What is happening at the United States Capitol at the moment will become clear at some point over the coming hours, days, and weeks. But with the country on edge and hundreds of people storming the House and Senate chambers during what is normally a boring procedural event, the best way to see the chaos on Wednesday is by watching a dozen simultaneous livestreams being piped onto a single Twitch channel.
Hundreds of “Stop the Steal” Trump supporters protested outside the Capitol Wednesday, then pushed through cops, banged on doors, and eventually made their way into the building, where protesters (or participators in the coup attempt) threatened lawmakers, took photos at the Dais, and, at least one woman was shot. This surreal and frightening series of events happened in real life, of course, but it also happened on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch, with journalists, protesters, lawmakers, police officers, and legislative aides narrating every moment on their social media accounts.
With information being doled out in cryptic morsels from every direction, it was and remains difficult to have a sense for what is actually happening inside the Capitol.
If you wanted to try, your best bet was probably to watch WOKE, a verified Twitch channel that pulled simultaneous live video streams and put them on a single channel. The result is extremely chaotic: WJLA and C-SPAN footage from outside the Capitol mostly showed throngs of people milling about. A PBS Newshour reporter inside the building was ordered to the ground by police, and explained that people had not only breached the chamber but that lawmakers were being ordered to put on gas masks. Streams from right-wing personalities like BakedAlaska and YouTuber Stephen Ignoramus were narrated by their broadcasters and featured lots of screaming, the National Anthem, and a “Hang Mike Pence” chant. An alarm blared constantly. The chat at the right went wild. A robotic voice talked of liberty and stopping the steal.
“That was SO EPIC,” Stephen Ignoramus said to the stream at some point. Another streamer shouted out that they had 20,000 people in the chat.
Minutes later, the PBS reporter was escorted into the basement, showing a series of concrete hallways that we don't normally see on CSPAN. I am not sure, really, what’s happening in the Capitol. Much like you, I am currently glued to my computer screen, reading the latest tweets from people on the ground, watching several news channels, and these streams. There's more information available about what's happening at the Capitol right now that we are able to consume, and yet, it's hard to tell what exactly is happening, and it will take even longer to unpack the countless failures that led to this chaotic, embarrassing moment.
If you only got your news from one stream, it'd show the reality that streamer wanted you to see—the random guy playing guitar outside, BakedAlaska shouting bullshit at cops, people banging on doors. Trying to make sense of a mass riot in real time is brain breaking, and so was watching the WOKE stream. It's senseless, it's chaotic, it's extremely dystopian. But so is real life.
Twitch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
You can follow along to VICE News’ coverage of these events at www.news.vice.com.