'A mass-delusion event': Reporter describes disturbing conversations with far-right extremists before Capitol invasion

'A mass-delusion event': Reporter describes disturbing conversations with far-right extremists before Capitol invasion

Critics of President Donald Trump has long feared that violence would occur in Washington, D.C. on January 6, and an article by journalist Jeffrey Goldberg describes some of the comments he heard from Trump supporters before a mob invaded the Capitol Building to delay Congress' certification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election.

In his article, published by The Atlantic, Goldberg recalls, "Insurrection Day, 12:40 p.m. A group of about 80 lumpen Trumpists were gathered outside the Commerce Department, near the White House. They organized themselves in a large circle, and stared at a boombox rigged to a megaphone. Their leader and, for some, savior — a number of them would profess to me their belief that the 45th president is an agent of God and his son, Jesus Christ — was rehearsing his pitiful list of grievances."

Trump told the crowd, "A year from now, we're gonna start working on Congress. We gotta get rid of the weak congresspeople, the ones that aren't any good — the Liz Cheneys of the world. We gotta get rid of them."

In response, Trump supporters standing near Goldberg shouted, "Fuck Liz Cheney." And one of them, a woman in a cat costume, was holding a sign that showed the letter "Q" — as in the QAnon conspiracy cult. She told Goldberg, "We're going to stop the steal. If (Vice President Mike) Pence isn't going to stop it, we have to."

Goldberg remembered that the woman in the cat costume and other far-right Trumpistas asked him to remove his protective face mask, but he refused. And when he mentioned that the U.S. was in the middle of a pandemic, he responded, "Yeah, right."

"We will find out shortly if today's insurrection was also a superspreader event," Goldberg explains. "What I do know, after spending hours sponging up Trumpist paranoia, conspiracism and cultishness, is that this gathering was not merely an attempted coup, but also, a mass-delusion event — not something that can be explained adequately through the prism of politics. Its chaos was rooted in psychological and theological phenomena."

Another far-right Trump supporter told Goldberg, "It's all in the Bible. Everything is predicted. Donald Trump is in the Bible. Get yourself ready."

Goldberg recalls, "It did not strike me, even then, that this mob would actually storm the Capitol. I assumed, in a non-insurrectionary failure of imagination, that they would gather on the Capitol's sloping lawn, sing Lee Greenwood anthems, and curse Mitt Romney. There were Proud Boys — or at least Proud Boy-adjacent boys — in this group; they would not speak to me but were also not overtly hostile."

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close