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Right-Wing Violence: Capitol Insurrection Forces a Reckoning with Reality

January 14, 2021

Right-Wing Violence: Capitol Insurrection Forces a Reckoning with Reality

Ask students: When and where have extremists been planning attacks on Washington D.C.? How have authorities prepared for additional right wing violence?


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Right Wing Violence and a New Reality

The Department of Homeland Security last year classified white supremacy as the greatest domestic terror threat to the U.S., and last week’s Capitol insurrection by pro-Trump groups has renewed those concerns. Read the summary below, watch the short video clip featuring reporting by William Brangham, and answer the discussion questions. You can stop the video at the 3:26 mark prior to interviews if time is limited. To read a transcript of the video, click here

  • A number of extremist groups have been identified from the attack on the Capitol, including white nationalist groups and anti-semitic hate groups along with violent white supremacy organizations such as the Proud Boys.
  • Many of these groups have spread racist and hateful rhetoric—as well as planned violent attacks, such as the Capitol attack—through online forums, including social media.
  • In the past week, many social media companies as well as web hosting services have moved to ban accounts that have spread extremist or violent rhetoric. This includes Twitter’s ban of President Trump’s Twitter account.
  • Some have argued that “deplatforming,” or banning speakers from public venues, suppresses debate and violates the spirit of free speech.

Discussion Questions: Ring Wing Violence and the Capitol Insurrection

  1. What are some of the extremist groups that have been identified from the January 6 attack on the Capitol?
  2. Who has identified white supremacy and right-wing extremist groups as a major threat in the United States?
  3. Why have some social media and internet service companies deactivated accounts this past week (for instance, Twitter permanently deactivating President Trump’s account). 
  4. When and where have extremists been planning attacks on Washington D.C.?
  5. How have authorities prepared for additional right wing violence?

Focus Questions: Right Wing Violence and Social Media

  1. Why do you think right wing violence, including attacks by white supremacists, has grown in recent years?
  2. Do you think social media companies should “deplatform” individuals who spread violent or extremist rhetoric? Why or why not?
    • Who do you think should decide what voices should be “deplatformed” for safety and welfare?

Media Literacy:Do you have a good way of determining information from disinformation you see online? You can use this EXTRA lesson as a place to start thinking through how to determine fact from manipulation. 

Additional Resources

  • For our lesson on the events and their immediate aftermath, click here.
  • If you are a teacher and would like some ideas on broad approaches to guiding your students toward civic engagement in this moment, click here.
  • This EXTRA lesson explores the connection between white privilege and the response to the attack on the Capitol. This lesson takes a look back at some past insurrections in the U.S., beginning in the 18th century.
  • You can also use this lesson based on conversation between David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart to start a discussion on future consequences of the January 6 attack.

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.


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