The Capitol riot: 20 terrible takes!

James Meechan takes on the ‘left’s’ often sensationalist and illogical social media response to the Capital riot

James Meechan, is a member of the YCL’s Glasgow branch

Social media is indispensable when following a debacle like Trump’s deranged protest in real time: it can help you get an idea of things before the media does, and sometimes see stuff the media misses. But it comes a cost barely worth paying: reading people’s often nonsensical takes. Here are 20 that no socialist should have said.

“This is the Beer Hall Putsch!”


No, no, no — no. That was lead by Hitler. This was lead by a perma-tanned pervert who is *already* in power, and has had five whole years to pass an Enabling Act and start abolishing presidential term limits etc. — you know, do Hitler things. And to be fair to The Donald, “The Art of The Deal” is a much better read than Mein Kampf. Look, just as a rule, don’t compare anything to Hitler unless you absolute cannot avoid it.

“This is a coup!”


It was not a coup. There was no attempt to seize power, no one except Trump and his circle supported the protests — and even Pence quickly condemned them. Where were the generals declaring martial law and suspending the constitution? This was a protest, rebellion, or riot. The extent that Trump may have had a plan only goes as far as interfering and disrupting the count — even if some of the crowd wanted their “revolution” (hello Elizabeth, from Knoxville, Tennessee) they didn’t have the support to make this a coup attempt.


“This is a *fascist* coup!”


We’ve dealt with the second part — but it wasn’t ‘fascist’ either, as it was not carried out by fascists as part of a fascist political plan. There were many far right activists in the crowd, some could even be called fascists, but they were a minority. The leaders of Trumpism, including Trump, are hard right, not fascist.

“Well… this is what fascism LOOKS like!”


If they were out terrorising a scapegoated minority or attacking a picket line as part of a fascist plan, sure — but they weren’t. Protesters occupying buildings, fighting the police, rioting — that is not what fascism looks like. That’s what all protest looks like, and we, the left, do it all the time — just with different flags and different motivations.

“This is an assault on democracy!”


Since when did we, socialists, think the US was meaningfully democratic? In the 2020 election Trump’s campaign spending of $63 million was dwarfed by Biden’s $177 million (guess who won!) and overall the 2 parties spent 14 billion. You may argue that the far right are attempting to steal our democratic rights, but we are living in a bourgeois dictatorship regardless. Don’t defend a system we want to abolish and replace with a real, people’s democracy. 

“The cops should just open fire!”


Woah, steady on — why? Because idiots are walking around America’s special little room? So they should be shot BY THE STATE? Are you sure you are left wing, and not a right-wing psychopath? Why would you want the police to fire on protesters, if you’re going to be a protester yourself at some point? You think the police will start working out what’s a legitimate cause and what’s right-wing enough to be shot at, this side of the revolution?


“Why didn’t the cops open fire?”


They did, the police shot 35 year old Ashli Babbitt dead as she climbed through a window. She was unarmed, a US Air Force veteran, and we’re never going to hear the end of it. The reason the police don’t routinely open fire on protesters is exactly that: it martyrs them and makes the situation harder to control.


“If they were BLM protesters they’d all be dead!”


Well, we know that’s not true because BLM protesters were near the Capitol in the summer of 2020. While it’s absolutely true the police treated the Trumpists much better and didn’t hesitate to gas and beat the BLM crowd back, they didn’t kill them. Police have been brutal to left-wing and minority protesters in the last year, but just gunning them down like Kent State 1970 is unheard of at this point. 


“Where was antifa?”


Hang on, aren’t you the people the routinely tell stupid rightists on twitter that “antifa is not an organisation?” Well there is your answer: as a voluntary movement of anti-fascists, very few volunteered to fight these chuds yestereday. And it’s not surprising why, after all: anti-fascists protect left wing events or working class areas (and that includes town centres) from fascists — they don’t protect the HQ of superpowers that have the largest standing army in the world. And anyway, see answer number 3: these guys were not majority fascist.


“The caucasity! Only white people would do something like this.”


On May 1967, 24 armed Black Panthers entered the California State Capitol and made their way to the back of the Assembly Chamber — not the Capitol in DC, no, but it’s not really the point is it? You shouldn’t be making political protest ‘a white thing’ and helping the black middle-class establishment (yes it does exist) disown militance from black people. People should be judged for their beliefs and actions, not whether their skin colour facilitates them. By saying ‘blacks can’t do this’ it is YOU reinforcing that message, not the Trumpists. It’s extremely defeatist to suggest that it’s inevitable that blacks will get beaten or killed, and the best we can ask for is that repression should be doled out more equally.


“White privilege.”


Waiter, please bring me my comments but hold any with a garnish of “white privilege.” This is a completely reactionary, anti-socialist, anti-political concept in this setting. The protesters were not there “because of white privilege” they were there because they were right wing — and this is also why they got away with so much. White leftists would have and have been brutally beaten in similar situations, so making this about “privilege” is to hide the politics of it all. It also individualises the issue of oppression, asking the white reader to take responsibility or feel shame rather than look at systemic and systematic oppression. Never, ever demotivate or demobilise people from fighting oppression with shame games.


“This is not a big deal.”


Oh, look at you, flicking your cigarrette and turning over to another channel. You’re not impressed are you? Another day, another mob assembled by a sitting US President to raid the seat of power leading to 4 deaths in scenes that haven’t happened in the US for so long the last time they had to be captured not on camera but by oil painting. Shut up.


“No one cared when this happened in X”


Do they speak English in X? Has X ruled the world politically, militarily, and culturally for 70 years, taking over from the British Empire which had done the same for at least 100 years before that? No, obviously not. Even if we could be better aware of events outside the West, paying more attention to the most powerful country in the world whose language you speak and whose situation you understand and relate to is not some expression of racism or bigotry — it’s completely justified.


“This is the end of Trump!”


Remember this is Teflon Don: he was *elected* with a history that should have seen him behind bars. Also, he has done more outrageous stuff (the Muslim ban?) for his entire term. Making the Capitol riots ‘his darkest hour’ is plain wrong, bad optics, and pro-establishment. Trump’s 2016 — 2020 administration was already over, because he had lost the election. But Trump’s political career and political movement is only helped by events yesterday: very few of his supporters are going to be turned off by what happened, if they have followed him this far. 45 per cent of Republicans support the protests — if he is jailed or legally challenged then his legend only grows. 


“This is the end of the Republicans!”


What! Why? How? This is a protest that “went too far” — in what way does it discredit the more conservative of the two neoliberal parties? Why would or should any party be “finished” because of this — or similar — protests? This is the same logic that that conservatives use when they say “this is the end of the left!” after some left-wingers do something that is widely condemned or a bit militant.


“Trump should be in jail for this.”


Trump should be in jail or on trial for a lot of things, starting with the 26 allegations of sexual assault, profiting from office/corruption, hush money/corruption; tax fraud/corruption, and the murder of Iranian general Qassim Soleimani last year — and lots of other bits of corruption. Saying the protest is somehow worse or the final straw really undermines this, and paves the way for holding all political leaders accountable for riots that happened after they called demonstrations. Which, when you think about it, is a really terrible idea for socialists.


“Now they know how Cuba/Venezuela [or a country the US has couped] feels!”


Your heart is almost in the right place, but no. Countries are routinely violated by CIA-sponsored uprisings to try and make them more open to US economic interests; this is the opposite. This is an organic, explicitly anti-globalisation protest (but from the right wing) that was emphatically disowned by the US establishment. It’s fine to say “Ha ha, who is ‘unstable’ now” but direct comparisons don’t work — because *no outside powers* were behind the protests. See also “this was America’s first colour revolution” — it would have been if it had been, say, Clinton and the IMF staging a coup *against* Trump, with the mainstream media supporting it.


“This is how the Handmaid’s Tale begins!”


No, because in the Handmaid’s Tale the agitators are *religious fundamentalists* not libertarians, agorists, and airsoft enthusiasts. Have some respect for places that are *actually* under the control of misogynist theocracies such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. A familiar theme in most of the bad takes is the desire to make things worse when you just don’t need to: these people don’t need to be clitoris-chopping God-freaks to be opposed, they don’t need to be fascists or nazis either: just being right-wing idiots is enough.


“Outrage! Horror! Disgusting scenes! These methods are unacceptable.”


This is particularly weird coming from people that were rightly defending the 2020 uprising against police brutality as being justified in the chaos it unleashed: the Trumpists cause is not legitimate, but not because of their methods. What are we doing feigning outrage and disgust at violence and property damage? Violence is always ugly and embarrassing, but the left of all people, know that sometimes it’s necessary. There are ways of condemning the Trumpists without shooting yourself in the foot and being a hypocrite when it comes to storming government buildings.


“What if the left had done this!”


Well it didn’t, and that is the problem isn’t it? The left does not *really* try and do this — ever, in the US. It doesn’t really see itself as robbed of its rightful place in power, and even when it kind of has been, such as when Bernie Sanders was robbed of a chance to run by the right of the Democrat Party, its reflex is to suck it up and support the status quo (so long as it Democrat). The left does not try and connect with people on this level in the US; it confuses simple messages about fighting the powers-that-be with ideas of racial, biological and national essentialism. It hates and despises stupid people who might also be good, honest people, and doesn’t want to simplify its message for them. Well more fool us. Being denounced for threatening corporate “democracy” would be good predicament to be in.

James Meechan

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