News & Politics

It’s Official: Trump Supporters Who Breached Capitol Are a Mob, Washington Post Staff Told

The style edict came from the editor

The question of what to call people engaged in angry protests has been a recurring theme in media this year. Over the summer, amid nationwide disturbances in the immediate aftermath of the George Floyd killing, newsrooms and activists alike tied themselves in knots over exactly what to call what was going on: Protests? Disturbances? Rebellion?

Today’s storming of the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump should cause no similar confusion, at least at the Washington Post. Per a message on one of the newsroom’s Slack channels from Metro Editor Mike Semel, Post editor Marty Baron wants to use the shortest, least euphemistic language for what to call a large group of people acting in defiance of law and public safety:

“The people who breached the capitol are not protesters, they are a mob, per Marty”

It’s official—good news for journalism and a win for the English language.

Local NPR affiliate WAMU, meanwhile, has picked a somewhat longer term—but still one that’s not the normal overly cautious vocabulary of newsrooms. The members of the mob, reporter Martin Austermuehle Tweeted, are heretofore “insurrectionists.”



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Michael Schaffer has been editor of Washingtonian since 2014. A former editor of Washington City Paper and editorial director of The New Republic, Michael is also the author of One Nation Under Dog, a 2009 book about America’s obsession with pets. A DC native, he currently lives in Chevy Chase DC with his wife and their two daughters.