Tuning into 'Insurrection': a vivid vision of democracy in trouble

With Republicans poised to take power in Congress, public hearings on January 6 attack might be last chance for US politicians to detail 'attempted coup'

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Say what you like about America, it knows how to produce good TV drama.

Last week’s blockbuster show — let’s call it Insurrection was the first in a six-part mini-series brought to you live by the House of Representatives panel investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

Having spent a year picking through evidence and interviewing more than 1,000 people, the committee on Thursday laid out its findings in a compelling prime-time hearing.

Over two hours, we heard how former president Donald Trump, knowing he had lost the election, orchestrated nothing less than an “attempted coup” to try to block the peaceful transfer of power.

For a political hearing at least, it was gripping stuff. The carefully scripted, fast-moving drama kept millions of Americans glued to their televisions.

A former president at ABC News advised the panel of nine congressmen and women on how best to present their findings and boost viewership numbers, leading to a slick presentation.

Harrowing, tearful witness accounts were punctuated with footage of the deadly violence on the day thousands of Trump loyalists raided the Capitol.

Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney recounted how Mr Trump told his aides that protesters, who literally wanted to hang then-vice president Mike Pence for certifying Joe Biden's 2020 election win, maybe had the right idea.

The departing president’s enraged cry of “We fight like hell” during a speech outside the White House was shown along with footage of protesters closing in on the seat of American democracy.

Yet the question that came to mind as I watched Insurrection was this: Does any of it matter?

The hearing was a must-see for at least 20 million Americans who tuned in, but for millions more it was must-miss.

Fox News, America’s most popular cable network and the go-to for right-wing-slanted information, was the only major news channel that did not air the hearing live.

Instead, two of its favourite agents provocateurs — Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity — hosted their shows without any commercial breaks.

Presumably, this was to prevent channel hoppers from stumbling across Insurrection and watching Ms Cheney describe how the committee would detail “plots to commit seditious conspiracy on January 6".

Hannity described the panel’s findings as a “made-for-TV smear campaign against President Trump” and lambasted the committee, comprising seven Democrats and two Republicans, for a partisan witch hunt.

He then turned to the headline issues facing America today and the perceived failings of the Biden administration.

Record inflation, rising crime, a shortage of baby formula, sky-high petrol prices and what some Fox commentators describe as an “open” border with Mexico.

These are the real problems we should be focusing on, the argument seemed to be, not the the Capitol being attacked by scores of militiamen in combat fatigues.

For many Americans, it is a fair point. After all, people here are in a foul mood, with three quarters of those recently surveyed saying the country is headed in the wrong direction.

You can hear it at the supermarket and at petrol station: gasps of horror at the checkout or as a family car gobbles up $100 and is still hungry.

But by studiously avoiding the elephant in the room — the fact that January 6 was almost an American coup — Fox News is doing the country and its viewers a disservice.

It seems obvious that less than five months from now, barring some unforeseen turnaround, the Democrats will forfeit control of the House and probably the Senate too.

At that point the January 6 committee will either be disbanded or taken in an entirely new direction with Republicans at the helm.

Instead of hearing about Mr Trump’s plans to subvert democracy, the panel would focus on security and police failings at the Capitol building, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s actions around that.

We also will be hearing a lot more about Hunter Biden's laptop, Mr Biden's atrocious handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, and Covid vaccine "misinformation" from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr Antony Fauci.

Season 2 of Insurrection, if it is renewed, will probably look very different.

Published: June 13, 2022, 6:18 AM