Letter to the Editor

Peaceful patriots?

Friday, October 1, 2021

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Republican officials, opinion leaders, and former President Trump continue to reframe the January 6 US Capitol riot as an act of patriotism.

Sadly, this insidious effort to rewrite history has been successful, at least among Republican voters. A poll taken in January, one week after the riot, found that 80% of Republicans opposed what transpired at the US Capitol on January 6. By summer, that percentage had dropped to 50.

It gets worse. In a related poll this month, CNN found that, “Among Republicans, 78% say that Biden did not win and 54% believe there is solid evidence of that, despite the fact that no such evidence exists.”

The list of misleading statements by leading Republicans about January 6 continues to grow. One example: Earlier this year, Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) accused law enforcement of “harassing peaceful patriots” and “law-abiding US citizens.”

Smashing windows? Breaking down doors? Injuring and even killing law enforcement personnel? That’s quite a stretch for the definition of “peaceful and law-abiding.”

How is it even possible that a member of Congress could make such a flagrantly false statement, with nothing to back it up, despite so much evidence to the contrary, and have that statement accepted as factual by a solid chunk of the electorate?

There is no simple answer. Without a doubt, the power of talk radio - along with its digital and visual counterparts - is a huge contributor to the persistent dissemination of lies and half-truths. For the life of me, I don’t understand why congressional Democrats don’t prioritize two reforms that would address this problem:

• Restore the Fairness Doctrine (thank President Reagan for eliminating that) to require balance on any station allowed to access the public airwaves.

• Break up media monopolies, which were enabled in part by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (thank President Clinton for signing that into law).

But don’t wait for Congress to act.

Knowledge is power. Read Brian Rosenwald’s “Talk Radio’s America: How an industry took over a political party that took over the United States.” I don’t agree with all of Rosenwald’s analysis, but in terms of understanding where we’re at politically and how we got here, the book is an essential read.