The recent six-month anniversary of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a time of sober reflection for most Americans. But for the Christian nationalist group American Family Association (AFA), it was something else: an opportunity to continue rewriting the narrative of what really happened on that fateful day.
A story issued last week by the AFA’s fake news service OneNewsNow bemoaned the fact that some of the men and women who participated in the attack on the Capitol are still behind bars as they await trial. The piece claimed that the “insurrectionists,” which the AFA put in quotation marks as if to imply that’s not what they really were, “are languishing in solitary confinement in the nation’s capital.”
This is the second time this summer that the AFA has run a story sympathetic to the mob that overran the Capitol, assaulted more than 140 police officers and did millions in damage to the most visible symbol of American democracy. As I reported in the July-August issue of Church & State, the AFA, which has a budget of $21 million annually and owns a string of radio stations to spread its poison, has been hard at work portraying the violent attack as no big deal and asserting that the people in jail awaiting trial are being treated “akin to Gestapo tactics or the KGB.”
In the Church & State story, I pointed out that the insurrectionists still behind bars are accused of committing the most serious crimes or were denied bail because they have extensive criminal records; thus, judges determined they were a threat to our nation. These are the people the AFA wants Americans to feel sorry for. Yet, the AFA, which poses as a pro-American, pro-family organization, remains silent about the police officers who were mauled and beaten by a mob whipped into a frenzy by President Donald Trump. They have nothing to say about out-of-control marauders, who, in service of Trump’s Big Lie, did tens of millions of dollars in damage to the people’s house.
I’ve closely monitored the Christian nationalists’ evolving reaction to the events of Jan. 6. It has been one lie after another. They started off denying the plain reality of what happened and tried to shift the blame to groups that had nothing to do with the attack (Blacks Lives Matter, Antifa, anarchists). When that failed, they embraced the “Oh, it wasn’t so bad” line that’s popular among some far-right Republicans. They’ve now moved on to portraying the insurrectionists as victims. The next step is to lionize them and make them out as patriotic martyrs, something that has already started.
Plenty of journalists are writing the real story of Jan. 6. That will help, but in a country where 15-20% of the population believes the insane ramblings of the QAnon conspiracy theory, it’s not enough. The AFA and its Christian nationalist allies, aided and abetted by far-right media, are trying to rewrite the history of Jan. 6. The only question that remains is if decent Americans who value the truth and respect the rule of law are going to let them get away with it.