This ARTICLE by Glenn Greenwald is an excellent recap of the media malpractice regarding reports about what happened at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
What took place at the Capitol on January 6 was undoubtedly a politically motivated riot. As such, it should not be controversial to regard it as a dangerous episode. Any time force or violence is introduced into what ought to be the peaceful resolution of political conflicts, it should be lamented and condemned.
But none of that justifies lying about what happened that day, especially by the news media. Condemning that riot does not allow, let alone require, echoing false claims in order to render the event more menacing and serious than it actually was. There is no circumstance or motive that justifies the dissemination of false claims by journalists. The more consequential the event, the less justified, and more harmful, serial journalistic falsehoods are.
To summarize, the ALLEGATIONS by media are:
- Officer Brian Sicknick was murdered by pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol who hit him on the head with a fire extinguisher, after which he was rushed to the hospital and put on life support.
- Five people died at the hands of pro-Trump rioters.
- Rioters went into the Capitol with the intent of abducting members of Congress.
- Reports are that rioters carried in zip ties with which they intended to handcuff those they planned to kidnap.
- The Capitol riot was an armed insurrection.
The FACTS are:
- Officer Sicknick probably died of a stroke. Even the NYT and CNN have retracted the story about the fire extinguisher (but not until after the impeachment trial was over.) It has been reported that the medical examiner found no signs of trauma, although no autopsy report has been released. The officer’s body was cremated. His brother said that Officer Sicknick told him that he had been pepper sprayed but was “okay”.
- Three of the other four deaths were from natural causes. The only other person killed deliberately was a protester, Ashli Babbitt, unarmed when shot in the neck by a police officer. The other three deaths were all pro-Trump protesters: Kevin Greeson, who died of a heart attack outside the Capitol; Benjamin Philips, 50, “the founder of a pro-Trump website called Trumparoo,” who died of a stroke that day; and Rosanne Boyland, a fanatical Trump supporter whom the Times says was inadvertently “killed in a crush of fellow rioters during their attempt to fight through a police line.”
- The “zip-tie man” found them on a table, and took them to prevent their use by the police. Prosecutors admitted none of that was true. He did not take zip-ties with him from home or carry them into the Capitol. A second man whose photo with zip-ties later surfaced similarly told Ronan Farrow that he found them on the floor, and the FBI has acknowledged it has no evidence to the contrary.
- There was no plan to abduct or otherwise harm government officials. A DOJ official walked back a federal claim that Capitol rioters ‘intended to capture and assassinate elected officials.’” Specifically, “Washington’s acting U.S. Attorney, Michael Sherwin, said in a telephone briefing, ‘There is no direct evidence at this point of kill-capture teams and assassination.’” Over and over, no evidence has emerged for the most melodramatic media claims — torn out Panic Buttons and plots to kill Vice President Mike Pence or Mitt Romney.
- PolitiFact purported to “fact-check” a statement from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) made on Monday. Sen. Johnson told a local radio station:
“The fact of the matter is this didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me. I mean armed, when you hear armed, don’t you think of firearms? Here’s the questions I would have liked to ask. How many firearms were confiscated? How many shots were fired? I’m only aware of one, and I’ll defend that law enforcement officer for taking that shot.
The fact-checking site assigned the Senator its “Pants on Fire” designation for that statement, calling it “ridiculous revisionist history.” But the “fact-checkers” cannot refute a single claim he made. At least from what is known publicly, there is no evidence of a single protester wielding let alone using a firearm inside the Capitol on that day. As indicated, the only person to have been shot was a pro-Trump protester killed by a Capitol police officer, and the only person said to have been killed by the protesters, Officer Sicknick, died under circumstances that are still completely unclear.
That protesters were found before and after the riot with weapons does not mean they intended to use them as part of the protest. For better or worse, the U.S. is a country where firearm possession is common and legal. And what we know for certain is that there is no evidence of anyone brandishing a gun in that building. That fact makes a pretty large dent in the attempt to characterize this as an “armed insurrection” rather than a riot. Indeed, the most dramatic claims spread by the media to raise fear levels as high as possible and depict this as a violent insurrection have turned out to be unfounded or were affirmatively disproven.
One can — and should — condemn the January 6 riot without inflating the threat it posed. And one can — and should — insist on both factual accuracy and sober restraint without standing accused of sympathy for the rioters.