A study of the roughly 380 people arrested in connection with the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol found that the rioters weren't exactly driven by "economic anxiety," as the New York Times frames it, but were driven instead by the fear that America is no longer white enough. The Times says the lead researcher, University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape, had "expected to find that the rioters were driven to violence by the lingering effects of the 2008 Great Recession," but it turns out that was not the case. Instead, he determined that

Most of the people who took part in the assault came from places, his polling and demographic data showed, that were awash in fears that the rights of minorities and immigrants were crowding out the rights of white people in American politics and culture.

If that framing sounds a tad familiar, you might be thinking of the 2018 Times story that also purported to reveal something astonishing and new, which was that the majority of Trump voters were driven more by worries that white people are losing out than by economic anxiety. Heck, the headlines of the two pieces are darn near the same, too.

Maybe it's only the New York Times that's surprised to learn this, over and over again.


Pape also summarized his findings in the Washington Post yesterday, and he, along with his team from the Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST), discovered that members of the January 6 mob were "by and large, older and more professional" than the usual run of wingnut protests, and relatively un-likely to have ties to far-Right groups like the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers, though those groups were definitely present at the Capitol. (About 10 percent of those arrested belonged to organized groups.) But the Capitol insurrectionists had one big thing in common with other protesters, being "95 percent White and 85 percent male, " and, as Pape told the Times,

You see a common pattern in the Capitol insurrectionists. They are mainly middle-class to upper-middle-class whites who are worried that, as social changes occur around them, they will see a decline in their status in the future.

That seems to put them in company with a lot of the assholes of American history, who have reacted with violence and paranoia about social change, from the Know Nothings of the 19th century who feared the Irish were going to turn America into a fiefdom of the Vatican, to the various incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan, which terrorized Black people in reaction to Reconstruction, then later in reaction to the Great Migration and the Civil Rights movement.

Pape and CPOST's demographic analysis also found that local demographic changes seemed to have a noticeable effect on white people freaking out and taking violent action, too.

Counties with the most significant declines in the non-Hispanic White population are the most likely to produce insurrectionists who now face charges.

For example, Texas is the home of 36 of the 377 charged or arrested nationwide. The majority of the state's alleged insurrectionists — 20 of 36 — live in six quickly diversifying blue counties such as Dallas and Harris (Houston). In fact, all 36 of Texas's rioters come from just 17 counties, each of which lost White population over the past five years. Three of those arrested or charged hail from Collin County north of Dallas, which has lost White population at the very brisk rate of 4.3 percent since 2015.

The researchers also suggest, based on survey data, that the racist "Great Replacement" theory appears to be one driver of the Trumpers' rage. That's the eternal belief that good decent white people are on the verge of being extinguished by nonwhite hordes, and that shadowy forces are actually engineering demographic change, because of course nothing ever simply happens. The second biggest factor correlating to showing up at the Capitol riot was heavy social media usage, which again is hardly any big surprise.

We'd add that while those are interesting findings that make intuitive sense, it also feels to us like maybe a sample size of 380 arrested rioters (so far) isn't necessarily conclusive. F'rinstance, a 2002 study suggested that white people who live in the whitest neighborhoods were more receptive to racial stereotypes in local news than those who live in integrated settings and could see that nonwhite people aren't the monsters on TV. Though in this case, it's not necessarily proximity to people of color that's allegedly driving white anxiety, but change in where they live. Would be interesting to repeat the TV study in counties undergoing demographic change, no? And then we'd also recall the hilarious, ongoing problem with studies in social science, which is that an astonishing number of studies can't be replicated at all.

In conclusion, we are still waiting to see a lot more media scrutiny of all the people who did everything they could to vote Donald Trump out of office, and just as soon as it's safe to do so, we'll start hanging out in local diners in hopes that a New York Times reporter will drop by to ask us why we voted for Biden.

[NYT / WaPo / NYT (2018) / Vox]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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