Stop Calling Jan. 6 an ‘Insurrection’

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from The Wall Street Journal,

That’s a legal term that denotes much more than a sporadically violent riot or disturbance.

The events of Jan. 6 also fail to meet the dictionary definition of insurrection, which Merriam-Webster defines as “an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.” A usage note adds that the term implies “an armed uprising that quickly fails or succeeds.” A closely related term, “insurgency,” is “a condition of revolt against a government that is less than an organized revolution and that is not recognized as a belligerency.”

A real insurrection would have required the armed forces to quell an armed resistance. Actual insurrections—apart from the Civil War—include Shay’s Rebellion in 1787 … and the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. Both events required President Washington to quell the insurrections with thousands of armed troops, who killed several resistors.

The demonstrators who unlawfully entered the Capitol during the Electoral College count were unarmed and had no intention of overthrowing the U.S. constitutional system or engaging in a conspiracy “against the United States, or to defraud the United States.” On the contrary, many of them believed—however erroneously—that the U.S. constitutional system was in jeopardy from voter fraud, and they desperately lashed out in a dangerous, reckless hysteria to protect that system.

The media’s mischaracterization of these events created a moral panic that unfairly stigmatized Trump supporters across the nation as white supremacists conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government, resulting in the unnecessary mobilization of armed U.S. troops in Washington.

The misuse of words, especially involving criminal accusations, can easily result in overreaching enforcement of the law and a chilling effect on free speech, all of which have already happened—and in this case, endanger the very system the rioters’ accusers purport to protect.

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