January 6, 2021 – The Propaganda Narrative and its Consequences

Last week I began presenting some personal reflections on the historic events of January 6, 2021. Some people might be surprised because I failed to condemn ‘rioting’. Actually, I did not say anything about the actual events, but only about the aftermath: Democratic Party control of the government beyond the scope of the actual election results and a disconcerting display of raw power on the part of the big five of Big Tech (Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon).

Still, for the record, let me state that the rioters who entered the Capitol building on January 6 should be prosecuted with the full force of the law. So also, I think those engaged in the rioting from the beginning of the summer in Portland, Seattle, and other cities throughout the country, should have been prosecuted with the full force of the law.

One reason why I did not straight away comment on the events themselves is that it was not at all clear what happened – nor is it clear the time of my writing this – though the narrative that we were being given was clear. Actually, there have been competing narratives, but only one that comes through the mainstream media. We need to be aware that politics in this country works by trying to control the narrative. This control of the narrative takes place through the media.

This past year the media has given us a narrative about the pandemic, its danger, the case numbers and deaths, the need for lockdowns and masks, the hope for the vaccine; the media has given us a narrative about BLM, systemic racism, and mostly peaceful protests. All these narratives have served a narrative about the election, especially about Trump, who was judged as incompetent in face of the pandemic, unconcerned about human lives, a racist who has provoked riots and destruction in the cities, and who was preparing to deny the results of the election. Then the media gave us a narrative about the Biden victory and baseless charges of electoral fraud. Finally, the media has given us a narrative about Trump inciting his supporters to riot, to insurrection, to storm the capital. The reality has been, to say the least, much messier and much less clear than the media narrative.

Just focusing on the events of January 6 I see no evidence that Trump incited the attack on the Capitol. The massive rally on the Ellipse and the attack on the Capitol need to be distinguished. The attack actually began before Trump finished speaking and the Capitol was breached before the vast majority of the attendees of the rally could possibly have arrived at the Capitol. Further, there is clear evidence that some people were planning the attack before January 6, so the events at the Capitol were by no means a spontaneous response to Trump’s speech. It seems likely that there were agitators of both the right and the left involved in the attack and many in the crowd were caught up by the agitation in one way or another. Many others left the rally at the Ellipse and never came close to the Capitol. It seems to me that the only way Trump could be held directly responsible would be if he could be connected to the pre-rally planning of the attack.

As I said, there have actually been competing narratives, but the dominant narrative is the one that comes from the main-stream media. The alternative ‘conservative’ and ‘right-wing’ narratives are neither unified nor so powerful, except insofar as 75,000,000 people actually voted for Trump. There is fake-news and disinformation on both sides though it seems that the left has been more concerned simply to shut down and silence the opposition. The right simply does not have the power to do so in any case. Do not read news and commentary, from whatever source, without a critical eye.

What should really be a matter of concern right now is the way the events of January 6 are being used to threaten everyone who has supported Trump. Trump himself has been impeached for ‘incitement of insurrection’. The words ‘insurrection’, ‘sedition’, and ‘domestic terrorism’ are being used. It is not just a matter of those who invaded the Capitol, anyone who was even at the rally on the Ellipse is now suspect. It is not just a matter of legal prosecution for crimes, but people who have publicly supported Trump are now in danger of losing their jobs and being excluded from society in many other ways. Anyone who has suggested or continues to suggest that the election was ‘stolen’ from Trump or that there was some sort of election fraud involved, is now suspect of taking part in the ‘insurrection’. Further, all this runs the danger of depriving a large portion of the nation (up to 75,000,000 who voted from Trump) of their civil rights. If Trump supporters are deprived of their civil rights, then civil rights will become meaningless. Civil rights will be conditioned on supporting the new one-party system.

We have been hearing cries for ‘unity’ after a time of division and conflict, but it appears that the unity being offered is the unity that comes from submission to the Party.

A headline from the New York Daily News for Sunday, January 17 screams: “Unity? First, accountability: Before Joe Biden can bring America together, Donald Trump and his helpers must pay for what they’ve done.”

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.