path for Congress to reject electors. I’ve seen too many examples in federal, state, and local politics where everybody had thought something was pro-forma until the Democrats or progressives treated it otherwise and went ahead and ignored the pro-forma result. Beyond that, since we’re talking about intent and “ifs,” the objective was to restore the constitutional order among people who (correctly, in my view) believe various swing-state activities around the election were unconstitutional.

          And even by your own terms, at least some of the riots of the last four years had as their intent to force out the duly elected President of the United States, often based on outrageous and disproven claims about the 2016 election. So, if we’re granting validity arguendo, the left-wing protesters still set the standard that the Stop the Steal rally followed.

          As to your last paragraph, perhaps clarification of what I meant will suffice. I wasn’t saying that the President should have led the demonstrators into the building. I was saying that there could have been a coordinated approach with the President, such that he and the organizers within his campaign would have worked with security to discuss boundaries and inform the demonstrators about them.

          What I’m describing is cooperation between branches that acknowledges the balance of irreconcilable worldviews and finds a way to allow people to feel heard without creating a hostile situation. “This is what democracy looks like.”

          • Portia

            Outrageous and disproven claims? You mean like the ones about Obama’s being born in Kenya, and therefore not eligible to be President?

          • Rhett Hardwick

            Let us not forget that was also tried on John McCain because he was born in Panama City (his father being stationed in the Zone)

          • Mario

            “I’ve seen reasonable arguments that there was a legal path for Congress to reject electors.”

            No, you haven’t. That you think they are reasonable is part of the problem. Pence didn’t see it, McConnell didn’t see it… if you had to rank every person in politics on a scale of reason, how deep would you have to go to find the first person advocating any part of this plan? Who is the most respectable person who is willing to stand up and back any of this? Gym Jordan, maybe? How does that not induce a little doubt?

            “[T]he objective was to restore the constitutional order among
            people who (correctly, in my view) believe various swing-state
            activities around the election were unconstitutional.”

            You don’t do that by “taking” the Capitol. That isn’t the job of a mob, and I don’t feel like that’s something a conservative should need to hear. You have a responsibility to use legal means to achieve your goals. And the responsible politicians did, excessively so, in what I believe was a foolish effort to appease these people. All of the legal avenues were not just exhausted but worn down to bedrock. I don’t have a concluding sentence.

          • Justin Katz

            You’re shifting the terms of the discussion.

            I said a reasonable argument could be made that there was a legal path under the Constitution to accomplish Trump’s goal. Obviously, there was no politically feasible path, but the Constitutional order is by definition the legal playing field in which politics play out. The intention to show political support for a politically unlikely outcome within the legal bounds of the Constitution is not undermining the Constitutional order. It’s only undermining political comfort zones.

            Regarding your second point, you brought us to this point by focusing on the goals of the groups, not their approach. Now, you’re going back to criticizing approach. I merely refer you back to the approach of the left-wing mobs to pursue their objectives.

          • Mario

            It is an insult to the more rational members of the Republican party to assume that they only acted the way they did because they thought it was politically infeasible to do otherwise rather than that the Constitution demands it. Some people really do act on principle, and I think it’s kind of crazy to say that they would take on the hate, death threats, and potential political retribution from their own side out of a political calculus. Governor Kemp’s actions, to take one, don’t make sense except out of principle.

            On the second point, you chose to defend the goals. I think neither the goals nor the actions were justifiable. The lawlessness of the actions, in fact, flows inexorably from the malignancy of the beliefs that inspired them. I could understand if you wanted to hold onto the lie that inspired it, but doing that and trying to justify what they did as a result seems to leave you in the position of simply supporting a violent overthrow of the government (all over Joe Biden, which has to be the most absurd part).

            And your “but the left” dodge has to be the weakest point here. Beyond being a simple attempt to distract from, I guess, supporting terrorism, what is the point supposed to be? If you think the left is wrong for their mob actions (I would dispute whether those were truly in pursuit of an objective, but not now) then you should also think the right is wrong. If you think the right is, um, right, than you should ignore the left riots. If you want to condemn one and excuse the other, then you have fallen into your own hypocrisy trap and left me unscathed.

          • Justin Katz

            First paragraph: Do you really think this simply and categorically? Very few decisions, especially for career politicians, are Boolean. There’s always a percentage that this is right or that is right. There’s always the question of the wrath of Trump’s base versus the equal wrath of the Left, including being tarred by the news media and the history-drafting academics. The more difficult something is politically, the more principle would be required to do it, and the less is required to avoid it, and politics inevitably requires compromising principles to some degree; the question is how benign a degree.

            Second and third paragraphs: I haven’t defended the goals; I’m trying to understand the full context. Refer back to my response to your comment: “The [disagreement] I’d like to focus on (at least to start) is your notion that the activities of even just the ‘swept up’ demonstrators were uniquely bad and must have originated with President Trump.” You’re the one bringing up goals and intentions as a way to condemn the right and excuse the left.

            I love your last sentence, because you perfectly describe the position you’ve fallen into, here, as you attempt to “condemn one and excuse the other,” which is what you’re doing by insisting on finding something uniquely bad in even the mild Capitol demonstrators.

          • Mario

            “Uniquely bad” is your phrase. I’m having trouble seeing where you grant that it is bad at all.

  • Lou

    11,000+ words might be helpful to you to try and rationalize and justify your role in MAGA terrorism therapeutically, but playing what if games is ultimately a futile exercise in avoiding responsibility and accountability. You aren’t going to gaslight anyone here that doesn’t want to be. We all saw and know what happened.

    Shouldn’t a “policy” person be looking ahead instead of trying spin the past?

    • Portia

      The problem, Lou, is that Justin is going to willfully ignore an insurrection. Any wrongdoing will ultimately be the left’s fault, somehow. His post makes that exquisitely clear.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      Please, look at the “legislative history”, the 14th Amendment was clearly an attempt to prevent “Confederates” from gaining power by the electoral process.

      • Lou

        Well, that may be appropriate then. If I’m not mistaken, there were numerous Confederal flags being proudly displayed during the failed coup last Wednesday.

        • Rhett Hardwick

          Displaying the Battle Flag, does not make one a “Confederate”.

          • Lou

            Hmmmmm….what does it signify to you?

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I am in agreement with Justin in most of the matters discussed here. But, I have random thoughts. throughout this election, the networks should have rebroadcast “House of Cards” to keep us reminded of how “politics is played”. I think it might have been to advantage if the “news” spent more time pointing out to the Americans that our Founding Fathers were well aware they were creating a republic. Consequently, the Constitution leaves almost all matters of who can vote, how they vote, and most such matters to the states. For evidence, note that it required constitutional amendments to secure woman suffrage and voting rights for blacks. I am not sure what effect on this a protest in Washington could have.

    In discussions of the “protestor’s” behavior, it does occur to me that most Trump supporters I know are quite respectful of the property of others. Consequently, I am not surprised at the limited amount of destruction. I am reminded of the Tea Party gatherings where they brought garbage bags and cleaned up after themselves.

    Finally, when observing protests, it must be kept in mind that approximately 5% of the population is sociopaths. The unexpected and insensible will happen. I’m going to feed the dog now.

    • Lou

      Good points. The problem becomes more pronounced when one of the sociopaths occupies the White House and is enabled and embolden by the full support of a major political party.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I have to add that the impeachment of Mr. Trump for inciting riot strikes me as simply a chance to “get your licks in” before it is too late. Could it be
    “playing politics”? Today, Mr. Biden announced that he would “take on” and destroy the NRA. Can’t this be seen as fanning the flames? In the videos of the protests, I did not see a single “assault weapon”.

    • Lou

      If you accept both situations are “playing politics”, you still need to acknowledge there is a difference between criminal activity vs. rhetoric. They are not equivalent.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        Re: “Insurrection” & “Playing Politics”. Democrats portrayed it as on par with the Night of the Long Knives. And then they voted to re-impeach Trump, despite the fact there were no witnesses, no presidential legal representation, and no factual evidence presented. In short, they impeached him without trial, just because they wished to, and could.

        It is beyond question that the incoming administration will spare no effort to blame all failures on a situation created by Trump. So, “politically speaking” it is now important to sever all ties with him.

        • Lou

          You’re mixing up your branches of Congress and rolling out your talking points prematurely. The opportunity for witnesses, representation and evidence comes next in the Senate trial. For “constitutionalists” a lot of you folks are tripping over yourselves and getting confused trying to defend this traitor. You should remember from his first impeachment that “a majority of 51 senators (all Republicans) voted against allowing subpoenas to call witnesses or documents.”

          “spare no effort to blame all failures on a situation created by Trump”…you mean like we still see from you folks and Obama. You folks don’t have very long memories, do you?

          • Rhett Hardwick

            “The opportunity for witnesses, representation and evidence comes next in the Senate trial.” You are correct of course, but there is no rule that they cannot be introduced in the House. Proceeding without them colors the proceedings as merely “political”. It is a form of indictment, as they say, “A DA can indict a ham sandwich”.

          • Lou

            I do not recall a request to present that information. Was one made?

          • Rhett Hardwick

            Not that I know of; and what does that tell you? One might expect it was not desired.

          • Lou

            I believe you are mistaken. At what point in the House process would you introduce witnesses, representation and evidence? If you were falsely accused, wouldn’t you ask for that opportunity?

    • Portia

      Nice try, Rhett. But even Fascist Pravda doesn’t back up your claim. Biden said he would “defeat” the NRA. He made that remark in the context of discussing legislation aimed at reasonable gun control, like limits on assault rifles. The insurrection didn’t come up at all, BTW.

      https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2021/jan/11/joe-biden-promises-to-defeat-the-nra/

      https://www.newsmax.com/politics/nra-gabby-giffords-lobbyist-second-amendment/2021/01/10/id/1005017/

      • Rhett Hardwick

        First, if you establish as a goal the wish to “defeat” the NRA, you have to accept the NRA as a force for evil. Many do not. The assault rifle has become a shibboleth. Among criminals, they are seldom seen. For myself, I prefer walnut and blued steel; if someone else prefers a “black rifle”, what do I care. I assume you do not subscribe to the “Rifleman”. Can you remember when Abercrombie & Fitch was a gun store?

        • Portia

          You misrepresented what was said. Waxing reminiscent doesn’t change that.

          Also, when exactly did it become evil to want one’s legislative efforts to come to fruition? There’s a difference between wanting to defeat another party at the legislature, and destroying that party.

          • Rhett Hardwick

            “Also, when exactly did it become evil to want one’s legislative efforts to come to fruition?”

            Do you mean an unconstitutional ban on weapons, or simply silencing an advocacy group? I regard the NRA as an advocate for my interests, of course I object. All the more so since it has been made symbolic of evil. Hoplophobia isn’t it? (fear of guns)

          • Portia

            There you go again with the hysteria. Nobody is looking to ban guns or silence the NRA. All that is being sought are reasonable controls.

    • Christopher C. Reed

      Politics is all about revenge, and the Trumpenproletariat must be now punished for their temerity. Defeat the NRA? Good luck with that. “No, no don’t throw me in the briar patch, Brer Biden!” If there’s one expectation they can be relied on to meet and exceed, it’s to overplay their hand. So they want to waste political capital on symbolic measures for the first two years? Fine — get out of the way and enjoy the show. Substantive legislation? Fuggedaboutit — there’s no funding.

  • Lou

    Is it really surprising that these terrorists had people in their lives who were so eager to turn them in to the FBI?