The January 6th Committee Public Hearings


‘…with so many lies out there, does the truth stand a chance?…’

As a pretentious teenager, I found myself fascinated by American politics, and Watergate in particular; when those around me were reading Smash Hits or James Herbert, I’d be reading John Dean’s Blind Ambition. Watergate was THE seismic event in American and world politics over the previous decade, and it seemed appropriate to devote my private, personal time to finding out exactly who did what to whom. From 1993 to 2016, I spent as much time and money as I could in the States, and ended up with many friends, some Republican, some Democrat or not bothered at all. I didn’t have the right to vote for either party, but my understanding of the nature of the political divide was duly expanded. It’s since become a cinematic cliché to depict precocious kids watching the Watergate hearings, but the criminal issues seemed done and dusted by the time I started by own excavations, leading me to construct a thesis on US legacy politics from Kennedy to Reagan as part of my English/History Joint Honours degree.

Bleary-eyed this morning, I’d sat up late to consume the first Public Hearing of the January 6th Committee, streamed on all serious US news networks last night. We were promised something slick enough that even a jaded mainstream audience might watch; with a shedload of key witnesses speaking under oath, it didn’t disappoint. Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney laid out, in sombre, business-like terms, the seven part plan that was used to try and cancel out the right to vote of the American people, and brought into the light some compelling witnesses, including Capitol Police Officer Caroline Edwards and UK documentary film-maker Nick Quested. Skilful editing allowed for some withering side-slams on the hypocrisy of the Murdoch circus of ‘entertainers’, Kevin McCarthy’s staff running for their lives at cartoonish speed from the rioters, and a wealth of damning personal testimony from family and colleagues as to the self-serving disinformation machine that was Donald Trump.

I came home on the evening of January 6th 2021 and set up my laptop in my office; I was expecting what we call in Scotland a ‘rammy’, a cocktail of combustible elements wilfully ignited into physical violence. Reading the responses to the ex-president’s tweets over the previous few weeks made clear that there would be no peaceful transition of power; he’d assembled a mob specifically for the purpose of upending American democracy and installing himself as a dictator. As the horrors unfolded, I screen-shotted the violence, knowing that if Trump’s plan succeeded, the whole insurrection would be instantly reframed as something noble and virtuous, with no room for dissent. I also knew that until Trump was stopped, I’d remain in exile and never see my beloved land of the free again. That the Capitol and America itself did not fall was largely the result of brave, underpaid, underappreciated law-enforcement agents, some of whom survive to have their chance to tell their story over the next few weeks. But with so many lies out there, does any truth stand a chance?

And will any of this change any minds? I thought back to an old episode of sitcom Taxi, where the Reverend Jim (Christopher Lloyd) wins a huge sum of money, and invites his co-workers to view the solid bank of tv monitors he’s purchased for his home. “Whatever happens in the world, no matter what it is, I can switch it off’ he proudly boasted. In the modern world, streaming and social media have made Reverend Jims of us all, allowing us to ignore news we don’t like, or which doesn’t fit our other allegiances, and it’s a certainty that many will chose to put their head in the sand and refuse to admit what happened. But the Jan 6th insurrection DID happen, and as with any dangerous situation, the only way out is to educate ourselves about what went down and deal with it, and that’s the promise that these hearings will have to live up to in double time.



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    • Twenty million audience for episode one, then add in social media. Can’t reach everyone, but worth a try. Can’t just give up on democracy.

  1. A huge problem is that we have a divided country living in different realities. Most conservatives watch Fox News and only Fox news, having been radicalized into believing that all other networks are “fake news.” And Fox decided to not even show the Jan. 6 hearings, allowing their prime-time opinion journalist to air their usual shows with no commercials. It’s hard to reach people who curate their information and won’t listen to other viewpoints. People are settled into their tribes and refuse to have a conversation with each other. Sadly, I don’t see things improving any time soon.

    • The way you describe it certainly chimes with the way most of us understand it, but as Fox/Murdoch recently found in Australia, they’re way off the pace these days. As broadcasters, they can’t just carry every lie Trump tells, so they’re rarely connecting well with their audience. Trump is a ship that’s going down, slowly but inevitably, and Murdoch will cut his losses at some point to avoid his entire empire going down with him. It’s surprising how many noisy people support Trump, but divided as the country might be, there’s only so many people who will rally behind the concept of hanging Mike Pence.

  2. I’m content to watch the recaps on these. By this point don’t we all know (or don’t want to know) what happened? It’s not like there are any more big revelations. Meanwhile, half the people just aren’t that interested in the truth anyway. They’ve either checked out or so convinced that the Democrats are evil incarnate (i.e., baby-killing, devil-worshiping lizard aliens) that they think one-party rule would be a good thing.

    • I hear you, and I get it, but I’d like to believe that such an extreme and violent position will play only to a dwindling amount of fascistic converts. While there may not be much showmanship at the hearings, there have been notable revelations, notably that Pence was responsible for the rescue efforts when they came; the military and the law were taking instruction from Pence, not Trump. That makes me wonder if Trump was ever actually president in anything other than a competition winner/ media celebrity/tv host way. The gears of power seem largely to have been removed from him at all key points. It’s been all about lies for five years now, so a blast of the cold hard truth might just be invigorating. The deposition styles were wild too, Bill Barr looked like he was in a Wild West saloon, Ivanka looked terrified. If the wheels are finally coming off the Trump wagon, I’ve waited long enough to see it. I can appreciate political views other than my own, but not those who attempt to stamp out our freedoms.

      • Unfortunately I think the well has been poisoned. Trump actually increased his vote in 2020, after four years of imbecility and incompetence. I agree that he was content to let other people do their own thing while he got to enjoy being president. He wanted attention, not to actually govern. But he became the perfect vehicle for people’s anger, being a ball of resentment and rage himself, and that anger is only growing. At this point I have trouble seeing how Western democracies are going to pull themselves out of this. Canada is a mess too, and you have another clown running things in the UK. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what went wrong.

        • It’s a buffoonorama to be sure. But people who make a lot of angry noise take up a lot of bandwidth, yet they may be fewer than we fear. Non electoral polls make it easy to manipulate what we pretend is the public mood. Trump lucked out once in his life by facing an opponent with less credibility than him, but everything he touches is a disaster. Ultimately too many of us have skin in the game to submit to autocracy. His own actions will doom him, much like Johnson. Will Biden’s approval rating surge when Trump is charged? the narrative may well be set…anyway, never mind totalitarianism, what about these gas prices…?

  3. Awesome accounting of your due diligence! Time to send in the hocus pocus’ers because I cynically sense that after this show n tell show–whatever is recommended to DOJ won’t be enough and won’t result in fitting punishments. How to get the 95% to realize this wasn’t a ‘legitimate day out to publicly discourse on…nor a patriotic attempt to defend ?…’ It was and will be a violent, organized mob, sanctioned by the worst president ever. Property was destroyed, police were punched, people died, legislators were threatened, and stupid people tried to prevent the new pres from being duly elected.
    Media (and Murdoch as you mention) was culpable also, social media particularly. Since 2010, people have sparred on a virtual tower of Babel with verbal nerf guns aimed at everyone, carelessly spewing whatever issues forth after the trigger is pulled. Trust has been shattered, confirmation bias, fixing evidence to match unresearched beliefs–reigns. Bring back the salons, intelligent dialogue, crack open the books that shed light on how we got here. It started with Nixon and snowballed with Reagan; DT was an avalanche we’re still digging out from under.
    Thanks for saying the 1/6 hearings were streamed on serious US networks. I’m adding ‘rammy’ to my vocab list. Thanks for speaking out objectively and wisely. Brene Brown said ‘if u put shame in a petri dish, it needs 3 things to grow: secrecy, silence, and judgment.’ The shame and intended carnage this mob of misfits brought must not be hidden away or downplayed. These criminal insurrectionists must be punished to the fullest extent. If DOJ doesn’t do it, send in the Hocus Pocus team!

    • Sincere thanks for this; obviously I’m some way from my usual beat here, but if they put the hearings on Primetime, I guess reviews are the least of their worries. I totally take your point about this has been coming down the pipes for a long time, but it needed someone stupid enough to trigger it, and right on cue, one came along. People, including myself, get entrenched in their views, their timeline jammed with people who think just like them. Watching the news is no longer a shared activity because my news is not your news; the news I consume is tailored to what I thought yesterday. I miss my American friends, from all sides of the aisle, but violence against America must not be tolerated, even if it comes from unscupulous people within. History is always subject to revisionism, but a large number of US political figures are about to lose everything from being caught on the wrong side of violent insurrection, and hearings like this are the mechanism by which they will be ensnared, under oath, on camera, and on the record.

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