In an opinion piece, John Doyle compares two media rivals’ accounts of the January 6th, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by Donald Trump supporters, considered by most to be an attempt to overthrow the election of President Biden two months prior. On one account, Fox News’ TV personality Tucker Carlson claims the event was orchestrated by the FBI as a “false flag” event (where rioters dressed as Trump supporters are actually anti-Trump activists) intended to “purge patriots.” Brian Stelter of CNN takes the majority view on the facts of the day and predicts the events are being used to set up favourable conditions for Donald Trump to run for re-election in 2024.

Getting Started

Introduction to the article (perhaps by having everyone read it)

The attack on the US Capitol in January of this year was seen by most as an historic event, where a mob of rioters overran police and broke into the US Capitol building to prevent the registering of the electoral college votes that would formally install Joe Biden as president. Many believe the insurgents came very close to achieving that goal. This was the first time in history that the election of a new US president did not involve a peaceful transition of power.

Since January 6th, competing versions of the facts of the day as well as their intent and aftermath continue to play out in the media. Because of the historic importance of this event, students need to be informed about its significance. Print fails to capture the full effect of the insurrection as well as video. Unfortunately, random Google searches can lead to dozens of video clips of that day and can be more confusing than helpful. It can be difficult for students to determine what is real and what is not. For this lesson, a comprehensive documentary produced by the New York Times appears to be among the most measured and detailed available. It is used for this lesson.

NOTE: Of all the media reviewed for this lesson, none is free of occasional offensive language, and you may deem this lesson inappropriate. However, this video has been aired on public networks with a preliminary caution regarding images and language. Note as well that this can be a volatile subject and some students may take the opportunity to vent strong opinions on what took place that day and why.

Subject Area(s) covered

Social studies, American studies, current events

New Terms to explain

MAGA, insurrection, false flag

Materials Needed

Access to the article and the Internet 

Study and Discussion Activity

Key things students can learn from this lesson

  • Key facts about the assault on the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6th, 2021
  • Who was involved in the attack and what were the stated reasons for it;
  • Some of the consequences of the insurrection for participants.

Action (here’s how we’ll do it)

This lesson will require a full class period, plus homework, and a short discussion in a subsequent class.

Have volunteers read aloud the article by John Doyle to set the stage. Next, show the entire New York Times video in class. If necessary, assign it for homework, but it would be preferrable to have all the students watch it together if possible. Note that it is a YouTube video, with advertising, etc., and it runs for about 40 minutes.


For homework, students are to use the Internet to find clips from Tucker Carlson’s video Patriot Purge as well as news items about the fate of those charged with crimes related to their participation in the events of January 6th. They are to write a short piece about their reactions to what they’ve seen and heard, and to argue for or against the notion that the event was a “false flag.” For a sampling of a number of different media reports on the riot, see the links suggested, below.

Consolidation of Learning

  • Students discuss the events of January 6th in a subsequent class, after handing in their written assignments.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria

Students can:

  • Describe the January 6th attack on the US Capitol;
  • Identify which groups were involved, and explain their rationale for being there;
  • Briefly describe the numbers charged with crimes during the riot and the results of the trials of some who have been tried by the US justice system.

Confirming Activities

  • Students report on the latest news about the trials of insurrectionists from Jan 6th.

Helpful Internet Searches