Jan 6 rioters were a gang of spoiled toddlers living in a make-believe world

One of the more puzzling aspects of the Jan. 6, 2021 attacks by Donald Trump’s deluded minions on the U.S. Capitol and members of Congress is something that for all intents and purposes shouldn’t be puzzling at all: What exactly did they expect to happen if their plans — to “hang Mike Pence,” to attack, kill (and probably rape) Nancy Pelosi, to “ziptie” and presumably torture and kill other Democrats they found — had actually panned out?  Did they see themselves as participating in running the country from that point forward, issuing broad edicts that would refashion it in their image? Did they expect Donald Trump, their unquestioned leader, to wave a magic wand and transform the nation into a white supremacist paradise, with every nonwhite person summarily shoved to the back of the bus? One nation, under MAGA, with them on top?

Seriously, how did they view their own roles in the aftermath of this apocalyptic event? Would they contentedly return to their fields, beat their swords into plowshares and settle back into their (presumably) 9 to 5 humdrum day jobs?  Or did they fancy themselves acting the more menacing future role of Trump’s private policy enforcers — a “Christian” militia with Gestapo-like powers — imposing this brave new social order at gunpoint on other Americans, maybe going house-to-house?  Clearly their scenario expected no pushback from law enforcement, the military or the criminal justice system. Perhaps these were to be refashioned in their image as well?

We’ll never really know these things because their fantasies (thankfully) went unrealized. And since then, reams of ink have been spilled explaining how the events unfolded on Jan. 6. But the dumb arrogance, audacity and staggering, simplistic immaturity exhibited by these people, as they swaggered through the Capitol prepared to inflict violence on the country’s elected representatives is seldom noted. It should be, because it says a lot about the MAGA population in this country and the nature of what motivates them. For all the planning and calls to action spread on their social media sites, this was, in essence, incredibly stupid, spoiled toddler behavior writ large, motivated by infantile impulses with little to no thought about consequences. Helpfully, many proudly recorded themselves that day for posterity, and what they recorded amounts mostly to a piqued desire to kill, maim or break things, without sparing any thought whatsoever about what would or could occur thereafter.

In that respect, it was a day of dangerous adults, acting like babies.

For example, there’s Guy Reffitt, the first Jan. 6 defendant to be convicted of the criminal acts he committed that day. Reffitt was arrogant enough to affix a 360-degree camera on the helmet he wore to protect himself on Jan. 6., which helped prosecutors immensely in securing his conviction. His comments on camera included:
  • “We’re taking the Capitol before the day is over. … Ripping them out by their hair. Every fucking one of them.”
  • “I just want to see Pelosi’s head hit every fucking stair on the way out … and Mitch McConnell too.”
  • “One way or a fucking ‘nother, they’re coming out.”
  • “I’m packing heat and I’m going to get more heat.”
  • “Whatever it takes to get ‘em out of that building and empty it out.”

You don’t hear much in terms of “strategy” from Reffitt and the hundreds of others like him whose statements on Jan. 6 and immediately afterwards have come to light in their criminal prosecutions. You never hear about what they plan to do after the Capitol is “emptied out,” after they’ve “ripped” everyone out of Congress “by their hair.”  What you do hear mostly are people who wanted to throw a huge, public tantrum and stumbled on a golden opportunity to satisfy themselves on a handy target, along with a couple thousand like-minded goons and thugs. Other than miraculously reinstating Trump to satisfy some deep-seated desire for revenge on the rest of the country for rejecting him, there was no planned follow-up evident, no end goal to their behavior. They weren’t getting their way, and this was how they intended to act out.

Which makes the sheepish, pathetic statements of these folks when they plea for leniency at their sentencing hearings all the more telling. Here’s Reffitt, for example, doing his best facsimile of contrition:

“I did want to definitely make an apology,” he said. “In 2020, I was a little crazy, everything went a little stupid.”

“Everything went a little stupid” is an utterly meaningless statement, of course. All it means is that things didn’t go his way. In other words, his tantrum didn’t work.

Immediately after the assault, James Rahm, 63, bragged on Facebook about allegedly invading House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, and writing “I should have shit on her chair.” During the attack itself he was equally clear as to his intentions: “We’re taking our f — house back. Time to find some brass and kick some friggin’ ass.”

During his sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, however, a less rhyme-conscious Rahm suddenly saw the errors of his ways.

“When I put my foot over that threshold, my stomach dropped to the floor,” he said. “I knew only a terrorist should be in there.”

No, it didn’t and no, he didn’t. If he’d thought that he wouldn’t have bragged about it afterwards. His tantrum simply didn’t work out for him the way he planned.

Former Marine Jesus Rivera, who declared in a message just after returning home from the Capitol that he’d “had a great time,” also exhibited a remarkable change in tone, telling the Court during sentencing that “If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have been there that day.” Troy Faulkner, sentenced to five months for smashing through a window at the Capitol, intoned at his sentencing that he “wasn’t in my best state of mind. … I’ve been remorseful every day.”  What these folks are actually saying is that they’ve been remorseful every day since being caught (Immediately after his hearing had concluded, Faulkner shouted bizarre conspiracy theories about Jeffrey Epstein to reporters). 

In the month before she joined the mob assaulting the Capitol, Reva Vincent, age 57, posted on Facebook “A LAST WARNING TO THE LEFT IN AMERICA Dear Leftist/Progressive, Your [sic] life is in severe danger. That wasn’t a threat: It’s a fact.”

Later, in the same post, Vincent wrote, “The real America is tired of being TREAD ON and doesn’t have much left to lose besides ammo.”

According to court documents, once in the Capitol rotunda Vincent had shouted at police officers to “Leave our house, we’re done with them.”  But at her sentencing hearing, once again, it was a different story:

“I am so sorry that ANYONE was hurt that day. I didn’t know of what was going on in other places on these grounds,” she wrote to the judge. “I am sorry for being there, I realize now that should have went to rally and left for home.  Or with the events that happened, not gone at all if I had known what I know now. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.”

“Or with the events that happened, not gone at all if I had known what I know now.”  Again, this is the stammering excuse reminiscent of a sixth grader who’s been hauled in front of the principal. The long and short of it is:  her tantrum didn’t lead to the result she wanted.

Most recently we have Richard “Bigo” Barnett, the 60 year-old construction sales employee from Arkansas, famously photographed with his feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk. On the day of the attacks Barnett was unequivocal about his sentiments.

“Nancy, Bigo was here, you b—-,” he said he wrote in a note, leaving it on the desk before departing with an item that didn’t belong to him: an empty envelope addressed to a House Democrat and bearing the digital signature of Pelosi (D-Calif.). “I put a quarter on the desk even though she ain’t f—-ing worth it,” he shouted hoarsely outside the Capitol, displaying his souvenir for video cameras.

This week, however, he was singing a far different tune.

“Because of all the controversies,” he testified. “I probably shouldn’t have put my feet on the desk. And my language.”


“I’m a Christian,” he said. “It just wasn’t good. It wasn’t who I am.”

This is someone who is struggling to sound like a thoughtful adult. “Because of all the controversies” he shouldn’t have put his feet on Pelosi’s desk? What “controversies” should have dissuaded him, in hindsight? He’s “a Christian?” Please.

Of course, what all these people are obviously doing in these supposedly heartfelt statements of regret and contrition is trying to save their own asses, and their statements after-the-fact can be taken with a grain of salt. Prison is an unpleasant place, and once the reality of a criminal conviction has settled in the first thing their lawyers advised them was to show some semblance of remorse to the court to try and get their sentence down. There’s little doubt that if they’d actually succeeded in overturning the 2020 election through some miraculous means, most if not all of them would be bragging about and embellishing their actions right now.

Calling what these people displayed to the nation on Jan. 6 a “mob mentality” or excusing them as being “caught up in the moment” when they stormed the Capitol misses the point. These people knew fully well that breaking down doors to enter a government building — particularly one as hallowed and historically significant as the U.S. Capitol –and ransack it was illegal, that clubbing police officers was a crime., and that attacking members of Congress could get them thrown in jail. These were adults, most if not all of them holding down jobs, some with professional licenses and running businesses that presumably required some type of emotional maturity to sustain. Yet they allowed themselves to be goaded by Donald Trump and pressure from their peers to perform senseless and ultimately self-destructive acts with no real plan for the aftermath of their actions. He offered them an opportunity to throw a no-holds barred tantrum, and like the emotional toddlers most of them were, they seized that opportunity. 

Some appear to have harbored some dystopian, “Red Dawn” fantasy of good vs. evil motivating their behavior while others simply saw an opportunity to act out on their anti-social and racist impulses. But they all had an option to behave like adults and to weigh the consequences of their actions before crossing that fateful threshold.

They just chose not to.