An estimated 41,000 hours of footage from the US Capitol recorded on Jan. 6, 2021, was previewed by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on his eponymous late show, yesterday. Carlson detailed a number of discrepancies between the official narrative woven by the House Select Committee and events shown on the trove of video provided by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). McCarthy’s act of distributing the unseen film has met with criticism from both the Democrats, who see it as a refutation of their committee work, and the Fourth Estate, who have not been granted equal access to the content.
The Face of the Riot?
Prominently featured in Carlson’s exposé was Jacob Chansley – often called “QAnon Shaman” for his headdress and attire. Chansley was described as the “flag bearer” for the riot and sentenced to 41 months for obstruction. The footage showed him being escorted around the building by two Capitol police officers. “The tapes show the Capitol police never stopped Jacob Chansley. They helped him. They acted as his tour guides,” Carlson said.
The New York Post’s Miranda Devine said to Carlson:
“You can see the way those people were walking through the Capitol … they are walking meekly, politely queuing, very peaceable. They don’t mean any harm. They are treating the Capitol with reverence.
“That doesn’t excuse the others, the minority of the protesters who did break windows and fight police and injure police and cause mayhem. But the people who are now being picked up, and some of them have been jailed without trial for months, even years on end, did not commit violence. They walked through open doors; they were escorted by police, they felt that this was okay. And I think Jacob Chansley is a classic example of that.”
The Fox host played excerpts from a jailhouse interview, in which Chansley expressed his remorse, saying, “The one very serious regret that I have [is] believing that when we were waved in by police officers that it was acceptable.”
Also prominent in the presentation was footage of Officer Brian Sicknick, who died the day after the events on Capitol Hill of what coroners describe as natural causes, suffering two strokes. The tapes show Sicknick escorting people out of the building while wearing a helmet, apparently unharmed. Early media reports stated that the officer had died after being struck in the head by rioters, a narrative that was soon dismissed upon investigation. “This tape overturns the single most powerful and politically useful lie that Democrats told us about January 6th,” Carlson argued.
According to Carlson, the videotape of the officer has an electronic bookmark in the Capitol archives, meaning that the House Select Committee had, indeed, reviewed this and chosen not to include it in their hearings or final report. “They lied about the police officer they claimed to revere,” Carlson said. “If they were willing to do that, then their dishonesty knew no limits.”
Destabilizing the Jan. 6 Narrative
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was more concerned with how the footage could be used to craft a narrative in opposition to the one presented by the Jan. 6 House Committee. She decried McCarthy’s decision, saying:
“So the Speaker of the House just gave them all of the security camera footage from the actual Capitol for them to play with, to see what they can do… ‘Here you go, Fox News Primetime. Hopefully, you can use this official government material to concoct an alternate narrative to give us some more convenient revisionist history about what happened on January 6.'”
Notably, a prominent Washington, DC, newspaper provided precisely zero coverage of the Tucker Carlson exposition despite at least ten earlier stories relating to the agreement between McCarthy and the Fox host.
No Equal Access
While critics of the Committee’s work would argue that hiring a Hollywood producer to stage-manage the House proceedings was itself a form of narrative control, it seems some in the activist media are more perturbed that Carlson’s presentation of the footage could provide a competing storyline. Of perhaps more significant note is McCarthy’s choice of conduit.
Tucker Carlson has long been a thorn in the side of the left-leaning Fourth Estate. His unapologetic stances and willingness to take on the sacred cows of modern progressivism have made him enemy number one – more so because he commands the largest audience share on the most watched channel. In fact, Fox is in its well-over 100th week of domination, often beating the ratings of CNN and MSNBC combined in the prime-time slot.
What appears most galling to other networks is not that the footage is being aired, but that they do not have the scoop themselves.
The Democrat Perspective
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Democrats were angered at the video release and the choice of messenger. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) warned that McCarthy’s decision could prove dangerous.
“I have no indication at this moment that the police have vetted that footage,” Jeffries said. “It is my hope and expectation that that will absolutely occur.” He continued:
“The Jan. 6 insurrection was violent. Approximately 140 officers were seriously injured. A handful of officers died as a result of the events of the Jan. 6 violent insurrection. There are serious security concerns… We’re releasing footage into the public domain in an era where political violence is on the rise, and there are people, including the former president, who fan the flames of extremism.”
Carlson noted during his show that the footage had been reviewed by authorities and that security suggestions were followed.
Republicans, on the other hand, reveled in what they say is a vindication. Former President Donald Trump was quick to weigh in on the release, writing on his Truth Social account:
“Great courage shown by Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in releasing the surveillance footage to Tucker Carlson so that our Country, and indeed the World, can see what really went on during the January 6th events. A whole new, and completely opposite, picture has now been indelibly painted. The Unselect Committee LIED, and should be prosecuted for their actions. Nancy & Mitch were a disaster on Security. Thank you Kevin and Tucker. FREE AT LAST!!!”
And the Beat Goes On
The fallout of the Jan. 6 footage release will likely continue well into 2024. Each side seems poised to defend its position in an ongoing war of perspectives that has not eased with the passing of time. People hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe. Both factions will now continue their not-so-merry dance in the battle of narratives.
A picture apparently paints a thousand words, and a video presumably even more. But that mere accident of mathematics will not stop media pundits of all stripes from adding their own brand of spin. The words of W.B. Yeats in his poem, “The Second Coming,” seem apropos to the situation:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The reaction to the newly released footage – and, indeed, the original presentations by the Jan. 6 Select Committee – appears to be a political Rorschach test, with conclusions being drawn based on party affiliation. And that “passionate intensity” with which each side argues its case has become the hallmark of those who seek to sell our modern narratives.
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