While the world reels from the attempt by right-wing insurrectionists to storm the US Capitol, I’d like to draw the attention of my students studying Medieval Chivalry and its Afterlives to this striking image of a man dressed as a pseudo-Viking. Jake Angeli, also known as Q Shaman, is a high profile conspiracy theorist who has played a central role in the violent activities of 6 January.
Angeli was not the only person to show up to the riot wearing “medieval” clothes or using medieval iconography. There are several images circulating online of rioters carrying Crusader flags. As I’ve argued here before, the language of medieval crusades gets regularly appropriated by fascists. The appeal of a neo-medieval past – one that my students know didn’t exist, because the medieval world was definitely not a white supremacist paradise – seems to be increasing for extreme right-wingers. Right-wing extremist users of online forums were yesterday declaring Deus Vult, the Crusader cry to purge Muslims from the Holy Land. The parallels are disturbing, and we will be looking at them in class as this term we move our focus from the Middle Ages to how in modernity society has interpreted (and sometimes abused) the concept of “chivalry” for political and social ends.