January 6th is a Warning
The violent attack on our democracy has become a symbol within apocalyptic narratives of right-wing extremists, and we need to take seriously the threat of right-wing extremists domestic terrorism.
One year ago today, the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 was perpetrated by thousands of individuals, but there was not a singular narrative that motivate each of those individuals in the same way.
There were right-wing extremist militia groups and networks that planned and coordinated the attack, including groups such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and Three Percenters. There were radicalized adherents of conspiracy theories, who believed they were there to witness the culmination of events that would sweep their perceived enemies out of power. There were fundamentalists Christian Nationalists who believed that they were acting as spiritual warriors, there in the service of a leader ordained by God.
Among the more than 700 individuals arrested and charged for participating in the Capitol Riot, the court documents tell hundreds of stories of different categories of radicalization and various types of motivations for participating in the mob violence at the Capitol on January 6th. Examining those stories is important for understanding not just how the Capitol Riot was planned, coordinated, and carried out, but for understanding why so many people felt compelled take part in violent actions against what they perceived to be a tyrannical government—duly elected representatives carrying out the essential functions of democracy.
The Republican Party has collectively taken part in an effort to rewrite the history of the events of January 6th, and create a narrative that violent attack on our democracy was an understandable response to the false claims of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election. This revisionists history is present in the efforts by Republican state lawmakers to replace nonpartisan state election officials with partisan political actors, and the organized campaign by right-wing conservative activists to take over local school boards, city councils, and county commissions.
While the right-wing assault on the integrity of the election process is a clear and present danger to our democratic institutions, there is another danger that is lurking in the dark shadows of the right-wing extremists movements.
The attack on the Capitol on January 6th was not a singular event, but an event that has become canonized within the apocalyptic narratives of right-wing extremists that include events as Ruby Ridge and Waco. A powerful story that includes martyrs and political prisoners, the right-wing extremists narrative of the events of January 6th has no doubt already radicalized or further radicalized right-wing extremists actors.
It is important to take seriously both the attempts to undermine and substage our democratic institutions and the threat of right-wing extremists domestic terrorism. The next act of violence by right-wing extremists may not be carried out mob of thousands of people, but by a single radicalized individual with a dedication towards a “righteous goal.”
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