Twice in the last six weeks, warnings were issued about imminent, grave threats to public safety posed by the same type of right-wing extremists who rioted at the Capitol on January 6. And both times, these warnings ushered in severe security measures only to prove utterly baseless.
First we had the hysteria over the violence we were told was likely to occur at numerous state capitols on Inauguration Day. “Law enforcement and state officials are on high alert for potentially violent protests in the lead-up to Inauguration Day, with some state capitols boarded up and others temporarily closed ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony,” announced CNN. In an even scarier formulation, NPR intoned that “the FBI is warning of protests and potential violence in all 50 state capitals ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.”
The resulting clampdowns were as extreme as the dire warnings. Washington, D.C. was militarized more than at any point since the 9/11 attack. The military was highly visible on the streets. And, described The Washington Post, “state capitols nationwide locked down, with windows boarded up, National Guard troops deployed and states of emergency preemptively declared as authorities braced for potential violence Sunday mimicking the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of pro-Trump rioters.” All of this, said the paper, “reflected the anxious state of the country ahead of planned demonstrations.”
But none of that happened — not even close. The Washington Post acknowledged three weeks later:
Despite warnings of violent plots around Inauguration Day, only a smattering of right-wing protesters appeared at the nation’s statehouses. In Tallahassee, just five armed men wearing the garb of the boogaloo movement — a loose collection of anti-government groups that say the country is heading for civil war — showed up. Police and National Guard personnel mostly ignored them.
All over the country it was the same story. “But at the moment that Biden was taking the oath of office in Washington, the total number of protesters on the Capitol grounds in Topeka stood at five — two men supporting Trump and two men and a boy ridin’ with Biden,” reported The Wichita Eagle (“With Kansas Capitol in lockdown mode, Inauguration Day protest fizzles). “The protests fizzled out after not many people showed up,” reported the local Florida affiliate in Tallahassee. “The large security efforts dwarfed the protests that materialized by Wednesday evening,” said CNN, as “state capitols and other cities remained largely calm.”
Indeed, the only politically-motivated violence on Inauguration Day was carried out by Antifa and anarchist groups in Portland and Seattle, which caused some minor property damage as part of anti-Biden protests while they “scuffled with police.” CNN, which spent a full week excitedly hyping the likely violence coming to state capitols by right-wing Trump supporters, was forced to acknowledge in its article about their non-existence that “one exception was Portland, where left-wing protesters damaged the Democratic Party of Oregon building during one of several planned demonstrations.”
Completely undeterred by that debacle, Democrats and their media spokespeople returned with a new set of frightening warnings for this week. The date of March 4 has taken on a virtually religious significance for the Q-Anon movement, announced NBC News’ Ben Collins, who was heard on NPR on Thursday speaking through actual, literal journalistic tears as he recounted all the times he called Facebook to plead with them to remove dangerous right-wing extremists on their platform (tears commence at roughly 7:00 mark). Valiantly holding back full-on sobbing, Collins explained that he proved to be so right but it pains and sorrows him to admit this. With his self-proclaimed oracle status fully in place, he prophesized that March 4 had taken on special dangers because Q-Anon followers concluded that this is when Trump would be inaugurated.
This is how apocalyptic cult leaders always function. When the end of the world did not materialize on January 6, Collins insisted that January 20 was the day of the violent reckoning. When nothing happened on that day, he moved the Doomsday Date to March 4. The flock cannot remain in a state of confusion for too long about why the world has not ended as promised by the prophet, so a new date must quickly be provided with an explanation for why this is serious business this time.
This March 4 paranoia was not confined to NBC’s resident millennial hall monitor and censorship advocate. On March 3, The New York Times warned that “the Capitol Police force is preparing for another assault on the Capitol building on Thursday after obtaining intelligence of a potential plot by a militia group.” All this, said the Paper of Record, because “intelligence analysts had spent weeks tracking online chatter by some QAnon adherents who have latched on to March 4 — the original inauguration date set in the Constitution — as the day Donald J. Trump would be restored to the presidency and renew his crusade against America’s enemies.”
These dire warnings also, quite predictably, generated serious reactions. “House leaders on Wednesday abruptly moved a vote on policing legislation from Thursday to Wednesday night, so lawmakers could leave town,” said the Times. We learned that there would be further militarization of the Capitol and troop deployment in Washington indefinitely due to so-called “chatter.” NPR announced: “The House of Representatives has canceled its Thursday session after the US Capitol Police said it is aware of a threat by an identified militia group to breach the Capitol complex that day.”
Do you know what happened on March 4 when it came to violence from right-wing extremists? The same thing that happened on January 20: absolutely nothing. There were no attempted attacks on the Capitol, state capitols, or any other government institution.