Editor’s column: The insurrectionist’s dictionary

June 13, 2022 10:38 am

Protesters interact with Capitol Police inside the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Those of you who were among the 20 million Americans to tune into Thursday night’s opening hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol and those of you who plan to continue watching will likely become familiar with a number of terms. 

And if you read newspapers or pay attention to chitchat on social media from those who dispute the attack was an insurrection, you are going to hear many of the same terms but may notice differing interpretations. 

So, in an effort to best prepare you to follow the hearings and ensuing conversations from talking heads, we offer up the insurrectionist’s dictionary. 

Tour group. They say: The mob around and in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were tourists. 

We say: Many of us have gone on tours of Washington, DC, and when I lived there, I gave plenty of them to visiting family and friends, promenading them down the Mall, around the Tidal Basin and, for the very special, even going into the West Wing of the White House.

Things we did not do on those tours include beating Capitol Police officers with the American flag, spraying them in the face with bear spray, threatening to hang the vice president of the United States and breaking out windows and stealing statues in the Capitol. Yet, those were some of the activities of the supposed “peaceful protesters.” 

Do these look like tourists to you? (Photo: Alex Kent)
Do these look like tourists to you? (Photo: Alex Kent)

Violent insurrection. They say: Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 were as bad if not worse than the Capitol attack and that protesters should be arrested. 

We say: We now know the pro-Donald Trump faction plotted to overthrow the peaceful transfer of power.

The Black Lives Matter protests were not such a plot to subvert any type of transfer of power. 

The Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer and Breonna Taylor by Louisville police were a response to those killings and other injustices perpetrated by police against Black Americans. And at least in Nashville, authorities did arrest protesters who set the Historic Metro Nashville Courthouse on fire: They were white. 

Innocent young woman. They say: A woman killed in the Capitol by Capitol Police was trying to stop the riot.

We say: When a supporter of former President Donald Trump refers to an “innocent young woman” in context of the insurrection, they are likely talking about Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed during the attack. From that description, if you knew nothing else, you might think Babbitt was a bystander, martyred by a savage shooting. 

In reality, Babbitt was a 35-year-old Air Force veteran who was shot by a Capitol Police officer when she tried to climb through a broken window into the lobby of the U.S. House of Representatives. She did so despite being warned multiple times, as is documented through numerous reports, not to do so. 

That’s not to say her death wasn’t dreadful, a tragic outcome of her brainwashing by bizarre Q-Anon stories that led her to the Capitol in January 2021.

Traitor. They say: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Jan. 6 committee Vice Chair U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and anyone who voted for Biden.

We say: An elected official who plots to retain power by any means necessary despite losing a free and fair election, exhorting a crowd to storm the Capitol, disrupt the certification of the election, and suggesting the crowd might be right in suggesting one’s vice president be hanged. Abbreviated version: Trump. 

Patriot. They say: People who beat U.S. Capitol Police officers and vilified them in the process of breaking into the Capitol. 

We say: U.S. Capitol Police and members of the Jan. 6 committee.

The President of the United States. They say: Donald J. Trump. 

We say: No. The President is Joe Biden, who won both the popular vote and the Electoral College, the former by more than  7 million votes and the latter by 74 votes. 

Note: Definitions are subject to change as the Jan. 6 committee proceeds. Please stay tuned for semantic updates to the dictionary.


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Holly McCall
Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. She has served as political analyst for WZTV Fox 17 and provided communications consulting for political campaigns at all levels, from city council to presidential. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.