Jan. 6, 2021 siege was an assault on the truth
“The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership.” — U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney
A line was drawn on Jan. 6, 2021, and America was a different place when it awoke the next morning.
I’ve been doing this journalism thing for 15 years, now, and I’ve been in all kinds of harried situations. I’ve sat down with gangsters and been threatened by police. I’ve interviewed dangerous men in prison and reported from behind the police tape during armed standoffs. I’ve been threatened with everything from lawsuits to harassment to physical violence.
But Jan. 6, 2021 was the first time I was afraid.
Men — and women, too, I suppose, but mostly men — who were willing to ignore police and storm into the nation’s Capitol are the same men who attacked a knot of media trying to cover the scene, trashing their cameras, pouring water over their electronics, stealing their equipment.
Men who were willing to illegally sit at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk — she’s third in line for the presidency, by the by, so that act was not so different from making a mockery at the Resolute desk — are the same men who scrawled “Murder the Media” on a Capitol door.
They hate me. And my wife. And they’re willing to do incredible things.
What are they unwilling to do?
But that’s not the real reason I was afraid.
I was afraid because Jan. 6, 2021 was not an attack on a building. It was an attack on the truth, and the truth is all I have to give this world. It’s the bedrock of my very livelihood. The truth is what pays my mortgage and feeds my son.
And they attacked it.
Apologists and sympathizers want to muddy the waters by comparing the events of Jan. 6, 2021 to those Black Lives Matter protests in the past year that have turned into riots.
Those riots — where public and private property was destroyed, where people were hurt and killed, where public spaces were occupied — were wrong.
The difference is that the movement those riots perverted was borne from the very real issue of police disproportionately killing unarmed Black men. An issue documented on video, accepted by several police chiefs across the nation who are trying to come up with ways their departments can change. Bad cops have been fired and face charges.
The movement that led to the assault on our nation’s Capitol — the brightest beacon of hope for self-government ever erected on God’s Earth — was borne from demonstrable lies.
There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, no evidence that Donald Trump won the election, no evidence that the presidency was stolen from him. Bipartisan government officials elected and appointed, judges appointed from both sides of the aisle, and nonpartisan local, state, and federal law enforcement the nation over investigated the allegations and found nothing.
But people gathered in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021 because they flatly reject those truths. They refuse to accept that evidence, because the evidence showed them the world wasn’t going the way they want it to go.
They turn, instead, to lies, and are willing to commit violence against the seat of this nation – indeed, the seat of freedom the world over — to protect and, futile though it may be, try to enforce those lies.
And that scares me.
Because it makes me worry that, not only will my sweat, tears, and long hours away from my family putting newspapers together fail to inform them, it will instead enrage them, and make them want to cause me harm.
Even though part of my sweat and tears and long hours away from my family goes toward writing stories quoting their lies, reading and publishing letters to the editor repeating their nonsense and letters calling me “the enemy of the people,” and otherwise fighting for their First Amendment right to hustle their swill.
I am afraid.
But I won’t be cowed.
I had a column all written up on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021 about data from the Committee to Protect Journalists showing the number of reporters who died because of their work doubled in 2020. I wrote to tell readers that journalists are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to bring them the truth.
That I’m willing.
By the time I went to bed shortly before dawn on Jan. 7, I was more afraid than when I’d written that first column.
But also more resolved.
Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-358-5686 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.