Calling January 6 a 'siege' is utterly absurd

Olivia Murray’s excellent blog on the latest buzzword in the left’s propaganda quiver, stochastic terrorism, had me scrambling to find an academic publication on the web that explained this term. After a few attempts, up came an article titled “Stochastic Terrorism” by Molly Amman and J. Reid Meloy, published in the October 2021 issue of Perspectives on Terrorism, available in PDF form here.

The end of the article contained impressive info on the authors:

Molly Amman, JD, is an attorney and retired FBI profiler specializing in behavioral threat assessment and management. She is engaged in private practice and currently serves as the national certification chair for the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals. Ms. Amman most recently coauthored chapters on law and on public figure attacks in the International Handbook of Threat Assessment, 2nd edition (Oxford: OUP, 2021).

J. Reid Meloy, PhD, is a board-certified forensic psychologist and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. He is also a faculty member of the San Diego Psychoanalytic Center. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and has been a consultant to the FBI for the past two decades. His most recent coedited book is the International Handbook of Threat Assessment, 2nd edition (Oxford: OUP, 2021). Dr Meloy derives income from the marketing and sales of the TRAP-18 through license to Multihealth Systems, Inc.

As is usual in academic journals, the article began with an abstract.

Stochastic terrorism has been bandied about in recent public discourse. However, it has received little scholarly attention, particularly in understanding its mechanics and the deeper psychological context in which it might flourish. The history and phenomenology of the term are elaborated upon, and its psychological meaning is explored through the application of linguistic pragmatics, the psychoanalysis of large group regression—what we term “poliregression”—and terrorism risk assessment. The January 6 Capitol siege and other historical events are used as illustrations.

I was all set to have a look at how the authors explain “stochastic terrorism,” “psychological context,” “history and phenomenology,” “linguistic pragmatics” and “poliregression” until, way at the end of the final sentence, I ran into the phrase “January 6 Capitol siege.”

Say what? When I get stuck on page one of an article, I usually assume the rest of it is of questionable value, no matter its credentials, and just stop reading. I decided instead to look up historical examples of sieges in Wikipedia to see if what happened on Jan. 6, 2021 compares by any stretch of the imagination with historical sieges.

First, however, I looked up “siege” in the dictionary:

Siege: A military blockade of a city or fortified place to compel it to surrender.

Evidently the authors, who are highly educated people, didn’t bother to check the dictionary before referring to the January 6 incident as a “siege.” There was no “military blockade” on that day; demonstrators were not armed; they did not “storm the ramparts,” they were let in by the police, who were armed and killed one of the demonstrators, Ashli Babbitt. The demonstrators had no interest in “compelling” members of Congress to “surrender.” Do what to them after they surrendered? Confiscate their parking passes?

On the other hand, it could be that Amman & Meloy simply didn’t think they were obliged to follow the ordinary meaning of a term as defined in the dictionary. There are people who think language is “fluid” and can be used as one sees fit. Humpty Dumpty told us that “when I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” There are also people who think our Constitution is a “living document,” in which can be found rights the Framers never even imagined.

To get a sense how utterly absurd it was to refer to J6 as a “siege,” all we have to do is go through the incredibly long wiki list of historical sieges. The oldest one mentioned is the Siege of Aratta in Sumeria (2,600 BC) and the most recent one is the Siege of Mariupol in Ukraine (2022). All were horrific events that often killed more civilians than soldiers. The 872-day Siege of Leningrad during WWII is considered the most gruesome in history. The German commander Wilhelm von Leeb got off easy.

Amman & Meloy use the phrase “Capitol siege” three more times in the article. The term “siege,” however, is not applied to any other event. For example, we are not told that what happened in Waco, Texas during February 28 and April 19, 1993 was a siege. Rather, the text informs that “David Koresh, the leader of the Branch Davidians, established himself as such a divine entity, ultimately resulting in the deaths of 75 men, women, and children.” Wiki makes it clear that federal authorities laid siege to a compound in Waco. The 11-day Ruby Ridge siege in 1992 is not mentioned in the Amman & Meloy article at all. Mentioning real sieges would have spoiled the “narrative” that J6 was a siege.

“Come on, Arnold, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Obviously, the authors weren’t using the term ‘siege’ literally in reference to J6. They meant that J6 was an assault on democracy in a metaphorical sense rather than the sense defined in the dictionary.” This is simply false. The four occurrences of the phrase “Capitol siege” are none of them metaphorical and no connection whatever is made in the article between J6 and democracy.

Finally, Ashli Babbitt did not get a mention. Had the article done so, its authors would have had to explain the circumstances of her death, including the fact that Babbitt was unarmed and did nothing to threaten the officer who killed her. Those were inconvenient facts that would also have spoiled the “narrative” of the article. Scholarship these days ain’t what it used to be.

A frequent contributor, Arnold Cusmariu is the author of Logic for Kids, forthcoming from Jenny Stanford Publishing. 

Image: Mustafa-trit20, via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0


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