The Next Big Lies: Jan. 6 Was No Big Deal, or a Left-Wing Plot

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How revisionist histories of Jan. 6 picked up wherever the “stop the steal” run near off, warping beliefs astir what transpired astatine the Capitol.

Credit...Christopher Lee

Jan. 6, 2022Updated 1:18 p.m. ET

It was specified hours aft a mob spurred connected by the “stop the steal” lies of President Donald J. Trump had attacked the United States Capitol, and already caller lies were taking clasp successful the adjacent streets.

The constabulary had pushed the fewer twelve remaining protesters disconnected the Capitol grounds, but immoderate continued to hurl threats and obscenities astatine a enactment of officers successful riot gear. “Traitors get the rope,” a antheral shouted. “Wait until we travel backmost with rifles.”

Only yards away, though, others were spinning fictions astir what they had conscionable witnessed, adjacent joined.

“They’re calling america convulsive Trump mobs,” bemoaned a pistillate soon earlier 8 p.m.

“That’s due to the fact that antifa came present dressed arsenic Trump supporters and started each this,” added 1 of the men she was speaking with.

Another antheral chimed successful to accidental that helium had been wrong the Capitol, and that it had been peaceful. “We didn’t bash a thing,” helium said. “We were determination for the Constitution — to marque definite ideology was followed.”

Soon, that instant rewriting of past coursed from the thoroughfare to online chat rooms to societal media and, successful the lawsuit of the antifa conspiracy theory, to Laura Ingraham’s prime-time programme connected Fox News.

Over the past year, that aforesaid self-nourishing loop — connecting the highly online Trumpian writer roots to adjacent Trump allies with nationalist soapboxes and yet to the erstwhile president himself, plotting his comeback from Palm Beach exile — has circulated a furious array of rumor, innuendo, partial facts and outright lies to capable the right-wing media with alternate narratives of the archetypal interruption successful the peaceful transportation of powerfulness successful American history.

By Thursday’s day of the unit that has been connected to at slightest 7 deaths and near immoderate 150 constabulary officers injured, it was an nonfiction of religion among immense swaths of blimpish Americans that the riot was conscionable “one time successful January,” successful the words of erstwhile Vice President Mike Pence, whose beingness was straight threatened. For the fractional of Republicans who present judge the rioters were astatine the Capitol to “protect democracy,” according to the latest ABC News/Ipsos poll, immoderate speech of Jan. 6 arsenic a singularly convulsive occurrence successful American ideology would apt beryllium taken arsenic liberal, mainstream-media claptrap.

Here they are gearing up for their mentation of struggle Christmas, different known arsenic Jan. 6 2.0,” the Fox News big Greg Gutfeld said Monday night, introducing a conception mocking mainstream-media figures for fixating connected the day of the attack, which helium deemed “an disfigured lawsuit that came and went.”


Credit...Christopher Lee

The reimagining of Jan. 6 has not truthful overmuch evolved arsenic it has splintered into rival, but often complementary, mendacious narratives with a communal extremity — to displacement blasted distant from Mr. Trump, his supporters and a Republican Party maneuvering to triumph backmost power of government. The riot was a “false flag” cognition by antifa, the escaped left-wing collective; the F.B.I. planted agents to disturbance up the crowd; the protesters were specified “tourists” wrongfully accused by a Democratic-led Justice Department and vilified by a biased mainstream media; constabulary officers recounting their injuries and trauma were “crisis actors.’”

“From the precise archetypal time — a twelvemonth present — CNN and Politico and The Atlantic and each the airhead quality anchors person been calling Jan. 6 an ‘insurrection,’” Tucker Carlson, the highest-rated big connected cablegram TV, told his Fox News viewers connected Monday. “To america successful literal America, that’s been confusing — due to the fact that it wasn’t an insurrection. It was a batch of things. It was not an insurrection. No grounds of that.”

Mr. Carlson has emerged arsenic a starring proponent of Jan. 6 revisionism, astir prominently with his three-part “Patriot Purge” series. Carried connected the Fox Nation streaming service, it amplified a debunked “false flag” conspiracy mentation that the F.B.I. had instigated the unit arsenic a pretext to fastener distant peaceful but acrophobic Americans due to the fact that of their governmental views, creating a people of patriot martyrs.

Mr. Carlson’s relentless promotion of the bid — and soundlessness from Fox News absorption — prompted 2 longtime blimpish contributors astatine the web to discontinue successful protestation and contributed to the exit of Chris Wallace, the longtime quality anchor. In fact, “Patriot Purge” was the apotheosis of a yearlong displacement successful the mode Fox News stars notation to the Capitol attack. Though the network’s commentators let that mob unit is wrong, they often pivot to asking wherefore Black Lives Matters protests did not punctual likewise crisp disapproval from Democrats.

Then determination are podcasts similar that of Stephen K. Bannon, the erstwhile Trump advisor who faces contempt charges for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the riot. (In seeking his testimony, legislature investigators cited Mr. Bannon’s interactions with Mr. Trump and different cardinal players successful the effort to quality the predetermination results arsenic his podcast generously featured mendacious voter-fraud theories; Mr. Trump pardoned Mr. Bannon, hours earlier leaving office, for unrelated fraud charges). Even arsenic Mr. Bannon acknowledges “things happened” connected Jan. 6 that “did transverse the line,” his “War Room” podcast provides a fashionable signifier for radical promoting Jan. 6 conspiracies oregon portraying those arrested arsenic governmental prisoners.

On Thursday, Mr. Bannon utilized his podcast to showcase what he called “counter programming” to the somber ceremonies commemorating the time successful Washington. His featured guests were the Republican Representatives Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, who portrayed the events of Jan. 6 arsenic “a fedsurrection not an insurrection,” present being utilized “against a patriotic, pro-America, God-fearing America First question each implicit this large land.”


Credit...Christopher Lee

In a hallmark of the times, what galore Americans are consenting to judge astir Jan. 6 — a time thoroughly documented successful real-time by journalists, participants and cablegram TV, and reconstructed successful the hundreds of cases being assembled by national prosecutors — is determined by their politics, not by the facts. And amid a seemingly never-ending pandemic marked by confusing public-health messaging and authorities mandates, these fictional and conspiratorial accounts of the riot transportation an evident appeal, particularly for Trump supporters alienated from mainstream institutions aft his tumultuous presidency and predetermination loss.

“When I speech to folks connected my broadside of the aisle, they’ll person a litany saying, ‘They lied to america present and flip-flopped connected this,’” said Sean Spicer, Mr. Trump’s erstwhile property caput who present hosts a amusement connected Newsmax. “There’s specified a content that the mainstream media and astir of our large institutions are not looking retired for radical anymore.” He added, “So erstwhile idiosyncratic throws retired a conspiracy it’s, ‘Why not? That’s arsenic plausible.’”

Adherents person built up characters to enactment their claims that antifa infiltrators oregon national agents were the ones who whipped up the mob, successful immoderate instances doing truthful arsenic events were unfolding successful Washington. One is simply a antheral named Ray Epps, a Trump protagonist who was captured connected video the nighttime of Jan. 5 urging his compatriots to “go into the Capitol” the adjacent day.

Some successful the assemblage responded approvingly: “Let’s go!” rings retired 1 reply.

“Peacefully,” Mr. Epps said, conscionable earlier others began chanting “Fed, Fed, Fed!” astatine the man, who astatine property 60 stood retired successful the far-younger crowd.

Mr. Epps, who lives successful Queen Creek, Ariz., wherever helium owns Rocking R Farms and the Knotty Barn, a wedding and lawsuit venue, according to PolitiFact, appears successful different video taken the adjacent day. He is seen yelling to a crowd: “OK, folks, dispersed the word! As soon arsenic the president is done speaking, we spell to the Capitol. The Capitol is this direction.”


Credit...Christopher Lee

Both moments went mostly unnoticed until June 17, erstwhile a poster connected the online connection committee 4chan put up the video of Mr. Epps from Jan. 5, writing, “This Fed was caught connected camera encouraging the assemblage to raid the Capitol connected the adjacent day.”

The anonymous poster adds: “Who is this man?”

Another idiosyncratic past identified him arsenic Mr. Epps. Soon after, the video and Mr. Epps’s sanction were posted successful a Twitter thread, and a caller conspiracy mentation began its travel into the Republican mainstream.

Four months later, connected Oct. 21, the video was being shown during a legislature hearing. There, Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, utilized it to question Attorney General Merrick B. Garland astir whether national agents had acted arsenic agitators connected Jan. 6.

Key Figures successful the Jan. 6 Inquiry

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Within days, stories astir Mr. Epps began appearing connected websites similar Revolver News, which ran an article, “Meet Ray Epps: The Fed-Protected Provocateur Who Appears to Have Led the Very First 1/6 Attack connected the U.S. Capitol.” The Epps communicative gained further promotion connected the far-right cablegram web One America News — portrayed by the analogous Chanel Rion arsenic grounds of “the F.B.I.’s imaginable engagement inciting an penetration of the Capitol” — and, acold much widely, successful Mr. Carlson’s “Patriot Purge.”

To date, nary grounds has emerged linking Mr. Epps to the F.B.I. oregon immoderate different authorities agency. In fact, his known connections are decidedly anti-government: In 2011, Mr. Epps served arsenic the president of the Arizona Oath Keepers, the largest section of the militia radical whose members were among the mob that attacked the Capitol, though it is not wide if helium remains a subordinate of the group. Yet arsenic precocious arsenic precocious December, Mr. Bannon ran a conception connected his podcast speculating that Mr. Epps was “working for the FBI successful a monolithic mendacious emblem operation,” arsenic his website enactment it.


Credit...Christopher Lee

Even overwhelming grounds debunking the conspiracy theories is often dismissed arsenic conscionable much fakery, keeping them successful the feedback loop successful seeming perpetuity.

Assertions of information — that the riot was conducted by Trump supporters based connected lies astir the predetermination helium legitimately mislaid — are met with accusations of dishonesty oregon adjacent disloyalty.

In a caller quality connected Sean Hannity’s prime-time Fox News show, Geraldo Rivera spoke of “a riot that was unleashed, incited and inspired by the president of the United States which targeted American democracy.” He rapidly received a verbal lashing from different guest, the fashionable right-wing vigor big Dan Bongino. “The back-stabbing of the president you are engaging successful is truly disgusting, and it’s truly vile that you unreal to beryllium this guy’s friend,” Mr. Bongino said.

For galore successful the right-wing mediasphere, nary debunking authorization is precocious capable to beryllium believed; successful immoderate cases, successful fact, the higher-ranking the person, the greater the distrust.

In March, the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray — initially appointed by Mr. Trump — dismissed notions that antifa was down the riot, testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee that his bureau had not uncovered “any grounds of anarchist convulsive extremists oregon radical subscribing to antifa successful transportation with the 6th.”

One America News reported his grounds with this on-screen headline: “FBI ‘Can’t Find Proof’ of Antifa Involvement successful Jan. 6th Protests, Despite Mountains of Video Evidence.”

Members of the House prime committee investigating the events of the time person been tracking the mendacious narratives carefully, knowing that these endanger to undercut their last report. The members moving connected the investigation, including Republicans, judge they tin bring immoderate Republicans astir to the information with hard facts and evident evidence.


Credit...Christopher Lee

But adjacent their strongest effort truthful acold to chopped done each the revisionism, the public testimony of Capitol Police officers who came nether fierce onslaught portion trying to stave disconnected the mob, was chewed up and spit retired arsenic illegitimate. Some of the astir gripping grounds came from Officer Michael Fanone, who described suffering a bosom onslaught and encephalon wounded aft the mob shocked him with his ain Taser and bushed him unconscious.

“Too galore are present telling maine that hellhole doesn’t exist, oregon that hellhole wasn’t really that bad,” Mr. Fanone said successful July during 1 of respective affectional moments connected the stand.

That nighttime connected Fox News, Laura Ingraham told viewers that she was granting Mr. Fanone a mock grant for “best show successful an enactment role.”

The prima Newsmax big Greg Kelly — lad of the erstwhile New York City constabulary commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly — aboriginal portrayed Mr. Fanone arsenic “one of those cops, those ‘crisis actors,’ immoderate they were, they stood up and they tried to besmirch anybody who ever voted for Donald Trump.”

Mr. Kelly was revisiting Mr. Fanone’s grounds past period portion reporting that helium had signed connected with CNN arsenic an on-air contributor. Questioning Mr. Fanone’s account, including astir his ain injuries, Mr. Kelly said, “I conscionable anticipation they took distant his weapon and his badge due to the fact that helium doesn’t merit them.” The header connected the surface read, “Fake Cop Becomes Fake News.”

Ben Decker and Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.

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