Fourth Generation Warfare

The dangerous vigilantism that fueled Jan. 6

By Damon Linker, The Week

It didn’t take long following the shocking events of Jan. 6 for journalists to begin referring to what transpired on Capitol Hill that afternoon as an “insurrection.” Some on the right dissented from the term, insisting it was merely a popular protest against election fraud. Yet the term has stuck, in my own writing as well as in that of most other analysts.

But what if the storming of Congress wasn’t an insurrection at all? What if, instead, it was an act of vigilantism?

That’s the provocative thesis of author Sam Tanenhaus in a bracing essay recently published in The Washington Post. Relying on a distinction proposed by historian Garry Wills, Tanenhaus distinguishes between militant protest that’s directed against a government deemed too repressive, and protest animated by the conviction that authorities aren’t repressive enough. The latter protesters become vigilant when they believe (in Wills’ words) “the government is too slow, indifferent, or lax.”


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