Lawyers for at least three people charged for participating in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 say they will blame conspiracy theories and misinformation about the 2020 election for inspiring their clients’ actions, the Associated Press reports.
“I kind of sound like an idiot now saying it, but my faith was in [Trump],” defendant Anthony Antonio said, adding that he wasn’t interested in politics before being stuck at home due to the pandemic led him to conservative media. “I think they did a great job of convincing people.”
As the AP points out, Donald Trump and his most loyal allies and followers disseminated a deluge of false accusations of mass voter fraud in the wake of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. According to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the stream of falsehoods and conspiracy theories aren’t going anyway any time soon.
“The steady drumbeat that inspired defendant to take up arms has not faded away,” Berman wrote in her ruling ordering Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., who threatened to kill Nancy Pelosi, to remain in custody. “Six months later, the canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention in the near-daily fulminations of the former president.”
One on the most well-known defendants utilizing the Trump misinformation defense is Jacob Chansley, also known as the “QAnon Shaman.”
“He is not crazy,” attorney Albert Watkins said, speaking of Chansley. “The people who fell in love with (cult leader) Jim Jones and went down to Guyana, they had husbands and wives and lives. And then they drank the Kool-Aid.”
Speaking to the AP, Cornell University professor of psychiatry Ziv Cohen says conspiracy theories can seriously impact a person’s mental health.
“Conspiracy theories may lead people to commit unlawful behavior,” Cohen said. “That’s one of the dangers. Conspiracy theories erode social capital. They erode trust in authority and institutions.”