Object of the Week

What Capitol Riot Merch Reveals About Our Culture

They tried to overthrow our government, and all they got was a stupid T-shirt

Rob Walker
Published in
4 min readJan 21, 2021


Trump supporters flying flags near the U.S. Capitol following the Stop the Steal rally on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Photo: Selcuk Acar/NurPhoto/Getty

Object of the Week is a new column exploring the objects a culture obsesses over and what that reveals about us.

Nearly two weeks after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building that left five dead, including a law enforcement officer who was beaten to death by the mob, the New York Times wondered why it was still possible to buy — on Amazon, no less — T-shirts emblazoned with slogans such as “Battle for Capitol Hill Veteran.” As if an insurrection was just another souvenir-worthy event.

It’s a troubling question. And as much as sedition merch sounds like dark satire, it’s worth taking seriously. The objects a culture produces and consumes can tell stories and reveal truths; the stuff we buy both reflects and projects what has meaning to us. Taking objects and consumer culture seriously is a theme I’ve pursued for years, as a columnist, author, teacher, and occasional talking head. It’s what’s behind my annual Year in Objects roundups for Marker.

And it’s in that spirit that we’re launching a new column, Object of the Week, that aims to plumb the zeitgeist by exploring who is consuming what…