Some of President Donald Trump's supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol were laughably easy to identify and arrest, but two experts on extremism say that's a warning sign.
The rioters often posted social media photos or videos of themselves laying siege to the Capitol, and sometimes even made things easier for investigators by boasting about their involvement or sending incriminating evidence directly to the FBI, but George Washington University researchers Seamus Hughes and Jon Lewis wrote a Washington Post column explaining why their impunity was cause for alarm.
"While we can view the perpetrators' self-incrimination as a result of their poor criminal tradecraft, it also reflects their belief that they did nothing wrong," wrote the pair, who are researchers at the university's Program on Extremism. "In this light, any humor found in these cases quickly fades. The 'true believers' present during the Capitol siege documented their activities because they were participating in what they saw as the start of a second American revolution, and surely the victors of such things would never be punished for their heroism."
Most of the dozens of rioters have so far been hit with relatively minor charges, but that will likely change as the Justice Department finishes investigating pipe bombs found in the area and the killing of Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick, as well as the overarching conspiracy that led to the violent takeover -- and follow-up actions still being hatched.
"While things could have been worse on Jan. 6, it would be a mistake to write off these actions as those of a motley crew of bumbling miscreants," Hughes and Lewis wrote. "Many of them may be that, but they were also dangerous and untethered to the norms we accept in society — and even more concerning people are surely to come. Accelerationist actors, anti-government extremists and adherents of the QAnon conspiracy have evidenced a desire to commit further acts of targeted violence against what they perceive as a tyrannical and illegitimate government. This coalition of extremist actors will probably utilize lessons learned at the Capitol, as well as connections developed both offline and online in furtherance of these goals."