📱 An insurrection in our image

Misinformation manifested the Capitol attack. Not decrying misinformation ignores the problem.

January 8, 2021 | Letter No. 20

Following out-going President Donald Trump's promise to "never concede" and his remarks that the peaceful transfer of power amounted to "the country being destroyed," a mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday afternoon.

Hundreds of miles away, Iowans watched as updates trickled in: the legion, the breech, the gunshot. Many witnessed through their TVs as rioters committed what President-elect Joe Biden called "an assault on the citadel of liberty." We kept watching as Congress returned to their chambers to make official what we had known for weeks: that Biden would be the next president of the United States, even with damage in the House and Senate's chambers could still be seen on CSPAN's late-night live feeds.

Four people died storming our nation’s Capitol. I had other plans for this letter, but I can’t stop reading. Here some links on the attack in D.C.:

⚫️ There’s some part of the shock from Wednesday that’s about bodies, about space. In one piece of footage, a Black Capitol Police cop was chased by the mob to the Senate chamber. Here’s a space we’re familiar with. And here it is repositioned as the setting of an assault on Congress. Watching the video at every line the Black cop draws, I keep thinking, Surely this white mob will stop. But they won’t.

👀 Rather than speak truth to the unevidenced challenges to the election, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds defended them. Here’s a write up of Thursday’s press conference as Reynolds urges us to “move forward” while not acknowledging how her support of conspiracy theories helped get our country to this point.

🤡 Meanwhile in Des Moines… MAGA hats marched into the Iowa State Capitol. Repeating falsehoods propagated by the President of the United States, they showed their support for the mob in D.C. This from the Des Moines Register:

"I'm a Christian, and I believe Trump was picked by God many years ago. He's groomed by God. And God has a hand in this — he's not done yet.”

🗳️ And how did our new U.S. Rep in Iowa’s 2nd do? In an emergency press conference Wednesday afternoon, she thrice pointed reporters to the “social unrest” of the summer falsely claiming Democrats were not blamed and held accountable for the violence associated with the protests this summer. Tom Barton at the Quad-City Times had an excellent write up of the press call her attempt to dodge the culpability squarely at her, her party, and her president’s feet.

🕸️ And one to chew on. This one’s a little more thinky. I’ve been following Siva Vaidhyanathan for a while now, and I am constantly challenged by his work to think not just about messages but the platform that allow/disallow them. In the aftermath of Wednesday, I keep returning to his piece for New Republic:

“Regardless, democracy is not about one side winning. Democracy is about one side losing and supporters of that side trusting the result, being satisfied with the process, and remaining willing to play the game again under similar rules.”

Your friendly neighborhood reporter,

Zachary Oren Smith

P.S., if you aren’t sure how to process all of this, if you’re feeling empty, you aren’t alone. I had some people write in about how they were processing Wednesday. I collected those here.

Have a story?

Surely I’m missing something. Send me a news tip with this form.

Send me story ideas

Subscribe and share

Sign up for this e-newsletter.

Zachary Oren Smith writes about government, growth and development for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Reach him at zsmith@press-citizen.com, at 319 -339-7354 or on Twitter via @Zacharyos.