KOCH: Rioter ideology representation of American history

Rioters+stand+outside+U.S.+Capitol+building+as+it+is+breached+Jan.+6.+Photo+via+Flickr

Rioters stand outside U.S. Capitol building as it is breached Jan. 6. Photo via Flickr

This story is part of an Opinions series focusing on how the Trump presidency ended. 

The riots at the Capitol Jan. 6 are not an isolated incident from a few extremists. The rhetoric spread by the far-right is not only a problem within the United States, but rather it is an ideology that is truly American. 

Many have described the Capitol riots as “un-American” in an attempt to refute rioters that are claiming themselves as patriots. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy addressed rioters directly, saying, “Hear me loud and clear: This is not the American way.”

However, the “American way” can be seen loud and clear in the events leading up to the riots. Former President Donald Trump, elected under the American democratic system, encouraged these riots while condemning peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors in Washington D.C June 2020. 

The “American way” has nothing to do with democracy and has everything to do with upholding oppressive systems by any means possible. If democracy and equality were actually American values, self-proclaimed patriots would not vehemently oppose them.

To understand why the rioters’ ideology is truly American, we must understand the basics of their beliefs. Their motives do not just come from fierce allegiance to former President Trump but from a mix of white nationalism and conspiracy theories. 

One of the most infamous figures from the riots is Jake Angeli, seen wearing a fur hat with horns and American flag face paint. He’s a part of a group called QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory that gained popularity in the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election. Trump’s loss further agitated supporters of it, which prompted many to show up at the riots. 

QAnon’s basic theory is that the world is run by a group of satanic child-trafficking pedophiles who have been plotting against Trump, who was recruited by the military to expose their lies. According to the theory, the cabal is made up of Democrat leaders and liberal celebrities.

As it grew in popularity, other right-wing theories began to feed into QAnon. Because they believe everything they’ve been told is a lie, they opened the floodgates to question anything they want, spanning from the legitimacy of COVID-19 to UFO theories. This is part of what makes it so dangerous — those involved in popular conspiracy theories can get sucked into the insanity that is QAnon. 

While the QAnon conspiracy theory is only a few years old, the ideas behind it come from a history of right-wing conspiracies, especially ones about “elites” pushing for globalization. In their eyes, a more globalized planet is one in which whiteness, usually along with Christianity, is persecuted.

Many Jewish activists have pointed out the blatant anti-Semitism within conspiracy theories, and a secret cabal of children-eating satanists is about as close to blood libel as it gets.

Theories such as QAnon are born under the assumption that oppressors are victims. Violence, such as that at the capitol, is born under the same assumption— and that belief has been around for nearly all of American history. Their unwillingness to accept election results comes from the knowledge that American democracy does not function as a democracy should.

It comes from the U.S.’s repeated history of trying to find ways around laws intended to protect people. The Confederacy, which was destined to lose the Civil War because of the Union’s military and manufacturing power, began with capitalistic white supremacists’ unwillingness to accept laws that would end slavery. The end of Jim Crow laws was met with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Similarly, Harvey Milk, California’s first gay elected official, was assassinated as the gay rights movement was gaining momentum. With each step forward made in American history, futile yet violent attempts are made to stop it.

Furthermore, these rioters have seen the hypocrisy of American democracy unfold outside of extremist violence. There is a long a history of treaties made between the American government and Indigenous people that were broken by Americans soon after. They’ve witnessed President Trump escape impeachment once and facing a second one  now, they’ve seen Brett Kavanaugh be accused of rape and still become a Supreme Court Justice and they’ve seen former President Trump bend rules to allow Amy Coney Barrett a spot in the Supreme Court just weeks away from an election.

They understand that the founding fathers saw themselves as victims of an oppressive tyrant while they treated their slaves and wives as barely human. In an attempt to uphold that hypocrisy, the right-wing has resorted to a theory as delusional as they are. 

From the very beginnings of America to the past four years, not only have extremists incited physical violence to get their way, but the government itself has incited systemic violence to uphold oppressive ideals. 

Many wonder how an event akin to a coup could even happen in America. However, when truly looking at American history, an event like this is no surprise. 

As activists or even as just citizens, we need to recognize that perhaps the American way is too far gone for saving. There needs to be a new system in which promises to oppressed groups are not broken and far-right ideologies are combated before they reach a boiling point.

This story was written by Jenna Koch. She can be reached at jenna.koch@marquette.edu