Realistically, it was only a matter of time before right wingers began blaming the left for Wednesday’s Capitol riot. It turned out to be instantaneous. Even before the event in Washington, D.C. reached its fever pitch, tweets began circulating claiming that members of Antifa had infiltrated the crowd of Trump supporters marching on the U.S. Capitol and were the ones instigating violence.
By the afternoon, right wing news and even politicians had taken off running with the Antifa narrative. The Washington Times published a story saying that XRVision facial recognition had identified members of Antifa storming the Capitol. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz then peddled the false narrative after the House reconvened on Wednesday night.
Holy shit. Matt Gaetz just said, "some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters, they were masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact were members of the violent terrorist group antifa." pic.twitter.com/nKYecLmQEX
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 7, 2021
XRVision, the company cited by Gaetz and the Washington Times, said the whole thing was a hoax and demanded a retraction (which they got in the form of a paltry addendum paragraph). But that didn’t stop other conservatives from spreading the bogus rumors. Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, the first member of Congress who announced intentions to challenge the electoral count back in December, tweeted Thursday that there was growing evidence that “fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capitol attacks with clever mob control tactics.” Brooks’ reading comprehension aside, the Antifa narrative spread so quickly that even passing mentions of it from hyper-conservative news organizations began to sound downright farcical. Here, Newsmax anchor Greg Kelly wonders whether the insurrectionist raising his fist in the Senate chamber is Antifa or a Joe Biden voter.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and predict that Greg Kelly’s first two guesses are wrong. pic.twitter.com/nAbcPREYSa
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) January 7, 2021
Conservatives blaming the left for their own actions and insecurities is nothing new. As right wingers ratcheted up the absurd Antifa infiltration narrative, some on the left compared it to the infamous Reichstag Fire, when Nazis burned down the German parliament, blamed communists, and used the ensuing wave of anti-communist sentiment to suspend civil liberties and establish their government. The comparison is hardly one-for-one, but it serves as a prime example of far right extremists blaming the left to protect and advance their political goals. Surely, it couldn’t have been law abiding Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol—they must’ve been coerced by evil leftists trying to make them look bad.
It all comes back to the idea of conservative projection. It’s unsettlingly common for right wingers to project their own malfeasance onto their opponents. You can find virtually everything conservatives accuse the left of doing, from safe space coddling to election fraud, domestic terrorism, political rioting, and even protest infiltration throughout last summer being perpatrated by the American right. Right wing commentators babbled for years about the left’s dangerous regressive views, about how they hated America and were willing to overthrow the government to get what they wanted—only for a gang of jacked up Trump supporters to do exactly that. And why? Because they couldn’t accept that an election, certified by each individual state and called the “most secure election in American history” by Trump’s own officials, didn’t go their way. It’s the epitome of the played out conservative mantra that facts don’t care about your feelings.
Conservatives falsely blaming the left isn’t just fodder for internet dunks, though—it’s inherently dangerous and it’s been a right wing tool to suppress and destroy leftist ideology and movements for generations. Fortunately, the conservatives trying it this time around are mostly dumb hacks who don’t realize we watched this entire debacle unfold in real time, including the president telling his supporters to mob the Capitol. But that doesn’t mean the bogus blame game will stop here.