The putschists get the gavel
They're all 'January 6th' committees now
I got a terrific new book in the mail this week. Myth America is an edited volume in which some of the leading scholars of U.S. history debunk some of the most pernicious lies floating around the body politic. I did a TikTok video (yes, I’m doing those now) based on Eric Rauchway’s chapter on the New Deal (spoiler: it helped end the Great Depression). I also enjoyed Erika Lee on immigration and Kevin Kruse on the Southern Strategy, among others.
But the chapter that I’m thinking most about is Kathleen Belew’s. Titled “Insurrection,” it doesn’t really debunk a specific myth so much as ring a big alarm. Belew, an associate professor of history at Northwestern, studies violent extremism with a focus on the white power movement. She argues that the January 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol came directly out of the organized white supremacist movement.
In doing so, Belew lays out a compelling theory of the organization of that movement and the failed putsch. It’s a model that — and, to be clear, this is my addendum here — provides the best way I’ve seen to understand the relationship between actual neo-Nazis, Facebook-pilled Boomers, and prominent right-wing politicians. Those connections merit particular attention this week, as Republican lawmakers who played an active role in helping to organize and foment the January 6th coup take seats on the most powerful committees in Congress.
Belew’s explanation goes essentially like this: In the 1970s and 1980s, formerly rival groups including the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, militias, and radical anti-tax groups began working together with an explicit goal: “waging war on the United States and its democratic institutions.” They were motivated, she writes, “by a sense of urgency: they believed that