Definitions – Have questions about some of the words being thrown around the last week? Me too. Here’s a brief primer, in alphabetical order:
- Coup: A sudden, violent and illegal seizure of power from a government. Experts are defining the events of January 6th as a “self-coup” or an “autogolpe.” The difference between a coup and a self-coup is that a coup originates from outside the government and a self-coup comes from within. John Polga-Hecimovich, a political scientist at the U.S. Naval Academy said “As someone who studies democracy and political instability, I think it is absolutely justified to ask whether or not what occurred yesterday in Washington, D.C., was an attempted autogolpe or ‘merely’ an insurrection. I lean towards the former.” Fiona Hill, who formerly served as deputy assistant to President Trump and advisor on Russia wrote that “Trump’s goal was to keep himself in power…The storming of the Capitol building on January 6 was the culmination of a series of actions and events taken or instigated by Trump so he could retain the presidency that together amount to an attempt at a self-coup.”
- Domestic Terrorism: The FBI defines it as “Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.” They also specifically mention the use of the Internet and social media as a means of facilitating the recruitment and radicalization of “individuals who are receptive to extremist messaging. At least 25 domestic terrorism cases have been opened after last Wednesday’s assault.
- Insurrection: an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government. U.S. Code reads specifically: Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States. Trump was just impeached for “Incitement of Insurrection.”
- Riot: A violent public disorder, speciifcally a a tumultuous dirbance of the public peace by three or more persons assembled together and act acting with a common intent. (Merriam-Webster). A quick Google search for “Riot at US Capitol” yields 380 million results.
- Sedition: U.S. Code defines “seditious conspiracy”: If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both. This week, the Joint Chiefs of Staff condemned ‘sedition and insurrection” at the U.S. Capitol and federal prosecutors are building sedition cases against the most heinous acts that occurred in the Capitol.
- Treason: “The highest all crimes” and the only one defined in the U.S. Constitution. According to Article III, Section 3: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. An 1851 Supreme Court case held that “resistance to one particular law was not enough — treason by levying war requires a design to overthrow the government itself” and could be applied to last week’s events.
And now you know.