By Glenn Greenwald
What took place at the Capitol on January 6 was undoubtedly a politically motivated riot. As such, it should not be controversial to regard it as a dangerous episode. Any time force or violence is introduced into what ought to be the peaceful resolution of political conflicts, it should be lamented and condemned.
But none of that justifies lying about what happened that day, especially by the news media. Condemning that riot does not allow, let alone require, echoing false claims in order to render the event more menacing and serious than it actually was. There is no circumstance or motive that justifies the dissemination of false claims by journalists. The more consequential the event, the less justified, and more harmful, serial journalistic falsehoods are.
Yet this is exactly what has happened, and continues to happen, since that riot almost seven weeks ago. And anyone who tries to correct these falsehoods is instantly attacked with the cynical accusation that if you want only truthful reporting about what happened, then you’re trying to “minimize” what happened and are likely an apologist for if not a full-fledged supporter of the protesters themselves.
One of the most significant of these falsehoods was the tale — endorsed over and over without any caveats by the media for more than a month — that Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was murdered by the pro-Trump mob when they beat him to death with a fire extinguisher. That claim was first published by The New York Times on January 8 in an article headlined “Capitol Police Officer Dies From Injuries in Pro-Trump Rampage.” It cited “two [anonymous] law enforcement officials” to claim that Sicknick died “with the mob rampaging through the halls of Congress” and after he “was struck with a fire extinguisher.”
A second New York Times article from later that day — bearing the more dramatic headline: “He Dreamed of Being a Police Officer, Then Was Killed by a Pro-Trump Mob” — elaborated on that story:
The New York Times, in a now-”updated” article, Jan. 8, 2021
After publication of these two articles, this horrifying story about a pro-Trump mob beating a police officer to death with a fire extinguisher was repeated over and over, by multiple journalists on television, in print, and on social media. It became arguably the single most-emphasized and known story of this event, and understandably so — it was a savage and barbaric act that resulted in the harrowing killing by a pro-Trump mob of a young Capitol police officer.
It took on such importance for a clear reason: Sicknick’s death was the only example the media had of the pro-Trump mob deliberately killing anyone. In a January 11 article detailing the five people who died on the day of the Capitol protest, the New York Times again told the Sicknick story: “Law enforcement officials said he had been ‘physically engaging with protesters’ and was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher.”
But none of the other four deaths were at the hands of the protesters: the only other person killed with deliberate violence was a pro-Trump protester, Ashil Babbitt, unarmed when shot in the neck by a police officer at close range. The other three deaths were all pro-Trump protesters: Kevin Greeson, who died of a heart attack outside the Capitol; Benjamin Philips, 50, “the founder of a pro-Trump website called Trumparoo,” who died of a stroke that day; and Rosanne Boyland, a fanatical Trump supporter whom the Times says was inadvertently “killed in a crush of fellow rioters during their attempt to fight through a police line.”
This is why the fire extinguisher story became so vital to those intent on depicting these events in the most violent and menacing light possible. Without Sicknick having his skull bashed in with a fire extinguisher, there were no deaths that day that could be attributed to deliberate violence by pro-Trump protesters. Three weeks later, The Washington Post said dozens of officers (a total of 140) had various degrees of injuries, but none reported as life-threatening, and at least two police officers committed suicide after the riot. So Sicknick was the only person killed who was not a pro-Trump protester, and the only one deliberately killed by the mob itself.
It is hard to overstate how pervasive this fire extinguisher story became. Over and over, major media outlets and mainstream journalists used this story to dramatize what happened:
Clockwise: Tweet of Associated Press, Jan. 29; Tweet of NBC’s Richard Engel, Jan. 9; Tweet of the Lincoln Project’s Fred Willman, Jan. 29; Tweet of The New York Times’ Nicholas Kirstof, Jan. 9
Television hosts gravely intoned when telling this story, manipulating viewers’ emotions by making them believe the mob had done something unspeakably barbaric:
After the media bombarded Americans with this story for a full month without pause, it took center stage at Trump’s impeachment process. As former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy noted, the article of impeachment itself stated that “Trump supporters ‘injured and killed law enforcement personnel.’” The House impeachment managers explicitly claimed on page 28 of their pretrial memorandum that “the insurrectionists killed a Capitol Police officer by striking him in the head with a fire extinguisher.”
Once the impeachment trial ended in an acquittal, President Joe Biden issued a statement and referenced this claim in the very first paragraph. Sicknick, said the President, lost “his life while protecting the Capitol from a violent, riotous mob on January 6, 2021.”
The problem with this story is that it is false in all respects. From the start, there was almost no evidence to substantiate it. The only basis were the two original New York Times articles asserting that this happened based on the claim of anonymous law enforcement officials.
Despite this alleged brutal murder taking place in one of the most surveilled buildings on the planet, filled that day with hundreds of cellphones taping the events, nobody saw video of it. No photographs depicted it. To this day, no autopsy report has been released. No details from any official source have been provided.
Not only was there no reason to believe this happened from the start, the little that was known should have caused doubt. On the same day the Times published its two articles with the “fire extinguisher” story, ProPublica published one that should have raised serious doubts about it.
The outlet interviewed Sicknick’s brother, who said that “Sicknick had texted [the family] Wednesday night to say that while he had been pepper-sprayed, he was in good spirits.” That obviously conflicted with the Times’ story that the mob “overpowered Sicknick” and “struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher,” after which, “with a bloody gash in his head, Mr. Sicknick was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support.”
But no matter. The fire extinguisher story was now a matter of lore. Nobody could question it. And nobody did: until after a February 2 CNN article that asked why nobody has been arrested for what clearly was the most serious crime committed that day: the brutal murder of Officer Sicknick with a fire extinguisher. Though the headline gave no hint of this, the middle of the article provided evidence which essentially declared the original New York Times story false:
The New York Pravda(Times)just like another liberal rag printed in New York the New York Daily Sewer(News)both these liberal rags spread Lies and Fake Headlines
That’s a serious distortion of the initial story as it was reported by the major news media. You can find that sort of hyperbole on personal Twitter feeds or on various internet blogs and forums, but it IS NOT how the story was reported by mainstream new outlets such as the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post, Associated Press, etc.
There was no need to exaggerate the violence of the mob by making up tales. All you’ve got to do is watch the readily available videos recorded as events unfolded; if you want to know what they were thinking or intending, listen to what they were chanting and saying. All of that is primary evidence, not second- or third-hand spin. If you want to know who they are, look at their signs and banners, or read the information in the news stories about their arrests. Figure it out for yourself, don’t let anyone figure it out for you.
@Greg: It’s fake news. When you sift through the obvious “false flag” operation, you see that it’s 90% Leftists committing violence, and perhaps 10% non-Leftists.
Combine 4 years of coup attempts, and only those already indoctrinated by the Left can’t see this for what it is: utter bullshit.
Only Dictators need troops to “proclaim” their victory.
Biden is a Dictator…America’s first.
The real issue has been the rampant Leftwing violence over the past year, strangely occurring in “opportunity zones” that are suddenly bought up by billionaires, who then enjoy no capital gains taxes.
What a coincidence!
The Capital “riot” is a myth and easily dismissed.
@Nathan Blue: Cummon man we are lucky they didnt take over the government. An angry mob of 250K boomers armed with heart meds ,high blood pressure medications and cell phones They were chanting and waving the offensive American flag! Someone even enjoyed a glass of government owned wine, for Gawds sake man, wake up.
They are now taking polls of sheeple like Greg to make sure the narrative they wove is accepted by the herd.
Nevermind they altered evidence and were called on the carpet by Cruz for outright lying.
Gregs a bitter clinger of TDS Im surprised they didnt deep fake Putin leading the charge.
· SERIOUS RED FLAGS: CNN and NBC Paid Black Lives Matter Leader John Sullivan $35,000 a Piece for His US Capitol Riot Footage
The Citizens of the State of New York have a Recall against their idiot Democrat Governor
I suppose the alternatives for some are disillusionment, or sinking deeper into delusion. It seems clear which of the two is the drug Donald will be peddling.
If you’re so damn tired of the conversations being about Trump, stop trying to start conversations about Trump, moron.
I suppose we could always discuss Ted Cruz’s wisecracks concerning democratic energy policies during California’s rolling blackouts last year. Or we could discuss your definition of the word “moron”.
@Greg: @Greg: Bad link
You are clueless of sudden surges on demand and frozen gas lines vs 3rd world electric grid due to crap policies.
@retire05: WB glad to see ya!
That’s because it’s exploitable. The left loves tragedy; that’s why they cause so many. Their media allies always help with the exploitation, which only promotes more. So, why wouldn’t Cuomo stick sick elderly in nursing homes with the most susceptible? The more that die, the more that can be blamed on Trump. His problem was killing the relatives of fellow Democrats.
For my tastes, the most disgusting aspect is the Democrats suddenly discovering law enforcement and pretending to have one shred of respect for them. Like the military, they traditionally hate them, considering them racist murderers. Their shameless exposition for propaganda purposes of Officer Sicknick’s remains, waiting weeks to have him in state just before the impeachment “trial”, was particularly disgusting. But Democrats excel at disgusting.
Of course, Revolver is not the NYT or CNN, so disregard their FACTS and believe the purveyors of lies, rumor, myth and conspiracy.
The Democrats themselves characterizing this as an “insurrection” is the insurrection. They want the excuse to trample more rights and keeping the fencing and military presence in DC is nothing but propaganda to pretend to believe of the threat insurrection actually exists. They know damn well they themselves control the insurrections.
Some STILL promote the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” lie. Even though the video of Trump’s full statement about the Charlottesville riot completely destroys the lie that Trump said Nazis and white supremacists were “fine people”, the left STILL spreads the lie. They don’t know truth from lie except that the lies always seem to help them and they prefer the lies.
Rewriting history can be very handy. They can rewrite actual history to support their ideology or they can rewrite their own lies to cover them up.
Apparently there was. I don’t know how many leftist reports I read that citied “5 murdered in insurrection” or some sort lie. In fact, unless you want to accuse the Capital Police of murder (don’t forget your newfound admiration of law enforcement for convenience), NO ONE was murdered. The mob even ignored your BLM/ANTIFA guy on the ground, Sullivan, exhorting them to “burn this shit down”. Maybe he could have sold his video for CNN and NBC for more if he could have gotten someone to burn the Capital.
Well, California’s problems are due to ignoring their power needs because they can always suck off of the power grid of other states. Texas’s problem was relying on renewable energy and replacing reliable energy generation with federally-subsidized wind and solar which apparently, like Democrats themselves, always abandon you when you need them the most.