After the pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Twitter blue-checks, politicians, and elite corporate journalists wailed and rent their garments in outrage. But they weren’t really outraged.
Yes, the breach of the capitol was appalling and disturbing. Most people didn’t see it coming and were understandably shocked when images of MAGA bros fighting capitol police began popping up on social media (although the authorities should have been better prepared, most of all D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who had earlier rejected offers of additional law enforcement.) There’s no question the protesters who decided to riot should be prosecuted, as all rioters everywhere should be.
But elite outrage is not really about what happened at the capitol—about the “sacred citadel of our democracy being defiled” and so on. The outrage, like almost all expressions of righteous indignation from our elites in the Trump era, is performative. It is in service of a larger purpose that has nothing to do