“And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore. Our exciting adventures and boldest endeavours have not yet begun.”
These were the words of Donald Trump during his rally on the 6th of January, in Washington D.C. Shortly afterwards, a mob of his supporters violently stormed Capitol Hill, shortly after Congress had convened to ratify Biden’s victory.
They found little to no defence, which is increasingly suspicious, and so they walked in. It seemed as if they couldn’t quite believe it, and once they were in, they weren’t quite sure what to do. Some decided to climb on the furniture, some were taking selfies, some decided the best thing they could possibly do was defecate on the floors, and some thought that the most manly, true-American, patriotic thing to do, was murder a police officer. One man reached Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, proudly sat down at her desk and, quoting his own, elegant words, “scratched his balls”; before leaving, he left a note (and repeatedly boasted about it later), stating “Nancy, Bigo was here, you bitch”. Scenes similar to these witnessed on this day are many, and all of them are, to a degree, the perfect depiction of filth.
Who were they? Most of them are being tracked down through an astonishing, worldwide effort, but I’m not interested in their names; most of them don’t deserve to be named. I’m interested in what we saw, in what the pictures from the 6th of January showed us, because I believe what we saw was horrifying.
The “great patriots” that stormed Capitol Hill were shown wearing “MAGA” (Make America Great Again) hats; one man was carrying the Confederate flag (a pungent symbol of slavery and white supremacy); many were wearing all sorts of symbols connected to the QAnon, the unfounded, disproved, but popular, conspiracy theory depicting Donald Trump as a hero attempting to rid the US of the “cabal”, a group of “Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic, paedophiles” (who strive to get rid of Trump; apparently, their plans also include harvesting the blood of children), led, of course, by the Democrats (Mr Trump is going with it: he has commended the theory). It doesn’t end here.
Some of the rioters were wearing T-shirts with anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi slogans, one of them being “Camp Auschwitz: Work Brings Freedom” (with the word “Staff” written on the back), or carrying nooses, another sickening symbol of racism. Attackers were seen wearing all types of representative merch, proudly showing off to which degrading, disgusting group they belonged to: the Three Percenters, Boogaloo Bois, Proud Boys (one of them wearing a “6MWE” shirt, meaning “6 million wasn’t enough”, which refers to the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust; however, sources are unsure whether this T-shirt was worn on the 6th of January, or during a Proud Boys protest in December, but it still sheds a light on what type of group it is), and many more.
Those were the participants (of course, not all of them like those mentioned above). Trump supporters, among many other things. How did Donald Trump, the President of the US, initially address the situation, after being asked by President-Elect Joe Biden to intervene?
“We love you. Go home.”
Those were his words, addressed to his “great patriots” who were attacking a fundamental symbol of American democracy. How did these events come to be? The answer is very simple, if we are willing to slightly shift our focus to Twitter, and to social media.
Ever since Donald Trump became the US President (and before that, too), Twitter has been his favourite toy. He has used Twitter to spread his ideas, beliefs, conspiracy theories and indignations. He has used it to fire people; if you were one of Trump’s employees, all you had to do to find out whether you still had a job or not, was keep tabs on his Twitter account (Ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, found out he was out of a job when Trump tweeted the name of who would replace him). He has even used Twitter to have petty fights with other countries’ leaders: let us never forget Trump’s famous tweet addressed to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, regarding nuclear buttons (and who knows what else), “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Seeing Trump on Twitter is (or should I say, was?) like seeing a spoiled child with no self-control and too much power, yelling at everyone and anyone who has anything to say.
However, in past weeks, we have been able to witness how dangerous Trump’s extreme usage of Twitter can be, and how easily it influenced his supporters. The US Elections were held on the 3rd of November 2020. From that day onwards, the vast majority of his tweets proclaimed “fraudulent”, and “rigged” elections (in just ten days, from the 3rd to the 13th of November, 110 of Trump’s tweets referred to rigged elections). The best known one, perhaps, being “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!”. The point is, the frequency of Trump’s tweets, and their blatant lies, whipped up his more delusional followers encouraging them to rebel, and to fight for the “truth”.
As horrible as the Capitol Hill attack was, we mustn’t be surprised. Donald Trump had been rallying and radicalizing his supporters since Election Day, using Twitter, unsupervised. After the events of the 6th of January, many realized (very late) that Trump’s toy was, in fact, a powerful weapon.
After the attack on Capitol Hill, an assault to democracy, action was taken. The first to step forward was Mark Zuckerberg, announcing that Donald Trump would be suspended from Facebook indefinitely (at least until the 20th of January, to allow a peaceful transition of power). Twitter went one step further, permanently shutting all of Trump’s accounts, preventing him from pouring his poison onto the screens of his 88 million followers. U.S. media said he went into meltdown when he found out. He must have felt naked and disorientated, I am sure.
Many of Trump’s fanatical fans spoke up after these events, with indignation. The gist of their complaints was that free speech is now, officially, dead. However, all the social media platforms that banned Trump, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, TikTok (how the tables have turned), Reddit, are all private companies, with regulations and guidelines. If you incite violence, and cause such a horrifying attack (which results in five deaths), led by even more horrifying people, you get kicked off.
Many, on the other hand, wonder why it took such a terrorist attack to finally isolate Trump from the rest of the world. Why hasn’t it been done before? Why has he always been free to tweet, without any supervision? Is it because the danger that lies beneath is not in the single tweet, but in the general accumulation of all 56,000 tweets put together? Or is it because no one ever thought Trump was intelligent enough to pull something like this off (after all, he did look straight into the sun during a full solar eclipse)? Anyways, the damage is done, and Trump is officially offline, his last tweet being “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
On January 20th, Donald and Melania Trump left the White House for the very last time, after breaking all the presidential traditions, headed not to Washington for the Inauguration of Joe Biden’s presidency (Trump kept his word), but to Florida, where they will be residing henceforth. Before leaving, Trump signed 143 pardons. Some believe he secretly signed pardons for his children too, but none of these were for the participants of the Capitol Hill attack, people who now face many years in prison, and are very angry about it.
Trump’s future does not look very bright. He is facing potential bankruptcy and a second impeachment (a truly record-breaking president) for the events leading up to the 6th of January. However, I wonder if the hardship caused by these things is comparable to that caused by his separation from Twitter. In any case, Donald Trump left the White House and the presidency behind, with his plane, lifting off from Washington, timed to coincide with Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way” blasting from the speakers.
Before leaving, he did respect one tradition: he left a letter for Biden. We do not know the contents of this letter, we only know it was “very generous”. I do hope it was different from the letter left for Nancy Pelosi by the Trump supporter, but it probably goes something like: “Joe: Pardon me. PS. I won big time.”