Tuesday, 23 February 2021 20:01

The Storming of the US Capitol Through the Eyes of the Radical Right


As history unfolded before those refreshing their Twitter feeds and watching live TV, attempts to define the storming of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, immediately emerged, including those by the radical right. Among the various radical-right voices that tried to frame the event, evaluations going beyond, for example, the clownish (though not undangerous) stories of QAnon activists offer insights into the workings of more complex radical-right ideological programs, including glimpses of imagined futures. Following the media-savvy Martin Sellner during a few days of digital activism, from Wednesday, January 6, to Sunday, January 10, illustrates how one of the main proponents of the Identitarian Movement makes sense of and utilizes the insurrection, and highlights the concerns and hopes he connects to the event.



Sellner is, of course, a leading figure in the “movement” (and still head of the Austrian branch), contributes to, for example, the main German new-right periodical, is a prolific producer of digital content and a man who, having been in contact with the Christchurch terrorist, has been banned from major social media platforms and now disseminates opinions via Telegram (about 58k subscribers) and BitChute (about 17k subscribers). Sellner began commenting on the event on Telegram in the early evening (CET) of January 6 and, over the next few days, offered discussions with fellow members of the radical right and commentary. (The following quotations are taken from Sellner’s Telegram channel, a column he wrote and various recordings that are available through his BitChute channel).

In a column published the day after the storming that Sellner describes the event not as “a historical, but a hysterical moment,” a “chaotic, planless happening,” an act of “political masturbation and discharge of emotional urges” — not a “coup d’etat,” an “armed uprising” or a “terrorist attack.” This latter part is connected to accusations against the “mainstream press” and its alleged double standard, including in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement (the “Madness of Black Lives Matter”). According to Sellner, the latter aims for the destruction of property and lives, while the events of January 6 were a “mostly peaceful protest.” Indeed, referring explicitly to Guy Debord’s “The Society of the Spectacle,” a book he has long drawn on, Sellner regularly speaks of the power of the media to define reality and truth, and the weaponization of the event against “patriots.”

While such condemnation of the so-called “lying press” is hardly new, Sellner also criticizes the unfolding of the protest itself. Here, he mourns a lack of planning and leadership and, unsurprisingly, calls for an “activism elite” that can channel the idealism of these “patriots.” Referring also to QAnon, he calls for overcoming conspiracy theories that have prevented “patriots” from assessing the situation realistically and taking responsibility in their own hands. Fully in line with his metapolitical orientation, Sellner proclaims that there is no “silver bullet” but a need to fight for hegemony.

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This points to alternative forms of protest, and he repeatedly raises the idea of a (“symbolic”) “siege.” That is, Sellner envisages an alternative January 6 that would have not ended in a counterproductive storming of the Capitol, but in a sustained demonstration of strength via a “protest camp” in Washington to influence the political system.

Celebrating powerful imagery of protesters on the stairs of the Capitol, the course the event took thus appears as a missed opportunity to “awaken the people” and to put the elite in its place. Indeed, one type of victim present in Sellner’s narrativization is a rather broad group of “patriots,” of those who lack a voice, those who are “economically marginalized” and who have no political representation. Ultimately, this covers all those suffering from the establishment, the “disenfranchised, delegitimized people who are not allowed a chance … the indigenous, the Europeans, we are not given a chance, everything is taken away from us, one wants to annihilate us, one wants to destroy us, one wants to, entirely openly with an announced revolution remove us from history.”

The apparent need to rescue the ethnic collective from an unbound “left-liberal-globalistic ideology” is also visible in another recording as it is this ideology that supposedly results in the “destruction of organically-grown communities, destruction of nation-states.”

Another type of victim includes particular individuals, from Ashli Babbitt, who was shot during the riot (not forgetting to mention that she was shot by a “black policeman”), to the radical-right activist Nick Fuentes and Donald Trump for being banned from social media. The former president’s future is repeatedly thematized, noting that Trump has seemingly given in (at least in his fight over the election), though acknowledging that this might simply be an act of self-preservation. While Sellner initially speculated that Trump could reveal “dirty background secrets of the globalists” during his last days in office, the imagined threat posed by the enemy is stark: they “really want to completely finish him off … [and beat him] to the rocks like Prometheus: whoever dares to stand up against the globalists will be finished off.”

Ultimately, he assumes that that revelations are unlikely to happen as Trump loves his life and fortune. As this “total digital annihilation” unfolds, Sellner regularly comments on Big Tech, speaking, for example, of Silicon Valley as the “glowing city of the hill … they are really the masters of the planet, if they want.”

Such an ending would leave little hope for the radical right, but like every good attempt to forge and mobilize, hope is presented too. Sellner reports of a “civil war” within major tech companies and claims that 2021 could see “vital progress in the area of alt-tech,” the financing of their “own platform,” possibly even their own “fin-tech structure.” This hope goes hand in hand with what he calls a “repression-accelerationism” and the claim that “we have to go through a time of suffering.” With no way back, Sellner calls for a renewed struggle for hegemony and, citing the poet Friedrich Schiller, proclaims early on, “The old is crumbling down — the times are changing — And from the ruins blooms a fairer life.” As these lines are typed, it remains unclear what future will emerge from the storming of the Capitol and, thus, what fairness will blossom.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.