Seven Hours in January Was Not Seven Days in May

As the Congressional Select Committee winds its way to its pre-ordained conclusion that what happened at the Capitol last year was an attempt by former President Trump, every elected Republican, anyone who has ever worn a red hat (MAGA-emblazoned or not), and everyone who has ever stayed at a hotel to overthrow the government, it should be noted -- quite clearly and succinctly -- that seven hours in January was not Seven Days in May.

Despite what the endless, tedious and inaccurate anniversary media coverage -- all delivered with a joyously smirking “kid in a candy store” tenor -- has been claiming, the January 6 riot had all (maybe really only some) of the hallmarks of, well, a riot and none of the indicators of an actual “insurrection,” let alone an attempted coup d’état.

A coup is an extremely tricky proposition, as Burt Lancaster’s character in the 1964 film Seven Days in May, discovered much to his chagrin.  The film (and the book) notes the level of detailed planning necessary, the prior co-option of various levers of power that needs to occur, the cruciality for speed of implementation, and -- just as importantly -- the requirement of a post-coup strategy.  It cannot in any way, shape, or form be said that the events of January 6 even remotely involved any of these elements, a fact proven, ironically, by the very information being released or leaked or whatever by the Select Committee itself.

In a proper insurrection or coup, one of the key elements is control of the media.  If this were a legitimate attempt to overthrow the government, the planners, in theory, would have made sure that only evil Fox News was left on the air, that it had changed its logo to incorporate buffalo horns, and that all other media -- including social -- was broadcasting or retweeting or posting reruns of “Welcome Back, Kotter.”  The fact that Fox News personnel were real-time texting government officials imploring them to quell the Capitol situation immediately is pretty much the exact opposite of that.

Detailed prior planning is also a condition of a coup attempt.  In theory, Trump would have made absolutely sure troops were in place to help the mob -- he didn’t (there does seem to be some confusion as to exactly what happened with the National Guard but, most assuredly, if Trump had immediately sent in the Guard to end the disorder it would have been -- and would still be -- portrayed as a proof of evil intent, heads I win, tails you lose as it were).

Also, if this had been a real coup attempt, the “bombshell” January 5 text Rep. Jim Jordan sent to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows outlining potential legal arguments regarding the seating of questionable electors would not only have been months before and may also have included what to “do” with those electors afterwards.

Internal security is also crucial.  In Seven Days in May, the plotters coordinate using a Preakness Stakes-related code -- if Trump (or anyone in his circle, real or imagined) sent a tweet stating that “The Blue Monkey Walks Alone at Noon” to trigger events there may be actual cause for concern.  But, again, that did not happen.

In Edward Luttwak’s extremely interesting book Coup D’état:  A Practical Handbook, he outlines a series of practical necessities a successful overthrow entails.  A neutralized opposition, media control, military support, dedicated and discrete supporters throughout government offices, speed of implementation, a detailed and logistically feasible organizational action plan, and the immediate institutionalization of the new government are all among the key elements to prevailing.  Since what occurred on January 6 not only lacked any of these elements but, by all accounts, had the exact opposite characteristics means, again, the premise that an actual government overthrow was in process is ludicrous.

To an extent, these simple facts are somewhat akin to the key event in the Sherlock homes story “The Adventure of Silver Blaze.”  Holmes focuses on a “curious incident:” the dog on the premises did not bark, leading the detective to the idea that the ne’er-do-well was known to the animal.  This concept is also known as a “negative fact,” which involves the absence of one thing proving the truth of another.

That is what the Select Committee has been, unwittingly, been providing the public -- in its hellbent effort to make positive assertions to convince the public about what “really” happened January 6, it has actually been supplying numerous negative facts.

Another negative fact is that those participants the feds have rounded up and charged have not been charged with anything even remotely related to a treasonous, insurrectionist coup attempt.

A third negative fact is that the riot, in fact, ended any consideration of and debate about the status of potentially questionable electors.  Again, a proper coup would have let the effort move forward in the hope that it would succeed and only be triggered if there was a failure.

A final negative fact is that, despite the avalanche of anniversary coverage, little has been dedicated to the idea of what would have happened if the insurrection had been successful.  If those pushing the story now actually thought that it could have “worked” they would be screaming about that horrifying potentiality from the rooftops.  Since they’re not, it means even they do not really take the notion seriously.

None of this is to defend the sheer blechiness of the riot -- not only was it wrong and illegal, it was rock paper stupid from a political standpoint -- with the fact that literally everything else went wrong for the administration and the Democrats in Congress in 2021, the riot provided them with the only even theoretically plausible lifeline to retain political legitimacy.  In other words, imagine what the Democrats would be talking about if they could not be talking about this?  **crickets**

Trump officially lost in 2020 -- now whether that was due to a collaborationist media, vapor trails of zeroes worth of dark money, extremely dodgy election systems, the actual Big Lie that was the Biden campaign, his own personality (but probably not his policies), that there may have been 75,000 white men (the only demographic Trump saw a decline of support in, by the way) who were brainwashed into believing that to vote for him was a racist act, COVID, generalized drama exhaustion, a belief that Biden would in fact be a President, or whatever other reason can be debated, the fact is that Donald Trump is not currently President of the United States.

And that may be the most telling negative fact of all.

Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter.  He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at You can read more of his work at

Image: Jeneva Stiles - Pixy

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