Deciphering the symbols of the January 6 uprising (VIDEO)


During the January 6 uprising, people wore symbols and waved flags that shouted silent messages to themselves.

There are photos and videos etched in our minds, but look a little closer and you’ll see more than crowds on these steps and in a room on January 6th. People wore symbols and waved flags that shouted silent messages to themselves.

Laura Scofield is vexillologist, a fancy term for someone who studies flags. She says they are the most powerful artefact ever created and a societal impetus to represent themselves.

“Flags are still the device we use to show who we are – to show where we want to belong,” she said. “It’s about an inside and an outside. I will say that at that precise moment, since they incited violence, the flags were supposed to incite fear. They were all there to warn people. “

It was a sea of ​​symbolism that day, from American flags to Nazi images, to Confederate flags, to Gadsden’s flag.

Brian Hughes, who founded the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab – or PERIL – at American University, says all of the different symbols represent some kind of big right-wing tent.

“They serve as a rallying point for extremists who identify with them, support them and spread them,” he said. “And they are acting as a kind of terrorist propaganda towards the groups that are targeted by them.”

Propaganda is not new. It’s painfully familiar. In fact, Corey Fleischer now spends his days fighting him all over the world.

“When I saw that first swastika, it might as well have had a photo of my face on it with one with my name on it,” he said. “It’s like, boom, ‘There you go. Just a reminder, you know, we hate you.'”

Fleischer is the founder of “Erasing Hate”, where he literally erases swastikas and other hate messages from the sides of buildings around the world that communities have allowed to exist, sometimes for decades.

“I think the major problem with what’s going on is leaving those symbols in place. That’s the situation here. It’s the lack of action. It’s the failure to be proactive in order to remove these things. “said Fleischer. “Until it’s completely removed, you know, the cycle of hate will still be there.”

And Hughes says seeing symbols in your hometown is damaging, as is seeing them hoisted inside the Capitol.

“The fight-or-flight reactions people feel when they encounter these hate symbols that express hatred towards them have real physiological consequences on their long-term health,” said Hughes.

But Hughes says it’s not just the obvious symbols we know to be hateful. It’s about those we don’t see that way – like the American flag – that the far right gets tangled up in their messages.

“When you put these hate symbols in the same mixture as these more common symbols, and then these more universal symbols, it actually helps legitimize those hate symbols,” Hughes said. “And at the same time, it helps infuse these more traditional symbols with some of that meaning that comes with the more extreme perspectives.”

Hughes and Scofield both say that no matter how many years old, some symbols never lose their meaning while others evolve. But it’s also a new symbolism that they think we should pay attention to.

“If you drive around in a part of the country where you saw a lot of Confederate flags, the point is, you see fewer Confederate flags these days,” Hughes said. “What replaced them were Donald Trump’s flags.”

Ultimately, they say that the symbols themselves take precedence over the messages behind them. And that will require a much greater effort than banning them from demonstrating or removing them from sidewalks.

“It’s about tackling the root causes, the vulnerabilities in our society that make it such a fertile ground for the development of extremism today,” said Hughes.


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