It would seem a pretty self-evident prerequisite that any act of "insurrection" against the United States actually involve at least a little insurrect-ing, even just a smidge. Judging from the aftermath of the "insurrection" at the U.S. Capitol a year ago, that wasn't the case: None of the rioters of that day have been charged with anything approaching that serious crime.
You'd think that would matter. According to the New York Times, prosecutors in many cases opted to bring charges of "obstruction of an official proceeding before Congress," a move which "allowed the authorities to avoid deploying more politically fraught — and harder-to-prove — counts like sedition or insurrection."
Well, gee: If this incident was the Republic-threatening, democracy-overturning, traitorous cataclysm we've been led to believe—if, as our vice president has alleged, the riot was comparable to the attacks on both Pearl Harbor and the Twin Towers—then shouldn't "insurrection" have been a relatively easy slam-dunk for prosecutors? Maybe we've been misled on that front.
And yet the insurrection meme persists, in large part because it is so obviously useful. Democrats and their supporters are using the term as a political cudgel, setting themselves up as guardians of civilization and Republicans as a violent faction hoping to tear it down.
This political thrust has been surprisingly successful, and it has also been useful on a multilateral level. Parents who oppose left-wing school board policies, for instance, are now at risk of being labeled "domestic terrorists." That's no accident: In an era where several hours of crude, destructive idiocy in the U.S. Capitol are treated as an "insurrection," surely the standards of terrorism will themselves be watered down. That's the point.
The absurdity of this argument should be self-evident. One would at least expect insurrectionists to come better prepared than the buffoons of Jan. 6, most of whom seemed more interested in taking selfies and wandering around in Nancy Pelosi's office than actually overthrowing the government.
How a bunch of unarmed tourists in hoodies were supposed to capture the federal government is itself also a mystery. Is the Capitol run on capture-the-flag or king-of-the-hill rules? Do rioters simply have to squat for a few hours to take full possession of the United States? Had Sir George Cockburn been aware of that particular hack during the War of 1812, he could have easily recaptured the States for King George.
It wasn't an "insurrection." It was a riot. It was a childish, idiotic temper-tantrum by a group of low-information dupes – it was a stupid waste at every level. But it was not an insurrection.
Don't fall into the poison trap of hysterical political language. History has shown us far too many times where that leads.