As the cases of many of those accused of illegal actions on January 6th at the U.S. Capitol building slowly move through American courts, there seems to be more and more pushback on the country’s rightwing to the general understanding of the events of that day, with some even calling those facing consequences for their actions ‘political prisoners’. One of the earliest alternative histories put forward was that anti-fascists, Black Lives Matter activists or some combination of the two, were the true instigators of the chaos.
Some of the more audacious commentators in rightwing media are suggesting that we can’t trust the evidence we saw with our very own eyes from videos on livestreams and news broadcasts less than a year ago. It also seems that the American public is expected to ignore the many calls for violence that reached a fever pitch in the weeks leading up to the riot bordering on insurrection.
Although it has since changed its name to Patriots.win, a site then called theDonald.win was filled with these kinds of calls as the Big Lie that Donald Trump actually won was gaining traction after the 2020 election with the FBI declaring the violent talk online, “does not warrant further investigation at this time,” on December 23rd.
Although it’s playing on the streaming platform Fox Nation rather than the network proper, meaning the audience for it will be much smaller, the trailer for a three part ‘Tucker Carlson Original’ documentary, the first part of which became available on Monday, seems to take much of the conspiratorial theorizing around 01/06 to an extreme we would expect from the likes of Alex Jones. Having said this, it does seem as if the time it takes for bizarre conspiracy theories to migrate to more mainstream outlets on the right is becoming ever shorter.
The trailer is necessary viewing for anyone interested in how the populist right is trying to twist reality to fit increasingly paranoid and reactionary narratives, a phenomenon as important in countries as diverse as Brazil and Hungary as it is in the United States.
Titled ‘Patriot Purge’, the series, which the titles in the trailer also refer to as the ‘War on Terror 2.0’ is said in reviews to portray what happened at the Capitol as a ‘false flag’, with federal agencies and the military still under the control of then President Trump somehow organizing the siege at the behest of the ‘left’ and colluding with ‘antifa’ to ensnare peacefully protesting ‘patriots’. These so-called patriots included some of the most well known figures on the far right, like Proudboy and former Infowars host Joe Biggs and Anthime Joseph Gionet, who goes by the name Baked Alaska, both of whom were filmed inside the building.
These are people who might not be familiar to the average Fox News viewer but are in the vanguard of the proto-fascist movement that grew around the former U.S. president. Gionet especially is a white supremacist who makes a living harassing innocent people on the street and those working low paid jobs for the amusement of his fans, who often broadcast racial epithets in the voice chat of his broadcasts to further humiliate those he’s harassing.
Responding to the trailer last week, Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League wrote to Fox News CEO Lachlan Murdoch asking him to stop the broadcast of the documentary, writing, “Clearly Carlson has the right to make outrageous claims. But freedom of speech is not freedom of reach. You have no obligation to validate his views with airtime on your platform and, I would argue, a moral responsibility not to do so.”
Despite the trailer’s claim that the War on Terror is being extended and brought home to “half the American population”, the idea that this is being driven by the left or activist organizations like Black Lives Matter doesn’t square with the reality that these same groups are historically much more likely to be targeted by law enforcement at all levels. This should have already been clear after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, where law enforcement stood aside and allowed white supremacists to run riot in the streets until an innocent woman, Heather Hayer, was brutally murdered in a motor vehicle attack that also injured over 30 others.
The idea that conservatives and Republicans are being widely and unfairly targeted by federal law enforcement is yet another example of an emerging right wing tactic of projection, as many on the left have been talking about issues like the militarization of police and the criminalization of protest, especially direct actions like those of some environmental and animal rights activists, for many years. While there is ample evidence of this targeting of leftists and protesters focused on social justice issues, it often appears that far more law enforcement officers are active in far right groups like the OathKeepers than are working to stop these often heavily armed people from inciting violence and engaging in other harmful behaviors.
There’s also already evidence that similar actions by those on the left are punished much more harshly than those of the so-called patriots. Take the example of Daniel Baker, an Army veteran and anti-fascist who was arrested after posting a “call to arms” online after the Capitol siege, prior to planned protests at the Florida state Capitol, which he feared at the time would have a similar result to1/06.
For his online incitement Baker was sentenced by a U.S. District Court Judge to 44 months in prison in mid-October and three years of probation after he finishes serving his time.
As Baker told Intercept reporter Natasha Lennard in an email from prison, “The American government has chosen to side with white supremacists, except when their own bureaucracy forces them to prosecute the most blatant offenders, albeit gently. They criticized me for supporting Black Lives Matter, Feminist Liberation ideologies, Global Revolutionary movements and direct democracy. … The government has made its stance clear throughout my hearings.”
In a case with interesting parallels to this, a man from Dallas, Texas with a long criminal record, Troy Anthony Smocks, was sentenced to 14 months in prison, much less than the three and a half years meted out to Baker but still the longest sentencet related to 1/06.
Smocks reportedly wrote online a day after the Capitol siege, where he was present but reportedly didn’t break any laws,”Prepare our weapons, and then go get ’em. Lets hunt these cowards down like the Traitors that each of them are. This includes RINOS,1 Dems, and Tech Execs. We now have the green light. [All] who resist US are enemies of Our Constitution, and must be treated as such. Today, the cowards ran as We took the Capital. They have it back now, only because We left. It wasn’t the building that We wanted. . . it was them!”
It’s also telling that the person facing the most time so far related to the events of January 6th is an African American MAGA supporter who didn’t trespass or involve himself in acts of vandalism.
I have noticed that on the populist right in the United States and beyond there’s a tendency to take some of what is being said on the left and twist it to their own ends. One of the best at doing this is multi-millionaire frozen food heir Tucker McNair Swanson Carlson. Although his perpetual deer in the headlights look detracts from this, Carlson has become one of the primary architects of a rightwing populism that bears striking similarities in terms of its messaging to the fascist movements of the 20th century. That he’s being given another platform to create ‘documentaries’ that spread yet more disinformation should give those who care about American democracy pause.