Misinformation still paints a false portrait of the January 6th attacks on the Capitol

Rioters on the Western Front in the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington. (AP Photo / John Minchillo)

Millions of Americans watched the events in Washington live on TV on January 6th. Police officers testified about the violence and chaos. A criminal case in public jurisdiction detailed what happened.

But the hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and attempts to rewrite history persist and tarnish the public’s understanding of what actually happened during the most sustained assault on the seat of American democracy since the 1812 war.

Disseminated by politicians, broadcast by cable news experts, and augmented by social media, the falsehoods are a powerful reminder of how many Americans no longer trust their own institutions or their own eyes – all while trying to rebut former President Donald Trump‘s unsubstantiated claims about 2020 to support 1 election he lost.

Several different conspiracy theories have surfaced in the year since the uprising, according to an analysis of online content by media intelligence company Zignal Labs on behalf of The Associated Press. Unsubstantiated claims that the rioters were members of the Antifa first went viral but were superseded by an unsubstantiated claim blaming FBI agents. Other theories suggest that the rioters were peaceful or committed crimes that never happened.

Conspiracy theories have long lurked in the background of American history, said Dustin Carnahan, a professor at Michigan State University who studies political misinformation. But they can be dangerous if they lead people to distrust democracy or to apologize or accept violence.

“If we no longer operate on the same factual basis, it will be much more difficult as a country to hold talks,” said Carnahan. “It will fuel more divisions in our country and I think that is ultimately the legacy of the misinformation we are seeing.”

An examination of some of the key falsehoods about the Capitol Rebellion and the people who spread it:

Claim: Many rioters are not Trump supporters

Many of those who came to the U.S. Capitol proudly, publicly, and repeatedly said that they did so to help the then President.

Different versions of the claim suggest that they were FBI agents or members of the anti-fascist movement called Antifa.

“Earlier today, the Capitol was besieged by people who can only be described as the antithesis of the MAGA movement,” said Laura Ingraham on her Fox News show on January 6th, referring to Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again “. “They probably weren’t all Trump supporters, and there are some reports that Antifa sympathizers may have been scattered among the crowd.”

The next day, Ingraham admitted the inaccuracy when she tweeted a link to a story that debunked the claim.

Another Fox presenter, Tucker Carlson, put forward the idea that the FBI orchestrated the riot. As evidence, he cites the indictments made by some suspects, which mention unindicted co-conspirators, a common legal term that simply refers to suspects who have not been charged – and no evidence of undercover informants. However, Carlson claimed on his show that “they were FBI agents in potentially every single case”.

Carlson is a “main driver” of the idea that January 6th was perpetrated by government agents, according to Zignal’s report. It turns out that the claim skyrocketed in October when Carlson published a documentary series about the uprising. But some members of Congress, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Helped spread the theories.

“Some of the people who broke through the Capitol today were not Trump supporters, they posed as Trump supporters and were actually members of the violent terrorist group Antifa,” said Gaetz.

Carlson and Gaetz spokespersons say they stand by the claims.

In truth, the rioters are exactly who they say they are.

One was a recently elected West Virginia legislature, a Republican Trump supporter named Derrick Evans, who resigned after his arrest. Evans streamed a video of himself illegally entering the Capitol.

“You are now making an announcement that if (Vice President Mike) Pence betrays us, you better think twice because we are going to storm the building,” Evans said in the video. “The door is cracked! We’re in, we’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!”

Pence was in the building to deliberate on the Senate’s confirmation of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory. Pence went ahead, despite Trump’s requests, to get him to block the transfer of power.

During the testimony before Congress, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked if there was any reason to believe that the uprising was organized by “fake Trump protesters”.

“We saw no evidence of this,” said Trump-appointed Wray.

Claim: rioters were not violent

Dozens of police officers were seriously injured. A Capitol police officer who was attacked and assaulted with bear spray suffered a stroke and died of natural causes a day later.

Washington Metropolitan Police Department official Michael Fanone pounded his fist on the table on July 27 as he testified during the House Special Committee hearing on the January 6 attack on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo / Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Former Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, who rushed to the scene, said he was “caught, beaten, fingered and labeled as a traitor to my country.” The attack didn’t stop until he said he had children. He later learned that he had had a heart attack. Fanone resigned from the department in December.

Minutes after senators fled under armed protection, rioters broke into the Senate Chamber. They ransacked desks, looked for lawmakers, and shouted, “Where are they?” In the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, staff hid under desks while rioters shouted the California Democrat’s name.

That is not how some Republican politicians have described it.

When appearing on Ingrahams Show in May, Senator Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Said he condemned the breaking of the Capitol and the violence, but said it was wrong to call it a riot.

“On the whole, it was a peaceful protest, except there were a number of people, essentially agitators, who whipped the crowd and broke through the Capitol,” Johnson said.

Johnson has since said that he doesn’t want the violent acts of a few to be used to challenge everyone.

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., After seeing video footage of rioters walking through the Capitol, said it resembled a “normal tourist visit.” Other video evidence dated Jan. 6 showed that Clyde helped barricade the front doors to keep the rioters away.

Rioters also broke windows and doors, stole items from offices, and caused an estimated $ 1.5 million damage. Outside the Capitol, someone set up a gallows with a noose.

“The idea that this was somehow a tourist event is shameful and despicable,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Said in May. “And you know, I’m not going to be involved in glossing over what happened on January 6th. Nobody should be there. And people should be held accountable. “

In the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, windows are cracked and broken by rioters. (AP Photo / John Minchillo)

Claim: Trump did not encourage rioters

Trump may now want to minimize his involvement, but he spent months sounding a steady drumming of conspiracy theories and grievances, urging his followers to fight for his return to power.

“Big protest in DC on January 6th,” tweeted Trump on December 19, 2020. “Be there, it’s going to be wild!”

Immediately before the mob stormed the Capitol, Trump spoke for more than an hour and told his supporters that they had been “cheated” and “cheated” by a “criminal enterprise”, which included lawmakers, in the “rigged” elections, which is in the Capitol.

At some point Trump urged his supporters to “make your voice heard in a peaceful and patriotic way”. The rest of his speech, harsh, was full of hostile rhetoric.

“We fight. We fight like hell,” he told those who would later break into the Capitol. “And if you don’t fight like hell, you will have no more land.”

Now Trump says he has nothing to do with the uprising.

“I wasn’t part of that, and if you look at my words and what I said in the speech, they were actually extremely reassuring,” Trump told Fox News in December.

According to a survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research last year, nearly two-thirds of Americans believe Trump has some responsibility for the Capitol break-in.

Ashli ​​Babbitt died after being shot in the shoulder by a Capitol Police Force lieutenant when she and others urged to enter the speaker lobby outside the chamber of the house.

Babbitt, a 35-year-old Air Force veteran, was unarmed. An investigation exempted the officer from wrongdoing.

The Capitol Police Department protects all members of Congress, employees, the public, and the facilities of the Capitol. The official was not assigned to any particular legislature.

Trump falsely claimed that the officer was the chief of security “for a certain senior official, a Democrat,” and would be protected from accountability. He also incorrectly stated where Babbitt was shot.

“Who is the person who shot … an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman, a military woman, right in the head?” Asked Trump on Fox News.

Allegation: Suspects are political prisoners

No, despite some allegations from members of Congress.

“J6 defendants are political prisoners of war,” tweeted MP Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., In November. She said she visited some suspects in prison who complained about the food, medical care and “transformation” they received in detention.

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Said the Justice Department is harassing peaceful patriots by investigating their involvement.

While it is true that some of the suspects complained about their time in prison, it is wrong to argue that they are being held as political prisoners. Authorities said the suspects were given the same access to food and medical care as all other inmates.

One of the most notorious rioters, Jacob Chansley, known as the QAnon shaman, was given organic food in his prison cell after complaining about the food options.


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