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False Reports By Fox News Promote Terror Against Children's Hospitals

Right-wing media figures have been putting on a master class in stochastic terrorism in the past month, targeting children’s hospitals with conspiracy theories claiming they are “maiming” and “mutilating” young people by providing them with gender-affirming care—after which the hospitals are barraged with threats of violence. The most notorious of these involved the mob that descended on Boston Children’s Hospital, leading to a bomb threat that forced a lockdown, after leading right-wing social-media influencers like LibsOfTikTok and Matt Walsh falsely claimed it was performing hysterectomies and other forms of “butchery” on children.

The firehose of smears, however, became an overwhelming deluge when Fox News—with Tucker Carlson once again taking the lead—ran multiple segments amplifying them to their audience of millions. Moreover, as Mia Gingerich reports for Media Matters, Fox News eagerly amplified the claims, but ran zero segments reporting the attacks and bomb threats that resulted. That’s exactly how stochastic terrorism works.

The barrage is based on a vicious mischaracterization of “gender-affirming care,” which is the practice all of these hospitals use. As Scientific American recently explained, the term describes a range of medical care from simple recognition of transgender children’s needs and rights to providing hormone treatments including puberty blockers, and “supporting the process of gender development rather than directing children through a specific course of gender transition or maintenance of cisgender presentation.” Only a limited number of transgender youth opt for surgery, and most cannot receive genital replacement surgery until they are adults.

Boston Children’s Hospital explained that, contrary to the claims of right-wing provocateurs, it only provides gender-affirming hysterectomies to transgender people 18 and older. Nonetheless, it was barraged with “hostile internet activity, phone calls, and harassing emails including threats of violence toward our clinicians and staff,” culminating in a bomb threat that brought police to the hospital.

“It’s actually crazy. I can’t even imagine being one of my patients,” Justine Lee, a craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgeon in Los Angeles who performs gender-affirming surgeries, told The Washington Post. “I can’t think of any other medical condition that would result in this level of hate.”

Vice’s David Gilbert reported on the wave of right-wing extremist threats on Aug. 17. “Long past time to start executing these ‘doctors,’” wrote participant in the pro-Trump message board formerly known as TheDonald. “Demons like this do not deserve to breathe! Crimes against humanity=DEATH,” one Telegram user. “These people are physcopaths [sic] and should be locked up,” commented another.

As Gingerich reports, Fox News has played a central role in generating the deluge of threats, primarily by endorsing and amplifying the smear artists on social media and other political figures, including QAnon-loving Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene:

Between August 18, when the network’s first segment attacking Boston Children’s Hospital aired, and August 31, when Fox aired its most recent segment, attacking Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital, the network aired 7 segments and spent more than 20 minutes vilifying the hospitals. Notably, three of the Fox prime-time shows featuring the attacks are in the top 10 most-watched cable news programs in the country — Tucker Carlson Tonight, The Ingraham Angle, and Jesse Watters Primetime.

Carlson’s program has been leading the pitchfork parade. A day after Vice reported on the wave of threats, Carlson hosted a segment in which he called gender-affirming the “sexual mutilation of children.” It included anti-trans extremist Chris Elston of Canada, who called it “the biggest child abuse scandal in modern medicine history.”

Greene also appeared as part of the discussion, discussing her proposal for national legislation to outlaw gender-affirming care. She said these practices are “actually an assault, and it’s child abuse,” adding: “This practice should never happen. It’s disgusting and appalling. It’s an embarrassment to our country.”

Gender-affirming care, she claimed, “is really genital mutilation, it’s puberty blockers that cause chemical castration, teenage girls actually having their breasts chopped off, teenage boys being castrated. This needs to be illegal, and I’m going to introduce a bill, called Protect Children’s Innocence Act, and it would create a law that would cause it to be a Class C felony for any person involved in so-called ‘gender-affirming care.’”

On Aug. 30, Carlson invited LibsOfTikTok proprietor Chaya Raichik onto his show after Boston Children’s was hit with a bomb threat to counter the growing narrative about the violence. He claimed that Raichik had provided proof of nefarious intent at Children’s National Hospital in D.C. by calling up two care providers there and claiming (dubiously) she had a 16-year-old daughter and was wondering if she could obtain a hysterectomy, then being told she could.

“Yeah, castrating kids,” Carlson intoned. “They admitted it, flat out.” He went on to claim that Children’s National was “castrating young people, minors for no legitimate purpose whatsoever,” adding that Raichik, whose tweets were taken down, was “committing actual journalism.”

Children’s National spokespersons explained to The Washington Post that neither of the people to whom Raichik spoke were qualified to respond accurately, and that it does not perform hysterectomies on women under 18.

The next night, Carlson continued the narrative by intoning: “Most people trust children's hospitals implicitly. They just didn't know the details — but thanks to the internet, we now do.” He went on to claim that “some of these hospitals are performing horrifying experiments on children,” including “things you think would be crimes but that apparently aren't and that are going on in children's hospitals in the United States.”

He then invited right-wing propagandist Chris Rufo—progenitor of the phony “critical race trheory” hysteria—onto his show to explore the claims further. Rufo falsely claimed that Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago was promoting “‘trans-friendly’ sex toys for children,” citing a resource document designed for teachers.

Gingerich found that while Fox only covered the threats as a springboard for attacking the hospitals, both CNN and MSNBC did cover them specifically—but spent relatively little airtime (five minutes and 13 minutes, respectively) on the story.

This is how stochastic terrorism—also known as “scripted violence”—has always worked: create messages that target a specific “enemy” or threat with extreme demonization and dehumanization, then disavow the consequences when your audience unsurprisingly acts on them in violent and threatening fashion.

As Chip Berlet explains in his essay on scripted violence:

The potential for violence in a society increases when the mass media carries rhetorical vilification by high profile and respected figures who scapegoat a named ‘Other’. This dangerous ‘constitutive rhetoric’ can build an actual constituency of persons feeling threatened or displaced. Or to put it another way, when rhetorical fecal matter hits the spinning verbal blades of a bigoted demagogue’s exhortations, bad stuff happens.

The resulting violence can incite a mob, a mass movement, a war, or an individual actor. Individual actors who engage in violence can emerge in three ways. They can be assigned the task of violence by an existing organizational leadership; they can be members or participants in an existing organization, yet decide to act on their own; or they can be unconnected to an existing organization and act on their own. According to the US government definition, a ‘Lone Wolf’ is a person who engages in political violence and is not known by law enforcement agencies to have any current or previous ties to an organization under surveillance as potential lawbreakers. The person committing the violence may expect or even welcome martyrdom, or may plan for a successful escape to carry on being a political soldier in a hoped-for insurgency. Either way, the hope is that ‘a little spark can cause a prairie fire’. Revolution is seldom the result, but violence and death remains as a legacy.

We saw this in action recently, when anti-LGBTQ “groomer” hysteria generated by far-right social media whipped up right-wing extremists into threatening a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and even more recently in Boise. As Daily Kos’ Hunter says, the right is stoking fascist violence against transgender Americans, and it’s working.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Extremist Sheriffs Double Down On Embrace Of Big Lie As Midterm Approaches

It’s a testament to the cult power of Donald Trump’s Big Lie that an elected lawman who himself now faces investigation for tampering with voting machines will not only refuse to apologize, but proceed to double down. Another law enforcement official subscribing to the same authoritarian conspiracy theories is meanwhile threatening everyone within his fiefdom with repercussions if they don’t submit to his similar “investigations,” and setting the stage for his nakedly partisan deputies to patrol at polling places.

These cases, both involving the so-called “constitutional sheriffs” movement’s open embrace of Trump’s election denialism, reflect the challenge that awaits much of the country—particularly the rural areas where these sheriffs rule—when we head to the polls in November. Their well-financed campaign, coordinated with leading Trumpists, to overturn election results and seize voting machines they suspect of skewing the vote could wreak havoc with election results around the country if it continues to gain steam.

Dar Leaf, the sheriff of Michigan’s Barry County, has played a leading role in the unfolding saga. It recently emerged that not only does Leaf insist that his dubious “investigations” of election outcomes in his county—based almost entirely on a fraudulent Dinesh D’Souza pseudodocumentary—are legitimate, but that he has continued to seek warrants to confiscate voting tabulators from election officials in townships throughout his county.

Leaf sought warrants to seize machines and search offices of the Barry County Clerk, as well as in Woodland Township and Irving Township, Bridge Michigan found through a Freedom of Information Act request. His affidavits could not cite any evidence justifying the searches, saying only that Leaf sought "evidence of the crime of election law violations."

The report found that Leaf wanted to seize "components of voting and election equipment"—tabulation machines, poll books, election reporting modules, as well as 2020 election paper ballots. He also demanded keys to unlock the devices.

Leaf’s intentions, the affidavits showed, were to have the voting equipment "forensically examined" by someone "who is certified and trained to conduct data extractions."

His involvement in seizing one such tabulator in 2021—which resulted in its being dismantled and examined, then returned with its seals broken—is part of a state investigation that involves not just Leaf, but the Republican nominee for Michigan’s attorney general, Matthew DePerno.

Last month, the current Democratic attorney general, Dana Nesso, filed a petition for a special prosecutor to handle that investigation since it involves her likely Republican opponent in the fall election. The petition indicated that state police investigators believed that DePerno was “one of the prime instigators,” along with Leaf and a state legislator, of a conspiracy to persuade Michigan clerks to allow unauthorized access to voting machines.

DePerno’s campaign issued a statement ridiculing Nessel’s petition as “an incoherent liberal fever dream of lies.”

Barry County Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor Pratt's office refused to sign off on the warrant requests because Leaf had not established "probable cause" to conduct the searches.

"There just wasn't anything in there that amounted to any fraud that I could see," she told Bridge Michigan.

Leaf’s efforts on Trump’s behalf began in December 2020, when he filed a lawsuit demanding Barry County’s voting machines be impounded—which was swiftly laughed out of court. He then embarked on an “investigation” of the machines by sending a deputy and a private investigator to grill township officials about their intricacies.

It was during one of these interrogations that the Irving Township clerk surrendered one of the town’s Dominion machines to Leaf’s team. “I’ve been told they took it (to the Detroit area) and tore it apart,” she told a local TV station, noting that when the machine was returned during a meeting in a parking lot, its security seal had been broken.

Dominion’s machines were the focus of a conspiracy theory popular after the election among the Trumpist right claiming that vote totals had been secretly manipulated to hand the presidency to Joe Biden. The theory was widely circulated on right-wing media such as Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax, all of whom now face multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuits from the company.

Leaf was connected through his attorney, Carson Tucker, to a number of the leading Trump-loving conspiracists the former president employed, including ex-Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood. “My client Barry County Sheriff and several other county sheriffs in Michigan would like to consider issuing probable cause warrants to sequester Dominion voting machines if there is evidence of criminal manipulation,” Tucker wrote to them in one email.

His claims made little sense in Barry County, where Trump won by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Rutland Charter Township clerk Ruth Hawthorne observed tartly: “They seem to think there was some kind of microchip in our tabulators that was throwing votes to Biden. But Trump won Barry County. He won by 65 percent of the vote, so I don’t know where they’re thinking that any kind of chips were in any of our machines or thinking that something had happened to them. The whole thing is nutty. It is nutty, totally nutty.”

Leaf’s extremism was well established before the 2020 election. He had appeared on stage at an anti-masking rally bashing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer with three of the “Patriots” who were later charged with plotting to kidnap and execute her. He first suggested to reporters that perhaps the plotters were only trying to make a “citizens arrest.” Leaf and other Michigan “constitutional sheriffs” also later refused to enforce a statewide ban on guns in Michigan polling places.

His “election integrity” campaign in Michigan caught the attention of Richard Mack, the founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Keepers Association (CSPOA), who then announced a nationwide campaign involving all of the country’s “constitutional sheriffs.”

In May, Mack called on sheriffs and police around the U.S. “to come together in pursuit of the truth regarding the 2020 election.” A CSPOA press release made clear that the basis of their “investigations” was D’Souza’s widely debunked pseudodocumentary, 2000 Mules:

Considering the persistent allegations of election fraud since even before the 2020 elections began, and as a response to the perpetual polarizing effect this has had on the American people, the CSPOA would like to put this issue to rest. Our constitutional republic and peaceful future as a free people absolutely depend on it.

In the opinion of the CSPOA, there is very compelling physical evidence presented by in the movie “2000 Mules” produced by Dinesh D'Souza. “Law Enforcement has to step in at this point,” asserts D'Souza, and we absolutely agree with him. Therefore, we are asking for all local law enforcement agencies to work together to pursue investigations to determine the veracity of the “2000 Mules” information.

In fact, D’Souza’s documentary has been repeatedly demonstrated to be utterly groundless garbage. It has been debunked by Reuters, the Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Politifact, and NPR, to name only a few of the outlets where its phony “facts” and false premises have been eviscerated.

In short order, the CSPOA had teamed up with Trump’s most fervent election denialists, True the Vote, which receives substantial funding from notorious pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell. “Constitutional sheriffs” in other counties—including one in Kansas and another in Wisconsin—attempted similar “investigations” but came up empty-handed.

At a Las Vegas gathering organized by Mack and True the Vote in July, Leaf called the county prosecutor’s refusal to hand out the search warrants "ridiculous,” adding: “We think we have enough for search warrants and everything else,” Leaf said during the conference, which also featured speeches from Trump loyalists like Lindell. “We're gonna keep moving forward, folks. We’re not done with this.”

Leaf harkened to the “constitutionalist” claim that county sheriffs are the supreme law of the land, saying: “What that does, it gives you the power—and I don’t know if you’re gonna appreciate me saying this—if we can’t get anywhere, we’re looking at doing grand juries, at the common law.”

One of True the Vote’s partners in the “election integrity” campaign is another “constitutional sheriffs” organization called Protect America Now, run by Sheriff Mark Lamb of Arizona’s Pinal County. Lamb was a featured speaker at a Trump rally in Prescott in July, where he revved the crowd up with promises that the nation’s sheriffs would intervene on their behalf in future elections.

“We’re gonna make sure that we have election integrity this year,” Lamb declared. “Sheriffs are going to enforce the law. This is about the rule of law. It is against the law to violate elections laws—and that’s a novel idea, we’re going to hold you accountable for that. We will not let happen what happened in 2020.”

Lamb has plenty of local critics in Pinal County. At recent meeting of the county’s Board of Supervisors, he was accused by longtime residents of indulging in baseless fearmongering over election results.

Roberto Reveles, a longtime Arizona civil rights activist, told commissioners that Lamb was engaging in naked partisan threats: “I recently was subjected to the intimidation referred to by a previous speaker. Sheriff Mark Lamb walked up to me and pointed at me … and said, ‘You and your fellow Democrats are destroying our country.’”

Lamb defended himself shortly afterwards during an appearance on Newsmax. “Last week in the board meeting I had probably 8 to 10 Democrats show up and absolutely blast me because I believe in the ‘Big Lie,’” Lamb said.

“It clearly shows that these folks don’t care about election integrity,” he continued. “They’re happy that their guy is in power, and right now they should care more than ever because this guy in office, Joe Biden and his administration, is absolutely destroying America and freedom and they’re turning this into a country that we just don’t recognize.”

Local Democrats like Ralph Atchue, formerly a candidate for Arizona Senate, state that Lamb and his deputies will begin patrolling polling places. “I hear from everybody that the line is being crossed,” Atchue told Jessica Pishko of Bolts. “Completely blurred.”

Far-right election denialists in Seattle’s King County placed signs during the July primary at ballot drop boxes warning people that their actions were being recorded on camera. Ironically, the King County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating those actions at the behest of the county’s elections office.

“The specter of law enforcement at the polls is already enough to discourage people from going to the polls,” observes Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. “Moreover, the threat of surveillance of polling places and drop boxes proposed by groups like True the Vote is meant to intimidate voters, particularly people of color, and deter them from casting ballots.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Behind Fascist 'Warrior' Facade, Patriot Front Is Just Another Grift

One of the constants of the world of right-wing extremists is that their leaders all find ways to turn their authoritarian activism into a moneymaking operation that wrings funds out of their gullible followers. Even if these leaders buy their own bullshit—and most of them do—they also are assiduous in creating revenue streams generated from the eager suckers who lap it up.

Take Patriot Front, the neofascist marching gang that recently drew national headlines for being busted outside a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for example. A recent examination of the organization’s operations by Mackenzie Ryan of The Guardian found that Patriot Front’s ability to spread its brand of hate politics by operating as a “white nationalist pyramid scheme” that recruits angry young men with a vision of creating a “warrior elite,” the reality of which is remarkably buffoonish.

“No other white supremacist group operating in the US today is able to match Patriot Front’s ability to produce media, ability to mobilize across the country, and ability to finance,” Anti-Defamation League researcher Morgan Moon told Ryan. “That’s what makes them a particular concern.”

The man atop Patriot Front’s pyramid is Thomas Rousseau, the 24-year-old Texas man who founded Patriot Front in 2017 out of the ashes of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America, under whose banner he had marched in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, alongside James Alex Fields, the man who later that day drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Fitting his politics, Rousseau runs Patriot Front in remarkably authoritarian fashion: ordering his followers to follow exercise regimens and to participate both in online ideological discussion and real-world “actions” that both spread the group’s propaganda and line Rousseau’s pockets.

Most of its recruitment begins online, in gaming chat rooms, message boards, or social media channels where they seek out young white males seething with various resentments. Part of its marketing, as Stephen Piggot of the Western States Center told Ryan, involves creating video packages aimed at younger audiences. Simultaneously, he says, much of their appeal involves the group’s emphasis on translating the ideology into real-world action.

Recruits are particularly drawn in by Patriot Front’s emphasis on creating “young warriors” and a “warrior elite,” Moon said. This includes an emphasis on fitness and diet, and is manifested in the real-world paramilitary training sessions it organizes.

Once recruits sign on, they’re quickly drawn up in Patriot Front’s authoritarian operations. They’re required to attend monthly online meetups and street demonstrations, and to meet a weekly activism quota that the group’s top lieutenants, called network directors, monitor with spreadsheets. Should a recruit fail to meet those requirements, Rousseau expels them, Moon said.

A data leak of Patriot Front chat rooms published earlier this year by the journalism collective Unicorn Riot revealed these operations in detail. Rousseau and his network directors oversaw the chats, organized by region. They organized real-world “actions” in the chatrooms, such as pasting propaganda stickers and fliers around the downtown areas of cities where they lived, as well as hoisting banners with their slogans and logo over freeways on overpasses.

The “actions” included a number of criminal acts of vandalism, such as defacing memorials, statues, and murals in highly public places. These included a memorial to George Floyd in New York City, as well as other works of public art that provoked their ire, such as a mural supporting Black Lives Matter in Olympia, Washington, and depictions of Black heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman.

They also clearly believed they could do so with impunity. “As our recent actions have shown we can walk down busy avenues at prime time in Seattle and deface the largest most well protected mural in shitlib Olympia without so much as being accosted once,” one member who apparently participated in the Olympia vandalization wrote.

A more recent Unicorn Riot report exposed how members of Patriot Front participated in a likely hate crime by vandalizing an LGBTQ youth center in Springfield, Illinois, in November 2021. Video recordings made by the group’s members showed them stenciling their logo over a rainbow mural on one side of the Phoenix center, a nonprofit that provides housing and support to at-risk LGBTQ youth.

The video shows them applying the stencil, fleeing the scene, and then discussing how they targeted the building because “it’s a gay and trans youth center.” They also reveled in the distress they expected to create: “Those f*gs are gonna lose their mind,” boasted one of the vandals.

In all, Patriot Front records showed the group responsible for at least 29 acts of destruction of public art honoring Black, Mexican, Asian, and LGBTQ people. According to the ADL, Patriot Front has been responsible for up to 14 hate incidents a day.

Rousseau and his lieutenants set quotas for members to engage in various “actions,” including regional group quotas of at least “10 big actions a month.” Acts of vandalism are recorded in a spreadsheet.

The group also monitors its roughly 220 members’ personal lives and is fanatically controlling. Members are required to regularly log their weight and fitness regimen, follow an apparently disordered diet obsessively, and update their superiors on their “bad habits,” such as pornography and junk food. Leaders pointedly chastise members for failing to participate in enough chats or meetings or to file their mandatory fitness updates.

On top of all these demands, Rousseau charges his followers a premium for the same Patriot Front propaganda material that he then requires them to spread, according to Southern Poverty Law Center researcher Jeff Tischauser. Network directors are required to push members to buy new flyers and then spread them monthly.

“In this sense, Patriot Front is close to a white nationalist pyramid scheme,” Tischauser observed.

The scheme has created some internal turmoil. Researchers say Patriot Front chats they have obtained include complaints from members about the constant expense of buying new stickers, stencils, and other propaganda materials that Rousseau both requires they buy while charging them a premium.

There have been other cracks in Rousseau’s façade, notably the June arrests of 31 Patriot Front marchers in Coeur d’Alene—all of whose identities were publicly exposed—while attempting to create a riot at the city’s annual Pride in the Park event. The court cases arising from those arrests got under way this month, with Rousseau among the defendants.

“They got kind of the opposite of what they wanted: they weren’t able to disrupt the LGBTQ Pride events, and they got a whole lot of mainstream media attention,” Piggot said.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Trump's Meltdown On 'Truth Social'  Exposes Link To Violent QAnon Cult

For most of his misbegotten tenure in the Oval Office, Donald Trump danced a three-step tango with right-wing extremists: Apparently embracing them, then stepping back with official (and unconvincing) disavowal, then swinging them back into his arms. He had perfected this tango in the case of the QAnon movement, pretending at first to know nothing about them—despite having winked and nudged in their direction for years—but telling reporters: “I heard that these are people that love our country.”

Now Trump has simply dropped the façade of plausible deniability altogether. On his Truth Social chat platform—an unwieldy and pale imitation of Twitter—Trump has, over the last two months, amplified QAnon accounts over 70 times. He went completely over the cliff on Tuesday morning, pouring out a stream of over 60 QAnon memes, reposts from QAnon accounts, and tangentially amplifying an original “Q drop” (a 4chan post written by the still-anonymous “Q” who originated the conspiracist cult).

The meltdown on Tuesday was notable both for its unhinged nature and its unmistakably eliminationist targeting of his Democratic enemies—though scripted violence (or stochastic terrorism, if you will) has in fact been part of Trump’s playbook for a long time.

One of the memes he reposted on Truth Social features a stylized photo of Vice President Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with words covering their eyes: “Your enemy is not in Russia.”

Another meme was an artist’s portrait of Trump at his desk in the Oval Office, looking stolid while severe winds and rain blow through. “The Deep State whispered to President Trump, ‘You cannot withstand the storm,” it read. “The President whispered back, ‘I am the storm.’”

As NBC News’ Ben Collins observed: “This is not a guy who sounds like he's running a political campaign. It's a guy who is pointing his followers toward political enemies to target.”

Trump’s Truth Social “retruths” mainly revolved around QAnon-loving accounts like “Patriotic American Alpha Sauce” and “ULTRA-MAGA 4LIFE.” One of them, from “snazzyburrito,” was simply a post featuring an original “Q” post suggesting that Trump would use military intelligence to replace the CIA and FBI.

Another set of posts reupped by Trump featured a discussion of the false conspiracist claims that “Antifa,” working in conjunction with the FBI, was actually responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

On Monday, Trump had posted a wild rant demanding a new election: “So now it comes out, conclusively, that the FBI BURIED THE HUNTER BIDEN LAPTOP STORY BEFORE THE ELECTION knowing that if they didn’t, ‘Trump would have easily won the 2020 election.’ This is MASSIVE FRAUD AND INTERFERENCE at a level never seen before in our Country. REMEDY: Declare the rightful winner or, and this would be the minimal solution, declare the 2020 election irreparably compromised and have a new Election, immediately!”

The QAnon phenomenon has grown massively since its early days in 2017 as a fringe meta-conspiracy theory postulating that Trump was leading a secret war against a “Deep State” that abducted and trafficked in children globally, imprisoning them in tunnels and harvesting their blood for life-extending adrenochrome consumed by evil “globalists.” In the two years, it has overwhelmed the Republican Party from within with a tide of reality-denying extremism, culminating in its key role in inspiring the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and the continuing radicalization of the American right subsequently.

Trump barely attempted to maintain even a credible distance between his administration and the conspiracy cult, constantly retweeting their hashtags and posts. When reporters finally cornered him about his relationship to QAnon in 2020, he was as disingenuous as ever.

“I don’t know much about the movement besides that they like me very much,” Trump said at a White House press briefing. “These are people that don’t like seeing what’s going on in places like Portland and Chicago,” adding: “I heard these are people that love our country.”

When a reporter followed up by asking him whether he believed their core doctrine—namely, the belief that he is “secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals”—he performed his familiar tango.

“I hadn’t heard that,” he replied, “but is that supposed to be a bad thing? If I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it, I’m willing to put myself out there. And we are actually, we are saving the world from a radical left philosophy that will destroy this country.”

As Collins reported on Twitter, Trump’s reposts were received with wild and bloodthirsty enthusiasm at QAnon-focused forums. “Wipe them out sir,” responded one fan to his “I am the storm” meme. Another added: “Plenty of people will be surprised, but we are all ready. ‘Which storm Mr. President? You’ll find out.’”

“Sir, please finish them off and we’re done playing with them like a cat to a mouse,” responded another QAnon forum participant to the meme. “Nuke them from orbit,” chimed in one.

Collins noted that these forums “had been relatively dead in the last few months, with users headed over to general Trump forums and militia/Q influencer Telegrams. Not anymore.”

The New York Times recently explored just how deeply Truth Social has become a hub of QAnon activity. A recent report from media watchdog NewsGuard found the platform hosted 88 users, each with more than 10,000 followers, promoting QAnon theories on Truth Social. Over 30 of these accounts had been previously banned by Twitter.

“He’s not simply President Trump the political leader here—he’s the proprietor of a platform,” Newsguard CEO Steven Brill told the Times. “That would be the equivalent of Mark Zuckerberg reposting content from supporters of QAnon.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

FBI Arrests 'B-Squad' Militia Who Led January 6 Attack On Capitol Tunnels

The arrests this week of five Florida militiamen who called themselves the “B Squad” for their violent actions on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol serve as a helpful reminder that the Justice Department is still in the process of bringing the insurrectionists who attacked American democracy that day—now over 860 and counting—to justice.

The details of their case, moreover, are chilling reminders of just how close the nation came to catastrophe that day, saved largely by the valor of police officers who defended the Capitol—and the deep implications of these unfolding arrests for the Republican Party, after NBC News identified the ringleader of the B Squad as a recently defeated GOP legislative candidate, a man who has not yet been charged.

The affidavit filed by prosecutors features a number of screenshots from videos of the B Squad undertaking paramilitary exercises to prepare for Jan. 6, including several of the man it identifies only as “B Leader,” who is not among the five men arrested Wednesday. NBC News’ Ryan J. Reilly identified B Leader as Jeremy Liggett, who ran for Congress this year in Florida’s 7th Congressional District, but dropped out in March and did not qualify for the August GOP primary.

Liggett is a former Atlanta Metro police officer who sounded various pro-Trump notes when he announced his candidacy. "The Second Amendment community has been dealing with censorship for a lot longer than everyone else," he declared.

FBI agents arrested five members of his crew, all from Florida: Benjamin Cole, 38, of Leesburg; John Edward Crowley, 50, of Windermere; Brian Preller, 33, of Mount Dora; Jonathan Rockholt, 38, of Palm Coast; and Tyler Bensch, 20, of Casselberry.

Cole, Crowley, Preller, and Rockholt face felony charges for interfering with a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder, as well as misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct charges. If convicted, they face a maximum of six years in prison and $250,000 fine. Bensch is charged with entering a restricted building or grounds, a misdemeanor, and faces a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

On Thursday, after the arrests were announced, Liggett posted on Facebook that the FBI had searched his home: “The FBI served a search warrant on my home today. I have put on the Armor of God.”

The B Squad, according to prosecutors, comprised “Patriot” militiamen affiliated with the “Three Percenters,” a loose national coalition of “constitutionalist” gun fanatics. They wore patches on January 6 identifying themselves as “Guardians of Freedom,” but had adopted the name “B Squad” among themselves as a reference to “Plan B”: their self-conception as a paramilitary force designed to respond to a situation where Vice President Mike Pence failed to prevent certification of the Electoral College votes in order to preserve Donald Trump’s presidency, as they had hoped.

They had prepped fanatically for the January 6 event. Three days before, Liggett had posted a Facebook video “intended for those traveling to Washington, D.C.,” the affidavit explains. “The video was accompanied by the following written comment: ‘Quick safety video for your trip to DC! […] See you all January 6th #patriotsriseup.'”

Throughout the video, Liggett stands in front of a group of men wearing military-style gear and face coverings and brandishing assault rifles. The affidavit says that Liggett:

  1. Advised that the video was for “all of you Patriots out there that are going to Washington, D.C., [...] to support Trump, to have your voices heard” and that “we are going to have four more years of Trump, we all know that”;
  2. Warned that “we all know in D.C., once the sun goes down, things get a little bit violent and the reason why things get a little bit violent is because you have socialist, leftist, Marxist, communist agitators like Black Lives Matter and Antifa […]”;
  3. Described so-called “defensive tools” to take to Washington, D.C., including “the strongest pepper spray commercially available to use,” an ASP baton (i.e., an expandable metal baton), knives with blades that were 3 inches or less, a walking cane, and a taser, all items that B Leader incorrectly claimed were legal in Washington, D.C.; and
  4. Said that he was “super excited about DC on the 6th of January,” and he advised “patriots [to] keep up the fight.”

The men arrived in Washington fully prepared for combat. As a Department of Justice press release explains:

Cole wore a tactical vest. Preller wore a tactical vest with a chemical irritant spray attached to the front, as well as large goggles and a green helmet with the word “monster” on the back. He also carried a long black walking stick and wore a shirt that read “waterboarding instructor.” Rockholt wore a tactical vest and carried what appeared to be a knife in his front right pocket; he also wore a baseball helmet. Bensch wore a tactical vest, as well as a military-style helmet with goggles and a black gas mask. He also carried a chemical irritant in front of the vest.

The affidavit also provides a disturbing view into how close these men came to wreaking real havoc on Jan. 6. The B Squad helped lead the attack on the entrance to the tunnels beneath the Capitol—tunnels that likely led to areas where members of Congress were sheltering in place. The affidavit reads:

Cole, Crowley, Preller and Rockholt were in a group that engaged in a confrontation with law enforcement officers in the tunnel area of the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace. Bensch remained just outside. While inside the tunnel, Cole, Preller, Crowley and Rockholt confronted and assisted the crowd in confronting the officers that were preventing the tunnel and Capitol from being breached. They added their force, momentum, bodies, and efforts to the other rioters in a “heave-ho” effort that put pressure on the police line. As a direct result of the actions of the rioters in the tunnel at that time, the mob penetrated deeper, pushing the police line back.

Eventually the police line held, and the mob was prevented from getting into the tunnels. But the Capitol’s defenders were perilously close to being overwhelmed that day.

The affidavit describes the scene as a siege that lasted for more than two hours during which rioters “pushed into The Tunnel and were repelled in a constant back-and-forth of heave-ho efforts by the rioters and resistance by the officers.”

It’s not clear where Liggett was when all this occurred, but the results of Thursday’s warranted search may provide answers.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Gunman Who Died Attacking FBI To Defend Trump Derided As 'Crisis Actor'

Ricky Shiffer was like a lot of MAGA “patriots,” often proclaiming his willingness to die for Donald Trump. Like seemingly all Trump fans, he was outraged that the FBI served a search warrant on the ex-president’s Florida estate, eager to declare “civil war” on “the Deep State.” Shiffer was such a True Believer that on Thursday, he tried to attack the FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, and ended up dying next to a cornfield a few miles away.

Shiffer believed he was dying a martyr to the cause. But his only reward was for the community of terminally online Trumpists with whom he spent his time to immediately denounce him as a “crisis actor” who had performed a “false flag” operation with the sole purpose of smearing MAGA people by association.

The 42-year-old from Columbus walked into the FBI’s security station outside its Cincinnati offices Thursday morning carrying a nail gun and an AR-15, and opened fire on the ballistic glass protecting agents inside with the nail gun, apparently out of the YouTube-fostered belief that such guns are capable of breaking bulletproof glass. After firing at the glass several times to no discernible effect other than setting off alarms that sent agents running in his direction, Shiffer fled the building and drove away in his car.

Shiffer was a prolific user of the Trump-sponsored social-media platform Truth Social. Somehow, in the brief time between when he attacked the FBI and when police caught up with him, he was able to file one last post, though it ended in an incomplete sentence as though he had been interrupted. It read:

Well, I thought I had a way through bulletproof glass, and I didn’t. If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I., and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops while

About 20 minutes after the attack, Ohio Highway Patrol officers found Shiffer parked in his Ford Crown Victoria at an Interstate 71 rest area. When they attempted to confront him, he fled down the freeway, police in pursuit. Police say he fired shots at them. He exited at state Route 73 and stopped shortly afterward near a cornfield. Shiffer emerged from the car with a gun and began firing at officers from behind his car. Police then engaged him in negotiations that went on for nearly two hours. When those talks broke down, police say they attempted to capture him using “less lethal” weapons, but when he fired on officers, they returned the gunfire, and he was shot and killed.

Shiffer was a true MAGA loyalist who had traveled to Washington on January 6, 2021, and participated in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The night before, he participated in a pro-Trump rally led by the Proud Boys at Washington’s Black Lives Matter Plaza that turned into a violent clash with police, previewing the next day’s historic events. He also turns up in a number of photographs and videos of the mob that attacked the Capitol.

On Twitter, he later urged readers to support the Proud Boys. “Save ammunition, get in touch with the Proud Boys, and learn how they did it in the Revolutionary War, because submitting to tyranny while lawfully protesting was never the American way,” Shiffer wrote.

He also complained to Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene on Twitter about the 2020 election. “Congresswoman Greene, they got away with fixing elections in plain sight,” Shiffer wrote. “It’s over. The next step is the one we used in 1775.”

In more recent weeks, his Truth Social posts had become even more militant. “This country has never had a worse enemy,” he posted on Aug 5. 1776 was for far less, even World War II was for less.”

“Save ammunition and be ready and willing to hit the road as soon as you hear it has started,” he wrote the same day in a post liked by 24 readers. “Someone who wanted to be a hero could not have lived in a better time period.”

When the FBI served its warrant on Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Monday, Shiffer went completely off the deep end, joining the deluge of MAGA fans who immediately declared the search a case of political persecution by the “Deep State,” and proclaimed their desire to wage “civil war” against Biden administration “tyranny.”

That day, Shiffer posted a declaration of sorts at Truth Social:

People, this is it. I hope a call to arms comes from someone better qualified, but if not, this is your call to arms from me. Leave work tomorrow as soon as the gun shop/Army-Navy store/pawn shop opens, get whatever you need to be ready for combat. We must not tolerate this one. They have been conditioning us to accept tyranny and think we can’t do anything for 2 years. This time we must respond with force. If you know of any protests or attacks, please post here.

An interlocutor asked him: “Are you proposing terrorism?” He answered:

Very important question.

No, I am proposing war. Be ready to kill the enemy, not mass shootings where leftists go, not lighting busses on fire with transexuals in them, not finding people with leftist signs in their yards and beating them up. Violence is not (all) terrorism. Kill the F.B.I. on sight, and be ready to take down other active enemies of the people and those who try to prevent you from doing it.

He also began reviewing his options for action and apparently considered heading to Florida in order to defend the ex-president from FBI perfidy:

I’m having trouble getting information, but Viva Frei said patriots are heading to Palm Beach (where Mar a Lago is). I recommend going, and being in Florida, I think the feds won’t break it up. If they do, kill them.

Another Truth Social user named Grizzly Mama was horrified: “Oh dear we can’t resort to that! Not now not here.”

Shiffer replied: “Why not?” He later expanded on the point: “It won’t matter if we don’t get violent. We see the courts are unfair and unconstitutional, all that is left is force.”

The attack was not a surprise to anyone who had monitored the kinds of extremist rhetoric that flooded social media after the FBI served its warrant, much of it from ostensibly mainstream Republican political figures and right-wing media such as Fox News. FBI Director Christopher Wray addressed the rhetoric in discussing the attack with reporters.

"There has been a lot of commentary about the FBI this week questioning our work and motives," Wray said. "Much of it is from critics and pundits on the outside who don't know what we know and don't see what we see. What I know—and what I see—is an organization made up of men and women who are committed to doing their jobs professionally and by the book every day; this week is no exception."

As Laura Clawson has already explored, Shiffer’s actions were almost inevitable after weeks of radicalization among right-wing leaders about federal law enforcement, especially related to investigations of Trump, topped by their immediate declarations that the Mar-a-Lago search was an illegitimate attack not just on Trump but on all Americans.

Naturally, very few of these unhinged “thought” leaders were willing to discuss the attack on the FBI afterward. One of the only right-wing figures to do so, Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA, naturally continued to blame the FBI, apparently for being attacked:

I am sure this will now be the main focus, even though we have said repeatedly to remain peaceful and stay focused on constructive things that we can do. They're now going to try to play the victim after they occupied Donald Trump's home, a military occupation.

A handful of his fellow MAGA enthusiasts later saluted Shiffer for his martyrdom. But at the forums such as 4chan and the Trumpist site The Donald where much of the same conspiracist fearmongering that fueled Shiffer were generated and amplified, the response was largely unanimous: It was all part of a fake Deep State psyop operation, using a “false flag” to smear Trump supporters.

As NBC reporter Ben Collins noted: “Every top post on TheDonald is claiming the Cincinnati FBI situation is a false flag. They constantly agitate for these kinds of attacks and never, ever take credit for them. It allows them a permanent victimhood.”

The conversations at The Donald varied little in their conspiracist self-assurance that they were able to pierce the media veil:

Only one, and he was apprehended eh?

How convenient. It's either a false flag, or one if the "boohoo- nobody's doing nothing" commenters from this website, playing right into their hands

False flag. To lock it down further. We all know Trump supporters don't do this. Wake up!

Its too bad that it wasn't actual real and just another false flag by these faggot feds. They want so bad for people to react but its not happening so they have to make up these fake false flags.

Fake. They staged an attack on themselves to play the victim. It won't work. No one feels bad for these faggots.

See how they always try to tie the two together? This is why why false flags occur, when they don't get the response they want from their commie raids, lets scape goat a "crazy White guy with a Rifle" for further narrative control. Typical bullshit.

One of The Donald commenters summed up the prevailing attitude—namely, that it no longer mattered whether the attack was real or not, because they all could see the “truth”:

Exactly, I don't give a shit anymore. They fired the first shot yesterday by attacking Trump. The line has been crossed, the game has begun. The tyrannical left is going to stop any nothing to put us into slavery so fuck it all.

The whole point of this rhetoric, as researcher Melissa Ryan told Insider, is to sow as much confusion and misunderstanding about the activities of the multitudes of far-right extremists who operate within Trumpworld. That’s especially the case when the inspiration for right-wing violence like Shiffer’s comes from so many of the same sources now dismissing his actions as a “false flag.”

“These folks have been calling for civil war, violent terrorism, harassment of the judge who issued the warrant, doxxing FBI agents,” Ryan said. “And then the minute violence against the FBI happens, they're like, 'Oh, not it, obviously it was a false flag, they're trying to make us look bad.'"

As Columbus resident @almostdomi observed on Twitter: “Imagine literally dying for Trump, but then the entire MAGA movement just calls it a false flag.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Trump Supporters Threatening 'Civil War' Over Mar-a-Lago Raid

America’s right-wing extremists have been hankering for a civil war for a long time now, and in particular have been eager to start using their guns in defense of Donald Trump ever since he came onto the political scene. They tried to start a civil war on Trump’s behalf after he lost on January 6, 2021.

So to no one’s great surprise, they’re currently flooding social media and right-wing media bandwidth with vows to begin a civil war on Trump’s behalf after the FBI executed a search warrant at the ex-president’s Florida waterfront estate, Mar-a-Lago, and seized evidence in a yet-unspecified investigation. The rhetoric is mostly a mixture of over-the-top hysteria and dark threats, and it’s being wielded by everyone from congressional Republicans to anonymous militiamen.

Back when Trump was facing his first impeachment, he tweeted out a hint that the proceedings might unleash a civil war—which did unleash a deluge of militiamen and Trump supporters vowing to do exactly that. The sentiments they voiced then were remarkably similar to the threats of violence directly preceding the January 6 insurrection.

Right after news of the Mar-a-Lago search broke, mentions of “civil war” on Twitter suddenly spiked, as Donie O’Sullivan reported.

The most prominent elected Republican to weigh in on the matter was Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose tweets became increasingly militant as the day progressed. They started out in typically unhinged fashion:

The FBI is raiding President Trump’s home in Maralago!

This is the rogue behavior of communist countries, NOT the United States of America!!!

These are the type of things that happen in countries during civil war.

The political persecution MUST STOP!!!

Later in the day, Greene’s tone became threatening: “What is happening will NOT be tolerated!!!” she wrote. “We are coming.”

A Florida Republican legislator running for Congress, Anthony Sabatini, wants the Florida state government to get involved and protect Trump from the evil federal government:

It’s time for us in the Florida Legislature to call an emergency legislative session & amend our laws regarding federal agencies

Sever all ties with DOJ immediately

Any FBI agent conducting law enforcement functions outside the purview of our State should be arrested upon sight.

Right-wing activist Laura Loomer, who is also running for Congress in Florida, was even more incendiary:

Time to take the gloves off. It’s been time. If you’re a freedom loving American, you must remove the words decorum and civility from your vocabulary. This is a WAR!

And it’s time to obliterate these communists. Tonight they attacked President Trump. If you sit on the sidelines and refuse to act, they will attack you and your family next.

What will you choose? Will you be a fighter? Or will you be a victim of the Deep State?

Arizona’s far-right Republican nominee for the governor’s seat, Kari Lake, posted a statement warning of the nation’s imminent demise:

This is one of the darkest days in American history: the day our Government, originally created by the people, turned against us. This illegitimate, corrupt Regime hates America and has weaponized the entirety of the Federal Government to take down President Donald Trump.

Our Government is rotten to the core. These Tyrants will stop at nothing to silence the Patriots who are working hard to save America. This is an incredibly horrendous abuse of power. If we accept it, America is dead.

We will not accept it. The 10th Amendment can and will save our Republic and the road to stripping the Feds of power travels right through Arizona.

We must fire the Federal Government. As Governor, I will fight these Tyrants with every fiber of my being. America—dark days lie ahead for us. May God protect us and save our Country.

Trump-loving right-wing pundits were similarly running around with their hair on fire, urging their audiences to prepare for war—and not just the metaphorical kind.

Jesse Kelly—the right-wing radio talk-show host who believes fascism is an inevitability for the American right, and is good with that—gave a shout-out to the so-called “constitutional sheriffs” who have threatened to get involved in the nation’s election apparatus in defense of Trump. “Do you have a county sheriff who will stand between you and a federal agent trying to violate your rights? If you don’t, you better get one. Or better yet, BECOME one,” Kelly tweeted.

He later tweeted out a quote with threatening implications: “Do not quote laws to men with swords.’ -Pompey Magnus,” Kelly tweeted.

Far-right pundit Candace Owens had a regular meltdown on Twitter:

The FBI must be legally and formally dissolved.

What happened to President Trump is positively stunning and a mark of unchecked government power.

I no longer recognize the country I live in. Left or right, we must all come together to fight this evil.

Meanwhile, longtime Fox News host Monica Crowley decided it was time to throw down the gauntlet: “This is it,” she tweeted. “This is the hill to die on.”

White nationalist pundit Jack Posobiec, who now hosts a daily show for the right-wing campus organization Turning Point USA, posted a series of tweets that essentially urged his audience to gird their loins for a real shooting war:

Are you ready.

The federal security state has declared war on Donald J Trump and his supporters.

The country you grew up in no longer exists.

We are living through the times our forefathers warned of.

Preemptive coup.

Welcome to the end game.

Longtime conspiracy theorist Steven Crowder’s unhinged tweet was shorter and more succinct: “Tomorrow is war,” he wrote. “Sleep well.”

The ominous suggestions that the base become engaged in violence could be heard on Fox News as well thanks to host Jesse Waters, who told his guest, Dan Bongino:

I think there is going to be some more action you are going to see out on the streets from the base after they see this break tonight... They've had it with what this corrupt government and what the FBI has done.

Another Fox News host, Mark Levin, claimed that investigating Trump was an attack on the nation itself:

This is the worst attack on this republic in modern history. Period. And it’s not just an attack on Donald Trump. It’s an attack on everybody who supports him. It’s an attack on anybody who dares to raise serious questions about Washington, D.C., and the establishment in both parties. I haven’t heard a damn thing from the Republican leadership in the Senate! Have you? Not one of those guys has put out a statement. Because they’re weak. That’s why.

Onetime Trump aide Sebastian Gorka tweeted: “This is the real insurrection.”

On Trump’s social media site Truth Social, radio host Wayne Root, Trump’s longtime fan and supporter, wrote: “This is now officially Nazi Germany Gestapo meets Soviet Union KGB.”

Trumpist pundit Carmine Sabia also penned a series of increasingly unhinged tweets to his 80,000-plus followers:

It is time for a #NationalDivorce before there is a Civil War. We cannot be a part of the same nation anymore.

And if I haven’t been direct enough let me say it again. If you are not for Donald Trump you are my enemy. I did not believe that four hours ago. But I believe it now. This was a gigantic fucking mistake Democrats.

This is war. Pick a side. There is no gray area.

The America that you knew and loved as a kid is gone. It’s gone and it’s never coming back.

These same sentiments could be found throughout right-wing social media, being voiced by ordinary randos and trolls at large and often at high volume.

  • “The Dems are starting a civil war.”
  • “Is this the first shot of a civil war? Is this the tyranny mentioned in the 2nd Amendment? The Founding Fathers would have started shooting a long time ago!”
  • “It’s time for a civil war. The deep state has proven they are real, they are corrupt, they are dictators.”
  • “Civil war! Pick up arms people!”
  • “The fbi just declared war on the republic. Treat them accordingly.”
  • “A civil war is coming after what the DOJ did today.”
  • “August 8, 2022 will be remembered forever. The start of Civil War II.”
  • “Our government is pushing for a civil war. Americans are only going to take so much.”
  • “I already bought my ammo”
  • “Civil War 2.0 just kicked off.”
  • “Let’s do the war.”
  • “One step closer to a kinetic civil war.”
  • “Lock and load”
  • “Let history show that Biden and his DOJ drew first blood with this raid on Mar-a-Lago.”
  • “FBI is headed by Jews. I warned you about these demons.”
  • “We’re at war.”
  • “It’s going to be wonderful to see FBI agents get killed in the future!”

“Prior to the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, we saw unprecedented plans online to conduct real-world violence,” observed Advance Democracy president Daniel J. Jones, a former Senate Intelligence Committee staff member, in a statement to NBC News. "The online outrage was based on false allegations of voter fraud and bizarre theories of coordinated government corruption. The raid by the FBI has provoked similar violent rhetoric online—including from at least one individual charged in relation to the insurrection on January 6th.”

Jones added: “The promotion of broad government conspiracy theories by political leaders, elected officials, and political entertainers continues to undermine our democracy—and will likely lead to additional political violence.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Far-Right Agitator Busted In Arizona After Bear Spray Incident

The extremist ”Patriot” movement is nothing if not adaptable: As a kind of pan-far-right insurgency, it has a history of attacking democracy on a broad range of fronts, from immigration to civil rights to abortion rights. That’s why you can find deranged activists like Jennifer Harrison of AZ Patriots, who made her bones harassing Latino immigrants and Muslims, showing up to a protest over the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade to do a drive-by pepper spray of participants.

Unsurprisingly, when police arrested her, Harrison claimed it was all in self-defense—a claim belied by video of the incident. Just as predictably, as David Gilbert at VICE reports, police in Tempe, Arizona, also arrested one of Harrison’s victims based on Harrison’s claims that she had been assaulted.

The incident occurred on Sunday night in Tempe, when Harrison and her frequent partner in her far-right escapades, Michael Pavlock, cruised slowly past a cluster of abortion rights protesters waiting to cross the street on the corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive with Harrison in the passenger seat.

Videos and photos show that she rolled down her window with a can of bear spray in her hand and directed it twice at the protesters. After the first blast, while the victims were crying for water, they continued to roll slowly past the crowd; a woman standing with them, later identified as activist Vivika Lofton, reached toward the bear spray with a flag in her hand as if to deflect it. Harrison can then be seen unleashing a second blast in her direction.

Harrison later claimed in a press release (subsequently deleted) that Lofton had “aggressively rushed toward the vehicle, hands raised and flying around as she entered the street and reached her hand into the open window of the vehicle.” Video indicates that this description is at best a gross exaggeration, and that Lofton had not reached inside the car at any moment.

Lofton, who was briefly hospitalized, was charged with disorderly conduct. She adamantly denies Harrison’s claims. “I’m being charged with the same charges as [Harrison], which isn’t right, because I was the one that was injured and went to the hospital,” Lofton told Gilbert.

Victims of the mace attack were treated by emergency services at the scene. Some were transported for further treatment at a local fire station, including a 9-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. The mother of the two children set up a GoFundMe page in which she described their agony.

The pain of being maced is intense and burning, an incredibly strong stinging sensation that does not go away quickly. Additionally, mace reactivates every time it gets wet. This means that every time my children started to cry in reaction to the pain they were feeling, it only made the burning worse. Seeing my children in wailing in pain and unable to do anything about it was the most excruciating thing I've ever gone through.

Everything happened so fast and there was no time to prepare or run away for safety. We were taken away by ambulance to a near by firestation where I had to flush the mace from my children's face in a decontamination shower.

On social media, Harrison said she “didn’t expect kids” among the anti-abortion protesters Sunday night. However, as Gilbert notes, she had berated the same group of protesters on Saturday night, acknowledging in her Facebook livestream that a child was there.

Harrison has a long history of notoriously ugly far-right activism. AZ Patriots (also known as the Patriot Movement of Arizona) won notoriety in 2018 for a Facebook video posted by a leading member of the group showing her entering a Muslim mosque and removing articles, leading eventually to a felony conviction for the woman. Harrison, who was sued by several churches for harassing immigrant children by posting videos of them arriving by bus, also faced a felony identity theft charge in Maricopa County that was later dismissed when she agreed to enter a federal diversion program.

In the wake of the November 2020 presidential election—which Democrat Joe Biden surprisingly won in Arizona—Harrison was one of the leading figures protesting outside election-counting centers. Harrison also led a small delegation inside the building in the early moments of one protest, where video showed her demanding to be permitted to observe the count and being denied.

Harrison also has a history of using bear spray to attack her political opponents. In June 2020, she made a video of herself and Pavlock at a Black Lives Matter protest march through downtown Phoenix. In the video, the pair were stopped by traffic police at an intersection to allow protesters to march past.

She could be seen using her megaphone to shout, “Black rifles matter,” and “Trump 2020,” which drew about six protesters who walked toward their car. Harrison yelled, “You’re going to get sprayed,” while Pavlock chimed in: “You’re going to get shot.”

Harrison could then be seen bear-spraying a girl, after which a Phoenix police officer told the pair to leave the area.

Harrison devoted much of her energy in 2021 to harassing border crossers as they entered Arizona, but more recently has turned her focus to counterprotesting at liberal events.

"I have one comment: This was self-defense. I have an attorney, and we are confident that we'll see this through," Harrison told the Arizona Republic.

Harrison is not the first right-wing extremist to harass Arizona abortion-rights protesters. In early May, a group of white nationalists showed up to try to commit violence at a Phoenix protest.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

‘Sovereign Citizen’ Scammers Add QAnon's Fascist Ideology To Their Grift

The “sovereign citizen” movement—comprising scam artists and their gullible followers who claim that, by filling reams of documents full of pseudo-legal babble, ordinary citizens can declare themselves free of government rule at any level, thus becoming the law unto themselves—seems to have figured out how, after a couple of decades of mostly lurking on the fringes of the extreme right, to expand its reach and revive (if not entirely rebrand) itself: Go full QAnon.

Last weekend, onetime Pennsylvania Republican candidate Bobby Lawrence boasted that he and his “American State Nationals” operation filled a room in Keene, Texas, with 650 people who paid $120 each to take their special “training”—which teaches that birth certificates are satanic documents that enslave people by subsuming them under a corporation, but they can free themselves by filing their prescribed “redemption” documents. They also ardently promote Qanon conspiracy theories, including the claim that John F. Kennedy Jr. was secretly Trump’s real vice president.

The Anti-Defamation League has been warning about this coalescence since January, with Lawrence and his cohort David Straight, who have been holding these seminars around the country and, thanks to the fresh appeal of absorbing QAnon beliefs into the similarly conspiracy-fueled worldview of sovereign citizens, have increasingly been packing them in.

As their backgrounder explained:

Lawrence teaches sovereignty with a QAnon bent, urging his followers to become “American State Nationals” before Trump is reinstated as president. “American State National” is one of many terms that sovereign citizens use to distinguish themselves from citizens under the jurisdiction of the illegitimate, de facto government. “Trump is working on the ‘Fall of the Cabal’ which will allow our Constitutional Republic to Rise again, however the newly partially restored Constitutional Republic will need We The People of restored status via ‘The Great Awakening’ to fill and function in the newly partially restored Constitutional Republic,” Lawrence posted to Telegram in October 2021. “This will only be accomplished via We The People reclaiming our Birthright by becoming American State Nationals... As the number of American State Nationals and one of the People increases, so will the Function of the [sic] our Constitutional Republic. It will start at the absolute local level (you and your neighbors) and then grow and grow and grow.”

Sovereign-citizen and QAnon beliefs meld together almost seamlessly, as the ADL explains, because their fundamental worldviews involving a massive global cabal nefariously conspiring to enslave mankind are so similar. The sovereign movement’s belief that the current U.S. government is illegitimate serves to support their view of the Biden presidency as fraudulent, as well as the means for “freeing” themselves from such “tyranny.”

Lawrence primarily promotes a version of sovereign-citizen beliefs called “Redemption Theory,” which deals with the core concept that everyone who is an American citizen is designated a “strawman” corporate entity at birth, making them subsidiary properties of America Inc. “Redemption” is the process by which they split the strawman from the flesh-and-blood human, and its purpose is two-fold. As the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) explains:

Once separated from the corporate shell, the newly freed man is now outside of the jurisdiction of all admiralty laws. More importantly, by filing a series of complex, legal-sounding documents, the sovereign can tap into that secret Treasury account for his own purposes. Over the last 30 years, there have been hundreds of sovereign promoters packaging different combinations of forms and paperwork, attempting to perfect the process. While no one has ever succeeded, of course, they know with the religious certainty of a true cult believer that they’re close. All it will take is the right combination of words, say the promoters of the redemption scam.

Lawrence regularly regales his audiences with his version of the “redemption” scam, but with a powerful QAnon flavor. At an April 21 “Patriots Arise” event in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—where he shared the stage with Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano—Lawrence launched to into a rant that manifested that commingling two conspiracist universes produces twice the crackpottery.

He explained how modern births and the birth-certificate process are actually satanic rituals:

Fred read a quote from [Woodrow Wilson adviser] Edward Mandell House where they talk about this construct, where they’re gonna make slaves of us all, through a system of pledging, where we pledge our children as surety through something called a birth certificate, and a satanic ritual that takes place. …

So I’m gonna walk you through a satanic ritual that takes place, and it started with the birth certificate, which was actually chartered under the Department of Transportation. And everything is Admiralty. We all live under the water, and what is law, and where does law come from? Where does the word “law” come from? Land, air, and water. And where the founders of this nation thought about what law was, was the Bible, the Geneva Bible, the King James Version 1611 edition, where we got the word law from. And land, air, and water was in Genesis Chapter 1, verse 24 through 28, “and God created the heaven and the earth.” And God giveth man dominion over the earth, and God giveth man dominion over the land, and all the creatures that walk and creepeth. And God giveth man dominion over the air, and all the birds that fly, and God giveth man dominion over the water, and all the fish that swimmeth. And this is law.

Lawrence then repeated stock sovereign-citizen beliefs (all every bit as risibly false as his etymology for the word “law”) that there are three tiers of law: Canon law, common law, and Admiralty law, each reflecting rule over air, land, and water respectively. Then he went on:

So how do they get you to pledge your child, and how did our parents and our grandparents pledge us as property, as surety, in our personification, all capital names? It was through an evil, satanic ritual called the birth of a child.

You see, a mother goes into a foundling center, and she goes to see the doc—tor; a tor is a bill of lading when a ship arrives at the dock—and the mother puts her feet up on the stirrups and the mother’s water breaks, and the child comes out of the water through the birth canal, like you berth a ship, into the air, into the hands of the dock—tor. And then, historically speaking, a satanic ritual would take place—a child was smacked on the butt, turned upside down, cried out in fear and pain. And then before the child could put their feet on the land and take the breath of God as a free creation of God, a legal bond document came out. It’s on bond paper because it’s a banking instrument, it’s a surety bond.

And the child’s soul was taken on the back of that document. It was called the soul print. And then the umbilical cord and the afterbirth was thereby dead and abandoned by the mother, because that was part of your birth, part of your being born. The construct, the evil says that now that is dead, a part of you died and now you are a dead vessel, you are an all-capital legal fiction. They called you a person. If you look at your driver’s license, if you look at every document that government or any business sends you, it’s in your all-capital name. Your personification. Now the Bible tells us not to take on the persona, not to take on the person.

Lawrence also harkened to the stock radicalization belief in “red-pilling”: “We are living in Babylon right now,” he said. “It’s a corporate construct. It’s a Matrix. Keanu Reeves has said publicly that The Matrix is a documentary of how we are living our lives. Your money’s not real, you don’t own anything.”

And near the end, he wrapped it all up with a classic QAnon-style claim that Donald Trump is secretly One Of Them:

Yes, President Trump has done many things for us. And I won’t go into a lot of them, because quite frankly a lot of folks aren’t ready for it. And it’s hard to verify. But Donald Trump has told you all, if you go back to his speeches, he’s told you that when he comes back, he’s gonna be little letters, lower case. Look to his speech in 2021 at CPAC in Texas. He said when we go back to the White House this time it’s going to be in little letters. He told you at another rally that people are sovereign. He told you at another rally that you’re all millionaires. He told you in another rally that you’re the elite. And they’re the scoundrels. He told you at another rally that the Bar Association is corrupt. He tells you on and on—he might talk for two hours, but only four sentences are for those who are awake. And there’s a huge difference between being woke and awake, is it not?

Lawrence has formed close associations with leading QAnon influencers such as Ann Vandersteel, Allen and Francine Fosdick, the Pennsylvania-based hosts of the QAnon show Up Front in the Prophetic, and David Straight.

Vandersteel posted proudly on Gab that she was “officially an American State National,” meaning she no longer was beholden to the U.S. government. She touted the supposed benefits of becoming an “American state national,” such as freedom from paying federal taxes to getting to “vote as a delegate, which has the power of four votes,” in an appearance on The Conservative Daily Podcast, hosted by Joe Oltmann and Max McGuire.

She said she had been introduced to these ideas by Lawrence, who ran for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania in 2018. Vandersteel indicated that Lawrence was radicalized afterward through his contacts with David Straight, a sovereign citizen activist who also promoted QAnon theories. Vandersteel claimed that Straight was a “commissioner on President Trump’s child sex-trafficking commission.”

ADL analyst Mark Pitcavage explained Lawrence’s rant on Twitter, noting that “redemption theory” originated with a sovereign-citizen guru named Roger Elvick back in 1999, and it became widespread within the movement.

“Basic redemption theory is something like this: In 1933, the US went off the gold standard and could therefore no longer pay its debts to the international bankers. To get around this, the government turned humans into collateral by converting birth certificates into stock,” he wrote. “They did this in part by creating fictional duplicates of every person (dubbed ‘strawmen’). You can tell when a document refers to the straw man instead of the flesh and blood person because the name will be in all caps, not upper and lower case.”

He also noted that much of the talk is devoted to explaining the sovereign-citizen belief that the conspiracy which infiltrated and subverted and replaced the original, legitimate government with a de facto tyrannical government had done so by replacing constitutional law with inferior “maritime” or “admiralty” law.

“Finally,” he noted, “the Satanic references thrown in there are derived from QAnon and presumably designed to make these theories more palatable to QAnoners.”

With the size of Lawrence’s audiences now, and the regularity and breadth of “American State Nationalist” training sessions, the ADL issued January warning: “Given the flexibility of the sovereign citizen movement and its pseudo-legal tactics, it is quite possible that increasing numbers of QAnon adherents will find sovereign citizen ideas attractive in the future.” That seems more than prescient. It may, in fact, prove to be understated.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Far-Right Sheriffs Aim To Seize Dominion Voting Machines For 'Investigation'

The spread of the “constitutional sheriffs” movement—which claims that local county sheriffs are the supreme law of the land, capable of overruling federal and state laws, as well as prohibiting federal and state agencies from enforcing them—throughout rural American sheriff’s offices has often seemed like a quaint but localized problem: Sure, having set themselves up as laws unto themselves, they seem to always run their jurisdictions like private fiefdoms, but it doesn’t affect people outside those counties.

But we have in fact seen—notably in the case of Klickitat County, Washington’s “constitutional” sheriff, who undermined the entire state’s ability to regulate the hunting of endangered mountain lions—that in fact their actions can have broad consequences. That’s especially the case with Michigan “constitutional sheriff” Dar Leaf, who was exposed recently spearheading a broader effort to enlist other sheriffs in seizing voting machines from local election officials to ostensibly prove Donald Trump’s Big Lie about fraud in the 2020 vote.

The report from Matt Shuham at Talking Points Memo [paywalled] details how Leaf, the chief lawman in Barry County and one of the more prominent “constitutional sheriffs” in Michigan, seized at least one ballot tabulator in 2021. According to the county clerk, the machine was then disassembled in Detroit and then reassembled with its seal broken.

Leaf has not only vowed to continue “investigating” voting practices in Barry County. After he filed a lawsuit in December 2020 demanding the county’s voting machines be impounded, which was swiftly laughed out of court, Shuham reports that Leaf embarked on an “investigation” of the machines by sending a deputy and a private investigator to grill township officials about their intricacies.

It was during one of these interrogations that the Irving Township clerk surrendered one of the town’s Dominion machines to Leaf’s team. “I’ve been told they took it [to the Detroit area] and tore it apart,” she told a local TV station, noting that when the machine was returned, its security seal had been broken.

Dominion’s machines were the focus of a conspiracy theory popular after the election among the Trumpist right claiming that vote totals had been secretly manipulated to hand the presidency to Joe Biden. The theory was widely circulated on right-wing media such as Fox News, OAN, and Newsmax, all of whom now face multi-billion-dollar defamation lawsuits from the company.

Sheriff Leaf was connected through his attorney, Carson Tucker, to a number of the leading Trump-loving conspiracists the former president employed, including ex-Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood. “My client Barry County Sheriff and several other county sheriffs in Michigan would like to consider issuing probable cause warrants to sequester Dominion voting machines if there is evidence of criminal manipulation,” Tucker wrote to them in one email.

Leaf’s extremism was well established well before the 2020 election. He had appeared onstage at an anti-masking rally bashing Governor Gretchen Whitmer with three of the “Patriots” who were later charged with plotting to kidnap and execute her. He first suggested to reporters that perhaps the plotters were only trying to make a “citizens arrest.” Leaf and other Michigan “constitutional sheriffs” also later refused to enforce a statewide ban on guns in Michigan polling places.

When Leaf’s actions with the Dominion tabulator from Irvin Township sparked a state investigation, the sheriff filed another lawsuit objecting to the probe. Shuham reports that Leaf’s lawsuit says that the state had both subpoenaed the deputy he had deployed and confiscated documents and voting machines he claimed “were a part of and subject to the ongoing investigation.” He also described the state police as “an unelected and unaccountable strong arm of the state, a partisan and politically controlled, run and operated ‘state police’ force in every sense of the term.”

More worryingly, the organization behind the far-right law-enforcement movement, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), wants to encourage other sheriffs around the country to do likewise.

CSPOA last month called on sheriffs and police around the U.S. “to come together in pursuit of the truth regarding the 2020 election.” Its press release read:

Considering the persistent allegations of election fraud since even before the 2020 elections began, and as a response to the perpetual polarizing effect this has had on the American people, the CSPOA would like to put this issue to rest. Our constitutional republic and peaceful future as a free people absolutely depend on it.
In the opinion of the CSPOA, there is very compelling physical evidence presented by in the movie “2000 Mules” produced by Dinesh D'Souza. “Law Enforcement has to step in at this point,” asserts D'Souza, and we absolutely agree with him. Therefore, we are asking for all local law enforcement agencies to work together to pursue investigations to determine the veracity of the “2000 Mules” information.

The press release lists five other “constitutional sheriffs” who are joining in the “investigation”: Bob Songer, the Klickitat sheriff; Leon Wilmot of Yuma County, Arizona; Calvin Hayden of Johnson County, Kansas; Chris Schmalling of Racine County, Wisconsin; and Cutter Clinton of Panola County, Texas.

The organizer’s founder and chief overseer, ex-sheriff Richard Mack, told Shuham that he intended not only to back Leaf, but to spread the word among the 300 sheriffs—nearly all of them from rural counties—he claims are enrolled in the CSPOA.

“He would be within his rights to arrest them for interference and obstruction of justice,” he said of Leaf’s standoff with the state police.
Mack also expressed enthusiasm for one of the most aggressive plans presented by Trump’s allies after the last presidential election, seizing voting machines — a gambit Leaf had apparently attempted in Michigan.
“Absolutely, yeah they should,” Mack said. “Get them forensically tested and see if there was cheating. Of course!”
Wouldn’t law enforcement seizing voting machines around the country be alarming for a lot of people? Wouldn’t it look like some kind of coup?
“Why, because we’re trying to find the truth?” Mack shot back.
“If people think a legitimate investigation is a coup,” he added later, “then something’s wrong with their brain waves.”

The CSPOA’s slow but constant spread among law-enforcement officials—particularly its groundless insistence that the U.S. Constitution somehow confers supreme legal powers on county-level law enforcement, a claim that originated with the extremist Posse Comitatus movement—has long raised serious concerns about the spread of extremism within the ranks of police, an issue that has become intense in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Yet, as the Washington Post reported last year, the CSPOA’s breadth and depth has expanded in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, when a number of “constitutional sheriffs” announced their unwillingness to enforce public health measures such as masking or vaccine mandates.

“The pandemic was a boon to right-wing extremists,” Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told the Post. “Many sheriffs got on that bandwagon as well. In 2020, that was a very successful year for Richard Mack.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Michigan Judge’s Assassin Was Far-Right Trumpist, But Not Militia Member

When a retired Wisconsin judge was murdered in his home in the town of New Lisbon last Friday by a Trump supporter who shot himself but survived, police found a “hit list” on his person indicating he intended to target a number of prominent politicians. A Milwaukee radio station, WTMJ, reported that “sources close to the investigation” had identified the killer as a member of a militia group.

These reports set off a wave of concerns that the killing heralded a wave of militia-organized assassinations looming on the national landscape. Many of those concerns now appear somewhat overblown: The killer appears to have primarily targeted the judge because the latter sentenced him to six years in prison in 2005, and he doesn’t appear to have been active in any militia groups or even advocated for them.

However, the more we learn about 56-year-old Douglas K. Uhde, the clearer it becomes that his act was both personal retribution and deeply political—and emblematic of a more general and widespread threat of radicalized anti-government extremism.

The retired judge, 68-year-old John Roemer, was at his home when Uhde arrived, gun in hand, on Friday morning. Roemer’s son was asleep in a second bedroom when he saw Uhde through a window approach the house with his gun, though Uhde didn’t see him; the son then climbed out the window and ran to a neighbor’s house, where he called a 911 dispatcher.

When police arrived and were at the door, they spoke with Uhde while he was still inside and tried to negotiate with him. After Uhde fell silent, they rushed inside and found him in the basement with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, but still alive; they summoned medical help, and he was transported to a local hospital, where he remains in custody.

There was no reason to summon help for Judge Roemer, who police found in the kitchen, shot in the head. He had been zip tied to a dining-room chair.

As Uhde was being transported to the hospital, police went through his clothing and found a political “hit list,” whose full contents have not been disclosed. Among the people on it, according to police sources, were Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Roemer was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2010 and 2016. He retired in 2017.

Evers angrily denounced Roemer’s killing. “I mean, the idea that, as I said before, a judge from a rural county is targeted and murdered, it’s just abhorrent to our judiciary and to leadership in our state and our county,” he said. “It’s a horrible situation. I grieve for him. I grieve for his family. And God, we can do better than this in Wisconsin."

Whitmer, as it happens, had already been targeted by a Michigan militia group that plotted to kidnap and execute her—although a jury acquitted two of the men accused in the plot. Combined with the report that Uhde was connected to militias, the judge’s murder raised immediate concerns of a broader, perhaps organized, plan by the extremist right to assassinate public officials.

“In a country as divided and angry as the United States is today, it’s surprising that more assassinations haven’t occurred,” wrote David Graham in The Atlantic. “Perhaps this one is a sign of what’s to come.”

A number of details have subsequently emerged that tend to ameliorate these concerns. Notably, it turned out that Roemer, a longtime Juneau County Circuit Court jurist, had sentenced Uhde to six years in prison in 2005 as the culmination of a complicated series of appeals involving Uhde’s long criminal record, which included armed burglary with a dangerous weapon, possessing a short-barreled shotgun, and carrying a concealed weapon. Uhde later escaped custody briefly and was charged with felony escape, and then was charged with eluding an officer in a vehicle in 2007.

Moreover, journalists who spoke with Uhde’s friends and neighbors uniformly reported that, while Uhde was a flaming antigovernment extremist, none of them were aware of any connection to a militia group. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that most people acquainted with Uhde said he “bristled at any kind of authority” and was “antigovernment,” but none knew of any militia associations.

Likewise, Heavy interviewed a man at Uhde’s last listed address who said he knew him well. Asked about Uhde’s relation to militias, the man answered that Uhde “knew how to hunt, fish, make a fire,” but he never saw him do anything “really militia-related.”

“He’s a Trump supporter. He was an obvious Republican,” the man said.

Heavy also surveyed Uhde’s social-media output and similarly found that, while he regularly posted far-right memes and directed violent rhetoric at Democratic politicians, he never promoted militias or “Patriot” movement ideology, or indicated any kind of affiliation with such ideologies. He did sometimes dabble in Patriot conspiracism, including posts about “FEMA camps” and looming martial law.

There was no shortage of extremism. “Make America great again, duct tape this lying b****’s mouth shut,” read a meme Uhde that shared in October 2016 showing Hillary Clinton with her mouth duct-taped.

He also promoted Trumpist “Stop the Steal” lies, including those with antisemitic undertones. “We the People demand George Soros to remove his voting machines from all states!” read one of the memes he posted. Others expressed fears about gun confiscation. In another Facebook post, Uhde urged people to vote for Trump because he is not controlled by government. “Trump is my president,” read another meme.

So while it is unlikely that Roemer’s assassination heralds a wave of organized militia-based killings—a very specific but narrow kind of threat—it is certainly reflective of a threat that arises from a much broader bandwidth of right-wing extremism: The likelihood that antigovernment conspiracism can and will unleash unpredictable violence at nearly anyone in public service, and the public as well.

We already have seen the power of Trumpism to compel its adherents into acts of violence. This is not a phenomenon that has receded since his presidency, but indeed seems to be intensifying.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Republican Candidates Are Advertising On White Nationalist Platform Gab

As if the radicalization of the Republican Party weren’t already clearly enough established, a number of GOP candidates—notably, ex-football star Herschel Walker, the nominee in the race against incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat—have begun advertising on the white-nationalist-friendly platform Gab.

The list also includes some less surprising names, such as Republicans’ go-to white nationalist in the House, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and the QAnon-loving keynote speaker for the white-nationalist “America First” conference earlier this year, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

As Alex Kaplan reports at Media Matters, Gab last August introduced a new feature enabling people to advertise on the site. Founder Andrew Torba called it “a huge step forward for our vision of a parallel economy” comprising clients who have been removed from other platforms for terms-of-use violations.

Walker has been among the more prolific advertisers. One ad, saying “we need your support today,” depicts Warnock as “celebrity funded” and “celebrity approved,” while another shows a lineup of liberal celebrities who have donated to Warnock’s campaign and asking, “Georgia Values? Or Hollywood Values?,” adding: “I need your help to WIN.”

Other “Team Walker” ads on Gab claim “the race is in a dead heat,” claim that “the Liberal Media is out to get me,” and “the road to defeating the Biden Agenda runs right through Georgia.”

As The Informant’s Nick Martin notes, it’s not clear whether Walker himself has an account at Gab. One unverified page with 7,000 followers uses his name and photo, but it has only posted there once—three days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, when its owner wrote: "Hey everyone. Coming on over to Gab after the sad news about Parler."

Among the other Republican candidates advertising on Gab has been Jerrod Sussler of Washington state’s 4th Congressional District, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Republican Congressman Dan Newhouse, who was targeted for primary defeat by Donald Trump after he voted for Trump’s impeachment in January 2021.

Gosar, who also delivered a taped speech at the white-nationalist America First convention in February, asked “every America First Patriot” to chip in to defend his reelection bid. He has previously praised Gab as comprising “people who respect real diversity, diversity of opinion, thoughts, and views.”

Greene’s ads on Gab have featured her aiming a .50-caliber sniper rifle (“Enter to win MTG’s gun!”) and posing with former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka with an “Impeach Biden” sign. “Joe Biden must be impeached,” the text reads. “Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year. NOW … before it is too late!”

Gab established itself in 2016 as a friendly environment for right-wing extremists. “When a group of people are being systematically dehumanized and labeled as the alphabet soup of phobias,” Torba wrote, “they will look for a place that will allow them to speak freely without censorship and devoid of Social Justice bullying.”

The reality is that the site has been a free-for-all of bigotry, conspiracism, and violent rhetoric. Posts with headlines like “Satanic PizzaGate Is Going Viral Worldwide (Elites Are Terrified)” are standard fare. Antisemitism flourishes in the comments, where a mere downvote can get users accused of being a “#Jew.”

Pittsburgh mass shooter Robert Bowers was a regular Gab user, and posted his final threat (“Screw your optics. I’m going in”) to the site before embarking on his 2018 rampage inside a synagogue that left 11 people dead. Gab was largely deplatformed in the aftermath of that incident, but eventually found a hosting service with the Northwest-based Epik, which also hosts Alex Jones’ Infowars operation.

Torba’s own anti-Semitism is well established. Speaking at the February America First gathering, he told the audience he “rebukes the Synagogue of Satan.” He also called for “a parallel Christian society,” because “we are fed up with the Judeo-Bolshevik one.”

When criticized, Torba responded: “Sadly many Christians today are so afraid of being called a silly meaningless name by the world (bigot, antisemite, homophobe) that they refuse to even remotely share or discuss the Gospel in their daily lives, let alone live it,” adding: “You reveal your anti-Christian hatred when you refer to Biblical Truth as ‘antisemitism.’”

After its post-Pittsburgh downturn, Gab has worked to reestablish itself among far-right activists; in 2019, it was able to return to financial stability thanks to an online crowdfunding strategy. After the Jan. 6 insurrection—particularly the demise of Parler, which had become an effective competitor for the same audience—it once again became a popular place for extremists to gather and share their violent seditionist worldviews.

Media Matters noted that Gab also introduced targeted advertising recently. That means that there may be other Republican candidates buying ads on the platform whose activity is not immediately visible.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

In Swedish Farmhouse, A Neo-Nazi Weapons Stockpile -- And Plan To Attack Schools

When Swedish police arrested a 25-year-old man at a farmhouse outside of Gothenburg last November, the only official explanation was that he was arrested for “gross preparation for general destruction.” Now the details of what they found inside the house have been released, and it’s chilling: the man, who was active in the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM), had stockpiled homemade bombs, semi-automatic weapons and parts manufactured with a 3D printer, as well as a huge cache of ammunition—all while engaging in online discussions about how to target schools for mass shootings.

The farmhouse arsenal was powerfully reminiscent of the case of Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who made similar preparations at a rural property over several years prior to his lethal terrorist attack in July 2011 that killed 69 young people at a summer camp and eight people in downtown Oslo when he detonated a truck bomb. Terrorism experts examining the Sweden case say it’s clear evidence that the threat of white-nationalist terrorism continues to spread around the globe.

Contained within the farmhouse near the town of Falköping, as researcher Hugo Kaaman explained, was a weapons stockpile that actually dwarfed Breivik’s, suggesting the intensity of the young man—who has not been publicly identified—in his desire to replicate the white-nationalist hero’s horrific act.

There were 50 tons of ammonium-nitrate fertilizer, the main component in the truck bombs ignited by Breivik and, before him, Oklahoma City mass killer Timothy McVeigh. He had multiple guns of various makes: semiautomatic and single-shot rifles and handguns, as well as multiple ammo magazines, bullet casings, and gunpowder. He also had a number of laser scopes, a bulletproof vest, camouflage clothing, a ballistic helmet, and a 3D printer that investigators believe he manufactured gun parts with.

The man had set up a laboratory in his garage, but investigators also found that he had likely set up a pipe-bomb-making operation on his kitchen table, which had gunpowder on it. And being a devoted neo-Nazi, he also had a full library of far-right literature, as well as manuals on bomb-building and a handbook on armed struggle.

When investigators went through his online activity, they found that the man had searched for posts and discussion threads about using various kinds of bombs, as well as proposals for attacks on schools. They believe, however, that he had not yet settled on a target.

"The suspect has discussed the possibilities of carrying out attacks on a schoolyard, but there is no evidence that any specific school has been selected. It appears as if the suspect has 'got stuck' in the first planning phase," a statement from the Swedish Defense Research Agency read.

The agency also noted that the man had expressed violent fantasies in various online forums, and promoted violent neo-Nazi beliefs, reflecting his membership in the NRM.

Like a number of neo-Nazi terrorist organizations, the Nordic Resistance Movement is a product of Russia-based fascist activism—particularly the now-defunct Iron March forum, originally the brainchild of a Russian neo-Nazi who went by the nom de guerre Slavros, who created Iron March in 2009 as the rebranded online home of the fascist International Third Position forum.

Iron March subsequently gave birth to the American neo-Nazi terrorist organization Atomwaffen Division, a number of whose members have been arrested by federal authorities for various acts of terrorism, as well as the explicitly fascist Patriot Front organization. Its impact has been global, however; among the organizations that emerged from it are the U.K.-based National Action, the Australia-based Antipodean Resistance, and the New Zealand-based Action Zealandia.

NRM’s goal, according to its website, is to create an ethnically pure pan-Nordic nation that would include all Scandinavian nations, and to deport most non-ethnic Northern European residents. To do so, they say they intend to dismantle the “global Zionist elite”.

Although NRM doesn’t explicitly call for violence, its members train in martial arts and knife attacks, and they will eagerly seek out confrontations.

“The Nordic Resistance Movement is a serious threat—members have attacked refugee centers and traveled to train with other Nazi groups over the years,” Heidi Beirich of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism told Daily Kos. “If the U.S. ever designates another group as a Special Terrorist Organization, I would say NRM should be at the top of the list.”

NRM has been involved in a series of incidents in which members violently confronted minority groups and antifascists. In 2016 and 2017, members planted bombs outside a far-left cafe and a refugee center in Gothenburg, the latter of which injured an immigration officer. At a 2016 protest in Finland, an NMR member killed a man by kicking him in the chest, causing him to fall and hit his head.

The Swedish man arrested for the farmhouse arsenal also has a previous conviction for assault in February 2017 as a result of his NRM activism. At an NRM demonstration in Gothenburg, the man was handing out leaflets when a woman spat in his face. He punched her in the face, causing her to fall to the ground.

“This guy’s track record with them at least led to the police to not sell a shotgun to him,” Beirich observed, “but the prevalence of 3D printed guns among extremists is undermining that strategy. This is a reminder that bombs are quite popular among right-wing extremists as well.”

The incident also is stark evidence that the chain of terrorism fueled by white-nationalist extremism that was initiated by Breivik—who himself was following in the footsteps of killers like McVeigh—continues to mount, notably with the recent mass killing in Buffalo that was inspired by the Christchurch, New Zealand, killer in 2019, who in turn was inspired by Breivik. It also demonstrates the increasing number of arrests of neo-Nazis around the world—including the Austrian man arrested in November 2021 with an arsenal similar to the Swedish man’s—is not simply a coincidence.

“This case is another reminder that far-right extremists are capable of mass violence and if they aren’t tracked and investigated we will get more mass attacks, as we’ve just seen in Buffalo,” said Beirich. “And given the online nature of his postings, once again the web is a key to stopping this violence. As scary as this situation is, it’s sadly becoming par for the course in terms of neo-Nazis and white supremacists. At least in this case, he was arrested before something horrific happened.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Far Right Issues Flood Of Violent Rhetoric On LGBTQ Community

A week’s worth of gun violence seems to have whetted the radical right’s eliminationist appetite—and much of it appears, once again, to be directed at the LGBTQ community:

  • In El Paso, Texas, after far-right trolls spread the bogus claim that a transgender person was the shooter in Tuesday’s massacre in Uvalde, thugs verbally and physically assaulted a transgender girl, calling her a “mental health freak.”
  • Further north in Arlington, a local pastor this week denounced the city’s support for its annual Pride events, claiming the Bible calls “homosexuals” criminals who should be put to death.
  • In Arizona, far-right troll Ethan Schmidt-Crockett posted videos in which he threatened to attack Pride displays at Target stores (as he’s done previously), and then filmed himself harassing workers at a JoAnn Fabrics store for their Pride display.

The mood at far-right chat rooms has grown more openly violent as well, particularly as white nationalists have embraced the Buffalo shooter and his eliminationist “replacement theory” motives—and the threatening rhetoric around Pride events such as the one planned in northern Idaho in June has sharpened. As this recent study warned, the previous year’s relative calm in terms of far-right violence is manifestly over.

Although the viciously bogus claim that the Uvalde shooter was transgender was quickly debunked, and several of its more prominent spreaders—such as Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar—deleted their tweets making the claim, it continued to spread anyway on social media, enjoying a robust zombie half-life as the trolls spreading it made plain that they didn’t care if it was a lie: They just wanted to scapegoat transgender people.

Moreover, its most prominent spreader—race troll Candace Owens—not only refused to delete the earlier tweets, but doubled down to her 3 million-plus Twitter followers:

FYI: The media still has not debunked the photo of the Texas shooter wearing female clothes (to which I was referring.)Instead they are trying to conflate it with the obvious internet hoax photos featuring a guy in a skirt in front of a trans flag.

No such photos exist, of course. The person she’s describing wearing female clothes in the widely circulated photos identified herself and denounced the hoax.

This didn’t stop the inevitable result of this kind of eliminationist rhetoric, either, whose entire purpose is to create permission for brutal violence directed at the rhetoric’s targets. In El Paso, it clearly inspired the men outside the city library, who first verbally and then physically assaulted a 17-year-old transgender girl named Tracey as she exited at the end of a night doing homework.

“Oh look, it has a dick,” said one of them. He then grabbed her arm and forced her to look at him as he said: “Yeah, you know they’re perverting kids instead of killing them.”

“I’m only 17!” she answered.

Another man sneered: “Yeah, you know it was one of your sisters who killed those kids. You’re a mental health freak!”

Tracey was able to escape on her bicycle. El Paso Police refused to take an assault report. She also is no longer able to talk to her counselor at a community clinic, after it shut its doors to trans teens when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made a legal finding that supporting transition is child abuse.

Meanwhile, in Arlington earlier this week, the pastor of a nearby Baptist church—one that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)—denounced the city’s upcoming Pride events at a city council meeting, calling it an “abomination”:

I don’t understand why we celebrate what used to be a crime not long ago. In fact, Texas Penal Code, in Section 21.06, homosexual conduct, a person commits an offense if he engages in deviant sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex. In fact, that is still on the books today, even though Lawrence vs. Texas overruled that in 2003. But God has already ruled that murder, adultery, witchcraft, bestiality, and homosexuality are crimes worthy of capital punishment.

The pastor, Jonathan Shelley, is from Stedfast Baptist Church in nearby Hurst. The SPLC designated Stedfast Baptist an anti-LGBTQ hate group in 2021, based largely on Shelley’s incendiary rhetoric. The church recently was evicted from its building in Hurst because Shelley’s violent rhetoric violated his lease, and the owner refused to tolerate it.

In his sermons, Shelley has frequently called for death to members of the LGBTQ community, but he claims he’s not calling for vigilante killings—he only wants it done officially, at the hands of the state. In one sermon, he celebrated the death of a 75-year-old gay man in Wilton Manors, Florida, after a vehicle accidentally ran him over during a Pride event: “And, you know, it’s great when trucks accidentally go through those, you know, parades,” he said. “I think only one person died. So hopefully we can hope for more in the future.”

“You say, ‘Well, that’s mean.’ Yeah, but the Bible says that they’re worthy of death!” he continued. “They say, ‘Are you sad when fags die?’ No. I think it’s great! I hope they all die! I would love it if every fag would die right now.”

“And you say, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s what you really mean.’ That’s exactly what I mean. I really mean it!”

The same kind of vicious hatred also clearly animates Schmidt-Crockett in his Arizona jihad against commercial Pride displays. A longtime antimasking/anti-LGBTQ activist and troll who has a large following on Telegram, where he posts his deliberately provocative videos, Schmidt-Crockett this week has launched into making threats against stores that carry Pride celebration materials and displays—particularly Target, where he previously filmed himself taking down a Pride display, calling it “disgusting … it’s devil worship.”

He’s also posted videos and texts saying he’s “going hunting for LGBT pedophiles” and “non binaries,” saying ominously: “We’re hunting for you.” He also recently turned up as part of a white-nationalist “Groyper” contingent acting as violent counter-protesters at a Phoenix abortion rights protest.

This week, Schmidt-Crockett became primarily focused on stores with Pride displays. He first posted a video of himself threatening to harass Target stores in Arizona, claiming they were erecting “satanic pride shrines to children” in their stores, and claiming he and “my buddy Kyle” would be “exposing all the employees that support it.”

“We’re going to make massive scenes in every single Target store across Phoenix, Arizona, and we’re not going to let corporate poison the children,” Schmidt vowed in the video, posted on Twitter by Patriot Takes.

Schmidt told Target officials to “just perma-ban” him, because he intended to step up his confrontations to an entirely new level for Pride Month in June.

“So Target, just giving you a heads up, that we’ll be coming after you hard. Hard,” Schmidt promised. “You know, I’ve already exposed you guys pretty good, but this is going to be next-level stuff.”

He added: "If you support the LGBT agenda, you're not safe."

Phoenix police posted a vague tweet about the situation that seemed to create even more confusion: “We are aware of a video on social media that names a retail store. We are looking into this. Statements in the video may be concerning to members of our community. The store and it's security team are also aware of the video.”

On Thursday, Schmidt-Crockett posted a video of himself (again nabbed by Patriot Takes) entering a JoAnn Fabrics store and harassing its staff over the Pride materials on sale there. Muttering to his audience that the materials somehow promoted pedophilia, he began haranguing the clerk who answered his summons: “Does JoAnn Fabrics support pedophilia?” He describes his disgust after the clerk goes to summon security: “Pedophilia, I’m sick of it everywhere. Every single corporate store has been taken over by the agenda.”

As he departs, he points his finger at the clerk: “Pedophiles!” he says. “You guys support the LGBT agenda! You guys support pedophilia! JoAnn Fabrics supports pedophilia!”

The shift to a focus targeting the LGBTQ community with eliminationist rhetoric and then violence is the result of several long-term trends on the radical right, particularly as its street-level strategies have shifted after the January 6 insurrection. A recent study by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) warns of a looming likelihood that far-right organizing will revolve around LGBTQ events and political rallies in the near future:

As an election year with midterms as well as a number of key gubernatorial races, 2022 is likely to see a rise in organizing focused on the upcoming votes. There have already been examples of protests involving ‘Freedom Convoys’ expressing support for Trump and including voter registration opportunities at events, signaling the start of this evolution.

In addition to election-related mobilization, there may also be a resurgence of other recent drivers as well. With Republican officials launching a new anti-LGBT+ legislative push around the country, mobilization against LGBT+ rights may increase, even though coordinated organizing on this issue has not been a major feature of the political violence and protest landscape in which far-right militias and MSMs have engaged in recent years. Broader activity on the right is currently coalescing around the reinvigorated anti-LGBT+ legislative campaign, in addition to organizing against institutions and companies seen as ‘too supportive’ of LGBT+ rights.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Study: Hundreds Of GOP Elected Officials In Extremist Facebook Groups

There have been powerful indicators of the full-bore radicalization of the Republican Party in the past year: the 100-plus extremist candidates it fielded this year, the apparent takeover of the party apparatus in Oregon, the appearance of Republican officials at white nationalist gatherings. All of those are mostly rough gauges or anecdotal evidence, however; it’s been difficult to get a clear picture of just how deeply the extremism has penetrated the party.

Using social media as a kind of proxy for their real-world outreach—a reasonable approach, since there are few politicians now who don’t use social media—the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights decided to get a clearer picture of the reach of extremist influences in official halls of power by examining how many elected officials participate in extremist Facebook groups. What it found was deeply troubling: 875 legislators in all 50 states, constituting nearly 22% of all elected GOP lawmakers, identified as participating members of extremist Facebook groups.

“The ideas of the far right have moved pretty substantially into the mainstream,” Devin Burghart, IREHR’s executive director, told Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, “not only as the basis for acts of violence but as the basis for public policy.”

This is pointedly true when it comes to “replacement theory,” the white-nationalist conspiracist narrative claiming that a nefarious cabal of globalist elites is deliberately manipulating immigration to replace white people in Western society with nonwhites—a set of beliefs that fueled Saturday’s domestic-terrorist attack on the Black community in Buffalo.

“Replacement theory” proponents, Burghart said, come from a broad bandwidth of far-right movements, and have been spread widely over the past year since Fox News’ Tucker Carlson began championing the claims. It’s also been ardently promoted by mainstream Republicans, particularly members of Congress:

  • Elise Stefanik of New York, the number three House Republican: She’s running ads accusing Democrats of “a permanent election insurrection” in the form of an immigration amnesty plan that would “overthrow our current electorate.”
  • Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus: He has claimed “we’re replacing … native-born Americans to permanently transform the political landscape.”
  • Matt Gaetz of Florida, a notorious Trumpist congressman: tweeted that Carlson “is CORRECT about Replacement Theory.”
  • J.D. Vance, who won the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in Ohio: He claims that “Biden’s open border is killing Ohioans, with … more Democrat voters pouring into this country.”
  • Ron Johnson, the GOP senator from Wisconsin: He claims that Democrats “want to remake the demographics of America to ensure ... that they stay in power forever.”

IREHR researchers defined “far-right” groups as those advocating for changes that would significantly undermine political, social, and/or economic equality along class, racial, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, immigration status, or religious lines. Groups fighting government mask and vaccination rules and other public health efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus were also included, as were 23 anti-abortion groups. It identified 789 of them.

The study identified 875 state legislators serving in the 2021-2022 legislative period who had joined these extremist Facebook books, only three of whom were Democrats. The remaining Republicans who had joined these groups constituted 21.74 percent of all Republican lawmakers in the country, and 11.85 percent of all legislators.

The states with the highest percentage of extremist legislators were Alaska (35 percent), Arkansas (25.19 percent), Idaho (22.86 percent), Montana (22.67 percent), Washington (20.41 percent), Minnesota (19.4 percent), Maine (18.28 percent), and Missouri (18.27 percent). The state with the highest total numbers of these legislators was New Hampshire (62), followed by Pennsylvania (40), Minnesota (39), Missouri (36), Arizona (34), Montana (34), Maine (34), Georgia (32), Washington (30), and Maryland (27).

As the report explores in detail—particularly in its profiles of individual extremist legislators, such as Washington state’s Jim Walsh and New Hampshire’s Susan DeLemus—these lawmakers’ far-right politics naturally translate into extremist legislation. The report connects them with a surge in legislation seeking to limit access to the ballot, restrict the rights of LGBTQ people, to limit “critical race theory” and otherwise control what public school children can learn about America’s legacy of racism, as well as to severely restrict abortion rights in their states.

“All of that stuff has been incubated in these networks,’’ Burghart said. “That rhetoric in this context becomes public policy quite quickly and those ideas not only move from the margins to the mainstream but now they’ve been codified into law in some places."

In all, the report identifies some 963 anti-human-rights bills introduced in legislative bodies by these lawmakers.

As Charlie Pierce observes at Esquire:

The point is that there is an internal coherence to all the rightist causes, as well as enthusiasm that hasn’t been there in previous incarnations. And, because of this coherence, there is a more solid political bloc that can influence the “establishment” Republicans, or intimidate them. But, in any case, it is a bloc that cannot be ignored.

Nor are the report’s authors optimistic, considering that even this clearer view of the penetration of extremism within the ranks of elected officials is still very rough and likely misses a great deal of this kind of activity: “IREHR researchers,” it notes, “believe the findings almost certainly understate the breadth of the problem.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Far-Right Extremists And QAnon Cultists Are Training Police Officers

The saturation of the ranks of our police forces with far-right extremists is one of the harsh realities of American life that bubbled up during the police brutality protests of 2020 and was laid bare by the January 6 insurrection. The presence of these extremists not only is a serious security and enforcement threat—particularly when it comes to dealing with far-right violence—but has created a toxic breach between our communities and the people they hire to protect and serve them. Too often, as in Portland, the resulting police culture has bred a hostility to their communities that expresses itself in biased enforcement and a stubborn unaccountability.

Much of this originates in police training, which are the foundations of cop culture. And a recent Reuters investigative report has found that police training in America is riddled with extremists: Their survey of police training firms—35 in all—that provide training to American police authorities found five of them employ (and in some cases, are operated by) men whose politics are unmistakably of the far-right extremist variety. And these five people alone are responsible for training hundreds of American cops every year.

The most striking of these five extremist trainers is a former cop from Travis County, Texas, named Richard Whitehead, who moved to Post Falls, Idaho, several years ago and set up shop as a police trainer. He has, over the past four years, given 85 training sessions to at least 560 police officers and other public safety workers in 12 states. He also has advised officers to ignore COVID-19 health restrictions and claimed: “We are on the brink of a civil war.”

Like most of these extremist trainers, Whitehead subscribes to the so-called “constitutional sheriff” model of law enforcement—he in fact ran for Kootenai County sheriff in 2020 as a “constitutional” officer, finishing third out of four candidates in the GOP primary—which claims that county sheriffs are the supreme law of the land, empowered to overrule and ignore state and federal laws, as well as to determine what is and is not “constitutional.” None of its tenets have ever been upheld in a court of law.

Nonetheless, it’s a powerful movement that has been spreading, particularly in rural America, for well over a decade, led by a far-right “constitutionalist” named Richard Mack and his outfit, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA). A number of rural sheriffs have won election claiming to be “constitutional,” and inevitably, their regimes have produced dysfunctional far-right fiefdoms and disrupted communities.

Just as important, these “constitutionalists” form much of the backbone of the far-right “Patriot” movement that formed the core of the attack on the Capitol on January 6, and continues to animate and organize the anti-democratic insurgency the right has undertaken in the ensuing year and a half. Despite wrapping themselves in red, white, and blue bunting and claiming fealty to the Constitution, they are part of a profoundly seditionist movement whose entire reason for being is to dismantle American democratic institutions.

Whitehead has quite a track record on social media as a pro-Trump “warrior,” as the Reuters report details, including calling for the public executions of government officials he sees as disloyal to Trump. Moreover, he repeats the same kind of far-right messaging in his training sessions with police officers: At one of them, according to a complaint lodged against him, he called the COVID-19 pandemic “a joke” and health measures unconstitutional. He also showed students an image of a police car with an LGBTQ flag on the side, and then asked the class: “What’s next? We have to have a Muslim flag to satisfy the goat fuckers?”

In his course materials, he at one time included a slide ridiculing transgender people: “Suspect is a gender-fluid assigned-male-at-birth wearing non-gender-specific clothing born Caucasian but identifies as a mountain panda.” Whitehead told Reuters that he just wanted to push back against pressure for police to adopt left-wing views.

His defense was typical for a “constitutionalist”: In a statement responding to the Reuters piece, Whitehead doesn’t deny any of its reportage, but complains:

What does it say about the state of our nation when believing in it’s [sic] Constitution has you deemed an extremist?

Like the other trainers, Whitehead insists that his reactionary politics are not extremist, a refrain that has become common as the identities of police officers who are members of groups associated with the Jan. 6 insurrection like the Oath Keepers are exposed. Interest in these groups among police officers, in fact, increased after the attack on the Capitol. And their well-established sympathy with extremist groups like the Proud Boys before the insurrection played a major role in the dynamic that created the riot.

Reuters reporters Julia Harte and Alexandra Ulmer detail similar extremist beliefs animating Whitehead and four other trainers as well:

The five trainers have aired views including the belief in a vote-rigging conspiracy to unseat Trump in the 2020 election. One trainer attended Trump’s January 6, 2021, rally at the U.S. Capitol that devolved into a riot, injuring more than 100 police officers. Two of the trainers have falsely asserted that prominent Democrats including President Joe Biden are pedophiles, a core tenet of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Four have endorsed or posted records of their past interactions with far-right extremist figures, including prominent “constitutional sheriff” leader David Clarke Jr. and Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs, who is being prosecuted for his involvement in the Capitol riots.

The other four trainers featured in the report work in locations around the U.S.:

  • Darrell Schenck, who teaches firearms classes to officers, is based in Kansas. He believes Democrats are pedophiles, the 2020 election was illegitimate (“election fraud is the real pandemic”) and has described the Jan. 6 reportage as “fake news.”
  • Tim Kennedy, a Texas-based military veteran, travels widely to provide his “Sheepdog Response” training for officers, specializing in martial arts, sharpshooting, and strength-building. On social media, he has promoted the “Boogaloo” civil-war movement, and has posted screen texts of his conversations with Proud Boys leader Joe Biggs, currently awaiting trial for conspiracy related to his role in leading the mob on Jan. 6, and said he would name Bigg his Interior secretary in an imaginary presidency.
  • Ryan Morris, whose Pennsylvania-based Tripwire Operations Group provides police training around the region, spouts similar rhetoric, calling the 2020 election a socialist plot to seize the government: “You have just witnessed a coup, the overthrow of the US free election system, the end of our constitutional republic, and the merge of capitalism into the slide toward socialism,” read a Facebook post that Morris shared about a month after the 2020 election. Notably, a number of Tripwire employers were “employed” at the Jan. 6 insurrection, though Morris declined to say who hired them or how they were employed.
  • Adam Davis, a contractor for New Jersey-based Street Cop Training, lectures police agencies nationwide and spoke at an industry trade conference hosted by the company—one of the largest private training operations—in October. On social media, he called Joe Biden as a “puppet and a pedophile,” and smeared racial-bias protesters as “pawns” in a “scheme to destroy this nation.”

All of these trainers insisted that their politics were perfectly mainstream, and that moreover they kept their personal views out of their training sessions. Davis described his political views as “middle of the road.” Morris claimed that his social media posts were about attracting clients: “It’s all marketing,” he said. “We put it out there to all different realms, hoping to spark some kind of conversation … and then we generate classes out of that.”

Police training has come under closer examination in no small part because of the deluge of biased-policing incidents of recent years, culminating in the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. In particular, organizations that encourage police to adopt a “warrior mindset” that engenders hostility with their respective communities, in no small part because of their excessive reliance on aggressive tactics and violent street arrests.

Ozzie Knezovich, the sheriff of Spokane County, Washington, has wrestled with such training in the past: His department hosted a “Killology” police training session in recent years that drew broad condemnation, including a rebuke from the Spokane City Council. Nonetheless, the company that offers that training continue to enjoy support from a variety of police departments that hire them, including police in Missoula, Montana.

Knezovich’s department, as Reuters reported, also used Whitehead as a trainer. When Reuters queried him, however, Knezovich told them he was shocked his deputies had been trained by an instructor from “the lunatic fringe.”

He vowed to end the practice: “I’ll be having a conversation with my training unit to take somebody off the list,” the sheriff said.

In a 2019 academic paper titled “KKK in the PD: White Supremacist Police and What to Do About It,” associate Georgetown Law professor Vida Johnson found that police departments across the country exhibited evidence of white supremacist ideology, citing “scandals in over 100 different police departments, in over 40 different states, in which individual police officers have sent overtly racist emails, texts or made racist comments via social media.”

She observed to the Los Angeles Times that it should be a cause for concern when officers become followers of such conspiracy theories as QAnon, or the claim that COVID-19 is a hoax, or theories that Trump’s reelection was fraudulently stolen from him.

“People who can’t separate fact from fiction probably shouldn’t be the ones enforcing laws with guns,” Johnson said.

Johnson has a roadmap for rooting extremists out of police departments: stricter and more diligent hiring practices, social media checks that could reveal extremist beliefs or organizational membership, periodic background checkups for all police veterans, and a review apparatus that is fully independent.

“They’re supposed to be protecting and serving us,” Johnson told Mother Jones. “But unfortunately it seems like a lot of departments see themselves at odds with or even at war with the rest of the community. That’s a culture within policing that needs to change.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Alito's Abortion Opinion Encouraging Right-Wing Terror Threats

The right-wing freakout over peaceful protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices and chalk on the sidewalk in front of Republican senators’ homes, built around the seeming belief that any kind of protest at all is an act of violence, is actually a piece of classic right-wing projection. Conservatives assume that all protests feature intimidation and menace, bellicose threats, and acts of violence, because they themselves know no other way of protesting, as we’ve seen over the past five years and longer—especially on Jan. 6.

So it’s not surprising that the right-wing response to protests over the imminent demise of the Roe v. Wade ruling so far is riddled with white nationalist thugs turning up in the streets, and threats directed at Democratic judges. Ben Makuch at Vice reported this week on how far-right extremists are filling Telegram channels with calls for the assassination of federal judges, accompanied by doxxing information revealing their home addresses.

One Telegram channel features a roster of targets accompanied by an eye-grabbing graphic with an assault-style gun, complete with their photos, bios, and personal contact and address information, including two federal judges appointed with Democratic backgrounds: a Barack Obama appointee of color, and a Midwestern judge of Jewish ethnicity. Joining them on the roster are people like Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, several bankers, and officials who served on a federal vaccine board.

According to Makuch, this particular channel has been repeatedly taken off Telegram, only to promptly reconstitute itself. Now in its fifth iteration, he reports that federal law enforcement is aware of the channel and is investigating the threats.

The anti-abortion right’s entire track record of protest, in fact, is brimming with case after case of violence and the politics of menace. Between 1977 and 2020, there have been 11 murders of health care providers, 26 attempted murders, 956 reported threats of harm and death, 624 stalking incidents, and four kidnappings, accompanied by 42 bombings, 194 arsons, 104 attempted arsons or bombings, and 667 bomb threats.

Meanwhile, right-wing pundits are frantically indulging in groundless claims of imminent left-wing violence: “Pro Abortion Advocates Are Becoming Violent After Supreme Court Leak,” read a Town Hall headline over a piece that documented some minor shoving incidents outside the Supreme Court building among the protesters there.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board speculated: “We hate to say this, but some abortion fanatic could decide to commit an act of violence to stop a 5-4 ruling. It’s an awful thought, but we live in fanatical times.”

A right-wing extremist was charged only three weeks ago in South Carolina with threatening federal judges, along with President Biden and Vice President Harris. The man—a 33-year-old inmate at the Department of Corrections and Proud Boy named Eric Rome—sent letters he claimed contained anthrax to the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, and left threatening voicemails: “Our intent is war on the federal government and specifically the assassination of the feds Marxist leaders Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Rome said on a voicemail, citing a laundry list of offenses: “the theft of the last presidential election, promoting critical race theory in our schools, the vax mandate, and using Marxist media outlets, notably CNN, to brainwash our citizens,” according to the indictment.

In his most recent threat in March, Rome threatened two unnamed South Carolina federal judges with death by stabbing: “Vacate the benches and we may let you live,” he wrote. Rome’s February letter to the Portland courthouse claimed he was sending “weapons grade anthrax” as a protest for failing “to arrest and prosecute Black Lives Matter activists despite the riots, looting, assaults and many other crimes by BLM in your city against White Citizens. .... WHITE POWER!”

Federal judges faced more than 4,500 threats last year, according to U.S. Marshals Service, which noted that it is concerned about the rise of domestic extremism in America.

A guide prepared for law enforcement in anticipation of social turmoil over abortion notes that while anti-abortion extremists have engaged in an extended litany of violence, that has not been the case among abortion-rights defenders: “Pro-choice extremists have primarily used threats, harassment, and vandalism, but has not resulted in lethal violence.”

SITE Intelligence Group, which shares threat information with a host of law enforcement agencies, released a May 4 report detailing calls for violence targeted at people protesting the expected ruling.

“Users on far-right, pro-Trump forum ‘The Donald’ encouraged members to violently oppose pro-abortion protesters demonstrating against the leaked Supreme Court draft signaling an overturn of Roe v. Wade,” reads the bulletin. “Reacting to the headline ‘Violence Breaks out at Pro-Abortion Protest After Democrat Politicians Call to ‘Fight,’' users made threats and called for police to harm protesters.”

A May 5 bulletin detailed the response by white supremacists: “A neo-Nazi channel responding to the leaked Supreme Court draft signaling an overturn of Roe v. Wade posted a previously circulated pro-life graphic calling to ‘bomb’ reproductive healthcare clinics and to ‘kill’ pro-choice individuals,” the bulletin said.

SITE Intelligence Group chief Rita Katz told Politico that misogyny is common in these quarters: “For far-right extremists, the focus on Roe v. Wade isn’t simply about religion or conventional debates about ‘when life starts,’” she said. “It’s about the toxic resentment of feminism that unites the entire spectrum of these movements, from Neo-Nazis to QAnon.”

Shortly after the January 6 insurrection, the violent factions involved in it like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers began forming alliances with Christian nationalists focused on abortion and attacking Planned Parenthood clinics. Over the past year, it’s also become clear that white nationalists such as Nick Fuentes’ “Groyper army” and other violence-prone bigots have adopted extreme forms of Christian nationalism.

They clearly see the protests over the imminent Supreme Court ruling as prime opportunities for more violence targeting their most hated enemies: women.

A federal counterterrorism official involved in tracking potential threats related to the Supreme Court decision told Yahoo News that authorities fear the ruling will revive the attacks on both judges and providers.

“They had targets on their backs before, now it’s that much more,” said the official.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.