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Brian Sicknick's Death is Still Being Used as a Political Prop
Going on two years later.
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What happened on January 6, 2020 was bad. Obviously. I don’t believe Trump’s Ozymandian rhetoric caused the Capitol riot, but it certainly didn’t help. And while I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to call it a “coup” or “insurrection,” the event remains ominous in its portents. We often fail to understand how easy it is for seemingly invincible world powers to self destruct and fade into oblivion, because too few of us possess an adequate appreciation for history. There’s a reason why Russia and China are hoping to weaken America’s influence abroad by destabilizing our country internally: The collapse of the United States is most likely to be the result of irreparable social fissures from within—when The Great Experiment fails, the nation falls.
But it’s not just what happened on Jan. 6th that should bother people. It’s how the mainstream media and Democrats have sensationalized it at every opportunity. We have long since surpassed the point at which you’d be hard-pressed to deny the revanchist, unsavory political motivations behind this framing, not to mention the hypocritical double standards too apparent to ignore. It’s one thing to condemn the events of Jan. 6th; it’s another thing entirely to do everything possible to render the events more menacing than actually true.
During a House Judiciary Committee meeting on Wednesday, US Representative Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) rhapsodized about the horrors of the Jan. 6th “insurrection” and described his Republican colleagues as fascists.
“How many more people needed to die to reach your definition of an insurrection?” Jones yelled across the room at Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.). “On January 6, at the direction of Donald Trump, a violent mob stormed the Capitol. In the process, 138 Capitol and D.C. police officers were injured. A Capitol police officer was bludgeoned to death.”1
Jones, of course, was referring to Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, whose death has long been wrongly attributed to the 1/6 brouhaha in a cheap ploy to exaggerate what really happened.
On January 8, 2020, the New York Times published an article headlined “Capitol Police Officer Dies From Injuries in Pro-Trump Rampage,” the first salvo in the spreading of arguably the most significant falsehood about the Capitol riot—that a police officer was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. As is standard operating procedure at the Times, they published another article saying the same exact thing on the same exact day, this one with the kind of histrionical headline that’s also become typical of the paper:
The media immediately began parroting this false story in an effort to dramatize Jan. 6th, turning what was supposed to be a tragedy into tabloid fodder. Of the five people who purportedly died at the Capitol that day, Sicknick’s death was the only example the media had of the “pro-Trump insurrectionists” killing someone, which explains why it became so important to people trying to depict the storming of the Capitol in the most savage light possible.
As Glenn Greenwald illustrated, it’s hard to overstate how pervasive this fire extinguisher story became. In addition to being propped up by the entire axis of liberal media outlets, it was like catnip for the sewer-dwellers on Twitter, where synthetic outrage is de rigueur.
The story of Sicknick’s death was even cited in the article of impeachment against Trump, which stated that “Trump supporters ‘injured and killed law enforcement personnel.’” And in their pretrial memorandum, the House impeachment managers asserted that “the insurrectionists killed a Capitol Police officer by striking him in the head with a fire extinguisher.” Upon Trump’s acquittal, President Biden issued a statement that included within the first paragraph that Sicknick had died “while protecting the Capitol from a violent, riotous mob on January 6, 2021.”
Does it come as any surprise that from the very start, when the New York Times began spreading this falsehood by way of the two articles mentioned above, there wasn’t a single bit of supporting evidence to substantiate the claim that Brian Sicknick had been killed by protestors, and that the only proof presented was the supposed claim by two “anonymous law enforcement officials”? And would it shock you to learn that this fabrication was spread over and over and over again by the media for more than a month despite the fact that on the very same day the New York Times published the aforementioned articles, ProPublica published an article of its own that exposed the story as nothing more than the same spurious bull that the “paper of record” now churns out in depressing abundance?
The ProPublica article included information from an interview with Sicknick’s brother, who stated that “Sicknick had texted [the family] Wednesday night to say that while he had been pepper-sprayed, he was in good spirits.” Meanwhile, the New York Times claimed that a mob of protestors had “overpowered Sicknick” and “struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher,” after which, “with a bloody gash in his head, Mr. Sicknick was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support,” even though the autopsy found no blunt trauma to the head. Sicknick’s family urged the press to stop spreading this story because he called them the night of Jan. 6th and told them he was fine, and his own mother said she believed he had died of a stroke.
But even with the ProPublica story disproving the Times’ false one, nobody brought attention to it—every other mainstream outlet remained mute about how a major claim still circulating was obviously untrue. Whether this was because they were constrained by their own liberal orthodoxies and pieties, or because the fictitious narrative regarding how Brian Sicknick died was too valuable to their shared partisan agenda, is unclear. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they never gave a damn about Brian Sicknick’s death to begin with; they simply saw it as something that could be exploited to advance the lie that the Capitol riot was akin to medieval barbarity.
To this day, the Times hasn’t issued an apology. They haven’t so much as announced a retraction. Rather, they simply went back to the outdated articles and put up a decidedly insufficient “update,” which can be seen below:
Sicknick’s death wasn’t the only one used to advance a false narrative. To this day, Attorney General Merrick Garland claims that five police officers died following their response to the Capitol riot; Democrats and the media added four alleged suicides of law enforcement officers, including a few that occurred months later, to their false death toll. That figure is often cited in court filings by prosecutors.
When Mondaire Jones brought up Sicknick’s death during Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee meeting, it resulted in a heated argument between Democrats and Republicans.
“Are we talking about Sicknick or are we talking about someone else?” Dan Bishop asked Jones, who refused to correct his statement, downplaying it as a “minute point in the midst of the gravity of what happened on January 6.” Jones again claimed “multiple police officers” died that day.
The storming of the Capitol was a gift to Democrats and their media handmaidens. It provided a golden opportunity to refute the perception that the Left holds a monopoly on political violence at the hands of unruly mobs. Moreover, Democrats stand to benefit from convincing the population that the opponents and critics of those in power do not merely hold a different ideology but are coup plotters, insurrectionists, and domestic terrorists; it’s the same political benefit that came from trying to persuade the public that adversaries of the Democratic Party were treasonous Kremlin agents.
But using someone’s death to paint a false picture of barbarity because it serves your party’s interests and allows you to demonize your political opponents is immoral, to put it mildly, and it does nothing but stoke animosity in an already deeply fractured country.