Capitol Riot Responsibility Ethics

On  December 12, the Senate unanimously passed a measure to remove authority for calling out the National Guard from politicians like Nancy Pelosi, handing the authority over to the Capitol Police. Naturally, this was virtually ignored by the news media, but the reason for the move was clear.

Despite dire predictions by federal authorities before January 6, 2021, the authorities responsible for  calling out the Guard, Speaker Pelosi  and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, were more concerned with partisan optics than security. Bowser had opposed President Trump regarding National Guard presence during the BLM riots in the past and wasn’t going to create a marshal law-like atmosphere on her watch.  in D.C.  She decided the Guard should be unarmed on the 6th and relegated to traffic control.

Good call there, Mayor.

Pelosi, meanwhile “was heavily involved in planning and decision-making before and during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and micromanaged the Sergeant at Arms,” according to texts and other communications that were revealed after the rioting. While the report of the partisan and Trump-deranged House January 6 Star Chamber completely ignored Pelosi’s role in allowing the debacle to occur, the Pelosi team’s negligence was exposed in an investigative report by the House Republicans Pelosi removed from the “J6 Committee” so there would be no distraction from the mission, which was vilify Donald Trump ahead of the 2022 mid-term elections. The exiles were Jim Banks (R-IN), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) and Troy Nehls (R-TX). The final intelligence threat assessment issued three days before the riot warned of a violent scenario in which “Congress itself” could be attacked by armed Trump supporters, but the warning was buried at the end of a 15-page document and was not included in the introductory summary.  Then the the warning was omitted in three subsequent daily intelligence reports.

Shades of Pearl Harbor!

The GOP investigation showed that House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, who answered to Pelosi as one of three voting members of the Capitol Police Board, “succumbed to political pressures from the Office of Speaker Pelosi and House Democrat leadership.” He was compromised by politics and did not adequately prepare for violence at the Capitol. Pelosi’s repeated claims that she had “no power over the Capitol Police” are, the report concluded, nonsense.“This is false,” says the report. “Documents provided by [current] House Sergeant at Arms show how then-House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving carried out his duties in clear deference to the Speaker, her staff, and other Democratic staff . . .House Rules dictate . . . that the Sergeant at Arms is to report directly to the Speaker of the House.” 

The House and Senate sergeant at arms and Capitol Police Chief Sund fell on their swords and  resigned  after the debacle, which could have been prevented, the report concludes, if Pelosi had done her job.

Another culprit sharing responsibility is the assistant director of the USCP intelligence division, Julie Farnam, a newcomer to the Capitol Police who had joined Department of Homeland Security less than three months before the riot.  Analysts told the shadow J6 Committee of GOP exiles that the section became ‘nonfunctional’ immediately upon Farnam’s arrival as she tried to consolidate power for herself to the detriment of the safety and security of the Capitol. “Information about planned protests and threats of violence were siloed and not properly analyzed and disseminated during this key period because of Farnam’s misplaced priorities.”

One analyst told the Republicans that “at the time of January 6, we were not doing proactive searches of social media like we had been before. We were strictly reactive [and] were not fully informed about the severity of the threats against the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021”. 

Over at PJ Media, Victoria Taft concludes from this that “Nancy Pelosi had more to do with the U.S. Capitol breach on January 6, 2021, than anything President Trump did that day. Indeed, Nancy Pelosi could be crowned Queen of the Mob, since her actions led to the crashing of the perimeter fences, general dysfunction, and deaths of Trump supporters that day….If she’d done her job, there would have been no riot, no deaths of Trump supporters, no show trials, and no political prisoners sitting in solitary confinement in a D.C. gulag for two years awaiting trial. And there would have been no need for federal agents to “orchestrate” a riot.”

Such a shifting of responsibility is ethically wrong. It is the equivalent of saying that because homeowners left their door unlocked, they are responsible for a burglary. The rioters are wholly responsible for the rioting and violence, as well as its aftermath. President Trump must accept material blame for empowering what should have been recognized as an unstable mob.

However, the incompetence of Bowser, Pelosi and Farnam must be examined and highlighted in any legitimate analysis of the event and how to avid similar unrest in the future. The fact that the J6 Committee ignored that aspect of riots tells us all we need to know about the true objective of that rigged inquiry.

21 thoughts on “Capitol Riot Responsibility Ethics

  1. Ethics Alarms is my primary source of news; I love being able to count on nuanced analysis in what I read here.

    I am wondering why the Speaker of the House would have authority over the National Guard. That sounds more like an executive branch responsibility rather divorced from the Speaker’s normal bailiwick. Is the Speaker supposed to consult with security experts to make such decisions?

  2. “Such a shifting of responsibility is ethically wrong. It is the equivalent of saying that because homeowners left their door unlocked, they are responsible for a burglary. The rioters are wholly responsible for the rioting and violence, as well as its aftermath. President Trump must accept material blame for empowering what should have been recognized as an unstable mob.”

    I will never quibble with the first three sentences. In fact, I might go even further to say that shifting blame is a cowardly act. I am not so sure about accept material blame for empowering what should have been recognized as an unstable mob. Does it matter how many are involved before we lay blame for instability in individuals. Keep in mind that there may have been as many as 100,000 people or more for that rally in which Trump spoke and fewer than 1% were involved in the riot. Moreover, historically protests that bring conservatives to DC are not just peaceful the protesters clean up after themselves. I went to one Joshua march around the capitol in October of the prior year and there were some agent provocateurs in the mix but were unsuccessful in trying to create anarchy. My point is that at no time in recent history have Trump supporters behaved in a manner anything other than peaceful when measured against the description of “mostly peaceful”. I myself would have never thought that a riot would ensue yet the only one who considered the possible need for stepped up security was ignored; and that was Trump.

    Extremists are just that – outliers. When they violate the law, they should be punished appropriately. I should note that some of these punishments seem contrary to societal values such as virtual rendition without trials or being held in isolation for months at a time. If you want to create an unstable mob, those in power now are actively courting future uprisings. The power structure that is using the 1000 or so defendants as political pawns in order to keep the narrative going is actually creating such conditions for citizen alienation and division. I believe there is a reason that the public is shielded from hearing about the treatment of detainees in the DC gulag and why after two years some are still held without bond. We shall see what the incoming Congress plans to do about investigating the use of the Justice department for political advantage. Goading people into behaving irrationally and emotionally is the only reason to assign material blame.

    We must be careful in assigning blame to persons whose rhetoric causes morons to go off half-cocked. To do so we will need to assign blame to every rhetorician, politician, and citizen whose effective language calls to action the wrong kind of action that was never anticipated. Should we blame Bernie Sander’s rhetoric when his supporter attempted to assassinate as many Republicans as possible on the baseball field.

    • A President is irresponsible who deliberately and publicly claims that an election was “stolen.” It’s not a crime. It’s not inciting a riot. But it is irresponsible and an unethical use of his position. Trump didn’t cause the riot, but there would not have been a riot if he had kept his mouth shut and challenged the election through the courts. A President doesn’t have the leeway that a non-President defeated candidate does (Hillary, Stacey Abrams, Al Gore).

      • I am not so sure that what transpired on 1/6 would not have occurred had he kept his mouth shut. We cannot prove a negative. We have yet to determine what or who was the proximate cause of those who entered the Capitol. I am willing to accept the idea that Trump through his rhetoric shares some culpability but not because of his office but because of him being a citizen. We all have a duty in that regard. We cannot hold some citizens to different standards of behavior. That is my reasoning.

  3. fair enough but the bottom line question is this: If the bank president unlocks the vault does that absolve the bank robbers? If the concealed carry permit holder leaves his weapon at home, is he to blame for being robbed at gunpoint?

    • Is the woman who walks alone down an alley at night responsible for her rape? There are two sources of blame in such cases: the bank president/gun owner/rape victim are guilty of being careless and irresponsible, but the responsibility for the crimes themselves are entirely the criminals’.

        • I must amend; you do conclude — too far at the bottom of your piece — that, “Such a shifting of responsibility is ethically wrong. It is the equivalent of saying that because homeowners left their door unlocked, they are responsible for a burglary. The rioters are wholly responsible for the rioting and violence, as well as its aftermath. President Trump must accept material blame for empowering what should have been recognized as an unstable mob.”

          • Now now…”too far at the bottom of the piece” is, you must admit, a lame excuse for commenting on a post without reading the whole thing. In your defense, it happens a lot here, so I am aware of the risks. Kind of like the Jan. 6 warnings being put at the end of a 15 page briefing…

            • I am SO-ooo Triggered by the word “lame.” (Ha!) You wrote the piece; you buried the disclaimer at the bottom. You know that people read from the top. You knew that would create the impression that Nancy Pelosi was at fault for the sacking of the Capitol. Which is how it was conveyed to me by another reader. You pandered to the Election Deniers. The “Blame Everyone But Tr•mp” humpers. If only Nancy Pelosi had fixed bayonets. As if you would have been O.K. with that.

              • David wrote, “…you buried the disclaimer at the bottom.”

                I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. It wasn’t a “disclaimer” it was a conclusion and aren’t conclusions supposed to be at the end of a written piece?

                • His premise is that Nancy Pelosi and the mayor of D.C. are to blame. That is the entire thrust of the piece. The acknowledgement that neither incited the assault on the Capitol on this critical day is buried deep in the piece. Very much like Tr•mp’s tiny asterisk inserted in the middle of his red meat, “Fight Like Hell!” speech to cover his ass-terisk. (* … march peacefully and patriotically.”)

                  • David Blaska wrote, “His premise is that Nancy Pelosi and the mayor of D.C. are to blame. That is the entire thrust of the piece.”

                    Jack rejected shifting the blame to Nancy Pelosi and the Mayor of DC and stated it clearly when he wrote “Such a shifting of responsibility is ethically wrong.”

                    As we’ve done before and we’ll likely do again, we’re just going to have to disagree on this.

              • See, David, I expect readers here to be serious, fair and thorough. Commenting on any post based on hearsay is irresponsible: this is why it’s not admitted in trials. I didn’t assume anyone would think that Pelosi was responsible for the riot, I KNEW that many conservative commentators were making that point, and rejected it in the post specifically and clearly. The assholes at Logan airport that botched security to let their planes be hijacked on 9/11 weren’t responsible for the Towers going down, and their incompetence doesn’t diminish the responsibility for 3000 deaths…but they are still accountable, still should have consequences from their failures.

                The post concluded,

                “Over at PJ Media, Victoria Taft concludes from this that “Nancy Pelosi had more to do with the U.S. Capitol breach on January 6, 2021, than anything President Trump did that day. Indeed, Nancy Pelosi could be crowned Queen of the Mob, since her actions led to the crashing of the perimeter fences, general dysfunction, and deaths of Trump supporters that day….If she’d done her job, there would have been no riot, no deaths of Trump supporters, no show trials, and no political prisoners sitting in solitary confinement in a D.C. gulag for two years awaiting trial. And there would have been no need for federal agents to “orchestrate” a riot.”
                Such a shifting of responsibility is ethically wrong. It is the equivalent of saying that because homeowners left their door unlocked, they are responsible for a burglary. The rioters are wholly responsible for the rioting and violence, as well as its aftermath. President Trump must accept material blame for empowering what should have been recognized as an unstable mob.
                However, the incompetence of Bowser, Pelosi and Farnam must be examined and highlighted in any legitimate analysis of the event and how to avid similar unrest in the future. The fact that the J6 Committee ignored that aspect of riots tells us all we need to know about the true objective of that rigged inquiry.”

                That’s 225 words in a post of under 850 words, more than 25%. That’s hardly burying the analysis. Expecting it to be read by someone seeking to critique it is not only reasonable, it’s routine.

                You fucked up, that’s all. Just admit it and move on. I’ll forgive you.

  4. I think the word “responsibility” may be applied a bit inconsistently here. Here is my take on it.

    The thing about responsibility is that outcomes matter. Responsibility means making good things happen and preventing bad things from happening, regardless of who or what else gets in the way. Pointing out that a bad thing happened because someone else did something unethical does not count as responsibility.

    It’s like conditional probability. What is the probability that two flipped coins both come up heads? It’s 25%. Now we look at one of the coins, and we see that it came up heads. What is the probability that both coins came up heads, given that we now know one of them came up heads? It’s 50%, the same probability as a single coin coming up heads. Once we know (or assume) something, we can screen it out of our calculations.

    Shared responsibility works the same way. Houses are burgled. Who causes the burglaries? The burglar. The burglar is definitely responsible. Given that the burglar exists, who is responsible for making sure the next house doesn’t get burgled? The people in the house. If they don’t take responsibility, the burglar will cause another robbery. The burglar will be to blame, but that doesn’t make the house any less burgled.

    See also various versions of this poem:
    Here lies the body of Johnny O’Day
    Who died preserving his right of way
    He was right, dead right, as he sped along
    But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong

    There’s a book on conflict resolution (it may have been Difficult Conversations) that talks about framing situations not in terms of blame, but in terms of how each person contributed to a situation. I would assume that we need not treat all contributors to a problem the same way, punishing or absolving them identically regardless of how they contributed.

    This issue is also closely connected to the ubiquitous problem of people failing to distinguish between long-term and short-term solutions. In the short term, a person without much power may choose to avoid or appease unethical people, for their own safety. In the long term, ideally that person would seek some form of empowerment, possibly through collaboration with others, such that they could go about their business unafraid of unethical people, who would be subdued and apprehended if they tried to do anything unethical.

    Do we want to stop people from doing unethical things? Yes. And eventually we will succeed. In the meantime, given that we can predict that people will do unethical things, what we do in response to cause good things and stop bad things despite others’ unethical behavior defines our responsibility. It’s almost like those words are connected.

    What do you think?

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