Abstract

The almost universal response to the US Capitol riot of January 6, 2021, has been righteous indignation. Democrats and Republicans alike have called it a defilement or a desecration of the nation’s sacred house. This article adds to the literature on Capitol riot rhetoric by proposing a theory of desecration as a rhetoric in motu because desecration enacts movement across a sacred boundary. We outline key features of a rhetoric of desecration and analyze Win McNamee’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Capitol riot photographs to illuminate why the riot aftermath has elevated legal action to the status of spiritual warfare.

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