So far, our list of those responsible for the January 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol includes Donald Trump, his staff and advisors, the Capitol Police and other authorities, and the rioters themselves. Before we return to those who share responsibility for the riot, there are some who have been widely accused of triggering it who did not.
Prime among the them are the Republican Senators and Representatives who had stated that they would vote against certification. This was not the first time that members of Congress had opposed certification of a Presidential election; notably, Democratic members of Congress did so after both the 2000 and 2004 elections. In both cases, as with Republicans in 2021, the stance represented a symbolic objection to aspects of the election that the members felt were problematic and needed to be addressed. No riots were triggered when the Democrats engaged in the move, and there was no reason for Republicans to hesitate to do the same. Nor is there any reason to believe that the yo-yos who rushed the Capitol would not have done so absent the announcements of the 150 GOP members who said they would withhold their approval. As with much of the over-heated accusations against Trump, the claim that the objections of the GOP Senators and House members fueled an “insurrection” is a deliberate distortion by Democrats and the left-biased media as a political strategy
Another group being fingered in the concerted effort to use the riot to further several partisan agendas, the primary one being to somehow allow Democrats to hold power, is that opinion-wielding pundits, blogger and podcasters pushed a “big lie” that the election results were fraudulent, inflaming pro-Trump fanatics. A Times piece pushing this position began by stating,
Weeks before the 2020 presidential election, the conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck outlined his prediction for how Election Day would unfold: President Donald J. Trump would be winning that night, but his lead would erode as dubious mail-in ballots arrived, giving Joseph R. Biden Jr. an unlikely edge.
“No one will believe the outcome because they’ve changed the way we’re electing a president this time,” he said.
None of the predictions of widespread voter fraud came true. But podcasters frequently advanced the false belief that the election was illegitimate, first as a trickle before the election and then as a tsunami in the weeks leading up to the violent attack at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to new research.
Wait a minute: Beck was exactly right! Mail-in ballots were dubious, and remain so. Nobody knows, still, how much voter fraud there was, only that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate it. And the opinion that the election was “illegitimate” is exactly that: an opinion, and one that many predicted would be rampant if the fearmongering over the pandemic prompted legislatures and governors to allow a voting method that did not have and could not have the integrity of in-person voting.
The study the Times piece was based on “analyzed nearly 1,500 episodes, showing the extent to which podcasts pushed misinformation about voter fraud.” The definition of “misinformation” the study employed was that of the self-identified liberal think-tank, The Bookings Institute, which is on the mailing list of Democratic Party mouthpieces just like the Times is. The remedy for this proliferation of “misinformation,” according to Brookings and the Times? Can’t you guess?
The new research underscores the extent to which podcasts have spread misinformation using platforms operated by Apple, Google, Spotify and others, often with little content moderation. While social media companies have been widely criticized for their role in spreading misinformation about the election and Covid-19 vaccines, they have cracked down on both in the last year. Podcasts and the companies distributing them have been spared similar scrutiny, researchers say, in large part because podcasts are harder to analyze and review.
Translation: They are harder to censor. There were, and are, plenty of legitimate reasons to doubt the integrity of the 2020 election. Meanwhile, genuine misinformation and lies regarding President Trump were spread by the Times and others during his entire administration, notably the Russian collusion smear. That process really did help seed the January 6 riot. The solution there would be a responsible, trustworthy, non-partisan media.
Now back to the culprits:
Trump’s legal team was almost uniformly incompetent and unethical, the latter especially focused on making extravagant public claims of what they could prove in court when they had mostly rumor, speculation, assumptions and guesses. Sidney Powell’s “Kraken” promise would have been great PR if she could have backed it up; now it is a stain on the profession that I’m talking about in legal ethics seminars.
Rudy Giuliani, however, was even worse than Powell. He was a respected and successful prosecutor, and there were good reasons for the public, and especially Trump supporters, to trust his words and judgment. In his public statements, he claimed that there was substantial evidence of widespread ballot-counting fraud; in court, he made so such claims.
When all of the Trump team’s court challenges failed, mostly on procedural grounds, the irresponsible rhetoric by the lawyers led to a conclusion by Trump supporters who know nothing about the law (like the vast majority of Americans) that the courts were allies in the Democratic Party’s election theft plot. Giuliani, Lin Wood and Powell are facing disciplinary action; I’m not sure that will or should stick, but there is no question that their unethical and reckless conduct helped fuel the outrage that ended up in the Capitol.
Those companies and others who intimidated better lawyers and law firms not to represent Trump in his challenges.
This is one of the scarier problems implied by the list, and one that the legal profession is doing little to address. The legal system will not work, nor will the Constitution, if corporate clients and the news media virtually extort lawyers into refusing unpopular clients and causes. This is where the tension between the business of law and the profession of law becomes most perilous.
It would help a great deal if more firms would demonstrate courage rather than default to greed.
The Axis of Unethical Conduct (“the resistance”/ Democratic Party/ mainstream media)
These were the authors of what is tagged here as the “2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck,” the ongoing effort, begun even before Trump was inaugurated, to deny the legitimacy of his election, poison the well of public good will that is essential to the proper functioning of his office, force a negative framing of virtually his every act, policy or utterance regardless of merit, and to collaborate on one scheme after another to remove him from office while employing a list of Big Lies to do it.
As part of that effort, those who voted for Trump or supported him were marked, explicitly or implicitly, as racists, xenophobes, cultists and idiots. The bias was exemplified by the unjust mass vilification of teenager Nick Sandmann as punishment for wearing a MAGA cap.
After four years of being insulted, vilified, and seeing the President of the United States they elected systematically prevented from having the same opportunity to lead as every other Chief Executive in history, many Trump supporters felt that they were being treated as second class citizens. The four years of escalating rage was a major reason why the protest turned into a riot.
Let me interrupt again with another “not guilty” call. In its “Trump Isn’t the Only One To Blame” screed, the Times states that American “institutions also helped produce that violent outburst by building a sense of entitlement to power within America’s conservative minority.” No, what produced that violent outburst in part was legitimate anger that the “Axis” was determined to deny a non-conforming segment of the population the basic respect and deference the Constitution and our national values have traditionally accorded to active participants in national political discourse, particularly when they prevail in elections. The rioting was wrong, but the anger that produced the rioting was justified.
Back to blame…
The news media.
Yes, it warrants a second mention. As has been exhaustively chronicled, the news media was pledged to bring Trump’s administration to an end, after being openly working to defeat him in 2016, an effort low-lighted by the New York Times’ announcement mid-campaign that it felt obligated to drop any pretense of objectivity and work openly to slant its coverage to elect Hillary Clinton. The media barely covered Joe Biden’s alleged sexual assault and harassment of a Senate staffer; the Times waited weeks to even report it. Similarly, the MSM followed the lie that the incriminating Hunter Biden laptop was “Russian disinformation,” though it exhaustively fulminated over a false report that Trump had ignored Russian bounties allegedly paid to Taliban soldiers who killed U.S. soldiers. When the pandemic struck, the news media engaged in daily fear-mongering, working hard to support Joe Biden’s despicable claim that Trump was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.
The media made sure, in short, that the election was rigged. Trump may well have lost anyway, but it was still rigged, and quite deliberately. The rioters believed that the democracy was being taken from them, and from the nation as well. They were given good reason to believe that.
Finally, an inadequately noted cause of the January 6 riots was..
The society-wide pandering to the summer long Black Lives Matter rioting, as well as tolerance and even support of the woke statue-toppling fad
Of course, anyone who had paid attention over the last five years and more should have known that different standards are applied to black tantrums and white tantrums, and woke tantrums in contrast to conservative tantrums. Still, local governments allowed crimes to be committed in the name of “social justice” with very little legal consequence, all while most of the news media and leaders in the Democratic party cheered about a “reckoning.” Suddenly, it appeared that rioting had become an acceptable method of expressing grievances and speaking justice to power. When those in power and in positions of prestige irresponsibly refuse to uphold social norms, those norms will start to crumble. Vandals pulled down statues, and were allowed to go free.
Is destroying a monument to Thomas Jefferson as much of an attack on America as raiding the Capitol? Not quite, but those who encouraged one were also paving the rationalizations to the other.