Back in April 2019, I criticized Bloomberg’s decision to not label the attempted overthrow of the Venezuelan government Juan Guaido and his supporters wanted a “coup.” However, one thing I made clear was my issue was not that Guaido and his supporters wanted to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, after all the man is far from perfect and I myself have criticized him many times— but that they, and much of the mainstream media, were being very dishonest about their tactics and goal.
Coup, like most terms in politics, in a rather neutral term — one could make the argument that The American Revolution was a coup, and that does not somehow make it less justified. At this point, I should note, I was also defending Juan Guaido and proudly arguing that he would be a much better leader of Venezuela than Maduro — that does not mean I get to pretend what he was planning was not a coup. Once again, doing so would be dishonest about what my goals are, which is something I simply can’t stand.
As of writing this, Guaido’s revolution has fizzled out and Maduro remains in power. He has failed to get the Venezuela people to rally behind himself and the opposition, and it looks like Maduro is remaining in power, in spite of a questionable election much of Latin America thought was rigged, for the foreseeable future.
I mention this because in the aftermath of the storming of the capital on 1/6/2021, the definition of “coup” is something that our population needs to be reminded of. On 1/10/2021, Jake Hanrahan tweeted the following:
We’re at a stage now where if you don’t think that the MAGA storming of the Capitol building was an attempted coup, you become an immediate target for rage and ridicule. Like you’re literally not even allowed to disagree without people getting actually angry at you. It’s so odd.
Now that would be great and all if something being a coup was a matter of opinion. However, rather something is a coup or not is a matter of fact, meaning if you are wrong you should “become an immediate target for rage and ridicule.” Just as you should be if you’re a public commentator who gets any number of facts wrong.
So was it a coup? Well that’s a bit of a tricky question. A coup is defined by Google as the following:
a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government.
I would certainly call the storming of the capitol on 1/6/2021 rather sudden, and the five people who have died because of what happened would surely be evidence that it was violent — even if not all of them died because of violence.
Wikipedia gives us a much more complicated definition:
A coup or coup d’état . . . is the removal of an existing government from power, usually through violent means. Typically, it is an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a political faction, the military, or a dictator. Many scholars consider a coup d’état successful when the usurpers seize and hold power for at least seven days. A coup attempt may refer to a coup in the works or an unsuccessful coup.
Here, we get some more nuance. A coup is “usually [done] through violent means,” but it does not need to be. The major question is this: Were they attempting to overthrow the American government?
The answer to that question is a little complicated, as their goal was not to seize power themselves, but to keep power in the hands of President Trump by disrupting the certification of the Electoral Votes. However, the only way they could do such a thing is to take power away from elected members of the House of Representatives and the Senate — by taking the power for themselves and then giving said power to President Trump. But the issue is, the only way they could get the power in the first place is to seize it from government — therefore making it a coup.
Hanrahan is right that caring about facts is rather odd in this country, a country that has bent over backwards to his brand of factual relativism. I am happy that we are saying no more, that objective reality does matter, and that you can’t just phrase nonsense as an opinion in order for it to no longer be nonsense.