In my office, I keep a copy of the front page of the Wall Street Journal from Jan. 6, 2021. “MOB STORMS CAPITOL,” blares the headline over a large photo of people scaling a wall outside the U.S. Capitol. Under it are photos of a man in a hoodie sitting at the head of the U.S. Senate chamber and police officers pointing their guns at a mob trying to get into the House chamber.
I keep the paper because, like most Americans, I was shocked and disturbed by the events of Jan. 6. The day seemed, and still seems, historic. Not, as the corporate press and Democratic leaders would have us believe, historic like the torching of the U.S. Capitol by the British in 1814, or like 9/11.
But there was nevertheless something jarring about Jan. 6 that set it apart from the much more violent and widespread Black Lives Matter riots that raged throughout the summer and fall of 2020. It wasn’t just because a mob broke into the U.S. Capitol, of all places, but because it was a kind of culmination. We had all watched violent mobs riot and burn our cities and neighborhoods for months on end, while elected leaders, most of them Democrats, did nothing (and in some cases actively encouraged the mobs).
So Jan. 6 felt like a reaping — as if this is what inevitably happens when a society lets violent mobs run roughshod through cities and towns, and does nothing. Eventually, ordinary people get the idea that it’s okay to air their political grievances that way, and they act accordingly.
The problem is, political violence is incompatible with a constitutional republic like ours. It cannot be tolerated. The Washington Post came out with a poll recently showing 34 percent of Americans now believe that violence against the government can be justified under certain circumstances, a sharp increase from earlier polls that asked the same question.
It should be 100 percent. Americans schooled in the Declaration of Independence should know about the right of revolution: that a free people have the right — a duty, even — to revolt against a tyrannical regime and establish a new political order, waging a war of revolution if need be. Under conditions of tyranny, of course violence against the government is justified. But that’s probably not what those 34 percent meant.
Short of revolution, political violence in a free society should be absolutely forbidden. When it arises, it should be crushed by overwhelming force. That’s what should have happened on Jan. 6, and also what should have happened in cities across the country in the months leading up to it.
The Jan. 6 rioters, whatever they might have said before or since, were not staging a revolution. They were storming a building, staging a mass protest, and making a spectacle of it. Mobs being what they are, though, things got out of hand.
In the ensuing chaos, an unarmed woman was shot dead by a police officer. A few people died from preexisting medical conditions. One woman apparently overdosed. Lawmakers were rushed from their chambers. The Capitol was overrun.
Yet by all accounts, the vast majority of those who ended up inside the building had no idea of the violent clashes that made their entry possible. They simply wandered in, taking selfies and gawking around with grins on their faces. Some video footage shows police and security guards letting people in. Thousands of others on the Capitol grounds that day did not even find out about the breach until later, from news reports.
In other words, the Capitol wasn’t “sacked.” There was no “insurrection” or “attempted coup.” It was not a “terrorist attack.” That sort of language, greedily employed by the left and self-righteously deployed by too many on the right, is an intentional perversion of what happened. It is sensational propaganda, used for fundamentally political purposes, and it has made a bad situation far worse than it needed to be.
Everything, in fact, that has happened since Jan. 6 is in some ways worse than what happened that day — not for the families who lost loved ones, of course, but for the nation at large. What should have been an object lesson and a cautionary tale about what happens when you turn a blind eye to political violence and civil unrest — eventually it becomes endemic and the other side uses it, too — was instead turned into a cudgel.
Instead of admitting that their tacit support for the BLM riots might have opened the door for the Capitol riot, Democrats and the media decided to lump all Republicans in with the Jan. 6 rioters. They are now conflating rather mundane GOP-led state election reforms with the so-called “insurrection,” as if duly elected lawmakers making laws are no different than mobs storming past police barriers.
This isn’t just an absurd argument, it’s also deleterious for the country because it trivializes what happened. If every Republican is an “insurrectionist” because of Jan. 6, as Democrats and the media claim, then Jan. 6 must not have been a big deal. We need not be overly concerned about it or learn any lessons from it.
But that’s the easy way out. We do need to learn something from Jan. 6, and it starts with understanding that Democrats and their media courtesans don’t actually have a problem with political violence. They support it, in fact, as long as the violence serves their political agenda.
They proved that all throughout 2020, when for the sole purpose of hurting Trump’s reelection bid they encouraged mass violence and rioting all across the country. For as much as they now obsess over the violence of Jan. 6, Democrats were at pains to explain to us in the summer of 2020 that destruction of property isn’t really violence, and that rioting is okay if done for the right reasons.
What they did not realize but should have, and what we as a country must come to understand, is that political violence in a republic begets more political violence, and eventually it spirals out of control. That is the real lesson of Jan. 6, and unfortunately for us all it has been utterly lost in a sea of lies, self-righteous preening, and blatant propaganda.