Getting to the Bottom of Jan. 6: Was ANTIFA Secretly Behind the Violent Display at the U.S. Capitol?
Big League Politics has tried to separate fact from fiction with regards to the violent actions in the U.S. Capitol that occurred on Jan. 6.
There have been popular sources on the Right claiming that ANTIFA was behind the riot and have prompted doxxing campaigns against protest participants in an attempt to help the feds make their case that the display was a planned domestic terror attack.
We reached out to independent journalist Ford Fischer to have a brief discussion with him about what he witnessed while covering the Capitol on Jan. 6.
ST: After the Jan. 6 events in and around the U.S. Capitol, the media on the Right and the Left have seized on the narrative. Many on the Right are claiming ANTIFA led the charge and the event was a false flag of sorts while those on the Left are blaming Republican politicians and talking heads for what they call an “insurrection” or a “coup.” Do you agree with either of these characterizations, or is the truth somewhere in the middle?
Ford: On the first characterization: It is unequivocally not true that ANTIFA activists or any group of non-Trump supporters were responsible for what happened on January 6. Most “evidence” I’ve seen purporting to prove antifascist involvement was outright fabricated or deliberately misleading. The only non-Trump supporter whose involvement I’ve seen documented is John Sullivan, who was condemned as an infiltrator among leftists months before the attack. Sullivan’s own political ideology is unclear, but it’s extraordinarily obvious that he’s an infiltrator and instigator in every context he’s done “activism.”
On the characterization by the left, there’s a few elements to your question. The first is blame. I try in my own work to simply record and tell facts of what occurred, so it probably wouldn’t be appropriate for me to assign “blame” anywhere. The only politician charged for January 6 was President Trump himself. On the one hand, he was acquitted, but on the other hand, well over half of senators voted “guilty.” I would leave this question to anyone’s individual conscience, which isn’t going to have the same standard as a legal proceeding.
Oxford defines insurrection as “a violent uprising against an authority or government.” The incident on January 6 was a violent uprising, and its target was quite literally the legislative branch of government. While I would note that the term doesn’t contain a positive or negative connotation, I do believe what happened falls squarely into that definition.
ST: One development that may have major national ramifications is right-wing groups seemingly turning against cops. In the lead-up to the Jan. 6 rally, there had been contentious events between police and right-wing organizers, who increasingly believe that cops protect ANTIFA and BLM as they commit terrorism. Are you seeing evidence of an awakening of sorts from right-wing individuals and groups with regards to law enforcement?
Ford: Setting aside the term “awakening” in your question, I’m aware of the trend you’re describing. Here’s what I’ve observed: In general during the Trump era, the right wing has often found themselves squarely aligned with the police. They tend to admire and support police politically and are more inclined to work with them on the ground at events, from getting permits to keeping active lines of communication. More broadly, I think this relationship was partially due to the right wing feeling like they were on the side of the state. Trump tacitly supported groups like the Proud Boys, and they supported him.
The antifascist left had then – and continues to have – a directly adversarial relationship toward police. They see policing as an inherently oppressive institution, and collaboration with police to any degree as a betrayal of principle, in most cases. It was natural that the right and police found a common enemy there.
Since the election, what I’ve observed isn’t so much that the police have changed or that the right gained some new insight into police, but rather that as losing being the side in power became closer to reality, the street-fighting right accordingly felt disenfranchised from the state and angry. I observed situations where the right would instigate or seek fights, and police would respond heavy handedly toward them, which would then cause them to characterize the police as “commie pigs,” for example. January 6 was the final and most extreme expression of this trend, but I broadly observed it for about eight weeks ahead of that.
ST: My theory about the event, and why Left and Right won’t tell the truth about it, is that it demonstrated certain inconvenient truths about the nature of state power – namely, that it is a spook that evaporates when pressured. The cops did not stand down because of some convoluted conspiracy. The police stood down because they are powerless when enough people rise up. The power and prestige of Congress is illusory if enough angry peasants remove the consent of the governed. Politicos with so much invested in the status quo are too frightened to admit the flimsy nature of the system that they have essentially based their lives around. Care to offer a comment?
Ford: I reject the premise of this question, because it asserts that the police “stood down.” When I filmed the Capitol attack, I saw one moment of retreat, which I later learned was due to a separate portion of the police line being breached, and an order to pull back the line to simply defend the building rather than the grounds. If they hadn’t done that, the police would be quickly flanked and surrounded at every corner.
What I saw was officers for the most part using everything they could to fight back, but their numbers and equipment were simply not reflective of a force that believed this would happen. Going to my previous answer, Trump supporters before January on masse simply did not have a history of insurrectionary violence, and until fairly recently, had barely ever fought with police. It looked like police were prepared for a large but compliant crowd and were totally unprepared when that wasn’t what came.
As a quick example, I’d mention that I once saw a cop try to use flex cuffs to hold a door shut, and then shoot a fire extinguisher through the door as a crowd deterrent when that failed. I think any reasonable person would read that situation as an absolute unpreparedness for what was at hand, but not a surrender.
ST: The events on Jan. 6 are obviously being exploited by the state to initiate a massive power-grab, with the continuous lockdown of the Capitol and the attempt to bring the War on Terror home being two egregious examples. YouTube is cracking down on your operation right now. How do you think the events of Jan. 6 are impacting the work of independent journalists such as yourself?
Ford: Responding only to the question portion of this: Social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have to varying degrees used the possibility of violence as a reason to censor certain types of content. Platforms originally banned election disinformation for the sake of protecting an election, but now ban voices like the former president on the grounds that they could lead to violence. In my case, I had raw footage of speeches by President Trump and Congressman Paul Gosar on my channel which were deleted under this premise, in spite of my work clearly not endorsing their words.
I think it’s without question that January 6 is now and will continue to be the justification for the premise that certain types of speech – even raw video journalism – can become physically dangerous.
ST: You have covered events with Boogaloo Boys, ANTIFA, Proud Boys, Black Lives Matter, Oathkeepers, the NFAC, Patriot Front, and so on. Do you feel like the rise of these sort of “fringe” organizations pose a legitimate threat to national security? If so, what should be done in response?
Ford: While I have indeed covered all those groups, I don’t believe it would be appropriate as a primary source documenter of their events to evaluate them in terms of being a “threat” nor recommending a governmental response.
ST: With the Right and the Left now embracing political violence to various degrees, do you believe there is any chance for our civil society to recover peacefully? From what you have seen on the ground, do you believe this political chasm can be bridged before civil war becomes inevitable?
Ford: Like your previous question, I think it would probably be inappropriate for me to answer this one.
I will note that I push back on the use of the term “civil war” to describe either the current state of American politics or any realistically likely near future. While political extremism and division may well be on the rise, the outcome of no individual street skirmish or the sum of violence we’ve seen at them fundamentally have risen to the level of determining whether or not America itself remains in tact as a nation.
I do think using the term “civil war” loosely in this context is actually dangerous in that it may validate the struggle of the very extremists who wrongly believe one is coming, or that they’re already fighting one.