social media seer

Arieh Kovler saw the Capitol breach coming — all the way from Israel

'Joining the dots wasn’t very difficult,' the London native said of his now-viral tweet

Julio Cortez/AP

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington.

On the morning of December 21, a 39-year-old corporate communications specialist shared a startling prophecy on Twitter that is now widely regarded as one of the most accurate and clear-eyed predictions of last week’s Capitol breach.

“On January 6, armed Trumpist militias will be rallying in D.C., at Trump’s orders,” Arieh Kovler wrote in his now-viral tweet more than two weeks before the violent siege, the first post in a longer thread in which he presciently detailed his lack of faith in the Capitol Police force as well as his belief that there would be fatalities should Trump’s supporters revolt. “It’s highly likely that they’ll try to storm the Capitol after it certifies Joe Biden’s win. I don’t think this has sunk in yet.”

Equally surprising was that Kovler had delivered his grim prognostication from Jerusalem — nearly 6,000 miles removed from Washington, D.C. — where he lives and works as a consultant advising Israeli startups. 

“Joining the dots wasn’t very difficult,” Kovler, a native of London, confessed in a recent interview with Jewish Insider, noting that he tends to keep an eye on right-wing messaging sites like Gab, 4chan and 8kun, where the siege was planned in public view. “I could see the way the wind was blowing.”

There were two primary indicators Kovler saw as he looked out on a volatile political landscape from his home in Israel. “These guys, they’re absolutely convinced that Trump has won — that’s the starting point,” Kovler said of the pro-Trump extremists who mounted a failed insurrection on Wednesday. “They never were ready to lose, and of course Trump himself didn’t give them any reason to think that they did lose.”

“Part two is, Donald Trump says ‘Come to Washington, D.C., on January 6, it’s going to be wild,’” Kovler continued. “Most of these people thought they were going to watch Donald Trump win, and that was clear. They really thought that they were going to watch him or to help him win.”

That combination, Kovler rightly surmised, would be disastrous.

And yet Kovler’s tweet wasn’t intended entirely as a doomsday prediction. He described his social media missive, first and foremost, as a kind of warning for those in the United States who may not have been mentally prepared for what he imagined would be a failed attack. Despite his pessimism, Kovler never envisioned that Capitol Police would be stranded without immediate backup from the National Guard as rioters made their way into the halls of Congress. 

“I wasn’t seeing people take it seriously enough, and by people, I didn’t mean the authorities,” Kovler told JI. “I assumed the authorities would have it all in hand. I actually meant the general public. I kind of wanted to try and essentially warn people to be psychologically prepared for what I assumed was going to happen.”

Arieh Kovler (Courtesy)

As his tweet has gained traction — earning him more than 50,000 new followers — Kovler said he has occasionally been asked why he didn’t reach out to authorities ahead of the incursion. 

The answer, he says, is obvious. “To me, that would be like if you saw a weather forecast about a big storm tomorrow, you might post on Facebook, ‘Hey everyone, there’s going to be a big storm tomorrow, take your clothes in,’” Kovler told JI. “But you probably wouldn’t call up the government and tell them there’s going to be a storm, because the government knows there’s going to be a storm.”

Though Kovler has no background in threat analysis, his professional training may have made him slightly more well-suited than most to anticipate the events of January 6, given that he is responsible for considering a variety of trends and contingencies in his capacity as a communications strategist. 

Before he made aliyah about a decade ago, Kovler worked as a political consultant for various Jewish groups in Britain, including the Fair Play Campaign Group and the Jewish Leadership Council. 

One of his most formative political moments, he said, came in 2009, when violent protesters marched on the Israeli Embassy in London during the war in Gaza. “I remember sort of pacing around watching the footage of that and writing, on that night, a position paper that kind of led to the development of a lot of big changes in the way in which the British Jewish community did politics and community engagement,” Kovler recalled.

As for whether there will be any future violence in D.C., Kovler offered a more sanguine analysis than his December warning. “I think January 17 in Washington will be a damp squib,” he said of the day on which federal authorities are preparing for the possibility of more rioting by right-wing extremists. 

The inauguration three days later doesn’t concern him much either. “I don’t think the inauguration is going to be much of a worry,” Kovler added, emphasizing that an increased security presence — including the Secret Service and the National Guard — will likely ward off any threats. “It’s a different level of event.”

Not that he doesn’t worry more generally about the prospect of increased violence as some suggestible right-wingers who are prone to aggression get sucked in by online conspiracy theories like QAnon and decide to take action — as many did last week.

“Essentially, that guy in rural Pennsylvania who decides that his local Democratic city councilman is secretly murdering children in his basement to eat their adrenochrome glands and then goes and breaks into his house,” Kovler said dryly of one possible scenario he sees playing out. “You know, attacks on media — sorry — and tech companies wouldn’t surprise me.”

But Kovler suspects that the perpetrators who stormed the Capitol are likely now in retreat, if they haven’t been arrested already. 

“At the moment,” he surmised, “the movement that led to the mob on January 6 is currently a bit splintered, a bit confused, trying to work out what it’s about, and mostly talking about how unfair it is that Trump doesn’t have a Twitter account right now.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.