As Donald Trump and his partisan allies got to work rewriting the history of Jan. 6, they targeted core truths about the attack on the Capitol. It wasn't a "riot," they said, it should instead be seen as a "protest." Those responsible for the violence shouldn't be seen as insurrectionists, they added, but rather as innocent tourists who are being unfairly persecuted.
With this in mind, it came as a bit of a surprise this week when Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said largely the opposite — for a deeply unfortunate reason. As a Washington Post analysis noted:
During an appearance on conservative outlet Real America’s Voice, Greene repeated a frequent GOP talking point that the real focus of congressional investigators should be violence at Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. But while doing so, she essentially suggested the Capitol riot comported with our Founding Fathers’ vision. “[The racial-justice protest violence] was an attack on innocent American people, whereas Jan. 6 was just a riot at the Capitol,” she said. “And if you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.”
I'll confess, "just a riot" is one of those phrases I don't generally expect to hear from members of Congress.
There's quite a bit wrong with the far-right Georgian's perspective, starting with the obvious problem that elected lawmakers tasked with certifying the results of a free and fair election were not, in reality, "tyrants." From an American perspective, the authors and signatories to the Declaration of Independence had legitimate grievances; those bothered by Trump's defeat did not.
But taking a step further, note that Greene didn't just draw an absurd historical parallel, she also took steps to justify political violence. Look at the quote again: “[The racial-justice protest violence] was an attack on innocent American people, whereas Jan. 6 was just a riot at the Capitol."
It's an argument rooted in the belief that when those other people commit acts of violence, it's an unforgiveable attack, but when people on my side commit acts of violence, it's defensible, even admirable, and entirely consistent with American traditions.
Greene is giving voice to the idea that Jan. 6 was an insurrection — and that's OK.
Circling back to our discussion from a few weeks ago, the congresswoman is contributing to the final stage of a multi-step process in the aftermath of Jan. 6:
- The rioters' attack was bad.
- The rioters' attack was bad, but it was Democrats' fault.
- Maybe the rioters weren't so bad.
- The rioters were actually good.
No good can come of this.