The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, whose first of six televised hearings began last Thursday, is spectacle replacing politics. There is nothing substantially new in the accusations. The committee lacks prosecutorial power. No charges have been filed by Attorney General Merrick Garland against former President Donald Trump and none are expected. The choreographed hearings, like the two impeachment trials of Trump, will have no effect on Trump voters, other than to make them feel persecuted, especially with more than 860 people already charged (including 306 guilty pleas) for their role in storming the Capitol. The committee echoes back to Trump opponents what they already believe. It is designed to present inaction as action and substitute role-playing for politics. It perpetuates, as Guy Debord writes, our “empire of modern passivity.”
The committee, which most Republicans boycotted, hired James Goldston, a documentary producer and former president of ABC News, to turn the hearings into engaging television with slick packaging and an array of pithy sound bites. The result is, and was meant to be, politics as reality television, a media diversion that will change nothing in the dismal American landscape. What should have been a serious bipartisan inquiry into an array of constitutional violations by the Trump administration has been turned into a prime-time campaign commercial for a Democratic Party running on fumes. The epistemology of television is complete. So is its artifice.
The two established wings of the oligarchy, the old Republican Party represented by politicians such as Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the committee, and the Bush family, are now united with the Democratic Party elite into one ruling political entity. The ruling parties were already in lock step for decades on the major issues, including: war, trade deals, austerity, the militarization of police, prisons, government surveillance and assaults on civil liberties. They worked in tandem to pervert and destroy democratic institutions on behalf of the rich and corporations. They desperately work together now to stave off the revolt by enraged and betrayed white working men and women who support Donald Trump and the far right.