The sight of a mob ransacking the halls of Congress Wednesday was shocking. But the public reaction to those images was even more disturbing.
It doesn’t take a trained sociologist to know that our populace is divided. The schism between those who stand to the right and those on the left of our political divide is sharp and deep. But the rationalizations and misinformation, spread with the speed and violence of lightning bolts over social networks, jumps that gap and sets both sides aflame.
Normally, The Daily Iberian stays very local in its coverage. First, it’s because that is our market and where our expertise lies. Second, it’s just not our mission to cover breaking news events outside of our region.
The events in Washington were different. When crowds moved from a rally on the Ellipse down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol and breached the police line to enter the heart of our democracy, it would have been irresponsible for us not to cover it.
Immediately, the stories we published from reporters on the scene were decried as fake news. Trump supporters claimed it was members of Antifa masquerading as MAGA followers who were responsible for the violence. Photos of known QAnon leaders like Jake Angeli, the Viking-hatted rioter known as Q Shaman, and White Nationalists like Tim Gionet, better known as Baked Alaska, were circulated as purported Antifa followers.
They aren’t. But those sharing the photos were vehement in their defense of the theory that they are.
Likewise a claim from Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz that facial recognition software identified Antifa members in the halls of the Capitol that was seized upon and, within minutes, was making the rounds online. Gaetz has since been hit with a demand for a retraction from the company he cited as the source of his information.
Even something as basic as a headline that accurately said President Trump declared “We love you” in his video asking rioters to go home was attacked — vociferously — because it didn’t lead with his quiet request for peace.
The reason the headline was written that way is because a president asking for peace wasn’t the high point. The request coming hours after he and others in his orbit whipped the crowd into a frenzy, instructed them to march on the Capitol and fight, then led with a recounting of grievances and justification for the rioters’ violent behavior, was. And still is.
We stand by our reporting and our editorial decisions. A day later, the condemnations of violence from the Trump wing of the Republican Party are caveated with justifications based on debunked claims of voter fraud and election impropriety. Even the Louisiana GOP’s statement on the violence spent its first paragraph citing election issues before it decried violence.
It is a dark time for our nation. We need to make sure that the light we follow is one of knowledge and responsibility, not the flash fire of our democratic republic going up in smoke.
Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.