Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
Who the hell were these people? Watching the insurrection at the Capitol unfold on 6 January, it was hard not to be struck by the sheer weirdness on display. The QAnon shaman with his bison-style headgear and topless torso covered in white nationalist tattoos; the man dressed in furs, round glasses perched owlishly on his face, who looked as if he’d stumbled out of an amateur Lord of the Rings re-enactment; an old woman in a cobbled together Statue of Liberty costume.
But, as one paused to think, perhaps the stranger spectacle was how unashamedly the weird arrayed themselves alongside apparently normal people. Well, that is to say, apparently normal people who nonetheless were ready to storm the Capitol based on fevered conspiracy theories about stolen elections, Satanic paedophile rings, and hoax pandemics…
Now the personal details about some of the participants are beginning to trickle into the public sphere. The sheer variety of backgrounds seems to testify to the dangers of radicalisation as white nationalists and online conspiracy theorists joined up with people who had led relatively normal lives until they found themselves drawn to extremist views percolating into the mainstream.