We Were Warned
Activists have known for years that far-right online chatter can turn into real-world violence
As insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, encouraged and inspired by Donald Trump, I was struck by how many people were apparently surprised. Pundits and politicians alike remarked how “unbelievable” the terrorism was, how shocking it was to see law enforcement’s lack of preparedness. Chief of DC Metropolitan Police Robert Contee even said on Thursday that there had been “no intelligence” to suggest Trump’s mob of supporters would attempt a breach of the U.S. Capitol.”
That’s just not true. For weeks — months, even — extremist Trump supporters had been openly discussing violently overthrowing the government. Some said they were telling their families goodbye because they expected to be killed in the melee. How is it possible that officials didn’t see it coming when those explicitly laid plans were out in plain view?
Breaking Down 16 Hours of Total Chaos in Washington, D.C.
The day started with a rally. It ended with death, destruction, and the agonizing certification of the 2020 election.
Part of the problem is that law enforcement and people in power still don’t see online harassment and threats as real. The largely young white male cohort that spends their days making death threats online get called “trolls” rather than terrorists, and conspiracy theorists peddling false and incendiary narratives are labeled kooks rather than dangers.
What’s particularly frustrating about yesterday’s insurrection is that feminists, Black activists, and others on the left have been raising the alarm about the likelihood of real-life violence for the better part of a decade.
We’ve pointed out time and again how young men are indoctrinated online through white supremacist and misogynist spaces and are radicalized by hate groups that function like any other terrorist organization: by finding alienated and anxious young men and feeding them propaganda about how all of their problems can be traced to a specific group of people (immigrants, women, Black people, Jews, whoever).