From Flash to Bang: How Disinformation Fueled the Attack on The U.S. Capitol

From Flash to Bang: How Disinformation Fueled the Attack on The U.S. Capitol
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-01-21
Unit 1Transcript: From Flash to Bang
Unit 2Workbook: From Flash to Bang
Unit 3Recording: From Flash to Bang

Disinformation is wreaking havoc on our modern society. The January sixth attack on the Capitol is one of the most glaring and horrifying examples of which. Groups that operate on a global level are responsible for circulating misinformation, downright lies, and just some of the most original fictional narratives to advance their agendas. Both state actors and domestic players are creating the breeding ground for hate and divisiveness, an atmosphere where rhetoric can escalate to violence in a matter of moments.

Joining Justice Clearinghouse to unpack the effect of disinformation, the events that resulted from it, and the sector that is in the frontlines responding to the chaos is a panel of the best resources in this intersection of political movements, law enforcement, technology, information, and the human psyche.

  • Mark Pfeifle, National Sheriffs’ Association Senior Advisor for marketing, strategy, and communications
  • Jeffery Carroll, Assistant Chief, Homeland Security Bureau (HSB) of the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington DC
  • Paul Goldenberg, Resource person for Rutgers University’s Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience and member of the United States Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC)
  • Alex Goldenberg, Lead Intelligence Analyst at the Network Contagion Research Institute
  • Glen Mills, Lieutenant with the Burlington Massachusetts Police Department

The discussion focused on:

  • The current economic, political, and tech environment exposing citizens to various things, inciting them to abide by an ideology or belief regardless of its authenticity, and the result of these at the societal level.
  • A rundown of the events surrounding the attack on the Capitol.
    • The intelligence that the law enforcement has been receiving that allowed them to plan for a demonstration.
    • The overlooked details that allowed the breach of the Capitol grounds.
    • The lessons learned from the incident in terms of collaboration, information sharing, and operational planning.
    • The ongoing challenge that comes with arbitrary ideological lines, and the ongoing spread of disinformation and radicalization, and its weaponization that paves the path for violence.
  • A look into QAnon: What it is, their membership, their beliefs, the first hints of disinformation that escalated into violence as seen in the Comet incident in 2016, and their role in the Capitol attack.
  • The Boogaloo Movement: Their insignia, beliefs and approaches, and their role in various attacks and mobilizations including the Capitol siege.
  • The Network Contagion Research Institute’s work utilizing technology to track online communities and conversations, deduce insights based on these, understand the spread of disinformation, and get appropriate entities to respond accordingly.
    • Their report on the Boogaloo Movement which exposed the group’s narrative, methods, activities, and plans.
    • The NCRI QAnon Report that revealed the group’s evolution, signifiers, insignia, participation in the Capitol riot, and the beliefs that fueled their desire to take part in the event.
    • Unmasking the Oath Keepers – the narrative they abide by which drives their opinions, position and actions, which ultimately led to joining the attack on the Capitol.
    • A look into how these groups’ actions are affecting law enforcement – from direct casualties to the damage in morale, and the public’s withdrawal of support and trust.
    • More disinformation affecting the public health sphere with anti-vaxx sentiments in the face of a global pandemic.
  • The radicalization that occurs in the US.
    • The challenge that comes with balancing upholding citizen’s first amendment rights and preventing disinformation and hate speech from inciting further violence.
    • The psychological processes that happen in the background that allow an individual to undergo a swift transition just from exposure to these online communities.
    • How the disinformation being proliferated by these groups is altering public opinion, fostering implicit biases, and triggering violence.
    • The nature of disinformation which deems it influential as seen in propaganda all over history.
    • Topline tips on how to mitigate if not completely defeat the spread of disinformation within the law enforcement field and in the general population.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • Access to NCRI’s research.
  • Countering false flags through trust-building within communities.
  • Tracing the origins of QAnon.
  • The groups and participants of the capitol riot.
  • Potential changes in law enforcement recruitment background checks.
  • Resources to present skeptics within law enforcement with facts to negate conspiracies they may be subscribing to.


Other Webinars in this Series:


Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Fantastic presentation and discussion. This is an emergent problem in public safety that does not get enough coverage, attention, and training. Please continue to explore these hot button issues, and thank you all!: — C.
  • “All the presenters were amazing. The information that Alex Goldenberg provided and the Lt. after him was the most valuable.” — Amber
  • “Great to see information provided from political neutral presenters! Thank you!” — Danette
  • “An excellent webinar! I have been in my Law Enforcement career for almost 42 years and the challenges of our Profession, as well as our Country, are mind-boggling, to say the least. This type of information that these webinars are sharing is extremely helpful and enlightening. Thank you.” — Donald
  • “Eye-opening! The information provided was excellent and the presenters were outstanding. The opening was moving! Great job!!” — Jason
  • “The entire webinar was extremely informative and it was nice to hear these facts being spelled out and backed by data from professionals working in the fields.” — Marsha


** This webinar has been certified by the National Sheriffs' Association and may be eligible for Continuing Education Units through your POST. Please consult your local certification processes for additional details. Paid subscribers that attend will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Sheriffs' Association logo.
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