In a lengthy article about its decision, PolitiFact explained the significance of the January 6th lies:
PolitiFact had many options to choose from for our Lie of the Year: claims that the 2020 election was stolen, claims that the COVID vaccine didn’t work, and this one, lies about the Capitol insurrection.
We picked these lies for two reasons. First, the attack was historically important; a federal judge called it “the most significant assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812.” While some members of Congress lodged protests when the Electoral College count was close, as in 2000, or when individual states had close margins, like Ohio in 2004, never before had Americans overtaken the Capitol to hold up electoral proceedings and threaten lawmakers. In fact, “the peaceful transfer of power” has long been a hallmark phrase in describing, with pride, the American experience.
Second, the events of Jan. 6 were widely broadcast on that day and many days afterward, allowing the public to see for itself exactly what happened. The body of evidence includes direct video documentation and many eyewitness accounts. So efforts to downplay and deny what happened are an attempt to brazenly recast reality itself.
“It’s meant to sow doubt and make us unable to react in the ways we need to react to what is actually a threat to democracy,” said Kate Starbird, an associate professor and expert in misinformation at the University of Washington.
The lies not only contradict what we could all see with our own eyes but the dangers the liars experienced. Case in point: Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA):
“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall, showed people in an orderly fashion staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures,” Clyde said during a May committee hearing. “If you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
Clyde’s words belied his own actions that day. A Roll Call photographer shared an image of Clyde helping barricade the House chamber door as rioters disrupted Congress. PolitiFact rated his statement about a “normal tourist visit” as Pants on Fire.
Nobody played a bigger role in brazen lying than Fox News. While they’ve blamed antifa, the FBI and promoted a false narrative similar to Clyde’s “normal tourist visit” lie, the January 6th committee just released text messages from three top Fox hosts imploring Trump’s chief of staff to get him to do something to stop the violence.
But it’s not the dishonesty per se that makes the lies so dangerous, though lying to viewers and constituents is bad enough. It’s that their shameless gaslighting is working, at least among themselves. More from PolitiFact:
But the repetition of the Jan. 6 falsehoods demonstrates that a political movement can coalesce around obvious lies — and that, despite the facts, it can be difficult to stand against.
“This is our new world — denial of what your eyes are actually seeing,” said Laura Thornton, director and senior fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
“The effort to rewrite history in the service of political power goals is not unheard of in America or anywhere else,” said Theda Skocpol, a Harvard political scientist who has studied the Tea Party and anti-Trump resistance. “What is brazen is the history they want to rewrite includes pictures of what actually happened.”