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Op/Ed: A ‘Supercontagion’ of Dangerous Groups Converged at the Capitol

UMD Extremist Expert Dispels Myth of the ‘Ordinary American’ at Riot

By Michael Jensen

Video at the Jan. 6 hearings reads "2:14 p.m. Proud Boy Joe Biggs enters the Capitol"

The House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol shares a video it said shows Proud Boys entering the building. A research team at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) found that at least 280—or 35%—of the individuals charged with committing crimes at the Capitol that day were associated with extremist groups or conspiratorial movements.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Defenders of people accused of participating in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol have argued that they were “everyday” or “ordinary” people who were just engaged in a legitimate protest or were caught up in the moment.

But Michael Jensen, a senior researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), explains in a new essay in The Washington Post that promoting this narrative not only overlooks how well-orchestrated much of the violence at the Capitol was, but it also normalizes the event.

Over the past several months, my team has been collecting data on the backgrounds of the Capitol defendants in an attempt to verify these claims of their normalness. After poring through thousands of pages of court documents and scouring their social media pages, I have reached a different conclusion: They are not normal. They are not “everyday,” “ordinary” or “mainstream.” They are part of a supercontagion.

Read the full essay in The Washington Post.

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