Political Science and Media Experts Provide Context for January 6 Hearings | VTX


Noun or stuntman? Productive or complacent?

Two Virginia Tech experts say Thursday night’s proceedings of the House committee investigating the January 2021 uprising on the U.S. Capitol are poised to include moments of import as well as moments of performance.

“There will probably be some big news,” said Cayce Myers, an associate professor of public relations who specializes in media history. “However, a primetime hearing is also part of political theater. The audience will be large and this could translate into political results.

Thursday will be the first hearing of the 13-member bipartisan group of Congress, officially called the Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. The group has so far only held interviews behind closed doors.

Beyond sharing the results of the committee’s findings with the public, Thursday’s hearing and those following next week are almost certain to serve as both a launching pad for political interests.

“Television hearings have been a part of modern politics since the dawn of television,” Myers said. “We could see lesser-known political figures become celebrities.”

But don’t expect the hearings to change many opinions about what happened that day, says Karen Hult, a political science professor who studies the US presidency and executive branch.

“The effects on general public opinion are likely to be quite minimal, and they will most likely reinforce existing opinions among those who watch or hear news reports about the hearings,” Hult said. “Currently, much of the January 6 public opinion follows existing partisan and ideological divisions.”

Hult said she will be watching to see if some effects appear within Republican and Democratic groupings.

“For example, what were once called ‘mainstream’ Republicans, with views closer to those of Mitt Romney, Laura Cheney and Lisa Murkowski, may be distant from newer Trump-era Republicans,” a- she declared. “Among Democrats, some might relate to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who obviously cautioned against paying too much attention to the likely electoral impact of the hearings.”

About Hult

Karen Hult is a professor of political science at the Virginia Tech Center for Public Administration and Policy. Among other topics, his research focuses on the U.S. presidency, U.S. executive branch departments and agencies, and U.S. state politics, politics, and governance. She serves on the board of directors of the nonpartisan White House Transition Project, which provides information to new White House staffers on the transition from campaign to governance, and shares knowledge about what works and which does not work from one presidency to another. See his biography.

About Myers

Cayce Myers is an associate professor of public relations and director of graduate studies at Virginia Tech School of Communication. His main research interests include law and public relations, media history, public relations history, corporate communication and social media. He is the author of several books, including November’s Money in Politics: Fundraising for the 2020 Presidential Elections. See his biography.

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