Dr Evangelos Ntontis of The Open University’s Psychology & Counselling School, discusses the events of 6th January 2021, and his article in The Conversation, when the US Capitol building was stormed, resulting in five deaths.
What is very important from this analysis is the way in which leadership and followership work. It would be incorrect to assume either that Trump directly manipulated his audience to storm the Capitol, or that his followers acted on their own accord without any influence from their leader. Especially the first point rests on flawed assumptions about the nature of crowd psychology that wants crowd members to lose their individuality and become pawns of their leaders. Rather, the crucial take home message, which could equally apply to other populist leaders is that there is ‘co-production’ between Leaders and followers: Leaders like Trump are key creators of a hostile social context and of antagonistic social relations between groups defined as “good and moral” vs groups defined as “immoral and dangerous”.
Subsequently, followers identifying with their leader and his/her goals act creatively within these parameters which among others allow hatred and violence to proliferate against those seen as Others. Thus, Trump might not have asked his followers to storm the Capitol explicitly, but that’s not the point. The point is that he actively created the conditions for such violence to be exercised on the premise that it was noble and righteous.
Further details on the topic can be found in PsyArXiv Preprints