News Update

Opinion: The story of January 6 will be told

“Judas and the Black Messiah” was a biographical drama about Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party that tackled core questions at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement. David Simon’s adaptation of the alternate history, “The Plot Against America” took up Phillip Roth’s novel about the possibility of fascism succeeding in America, coming at a moment when many people thought our institutions had become as vulnerable as possible. “Mrs. America” explored the origins and tensions within feminism through the stories of key icons from the 1970s.
While Democrats and Republicans continue to clash over how to investigate what happened at the Capitol on January 6, it’s likely that the lasting narrative will be shaped not only by journalism and historical writing, but also by pop culture. In the end, this cultural approach to politics might be a more effective approach to dealing with 1/6 than the government.
After all, the odds of the nation being able to count on a bipartisan January 6 commission keep getting worse. Senate Republicans were able to stifle the commission that the House of Representatives had voted to create and that would have been charged with investigating what happened on the day of the election certification, when violent mobs stormed Capitol Hill, threatening the lives of legislators and the vice president. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell switched his tune, moving away from the condemnatory speech that he delivered after the Senate voted against removing President Trump following his second impeachment. Protecting his party going into the 2022 midterms became McConnell’s priority.
According to reports, Republicans are being told to stop using the term “insurrection.”
New emails reveal a Trump White House gone madNew emails reveal a Trump White House gone mad
Congress still has the ability to conduct investigations through hearings. But the Republican strategy won’t change, so anything done through the Democratic majority will quickly be attacked as yet another partisan ploy. The hearings will quickly turn into another political spectacle, diminishing the ability of legislators to better understand how the insurrection came together, which politicians had connections to the insurrectionists, and why security failed so poorly.
In other words, left to Congress, at least for now, the public won’t learn much more. As time passes, the nation will move on.
For now, some of the responsibility will have to fall on the shoulders of other sectors in American society.
There is some evidence that these efforts are underway. Showtime is developing a limited series about the riot. CNN has a special report, “Assault on Democracy: The Roots of Trump’s Insurrection” premiering Sunday at 9 pm ET, while “Frontline” has aired a documentary called “American Insurrection.”
This won’t be the first time that we have called on the world outside of Washington to shoulder the responsibility of providing deeper insights into some of the tragic moments that the nation experienced when our political institutions were failing.
In 1964, at the height of the Cold War, some of the strongest warnings about the threat of nuclear war came from Hollywood. In “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” Stanley Kubrick directed and produced a classic comedy starring Peter Sellers that warned viewers of how easily a nuclear war could unfold if the wrong people were in charge. Although many critics disparaged the movie for suggesting that a mentally unstable general could trigger a nuclear war, the film was more spot on than many realized about the ways in which presidents didn’t have total control of the situation.
Following Watergate, “All the President’s Men” (1976), starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, focused on two reporters who broke the story of the Watergate conspiracy. The reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, upon whose book the film was based, told the story of the rampant corruption that had existed in President Richard Nixon’s White House as the administration tried to cover up its connection to the burglary of the Democratic National Convention headquarters. While many others had brought to light how Nixon had abused his power (and in this case a congressional committee did play a huge role in exposing the abuse), the film reached massive audiences, making the character and record of the Nixon White House more real to average Americans.
Finally, the US gets a strategy on fighting domestic terrorismFinally, the US gets a strategy on fighting domestic terrorism
In 1983, a television film called “The Day After” captured the horrors of nuclear war. The film focused on a small town in Kansas that was suffering through an attack. The movie was a sensation. Millions of Americans tuned in to watch. Schools organized curricula to work with kids about what they were seeing. ABC’s production became part of a broader conversation about the dangers that the world faced as President Ronald Reagan had heightened tensions with the Soviet Union during the first years of his administration.
And Hollywood has continued to offer blistering looks into elements of politics that Washington often wants to ignore. Fictional narratives have often been a powerful way to shed light on the dangers we face. The film “Bulworth” (1998) was a tough expose of the way that private money and lobbyists corrupt the political decision-making process. Warren Beatty played a senator who starts to finally speak his mind about what’s wrong with the way that money affects politics. In “Election” (1999), a fictional account of a high school election becomes a way to show why so many voters in the US prefer outsiders who slam the system than careerist politicians who would do almost anything to win.
Hollywood isn’t the only way that non-politicians can tackle tough problems. Nonfiction and fiction writers, podcast and radio producers, television producers and others all have roles to play. The world where I work, that of education and research, has also been essential to the process of information production, though our institutions are much slower and reach a far smaller part of the public.
In an ideal world, we would have a vigorous and thorough response from the government. More than any other sector in American society, government has the capacity to produce the kind of knowledge about failures such as January 6.
But right now, the system is not working. Given a chance to step up after the wreckage of the post-2020 election, Congress could not produce a bipartisan commission, and the GOP is doubling down on the Big Lie, more interested in preventing this from becoming a problem in the midterms than making sure the causes of this attack don’t resurface. The danger is that we let the horrendous attack on our democracy become yet another fleeting memory in our short attention-span polity, where it is increasingly difficult to dig deep into the crises we experience.
This is why others will need to step into the void. Popular culture will be one arena in which the producers of content have the chance to give Americans a better understanding of the factors that allowed that attack to unfold.
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

To Top