The events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol have been so highly politicized that it’s almost impossible for anyone to get to the truth anymore. We don’t know all the facts, even after months of investigations and hearings; nobody does for sure. What I do know for sure is if the situation were reversed, everyone’s opinions on it would be reversed, too. That’s sad and says a lot about where America is today. Americans are more dug into partisan bubbles and tribalism than at any time in recent history. It’s so bad that many people can’t even see the truth. Or don’t want to look for it.
In the case of Jan. 6, imagine if a Republican president were elected and on the eve of his inauguration, a mob of Democrats, some peaceful but others not, including hardcore antifa types, overran the U.S. Capitol. Imagine that the worst of them knocked down barricades, assaulted police officers, smashed windows, kicked down doors, ransacked offices and defaced property once they were inside. We know how conservatives would react. They would call for arrests. They would talk about law and order. They would decry the rioting and the mob.
We know this reaction for a fact because it’s the same reaction conservatives had the prior summer when left-wing mobs took over and damaged so many American cities. It’s true that many of the summer’s riots were even more harmful and violent than the tragic events at the Capitol, but the basic principle of adherence to the rule of law applies. Without it, you have anarchy. That’s why when so many on the left were claiming the summer riots were “mostly peaceful,” conservatives were pointing out the absurdity of that statement. “Mostly peaceful” with a side of violent rioting is not acceptable in America.
We also know this because in 2016, the shoe was on the other foot. Coordinated groups of violent rioters injured numerous police officers in an attempt to disrupt President Donald Trump’s inauguration. They smashed store windows, tore down bus stops, lit cars on fire, disrupted Trump supporters trying to get to the inauguration and threw rocks at police. Eventually, over 200 rioters were arrested. When prosecutors dropped the charges on all of them, many conservatives were rightly incensed. What happened to law and order?
The same is of course true of the events at the U.S. Capitol. Many of the actions that day cannot be excused. That’s not how civilized countries handle politics. It’s not acceptable behavior in the United States, where we still believe in law and order. But none of that justifies the left’s politicization of the Capitol mob. The takeover of the U.S. Capitol was horrible, but it was nowhere near a “coup” or an “insurrection.” It just wasn’t. Those trying to portray it as such are milking the situation for political gain.
The political nature of the Capitol riot investigation was given away when the committee hired a TV producer to direct the whole thing. But the release of the unedited videos to Fox News has raised more important questions. The first set of videos show police calmly walking around the Capitol building with Jacob Chansley, the famous “QAnon Shaman.” The video shows Chansley walking with two officers, at one point even walking past a group of several officers who do not try to arrest or stop Chansley.
The first obvious question is why this video was not disclosed to Chansley’s defense attorneys before he was sentenced to 41 months in prison. The government is required to disclose exculpatory evidence in its possession in a criminal proceeding. Should this video have been disclosed? The second and more important question is why were the Capitol police calmly walking this guy around? Why did they not arrest him?
To date, the police have not answered these questions. The closest they have come is a line in the Capitol police chief’s letter to his team noting “I don’t have to remind you how outnumbered our officers were on January 6.” That’s certainly true, but they were not outnumbered in the newly released videos. The guy was surrounded in otherwise sparse corridors, yet police were opening doors for him instead of arresting him? Why? If they received orders to stand down, from who and for what reason?
If getting to the truth is the goal in any sense at all, then why weren’t more of these videos released publicly from the start? The argument that further disclosures pose a security risk seems thin. Public tours roam all around the Capitol. So do the thousands of staffers who turn over regularly. Both tourists and staff take pictures and videos all the time. It’s not a secret military facility. And to the extent that there really are some very selective places that pose a real security risk, those could be redacted and an explanation provided. The security argument is, in short, a thin and sort of sad attempt to keep the public from the truth. Without a broader public video release, everyone gets to accuse each other of selectively editing. The right says the official Democrat-dominated investigation released only the most violent clips to politicize the event as much as possible. Now the left is making a similar accusation about the clips showing police making no attempt to impede movement around the building, and in at least one clip, literally opening a door for Chansley.
There are two solutions. First and most obviously, release the videos. All of them. Let people see for themselves. Second, how about the officials in charge of security that day actually answer detailed questions about what is occurring in the footage? And not questions in front of a partisan, produced and prime-time panel. There are videos showing police on the grounds that day frustrated with the lack of preparedness and leadership. There were also numerous prior warnings about potential trouble that day. Why so little security in the first place? People still don’t have answers to these basic questions.
This is a novel concept in modern America. Leaders and institutions repeatedly ignore basic questions. There is often no accountability. It’s one reason the public’s trust in institutions is at record lows. How about breaking the trend on this one?
Neil Patel co-founded The Daily Caller, one of America’s fastest-growing online news outlets, which regularly breaks news and distributes it to over 15 million monthly readers. Patel also co-founded The Daily Caller News Foundation, a nonprofit news company that trains journalists, produces fact-checks and conducts longer-term investigative reporting. The Daily Caller News Foundation licenses its content free of charge to over 300 news outlets, reaching potentially hundreds of millions of people per month. To find out more about Neil Patel and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com