Tuesday Reads: Misogyny and the Capitol Insurrection

Good Afternoon!!

All of us here are aware that men who commit violent acts such as mass shootings, attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics tend to have histories of domestic violence. Now we’re learning violence against women is common in men who participated in the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Recently NBC News investigative reporter Scott MacFarlane called attention to this connection.

I went looking for articles on this phenomenon. Here’s what I found.

This piece was published on January 13, 2021 at The Conversation: Misogyny in the Capitol: Among the insurrectionists, a lot of angry men who don’t like women, by Mona Lena Crook

Among the various forms of violence on display during the U.S. Capitol insurrection, one has been largely overlooked: misogyny, or hatred toward women. Yet behaviors and symbols of white male power were striking and persistent features of the riots.

Members of the overwhelmingly male crowds defending a president well-known for his sexist attacksembraced male supremacist ideologieswore military gear and bared their chests in shows of masculine bravado. They even destroyed display cabinets holding historical books on women in politics.

Actions targeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi give the clearest illustration. Members of the mob broke into her office and vandalized it. Items like mail, signs and even her lectern proved to be particularly popular trophies – symbolizing an attack on Democrats and the House Speaker, but also against one of the most powerful women in American politics….

Attacks on Pelosi, while partisan in nature, also contained many elements of misogyny.

Pelosi was in physical danger as pro-Trump rioters roamed the Capitol building hunting down elected officials. News cameras filmed a man carrying zip-tie handcuffs entering and then exiting the speaker’s office, where members of her staff remained barricaded in a room for more than two hours.

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Richard Barnett in Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Capitol insurrection.

Acts of vandalism and theft were accompanied by speech disparaging and belittling Pelosi as a woman. In the hallway outside her suite of offices, angry rioters tore the leadership nameplate off the wall as crowds chanted, “Get her out!”

In a video, a woman claimed she helped break down the door to Pelosi’s office. Once inside, “somebody stole her gavel and I took a picture sitting in the chair flipping off the camera.” She proudly announced “and that was for Fox News” – a station notorious not just for its far-right politics, but also for its on- and off-camera sexism.

photo of Richard “Bigo” Barnett, sitting with his feet up on a desk in Pelosi’s office, solicited perhaps the strongest reaction. One feminist writer asked, “Have you ever seen a clearer photo of arrogant male entitlement? The legs apart, the foot on the desk, the smile … this guy isn’t just happy he’s broken into the Capitol building. He feels like he’s putting a woman in her place by violating and defiling her space.”

Consistent with this interpretation, Barnett later told a reporter: “I wrote her a nasty note, put my feet up on her desk, and scratched my balls.” The message read: “Nancy, Bigo was here you bitch.”

Krook is the author of Violence Against Women in Politics

Miranda Christou discusses misogyny among women who participated in the Capital attack in her article at Rantt Media, published January 28, 2021: Gender And Misogyny At The Capitol Insurrection.

As Cynthia Miller-Idriss explained, “the individuals who participated in the violence came from a wide range of groups across the far-right spectrum—white supremacists and neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, patriot militias, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and violent MAGA extremists, your neighbors and maybe even your family members.”

The fact that these were mostly white people was no surprise. But the presence of women in the crowd puzzled many, mainly because of assumptions about women’s “instincts” and predispositions. While it is true that women are rarely at the frontlines of violent extremism and they constitute a minority of far-right leaders and far-right voters, this so-called “gender gap” is misleading.

Women’s tangible and often intense investment in organizations that feed on racism and sexism belies their small numerical representation. I argue that women’s role in extremist movements needs to be understood in light of the misogyny that fueled the insurrectionists’ violent behavior, both literally and symbolically.

The-Women-of-the-InsurrectionChristou examines the history of white women being used to normalize hate movements.

White women’s role in white supremacy has a long history and it continues to morph into movements and causes that render a familial face to bigotry and hatred. This is why QAnon moms (or QAmoms) is now a mainstream phenomenon. The QAnon conspiracy infiltrated moms’ Facebook groups by tugging on their motherly sentiments and by providing them with likes in the age of mother influencers.

What took off as an obscure conspiracy theory supported by marginal basement dwellers moved into the kitchen and the living room because it artfully whitewashed Nazi ideology into a movement that purported to save trafficked children. No need to invoke the 14 words because QAnon hijacked #savethechildren in order to bestow an air of legitimacy and urgency to an otherwise ludicrous scheme.

Many white women have always been normalizing hate and they will continue to nurture children into hatred, bake cookies for white supremacists and declare innocence when their complicity is exposed. As Mona Eltahawy noted: “the audacity of white womanhood obscures and obfuscates the violence that white women are allowed to get away with.”

Of course women are only tools for the men who participate in hate movements, as Christou goes on to discuss. Head over to Rantt media to read the rest of this interesting piece. Also check out this article at Ms. Magazine, published in February: The Women of the Insurrection.

Two articles at HuffPost report on individual insurrectionists with histories of violence against women.

At Least 9 Far-Right Insurrectionists Have A History Of Violence Against Women.

She was alarmed, but no more so than she had been by all the other messages: “I have better things to do than speak to a whore”; “Nobody loves you”; “Narcissistic whore.” Her ex-husband, Larry Rendall Brock Jr., had been sending them like clockwork for three years. A court had ordered the couple to communicate through a specialized portal while their contentious divorce was finalized. Larry often used it for threats.

“The stuff that he writes to me is brutal. You grow thick skin and try to filter it, but it’s hard,” said Katya, who shares a 6-year-old son with Larry. Katya said her ex-husband views women as “disposable” and has abused her throughout their four years of marriage and additional three years of separation.

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Larry Rendall Brock

Larry, a 53-year-old Air Force veteran, is one of the hundreds of insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 and is now facing federal charges. He sported a combat helmet, a bulletproof vest and carried zip-tie handcuffs. His threats to Katya also went beyond those messages ― HuffPost uncovered numerous 911 calls from their home for domestic disputes, including one in 2016 in which Larry was described as making a “terroristic threat of family/household,” according to a police summary of the call.

Larry’s history of abusive behavior is part of an alarmingly common trend among the rioters who have been arrested so far for their roles in the insurrection. After reviewing police reports and court filings, a HuffPost investigation found that at least nine insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol have a history of violence against women ― ranging from domestic abuse accusations to prison time for sexual battery and criminal confinement.

Experts have linked extremism to violent misogyny in recent years, especially in the wake of mass shootings in which the perpetrators had a history of violence against women. These violent behaviors exist on a spectrum ― and, of course, not all abusive men turn into killers ― but violence against women often begets more violence, sometimes deadly. Three people died as a direct result of the violence at the Capitol, and more than 140 law enforcement officers were injured during the riot. Two U.S. Capitol Police officers have died by suicide in the aftermath.

“We still, in this day and age, treat violence against women as a personal or family issue, as opposed to a troubling indicator of someone who could become more violent,” said Bridget Todd, communications director at feminist organization UltraViolet.

Read more examples and more about Brock at the HuffPost link. Here is a follow-up article, published June 11, 2021: Revealed: Even More Insurrectionists Have Histories Of Violence Against Women.

One of the newly listed men, who was charged with attacking a police officer Jan. 6, has been responsible for “many hospital visits for many victims,” according to a charging memo uncovered by HuffPost. Another man being charged in connection with the Capitol riot has been arrested multiple times for domestic violence, but never prosecuted, and is pending trial on felony child abuse charges, HuffPost found.

And a third, who allegedly yelled at Capitol police that they were “protecting pedophiles,” was convicted of statutory rape in 2010, CNN reported last week.

The link between extremism and violent misogyny has become very evident in recent years as more mass shooters have been found to have a history of violent behavior toward women. Though most abusive men do not go on to perpetrate larger acts of violence, the ties between violence against women and extremism are too clear to ignore, experts said

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Ryan Samsel

One of the men mentioned in the above article, Ryan Samsel, has gotten quite bit of media attention. From the HuffPost article:

Ryan Samsel, 38, is charged with assaulting a U.S. Capitol Police officer and giving her a concussion while storming the barricades. According to prosecutors, Samsel “has an extensive criminal history of assaultive and violent behavior” toward women and has been convicted of assaulting women at least three times.

“The facts underlying these other convictions are extremely disturbing,” prosecutors wrote of Samsel in the Pennsylvania man’s detention memo. “They show a pattern of Samsel choking and beating women to the point of loss of consciousness, of many hospital visits for many victims, of chipped and missing teeth, and of Samsel even breaking into one victim’s home multiple times to assault her.”

Samsel’s criminal history includes a 2006 assault in which he attempted to run a woman he knew off the road with his car, punched her windshield and told her he would kill her if he didn’t get back the $60 she owed him, prosecutors stated. In 2009, Samsel was convicted of simple assault and reckless endangerment after he “held a victim against her will for five hours, choking her to the point of unconsciousness, pushing her, beating her, and chipping her teeth,” the detention memo says.

Samsel was again convicted of simple assault, among other charges, in 2011 for choking and beating his pregnant girlfriend. In 2015, he was convicted of simple assault for a third time, involving a different female victim who told police that Samsel had choked her to the point of losing consciousness.

Another woman came forward in 2019 and alleged that Samsel broke into her home, assaulted her and choked her until she lost consciousness multiple times. “The victim also alleged that Samsel raped her multiple times, and that she had often been scared he would kill her,” the detention memo says. The woman told police she got a restraining order against Samsel, but he violated it multiple times. 

The Feds are using Samel’s history of violence against women to try to keep him in jail while he awaits trial.

From a February 4 story at The New York Times: The Misogynistic ‘Dating Coach’ Who Was Charged in the Capitol Riot.

For $150, Brad Holiday’s customers could purchase and download a package of dating tips and tricks he called his “Attraction Accelerator.” The batch of files featured advice from Mr. Holiday, a self-styled Manhattan dating coach, about things like the best facial serums and pickup lines, and his thoughts on the viciousness of the opposite sex.

But tucked between videos denigrating women and reviews of height-boosting shoes were other guides: how to defeat Communists, expose what he claimed were government pedophilia cabals, and properly wield a Glock.

On Jan. 20, F.B.I. agents arrested the man, whose real name is Samuel Fisher, outside his apartment on the Upper East Side in connection with his involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Stashed in his Chevrolet Tahoe, parked on East 88th Street, investigators found a shotgun, machetes and more than a thousand rounds of ammunition, according to court records.

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Samuel Fisher AKA Brad Holiday

Like many of the roughly 175 people arrested after the riot, Mr. Fisher left a trail of social media posts about his exploits. “People died,” but it was great, Mr. Fisher wrote online after the attack, according to court records. “Seeing cops literally run … was the coolest thing ive ever seen in my life.” [….]

The composition of the mob that stormed the Capitol last month has come into sharper focus as arrests linked to the incident mount. In New York, the people charged include an accountant, a sanitation worker and a retired firefighter.

Among them were a handful of men like Mr. Fisher, whose large online footprint suggests a fierce devotion to a hypermasculine ethos of chauvinism, grievance and misogyny. His scores of videos, treatises and posts, spread across web pages and social media profiles, reflect a worldview that festers on the far-right fringe.

Read more at the NYT link.

Again, I know that the link between misogyny and other types of hatred is nothing new to Sky Dancers, but I think it’s important that NBC News’ Scott MacFarlane is talking about it. I’d like to see more of this from mainstream media types, though I’m not holding my breath while I wait to see it. Of course the hate–the misogyny, the racism, the anti-Semitism, the embrace of violence among the MAGA faithful all goes back to Trump.

Here’s an interesting piece from The Washington Post Magazine by David Montgomery, published January 14, 2021: 24 Warning Signs of an Insurrection That Should Have Been Obvious. And 11 shameful rationalizations that prevented so many Americans from seeing how bad things were getting

Donald Trump’s rhetoric had consequences from the beginning of his presidential candidacy. In June 2015, he descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower to the cheers of fans, tourists and, reportedly, paid actors. His announcement speech was a potpourri of Trumpian braggadocio and vanity, with a dash of American optimism, all steeped in resentment — resentment against unnamed political elites, corrupt system-riggers, freeloaders, losers, Democrats and foreigners. He warned of the “rapists” invading from Mexico.

Just two months later, two brothers in Boston pounced on a Latino man sleeping outside a subway stop, viciously beating him. According to the arresting police officers, the brothers explained their attack as inspired by Trump’s demand that “illegals” be kicked out of the country. 

That frenzied campaign summer, Trump’s rollicking rallies became safe spaces for his most enthusiastic and embittered supporters to vent unprintable racist, misogynistic and sometimes violent language against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the news media. In coming months, some ralliers were moved to administer the occasional sucker punch to anti-Trump protesters.

It was all egged on by Trump, who smirked at his throngs’ antics. He never quite directed their attacks, but he never quite discouraged them either. Instead — not just at rallies, but continuing through the four years of his presidency — he set an example. He modeled maximal invective against enemies and harnessed it to an intemperate conviction that vast forces were conspiring against him — including, in the end, his own vice president.

Montgomery collected quotes from Trump and his enablers that led up to the violent insurrection on January 6.

I hope you’ll check out some of these articles that I’ve collected and let me know your reactions.