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In Donald Trump’s recast of January 6, the attackers become martyrs, heroes

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WASHINGTON: A cocktail of propaganda, conspiracy theory and misinformation, the kind that intoxicates the masses in the darkest twists of history, is fueling the deception about the agonies of January 6.
Hate is “love”. Violence is “peace”. The pro-Donald Trump attackers are patriots.
Months after supporters of the then president stormed the Capitol that winter’s day, Trump and his acolytes are taking this revisionism to a dangerous new place: one of martyrs and warrior heroes and revenge. It is a place where the cries of “blue lives matter” have been transformed into cries of “f — the blue.”
The reversal of fact on the siege is the latest in Trump’s twisted work of the “big lie” compendium, the most deceptive of which is that his election was stolen, when he was not.
It is rooted in the formula of powerful propaganda throughout the ages: say it out loud, say it often, say it with the weight of political power behind you, and people will believe. Once spread by pamphlets, posters and word of mouth, now spread by the swipe of the finger, the result is the same: passionate and unconditional following.
Techniques to glorify your side and demonize the other with biased information, if not outright lies, have been in play since at least World War I, when the US government sparked sentiment for the cause with posters displaying the German soldier as a human-ape with a slender American maiden in her claws. That paled alongside what followed years later with Nazi Germany’s terrifying use of propaganda for the slaughter and subjugation of millions.
Whether the deception feeds the warmonger or simply the ego of a defeated president, some of the methods are the same, such as counting the same invention over and over again until it sticks.
Trump perfected the art of replay: on “election hoax,” “rigged election,” and “massive election fraud,” with none of those allegations being based on the dozens of court cases and official post-election audits, but entrenched, nonetheless, among his supporters. .
Four years ago, Trump appeared to equate white supremacists and racial justice protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his comment that there were “very good people on both sides.”
This time, in this story, the very good people of January 6 were on one side: theirs.
For the other side, the police, overwhelmed for hours and bloodied by the insurrection, Trump has only one question on his face that functions as a four-word conspiracy theory: “Who killed Ashli ​​Babbitt?”
Those words have become a viral mantra meant to elevate Babbitt as a righteous martyr in the cause of freedom. They bounce off major social media platforms where Trump is banned for spreading misinformation, but his followers still sympathize. The woman was killed by a bullet from a police officer who fired while trying to climb over the jagged glass of a broken window into the Chamber chamber during the riot.
Babbitt has become the face of the insurrection: decked out in T-shirts and acclaimed in hotel basement ballrooms across the country, where conspiracy theorists gather to vent. In Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood, brochures are taped to streetlights and building facades that feature the unveiling of a Babbitt statue in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, on July 27, at “noon.”
Trump and many Republicans have gone through various characterizations of the insurrection, each iteration completely different from the one before. The attackers were said to be leftist antifa supporters in disguise. They were later said to be over-excited tourists. Now they are advertised as foot soldiers for freedom.
Each iteration has required Americans to ignore the anger they saw on their screens and for some lawmakers to ignore that they were among the shocked targets of the attackers that day. The hunted now praise the hunters.
Taken together, the revisionists and their believers are “swimming in a vast sea of ​​nonsense,” said Brendan Buck, former aide to former House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
The currents of that sea are familiar to historians studying what makes some conspiracy and propaganda theories persuasive.
Once people buy into the lies, they can’t be convinced they’re not true, said Dolores Albarracin, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of an upcoming book, “Creating Conspiracy Beliefs: How Our Thoughts Are Formed.” . . ”
Despite the well-documented facts about what happened on January 6, believers often dismiss anyone who tries to clarify them on the grounds that they are misled or part of the conspiracy, Albarracín said.
“The belief contains a device that protects it,” he said. “Nothing can invalidate the conspiracy theory. Trying to disprove the theory tests the theory and marks you out as a conspirator.”
DJ Peterson, an expert on authoritarianism and propaganda, is president of Longview Global Advisors, a Los Angeles-based consulting firm, and a former director of the Eurasia Group and RAND Corporation. He said that in an online world awash in information and a real world divided by polarization, “you pick and choose what you want to believe, including sticking your head in the sand.”
Trump, Peterson said, excels at amplifying claims that galvanize his main supporters and turn them against other Americans.
“That’s where the power of Trump is,” he said. “He’s good at picking up these threads, which lower the level of trust and create division.”
Recent polls are consistent in illustrating the country’s division over Trump and his post-election histrionic. In essence, two-thirds of the population is against him; two-thirds of the Republicans for him. In one of the latest ones, Quinnipiac found that 66% of Republicans believe that President Joe Biden has been illegitimately elected.
That number and others like it in multiple polls represent tens of millions of people who were misled into believing allegations of voter fraud that have been thoroughly investigated and refuted, including by Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr. Trump’s fabrications have held up and are now backing his and his closest associates’ attempts to glorify the Jan.6 mob.
“The consequence of lying is that you never go back to where you were before,” said Harvard historian Jill Lepore, whose podcast, “The Last Archive,” explores hoaxes, hoaxes and what has happened to the truth. “That is the pernicious thing about our particular moment.”
Of Trump, he said: “His method is generally to create chaos so that people don’t really know which way to look.”
In the case of the insurrection, his followers looked the other way. An aggressive amnesia seems to have taken over how ugly everything was, even though the scenes that were streamed and streamed in real time are forever.
Arriving at the Capitol after a rally in which Trump told them to “fight like hell” and falsely promised that he would be there with them, the attackers beat up outnumbered law enforcement officers, injuring dozens of them. . In one particularly terrible case, an officer was crushed against a door by people pushing to get in, his mouth bleeding as the side of his face pressed against the glass of the door.
Lawmakers inside ran for their lives, hiding for hours as crowds roamed the halls of Congress holding Trump flags. The attackers called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and wanted Trump’s vice president, who was also there. “Hang up Mike Pence,” they chanted.
Babbitt was part of the group that was trying to break down the Chamber chamber doors while Capitol police officers were evacuating the Chamber floor and some members were still trapped in the upper gallery. Officers used furniture to barricade the glass doors that separate the hallway from the lobby of the speakers to try to scare off the attackers, who were breaking glass with their fists, flagpoles and other objects.
Only three policemen were guarding the doors on the other side of the stacked furniture when at least 20 attackers tried to enter yelling, “To hell with blue!” and “Break it!” One broke the glass in the door next to the head of an officer; another warned officers that they would hurt themselves if they did not move away.
A Capitol Police lieutenant pointed his gun. “Gun!” “Gun!” The attackers screamed as the hysteria reached a fever pitch. They began to lift Babbitt, to climb through the window. The officer fired a round.
Babbitt was hit on the shoulder. Later he died. The officer was cleared of wrongdoing and his name was not released.
Trump now falsely claims, and with a series of repetitions, that he was shot “in the head.”
“They were there for a reason, the rigged election,” he told Fox News a week ago. “They felt the choice was rigged. That’s why they were there. And they were peaceful people. They were great people. The crowd was amazing. And I mentioned the word love. Love, love in the air, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
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