Schadenfreude is a German word that describes the absolute joy we feel in the misfortune of our enemies. Because we now experience news primarily through social media, which invites us to comment on breaking stories, we are even more likely to celebrate when some particularly unsavory character gets their comeuppance. This “active spectatorship” was especially true as the Jan. 6 investigations played out, where many Americans experienced waves of schadenfreude as the same right-wing activists who hurt so many with impunity for so long seemed like they might, finally, face consequences.
First, on Nov. 29, the Oath Keepers leadership, including its founder, Stewart Rhodes, were convicted for their role on Jan. 6, particularly for preparing for what sounded like an armed coup. More recently, members of the Proud Boys, including their leader Enrique Tarrio, were also convicted, this time for participating in the coup-conspiracy in a way that is several steps removed from the active role that the Oath Keepers took.
It is clear that these far-right activists have not faced consequences and state repression at the level that antifascists and protesters of marginalized backgrounds have. This is on display anytime antifascist demonstrators are assaulted with tear gas while their Proud Boy opponents are escorted by law enforcement to their cars. This is why so many are celebrating the recent slate of convictions against the Proud Boys and others.