If we talked about the storming of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., the same way we talk about political violence in a foreign country, here’s how Western media would have covered it. Many of those quoted in the “story” below are fictional.
Political violence and rioting exploded in the United States on Wednesday as extremists loyal to right-wing leader Donald Trump stormed the legislative building in the nation’s capital, Washington, forcing lawmakers to go into hiding in secure locations.
The mob was incited to act by Trump himself. During a speech before thousands of his supporters earlier in the day, the president called the outcome of the November election an “egregious assault on our democracy” and urged people to “walk down to the Capitol” because “you will never take back our country with weakness.”
Soon a crowd was breaking into the Capitol, charging police barricades and breaking windows to try to disrupt the certification of the presidential election that resulted in a clear defeat for Trump. A woman was fatally shot by security forces inside the Capitol, and three other people died under unspecified circumstances. A Capitol Police officer also died after confronting extremists.
As observers wrestled with whether to call the actions a “coup” or a “sparkling authoritarian takeover,” Trump supporters terrorized lawmakers and forced them to stop the certification of the election. Hundreds were seen looting and chanting slogans while some police officers passively looked on.
Many Americans, including prominent journalists, politicians and security officials, expressed dismay at the unfolding events, even though right-wing groups had described their plans online and some had even printed “CIVIL WAR” T-shirts to mark the occasion. Of course political and racial violence have played a part in the history of the former British colony for centuries and have particularly been inflamed in the past four years.
World leaders expressed concern about the violence, but there have been no public commitments to send peacekeeping forces to Washington. Others suggested sending celebrity Kendall Jenner as a special envoy to Washington to restore order by offering Pepsis to the extremists. The United Nations did not issue a statement. The African Union followed the European Union’s position of nonintervention in America’s fragile democracy, saying: “We, too, believe in American solutions to American problems.”
The coup attempt unfolded as the country continues to struggle with a dysfunctional response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic — on Wednesday, the United States suffered a record of more than 3,800 COVID-19 deaths.
Meanwhile, the political backlash for Trump was swift: He was banned from Twitter and other social media platforms.
The images from the Capitol were grim. “I can see that these White people are angry,” said local District of Columbia resident Markus Harvie, a member of the country’s Black ethnic minority. “But why are they attacking buildings in their own community? Can’t they just kneel in protest or something? Buildings matter, too.”
The violent takeover of the seat of the U.S. government confounded some experts with Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), but others pointed out that the ability of the mob to overpower the security forces was no accident. “America likes to use overwhelming force to subdue and arrest masses of Black and white protesters who march against oppression,” said Carlotta Lucas, a Havana-based CVE expert. “But we saw police forces letting dangerous white extremists into one of the most important buildings in America. When it comes to guarding against white extremist violence, America’s so-called thin blue line becomes damn near microscopic.”
An anonymous law enforcement official tried to explain the discrepancy between why so many Black men and women have been assaulted and arrested for protesting racism, while so few white extremists were arrested Wednesday. “Well, actually, the way we calculate things, a Black male protester is equal to three-fifths of a white male protester,” the official said. “And Black women we don’t count at all. So on balance, the math tends to balance out.”
The violence in the capital occurred barely a day after Black voters and organizers had helped elect the first Black senator from the Southern state of Georgia, delivering a congressional majority to the opposition Democrats in the process.
As the images of violence and insurrection spread on social media, the winner of the November election, Joe Biden, addressed the nation and tried to soothe Americans. “The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are,” the president-elect said.
“The phrase ‘this is not who we are’ has become a very common refrain in American English,” said Alphus Huxly, a Liberian professor of American studies and literature. “It is a knee-jerk response used when confronted with mounting evidence of the capacity for white violence and attacks on democracy.”
During an interview, Huxly went to his bookshelf and picked out a book. “The French Cuban writer Anaïs Nin wrote in 1940 that ‘America is in even greater danger because of its cult of toughness, its hatred of sensitivity, and someday it may have to pay a price for this.’ ”
He closed the book and sighed.
“This did not start with Trump. The biggest threat to white America was always the rage and violence of white America. And if the country doesn’t get a hold of itself, America’s democracy will indeed pay a heavy, heavy price. America will lose whatever remains of its soul.”