The deadly intent of the mob

That neither Vice President Pence nor any members of Congress were murdered on January 6th has nothing to do with the restraint of the mob and everything to do with luck. Though often close, the mob never managed to lay their hands on a single elected official. Had it been otherwise there is little doubt that virtually any lawmaker falling into their hands would have died.

The popular conclusion that rioters “need to vent” is often a legitimizing catalyst in the minds of the rioters themselves. They see their anger as requiring a scapegoat, and in the frenzy of the moment they often employ this rationale, a rationale that wouldn’t necessarily work for them in quieter, more sedate times. What’s more, rioters are spurred on by the seeming harmlessness and relative anonymity of the part they play. “I only hit him once,” they might say later, “and it wasn’t very hard. Others hit him much harder.”

It is therefore sometimes a death by a thousand cuts that ultimately kills anyone who falls victim to mob violence. Most everyone in the mob wants a piece of the victim, and they often discount the part they themselves have played. Sometimes they delude themselves into believing they played no part at all.

Conversely, some members of mobs see themselves as being cheered on by the angry crowd immediately around them, and their blows and assaults become all the more brutal and violent on that account. Either way the victim’s plight is considerable, and they are lucky to escape with only minor injuries.

Responsibility for the death of a person who falls victim to a mob is sometimes difficult to assign, and it is therefore not unusual that the person responsible for the coup de grace gets away with it. For example, the investigation into the murder of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick is still ongoing.

More than 200 suspects have been arrested as a result of the death of Sicknick, and even though the investigation is being conducted as a homicide, formal charges have yet to be assigned. What’s more, no cause of death has been determined and it is still unclear if it was the blow to Sicknick’s head from a fire extinguisher, exposure to chemical irritants during the riot or something else that ultimately caused his death. Such is the chaos of mob violence that we may never know what really killed him.

But you can imagine it yourself, imagine that not only had Sicknick been killed by violence from the mob, but one or more legislators had been killed, or Pence himself. The narrative would be very different just now, and fingers would be pointing much more vigorously than they currently are. Again, that it didn’t turn out that way had nothing to do with constraint on the part of the thugs infesting the Capitol on January 6th, and everything to do with luck. The principal beneficiary of that luck was Donald Trump himself. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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