Extremist group expert and communications associate professor Kurt Braddock says he wasn't surprised by Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol, but like many Americans, he is shaken, heartbroken and angry.
“Yes, we could see this coming. And several people, several researchers have been sounding the alarm that this sort of thing could happen for quite some time, especially given the increasing intensity of Trump's rhetoric surrounding the election,” said Braddock, associate professor of communication at American University.
Braddock believes the greatest damage from this week’s events isn't to democracy, but that it provided ample photo-ops for right wing extremist groups.
“I think that we're going to see in the immediate term, medium term, an increase in recruitment into these groups. There's quite a bit of chatter online from members of the groups that have seen this as a victory, despite the fact that didn't stop the overall electoral process,” said Braddock.
The professor believes that in order to move forward, there needs to be immediate legal repercussions, not only for those who acted at the Capitol, but those involved in perpetuating disinformation that led to the incident.
He also says there needs to be clear communication from the incoming administration that this sort of behavior won’t stand. And we, as Americans, have a role too.
“We need to become critical consumers of the communication that we engage in. That means we can't assume everything on Facebook is gospel. We can't assume everything on Twitter is absolute truth. We can't assume that our great aunt's forwarded email is something that is indicative of something that's actually going on,” said Braddock.
Braddock says extremist groups spread disinformation meant to exploit people and use them for their group's purposes.