11. The culmination of Trump rallies and crowd management techniques that had developed since the summer of 2015: this time, the crowd was reliably sourced. The assembly of the crowd improvised a new form of government, a new form of staging a putsch of the sort never seen in America, whose members would themselves rectify Donald Trump’s own disappointment and inability to process an election he argued “we were getting to win,” until the tallies changed as absentee votes were tallied, in ways that didn’t fit his narrative: convinced he in fact had won and did win the 2020 election, in keeping with models of fringe news media sources that had predicted his victory, early tweets that warned “They are trying to steal this election” had set up an alternative reality over two months–“Frankly, we did win this election” and then “We are up BIG but they are trying to STEAL this Election. We will never let them do it!” —that set in motion the logic of an alternate reality by an alternative structure of governing, in the arrival of a huge crowd eager to preserve the vision of an electoral victory that did not occur. As the crowd’s momentous size was described to its members repeatedly, that had its own entity able to overpower representative structures, they gained momentum to overpower the representative structures that had badly served the President’s plans. This was the map to project the vision of Donald J. Trump’s second term by a crowd that now filled the Mall seemed bigger than on Trump’s inauguration, and joined to their President, more than the faithless who had confirmed the electoral loss Trump sustained the result of faulty tallies of votes.
The invasion by these barbarians was animated by a different mythical vision of the historical past. They attacked, possessed by starting an imagined revolutionary uprising to appeal to a revolutionary fervor of asserting belonging and agency. They arrived inspired by claims that the vote had been stolen on a scale of “widespread, nationwide, massive voter fraud” since mid-November, even if his lawyers were hard-pressed to say where the fraud lay, even as allegations shifted to charges of “good-faith errors in operating machines,” or to corrupt tallies in machines themselves that were operated by companies lying outside the United States, or just glitches in electronic voting machines–if not the fraud of mail-in ballots that Trump had warned since the spring of 2020 might have been fabricated en masse in foreign countries. The evanescence of any sense of agency as to who was manipulating fraud on such a scale had driven them to desperation that they could only correct by taking the Capitol building themselves, to stay the election at the very last minute.
The crowd came to impose an alternative reality he demanded, to interrupt the due process of the electors’ certificaiton. Busses paid for by one of the last remaining Republican donors, the MyPillow Guy, Mike Lindell, ferry millions of patriots to Washington, DC, a Trump Base meant to replace institutional distortions that had allegedly obstructed the election’s transparency.
The Patriots who arrived on The Ellipse where they had been invited by Donald Trump, immediately sensing belonging, removed from the social isolation of being sutured to screens since the election, from fears of the disruption of a stolen election in the confidence of the crowd, listening to music as they warmed up from before seven in the morning. If the crowd met a moment of what crowd theorist Elias Canetti termed “release”–the moment of cohesion–as they were harangued for an hour by a President who described the failure of all the structures in place he had expected would lead to a second term. Upon hearing Vice President Pence, acting as President of the Senate, would not disrupt the certification of electoral votes at 10:02, reminded again by Trump how “they rigged it like they’ve never rigged it before,” they took matters into their own hands, with the agency they felt the U.S. Constitution promised. The invitations offered a time to meet with President Trump, and make their voices heard to representatives in unison with his complaint about the certification of the electoral vote.
But the goal of disrupting representative government was clearly the result of this new battle plan. The FB Group PeacefulRedStateSecession.com, which long nourished the secessionist fantasies, set the stage for an overturning of the very structures of government–assembled at a red star on Constitution Avenue, to Save America. The project of national salvation reveal the deeply corrosive of an increasingly oppositional mapping of the nation into “red” and “blue” states that has increasingly been mis-mapped around the defense of constitutional freedoms, before Trump promoted the constitutional crisis by inciting crowds to storm the Capitol to interrupt a joint session of Congress. The crowd was released as Trump finished his speech, and the imperative to act to “save this Republic,” as they stormed the capitol with anger and entitlement, indignantly yelling at Capitol Police, “We were invited here. We were invited by the president of the United States” as if entitled to bring down the state in an “exercise in patriotism,” an undefined “call to action” to secure the election’s outcome–invitations to preserve the Republic extended widely on social media. And once they arrived, these messages were reinforced, urged by the Tea Party activist who founded Women for America First to protest the first impeachment of Donald Trump in 2019. Again, Trump had presented the imperative to act to his audience by sanctioned all actions: “It is up to you and I to save this Republic! We are not going to back down, are we? Keep up the fight!”
Rushing the chambers of the U.S. Congress would forestall not only the tally of electoral votes and their certification responded to the need to overturn the illegitimacy of the “hoax,” widespread corruption, and sullying of American democracy and the civic ritual of the in-person ballot. Those storming of the Capitol as not exactly a siege, but would trigger the sudden pressure of an energized mob to shatter the bureaucratic process of Congress, meeting in their chambers without cell phones, by needed pressure, to overturn the election Trump had assured them was indeed a landslide that audits had not yet fully revealed, but the demand for full transparency would immanently reveal, and create consensus only waiting to be mapped.
12. This crowd sourced mob assembled with a sense of urgency, listening in an almost relaxed manner to Village People’s rousing choruses of YMCA as they developed their identity in a sea of flags of discontent long before they were activated and directed energy to the Capitol building before which they’d been asked to assemble. Crowd theorist Canetti argued the power of the crowd since the French Revolution as defined by the moment of its “discharge,” or eruption, unified behind a sense of purpose that mobilizes and realizes is new identity and rights. Before that moment of collective self-knowledge, the crowd does not actually exist in the same way, but it suddenly erases any sense of distance in a shared purpose, and shared identity, a feeling of equality and relief where they are collectively oriented in a moment of release in a blessed moment of orientation. When did the moment of discharge arrive? The process of assembling this crowd had begun of the sixty five days since the election, as snowballing #StoptheSteal groups took Trump’s tweets to nourish faux stoic solidarity. When Trump urged,”You have to show strength,” the words percolated with desires to defend Constitutional liberties in ways that masked the contradiction that they were disobeying the law.
Discharge arrived at the crowd over several stages in the rally, boosted by the simultaneity of being addressed by the President and being tweeted to by him, that “Mike Pence doesn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country,” as he refused that he would ever concede, live, and growing in their minds while hearing him wield truthful hyperbole as magnified it to beyond a million, bending time and space, while investing the crowd that had been assembling since 3 AM with a directionality and purpose that became clearer over time. The goal of changing the election that brewed behind all those optimized electoral maps crystallized around the goal of forestalling of the goal of Pence changing the certified electoral, as if he was empowered to do so, their goal strengthening their common identity, energizing the crowd with a renewed sense of immediate purpose. How much did it help that a Black and a Jew had been elected to enter the Capitol building the previous night, electrifying the Base by alerting them this was not business as usual, and demanded interruption? This crowd arrived filled with the sense of indignity as if entitled to overthrow their government when it took their rights away–the promise was embedded in the Gadsden flags that they waved, as much as the MAGA ones, and the banners that they took pains to bedeck the Capitol in a major media event, as they arrived with cell phones and Trump 2016 hats and Trump 2020 banners in a four-hour Siege of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, long after the election was lost.
Their sense of urgency was apparently echoed in their use of survivalist rock-climbing skills, knee-pads and gloves, some in paramilitary outfits and some in fantasy garb, they scaled the neoclassical facade, wrapped in American flags and bearing Gadsden Flags to forestall regime change and equipped with cell phones. They also brought, in those backpacks, unregistered ammunition, unregistered firearms, tasers, ropes, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks, and megaphones, to fulfill a patriotic duty to the nation, filmed on iPhones to make sure it would be covered in global media markets and across the nation. Enraged at the identification of the Vice-President presiding over the certification of electoral votes, who they called a “traitor” the crowd seem to have stormed the Capitol for their own duly elected representatives, as Secret Service members tried to secure the Senators, representatives, and VP who had become targets of wrath by an almost entirely white mob bearing weapons, storming the chambers of Congress like a lynching mob. The image of Pence as a traitor and turncoat, betraying a President who refuses to accept electoral results. Had the evangelical Catholic Pence been replaced by those who believe Trump was “chosen by God”?
They cheered as they planted American flags atop the Capitol building, hanging banners reading “Trump 2020/STOP THE BULLSHIT,” equipped with signage to keep hope alive after the election was lost. They weren’t the barbarians we had expected and were long announced as at the gate. But they came with a sense of vengeance, gripping the walls they had prepared to scale the stone facade on a mission with tenacity and a sense of duty after having received a Presidential benediction. They had just been chanting “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!” as the black-gloved President told them he would never concede, and “We will not take it any more, . . . and to use a favorite term that you people will came up with, we will stop the steal.” Trump bemoaned the state of corruption in the nation, alerting the crowd of the dangers posed by fake news media and big tech as surrogates for a global war. He placed the certification of votes as the final chance for populist groups to defend freedoms as if it were the eve of a monumental battle of civilizations, not at the border between the United States and Mexico, but to rush the Capitol building, where the senators and congressmen were cloistered, without cell phones, voting to confirm Trump’s removal as President as the end of an era.
13. If Trump did not directly communicate plans for staking siege to the Capitol, on that day, but communicated indirectly to the assembled crowd who seem to have understood the plans for an insurrection or seizure of power. Just after Christmas, images predicted the arrival of a storm as if by an act of divine vengeance to break the delivery of the electors’ vote. The size of the crowd was difficult to estimate, but seems to have been difficult to estimate, but the number was far fewer than seems to have been widely expected by each of the groups who predicted “low number a few hundred thousand, in high numbers 2-3 million, imagine the scene” drawn from all fifty states, in a scene of mass consensus achieved by massive-crowd sourcing from vigorous online promotion to the announcement at rallies of “Stop the Steal” held as electors met on December 12.
We know Trump’s words, whose intention was transparently clear, but can only imagine their effect. Amidst a befuddling tally of votes he insisted were misreported by a Fake Media, he had bemoaned again the scale of the “egregious assault on our democracy” in the theft of a landslide that was itself a a threat “our country be destroyed” and a threat to “America First,” with urgency. The invitation to advance–where was there left to go?–got only crisper as the speech advanced. Truthful hyperbole allowed him to exaggerate the crowd that he imagined stretching to the Washington Memorial, as if it were a new inauguration audience. The date had been grimly pre-announced, and the urgency to “Save America” hardly needed to be spelled out.
The urgency grew, as the crowd had entered an alternate reality, as the hour continued. Trump bemoaned that “our media is not free” asked them all to turn on your cameras, as “we’re going to walk down to the Capitol,” “that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” ramping up the energy of the crowd that had been listening to music for hours, thanking his “incredible supporters” as he asked them to refuse all hoaxes, to remember why they had come to the event, how they were all waiting for the Vice President to act as President of the Senate, and join him in demanding “sweeping electoral reforms” and asking them, his soldiers, finally and conclusively to drain the swamp, to restore vital civic traditions of in-person voting, as the representatives and senators who owed their election to him alone would not. Without such a renewal of the Tree of Liberty, the worst would happen, beyond a feared end of liberties: “they want to take down the wall” and “let everyone flow in,” Trump concluded with urgency, imagining the destruction of his long-vaunted project to raise the stakes. Instead, the MAGA minions would “be pouring in to Washington, DC” to restore order and affirm the intensity of their personal relation to the state in a transparent manner that the corrupt tally of the vote obscured.
“We are going to–we are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we are going to the Capitol,” he wrapped up his remarks to the audience he cherished. “. . . So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he urged his minions, asking them to retake the very halls of government that obstructed his second term, making the transactional nature of the march clear. Even the President did not incite the crowd to violent entrance of the Capitol Building, the publicity that announced the “march” showed its target–and the site to demand election integrity–clear. The rapt audience was ready to assault the building and strike down the police guards they encountered with flagpoles to answer the President’s personal “call to action to us to come back to Washington on January 6 for a big protest” by “taking back the country from corrupt politicians,” and wrest the nation from the political class, intensifying its sense of urgency.
They all knew the endpoint of the Save America March and had iPhones in their hands, but weren’t using their mapping functions, as they recorded the scene that the news media would not report. They were being invited to reveal their patriotism, and stand up for the U.S. Constitution and the country by the Commander-in-Chief in the face of “pure theft” of what was a landslide, and came dressed for re-enacting a drama of insurrection and revolution, in a rally that would consume the halls of government, uniting the size of the momentous rallies of the five-year Presidential campaign that Trump had been boosted to the empyrean, beyond Reality TV, to a new level of transcendence. But few have spent much attention to map from where they came. Few members of the mob needed to use their devices’ mapping functions or GPS, as the mission of retaking the government could be seen behind the bullet-proof glass from which Trump had addressed them.
Trump had magnified the size of the crowd considerably, describing the “tens of thousands” he saw before him, inviting those in attendance to turn their cell phones back to cover the size of a crowd he said the media would underestimate, and magnifying what was estimated as a crowd of 10,000 by trademark “truthful exaggeration” by magnifying it to “hundreds of thousands of people here” and describing the “hundreds of thousands of American patriots [who] are committed to the honesty of our elections” across the nation. The number was guesstimated at “several thousand people . . . even 10,000, maybe.” After Trump’s moment of truthful hyperbole, social media photographs and claims magnified the crowd and multiplied its loyalty on social media. The filming of the breaching of the Capitol’s perimeter spread on social media, as members of Congress without cell phones remained in the dark, and protestors counted on the element of surprise: even as Trump insisted that “the media will not show the magnitude of this crowd,” recalling the disputes he had had with the crowd on Inauguration Day, describing “hundreds of thousands” to rival even an inauguration crowed, famously falsified as the largest ever, estimated at 300,000-600,000, to keep the Trump flame alive. Trump insisted that the marchers themselves film the event for history and the nation, from the start of his hour-long harangue to turn their cameras on, and to “Turn your cameras please and show what’s really happening out here because these people are not going to take it any longer.” “Go ahead,” he urged, making the audience part of the spectacle, “Turn your cameras, please. Would you show?” In his subsequent public address, at the United States southwestern border, the President fondly remembered how “Millions of our citizens watched on Wednesday as a mob stormed the Capitol and trashed the halls of government,” before pivoting to affirm his respect for America’s “history and traditions” and “the rule of law.”
They existed on the media they created and streamed. Live-streaming the assault was a way to trigger a national movement, if not to create a testimony of the great attempt to keep an outgoing administration alive, and with it an alternate reality. Amidst cries of disbelief from “They’re going up—go, go, go, go!” and “Oh! They’re climbing up the wall!” to ecstatic rejoinders of “Let’s go, let’s fucking go!” to “There’s so many people! I can’t believe this is reality! We accomplished this shit! Together! . . . We’re all part of this fucking history!,” to “Holy shit, there’s so many people!” the ragtag group wrapped “TRUMP NATION” banners and “Trump 45” jerseys, the oddly dressed one said “Wait a second, I’m filming this!” a mob advanced past guards they saluted as “bro” as they sought to seize the House chambers, blowing vuvuzelahs chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” saying You guys gotta follow the Constitution!” and, more festively, “Fuck, that was awesome! Let’s burn this shit down!”
As this potential orgy of destruction was unfolding, President Trump had assured his overeager audience that he would be marching with them to the Capitol–“after this, we’re going to be walking tot he Capitol, and I’ll be there with you.”–but retired from the lectern of the Save America March to enter an awaiting limousine in his motorcade, to watch the fate of the joint session of the U.S. Congress on cable news in the White House, as the rest of the world watched in disbelief and shock the last fruits of the Trump Presidency unfold.
If the National Guard had been activated across the nation in response to the George Floyd protests, as social injustices and police profiling were protested in a scenario of reckoning with systemic injustice, in what was described as national disorder, the protesters seems to move “going wild” to Washington DC, concentrating their pent up rage as observers of a changing country into an uprising against a representative system that seemed to have failed to recognize their urgent needs.
A false social media post had eerily circulated in the summer of instability that had claimed protestors had caused Trump to flee the White House, including the image of the same Capitol Building that these protestors would assault. Disseminated on Facebook, YouTube, and news sites of uncertain authority as well as Twitter, the breaching of the boundaries of “Fake News” seemed a cause for global panic, prefacing the destabiization of authority for a global market–with some qualifications confined to the comment section.
The mock up concealed that the footage was not even in Washington DC, but this time the crowd had assembled in a real place, at the Capitol, even if the war they were waging was Fake News.
Their ears were already electrified by their President, as POTUS allowed the crowd to discharge, and even to envision this pathway to the future, and the they vital fight they would wage, affirming that he would never concede, and with the gestures of a television preacher he evoked how “we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give —” before breaking off his thoughts in midstream, and entering a limousine, having planted plans for an insurrection to his best ability.
The routes to the Capitol building itself would be less direct, but would flow about the building that the Capitol police tried to secure, and to overwhelm them in the immense discharge of their collective energy, overwhelming the limited number of Capitol Police they had already judged insufficient to protect the legislators, or obstruct a crowd of their size: Trump had given a benediction to move forward as Christian soldiers, and to surge beyond the Ellipse in an illustration of their own agency and apparent liberty.
Reports are that Trump watched the insurrection as it unfolded with excitement, pleased at what he saw on television. On the ground, cheers drowned out reality, elevating to a vertiginous ecstasy the idea of a seizure of power of which the participants ensured a live stream continued, as they breached the upper chambers. “We did this shit! This is surreal scene! What reality is this? Fucking did this shit!” “Hell, yeah!” “About time!” “Oh, my bad–I didn’t know I hit it that hard.” The mob paused in the Rotunda for selfies while chatting up guards, reminding them of the futility of resistance and admiring the cupola, amazed at the scale of their accomplishment, pinching themselves that this “was real life,” urging one another to “treasure this moment,” and bursting, without anything else left to say, into chant–“We want Trump! We want Trump! We want Trump!” to make their voices heard. They were confident there were too many people to for bullets to be used against a crowd whose size they seemed to magnify, until the arrival of the police. Then, they were shocked a gun was actually fired and someone entering the chambers–amazed a moment of violence had in fact occurred, but also glad and still excited to have gotten it on film, not noticing Donald had left them alone.
Born on a sea of insurrectionist flags of all stripes–Gadsden flags, American flags, Trump flags, Confederate flags, and sporting a range of Trump gear, they were ready to confront forces of Darkness. It may not have mattered that Trump was no longer with them, as he was presiding over the entire event, and they had internalized his litany of baseless complaints and groundless assertions. Waving triumphal flags overhead as they approached the Capitol, they entered the House of Representatives’ and Senate chambers, chanting “Our house! Our house!” and “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” they told guards not to put their hands on them, telling them they were impotent before events that were unfolding as they clung to their freedoms. Among these America Firsters, the right of “the people to alter or abolish any government that does not secure inalienable rights” seemed, on the morning of January 6, 2021, the only agency that remained in their power to stop the transmission of power that they felt a rigged system of elections about which they had ben warned for years was about to take place in the pro forma certification of electoral votes underway in the Congressional chambers as the Save America March had assembled to hear purported heroes of an outgoing administration. Did America First entail subverting the electoral process, or was it about defending liberties?
14. President Trump did not directly encourage the crowed to enter the joint session of the U.S. Congress, but affirmed its logic. Students of revolution have long studied the crowd as an actor of revolutions, and tried to study the logic of crowd behavior: fear is a major motivator of crowd behavior, and the fear of a loss of rights, an impending restriction of rights, from the panic of the Great Fear of 1789, as rumors spread of an “aristocratic conspiracy” to overthrow the king created a massive rural panic that triggered a convulsion of possibly anarchic character at fears of a restriction of grain supplies in the near future: the logic of the fear of a loss of liberties was fed by the growth of rumors across the countryside of the impending absence of a great protector, which historians have tried to map across rural regions as transmitted by their own rural circuits of considerable historical consequence, most powerfully in the work of Georges Lefebvre:
If Lefebvre worked hard to map the overlooked spatial and temporal progression and identity of the fear that spread through France, the twitterverse registered similar waves of panic transmitted among online groups. For if we are still unsure of labeling the even an insurrection or act of sedition or uprising, looking only at the movement on the ground near the capitol reminds us of the need to examine the charges and accusations that were long coursing on social media, increasing expectations for a day of wrath, imagined to attract up to three million, if permissions only expected 5,000, the rumors of millions of marchers suggested easy overwhelming of the Capitol police.
Their size increasingly magnified to punctuate the lists of grievances Trump listed for just over an hour, the magnification of the crowds who had felt isolated with the mandate for social distancing many so deeply opposed were released as they gained a new density on the Ellipse, no matter where they had come from. They were encouraged to tap into a sense of being wronged, and the hectoring of the audinece must have heightened their already long-nourished fight-or-flight response, as the representative structure of the capitol was in sight. The speech didn’t need to list the other grievances that Trump might not have mentioned theis time, but were implicit–a curtailing of freedom of gun ownership, a silencing of speech, a turning back of religious freedoms–which were fought over in the election. Those fears of a loss of liberties and change in administration had already been amplified through social media across the nation, far more electrically than Lefebvre’s spatial map of primary currents of the Great Fear through rural France that demanded historians recast their research of what was long seen and studied as an urban revolution: this revolution was born on social media, if it arrived in busloads or by plane, to witness an event they could only dream, but seemed to call for their own participation in nothing less than a new model of government.
The intensity of currents of fear that had run through chat rooms, TheDonald, and various citizen militias and Trump supporters came to a head at the condensation of these groups as a false populist force outside the Capitol building as the certification of the 2020 Presidential election was tried to be obstructed. Rather than fear spreading on the ground, however, or through popular movements, the mass-based nature of rally based on Facebook groups assembled a sense of purpose and direction that might be embodied in the busses that stopped in twenty-five American cities to collect Patriots, often in parking lots or airplane hangars from Arizona, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Florida seemed to summon a virtual confederacy to Washington. Riders foud collective experiences on the bus, having had their vagal nerves electrified by barrages of claims that the electoral vote had been distorted on NewsMax, FOX, OANN, that Trump had promoted–seeming to bestow his favorites to escalate temperatures across the nation that seemed evidence that the election raged, as “news bubbles” of 2016 bore fruit in adherence to different sets of electoral maps.
We had all watched how the margins of votes broke in different states, parsing them by voting groups, but as we watched them, the nation that had hived into groups broke into different alternate realities that called into question the election’s validity before it was even held, and drew out debates about its validity. And as they did so, the very institutions of representative government had been eroded. In polls that promised to refresh “the most up-to-date and accurate tallies in the Presidential race” from OANN, the contest had become a horse-race, undercutting the validity of the results that would be announced on Election Night, and creating a fake drama that ran against the predictions of most major news networks, hiving off America into two separate media silos which doubted the validity of the mainstream media. In what was seen as only an attempt to out-Fox News, the electoral maps that were projected on news sites predicted clear signs of victory that undercut the representational value of the electoral map, before and after the election-, that dislodged the ontological status of the electoral map, long before protest of certifying electoral votes–to turn back the clock, perhaps, to the very first tallies of votes, made before Democratic and internationalist tampering, when Trump led in Georgia and Pennsylvania by credible margins of victory–the provisional and unstable nature of all electoral tallies were made apparent, even after states had certified results. If FOX projection models long predicted a certain victory for Trump, the aftermath of the election and the contestation of votes eroded the ontic stability of the electoral map in a strategic way, as if playing a long game for overturning the vote.
These maps erased contingency, increased conviction, and unmoored a map once the bedrock of democratic representation, validating assertions “Trumpland doesn’t believe the election results” and would contest them, and denying any consensus of a map that had no role but to create consensus.
The squabbles between the size of crowds nominally assembled by joint crowds brought to Washington by Women for America First who organized the March to Save America and the Stop the Steal and MAGA crowds came to bolster the claims that this was a “real Million Man March. Unlike the Women’s March, that once embodied the Trump Resistance, or the Million Man March, these foot soldiers embodied the true electoral map that the size of crowds at this rally confirmed: as Trump had argued that he knew he won the election in Georgia by the greater size of his crowds compared to those reported for the Democratic ticket, the size of crowds provided a true direct illustration of democracy that the electoral maps based on fault tallies only disguised.
The logic of the crowd’s behavior was promoted as evidence of fears of the loss of liberties a Biden administration would bring, planted long before their arrival in Washington DC. The fears were magnified in the increased urgency that Donald Trump gave to the erosions of liberties as a direct result of an illegitimate transition of power to convulse his audience. The fears rendered evident the need to stop the joint session of Congress. lest they validate the false electoral map Fake News had promoted. Until Trump agreed to concede, they would provide the defense of rights and liberties a Biden presidency would erode, and the declaration of a victory for two Democratic senators in Georgia the night previous only augmented the intensity of pressure on embodying a physical presence that would overturn the tally of electoral votes by a sea of supporters in bright red MAGA gear that embodied a real, authentic electoral map before the Capitol itself.
Trumpland did not believe in counting, so habituated had they been to rallies, rather than just tallies. With such systematic ontological destabilization of the electoral map, evident in the sea of distinctive bright red hats, could the end of the protracted drama of the election be announced? The sense of being on the side of righteousness was affirmed in the Invocation that proceeded the Capitol Siege, as Donald Trump was prayed for as the divinely sanctioned leader of the nation, chosen by God to lead America, in ways that invalidated the need for electoral approval of the President God had selected for the nation.
The fear and the logic of a loss of liberties promoted online was very old regime and premodern, if they were cast in an imaginary of defending early modern nationalism. For while the Capitol Siege has been argued by Jill Lepore to be considered a race riot, the conflict cannot be captured save as a deeply anti-parliamentary tactic, a coup, as Fiona Hill insisted, a “self-coup” of the sort strongmen like Recep Erdoğan staged in 2016, before Trump came to power, to seize power outside established parliamentary process by an autgolpe that renders impotent the parliamentary system. The confusion of a sense of lawlessness and the demands of restoring a legal order that was in danger of being eroded was considerable, as the crowd was augmented by the possible and alleged presence of off duty police officers from Seattle, Rocky Mount, Virginia, and Fire Departments in New York City, Florida, ready and willing to help strategize as they entered the building, unlike a disorderly mob. It might be that the two-color division of map might reveal, but the range of those light blue states, that weren’t such strong blue, belied the far, far greater intensity of a MAGA crowd.
15. The right to declare a separate region of like-minded liberties was promoted in the maps in online Facebook forums that promoted “peaceful secession.” Maps provided for online Facebook forums redrew the nation with the promise that red states might secede from the nation that had been gaining steam on Twitter and elsewhere, while we all socially distanced, the need for DIY nation-making emerged, as local Republican Party Chairs sanctioned, endorsing Rush Limbaugh in suggesting the not so secret conspiracy that Republican-governed states exercise their “rights” and freedoms in what was a compact of states. The need to “keep the American parts of America American,” as the Facebook group had it, would become clear as Limbaugh urged they “band together” as Texas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, Montana, Alabama, and Mississippi join others–and break from the nation that the electors were about to saddle with a new President they had not chosen and did not want, and in America liberty was, in the end, that everyone should get what they want.
The moment of violence from which this birth of a new nation would begin might be commemorated in the future as January 6, 2021, bundling national security, sacred identity, and second amendment rights that defined an ecoystem of identity-based authoritarian systems, but ensured a good sleep at night. Yet as Lindell continued to tweet proof of broad hacking of the election–and eagerly contested Democratic margins of victory in a full six states–he undermined any sense stable resolution might be expected in electoral maps.
16. The potentiality of secession was sketched as a redemption of rights began atop the Manichaean antagonism of battle lines, as they were encouraged by chromatic oppositions of red v. blue state maps to nourish secessionist fantasies as overlays atop the two-color dichotomy of electoral maps: by pooling the resources of all those smaller red dots, and overpowering or just excluding those blue dots–and sacrificing some, as in the Central Valley of California or upstate New York, in hopes they might migrate to North Dakota or Montana, and getting creative in Arizona and Colorado, but focussing on the parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota that in “a county formed from red states–or individual counties–“would follow the constitution.” Gerrymandering the nation, rather than only a few states, might more fully proceed to actual secession, confounding the map with the territory, and obscuring that the excision of backed-out counties would offload actual sites of wealth-production, major centers of population, and impose consensus in falsified ways in an eroded union.
This vision of secession would be nominally “peaceful,” but any sense of tranquility would be for observers of an online map. The cartographic fantasy adapted newsmaps everyone had seen on election night, and used to draw a new sense of sovereignty, which might be imagined as meriting an even more insurmountable wall:
Secession need not be a bad thing, those who held high Gadsden Flags realized. This was about defending the imaginary of a new nation, forever resilient, and might create either the basis to restore the rightful ruler or if not trigger the secessionist movement that might follow in the country, as a number of simultaneous protests were planned across state capitols–demonstrations that might be pushed to create a unifying protest that awoke a sleeping red giant, and many of the overlapping groups of Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, secessionist movements in varied states and alt right groups.
Severed from national laws that were no longer representing their interests, the members of Red State Secession (when exactly was the modifier added?) had been cut off from the laws that DC sought to impose on them, and had, they convinced themselves, the longer that they looked at the Gadsden Flag, perhaps, and the map that it created as a call to arms and indeed military recruitment to defend the denial of liberties: the image that Benjamin Franklin had devised as a rallying cry to join an army seeking to throw off the yoke of British Sovereignty circa 1754, as if the eighteenth century slogan positing a stark choice between two opposed alternatives might be teleported to the debates of sovereignty in the early twenty-first century:
The segmented snake that was a visual rebus indicating how division into discreet colonies obscured the latent power of the nation had summoned the “duty, to throw off such government” in the light of abuses and usurpations described in the Declaration of Independence that merit the altering or abolition of “any government that does not secure our inalienable rights.” But the expanse of inalienability had grown over two and a half centuries of debate, to include freedoms of expression, and religion, with second amendment rights to gun ownership in a new jargon of patriotism that might intimat local questioning of the electors seated in the Presidential Election of 2020, as if the states not only of P[ennsylvania], but G[eorgia], M[ichigan], and AZ demanaded to be seen as segments of the alternative political advocacy group “We the People” for the Save America March. The uniting of disparate segments of vigilant MAGA groups, from the Proud Boys and militant Oath Keepers and 3%ers, offspring of Patriot movements formed lest the Obama Presidency diminishing freedoms, would unite “We the People,” with aims beyond rights of assembly or freedom of expression, as if to dignify the carrying of AK 47’s as an act worthy of Paul Revere, sounding the alert for liberty beneath the Betsy Ross flag that was hung at the Alamo during the Texas Revolution, and rekindling spirits of patriotism against the buildings and operations of government.
Was this ever intended to be a non-violent rally committed to peace, rather than one intended to prevent the very prospect of a peaceful transition? The rally that had long been planned was, after all. Those who attended anticipated an orgy of open carry, and an affirmation of religious identitarianism, where rioters, as the original American revolutionaries who fought for their inalienable freedoms, might assemble beneath the Washington Monument with thousands of AR-15s in an unstoppable show of force, equipped with high-capacity feeding devices, even if carrying handguns without a permit is an offense in Washington, DC.
The event was, after all, planned in mid-December as a major event of Free Speech, shortly after the electoral college had met, and Pennsylvania electors had cast their ballots for Biden, as a conclusion already envisaged if the attempts to audit the vote and suits to dismiss votes as invalid would fail; it would celebration of Second Amendment rights by fiat; and if one wonders at reports that the rioters had come to Washington, DC, having widely shared maps of tunnels under the Capitol Building to concretize their plans for surrounding and taking the Capitol building. While described as insider knowledge, and perhaps facilitated by taking tours of the site in advance, they probably had only cobbled together tourist maps of the tunnels under the Capitol building that seemed routes to prevent Congress members they sought to make their views known to from not hearing the demands that they, the crowd We The People, felt it was their right to make: the protection of rights to assemble, freedom of speech, and rights to bear guns had all been obscured by how fake news had stolen the election. The recent escalation of #StoptheSteal tweets confirming the stolen nature of the election in 1.3 million tweets since election day suggested something like a seismic register for the Base that had jumped on the eve of the rally.
While the President did not directly invite the marchers who had assembled in the Ellipse to breach the Capitol, the incessant reminders of the stolen nature of the election had baited them since state electors had delivered the Presidency to Joe Biden. Trump tweeted out falsehoods with vigor, questioning the legitimacy of the transfer of power, as many flagged as false grew from Election Day throw the day of protest.
17. The indignation that tweets channeled was mapped onto real space on January 6, in ways that drove momentum to real moment of release. While announced as a First Amendment Activity, this was a second amendment rally, a rally asserting religious freedoms and religions nationalism, with fervent conviction, with many other fellow travelers convinced of the infringement of their rights and the need to Save America and their duty to do so. As their Commander in Chief animated the crowd assembled by affirming “we will never concede” and that at this moment, “we will stop the steal,” the heady disorientation clarified a map of affirming what was just ‘right.’
The claims of purifying the Capitol and the center of power was not a cry of a Presidency in its death throes, but a concerted effort that might prompt the restoration of a form of government transparency in asserting and protecting rights by reclaiming the chambers of government in misguided hopes to start a revolution. Many might have procured the maps of these tunnels in anticipation of storming the Capitol to defend the “true” results of the election by downloading them off an ESRI story map; a map of entrances to tunnels would also be confirmation of the plans of action that readied their disparate forces to enter the grounds to force the election. Online chat groups had already reasoned and spread the news in anticipation: “He wouldn’t be calling us to Washington unless there was a purpose that would ultimately end in him winning the election.” The maps could be easily gotten; the marchers would retake the Capitol building from entrances off of the ellipse that must have illustrated not only the vulnerability of the Capitol to attack but direct access to government.
Maps of tunnels available from visitors map circulated as “the most important maps of the day,” the basis to look for anyone fleeing the Capitol, rather than as a point of entry; it was disseminated in color-coded urgency with instructions to form “a TRUE LINE around the Capitol and the tunnels” in conspiratorial tones:
The hopes for surrounding the Capitol, in hopes not to allow any legislators to leave the premises, and indeed to paralyze the government’s regular function, as it prepared to, in the words of the planners of the event, “certify the steal,” led rioters to enter the building from numbers of sights, to overwhelm security by multiple breaches of the building, first from the east, approaching the west front by breaking open doors (5), having scaled rim of the portico (3) as others scaled the walls on the northeast portico (6)–all areas marked “very important” to man–to enter the Senate wing (7). Security was at the same time clustered at the west front (2), as reinforcements were unable to be called. Only after crowds broke into the House chamber and the Speaker’s Gallery did law enforcement officers draw guns, hoping to disperse the rushing rioters at the buildings entrance (4).
But is the on-the-ground assessment of the movement of rioters only able to scratch the surface of the ways fears were incited and communicated across the masses of marchers who moved on, like Christian soldiers, animated by a sense of duty that had cascaded into different causes and chatgroups, constituencies of the movement Trump had triggered that were swirling under all those different flags–flags of Confederates, Gadsden flags of insurrectionists of 3%’ers and Oath Keepers or Second Amendment groups, and Trump 2020 banners that created a sense of a sea of red, American flags and the Thin Blue Line flags, popular among pro-police groups that won broader currency among White Supremacists after Black Lives Matter, emblems that placed those who flew them in the space Trump extolled the police as occupying “between civilization and total chaos. The uniting of these groups, in an echo of the “Unite the Right” rally at Charlottesville, assembled to fight forces of darkness.
While these graphics of mapping the on-the-ground situation suggest the coordination of forcing entrance and taking the building, the hope was perhaps that the logic would unfold as a mob scene, able to be deflected from responsibility, but generalized an image of crowd violence that would “build momentum and pressure and the on the day change the hearts and minds of Congress, peoples who weren’t yet decided, or who saw everyone outside and said ‘I can’t be on the other side of that mob,’” as a right-wing activist who helped organize Stop the Steal claimed he planned with U.S. Representatives since late December, or since the electoral college met, when plans to interrupt congressional certification of the electoral votes began. As those who saw the seeds of dangerous crowd behavior, in mid-nineteenth century Paris, in prisons, brothels, and asylums as grounds for breeding criminal behavior, the proliferation of falsified revolutionary fantasies of seizing the state and interrupting processes of government to prevent loss of liberties proliferated online.
As much as map the routes of the entrance of what has been called a mob, we might pay more attentio to mapping how it was crowd-sourced. How did social media channel the Stop the Steal votes in multiple states by magnifying calls in chamber of accusations of illegitimacy to prepare for a populist putsch on January 6? To be sure, the manufacture of crowds asserting false populist claims began not only online, but in Stop the Steal rallies in individual states, as individual rallies for “stopping the steal” in Arizona, Philadelphia, and Virginia grew in November and December, as “President Trump’s path to victory appears to shrink,” according to national media group Nexstar.tv, leading Trump allies in Congress, as Arizona Representative Dr. Paul Gosar, to tweet a demand tha President-Elect Biden “should concede” on the eve of the certification of electoral votes in Congress, tagging the Stop the Steal movement. With Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, Arizona’s Andy Biggs he had planned since mid-December the massive rally on January 6 in DC.
As much as focus on the routes of an angry mob, filled with whites dressed in gang-like colors of passionate intensity, was there a possibility that tours of the Senate Chambers were given to members of such populist groups agitating for Second Amendment rights or Christian Nationalism the day before crowds assembled?
18. The anticipation was fanned on chatrooms and TheDonald amplified as they intersected with the script of historical re-enactment that Second Amendment defenders defended, far more than a mere First Amendment activity: the images of a threatened end of times asked viewers to envision the capitol in apocalyptic terms. Gun ammunition websites had explained that “a failed state is to post-modernity what the nation-state was to modernity,” and the incapability of our current states from “exercising authority over all of its nominal territory” was in fact a “hallmark of our age,” but the rights to overthrown government that denied rights, as was not doubted for gun owners, sanctioned the state of emergency to Save America. The “map” attributed to founding father Benjamin Franklin survives in the Gadsden Flags many held at the insurrection that they imagined would be the start of a new revolutionary war to defend local liberties, to defend the “sacred landslide election victory” Donald Trump had affirmed that morning by the “trial by combat” Rudy Giuliani had ominously foretold. Prefacing Trump’s own demonization of Big Tech, Giuliani demanded combat to deny the failure of representation in “crooked Dominion machines” that distorted the popular will, shortly before the crowd broke past the barriers, and prefacing Trump’s own demand that members of the rally act upon a realization “our country has had enough–we will not take it any more,” rallying the attention and focus that had, since December 15, promised to end “The Great Betrayal, and urged “If they won’t hear us/they will fear us,” invoking the politics of direct seizure of power through fraktur font echoing gothic lettering. The image of a wrathful destruction of organs of representative government were rooted in accusations of corruption that had distorted the popular will, akin to the aristocratic corruption of the French monarchy.
Is it not more than possible that such militaristic calls for occupation and incitement were prepared theater between militaristic separatists and cosplay revolutionaries and the President’s team, leaving much of his base electrified by the possibility of partaking in a new revolution?
The compact was able to be secured by “We the People,” and invited contingents to identify themselves by Gadsden flags that illustrated their commitment to the cause, diffused by the “3%ers,” a militia group of Patriots who since 2008 have vowed anti-government extremism, often based in Canada.
There was something more than deep theater here: Trump, who had lost the election, was desperate, with a group of lawgivers who had decided to stall the confirmation of electoral votes that day for as long as necessary, saw the “Stop the Steal” rally as a final attempt to give those who remained in his base a sense of their agency as true patriots, attracting disparate groups from Oath Keepers to Q Anon to deep loyalists, to claim their new identity as domestic terrorists, convincing them that they might stage a new revolution, and be part of a truly historical “experience” that transcended them all, using the Capitol building as a prop in a final Reality TV show that exposed the falsity of the official popular vote by the sheer force of passionate intensity, in a last-minute attempt by which true patriots could move collectively to Stop the Steal definitively.
There was a sense of collective brainwashing at that Rally as they readied for combat, ready to have their adrenaline and fight or flight impulses energized as they had at other rallies in the past. But this time was different, and they had packed nooses, axe handles, hockey sticks, heavy duty zip ties and flexi cuffs, repurposed cattle prods disguised as flagpoles, molotov cocktails and other handmade armaments, and backpacks concealing ammunition: as improvised police, they arrived to take control of the congressional chambers. Despite the DIY nature of many improvised weapons at the riot at the Capitol, many counter-terrorism experts believe encouraged or animated as an inside job, if one that betrays the Commander in Chief’s fragile state of mind–an inside job that was allowed by the absence of any security cordon, the long-term denial of an electoral loss, and the false urgency of preventing a ratification of an electoral tally Trump willfully wrongly argued might be stopped. When the crowd entered, Nancy Pelosi had to place a personal phone call to Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam, to secure the arrival of the National Guard, as other representatives turned to their offices to ask why more security forces were not on the way.
As for the fear of invasions, it was not that we had long mapped it wrong–it is just that the Deep State was within, and a lynching mob that went straight into the Capitol, without pausing for nicety, might fulfill the needs of the moment that allowed the disbanding of laws, and defense of liberty, fueled by escalating claims of voter fraud, and summoned to defend the system of elections that were sacred to the nation, in the “Second American Revolution” that the secessionist group announced was scheduled to start “on Jan 6,” to be noted on one’s calendar. The night before the rally assembled, Trump again promoted it on social media, reminding his base on Tuesday evening that “thousands would be pouring into Washington DC” to shake things up, if not shut down government for the specific aim of preventing the certification of electoral votes, the final “line in the sand” that the Trump administration seemed to see fit to draw.