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Jun 10, 2022 Joel Warner

The Roots Of The January 6 Riot

All our coverage of the anti-government sentiment and corporate money that fueled the attack on the Capitol.
The Roots Of The January 6th Riot
Rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

As the House January 6 committee live hearings bring the U.S. Capitol attack back to the forefront of the national consciousness, it’s worth remembering the political environment that led to the insurrection — and the billionaires who helped fund it.

In the months leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, we sounded the alarm about the threat of a coup — and were largely ignored by the corporate media. Shortly after the riot, David Sirota weighed in on what the upheaval signified.

“The Republican Party officials who fueled and abetted this insurrection did so because they assume they will feel no political, social or legal consequences for their behavior,” he noted on the day of the attack. “On the contrary, they will likely be rewarded with higher approval ratings and support from many Republican voters. And if the Look Forward Not Backward™ crowd gets its way and makes sure there are no legal consequences for any of Trump’s many crimes, then these Republicans will know they have a lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card for their own extremist behavior.”

This prediction turned out to be all too accurate: The Republican party has become ever more extreme, turning pro-authoritarian wingnuts into their standard-bearers and ostracizing anyone who deigns to speak out about the insurrection.

This is largely because the Capitol attack was far from a historical anomaly; the ideological roots of the attempted coup run deep. As Sirota pointed out on the one-year anniversary of the riot:

At its core, the January 6 insurrection was the weaponized manifestation of virulent anti-government sentiment in a putatively democratic country where a majority has not trusted its own government for two decades, according to the Pew Research Center polls. That anti-government sentiment on display during last year’s riot wasn’t spontaneous — a quick trip back in time in a flux-capacitor-powered Delorean shows it was cultivated by both politics and reality over the last four decades.
Let’s remember: The ideological crusade against government has always been a part of American politics. But it really began coalescing in modern form in the late 1970s when conservative demagogues, moguls, and business interests began building a movement to demonize public institutions — and to insist as Ronald Reagan did that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.’”

Where did the money come from to fund this anti-government sentiment? Big business and ultra-wealthy donors, of course.

Just a day after the Jan. 6 riot, we began reporting on how corporate interests were working to downplay how they funded the campaigns of the Republican politicians who egged on the mayhem and tried to overturn the election. And while it didn’t take long for major companies to make a public show of how they were halting donations to insurrectionist lawmakers, in reality, most refused to stop funding the real pool of cash going to these extremists: the big super PACs bankrolling congressional Republicans.

Such reporting helped inspire lawmakers to demand a review of government funds going to companies that had funded this authoritarian movement — but the pushback had limited success. Less than a year after the attack, many of the companies that had pledged to stop funding election deniers were still donating millions to insurrectionist political groups.

It’s not just corporate profits funding congressional insurrectionists. It turns out workers’ public pension funds are also being used to bankroll election deniers — thanks to the recent efforts of Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the private equity behemoth Blackstone Group.

So as the horrors of January 6 become prime-time TV viewing, let’s not forget that the attempted coup wasn’t a political fluke whose danger has come and gone. The origins of the Capitol attack were a long time coming — and those who helped it along are still flush with corporate cash.

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