Since posting those long threads a couple of days ago I have been discussing with friends from all over the role that questions of race and politics played in the events of Wednesday.
From the events Wednesday we can see that the police were unprepared for that crowd to attack the way that they did. Afterwards they employed classic police deescalation and containment strategies. But the question still remains, why were they so seemingly unprepared?
To really be able to break this down it is important to mark the points in which unpreparedness became obvious, and compare that to other events.
In this situation the initial expression of a lack of preparation came at the rally site itself. There were only a small contingent of widely spaced out police, who were in yellow safety jackets. This was then followed by the crowd not being escorted, contained or directed while marching, and culminated with small group of cops in front of the steps
Clearly, we can see that the police did not think of this crowd as a threat. We can determine this based on a differential analysis of other events, let's just use the George Floyd Uprising as it manifested in DC as an example.
Police in DC met every early demonstration with extreme force, often from the beginning of the demonstration. They were present in larger numbers, in heavier gear, and were using chemical weapons early in events, and engaged in overt brutality, mass arrests and so on.
Many of us have been on the receiving end of this sort of response.
During the G20 in Pittsburgh in 2009 from the numbers that were able to be gathered at the time, there 1000-1500 anarchists there, and over 6000 police/NG/etc, with another 10000 police and National Guard on standby. They had drones, helicopters, LRADs (first time those were used in the US), gas weapons, riot gear, armored personnel carriers, rifles, etc.
The disparity is really clear from the start of the events.
So, then the question becomes, why? What is going on in this process that is leading to radically different outcomes?
Many have been discussing this in terms of general claims of racism or political bias. While those explanations are starting to get to something important, they lack the nuance to really explain the specifics of what went on.
To gain some insight here we should turn to their literature, specifically US Army Manual 3-19.15
This manual is the baseline framework from which other crowd control manuals and concepts depart. In the initial chapter they discuss the necessity of information prior to events in order to plan the complex logistics involved in large scale police operations.
This initial chapter gives us some important categories through which they evaluate crowds and situations. Please read through these, but we are going to focus on a bit of a higher level analysis here.
The practical implications of these initial categories, and the ways that potential future crowds are fit into this analysis prior to an action, we really need to see Section 2-39, which lays out the specific battery of questions that are run through to assess possible crowds.
What stands out here is two things. Firstly, this is a speculative analysis based on current information and past experiences.
In this case they were clearly gathering information online about threats (that is standard), but did not take them seriously. This may be due to fact that the right wing does not have much of a contemporary history, except very recently, and mostly on the West Coast, of directly confronting police during street actions. The right is generally thought of as sympathetic to the police. As a result, the police (their own individual biases aside) tend to approach the right wing a lot more softly.
The second factor here is reliability. One of the outcomes of the right wing embracing intentional wide scale deception techniques is that it is impossible to know which threats to take seriously. In 99% of the cases of threats, the person making the threat is not serious about following through. Even though the rhetoric around this was very different, and the way that QAnon was framing this in apocalyptic terms, the real threat of this was overlooked.
When we take these analyses together we can start to gain some sort of understanding of the thinking of the police prior to the event.
Through their analysis, which is filled with biases and assumptions, they saw the following:
- A crowd full of people that make empty threats
- A crowd of people who is older, whiter and more conservative
- A crowd of people that LOVE the police, and are unlikely to attack them
- A crowd which, politically, does not have a history of street fighting
- A crowd that would be armed, and could be provoked at the perception of repression (the militia crowd specifically)
In this scenario QAnon and other factions, like the Christian Dominionists and others that were present do not have much of a history of street confrontations with police.
So, for the police, they saw a crowd that was going to be loud, probably confrontational, but not violent toward the police unless provoked, such as through escalation tactics, like gas and wearing riot gear
Now, when we hit the streets they analyze us in a completely different light. It is clear, and we can see this in leaked training materials, that the police view anarchists and Black liberationists as an existential threat to the state, and to their safety.
We have a long, proud, storied history of seizing buildings, fighting cops, engaging in armed struggle and so on. When this is combined with the historical hatred cops have for anarchists and people of color, that perceived tension increases
There are obviously political elements to this perception, and absolutely racial elements to this perception (police are subtly trained that people of color present a greater threat, which is reinforced with the ways we discuss crime in the US, which is racialized).
Now, lets be clear here, any group of people doing an analysis like this is going to have biases and carry assumptions into that analysis; that is just ho thought works on an epistemic level. The question is what assumptions.
In this case the police ended up approaching the crowd the way that it did, and not in the way it would a crowd that they perceived as presenting a threat, due to these biases in analysis, and not the information present.
The number of threats posted online prior to the event were massive, and the evidence was all over the place. They planned their coup attempt in the open, on Parler.
The inability of the police to take this seriously really comes down to three factors: demographics, politics and history.
On a demographic level the police clearly perceived a crowd of older white people to be less of a threat than a younger, more racially diverse crowd of people. There are clearly elements of institutional bias at play here.
Politically, the right does not have a history of fighting with police in the streets.
Sure, there are standoffs, bombings and so on, but not street fighting, traditionally. When street fighting does occur it has tended to be confined to hardcore Neo-Nazis, largely with a background in the racist elements of the skinhead scene, or derived from there. Groups like American Guard, for example, have that sort of lineage, as does the Rise Above Movement and a lot of the cultural norms of the Proud Boys.
The police obviously underestimated three things here.
1) They definitely underestimated how many members of groups with that lineage, or who aspire to be street fighters (like Nazi accelerationists) would be present.
2) They underestimated the impact of millenarianism and a general sense of a coming MAGA utopia among QAnon followers that were present in large numbers. This idea of the end of the world (dark to light as they say) really drove them to take a militant approach to the event.
3) They definitely overestimated the role that the general love that the right wing has for the police, and the ways that this would curtail attacks on the police. It is clear from the initial approach, where cops were essentially there to helpfully direct crowd to the rally site, that the police were trying to leverage this love for the police to keep things calm. That obviously did not work.
These failed assumptions drove an approach that was entirely based on a model of crowd which had the following characteristics:
- The crowd would not violently confront police
- The crowd would not have the energy or physical ability to engage in drawn out street fighting
- The crowd would be armed, and there would be unpredictable elements (not sure how serious threats are), but those would be small in number.
Due to the dual assumption of a non-confrontational crowd and a crowd that would not engage in violent confrontation, they took an approach which prioritized non-escalation over containment of the event at the beginning, at the rally site.
Once the crowd broke from the rally site and started moving the couple of blocks to the Capitol, it was already too late for that logistical planning to change in posture dramatically.
This is why the police fell back to a containment strategy. They had been overwhelmed by a crowd that was very different in tone, emotion and composition than they were expecting, and this assessment is directly a result of political and racial biases in pre-event crowd analysis.
Now, this all changes after Wednesday. Because police logistical planning occurs based on prior knowledge, but before the event occurs, it is based on expectations.
Now that the fascist elements of the right, and the conspiracy theorists, have shown how far they are willing to go, how far they have broken with the police, how much they view this in millenarian terms, the approach will be much different.
On January 20th, when they come back, they are going to get met with a very different response. There is no way, especially after the cops saw the firepower these people had, that they will not be prepared to engage in open street fighting.
@tom_nomad this all rings true
You mention the millenarian aspects that played into this, which is something that still seems under-discussed in the mainstream. How big of a factor do you think it was (& will be)?
I am seeing this attitude of, "now that people see what their Q beliefs have resulted in, they will snap back to reality."
This video is some of the clearest thinking I've come across, and makes me think millenarianism will become the mainstream of the right
I would argue, even more, that the millenarianism of QAnon is able to be embraced because of a long standing millenarian trend in right wing politics in general.
In the US this often took the form of millenarian Christianity, which QAnon is looking more like everyday. In these circles, everything is focused on the end of the world, the Second Coming.
The concept of the end times predominate in QAnon follows along similar lines, and is structured in an epistemically similar way.
In this vision the forces of good fight the forces of evil in some culminating and singular confrontation (this is the dark to light concept in QAnon). This focus on a singular, violent existential confrontation is really dangerous.
Other, past, cult movements, like the Heaven's Gate, or the People's Temple (Jonestown), imploded into violence and suicide at their moment of culminating conflict, or end of the world moment.
The problem here is two fold. One, a lot of people do not understand what QAnon is, or what motivates it. There is the usual narrative of QAnon as a scam or hoax. But, that does not allow for an understanding of the structure and zealotry which is a part of QAnon.
As a result of the misunderstanding, a lot of people do not take QAnon as a serious threat, because it is ridiculous. There is a bit of arrogance in the ways most people talk about QAnon, as dumb, fooled, duped idiots who believe absurd things. That arrogance prevents us from taking what they say seriously.
The inability to take QAnon seriously breeds both this mentality that people will "snap out of it", as well as a misunderstanding of the threat.
What we are watching here is not just some mad conspiracy theorists. We are watching a group of people who were convinced that January 6th (and now January 20th) was/is their moment of culminating conflict. Donald Trump plays the role of the transcendent messiah figure who will institute the new utopian world when the forces of good defeat the forces of evil.
This drives both the militancy, as well as the general embrace of genocide and authoritatianism which is a part of QAnon now.
a private mastadon instance to experiment with