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Opinion: What motivated the Capitol rioters

January 19, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 24.6%. 1 min read.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Pro-Trump supporters storm the U.S. Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Heather Tsavaris, who worked for 10 years in counterterrorism as an analyst, writes that as she watched footage of the rioters, she noticed similarities between what she saw in terrorist recruitment videos and the culmination of a very different kind of recruitment messaging that also played on themes of significance unfolding at the Capitol.

When I watched the people storming the Capitol, parroting talking points they have heard ceaselessly on social media feeds for months, their words matched the themes that I repeatedly saw during my 10 years working in counterterrorism at the State Department's Office of Counterterrorism and the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

They offered a way to belong for people who felt like they were perennial outsiders, and they claimed your life may have been insignificant up to this point but, if you are willing to join the cause now, you will have meaning beyond your wildest dreams.

The culmination of a very different kind of recruitment messaging that also played on themes of significance is what I saw unfolding at the Capitol, and I am haunted by the images, the words, the livestreams and interviews of people who participated in the insurrection, and probably will be forever.

To be clear, while I noticed striking similarities between the messaging themes like purpose, significance, and belonging that influenced the Capitol rioters and how people are recruited to join terrorist organizations, there were differences.

From a former terrorism analyst, who now works to improve community well-being, I know what it looks like when those ravenous for power manipulate people who feel they -- and their beliefs -- have been cast aside.

Until we deeply understand and address how every human needs purpose, meaning, belonging and ways to contribute, there will always be selfish people claiming to fulfill these most basic needs towards their own narrow purposes, resulting in dire and sometimes deadly consequences.

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