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Uprising at U.S. Capitol ‘predictable’ based on distant, recent history and growing extremism

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WVU's John Kilwein, Erik Herron and Joshua Arthurs can offer expert comment on the violent events in Washington D.C. Wednesday (Jan. 6). (WVU Photo)

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The storming of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. by domestic terrorists on Wednesday (Jan. 6) should come as no surprise, according to political science and history experts at West Virginia University.

Extreme political ideologies fueled the attack on the U.S. Capitol, an action reminiscent of fascist regimes elsewhere in the world, researchers said.

The following faculty members are available to speak to media: John Kilwein, of political science, an expert on public law and public policy; Erik Herron, also of political science, who’s researched political institutions and electoral systems; and Joshua Arthurs, of history, who’s studied fascism and political transitions.


“This insurrection was the inevitable outcome of extremist and mainstream politicians and commentators who trafficked in the idea of the justness and legitimacy of citizen rebellion against a despotic government that ‘threatens’ their individual liberty.”

“Jan. 6 is only surprising to those who ignored or minimized the October 2020 plot to overthrow the government of Michigan over the ‘tyranny’ of public health measures designed to curb a real and unprecedented public health emergency. The blatant disparity in police force used against the violent Jan. 6 insurrectionists versus the treatment of overwhelmingly peaceful street protestors calling for racial justice this past summer is truly disgusting, but is, again, completely predictable.” 

“Politicians who repeated baseless lies that any election that they or their allies lose is rigged and the result of the ‘wrong’ people being allowed to vote should have seen the violent attack on the seat national government coming from a mile away. And unfortunately, I believe it’s equally predictable that the American instinct to ignore its founding flaws will lead to many of those who brought us this crisis to make calls to minimize it by telling us that it was the work of a few hotheads, a few bad apples, excitable Americans who could not contain their legitimate frustration and fear of a national government gone awry. Embracing that fantasy will be much easier than implementing a concerted American effort to examine and correct its flaws, to engage in truth and reconciliation.” – John Kilwein, Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences  

“The tragic events in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 are reminiscent of anti-government uprisings that have occurred elsewhere in the world. The United States, however, has never experienced riots instigated by the president to interrupt a constitutional process. Now more than ever, officials, the media and the public have to recommit themselves to democracy and the rule of law. We can learn lessons from how similar efforts have succeeded and failed in other countries.” - Erik Herron, Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


“Democracy is neither perfect nor permanent. It takes constant work, commitment and good faith. At the Capitol, we saw what happens when people abdicate these duties and wage war on the ties that bind us. As a historian of fascism, I found yesterday’s scenes tragically familiar: individuals, claiming to represent the will of the people, violently assaulting the representatives of the people; lies and conspiracy theories that destroy trust and demonize the other; a cult of personality that eliminates independent thought and validates terror.”

“In the days and weeks to come, pay attention and be active. Don’t take claims of patriotism, or assertions of conspiracy and fraud, at face value. Do your homework by reading verifiable sources and learning about how our system works. Take responsibility – even in small, everyday ways – for conserving the ties that bind us.” – Joshua Arthurs, Associate Department Chair, Associate Professor of History, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.



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