FIRST IMPRESSIONS: AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM One reason many were surprised, argued journalist Vincent Bevins, is that they bought into the myth that coups only happen in "other" places. This piece debunks that kind of American exceptionalism, while pointing to the very American origins of this particular uprising.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: CONTINUITY WITH HISTORY As can be seen in this very collection, one photo quickly took on iconic status in media accounts of the riot. This piece offers a deep dive into the different elements in that photo, and asks whether the art on display in the Capitol might actually mirror values projected by the rioters.
CONTESTED FRAMEWORKS: REVOLUTION Some rioters claimed they were fomenting a second American Revolution. This piece argues that the Revolution may have be an antecedent, but not in the way they thought. Instead, it was an instance in which "a small number of highly mobilized people embraced violent direct action on the basis of false beliefs." (Sarah Swedberg suggested another: "blaming powerful political figures or the press for insurrection" <bunkhistory.org/resources/echo-chambers>)
CONTESTED FRAMEWORKS: MIDDLE AGES Some rioters dressed as Vikings and invoked medieval holy war to support their ideas about racial purity, Christian nationalism, and violent masculinity. Here, historian Matthew Gabriele explains the long history of right-wing uses of "pop culture in combination with outdated historiography" to create myths about the Middle Ages.
CONTESTED FRAMEWORKS: RACE & DEMOCRACY Many writers saw the riot as part of a long tradition of backlash to the inclusion of racial and other minorities in the nation's political processes. This piece by journalist Adam Serwer was among the first to explain January 6 as a rejection of multiracial democracy.
LANGUAGE & CONCEPTS: CONSPIRACY THEORIES Blaming conspiratorial thinking on individuals' psychology suggests that debunking misinformation is the cure. Here, Nicolas Guilhot makes the case that conspiracy theories are cultural phenomena with social remedies, and that their root causes "may require a reexamination of our economic and social arrangements."
ANTECEDENTS: LOST CAUSE OF THE CONFEDERACY While Jan. 6 struck many as unprecedented, historians found many events in the nation's past that paralleled at least some parts of the Capitol riot. Here, historian Karen Cox suggests that post Civil War-myth-making by white Southerners may be one useful framework for understanding it. (See also this piece by David Blight on another aspect of the "Lost Cause" comparison: <bunkhistory.org/resources/opinion-how-trumpism-may-endure>)
JAN 6 AS HISTORY: DOCUMENTS ATTACKERS CREATED Over time, analyses shifted from historical analogizing to attempts to understand Jan. 6 as a historical event in itself. This deep dive into the videos created and shared by rioters themselves asks what these primary sources tell us about participants' motivations and ideologies.
JAN 6 AS HISTORY: CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE REPORT Here, Jill Lepore critiques the January 6th Report not on its content, but rather on its style. These sorts of reports, she explains, are intended not only to explain the results of congressional investigations, but also to gain public support and inform policy moving forward. Will this document be up to the task?
FRAMING DEVICE: ELECTION DISINFORMATION In the days, weeks, and months after Jan. 6, the event remained ever-present in political discourse. As a common experience, it began to serve as a framing device in discussions of other issues. Here, NYT columnist Jamelle Bouie suggests that rioters' "Stop the Steal" slogan serves as a window into the history of voter suppression efforts by the Republican Party.
FRAMING DEVICE: RACE & INCOME INEQUALITY Watching the coverage of the event, sociologist James R. Jones noted the racial distinctions between the rioters at the Capitol and the janitors who worked there. That observation served as the starting point for this discussion of inequality in Washington, DC.
LOOKING FORWARD: MEMORIALIZATION While the mob violence lasted only a few hours, the ideologies that drove it, and the structures that enabled it, continue to shape the nation's future. Here, historian Louis Nelson reflects on the challenge of remembering January 6th without letting its perpetrators shape our collective memory.
LOOKING FORWARD: POLITICAL ACCOUNTABILITY When the KKK perpetrated a vigilante reign of terror, the federal government responded with strong legislation and a congressional investigation. This piece from two days after the riot calls for a similar approach, warning that otherwise "the silence and inaction of our political leaders will only embolden the white-supremacist mob, undermine democracy and endanger those who have fought" for freedom.
LOOKING FORWARD: ELECTION OF 2024 Immediately after the attack, some scholars began making the case that the 14th Amendment's Section Three, drafted to prevent former Confederates from holding office, makes Trump ineligible to be president again. These arguments were present as Congress weighed impeachment, and have continued as state courts have considered the legality of his future candidacy.
LOOKING FORWARD: ARCHIVES This piece from the one-year anniversary of Jan. 6 looks at the potential impacts of archivists' decisions about what to preserve from that historic day. (See also this piece about how Jan. 6 may fit into the commemoration of the nation's 250th birthday in 2026: <bunkhistory.org/resources/insurrectionabilia-at-the-smithsonian>)