Descent on Capitol as propaganda for anti-American states

By Maddy Burt

Whilst much of the world expressed concern and horror at the angry mob of Trump supporters storming the United States Capitol last week, a few governments seized the opportunity to denounce the US and assert their own superiority. 

For governments in Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran, the chaotic events broadcast live across the world served as a perfect political propaganda opportunity. The videos of protestors waving Trump and Confederate flags whilst storming a building that is supposedly the seat of American democracy serve as a powerful political weapon. 

The Capital riots “shows above all how fragile and vulnerable Western democracy is”

These autocratic states, each in turn regular recipients of US criticism, condemned the US on grounds of hypocrisy and referenced the events as an indicator of the weakness of Western democracies. They utilised the images as a means of bolstering their own regimes against America. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani commented on a speech on state broadcast television that “What we saw in the United States yesterday evening and today shows above all how fragile and vulnerable Western democracy is”. In particular, he criticised Trump and the rise of populism in America. Iran has recently seen protests around the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Soleimani, with Rouhani continuing to promote anti-American rhetoric.

“It is clear that American democracy is limping on both feet” 

Russia was equally strong to condemn the US and use the events as ammunition against democracy. In a post to Facebook, the chair of the Russian upper house’s foreign affairs committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament Konstantin Kosachyov commented that “it is clear that American democracy is limping on both feet”, whilst saying that there were grounds for Trump’s claims of electoral fraud. Kosachyov went on to say “America no longer charts the course and so has lost all right to set it. And, even more so, to impose it on others.”

There was a continual mirroring of this criticism directed against America in language previously employed by the US against these same states. This was exemplified by China, with the words of China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. She said that “We hope that the American people can enjoy peace, stability and security as soon as possible,” offering the rhetoric of concern for the welfare of the people back at America that has often criticised China’s treatment of its people. 

Beijing used the events in Washington to criticise America’s backing of Hong Kong’s protestors and to justify their continual suppression of these protestors. China questioned how America could support the storming of the legislature in Hong Kong, but not allow it in America itself. The comparison was invalid, as in Hong Kong the protestors were advocating a fair democratic process, whereas Trump supporters were denying this. 

China questioned how America could support the storming

Chinese social media platform Weibo saw #TrumpSupportersStormCapitol trending at over 500 million views and 54,000 posts. State-owned tabloid Global Times posted pictures of the riots in America alongside the protests in Hong Kong, accompanied by quotes from US officials endorsing the protests in Hong Kong but condemning the events in Washington. This comes at a time of recent continued arrests of protestors in Hong Kong, and will certainly serve as justification against any reform towards democracy. 

The events from Capitol Hill will not be easily forgotten nor swept away. The nature of social media and the shocking images that circulated worldwide guarantee that. One of the additional outcomes from a riot that led to Donald Trump being impeached for a historic second time is the opportunity it will continue to grant to autocratic regimes to proclaim their state’s own dominance over America, both on an international and a national stage. 

Image: CSIS via Flickr

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