The January 6th raid of the U.S. Capitol, in which 5 people died, has been widely condemned by the international community, using varying degrees of harshness. But one word, more befitting than most, seems to be missing: Fascism.
World leaders have been condemning the raid one after another. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the actions of former President Donald Trump “completely wrong” and that he “unreservedly condemns encouraging people to behave in the disgraceful way that they did in the Capitol.” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison labelled the scenes “distressing” and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand commented, calling it “wrong” as well as naming the rioters “a mob”.
Further, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she felt “angry and sad” and that she “regrets very much that President Trump did not admit defeat.” The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, called the images “horrible” and Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, commented on the assault of the “temple of democracy”, calling it a “shock”.
These words, wrong, distressing, shocking, disgraceful, horrible, although certainly not incorrect, miss the mark. It is shocking, although foreseeable. Disgraceful, although when can we say America last (or ever) acted with grace? The only appropriate word, strong enough to condemn this type of insurrection, encouraged by their own former President, is Fascism.
A term coined by Mussolini, it is still in use to describe a movement seeking a dictatorial leadership of an autocratic government that puts nation and race above all else, and uses forcible suppression of opposition.
With this definition in mind, it is difficult to term this attack as anything else. At the riot confederate flags, a symbol of the Old South where slavery was common, were waived. In doing this, the carriers of the flag send the message of white supremacy and a yearning for a time when the privilege of white people and the inferiority of black people was law. When problematized, the defenders of this flag say that it has to do with culture, history and heritage. This is precisely the issue. It is a flag that went to war for the above-mentioned reasons and has very little to do with sweet tea and peach cobbler, of which its carriers are fully aware.
One could also see a man wearing a jumper with the words “Camp Auschwitz – Work brings freedom”. This is, of course, in reference to the Nazi concentration camp and the words above its gate. Famous neo-Nazis, including Tim Gionet (known online as Baked Alaska), were found amongst the insurrectionists. 16 000 people watched his live-stream of the Capitol breach. Gionet was banned from YouTube, where is he is famous for expressing anti-Semitic views, in October 2020. I do not need to explain the connection between Fascism and Nazism, the most ardent and zealous of its forms, as this is fairly obvious. One could argue that not all people present were Nazis, which would be correct in a formal sense. But anyone fraternizing with a Nazi, working towards a common goal with one, might as well be one.
The police responsible for the protection of the Capitol are also worthy of a closer look. According to Yogananda Pittman, acting Capitol Police Chief, several officers are under investigations for their actions. One was seen taking selfies with the rioters, others simply let them in the building, and some are being investigated for their social media activity. Several reports have also shown that many of the rioters present were off-duty policemen.
More interesting than what occurred, is perhaps what did not. There has been massive criticism from both outside and inside the police force for the baffling lack of preparation for this type of an attack, even though President Trump’s rhetoric was becoming increasingly violent and activity on the internet showed plans for it. This is proof of the staggering bias in the police. The problem lies not only in the literal and blatant agreement with the rioters, but the fact that the threat was not considered big enough to be taken seriously.
But, it is not a direct threat to the U.S. government that is problematic here, partly because the riot, to some extent, was orchestrated by the government. The President incited it, essentially cheered on by Congresspeople. Recently one of the key organizers, who has previously been retweeted by the Arizona GOP, claimed that he had contact with three Republican Congressmen before the insurrection. Senator Cruz of Texas and Senator Hawley of Arkansas insisted, even after the riot, to contest the election results. And this violence was made possible by a federal police force that is thoroughly corrupted by fascist and supremacist ideology.
Instead, the problematic part lies in two things. The first being what this means for democracy on an abstract, and eventually practical, level. Because the workings, the implications of democracy, although very real, are, indeed, intangible and sometimes difficult to understand. This leads us to think that the insurrection might not have had as negative an effect as feared, a kind of thought that eventually leads to the disintegration of democracy, the system in which the voice of the citizen can and should be heard.
The second is what it means on a concrete level for the individual citizen. The question many ask themselves, especially American minorities, in the face of such violence towards a group of people meant to be working in the most secure building in America is, “Am I still safe?” And it is a valid question because the prevalence of neo-Nazis among, although fanatical, supporters for a president is worrisome, and one cannot claim them to be individual outliers. These are people that work and live in communities near the individual citizen. The fear will – undoubtedly – arise.
This is why the reaction by other people in power cannot be to simply call what we have seen “wrong” or “shocking”. Such comments enable the slow but threatening decay of democracy. Those behind the raid, government officials as well as rioters, must be condemned and treated as Fascists.
Writer for Utblick since autumn 2020. Twitter: @SjoFelix