Ron Johnson Just Asking Questions About These Conspiracy Theories Ron Johnson Keeps Spreading
Since January 6, more than 310 people have been arrested for taking part in the Capitol riots, and even more than that have been identified. With the notable exception of the very shady Activist John, all of these people have been ardent Trump supporters. People know them, are related to them, they've even dated them. Nevertheless, conspiracy theories abound about how all of the rioters were actually antifa and this was all an evil plot to make Trump supporters look bad. As if we'd have to try.
One of the more ardent supporters of this theory has been Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who even went so far as to force everyone at the Capitol Riot hearing to listen to him as he read an article about it from The Federalist. In an interview with the New York Times today, Johnson defends his beliefs while simultaneously questioning if he even has them. Who is he, Ron Johnson, to know what he thinks? He is just asking questions.
Well, what's your feeling about who made up the group that stormed the Capitol?
I don't know, and I'm asking the question. I'm making no assumptions.
There are just so many unanswered questions, which seems to be kind of the basic situation in so many things I'm trying to get to the bottom of. But here we are almost two months later, and there are just basic pieces of information that are missing here.
So here's the thing. When one makes an accusation or floats an unusual theory, it is their job to prove its veracity. If I were to say that Ron Johnson is not a regular person but in fact an alien-human hybrid, it would be on me to prove that is true, not him to prove it is false. Were things to work the other way around, it would be chaos. That is why the very foundation of our justice system is supposed to be "innocent until proven guilty."
The "just asking questions" nonsense is a way to inject absurd theories without having to defend them. Like "Hey, I'm not saying specifically that Ron Johnson is a reptilian humanoid on a mission to take over the planet and use the entire human race as a food source, I am just asking if maybe that is his deal."
In the Senate hearing the other day, you read the piece from The Federalist that suggested there were sort of provocateurs and "fake Trump supporters" that had designs on generating trouble from the crowd. And I wondered, do you share that analysis?
I think it's important, if we're going to really get the whole truth, to understand exactly what happened, we need to look at different vantage points, different perspectives.
I read that article, I think, as soon as it was published, which was shortly after Jan. 6. And I was intrigued by it. Because here was an individual that, again, I didn't know him at the time. I actually spoke to him yesterday for the first time. But I didn't know who he was. It just looks like he had a pretty good background. This is an instructor, focusing on this type of psychological type of warfare and that type of thing. So he seemed to be a knowledgeable observer.
And I was just fascinated by the fact that he wrote down his thoughts, about 14, 15 pages, without looking at any news. So it's kind of an unblemished accounting. And that's really kind of the eyewitness accounts you want to examine. I'm not saying you accept everything. You don't necessarily accept his conclusions. I think you kind of have to take at face value what he said he saw.
So here's the thing about that article, which was written by one J. Michael Waller — you can't take at face value what he says he saw, because what he says he saw are things he assumed about people without any actual evidence whatsoever. According to Waller, there were four separate "cells" of people he saw, and he had some theories about them.
Plainclothes militants. Militant, aggressive men in Donald Trump and MAGA gear at a front police line at the base of the temporary presidential inaugural platform;
Agents-provocateurs. Scattered groups of men exhorting the marchers to gather closely and tightly toward the center of the outside of the Capitol building and prevent them from leaving;
Fake Trump protesters. A few young men wearing Trump or MAGA hats backwards and who did not fit in with the rest of the crowd in terms of their actions and demeanor, whom I presumed to be Antifa or other leftist agitators; and
Disciplined, uniformed column of attackers. A column of organized, disciplined men, wearing similar but not identical camouflage uniforms and black gear, some with helmets and GoPro cameras or wearing subdued Punisher skull patches.
Waller had no actual proof of any of this. He had no way of knowing that people were "fake Trump supporters" (particularly given that there was actually a plan for the Proud Boys to dress up as Antifa) or that anyone at all was there to do anything other than simply love Donald Trump and attempt to overthrow the government for him. Just because you observe something about someone doesn't mean it's true.
It seems especially untrue in this case, given that, per Waller's account, he never actually saw the "fake Trump supporters" doing anything.
Do you believe that, as the Federalist author Michael Waller wrote, that there were fake Trump protesters in the crowd?
That's what he said he thought he saw. I think later in the article, he didn't see any who he would have thought were fake Trump protesters, he didn't see them engage in any violence. I think he writes that in his article. Yeah. I'm letting his testimony stand on its own. I wasn't there.
Again, I'm drawing no conclusions whatsoever. Again, a lot of press reports are assuming, imputing all kinds of conclusions. They're saying I'm saying things that I'm not saying at all. All I'm saying at this point in time is we need to ask a lot of questions.
Okay, and my mom and I think there is something up with lady who walks up and down her street multiple times a day in the freezing cold with an extremely small baby carriage that seems like it would be a waste of money if it was for an actual baby, in a neighborhood where there is nothing to walk to. We have some theories! But you don't see me standing in front of the Senate talking about those, because that would be weird.
If you're asking questions and you won't accept "No, you obviously just made that up now" or "No, there is absolutely no evidence that this occurred," as an answer, then you're not really investigating anything, are you?
In the interview, Johnson finally admitted that the agents-provocateurs were probably coming from inside the pro-Trump house:
There's been a lot of talk among some of your Republican colleagues in Congress about antifa or Black Lives Matter being involved in instigating what happened. Do you share that belief?
It doesn't really seem like that was the issue. It appears, again, this is all early, I haven't drawn any conclusions, but it appears if there was any preplanning by groups, it was white supremacist groups, like the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers, that type of thing. That's what it appears.
I've seen videos of other people claiming to be antifa in their hotel rooms. I don't know if any of that's been verified. But no, again, I am drawing no conclusions at all. But right now, it appears that there were provocateurs or agitators. It would appear it would probably be from the white supremacist groups that have already been named. But I haven't talked to the F.B.I.
This is the worst M. Night Shyamalan storyline I have ever read.
Johnson went on to explain that one can't dismiss what Waller says he saw, because it was his own eyewitness account, but eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Particularly when it's mostly speculation.
One might think that reaching this conclusion would have nudged Johnson in the direction of changing his ways, but judging by his insistence that the reason so many people think the election was rigged is because all the votes everywhere were not counted by 10 p.m. (when in most places they couldn't start counting them till 8!), and not because Trump and Republican lawmakers kept saying it was rigged, that is probably not going to happen any time soon.
Anyway — this is now your open thread! Feel free to make up whatever you want, so long as you're not planning on submitting it on the Senate floor as evidence of anything.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse