The storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was a violent and shocking attack on American democracy. Millions watched as rioters, many in pro-Trump gear, broke into the building and clashed with police. Despite overwhelming evidence, some still believe in conspiracy theories denying or distorting the reality of that day.
These conspiracy theories are not harmless. They undermine the public’s trust in the institutions that uphold our democracy and the rule of law. They also fuel divisions and hatred among Americans, making it harder to heal the wounds of a polarized nation. And they could inspire more violence from those who refuse to accept the truth.
One of the most common conspiracy theories is that the rioters were not really supporters of former President Donald Trump, but rather members of the anti-fascist movement antifa or undercover FBI agents. This theory was quickly debunked by multiple sources, including FBI Director Chris Wray, who told lawmakers that the FBI has not seen any evidence indicating that the rioters were “fake Trump protesters”. Furthermore, a fact-check by USA Today found no evidence that “unindicted co-conspirators” mentioned in charging documents were undercover FBI agents.
Another conspiracy theory is that the rioters were peaceful and patriotic, and that they were framed for crimes that never happened. Some claim that the violence was staged by the media or the Democrats, or that the police let the mob in. Others suggest that the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was not caused by the rioters, but by a stroke or a pre-existing condition. These claims are also false. The violence and destruction at the Capitol were captured on video and witnessed by hundreds of police officers, lawmakers, journalists, and staff. Officer Sicknick died after being attacked by the rioters, according to the medical examiner’s report. Four other people also died as a result of the insurrection, including one woman who was shot by a Capitol Police officer.
The conspiracy theories about January 6 are not based on facts, but on fantasies. They are part of a larger narrative that seeks to justify Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged and stolen from him. They are also a way of avoiding accountability and responsibility for the actions of those who participated in or incited the insurrection. By blaming others or denying reality, they hope to escape the consequences of their own behavior.
The truth is that many of those who came to the Capitol on January 6 have said — proudly, publicly, repeatedly — that they did so to help the then-president. They believed his lies about the election and his call to “fight like hell” to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. They were not antifa or FBI agents. They were Trump supporters who were willing to use violence to overturn the will of the people.
The persistence of these conspiracy theories is a testament to the power of misinformation and the danger it poses to our democracy. As Dustin Carnahan, a Michigan State University professor put it, “If we’re no longer operating from the same foundation of facts, then it’s going to be a lot harder to have conversations as a country. It will fuel more divisions in our country, and I think that ultimately is the legacy of the misinformation we’re seeing right now”.
We cannot afford to let these conspiracy theories go unchallenged. We need to confront them with facts and evidence, and to hold those who spread them accountable. We also need to educate ourselves and others about the sources and motives of misinformation, and to seek out reliable and credible information from diverse perspectives. Only then can we hope to restore trust and confidence in our democratic institutions and processes, and to move forward as a nation.
Conspiracy theories paint fraudulent reality of Jan. 6 riot
FBI Director Wray knocks down conspiracy theory that January 6 … – CNN
Fact check: No evidence FBI organized Jan. 6 Capitol riot – USA TODAY