If you book a tour of the United States Capitol, there is one major historic event that you absolutely won’t be hearing about from your tour guides. The Washington Post reports that there is no mention of the Jan. 6, 2021 coup attempt during Capitol tours, in the Visitor Center’s exhibition hall, or in the pre-tour introductory film shown to tourists. It’s been two years, and … nope. Nothing.
The film? The film we understand. Given the sluggishness with which government tends to update any of its audiovisual accoutrements it’s quite likely the film still contains an extended welcoming message from House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Give it another 20 years before that particular filmstrip gets a splice.
The rest of it, however, is an intentional effort to avoid mention of Jan. 6. The Post reports that tour guides are “told to only refer to Jan. 6 if questioned on a tour.” In a rather ominous-sounding quote, Visitor Center officials claim this is “is in keeping with our history of deferring to congressional authorities on most issues.” And an anonymous Visitor Center official confirms that guides are instructed to “avoid bringing up Jan. 6, current events and any legislation under consideration by Congress.”
There’s no way to read those quotes that isn’t a bit stomach-churning, and some are more dire than others. There’s certainly a case to be made that the Jan. 6 coup attempt is still a “current event,” in that it’s not over yet and seemingly won’t be over for a good long while yet. The top architects of the attempt to block Congress from certifying a Republican election loss are all still walking free, with few signs that any are in any particular legal danger. The top backers of the conspiracy inside Congress aren’t just still walking the halls, they’re still blocking evidence collection and, currently, are engaged in a public battle to demand that the Republican Party grant them yet more powers not commensurate with their ranks.
So then, point taken. If Capitol tour guides are told to avoid current events, it might be a bit dodgy to mention the reason for certain renovations in the building are because Oath Keeper Biff Treasonboy and a dozen of his closest friends put a dent in that wall or shattered the woodwork around this window during their attempts to capture or kill the former vice president.
“And this is where Mr. Ohio Turdboy defecated on a chair in order to express his opposition to the peaceful transfer of power,” no tour guide can be expected to intone while leading a gaggle of families through Capitol halls. “And here is where Sen. Josh Hawley sprinted down the corridor like a newborn faun.”
It’s the actually-official official answer that’s the more worrying one. A statement that avoiding mention of the Jan. 6 coup is “in keeping with our history of deferring to congressional authorities on most issues” implies that there’s “deferring” being done here. It suggests that either the decision to avoid mention of the violence on Jan. 6 is because Capitol Visitor Center officials consulted with “congressional authorities” about what they could say, or they didn’t consult with “congressional authorities” because they knew damn well what the answer would be before they asked.
Currently, at least in theory, Republicans are in control of the House. And that means that if the Visitor Center doesn’t want to be closed indefinitely in a hastily arranged “budget cut,” tour guides will have to keep their mouths shut when it comes to mentioning any of the violence that Team Violent Sedition has been insisting never happened, or only happened because of “antifa,” or was an expression of great and wondrous conservative patriotism that absolutely must not be questioned, all hail President Golfcheat, and so forth.
It’s possible that if Democrats were still in charge of both branches of Congress, tour guides would now be mentioning the most consequential thing to happen inside the halls of the Capitol since the Civil War. It’s possible that they still wouldn’t be, and that the officials in charge of tours are waiting on the Department of Justice to kindly tell us all if there’s going to be any remaining consequences for the perpetrators worth mentioning.
Which will come first? A Visitor Center introductory film that mentions the violent coup attempt that resulted in bloodshed in Capitol hallways, or a definitive answer on whether Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, and a dozen other top Republicans who incited and enabled the violence will be facing indictments for their roles? How many currently living Americans will still be alive when either one of those finally happens?