Edited by Sam Thielman
In their book on the six février — the 1934 attack by a right-wing and fascist mob on the French legislature — Brian Jenkins and Chris Millington admonished historians who, for decades, insisted that the lack of definitive proof of an organized coup meant the event should not have been taken seriously:
The quest for evidence of a conspiracy to overthrow the Republic has been something of a red herring. No conclusive proof has been found, and the existence of any such conspiracy remains a matter of pure speculation. The propensity to believe in it or not is governed almost entirely by the political prejudices of those concerned. More importantly, there does not need to have been a conspiracy for the Republic to have been in danger. To see the one as the precondition of the other is quite misleading. Indeed, situations of acute political crisis are not conducive to conspiracy, which requires planning, foresight and the capacity to control events. Crisis situations, on the contrary, often develop suddenly and are by their very nature fluid and volatile. It is precisely these qualities that make them potentially dangerous.
That passage came back to me last night as I watched the recaps of the first hearing by the House Jan. 6th committee. Filmmaker Nick Quested, who was working on a documentary about the Proud Boys — the violent pro-Trump paramilitary organization whose leaders were charged this week with seditious conspiracy — was brought in to tell the committee and the country what he saw that day.
The committee wanted to highlight Quested’s testimony for a few reasons. First, he testified that Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio met with a small group including Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oathkeepers — another militia leader charged with seditious conspiracy — in a Capitol Hill parking garage the night before the attack. (The video of that meeting was released
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