An attorney for one of the suspects in the Capitol riot
has likened the insurgents to brainwashed cultists who “drank the Kool-Aid” provided by Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones
Following Jones' orders, over 900 members of the religious group and others were killed or committed suicide
in Jonestown, Guyana, by drinking a grape-flavored drink laced with cyanide.
In the case of the Capitol riot, Donald Trump
's supporters had swallowed his "big lie
" of a rigged presidential election
prior to the riot.
The lawyer representing so-called "QAnon
shaman" Jacob Chansley, Albert Watkins, told The Associated Press
that his client "isn't crazy," but that repeated exposure to lies and "incendiary" rhetoric eventually overwhelmed Chansley's ability to discern reality.
“People who fell in love with [cult leader] Jim Jones and went down to Guyana had husbands and wives and lives, and then they drank the Kool-Aid,” Watkins said.
“They were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which the world has not seen since Hitler,” Watkins told Talking Points Memo earlier this month.
Chansley demanded a pardon
from Trump just over a week after the riot, claiming that he stormed the Capitol at the president's invitation.
According to the Associated Press, at least three defense attorneys will blame election misinformation
and conspiracy theories, much of which Trump promoted, for leading their clients astray, and those who spread the lies will be held equally responsible for the violence.
“I kind of sound like an idiot now saying it, but my faith was in him,” Capitol riot defendant Anthony Antonio told the Associated Press, referring to Trump. Antonio said he wasn’t interested in politics
before Trump and the right-wing media
swept him up in the election.
“Just because you have a fixed, false belief that the election was stolen doesn’t mean you can storm the Capitol,” says Christopher Slobogin, a psychiatry professor and director of Vanderbilt Law School’s Criminal Justice Program.
However, Ziv Cohen, a psychiatry professor at Cornell University's Weill Cornell Medical College, cautioned that "conspiracy theories may lead people to commit illegal behavior."
That is “one of the dangers,” he told the Associated Press. “Conspiracy theories erode social capital, and they erode trust in authority and institutions.”