Capitol riots not culmination of Trump years but 'just the beginning', says journalist

7 January 2022, 15:57 | Updated: 7 January 2022, 15:59

By Amelia Isaacs

Journalist Gabriel Gatehouse told James O'Brien the Capitol riots of January 6 last year were not a "culmination of four turbulent Trump years", but "just the beginning".

The host of the BBC Radio 4 Podcast 'The Coming Storm' discussed election conspiracies and QAnon with James in light of Joe Biden's speech yesterday.

Mr Gatehouse explained the difference in tone between President Biden’s inauguration speech and yesterday's, a year on from the Capitol riots.

He said: "I think he's realised those two halves [of America] can't be knitted together if one half think that the other half is a criminal cabal that's stolen the election."

He added: "If you think your political opponents are evil, and you believe you can't change them at the ballot box because they're rigging elections, well then people start to look for other options."

Read more: 'A dagger to democracy's throat': Angry Biden slams Trump in Capitol riot speech

James asked Mr Gatehouse if he was frightened by what he found in the research for his podcast.

He said: "I'm very frightened by what I found.

"I went to this QAnon conference in Dallas which was a crazy experience, but I wasn't frightened by those people personally at that moment.

"Nobody was aggressive towards me, nobody seemed violent.

"Indeed, they kept saying to me, 'Do we look like terrorists to you?' because, of course, the FBI has designated QAnon as a domestic terrorist organisation.

"And of course I said to them, 'You don't look like terrorists to me'.

"They were all extremely polite and civil, but they were also deeply convinced that a significant chunk of America is in the grip of great evil, and when you believe that, that's when people start being able to justify some pretty terrible actions.

"I don't think those actions have quite happened yet.

“We saw January 6, but January 6 unfortunately I don't think was a culmination of four turbulent Trump years. I think January 6, unfortunately, is just the beginning.”

Mr Gatehouse described QAnon as a “vast, sprawling conspiracy theory of everything that's sucked in the previous, existing conspiracy theories [and] anti-semitic tropes”.

He added that the basic tenet of the group is that "a cabal of Satan worshipping pedophiles with Hillary Clinton at its centre has taken over the leaders of power in America and globally, and this includes the media, it includes politicians, it includes Hollywood, it includes Big Tech".

Explaining that there is a spectrum of people who hold these beliefs, Mr Gatehouse noted that on one end there are those who believe there was “some malfeasance in the election” and at the other, those who think "Hillary Clinton eats babies and drinks their blood".

James asked: "What does fighting back look like? Joe Biden spoke yesterday, they can't really deal with the satanic pedophile stuff, so he needs to really stress, argue, fight the case for having won an election in 2020."

Mr Gatehouse joked that he wished he had a simple answer after a year on and off of researching and reporting for the podcast, but said he feels "very bleak" at the prospect.

He said: "The secret is, he or she who tells a better story is going to win. I think.

"Stories are so powerful, especially in times of change and confusion.

"So the people who are telling the truth, which is that Joe Biden won the election, and that even if there were small instances of electoral fraud, as there always are in elections, there wasn't anywhere near enough to change the outcome.

"They need to tell a better story and they need to tell a better story than one that says there's an undercover group of patriots inside the US government trying to help Donald Trump win over this satanic cabal of pedophiles who are trying to bring down the world and they will eventually triumph in a giant battle of good versus evil.

"That is a very powerful story. That is the stuff of Hollywood.

"And the people who are telling the truth need to come up with a better story than just 'check your facts' because fact checking is not going to win this battle.”