CJR Outbox

The Capitol invasion, shown around the world

January 7, 2021

Coverage of yesterday’s invasion of the US Capitol by Trump supporters has since led news reports the world over.

In the UK, The Guardian referred to the invaders as a “mob.” So did the BBC, in recent coverage, though at least one earlier report called them “Trump supporters”—a phrase widely used in other outlets, including the Times of London, Australia’s Herald Sun, and Canada’s Toronto Star, as noted in an Axios roundup

Axios also noted a “pivot” in terms used by US news outlets—from calling the demonstrators “protesters” to “mobs” and “rioters.” The same pivot was visible in international coverage during the past twenty-four hours. A BBC headline from yesterday afternoon described “turmoil” at the Capitol as “violent Trump supporters breach building.” A more recent story referred to the event as a “siege,” and to its perpetrators as a “pro-Trump mob”—a term that also featured in coverage by Al Jazeera and The Mainichi, in Japan. 

Others took a different approach. The Times of India referred to the group as “stormtroopers,” while Israel’s Haaretz published the names of white supremacists who were present at the Capitol, some of whom had attended previous white-supremacist rallies. A headline from France’s Le Monde asked, “Complotistes, néonazis, négationnistes… qui sont les insurgés du Capitole?” Still, many outlets avoided such specificity. Coverage in the Folha de S.Paulo and O Globo, both in Brazil, referred respectively to “multidão,” a Portuguese word meaning “crowd,” and to the “manifestantes,” sometimes describing their costumes and weapons. Journalist Robert Moore, from Britain’s ITV News, referred to the invaders as the “pro-Trump crowd that fought with the police” when following them for a video segment that has since received over nine million views. 

Headlines consistently conjured the violent atmosphere of yesterday’s event. Some outlets, such as Daily News Egypt, quoted from comments made by President-elect Joe Biden to refer to “chaos” in headlines; others, including Mexico’s El Universal, used the word directly. A headline in the Bangkok Post referred to a “day of debate and tumult.” The Guardian and the Times of London both referred to the event, in headlines, as a “siege,” while several stories in Nigeria’s Punch termed it the “Capitol riot.” As in the US, “insurrection” featured in many headlines, from Canada’s Globe and Mail to South Africa’s Mail and Guardian.

Many outlets featured the responses of world leaders. An Al Jazeera headline led with the word “disgraceful,” in reference to quotes by both British prime minister Boris Johnson and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Punch, in Nigeria, published a roundup of responses from international government figures, including German foreign minister Heiko Maas, who urged Trump supporters to “stop trampling on democracy.” The Hong Kong Free Press, a nonprofit news site, assessed the response of pro-Beijing officials and state media, reporting that both groups “delight[ed] in comparing US Capitol unrest with [the] 2019 storming of [the] Hong Kong legislature.” 

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A spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the day revealed “that the US electoral process is archaic,” according to the Moscow Times, which included additional comments and characterizations from several prominent Russian figures, including media personalities and political officials. President Vladimir Putin also spoke with reporters, following an Orthodox Christmas service held on an island northeast of Moscow, though, according to the Moscow Times story, he “made no statement on the unprecedented chaos in the United States.” 


Feven Merid is CJR’s staff writer and Senior Delacorte Fellow.