The Capitol riot: a Rorschach test with surveillance implications

Did U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) lie about her alleged traumatic experience during the US Capitol riot (Jan 6, 2021)? It’s a relevant question when debating surveillance, because her very dramatic stories, presented by corporate media, will make it easier to convince common people that surveillance is necessary to stop violent Trump supporters, many of whom are now being perceived as being (potential) “insurrectionists” after the US Capitol riot.

Tim Pool, a somewhat lefty/indy journalist associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement but also a Trump voter in 2020, claims in a video that he can prove AOC lied:

I Have PROOF AOC Lied About Her Capitol Story, Its Way WORSE Than You Thought (MAJOR UPDATE)

The best evidence is presented at 12:08 – 13:40 – 14:31 minutes into the video.

I have fact-checked what Tim says. Below are the relevant sources I have found so far in this case. Let’s start with what AOC claimed during her Instagram video and see if she lied there:

What Happened at the Capitol Instagram Live | Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC begins to tell about her Capitol riot experience at 0:38:10 in the video.

AOC about to order lunch at 12:45 (0:39:47)

AOC mentions that it is 13:01 and she goes back to ordering lunch (0:41:18 – 0:41:27)

All of a sudden AOC hears intense banging on her door (0:41:33)

“Where is she!?”, a man yelled, and AOC thought violent Trump protesters had entered the Cannon building where her office is located (0:45:00)

AOC: I thought everything was over (0:45:35)

AOC: I thought I was going to die (0:46:30)

In the Instagram video, AOC starts to cry, wiping tears, when recalling how scared she was of being killed by Trump supporters during the riot (0:47:24)

G, a staffer, says to AOC: it’s okay, come out from hiding, because the yelling man is a police officer, [ordering them to evacuate the Cannon building] (0:49:00)

Staffer G says he is ready to fight scary police officer (0:50:51 – 0:51:31)

AOC gives a time estimate: it’s around the same time as the Capitol was being stormed (0:52:36 – 0:53:22)

AOC says: [at street level] she could hear rioters behind glass of the doors (0:53:29)

AOC says: hear yells from people trying to break into the building she is in (0:53:46)

AOC says it almost felt like a zombie movie (0:54:08)

AOC says Capitol police trying to protect building (0:54:25)

AOC says: it felt like a matters of seconds before rioters are breaking through doors (0:54:34)

AOC: I hear hinges cracking (0:55:39)

AOC says she and colleague are completely alone in hallways (0:56:06)

AOC says she enters Representative Katie Porter’s office [in Longworth house office building] (0:56:36)

AOC is expecting insurrectionist to turn the corner with a gun (0:58:07)

AOC: G and other staffers are pushing couches up against door (1:00:15)

AOC says the sun is going down, it’s like 15:45 (1:02:57- 1:03:06)

AOC: At this point she is getting intelligence about bombs (1:03:20)

AOC: two bombs found 1-3 blocks away from where she was (1:03:25)

AOC then continues to talk about matters not significant in our context. Notice that she claimed in the video that she was evacuated from the Cannon building right after 13:01. But in USA TODAY we can read that:

“1:26 p.m.

Capitol police order evacuation of Library of Congress, Madison Building and Cannon House Office Building on Independence Avenue across from the Capitol.”

Timeline: How a Trump mob stormed the US Capitol, forcing Washington into lockdown

The Appeal-Democrat, a daily newspaper in California, reports some of the timeline of what happened at the Capitol riot, including when the police declared that it was safe to return to the Cannon building.

“At 1:47 p.m., the department announced the evacuation was all clear.”

““ALL CLEAR. The evacuation of the Cannon has been cleared, and any associated road closures will clear momentarily,” the alert said. “Reentry is authorized.””

Protesters storm Capitol during Electoral College certification, causing lockdown

It appears like PolitiFact describes the factual timeline differently, which proves how difficult it is to actually discover the truth and know the facts in complex cases:

“”None of us knew in the moment what areas were compromised,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Feb. 4, after Mace shared a Fox News headline that used her comments to discredit Ocasio-Cortez.”

“The Cannon building was one of two buildings evacuated by Capitol Police as pro-Trump rioters outside moved toward to Capitol, which they broke into just after 2 p.m. It is a part of the larger Capitol complex, which is connected by underground tunnels accessible to lawmakers.”

“Several lawmakers, including Mace, tweeted about the evacuation in real time. “Just evacuated my office due to a nearby threat,” Mace wrote in her Jan. 6 tweet posted at 1:45 p.m. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., said that the evacuation was due to “a pipe bomb reported outside.””

Ask PolitiFact: Where was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during the Capitol riot?

Politifact’s report appears to confirm Tim Pool’s statement that the Cannon building was evacuated because of an alleged pipe bomb nearby, not because Trump supporters attacked this building.

Here is how AP fact-checked the claim that AOC lied, but without AP mentioning all the relevant details about what she actually said in her Instagram video:

“Ocasio-Cortez never claimed she was in the main Capitol building, nor did she claim she was face-to-face with a mob of violent rioters.”

Ocasio-Cortez didn’t lie about location during Capitol riot

AOC did say that rioters were on the other side of glass doors. AOC said: “we can like hear all of these rioters behind the glass of the doors” (0:53:29). She uses the word “rioters”, not “protesters”, giving her viewers the impression that the building was under attack.

The Independent reports that AOC rejects the Republican claim that she lied or exaggerated:

““They are manipulating the fact that most people don’t know the layout the Capitol complex,” she wrote. “We were all on the Capitol complex – the attack wasn’t just on the dome.” (The spelling error is in the original text.)

“People were trying to rush and infiltrate our office buildings – that’s why we had to get evacuated in the first place.”

AOC hits back at Republican claims she lied about Capitol assault: ‘It’s because they know they are implicated’

If you check Google maps you will see that (AOC’s office in) the Cannon building and (Katie Porter’s office in) the Longworth house office building are next to each other, south of the Capitol, across the Capitol lawn and on the other side of the street that goes by the short side of the Capitol building. But the Longworth house office building is slightly closer to the main Capitol building, so why did AOC go there if being scared of rioters? She claims to be panicked, so maybe that’s why.

In the following article, from Curbed (owned by Vox), you can see a picture of where rioters attacked the main Capitol building, without the article ever saying that attacking rioters were outdoors, on the lawn, at the south side nearest the Cannon building:

Visualizing a Riot: Where Today’s Attacks on the Capitol Played Out

My very temporary conclusion, based on the facts I know so far, is that:

1) Some rioters in the streets may have perhaps (very briefly) scared AOC when she was in the Longworth house office building, but we can’t know that for sure unless the police confirms what she said in her Instagram video:

AOC says: [at street level] she could hear rioters behind glass of the doors (0:53:29)

AOC says: hear yells from people trying to break into the building she is in (0:53:46)

AOC says it almost felt like a zombie movie (0:54:08)

AOC says Capitol police trying to protect building (0:54:25)

AOC says: it felt like a matters of seconds before rioters are breaking through doors (0:54:34)

AOC: I hear hinges cracking (0:55:39)

2) Tim Pool appears – at least at first glance – to be right, in the segment of his video that spans from 12:08 – 13:40 – 14:31 min. Because how could a yelling police officer try to evacuate AOC right after 13:01 when the evacuation occurred 13:26 (USA TODAY) or just before 13:45 (PolitiFact)?

It’s human to be incorrect when recalling exactly when events happened, but AOC is very specific about when the yelling police officer banged on her door: it was when she was ordering lunch, at 13:01.

But maybe the officer was a rogue Trump supporter who tried to scare AOC into running to a less secure place, independently of the evacuation that happened at 13:26? However, if that was the case, why did he bang on her door and yell like a madman? To avoid attention and build trust it would be smarter to trick AOC by acting calmly and professionally.

Witness psychology confirms that people are often very unreliable eyewitnesses even when they are honestly trying to recall events sincerely. From the Instagram video it’s clear that AOC is not always giving a precise timeline. I first got the impression she was talking about events right after 13:01 but then she eventually mentions that some of it happened at 15:45. When people talk spontaneously during a live stream video you can’t expect that they will describe all facts and events correctly, though a high-ranking person like AOC should not talk freely in that way if not being able to communicate relatively clearly and get most of her facts in such an order that it’s not potentially (very) misleading.

Based on having first superficially read corporate-controlled news about AOC’s very dramatic version of the Capital riot I always assumed she had been inside the main Capitol building. In one way I feel misled by corporate media, because of their very dramatic headlines and soundbites. Based on Establishment media I thought AOC perhaps really was in danger of being murdered by some Trump supporters, maybe even killed because of Senator Ted Cruz, as seen in this headline from CNN:

AOC rejects Cruz support over Wall Street chaos: ‘You almost had me murdered’

If I had, in the first weeks after the riot, spent eight hours just studying this single case I might have gotten a better picture earlier, but who has time to spend that much energy on a single news event such as the AOC case? Instead all of us are forced to choose which news outlet we trust. Do you trust leftwing fact-checkers? Or do you trust rightwing fact-checkers? How can an average citizen know who is telling the truth when both sides are known for reporting untrue things? The New York Times is not trustworthy after misleading the public about WMDs prior to the Iraq War, 2003.

In very polarized societies like America today it’s therefore natural that some trust FOX and others trust CNN. But all mainstream media have a reputation for being dishonest, cf “Manufacturing Consent” by Noam Chomsky and “Trust Me, I’m Lying” by Ryan Holiday.

The AOC case is relevant in a debate about surveillance since the latter is increasing partly because of the Capitol riot. From the above, however, it should be clear that knowing the truth in chaotic and complex situations can be very difficult. Facts are often the first casualties of a very polarized society. Each party will interpret phenomena in their own way. If they have a very different understanding of what constitutes terrorism, for example, it will contribute to more polarization, which eventually equals more violence and more surveillance… The winner is the security state, unless people actually manage to restore a genuine constitutional democracy not governed by an oligarchy that pays politicians to serve its own oppressive cause.

To avoid that Democrats use surveillance to oppress over 70 million Trump voters, and to avoid that Trumpists use surveillance to oppress Democrats it’s arguably best that a very large state like the US is peacefully divided in two while having a military alliance to defend both countries against Russia and China.

A better alternative is to simply return to a constitutional democracy based on moderate liberality and moderate cultural conservatism, but that option is not on the table when 1) Democrats are libertines, and 2) Trumpism consists of too many far-right elements which really scare all “woke” ultra-liberals.

The morale of this very long article is that in any hyper-polarized society you can’t really trust any of the involved parties. Instead you have to spend a day (or more) to personally fact-check almost every complex and controversial news event. But that’s impossible in our fast-moving world. The only option left is to be skeptical of all significant claims made by both parties in a very aggressive conflict.

For example, don’t naively trust what NSA says about surveillance, but don’t just take it for granted that I’m more reliable than the NSA. Maybe I’m even working for the NSA! Perhaps this website is a honey trap designed to identify anyone interested in militant opposition to Big Tech?

I basically don’t care how common people or average radicals interpret my website, because events in real life will most likely not be determined by me or the arguments I present online. Actors like organized crime, major terrorist groups, and non-liberal (rogue factions within) foreign intelligence agencies will make decisions independently of what I write, obviously. The rest of us can just sit back and watch or comment upon the tragic spectacle of this primitive fight between different tribes. I’m just an armchair strategist, a hypocrite, biased like everyone else… Being disillusioned about online debates I don’t even bother writing in a manner that will attract more readers.

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