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Opinion >  Column

Shawn Vestal: The shameful and the shameless conspired to produce the shame of Jan. 6

UPDATED: Fri., May 21, 2021

FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, people shelter in the House chamber as rioters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.  (Andrew Harnik)
FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, people shelter in the House chamber as rioters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (Andrew Harnik)

If not getting caught is the mark of a good criminal, the reckless Trumpists who stormed the U.S. Capitol were the worst.

Take the example of Sandpoint’s Michael Pope, whose brother introduced him by name on a Facebook Live video before they pressed their way inside with the violent mob that left five people dead in their wake: “He flew in from Idaho,” Pope’s brother said, according to federal court records.

Both men now face several federal charges related to the riot.

Then there was the Boise man, Josiah Colt, who was photographed hanging from a balcony in the Senate chamber. Colt filmed himself boasting that he was the first to sit in the chair of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who he called a traitor, a federal affidavit says.

He’s now charged with unlawful entry.

The self-described sergeant-at-arms of the Seattle Proud Boys, Ethan Nordean, a k a “Rufio Panman,” posted a video online two days before the storming of the Capitol with this title: “Let them remember the day they decided to make war with us.” In it, he discussed plans to overwhelm the police barricade and enter the Capitol; on Jan. 6, he is seen in photo after photo, and in several videos, in the midst of the violent crush that overran the police.

Nordean now faces four federal charges.

These are just a few examples from the Northwest contingent of the almost 500 people charged with crimes in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Over and over, MAGA-hatted insurrectionists displayed an astonishing level of incaution about incriminating themselves. They did Facebook Live posts. Talked revolution on YouTube. Posted video of themselves confessing.

One bragged later on a dating website about breaking into the Capitol – and was reported to the feds. Just this week, a man was arrested in Virginia after boasting at his dentist’s office that he’d barged into the Capitol and smoked pot inside.

They were proud of themselves.

They thought they were doing the right thing.

Meanwhile, their political enablers – many of whom were inside the Capitol that day, as was the disgraced Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who used her office to lend official cover to the reprehensible lie that brought the mob to town – have tried to hide what they did. To foster a widespread national forgetting. To continue feeding the election-fraud lie. To duck behind calls for unity or moving forward, while carefully doing their best to avoid disturbing the very political line, drawn by their dishonest leader, that pointed directly to the events of Jan. 6.

This week, McMorris Rodgers and the political accomplices voted against a congressional inquiry into the events of Jan. 6. Most had little to nothing to say about it publicly. I’m not aware of any Facebook Live posts by the congressional enablers, boasting about their vote.

They’re ashamed of themselves.

They know they’ve done – and are continuing to do – the wrong thing.

The FBI’s case is enormous and still growing. But by no means should public accountability for Jan. 6 begin and end with people who weren’t smart enough not to post proof of their guilt on Facebook.

The connection between the actions of the shameless and the actions of the shameful is just too strong.

Like everything else these days, the movement that led to the Capitol riots, and the efforts to catch and punish the rioters, has been a social media story all along. From the president’s tweets to the rioters’ videos, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Parler and other social media platforms played key roles at every step of the disaster.

It’s ironic that many of the insurrectionists are being hoisted by that very petard – caught by using images they, or their fellow travelers, posted themselves. And the feds are hoping to continue using the internet and information freely posted by rioters to try and catch others. They have posted scores of images online in an effort to identify other suspects – and particularly those responsible for planting pipe bombs – at www.fbi.gov/wanted/capitol-violence#News.

The hundreds who attacked the operation of democracy on Jan. 6 had been given permission and not just from the words at the president’s rally that day – but an even deeper, implicit permission, built on years of lies and years of support for those lies.

It’s obvious in the extraordinary confidence with which the rioters confessed their crimes.

Another among the many examples was Boyd Camper. The Montana man gave an interview to CBS News on camera after helping the mob push its way into the Capitol, where he roamed around with a Go-Pro camera on an extended pole, capturing the festivities.

“I was on the front line,” he boasted during the interview, according to a federal affidavit. “We’re going to take this damn place. If you haven’t heard, it’s called the insurrection act and we the people are ready.”

As with all of the other incompetently incautious insurrectionists, Camper now faces federal charges. They should all be prosecuted and held accountable if convicted.

But if the buck stops with them, it will have stopped too soon.

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