Mobs and Jobs

Trump had gestured to the U.S. Capitol as to a clear goal that was in their power to breach–and indicated that by doing so, they would preserve what he believed or asserted he believed was his own “massive” popular, as massive as the crowd whose size he exaggerated at earlier rallies, and that would be a final ability to change the election for which the electors, he began by implying, had not yet been “lawfully slated” or counted, as if the election was not conducted with honesty or integrity: only by entering the logic of this new legal terrain, where winning the election was still possible, where the theft could be taken back from Radical Democrats, could a crowd of broad consensus be animated and encouraged to cross unlawfully onto government property, unlawfully enter the U.S. Capitol buildings, and unlawfully interrupt proceedings decided. Thanking the assembled future marchers for having “traveled from all across the nation to be here” to show “extraordinary love for this amazing country” and for Donald Trump, who had invited them to Washington DC, himself, lest we “have to live” for four years with “a President who lost this election by a lot.” The logic of this absence of law, and the need for restoration of a ship of state that might, as Longfellow put it, sail on, but which was for them all, Donald Trump had reminded them with a twist, “hanging breathless on my fate” by making sure their hearts, their hopes were all with him, “our faith triumphant oe’r our fears,” as they illegally crossed the barricades.

The streets had for that day been cleared, and the street closures that were requested for the Save America rally had all but allowed the marchers who became a mob as they advanced on the U.S. Capitol to make their way down Pennsylvania Avenue, as Donald Trump had ordered, moving from the Ellipse as if to mimic movement from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, as a proxy of the United States President, all but ensuring protestors unobstructed movement down The mall and to the U.S. Capitol.

Street Closures near White House and Mall for Protests from January 5-January 7, 2021

The absence of blockage and obstruction were unlike the specter of those charged with illegal crossing of the nation’s border. The strong affective ties to the border wall that Trump had long promoted as a trademark campaign promise and the showpiece of his Presidency was more than a soundstage where he had defined his Presidency. While visits to the border had amplified his bid for the Republican nomination, and used in almost solipsistic manner as a central concern by which to bolster Presidential authority to declare national emergencies, reprioritize the military budget, and reduce migrants’ human rights, the border wall existed virtually in the minds of supporters in alarmingly affective and almost personal terms: if few might visit the border, the promise he had made to build the wall was a collective cry at Trump rallies, where it was a signature cry of unity, often transposed to sporting events, football games, middle school cafeterias and corridors, with openly anti-immigrant associations that might transfer as easily to Right to Life marches. It served to construct bonds among crowds as a collective rhythmic chant, in what Norbert Elias termed an “aural mask”: it crystallized the collective identity of a crowd in a form of belonging that permitted violence against immigrants in Trump’s America, in universities, public rallies, and transcended territoriality–more than a mere campaign promise.

The wall was a mobile place, not only inscribed on the arms of some of the protestors who breached the walls of the U.S. Capitol, but served as a symbol of the collective identity and sanctioned the breaching of walls of the U.S. Capitol were breached. But the walls of the Capitol did not need to be breach, as there were inside allies of similar sentiments, whose commitment to The. Wall and to the resistance to certification begged to be joined. In their social media posts, the pride in sustaining “our wall” was not a place, but was promoted by Proud Boy Joey Biggs, a former alt right broadcaster who would lead a mob of Proud Boys near the Capitol, “ready to kick some butt for the benefit of this country,” alt right propagandist, activist and conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec of the mainstreamed alt right outlet One America News Network, active promotor of white supremacist memes, and QAnon MAGA diehard Marjorie Taylor Greene, her of three American flags on her twitter handle and deep racist,–urging that they would fight to the end unless the senators not “leave our @POTUS alone,” referring to Trump by his social media presence.

The place of law enforcement officials, military veterans, and fifty-seven Republican lawmakers within the mob has been noted, and the promotion of “citizens’ arrests” to restore justice escalated among patrols in the Trump era, not only with increased gun ownership, but as a doctrine of lawful detainer, despite the clear dangers of its abuse and indeed variation of sanctioning use of force in different jurisdictions. The doctrine of the liberty and power of citizens’ arrests were an inheritance of medieval law long predating the formation of modern police forces, reaffirmed int he Trump era, if only imported to America on the frontier and to apprehend runaway slaves and affirm racial superiority. United by clear political grievances, equipped with guns, munitions, and improvised weapons, often wearing tactical gear and bulletproof vests, had come equipped for making arrests or for open combat, in the name of reconceived “rights” of “Free Speech” and Freedom of Assembly that championed a false originalism. If it seemed sudden, it had been long been prepared as a storming of the barricades.

Jake Angeli and Demonstrators on Second Floor of Capitol Building, January 6, 2021/Mike Thieiler/Reuters

While Trump encouraged the mob to move “down Pennsylvania Avenue” as if with a street map to storm the Capitol, to offer as patriots, rather than as barbarians, a direct expression of popular sovereignty, the movement to the Capitol was all but sanctioned as a retaking of government, rather than as barbarians. After having warned of the arrival of barbarians for over five years, since he had oriented the nation to the fear of national invasion through an insecure border, a fear promoted as a platform for acclaim to vault to hold his first public office ever as U.S. President, the respecting of rules for wielding Presidential authority were not rules he was accustomed, but could be argued to respect and replicate the central rule of America First on which he had run–even if that meant breaching the grounds of the US Capitol, and ceasing the certification of the electors his opponent had won.

The protestors entered the grounds of the U.S. Capitol lest a Democratic successor in the office of U.S. President go so far as to “get rid of America First” and open the borders of the nation to the same aliens he had been warning against for so long that they had seen it as their right to take up arms to prevent the prospect of their future entry. Marchers were urged to advance to the Capitol without explicit license for violence–“I know that everyone will be marching here to the Capitol to peacefully and patriotically make their voices heard“–but did so to prevent an alleged theft, and imputed act of criminality. The charge was a clear echoe of the imputation of illegality to undocumented migrants. Driven by the fear that “we’re not going to have a country any more,” and lest they want a Communist nation (or so he claimed), with the end of a policy of America first, rioters were sanctioned to fight for patriotic ideals in far from figurative terms: the flags that they bore indicated their championing of a direct popular sovereignty, destined to overwhelm alleged absences of electoral transparency in the election of 2020 imputed to offend the nation. The mob carried flags into combat of visions of the nation, and banners that sanctioned their charge the Capitol perimeter to make their voices heard. The signs distributed in multiple states that staged local rallies in crowds to stop the results of the Presidential election–the defining feature of a democracy–became events of consolidating crowds and mobilizing mobs immediately after Election Day, but provided a clear predecessor of the sea of flags at the amplified collective on January 6.

Clark County Elections Department in North Las Vegas, Nev., Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020/John Locher/AP

The holding of ground with flags followed a logic of securing the safety of the nation as a sacred duty of citizens. Duty to nation was elevated to prevent aliens from entering American territory–and imputing illegality to all cross-border movement among militia and vigilantism at the southwestern border. The very President who had magnified the threat of crossing the border had from 2015 sacralized the US-Mexico Border as a barrier to be patrolled lest the nation be “illegally” entered by immigrants had given collective sanctioned entering the Capitol to desecrate its grounds under separatist banners.

2 Comments

Filed under American Politics, Capitol Riots, Donald Trump, political iconography, Presidential Elections

2 responses to “Mobs and Jobs

  1. Tom Conley

    Thanks, Daniel, for the timely reminder. The events of late have been sickening. Your work is much appreciated! –Tom

  2. Rachel Brownstein

    I think this is a terrific post–but all is not clear to me. What about the display of the Confederate and Trump flags as well as Gadsden flag? Thanks for the insights!

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