US Capitol riot comparisons to Middle East spark fury online
As supporters of US President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol building on Wednesday, forcing it into lockdown and causing several deaths, many people compared the scenes to the Middle East - parallels that have been criticised widely online.
The violent riots in and outside the Capitol building caused lawmakers to delay the congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election win, amid chaos as mobs forced their way in and looted the government building, even making their way to the Senate floor.
Some commentators called the violent scenes in Washington DC reminiscent of events that would happen in the Middle East, an observation which has been deemed offensive and orientalist by many online.
CNN journalist and political commentator, Van Jones, said the situation “looks more like Syria than the USA” in televised coverage of the events.
This stuff isn't just infuriating, it also reinforces historical illiteracy in America. We've had political violence, voter suppression, demagogues in power and, you know, an actual civil war. No need to look beyond our own history for an antecedent https://t.co/MckUP7OuFZ— Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) January 7, 2021
Videos of Arabic media coverage of the violent and chaotic scenes were also circulated online, with some gleefully mirroring the way events in the Middle East were previously covered by Western media.
How the turn tables pic.twitter.com/KEkzgMasC1— علیزا أمین (@aliza_sukhera) January 7, 2021
Others used the events as an opportunity to remind people that violence and mob mentality are not exclusive to the Middle East, and have been witnessed in the US previously.
What is happening at the Capitol is nothing like Benghazi. It is nothing like Iraq. It is nothing like “a third world country”. I am hearing so many of these comparisons on cable news. This is politics in America — the richest, most powerful country on Earth. Americans own it.— Liam Stack (@liamstack) January 6, 2021
Online, people urged others to stop comparing the events to other countries, with one social media user stating “This is white supremacist violence and it is 100 percent American.”
Four people died in Wednesday's unrest, including a woman who was reportedly shot by the US Capitol police.
Scenes of destruction were witnessed inside the building as people stormed offices and smashed windows.
JOURNOS: Understand that you are doing a great disservice when you liken these scenes to the "middle east". Not only is it orientalist, it further prevents Americans from understanding their own country's long & deep history of political violence that is far more relevant.— (((YousefMunayyer))) (@YousefMunayyer) January 6, 2021
Social media users have continued to highlight the irony in the events, and took it as an opportunity to show that the US has also long been in political turmoil, contrary to the stereotype that exists around the Middle East.
Some have also highlighted that the events have been fuelled by Trump’s rhetoric over the years.
The people of the Middle East have tolerated oppressive and vengeful rulers for decades. When they protested for change they walked the streets with roses. They cleaned the roads of rubbish. They staged sit ins and sang in solidarity.— Aisha (@shariahaisha) January 6, 2021
This is nothing like that. https://t.co/H7amlyfXsy
Humour and sarcasm were also used to remind others how looted artefacts in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region ended up in museums in Western countries.
Hoping these looted American artifacts turn up on display in Baghdad's National Museum of Iraq and are kept there indefinitely for protection as well as for the cultural viewing pleasure of locals. pic.twitter.com/EwWK9Saewx— Hind Hassan (@HindHassanNews) January 6, 2021
A number of leaders from the Middle East have raised concerns over the violent clashes unfolding in the US.
Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a statement advising the US to deal with the matters calmly, using the law and democracy to overcome it.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani meanwhile stated that the events in the USA showed “what a failure Western democracy is” and how Trump, as a “populist man”, has “damaged the reputation of his country".