It was always going to end like this. We were warned, repeatedly, that a loose-cannon coalition of Trump-supporting conspiracy theorists, white nationalists, far-right extremists and white supremacists had been pumping themselves up for their version of a resolution, which would keep their favoured autocrat in power and punish their perceived enemies in the media, the Democratic party and the radical left.
Their online fever swamps had long been buzzing with the news that the election had somehow been stolen from Donald Trump, that Joe Biden was a Satanic paedophile, that socialists (or was it the Chinese? both, maybe?) were plotting an apocalyptic slaughter of true patriots and that it was up to them to descend upon Washington DC to defend the constitution and save the Republic. That dire fiction is what inspired the rapacious fascist mob that invaded the city on 6 January —that, and the explicit encouragement of Donald Trump, who’d appeared to a crowd of thousands earlier that day and encouraged them to take their fight to the Capitol steps—a ‘fight’ that left five dead.
As Congress began the process of counting electoral votes to certify Joe Biden’s ascension as the next president, tensions ran high amongst the crowd of Trump supporters that had amassed outside. In their eyes, the presidency was being stolen from the sitting president and it was up to them to stop it. It is unsurprising that they’d drawn this conclusion, given Trump’s own constant fraudulent whine that it had all been rigged against him, the amplification of those lies throughout the conservative media and the efforts of far-right Republican lawmakers like senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to lend credence to Trump’s nonsense in order to cravenly secure their own political futures, all at the expense of what little democracy exists in the so-called United States.
And so when wave upon wave of star-spangled, MAGA-hatted ‘true believers’ stormed the Capitol, breached the police’s curiously flimsy defence, and wrought havoc inside the chambers of Congress, the nation watched in horror. How could this have happened? This isn’t us! Meanwhile, the antifascists, leftists, and political analysts who’d been sounding the alarm for years looked on wearily. Yes, it is. This has always been us.
The establishment spent years normalizing Trump’s fascist movement while pretending antifascists, antiracists & leftists were an equal if not greater threat. Whoda thunk we’d end up here? 🥴 https://t.co/EuSvb4Qrc3
Since well before Trump’s 2016 election, and particularly in the four long years following his inauguration (at which 200 activists were kettled, beaten, and ultimately slapped with draconian felony charges for daring to voice their dissent), far-right rhetoric has spread like wildfire and become increasingly indistinguishable from mainstream conservative thinking, while white supremacist terror and skyrocketing hate crimes have become a wretched fact of life in Trump’s America. The rise of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories like QAnon and the increasing influence of the far-right militias and the boogaloo movement has only poured gasoline on the fire, one fueled by Trump himself but sparked long ago. The United States is a white supremacist empire conceived in genocide, built on the backs of enslaved people and watered with the blood of the innocent; this has always been us. It’s just easier to spot when that ancient evil is on TV, staring you in the face, howling “fuck antifa!” and wrapped in a Trump 2020 flag.
And of course, it is both terrible and entirely predictable that Trump supporters and their mainstream Republican enablers, having failed spectacularly at overturning the election and realising that trying to force a coup wasn’t netting them the results they’d wanted nor much good press, are nowtrying to blame their actions on the invented spectre of ‘antifa’. The baseless and frankly surreal claim that antifascists had somehow infiltrated the thousands-strong mob of Trump fetishists and were actually the ones to blame for the rioters’ violence began making the rounds in the MAGA social media universe as the invasion was still underway, signal-boosted by conservative Twitter personalities as well as fascism enthusiast representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, who took time out from his busy schedule of casual racism and endorsing far-right extremists topublicly insist that ‘antifa’ were somehow involved in the day’s chaos. The fact that there is no evidence for this claim and that the mob’s participants have been enthusiastically streaming, posting and publicly discussing the exact roles they played in breaking into the building has had little effect.
It would all be rather comical if actual antifascists weren’t so routinely beaten, shot, and imprisoned for standing up to the fascist-in-chief, and if this wasn’t a country in which dissent, in general, is criminalised, surveilled, brutalised, and quashed wherever it erupts—except, apparently, when the dissenters are white Republicans. Concurrently, smug media pundits have busied themselves broadcasting their own political ignorance by referring to the fascist mob as “anarchists”, which shows either a disturbing lack of political literacy among the elite media class or an intentional ploy to distort the word’s meaning and equate anarchism and leftists in general with violence and chaos (my money’s on the latter, especially given that Vanity Fair printed a story referencing Trump’s “anarchist comments” with a straight face).
Fascists at the capitol: “We’re here to support our fascist leader. Here are our fascist flags, fascist clothes, fascist tattoos, and fascist hand signals.”
Liberals: “My God, these people are anarchists!”
As many have pointed out, the kid-gloved treatment with which the Trump mob was greeted couldn’t have been further from the heavy-handed swaths of state violence that met participants in this summer’s righteous Black Lives Matter uprising, or that regularly manifests at any protest that isn’t populated predominantly by white ‘patriots’. If a crowd of Black and brown activists had overwhelmed the Capitol police and broken into the halls of Congress, I’ll give you one guess as to how long it would’ve taken for a hail of bullets to bloom—and how many protestors would’ve made it out alive. In a country where simply breathing while Black can be a death sentence, the coddling of these pasty insurrectionists underlined what so many of us already knew: that the police are not here to protect us, and “cops and Klan go hand-in-hand” isn’t just a catchy protest slogan, it is an everyday reality here in the US.
Eagle-eyed researchers have already identified multiple active-duty police and military officers among the mob, and it’s already been proven time and time again that the Venn diagram between white supremacist cells and the police and military in this countryis a circle. Of course, the DC cops went easy on these would-be coupsters; most of them were probably sad to be missing out on all the fun.
The aftermath of the events of 6 January is still unfolding, and whatever consequences—if any—these Trump supporters and their figurehead may face remains to be seen. One thing that is an absolute certainty, though, is that none of this is going away. The country has broken into two entirely separate realities, and the wild-eyed fascist side of the schism that has wholly swallowed up a significant amount of the population, from elected politicians to the neo-Nazis and deluded everymen who stormed Congress.
If anything, these events will only serve to galvanise and embolden an increasingly aggrieved and heavily armed far-right, and tepid calls for “unity” and “healing” from the very lawmakers they would’ve loved nothing more than to murder will do nothing to assuage their fury. If anything, this will happen again, on a bigger scale. One can only hope that those in power pay attention and learn their lesson now, because Inauguration Day is less than two weeks away—and then, whatever comes next.
Kim Kelly is a freelance writer and organiser based in Philadelphia.