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The Political Folly of Never-Ending January 6 Conspiracies
They're not convincing anyone new. All they do is scare away persuadable voters.
Back in February, then Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy granted then Fox News host (and renown conspiracy theorist) Tucker Carlson exclusive access to about 44,000 hours of January 6, 2021 security footage from the U.S. Capitol. McCarthy claimed he made the highly selective decision in the interest of transparency and accountability.
It was a laughable explanation. I wrote why at the time:
…if McCarthy were truly concerned about Jan. 6 accountability, he wouldn’t have protested or killed every single congressional effort that tried to achieve it (including the bipartisan ones he himself originally called for). And if your aim is to bring “sunshine” to an issue in order to let “everybody make their own judgment,” Tucker Carlson is one of the last people you’d put in charge of the operation.
McCarthy was assuredly honoring one of the many backdoor deals he’d made with holdout House Republicans to finally, at the end of a humiliating 15 rounds of voting, secure the speaker’s gavel.
It was entirely expected, of course, that Carlson would use the exclusive footage to produce a highly deceptive, unanswerable representation of that day’s events. What did surprise me, especially considering all of Carlson’s pre-hype, was how weak and void of creativity his exposé was.
The host had 44,000 hours of video previously unseen by the media, and the bombshell reveal to his viewers, after his team purportedly spent days combing through the footage, were some clips showing areas inside the Capitol where violence wasn’t occurring on January 6.
It was the Al Capone’s Vaults of conspiracy kookery.
Carlson pathetically offered the mundane scenes as proof that January 6 had been wildly overblown, and that the January 6 committee, those who testified under oath (including Capitol police officers and members of the Trump administration), and everyone else who corroborated what we all saw with our lying eyes that day… had just been exposed as frauds.
Carlson’s argument was basically that unless every inch of the Capitol was overrun by insurrectionists that day, there was no insurrection.
While media-grifters and miscellaneous right-wing dolts ran with Carlson’s narrative anyway (and nonsensically declared vindication for J6 rioters who’d been arrested and charged), even a lot of MAGA faithfuls seemed embarrassed by Tucker’s “findings.” They were hoping for a smoking gun that would validate the host’s far more exotic and conspiratorial claims about what happened that day, but were instead shown imagery that challenged no one’s arguments or conclusions.
I mean, who ever claimed that every room and corridor of the Capitol (a 1.5 million square-foot building) was breached by those who broke inside? Who has said that every room and corridor that was breached that day remained compromised, and in a state of disarray, for the entire three-plus hours of the incursion? Who has argued that everyone who illegally entered the Capitol engaged in violence and/or vandalism? Who has said that police officers in some parts of the Capitol didn’t face different levels of threats and resistance (therefore warranting different responses) than other police officers in other parts of the Capitol?
No one, that’s who.
Yet, these accounts were cast by Carlson as important revelations that somehow negated everything else we’d seen and learned up until that point, including widespread acts of violence, over a hundred police officers suffering injuries (some so bad they were forced to retire), lawmakers and staffers running for their lives and ushered into safe-rooms, and roughly three million dollars in property damage.
Carlson’s spin-attempt was a spectacular failure, and it quickly fizzled, making it difficult to understand why anyone would expect a different result upon new House Speaker Mike Johnson, last week, releasing the same footage to the wider public. Johnson very likely made the same deal as McCarthy had with fellow House members, but he seemed to understand the futility of the exercise, as well as how counterproductive it is whenever the GOP puts a spotlight back on January 6. Why else would he release the footage on a Friday afternoon (where press releases go to die)?
While the timing of the delivery may have kept mainstream-media coverage of it to a minimum, loud members of the online right (who had apparently memory-holed Carlson’s flop from months earlier) went down the same rabbit-hole, posting video-edits of non-violent Capitol activity on January 6. Naturally, the usual suspects embraced the idiocy, including media-hacks like Charlie Kirk, and even U.S. Senator Mike Lee, who seemed to argue that the newly-seen non-violent footage amounted to suppressed evidence. Evidence of what, exactly, was unclear, but the supposed scandal spawned a #WeHaveBeenLiedTo hashtag that appropriately invited lots of hilarious responses:
Doubling-down on the buffoonery, Lee took things even further, sharing a grainy video-capture on X of a man in a MAGA hat purportedly holding a badge. Lee implied that the man could be an undercover federal agent in disguise, lending credence to the popular but baseless conspiracy theory that it was the FBI, not angry Trump supporters, who launched the attack on the Capitol.
Fact-checkers quickly pointed out that the man was no agent, and what he was holding was no badge. He was instead someone named Kevin Lyons, who was carrying a vape-pen in his hand along with a photograph and wallet he had stolen from Nancy Pelosi's office. Lyons was sentenced to 51 months in prison for the crimes he committed on January 6.
As of the time I’m typing this, three days and over four million views later, the senator still hasn’t deleted the incredibly reckless (and knowingly false) post. And he likely never will, because just like there wasn’t any accountability for January 6 from the Republican Senate, there won’t be any from voters in deep-red states like Utah, which Lee represents.
I take reader criticism from time to time for still writing about January 6… an event that happened almost three years ago. A number of my fellow righties understand that the events of that day have been (and continue to be) politically damaging for Republicans, so they wish I’d just “move on” from it. What amuses me is that none of these people ever have a cross word for the far more prominent figures on the right who keep needlessly dragging that day back into the news cycle with wacky allegations and self-defeating stunts. None of these people complain about J6-deniers like Carlson, Kirk, Lee, and the House members who spurred this latest effort, all of whom have much louder microphones than I do, and won’t stop talking about that day. They don’t fuss over Donald Trump publicly honoring, floating pardons for, and recording music with those who, in his name, beat up police officers, trashed the Capitol, and threatened to hang his vice president.
No, they’re frustrated with me for noticing, and having the gall to comment on such things.
I’ll end with some hard truths and a little advice for my former party, because I truly believe that the country needs a strong, competent, hopefully conservative alternative to the Democrats: You’re not winning over a single voter with these alternate-realities of January 6. No one believes them who hasn’t been perfectly willing to believe them for the last two and a half years. All this nonsense is doing is scaring off non-base voters who might otherwise vote for Republicans because they’re frustrated with Biden and the Democrats.
If winning matters at all to you, and it may well not, it’s time to grow up and cut the crap.