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How Conspiracism Incites Bloody Violence, Damaging Democracy And Society

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The stories come in dribs and drabs, popping up irregularly but often, seemingly out of nowhere, always the same basic narrative arc: Someone gets sucked down the rabbit hole of right-wing conspiracy theories, built on endless streams of disinformation, so deeply that they not only fully believe the violent premises underlying all such belief systems, but they act on them in real life—in predictably violent ways, and with inevitably tragic outcomes.

Many may seem minor or of limited interest and often are only covered locally and regionally. Yet cumulatively, these stories have a profoundly toxic effect, manifesting one of the subtler ways that the conspiracism/disinformation industry undermines democracy and our social stability.

There has been a steady drumbeat of these stories in recent years. In some cases, such as the March 2019 attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, or the August 2019 attack on a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, both by radicalized far-right extremists, become prominent news stories and are readily understood as instances of domestic terrorism. However, many such cases involve fewer casualties—and some none at all—and receive considerably less news focus.

Yet this drumbeat has its own kind of terroristic effect. Most terrorists act out violently as a way of undermining the larger social and political order, a means of persuading the public that civil authorities are incapable of keeping them safe and providing security. It's powerfully effective for right-wing extremists because creating an atmosphere ripe with fear is a proven way of inducing authoritarianism among the general public as a psychological response. As these lesser incidents accumulate—especially when they begin happening with greater frequency—they have the same effect on public sensibilities.

This lower-level drumbeat has become intense over the past several months, particularly as unhinged authoritarian Trump followers revolt against the reality of Joe Biden's 2020 election victory:

  • An El Paso, Texas, man named Joseph Angel Alvarez was arrested last week for the November 2020 murder of a prominent local attorney and the shooting of her husband at their home in the historic Manhattan Heights neighborhood. Prosecutors say Alvarez believed the couple voted for Biden and was part of a "satanic Jewish cabal" abducting local children.

At about 7:35 p.m. the night of Nov. 14, 2020, Alvarez gunned down Georgette G. Kaufmann in the garage of her home, then shot her husband, Daniel L. Kaufmann, five times when he came to the door to check out the noises. Alvarez fled the scene while Daniel Kaufmann crawled to a neighbor's home for help.

Alvarez sent a message to a U.S. Army email address on the night of the killing, claiming there were satanic rituals at the park, that he had determined the people living in four houses at an intersection near the park were responsible, and that he planned to kill them all. The email also demanded that people "stop all murder of babies."

According to prosecutors, he also said in the email that he targeted the Kaufmanns' house because he believed they had voted for Biden and possessed a Biden "flag and a doll of Trump hanging." He said he was "executing and exterminating the pro-choice Jewish Satan worshippers" when he chose the Kaufmanns' home.

"The defendant's belief was 'to end the Satanic activity' near the crime scene (Memorial Park) and acted out his manifesto by killing and shooting the Kaufmanns and by mentally fabricating the connection he believed the four corner houses on Raynor and Copper to have been involved in 'satanic activity,' because of their relative geographic location to the park," the affidavit filed in the case states.

  • In early September, a 41-year-old Port Angeles, Washington man went on an armed rampage in Olympic National Park, threatening park rangers and parkgoers and eventually engaging in an armed standoff that lasted for three days—all because he believed "the revolution" was imminent, and he intended to help spark it.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 29, Caleb Jesse Chapman got into a heated argument with his girlfriend while camping at the national park's Deer Park campground, not far from Port Angeles and near popular visitor sites like Hurricane Ridge. He had told her she would probably die in "the revolution," and when she objected, he became threatening.

When he found out that she had dialed 911, he threw an unopened soup can at her, lacerating her leg, and beat her head against a car seat, prosecutors say. Before police could arrive, however, he set out on a terrorist rampage directed at the national park's rangers and visitors, dressed in a tactical vest and armed with a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and multiple handguns "while yelling and screaming," the woman told authorities.

He is believed to have set an estimated 1,000-square-foot fire off Hurricane Ridge Road earlier that morning, before the assault. After leaving the campground, he cut down a tree that blocked access on Deer Park Road to the campground. According to court documents, he disabled the park's Blue Mountain Summit repeater site's emergency radio communication system, allegedly removing power and antenna cables.

Authorities shut down public access to Hurricane Ridge Road and Deer Park campground. Area trailheads were closed to the public from the time the incident was reported until after Chapman was captured, three days later. Parks officials at first did not release his name, and described the situation as "an ongoing law enforcement incident." Chapman reportedly shot at a drone which had spotted him on Aug. 31.

When he was finally apprehended, FBI agents and park rangers seized a significant weapons cache: four semi-automatic pistols, two semi-automatic rifles, a 20-gauge pump-action shotgun and 500 rounds of ammunition, along with two chainsaws and multiple boxes of ammunition found in Chapman's truck. They said they also found a loaded semi-automatic pistol, radio repeater components, a park radio frequency list, a radio microphone, food, water, knives, general survival equipment, and identification cards, in addition to a baggie of what was believed to be methamphetamine.

A manifesto of sorts was uncovered by investigators and introduced in court documents. "My name is not important," Chapman said at the beginning of a 240-word letter. "I am trying to warn all Americans who believe in Freedom … Freedom from wars fought on our land," it said.

It continued:

"This country has lost its way and needs to get the freedom [and] rights of free speech, shooting guns because our Ancestors fought for those rights! Those freedoms [and] many others SHOULD NOT BE GOTTEN THROUGH A REVOLUTION!!! For a year ammunition could not be bought barely, the white house was overrun, lots of media propaganda [and] countless weeks spent on B.S.
"DO IT RIGHT AMERICANS [and] WHEN THE ONES WHO SAY THEY ARE PROUD [and] WANT THOSE FREEDOMS BACK AS THEY POINT A GUN AT YOU … LOOK THEM RIGHT BACK [and] SHOOT THE SNEAKY, COWARDLY, TREASONESS PUNKS!!!"

Chapman now faces federal domestic violence assault charges. Earlier this week, Magistrate Judge Theresa L. Fricke of Tacoma Federal District Court determined that Chapman is a flight risk and danger to the community, and ordered his detention at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac to continue. She ruled he cannot be released while under electronic home monitoring to the custody of his mother in Forks.

  • In early August, a onetime surfing-school owner from California who had become obsessed with QAnon and other conspiracy theories—particularly the related "serpent people" conspiracies popularized by David Ickes—transported his two children over the border into Mexico, where he proceeded to murder them with a speargun because he believed they were programmed to become monsters.

Matthew Taylor Coleman, 40, of Santa Barbara, was arrested at the border after the children's bodies—a 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy—had been discovered earlier by a ranch worker near Rosarita in Baja California. He had spirited the children out of the country without their mother's consent.

According to the far-right conspiracy theory, Coleman was apparently convinced that his wife was part of the secret reptilian society that controls the world and that she had passed on her "serpent DNA" to the children. He thought the children "were going to grow into monsters, so he had to kill them," federal officials alleged.

According to the complaint, Coleman said he knew what he did was wrong but that "it was the only course of action that would save the world."

We process all these stories—which are disturbing in profound ways, because they often involve nightmarish violence befalling ordinary people in ordinary places, often perpetrated by seemingly ordinary people unhinged by seemingly ordinary interactions on the Internet—and then quickly file them away down the memory hole, one after the other. The ordinariness of it all creates an unsettling sense of fear.

The more often and more regularly they happen, the faster we process them. But the drumbeat creates a cumulative effect similar to mass terrorism events intended to spread a general sense of fear in the public and undermine confidence in authorities to keep people safe.

As Kos' Laura Clawson observed, writing about my book Red Pill, Blue Pill: How to Counteract the Conspiracy Theories That Are Killing Us:

The contours of these conspiracy theories, ever shifting but drawing on so many of the same ideas and building on each other, make clear what a big, big problem we're looking at. Any one such theory may seem fringe (until it doesn't anymore), but the constant churn of them shouldn't be underestimated. And understanding the degree to which they're interconnected shows both the difficulty of breaking their hold and the importance of preventing them from taking root to begin with.

Saturday’s Far-Right Rally In Washington Expected To Flop

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The security fencing around the U.S. Capitol building has gone back up, and members of Congress have sounded off about their fears of potential violence, all in anticipation of Saturday's far-right "Justice for J6" protest in Washington, D.C., ostensibly a march to support the several hundred people currently facing federal prosecution for their roles in the insurrection.

However, the likelihood of any kind of significant outburst by Donald Trump's most ardent followers is so low this time around that residents have relatively little to fear. In contrast to January 6, there has been no promotion of the protest by Trump or his circle, and no congressional Republicans appear likely to attend—so consequently, there is very little buzz about it in right-wing circles. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects only 700 or so people to attend, in contrast to the tens of thousands who showed up the first week of January.

Nonetheless, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department will activate its entire force for that day, and specialized riot officers have been placed on standby. MPD officers will have "an increased presence around the city where demonstrations will be taking place and will be prepared to make street closures for public safety," according to a spokesperson.

Capitol Police said Monday they had issued an emergency declaration that will go into effect at the start of the rally, one that allows Capitol Police leaders to deputize outside law enforcement officers. The agency also has obtained additional equipment and created an incident response plan.

The event creating all this upheaval is the brainchild of a former Trump campaign official named Matt Braynard, who has declared that 700 or so people charged in the January 6 insurrection are "political prisoners."

Braynard announced the event on the podcast of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, saying: "We're going back to the Capitol, right where it started. And it's going to be huge … We're going to push back on the phony narrative that there was an insurrection."

His organization, Look Ahead America, is discouraging would-be rallygoers from signs related to the election or any candidate, or wearing "MAGA gear."

"This rally is about protesting the treatment of these political prisoners. That has nothing to do with any candidate, nothing to do with the election," Braynard said. "It's not a pro-Trump rally, an anti-Trump rally. It's not a pro or anti-Biden rally. It's not political in that way and we don't anything to distract from that."

DHS spokesperson Melissa Smislova told NBC News that the agency has learned via social media that in addition to the Washington rally, similar protests are planned in other cities across the country. She said that in comparison to the "tens of thousands" who came out for the January 6 "Stop the Steal" event, DHS expects a much smaller turnout this weekend. She said the agency has been tracking publicly available information on protesters, U.S. Park Police permit applications for large gatherings, and hotel reservations across the U.S. in order to gauge the response.

Some members of Congress have spoken out. "Given the violent tendencies of the right-wing extremists who plan to attend, it is obvious that this rally poses a threat to the Capitol, those who work here, and the law enforcement officers charged with protecting our democracy," Democrats Tim Ryan of Ohio and Rosa DeLaura said in a joint statement. "We are pleased that the Capitol Police, in coordination with other law enforcement agencies, appear to have developed a clear plan—based on careful intelligence analysis—to maintain order and protect public safety."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was even more scathing: "And now these people are coming back to praise the people who were out to kill, out to kill members of Congress, successfully causing the deaths—'successfully' is not the word, but that's the word, because it's what they set out to do—of our law enforcement," Pelosi told reporters Wednesday morning.

When a reporter asked Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy whether any GOP members would be making speeches on Saturday, as they did at the January 6 rallies, he responded: "I don't think anyone is."

One of the chief lingering concerns among intelligence experts and law enforcement officials is the fact that the person who placed two pipe bombs in the vicinity of the Capitol the night of January 5 has never been identified. Most leads have so far some up dry, and investigators working on the case reportedly have been unable to ascertain whether the suspect is a man or a woman.

Last week, the FBI released grainy surveillance video of the person they believe left the bombs in the hope of attracting new leads and information. The agency says the person wore a backpack over a gray hooded sweatshirt and had a face mask, as well as distinctive Nike Air Max Speed Turf sneakers in yellow, black, and gray.

The bombs—each about 1 foot long with end caps and wiring that appeared to be attached to a timer—were placed outside the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic national committees between 7:30 PM and 8:30 PM on the night before the insurrection. They were not located by law enforcement until the next day, at about the same time the Capitol came under siege by the mob.

The September 18 event could attract a lone-wolf actor along similar lines. But it's also certain that it will not create the kind of mob scene that engendered the January violence. Extremism analyst Mike Rothschild, who monitors far-right groups' activities online, notes that this time around, "the chatter isn't there. Influencers who egged on the MAGA faithful then are waving them off now. People will show up, and it bears watching - but this isn't going to be Insurrection 2.0."

As terrorism analyst Jared Holt observes, the rhetoric around the event is largely hyperbolic, and it is expected to draw neither a large nor a violent crowd capable of another Capitol siege. However, it could be significant in the way that "it lays patchwork or groundwork for those kinds of events to happen in the future in D.C., or maybe in state capitols going forward."

One of the ways it can set a foundation is by providing openings for similar forms of insurrectionist violence elsewhere, such as at state Capitol buildings, as DHS' assessment warned. Clint Watts, a former Joint Terrorism Task Force member, told MSNBC that he was far more concerned about the spread of these events to state-level venues than with the Sept. 18 rally itself.

"There will be, I'm sure, some who show up there, but I don't think it will be a Jan. 6 moment. What I'm much more worried about, though, is state Capitols and local municipal buildings," he said.

"They're much less defended, and in some discussion spaces you hear—it may be just a small number of people, but you hear people talking about going to rallies closer to home, in up to 10 different states. Those could be particularly troubling for those with smaller law enforcement, and don't have the resources like we have at the nation's capital."

Trump-Friendly Prosecutor Signals Potential Trouble For Insurrection Cases

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The federal government's prosecution of the January 6 Capitol insurrectionists continues to roll along with hardly any change in direction or pace: Participants in the attack continue to be arrested as investigators accumulate more evidence, while judges continue to keep major players, particularly members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, under lock and key.

However, one bright red flag was raised by Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel—who has assiduously tracked and reported on the imposingly complex prosecutions from January 6—this week in the conspiracy case being assembled by prosecutors against the Proud Boys: It now emerges that one of the lead prosecutors in that case is Jocelyn Ballantine, the same DOJ prosecutor who engaged in dubious behavior around former Trump official Michael Flynn's prosecution, such as submitting altered documents. Could a botch job be around the corner?

Ballantine, as Wheeler details, engaged in a pattern of misconduct in handling the Flynn case that could easily result in a federal judge dismissing the case. And as the Proud Boys' attorneys made clear in their filings this week demanding that key players in the insurrection, including leaders Joe Biggs and Ethan Nordean, be granted pretrial release, their primary strategy appears to be aimed at obtaining exactly that kind of summary dismissal of the charges.

Wheeler points to three specific acts by Ballantine in the Flynn matter that raise concerns:

  • On Sept. 23, she provided three documents that were altered to Sidney Powell, one of which Trump used six days later in a packaged debate attack on Joe Biden.
  • On Sept. 24, she submitted an FBI interview report that redacted information—references to Brandon Van Grack—that was material to the proceedings before Judge Emmet Sullivan.
  • On Oct. 26, she claimed that lawyers for Peter Strzok and Andrew McCabe had checked their clients' notes to confirm there were no other alterations to documents submitted to the docket; both lawyers refused to review the documents.

Having a prosecutor on the Proud Boys prosecution team (let alone overseeing it) with a dubious conduct history poses serious risks for their success, and indeed for the broader prosecution: "Given Ballantine's past actions, it risks sabotaging the entire January 6 investigation," Wheeler observes.

The possibility of a bungled federal prosecution in the Proud Boys case raises the specter of a similar botch job in a major case involving right-wing extremists: Namely in 2018, when prosecutorial misconduct involving evidence sharing forced the federal judge overseeing the case against rancher Cliven Bundy for his 2014 armed standoff with federal authorities to order all charges dismissed—one of several cases of misconduct involving that U.S. Attorney's office. That dismissal, with prejudice, was upheld on appeal.

The attorneys for Biggs and Nordean, meanwhile, made a fresh appeal for their clients' pretrial release to home confinement, claiming the men posed neither a serious flight risk nor any threat to public safety in the interim. The attorneys presented clips from a video shot on January 6 in Washington, D..C., by fellow Proud Boys member Eddie Block, claiming they demonstrated that the group actually intended to hold their "big event" afterward at The Ellipse, not at the Capitol.

"There's no conspiracy," defense attorney John Hull said. "… So, [with] no conspiracy, about 80% of the whole case falls apart."

Prosecutors noted that Block's statements in the clips are contravened by the men's demonstrated actions that day, which included Nordean and Biggs tearing down a police barrier. They also reminded the judge of encrypted texts the men shared that day preparing for insurrection on January 6.

Prosecutors warned that the defendants' release would mean "there's no way to police" any other potential planning the men might participate in with other Proud Boys members: "That's a significant, prospective danger to the community," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason McCullough said.

In other January 6-related developments:

  • Accountability arrived for the Capitol Police officers who behaved as congenial hosts to the insurrectionists on January 6. The agency announced it had taken disciplinary action against six officers following an internal investigation.

There were 38 internal investigations involving officer behavior on January 6, with 26 different officers identified, Capitol Police reported. There was no wrongdoing found in 20 of the cases.

Three of the six officers were disciplined for "conduct unbecoming;" another for improper remarks; one for improper dissemination of information; and one for "failure to comply with directives."

"The six sustained cases should not diminish the heroic efforts of the United States Capitol Police officers. On January 6, the bravery and courage exhibited by the vast majority of our employees was inspiring," the release said.

  • FBI agents arrested a woman from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who had filled her social-media pages with QAnon conspiracy theories and demands for an "Army of Patriots" to seize control of the government, prior to invading the Capitol with other right-wing extremists on January 6.

Prosecutors detailed Kelly O'Brien's prolific rants on social media leading up to January 6. One dated November 26, 2020, asserted: "We do not riot. We fight. We are an Army of Patriots. You will know us when you see us. There will be no ambiguity. Prepare yourself."

On Dec. 19, 2020, O'Brien posted: "WE ARE IN A BATTLE between GOOD and evil. Make no mistake about that. Elders are cheering us on and believe that WE ARE GOING TO BE THE GREATEST GENERATION in their lifetime. And they lived through WWII. Are you going to fight or are you weak. Let us know now. WE NEED PATRIOTS! WE NEED FREEDOM FIGHTERS! Now!"

The day after Christmas, another used posted: "You can vote your way into socialism but you have to shoot your way out of it!" O'Brien responded: "We might have to."

After the insurrection, on January 8, amid a discussion of Trump's refusal to concede to Joe Biden, O'Brien asserted that "Everything is happening according to Q plan. So scared."

  • A former FBI special agent remarked on MSNBC that the insurrectionists' targets were chosen not by movement leaders or members, but rather by elected politicians like Donald Trump and Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley.

"It's our political leaders that are doing this more than domestic extremists," Clint Watts, a Joint Terrorism Task Force veteran, said. "What you see right there President Trump told them they were going to the Capitol that day. They didn't pick the Capitol, he said it, his organizers they promoted it, his fellow congressmen in the GOP, they promoted it.

"It was Josh Hawley out there fist-bumping the crowd, right? Before it went in," he added. "That's the thing we look for to see, hey, where are they tipping to. For the most part, the groups aren't picking the targets. It's the elected leaders."

FBI Warrant Reveals Jan. 6 ‘Seditious Conspiracy’ Probe Of Oath Keepers

Reprinted with permission from Daily KosCon

The right-wing gaslighting emanating from Tucker Carlson's realm and Congressional Republicans about the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has suggested that because federal prosecutors haven't yet charged any of the 600-plus people arrested with terrorism or insurrection, those terms don't describe the attack on Congress. But that claim now sounds hollow, after a search warrant this week revealed the FBI is currently pursuing a "seditious conspiracy" investigation against the insurrection's key players.

The investigation's direction was revealed when the FBI seized the phone of an attorney who serves as general counsel for the Oath Keepers—a "Patriot" organization that played a leading role in the Capitol siege—and their founder/president, Stewart Rhodes, around whom investigators have been circling for months. The Oath Keepers attorney, Kellye SoRelle of Texas, told HuffPost's Ryan Reilly that her phone was "kind of a repository of truth." Via email she told Reilly, "I have so much information in there, [it's] nuts."

The FBI's warrant, according to Mother Jones, sought evidence related to potential violations of nine criminal statutes, including "seditious conspiracy." The other violations are all crimes for which the January 6 defendants have already been charged, including destruction of government property, trespassing, destruction of evidence, false statements, and obstruction of Congress.

As Marcy Wheeler has pointed out repeatedly at her blog Emptywheel, the latter charge has been federal prosecutors' chief means of charging the insurrectionists because a conviction carries the same 20-year federal prison sentence as sedition, which is a harder charge to prove. Moreover, it carries a terrorism enhancement that can be applied at sentencing, just as sedition does.

If you don't mention obstruction — and your sources don't explain that obstruction will get you to precisely where you'd get with a sedition charge, but with a lot more flexibility to distinguish between defendants and a far lower bar of proof (unless and until judges decide it has been misapplied) — then your sources are not describing what is going on with the investigation.

This is why the insistence that the January 6 siege was not "terrorism" or an "insurrection" because the words don't appear in charging documents utterly misapprehends how the federal government prosecutes crimes of domestic terrorism.

Eric Halladay and Racheal Hanna explained how this works at Lawfare Blog: "Because there is no specific crime of domestic terrorism, federal prosecutors may use an array of charges when pursuing domestic terrorists," they write.

These include some 57 different offenses that can be charged as terrorism, including a number of which the insurrectionists have been accused, such as malicious destruction of property and willful depredation of federal property. But the primary tool that prosecutors use is a terrorism enhancement that can be applied during sentencing:

The enhancement can be applied to federal crimes of terrorism … but, importantly, it can also be applied to non-terrorism offenses where the offense was intended to influence government conduct by intimidation or coercion or was intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism with the intention of intimidating or coercing a civilian population.

As Wheeler notes, "charging January 6 rioters with obstruction provides DOJ a really elegant way of holding people accountable, while providing the flexibility to distinguish between different levels of seriousness (until such time as some judge overturns this application of 18 USC 1512)."

The federal judges overseeing the case, in fact, have recently raised the issue of whether obstruction of Congress is the right charge in these cases. During this week's hearing before District Judge Amit Mehta for charges against the Oath Keepers, the judge questioned prosecutors about the applicability of that particular law in this case, as New York Times legal correspondent Alan Feuer reported on Twitter.

Mehta pointed out that the law, 18 USC 1512, was originally passed as part of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was primarily corporate reform legislation. The law, he said, seemed primarily designed to stop obstructive acts like document shredding and witness tampering. Prosecutors replied that the statute's use of the word "corruptly" fits the actions of the insurrectionists. Eventually, Mehta appeared to agree, though the issue of appropriateness remains in the air.

As Feuer observed: "Judge Mehta is now the second federal judge to wonder if the [government's] 1512 obstruction charge, designed to punish crimes like witness tampering [and] document destruction, is a good fit for the [January 6] riot. Judge Randolph Moss had very similar concerns at a hearing last month."

Wheeler observes that this may be why investigators are now examining potential "seditious conspiracy" charges in the Oath Keepers case: "I've said that if DOJ's use of 1512 fails, they'll charge the most serious culprits with seditious conspiracy. This may be the first sign of that," she tweeted.

SoRelle complained about the FBI's seizure of her phone to reporters. "[T]hey have all my clients and my comms," she told Mother Jones. "[It's] unethical as shit on their part."

On Twitter, SoRelle has claimed that she's under attack by the "deep state" because of her involvement with Mike Lindell.

As Mother Jones notes, the reference to sedition charges in the SoRelle warrant does not mean anyone will face sedition charges, but it is an official acknowledgment that the FBI is investigating the possibility that sedition was committed. And as Reilly notes: "Executing a search warrant against a lawyer triggers protocols within the Justice Department, and the move to seize SoRelle's phone would have required approval from high-ranking officials at the DOJ."

SoRelle messaged Reilly that she had met with two law enforcement officials at her home and then went to a "Krogers/Starbucks," where they chatted for several hours.

"I have so much stuff in there," she wrote. "They either think I am the mastermind, or they wanted a free dig through everything―either way, it is unethical."

Far-Right Evangelicals Joining Up With Violent Proud Boys

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The latest twist in the Proud Boys' evolving post-insurrection strategy—in which they have shifted their efforts toward insinuating themselves into local right-wing protests and causes, hijacking them along the way—has been taking shape in the Pacific Northwest -- and it's an ominous one that portends the merging of far-right street-brawling forces with evangelical "Dominionists" seeking to displace democracy with fundamentalist authoritarian rule.

The strategy was on display this week in Salem, Oregon, when a Dominionist group organized a monthly gathering they call The Church at Planned Parenthood (TCAPP) in front of the local women's health clinic, and were joined by a "security" crew comprised of Proud Boys, including several notorious figures from the Portland scene. There were counter-protesters—including local clergy—and some minor brawls, but it all eventually broke up amid clouds of pepper spray.

Proud Boys 'security' turns Salem 'Church at Planned Parenthood' protest ugly www.youtube.com

Independent journalist Alissa Azar was one of the only reporters on the scene, which went uncovered by the local and regional press, and she recorded much of the day's events in a live thread on Twitter. As she noted, the first to arrive at the clinic was a group of counter-protesters who were there to support health care freedom, carrying a banner reading: "Hate Has No Home Here."

Proud Boys—including Tusitala "Tiny" Toese, who had just participated in street violence while leading a group of the far-right brawlers in Portland a couple of days before—began assembling on a grass berm across from the clinic a little while later. The counter-protesters included a small number of "Black Bloc" activists, but largely comprised unaffiliated community members present to stand up against hate. As CenterSquare reporter Tim Gruver documented, these included Salem area "clergy witnesses" wearing blue vests designating them.

These TCAPP protests—organized monthly in Salem by a far-right Dominionist group based in eastern Washington—have drawn Proud Boys "security" at previous events, notably a July 14 gathering outside the clinic at which there was a heavy police presence mostly keeping them separated from counterprotesters. According to Its Going Down News, when a group of Proud Boys attempted a flanking maneuver to attack them, police stopped them and arrested two of their members. Shawn Christopher Davidson, 30, of Salem was arrested on suspicion of second-degree disorderly conduct, while Ricky Dale Clark, 64, of Beaverton was arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault, second-degree disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.

The anti-abortion TCAPP events are the brainchild of Ken Peters, the founding pastor of Spokane's Covenant Church, the reins of which Peters handed to far-right former Washington Republican legislator Matt Shea in 2019 after Shea left the state House under the cloud of a report connecting him to domestic terrorist factions. (Their partnership recently crumbled for unexplained reasons, with Shea departing to form his own church.)

Peters is a rabidly pro-Trump pastor who has appeared onstage in recent months with Mike Lindell, the "My Pillow" conspiracy theorist who claims Donald Trump was the victim of election fraud. Peters also spoke to the crowd gathered in Washington, D.C., on January 5 at a pre-rally for the next day's "Stop the Steal" protest that devolved into the Capitol insurrection.

As Frederick Clarkson and Cloee Cooper explained in a recent overview in Religion Dispatches of the Dominionist scheme to seize political power in the interior Northwest, the purpose of the monthly protests—which the organizers insist are not protests but "church gatherings" outside the clinics—is to spark conflict as a way of imposing their political beliefs:

Peters pioneered the tactic of staging events they call TCAPP, which takes the form of worship services in front of the Planned Parenthood centers that are obviously intended to interfere with clinic patients and staff. The Patriot Churches have continued to organize these disruptive actions and have made their intentions clear. "As we grow," they declared, "the number of services around the state and nation will continue to grow."

The website for Peters' organization declares:

The Church at Planned Parenthood is NOT a protest. It's a worship service at the gates of Hell. The Church at Planned Parenthood is a gathering of Christians for the worship of God and the corporate prayer for repentance for this nation, repentance for the apathetic church and repentance of our blood guiltiness in this abortion holocaust.

Its appeals to potential recruits promise that "The Worship is Non-Confrontational Spiritual Warfare," but also tout the virility of the enterprise: "Creates a Toughness. Gets us out of the Soft Pews and Into the Elements."

Far-right pastor Ken Peters describes origins of 'Church at Planned Parenthood' strategy www.youtube.com

Peters kicked off the TCAPP strategy in late 2018, reportedly inspired by a sermon from anti-abortion protest movement leader Rusty Thomas. He told an interviewer that Thomas had talked about the "importance of fighting for the unborn," which led Peters to wonder, "What would I be doing if they were killing five-year-olds, if families were driving up clinics with their five-year-old in the booster seat, coming out, walking into a clinic, and then leaving while Planned Parenthood disposed of their five-year-old? How would I be acting as a pastor?"

He continued: "I thought, why not plant my church right there at the gates of hell?"

The gatherings in Spokane were deliberately noisy and disruptive. Bands and musical acts performed loudly, and the preachers who showed up to denounce abortion and Planned Parenthood were just as loud. Planned Parenthood reported that the amplified sermons and condemnations from TCAPP would leak through their clinic walls and that, according to their attorney, "patients and caregivers cannot hear each other speak even when sitting right across from each other."

Peters acknowledged that this was the plan. "We want to get as close to Planned Parenthood as we can, because the closer we are, the bigger the statement that it makes," Peters said. "It makes a statement that we disagree with what they're doing."

Paul Dillon, vice president of public affairs with Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, told Northwest Public Broadcasting that the noise was harmful to the health of clients. Patients and staff, he said, were able to hear the songs and sermons even inside exam rooms, leading staff to shuffle patients to different rooms just to be able to provide care.

"It's really, really frustrating and should not be allowed to happen, when the laws are very clear in Washington state and the city of Spokane about interference with health care facilities," Dillon said. "It's extremely unnerving for the patients at Planned Parenthood."

The initial TCAPP gathering in Spokane in October 2018 attracted only about 150 people. However, over the ensuing months, it grew to over 400 by Planned Parenthood's count. (TCAPP claimed there were over 700.)

So Planned Parenthood sued, noting that Spokane had a noise ordinance prohibiting such loud activity in the vicinity of a medical facility—one that Spokane police had declined to enforce, regardless of how loud and disruptive the services became.

"In fact, it is the impression of both the staff at Planned Parenthood and the church itself that the police are on the side of the church," Kim Clark, an attorney with Legal Voice, the firm that represented Planned Parenthood, told Northwest Public Broadcasting.

The organization won. A local judge ordered TCAPP to stop holding protests at Planned Parenthood during its operating hours. Peters called it a violation of his First Amendment rights.

"The injunction is totally unconstitutional. We completely disagree with it," he said. "But it's Washington state. Washington state is run by leftists."

TCAPP turned up the next month at its regular protest time in a show of defiance against the ruling. However, its members did not begin making any protest noise until after the clinic had closed for the day. Planned Parenthood filed a request with the court this summer to make the injunction against TCAPP permanent.

Frustrated in Spokane, Peters' attention in 2020 turned to making TCAPP a national phenomenon and organization, particularly since he had also become the pastor of the Patriot Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. He formed an alliance with another Dominionist pastor in Tennessee, Greg Locke, which rapidly took on an openly political bent.

Peters also began holding TCAPP services in Knoxville, the first of which was on December 29, 2020. Less than a month later, on January 22, someone blasted apart the glass front door of the clinic's offices with a shotgun, prompting an FBI investigation. No suspect has been arrested or identified, and a Knoxville police spokesman told CNN there has been no indication of any connection between the shooter and the TCAPP service.

Peters denounced media reports linking his service to the attack: "I am the most nonviolent person on the planet," he said. But others weren't so sure.

"There have been protesters before, though they had always been small and peaceful," Aimee Lewis, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, told CNN. "But Peters, with his rhetoric of 'warfare' and 'battlefields,' is really setting an example and encouraging extremism among his followers. It's virulent in a way we haven't seen before."

Both Peters and Locke are rabidly pro-Trump pastors, and over the course of 2020 engaged in a range of hyperbolic attacks on Joe Biden and defenses of Trump. After Trump lost, they immediately swung to promulgating the gamut of conspiracy theories claiming fraud in the election. In late December, Peters told his flock:

In the recent election, we know something crooked went on. There's actual evidence. We've seen the evidence, there's video. We've seen them run ballots through over and over. We've seen them pull ballots out of, out of—from underneath tables. Everything shut down. I went to bed. I thought, "Trump's got it easy." Went to bed, woke up in the morning, found out Biden won. In the middle of the night, like a thief in the night.

Both men urged their followers to go to Washington, D.C., on January 6. Locke was especially incendiary in doing so, waxing prophetic about what was going to happen that day:

They think they got this whole thing wrapped up. I don't care what happens on the 6th, and I don't care what happens on the 20th. I'll tell you something: God Almighty is about to dethrone Nancy Pelosi. It's about to happen. (Audience rises and cheers)
He's about to dethrone that baby butchering mongrel! About to dethrone that woman. God's gonna bring the whole thing down. It's all going to come toppling down. We about to see some exposure of these bunch of pedophile sex-trafficking rings. Been popping up in Hollywood! Been popping up in the White House! Been popping up overseas! God's about to expose all of it, I tell you right now: He's going to expose every bit of that mess.

Peters flew out to D.C. on Lindell's private jet and boasted about it on social media. The next day, Peters' speech was typically incendiary, and fit well with the mood of incipient violence among the gathering crowd:

But I see a bunch of people here that will say, "No, no." We are not going to allow the enemy to destroy this beautiful and great land that our forefathers gave to us. We will rise up in this time and say like Paul Revere, "The leftists are coming! The leftists are coming! The leftists are coming!"

The insurrection also may have been the moment when the evangelicals first linked arms with the Proud Boys. During his speech at the rally, Locke offered a prayer on their behalf:

And we do pray for Enrique (Tarrio), and we pray for his organization. And Lord they may get a bum rap on the news media but we just thank God that we can lock shields, and we can come shoulder-to-shoulder with people that still stand up for this nation, and still love the rights and the freedoms that we have. Because Lord, we've got to recognize the fact: If we don't have convictions worth dying for, we don't even know what living really is.

The alliance with the Proud Boys has become explicit since then. The Salem protests, along with last weekend's Portland violence revolving around evangelical Christians' anti-masking protests, follow both the TCAPP recipe for creating confrontations and the Proud Boys' strategy of aligning themselves locally with other right-wing activists, particularly of the "Patriot" stripe.

Peters welcomed the Proud Boys on Facebook after their first appearance at a TCAPP event in Salem in July. "We are not affiliated with them, and we did not invite them, but they literally saved our lives," he wrote in an approving Facebook post. "Thank God they were there. They put up a wall of protection between us and the Antifa/leftist mob while we worshipped. They met the mob head on and kept them away from us. I thanked them profusely after we were done."

On the ground, it makes for a jarring combination. Despite the supposedly Christian nature of the gathering, the Proud Boys shouted obscene and lewd threats at protesters and observers. One Proud Boy jeered at Azar about his admiration for her ass, and joked with a buddy about raping her. Another told her to "go back to Syria."

As Azar's coverage showed, Tuesday's event began to break up when one woman affiliated with the Proud Boys was shoved aside by a couple of members when she apparently began trying to instigate a fight. Eventually, one of them sprayed her with mace—which then sparked a rush of Proud Boys charging with their own cans of mace and spraying the counter-protesters. Some counter-protesters were able to retaliate with their own pepper spray, but the crowds quickly broke apart at that point, and people began to leave.

As they were departing, one car full of Proud Boys shot paint balls at counter-protesters from their car doors. Rubber projectiles were reportedly also launched.

They left in a mostly leisurely fashion, unharried by police. They knew they would be back for more in a few weeks, or days, or however long it takes for someone to concoct a right-wing cause for them to "support."

Trumpist Platform GETTR Delivers Terrorism, Furry Porn, And A Massive Security Breach

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

If there's anything that right-wing chat platforms promising uncensored "free speech" like Gab and Parler have proven, it's that such predicates ensure the platforms will quickly be inundated with the worst people in the world—bigots spewing death threats, hatemongers, disinformation artists, conspiracy theorists, vile misogynists, and terrorists of all stripes. The kind of clients that will doom such networks to permanent deplatforming.

The same fate has predictably befallen GETTR, Donald Trump acolyte Jason Miller's social-media app launched last month to right-wing hurrahs. After stumbling through multiple hacks indicating the site's cybersecurity was paltry, it is now besieged by Islamic State terrorists posting propaganda—including memes urging Trump's execution and graphic beheading videos, Politico reports.

Islamic State "has been very quick to exploit GETTR," Moustafa Ayad, executive director for Africa, the Middle East, and Asia at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told Politico's Mark Scott and Tina Nyugen. "On Facebook, there was on one of these accounts that I follow that is known to be Islamic State, which said 'Oh, Trump announced his new platform. Inshallah, all the mujahideen will exploit that platform,'" he added. "The next day, there were at least 15 accounts on GETTR that were Islamic State."

Islamic State celebrated their successful infiltration of the pro-Trump platform: "We will come at you with slaying and explosions you worshippers of the cross," wrote one pro-ISIS account. "How great is freedom of expression."

Miller dismissed the flood of ISIS sympathizers as "keyboard warriors hiding in caves and eating dirt cookies." He also claimed that GETTR's content moderation was effective.

"ISIS is trying to attack the MAGA movement because President Trump wiped them off the face of the earth, destroying the Caliphate in less than 18 months, and the only ISIS members still alive are keyboard warriors hiding in caves and eating dirt cookies," Miller said in a statement. "Buried beneath a misleading and inflammatory headline, however, even Politico acknowledges GETTR has a robust and proactive moderation system that removes prohibited content, maximizing both cutting-edge A.I. technology and human moderation."

In fact, Politico reported that four days after it had submitted its queries to GETTR about the Islamic State posts, "many of these accounts and videos are still up."

When Miller launched GETTR early in July, it was advertised as "a non-bias social network for people all over the world" and boasted that it was "the marketplace of ideas." (It also shortly emerged that Miller had obtained seed money for the venture from rogue Chinese investor Guo Wengui.) Trump himself declined to sign up.

However, a number of prominent Republicans—nearly all of them from the pro-Trump camp—did. These included House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York, as well as Congressmen Jim Jordan of Ohio, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Lee Zeldin of New York, James Lankford of Oklahoma, ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Many of these figures shortly had reason to regret doing so: Over the weekend of its initial launch, a hacker successfully compromised a number of official GETTR accounts—including those belonging to Taylor Greene, Pompeo, Bannon, and Miller. The hacker told reporters it had taken him only about 20 minutes to successfully break in.

Hackers leveraged GETTR's API to scrape the email addresses of more than 85,000 users, including usernames, names and birthdays.

"When threat actors are able to extract sensitive information due to neglectful API implementations, the consequence is equivalent to a data breach and should be handled accordingly by the firm [and] examined by regulators," Alon Gal, the co-founder of cybersecurity firm Hudson Rock who reported the dataset, told TechCrunch.

Miller scoffed. "You know you're shaking things up when they come after you," he told Insider. "The problem was detected and sealed in a matter of minutes, and all the intruder was able to accomplish was to change a few user names. The situation has been rectified and we've already had more than half a million users sign up for our exciting new platform!"

The problems continued to mount, however. GETTR was also flooded with porn featuring Sonic the Hedgehog and hundreds of other accounts featuring hentai, furry porn, and stock photos of pudgy men in their underwear.

Casey Newton at The Verge notes that these right-wing "free speech" apps almost appear to be set up with the intention to make them fail. "Apps like Parler and GETTR offered their conservative users an attractive mirage: a free-speech paradise where they could say the things they couldn't say elsewhere," he writes. "It never seemed to occur to anyone that such a move would only select for the worst social media customers on earth, quickly turning the founders' dreams to ash."

Miller's claims notwithstanding, GETTR's content moderation is clearly unable to handle the kind of content it is guaranteed to attract. As Newton observes: "Most people will only spend so long in a virtual space in which they are surrounded by the worst of humanity."

Moreover, these social-media apps appear to be a kind of con job not intended necessarily to enrich its founders but to promote a right-wing narrative that is itself part of a larger grift.

As Ryan Broderick at Garbage Day put it:

I'm also beginning to wonder if all these apps are their own grift in a way. Loudly launch a site no one will ever use, claim it's a free speech sanctuary for Republicans, do the rounds on all the right-wing news outlets, and wait for it to fill up with the worst people on Earth, refuse to moderate it, wait for Apple to ban it from the App Store, and then go back to the right-wing news outlets and screech about liberal cancel culture impacting your ability to share hentai with white nationalist flat earthers or whatever.

Proud Boys Resurface To Infiltrate Local Communities

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

While you might get the impression that the Proud Boys largely vanished from the public radar in the weeks following the January 6 Capitol insurrection in which they played a central role, the reality is that the proto-fascist street-thug organization has been popping up all over recently—but operating on a purely local level, consistently hijacking causes and events organized by local activists and communities.

This appears to be their latest strategy, as imprisoned Proud Boy Ethan Nordean had suggested in his pre-arrest Telegram chats: Namely, to scale down their operations and spread their recruitment by focusing on local issues. Over the past several weeks, as Tess Owen observes at VICE, they appear to be enacting it in places like Nashua, New Hampshire; Miami and Tampa, Florida; and Salem, Oregon.

The strategy mostly appears to entail identifying local grievances that can provide opportunities for Proud Boys to involve themselves. In Miami, for instance, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio turned up uninvited with several cohorts, offering "support" for a protest by the Cuban-American community backing dissidents in Cuba.

"Since January 6, members of the group have steered clear of large-scale rallies, and instead attempted to build grassroots support in their communities by latching onto hyper-local culture war dramas and ginning up tensions," Owen writes.

In Nashua, as Owen reports, Proud Boys turned up at school board meetings, masked and wearing their uniform shirts, to protest "critical race theory" in local schools. Their presence riled local residents.

"Proud Boys come to our board meetings for what? For what? What is the purpose of them being here? Are they here for our children? I think not," said board member Gloria Timmons, who doubles as president of the Nashua chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Nordean's pre-arrest chats with his fellow Proud Boys about how to proceed after January 6 promised this kind of strategy. "I'm gunna press on with some smart level-headed non-emotional guys and create a game plan for how to approach this year, we aren't gunna stop getting involved in the community, especially with the momentum we have," Nordean wrote.

He later added: "Yeah, this is just to organize and prepare for when we do decide to get active again. At the very least there's lots of good excuses to just get out and do meet n greets with the public, raise money, community service, security for events etc ... but we can work on an effective process so we look more organized and have properly vetted members who are representing the club."

This is consistent with Proud Boys' proclaimed self-image as just normal American guys, their belief right up to January 6 that the police were on their side, and their ongoing denials of being racist or extremist. The localized issues are often the same right-wing grievances being ginned up nightly on Fox News, as with critical race theory in New Hampshire schools. The common thread among the issues being hijacked by Proud Boys is that they are congenial to (if not fueled by) conspiracism, and primarily revolve around concocted enemies.

The first post-insurrection Proud Boys event of note was an early May rally at a city park in Salem, Oregon, at which journalists were threatened and ejected and guns were on broad display. It was also notable for the remarkable absence of any kind of police presence. However, another Proud Boys event held in Oregon City on June 15 was shut down by police when they declared it a riot.

Most of the Proud Boys' reappearances have occurred over the past month:

  • July 3, Buhl, Idaho: A Proud Boys float, featuring uniformed marchers walking alongside, was among the 100 or so entries for the town's annual Sagebrush Days parade. The polo shirt-wearing Proud Boys carried both an American flag and a black flag emblazoned with the organization's logo.
  • July 10, Grand Rapids, Michigan: A local Proud Boys chapter announced that it planned to hold a rally in a local park to "honor the lives lost to antifa & BLM racist mob violence," but nobody from the organization showed up at the appointed time and place.
  • July 10, Tallahassee, Florida: A group of about 100 protesters that included a large number of Proud Boys rallied on the lawn of the Historic Capitol Museum to demand the government release the January 6 insurrectionists. They flashed signs at passersby and chanted, "Let them go." It was hosted by Luis Miguel, a Republican senatorial candidate from St. Augustine, who described the arrested indictees as part of a patriotic brotherhood: "They're not insurrectionists; they're not traitors; they're not terrorists. They are heroes," he said.
  • July 11, Miami, Florida: As demonstrators assembled en masse around Miami to support nationwide anti-government protests in Cuba, Tarrio arrived with a pack of Proud Boys to offer their backing. One of the Proud Boys asked Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo why he hangs out with "Marxists" and "Communists." Acevedo also had a hostile exchange with Tarrio.
  • July 14, Salem, Oregon: A group of about 20 Proud Boys, armed with holstered handguns, paintball guns, bats, and body armor gathered to protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic to protest abortion laws, and were met by a crowd of at least 40 counter-protesters. The opposing sides ended up brawling, and Salem police arrested two people.
  • July 14, Helena, Montana: An ostensible "fundraising event for veterans" sponsored by a local Proud Boys group was canceled after being publicized locally. A "Proud Boys Poker Run" was supposedly intended to dedicate funds to a wounded veterans fund, but the person who originated the event punted when he was exposed: "the poker run for the 24th is hereby officially cancelled due to snow-flakes," he wrote on the event's website. "unfortunately a few uninformed sheep started causing problems at the hub sorry for any inconvenience and hope yall have a great summer."
  • July 17, Los Angeles, California: A crew of black-clad Proud Boys descended upon the scene outside Wi Spa, which had attracted a crowd of protesters and counter-protesters in a dispute over the business' policies regarding transgender members. As Left Coast Right Watch's on-scene reporting showed, a handful of fights turned into an outright street brawl. Police clashed mostly with left-wing protesters, using batons and riot munitions, and the scene was declared a riot and cleared.
  • July 19, Red Bluff, California: A number of Proud Boys showed up to rally outside a court hearing for a local tavern owner facing assault charges, reportedly flashing white-supremacist hand gestures. The tavern, the Palomino Room, has become "kind of a Mecca for right wing extremism, given the owner's outspoken views regarding those awful, oppressive mask mandates," reported the local news outlet. "From there it has been surmised that the Proud Boys might have vandalized the Wild Oak store by firing a paint ball at it and attaching a State of Jefferson Proud Boy sticker in front of a 'Black Lives Matter' sign."
  • July 20, Scotland, South Dakota: Local Proud Boy David Finnell applied on behalf of the group to sponsor a street dance from noon until midnight in mid-September, and the local city council approved the request, which would have closed a section of the city street, as required for alcohol consumption and food vendors. However, after the announcement produced a torrent of disapproval, Finnell pulled out, saying the Proud Boys were dropping sponsorship of the event "out of concerns for safety."
  • July 26, Tampa, Florida: An anti-COVID-19-restriction rally, billing itself as a "Worldwide Freedom Rally," attracted a large contingent of Proud Boys supporting the cause. Some of them carried yellow "Don't Tread On Me" Gadsden banners, as well as signs declaring that "Trump won," and demanding the government "free political prisoners"—that is, the January 6 insurrectionists.
  • July 30, Boise, Idaho: Some anonymous Proud Boys hung two large banners bearing their logo from two heavily trafficked freeway overpasses in the city. Police removed the banners, and said it was unclear who hung them.

One of the more insidious aspects of the Proud Boys' strategy is how it manipulates small-town environments to insinuate themselves within them, and once there, how it divides and creates turmoil within those communities where little existed previously. As a local account in Mainer News demonstrated, the Proud Boys' gradual takeover of a small old tavern in Portland, Maine, alienated and angered local residents, who blamed the tavern owner for permitting it.

The owner, as the report explains, wasn't necessarily sympathetic to the Proud Boys, but really had little idea about their background. "'Oh, they're not that bad,'" the man reportedly told his longtime bouncer, who quit over the situation.

"They're bad as the fuckin' Klan, Bobby!" the bouncer replied. He then pointed at a group of Proud Boys across the street, and added: "Yeah, I'm talking about you motherfuckers."

Oath Keepers Seek Plea Deals In Jan. 6 Insurrection Conspiracy

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The conspiracy case that federal prosecutors appear to be building around the behavior of two key groups involved in the January 6 Capitol insurrection—namely, the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys—ratcheted another notch tighter this week when one of the men involved in the Oath Keepers' "stack" formation that day entered a guilty plea as part of a cooperation agreement with prosecutors.

One Proud Boys leader, erstwhile national chairman Enrique Tarrio, also pleaded guilty to the charge on which he had been arrested prior to Jan. 6—namely, setting a Black Lives Matter banner afire during a December 12 "Stop the Steal" event—and also has struck a deal with prosecutors, though it's unclear whether he is providing evidence in the January 6 prosecutions. Meanwhile, the first of the insurrectionists who pleaded guilty, Paul Hodgkins, was given an eight-month sentence Monday by a federal judge who warned that the seemingly light term should not be considered a harbinger of future sentences in other cases.

Tuesday's plea deal for Oath Keeper Caleb Berry is the third such piece to fall into place for prosecutors. Earlier this month, two insurrectionists cut plea deals: Mark Grods, a 54-year-old Oath Keeper from Alabama, and Graydon Young, 55, another Oath Keeper from Florida. Both men are believed to be providing evidence in the conspiracy case against the 15 other Oath Keepers charged in the riot, one that prosecutors have been gradually building and may eventually encompass the group's founder and leader, Stewart Rhodes.

Charging documents in Berry's case indicate that he will admit to dropping off weapons at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, as part of creating a "quick reaction force" the Oath Keepers planned to deploy in Washington, D.C., should things take a violent turn. Oath Keepers leaders have insisted the weapons were only intended for use if antifascists showed up to stop them.

Berry also acknowledges that he participated in a tactical "stack" formation comprised of Oath Keepers that played a key role in the mob's ability to penetrate security barriers at the Capitol on January 6. Prosecutors are likely to be asking him for information about pre-planning and surveillance by the Oath Keepers near the Capitol before the insurrection, since Berry also "traveled to and then observed the restricted Capitol grounds" on January 5, one day beforehand, according to the affidavit.

Tarrio's guilty plea for burning the BLM banner also included misdemeanor charges that he was carrying high-capacity ammunition magazines in his luggage when arrested. He is scheduled to be sentenced in late August.

He told Senior Judge Harold L. Cushenberry Jr. that he was unaware the banner had been taken from a nearby African-American church.

"If I'd have known that banner came from a church, it would not have been burned," said Tarrio, who also said he had no regrets about burning a BLM banner because he thinks the movement "has terrorized the citizens of this country."

The prosecutor overseeing Tarrio's case noted to Cushenberry "for the record" that "nothing in the agreement is intended to prevent the government from bringing different or additional charges" against him in the future "based on his conduct on January 6th, 2021, or any other time." Tarrio, who had been barred from D.C. on January 6, has said he was not involved in any of the planning around the event, despite the key role played by Proud Boys in the insurrection.

Hodgkins was the first of the insurrectionists to be sentenced, after the 38-year-old from Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding by entering the Capitol on January 6 with the mob. The eight-month sentence was less than half the 18 months sought by prosecutors, but District Judge Randolph Moss was more lenient because he had not participated in violence and had a clean criminal record.

"It is essential to send a message that this type of conduct is utterly unacceptable and that grave damage was done to our country that day," Moss said. "At the same time, I do not believe that Mr. Hodgkins—other than having made some very bad decisions that day and done some really bad things that day that did some real damage to the country—that he is a threat or that he is inherently an evil person."

Moss, however, was also clear that he did not buy defense arguments that the January 6 riot was not an insurrection: "Although Mr. Hodgkins was only one member of a larger mob, he actively and intentionally participated in an event that threatened not only the security of the Capitol but democracy itself," he said. "That is chilling, for many reasons."

Unlike other defendants, Hodgkins also was openly repentant: "I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am truly remorseful and regretful for my actions in Washington," he told the judge. "This was a foolish decision on my part that I take full responsibility for it."

Other Jan. 6 defendants have been openly defiant. One such indictee—Pauline Bauer of Kane, Pennsylvania—has declared herself a sovereign citizen and filed court documents based on that far-right movement's pseudo-legal mumbo jumbo in her case. During her court hearing on Monday, she repeatedly interrupted the judge and declared herself immune from American laws, according to NBC4's Scott MacFarlane.

"Every man is independent of all laws, except those of nature," declared Bauer, who decided to represent herself in court. She added: "I think the American people will be shocked to find out who owns the Capitol building right now."

Bauer, who is representing herself, had previously filed documents in her case declaring herself a "Living Soul, Creation of God" who was a separate entity from the "Vessel" charged with the crime. She told the judge she won't let pretrial services come into her home and won't turn over her passport, calling the search of her home "illegal."

According to court documents, Bauer had organized buses full of people to attend the January 6 "Stop the Steal" rally, and had been a particularly bloodthirsty participant in the Capitol siege.

"This is where we find Nancy Pelosi," Bauer can be heard saying inside the Capitol in a body-camera recording placed in evidence by prosecutors. "Bring that fucking bitch out here now. Bring her out here. We're coming in if you don't bring her out."

At a June appearance, Bauer had addressed the court with undiluted sovereign-citizen lingo: "I am a free soul, I am not part of your corporation, I am making a special Divine appearance."

At Monday's hearing, District Judge Zia Faruqui attempted to persuade Bauer to let her appoint an attorney in her case. She refused.

Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League told The Daily Beast that sovereign citizens like Bauer have been gulled by a conspiracist belief system that has little attachment to reality.

"Their filings and documents, to the layperson, have the look and feel of being actual legal filings, but they're actually flights of fancy, magical thinking," Pitcavage said. "As a result, all their arguments fail. Some judges will take the time to address them issue by issue. Some will more abruptly or harshly dismiss them as gobbledegook."

Gaslighting Right-Wing Pundits Whitewash Jan. 6 Insurrection

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The American right has an insurrection problem. It knows that millions of people watched the events of January 6 at the U.S. Capitol unfold in real time. It knows that video and other evidence, such as that compiled by the New York Times' video-investigations team, shows clearly that a violent, armed mob attempted to overturn the outcome of the presidential election—unquestionably an insurrection. And because so many of them played a role in enabling and empowering that mob, they now want all that to just go away.

So they are now turning to the next essential step in creating a right-wing "bloody shirt" trope that enables them to stand reality on its head: gaslighting the public. From Tucker Carlson to Megyn Kelly to Glenn Greenwald to the nutty protesters outside the D.C. Detention Center last weekend, the right and its apologists are doubling down on the claim that January 6 wasn't an insurrection—it was just a protest that got a little out of hand. Who are you gonna believe: a slick pundit or your lying eyes?

Republicans have been parroting this attempted line of defense ever since Carlson first trotted it out in January and then doubled down continuously, leading a kind of "1/6 Truther" movement dedicated to spinning up misinformation and conspiracy theories about the event. GOP members of Congress—who first tried to blame it all on antifa and Black Lives Matter—began regurgitating it in March at a hearing on domestic terrorism.

Kelly made herself the latest leader in the gaslighting parade last week by declaring on her podcast: "It wasn't an insurrection. It wasn't."

"A faction turned," Kelly told her audience. "But there's no question the media represented this as so much worse than it actually was." She added, "We've all seen the video of people, like, screaming in the face of cops, being totally disparaging, and defecating on the floor of the U.S. Capitol, and lawmakers were understandably afraid … and I didn't like seeing it at all."

Kelly went on to argue that mainstream media outlets were "tying the political rhetoric" of Trump's repeated denials that he had lost the election and falsely claiming there had been widespread voter fraud to "what we saw that day"—in spite of the reality that Trump's denials and claims provided the primary motivation for the people who participated in the insurrection, as the hundreds of indictments (resulting in arrest) handed down against them have demonstrated.

Greenwald chimed in on Twitter, agreeing with Kelly's assertion that "it wasn't an insurrection":

Of course it wasn't. But the media spent 5 years tossing around every histrionic term -- treason, traitor, Kremlin agent -- so they now only know how to express themselves in the most unhinged and hysterical manner. Hence, a 3 hour riot becomes an *insurrection.*

Michael Tracey, a frequent Greenwald sidekick, similarly chimed in:

It's always been propagandistic nonsense that "insurrection" was somehow the only acceptable term to describe the events of Jan 6. The term was selected because it furthers the political agenda of Democrats/corporate media, and the law enforcement agenda of federal prosecutors.

Kelly also retweeted a comment from right-wing pundit Byron York, who himself promoted a Wall Street Journal column by Debra Burlingame insisting that "It's a Travesty to Compare the Capitol Siege to 9/11."

Identical sentiments were voiced by protesters Saturday outside the Central Detention Facility in Washington, D.C., where many of the arrested insurrectionists are being held ahead of trial. "Let them go! Let them go! Let them go!" the crowd chanted.

Protesters carried signs declaring that "protests are not insurrections" and "patriots are not terrorists." Protesters called the arrested indictees "nonviolent American patriots."

One of the protesters told reporter Scott MacFarlane that the January 6 Capitol siege didn't meet the definition of an insurrection: "Insurrection has a meaning in law," he said. "It means an armed attempt to take over government."

The cognitive dissonance at work here is remarkable, considering that the man's definition fully describes what the world saw on January 6: A violent attempt by an armed mob to prevent the certification of state ballots with the intention of preventing the traditional peaceful transfer of power from one outgoing president to the incoming, a hallmark of American democracy and its stability. It was fully an insurrectionary attack on our democracy in every aspect of the word's meaning. But the gaslighters want the public to believe they saw something other than what they saw.

The protesters, who were estimated to have numbered about 100 and arrived by a group bus with participants from Illinois, New York, Idaho, and other states, marched through Washington with their signs and banners, which included an American flag draped upside down. They uniformly described the January 6 defendants as "victims."

This is, of course, how the old right-wing trope of "waving the bloody shirt"—the one in which the violent bully is transformed into a victim, and the victim into a bully, all through the magical power of gaslighting—has always worked: First, minimize the violence that has been committed so that the public will have sympathy for the perpetrators and doubt the motives of the accusers. The next step—which is to characterize the accurate portrayal of the violence as exaggerated for political or other motives, and to cast aspersions on the persons attacked—is what naturally follows.

Tracey gave us a preview of that second portion of the dynamic already at work in his Substack essay that Kelly promoted on Twitter, insisting that it wasn't an insurrection:

Unless your brain has been permanently addled by the torrent of hyperbole, no one attempting to be minimally objective could possibly say with a straight face that a several-hour delay of legislative business was in any sense an "existential threat." We know this because the "existence" of the country was never in jeopardy due to the actions of a marauding MAGA mob, most of whom appeared to have no idea what they were even doing inside the "citadel." The government was never at risk of being overthrown, and any insinuation to the contrary has always been beyond laughable.

Never mind that the body of evidence reflected in the New York Times video investigation and elsewhere overwhelmingly tells us that the nation narrowly avoided a catastrophe on January 6, one in which the mob not only nearly overtook Vice President Mike Pence—whom they were demanding be hung—but also members of the House who were sheltering in place in the gallery. The idea that the mob was not mere moments away from preventing the peaceful transfer of power and installing Donald Trump as dictator is what's actually risible.

Americans aren't alone. The January 6 attack on our democracy left our allies around the world—particularly those who look to the United States as the primary beacon of sturdy democracy for other aspiring nations—shaken and concerned about our future. That concern is growing as Republicans continue not only to excuse and rationalize the anti-democratic sentiments and beliefs that fueled the insurrection, but to openly embrace them as well.

"The thing that makes me really worried is how similar what's going on in the U.S. looks to a series of countries in the world where democracy has really taken a big toll and, in many cases, died," Staffan Lindberg, a Swedish political scientist who directs the Varieties of Democracy Institute, said. "I'm talking about countries like Hungary under Orban, Turkey in the early days of Erdogan's rule, Modi in India, and I can go down the line."

As British political scientist Brian Klaas observed in the Washington Post:

U.S. allies see our democracy as a shattered, washed-up has-been. We used to provide a democratic model for the world, but no longer. The chaos, dysfunction and insanity of the past several years have taken a predictable toll.

Anti-Semitic And Racist Lawman Was Finalist For Sheriff Of Idaho’s Largest County

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

One of the clearest priorities for public officials that has emerged from the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is the dire need to root far-right extremists out of the ranks of the nation's law enforcement agencies—underscored by an FBI intelligence report warning that white supremacists are targeting such agencies for infiltration. More than anything, effectively confronting far-right terrorism and violence will require ensuring that law enforcement is not subverted by officers who sympathize with their frequently unhinged ideologies.

But in Boise, Idaho, local county commissioners considered appointing as sheriff a man named Steve Traubel, who is an ardent supporter of the far-right Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), an organization that preaches that sheriffs are the supreme law of the land, accountable to no one. During his job interview this week as one of three finalists for the sheriff's position, Traubel repeated the antisemitic theory that Jews "led the Bolshevik Revolution" and are to blame for creating the Soviet Union, as well as for the subsequent violence.

However, although Traubel had significant backing from GOP officials, the county commission on Friday chose someone else.

Traubel, a onetime Sheriff's Office investigator who worked in the Ada County Prosecutor's Office until 2019, and the other two candidates—Matt Clifford, a lieutenant in the Sheriff's Office, and Mike Chilton, a Marine Corps veteran and onetime Sheriff's Office employee—were interviewed Wednesday by the Ada County Commission. The three finalists were chosen by the Ada County Republican Central Committee to replace former Sheriff Steve Bartlett, who resigned suddenly in May, less than a year after winning reelection.

On Friday, the commission announced that it had chosen Clifford for the job.

While Chilton has been evasive about his background—having refused to supply the commission with requested information on his employment and personal history—Traubel's background as a far-right extremist is well-established, and he was largely unapologetic about it in his interview. According to Boise State Public Radio, Traubel received more votes from GOP central-committee members than any other potential nominee, and county commissioners received several letters supporting Traubel from those party leaders.

Traubel openly embraces the CSPOA, which embraces him in return. On his website, Traubel features an endorsement from CSPOA founder Richard Mack:

However, Doug Traubel has more than just law enforcement experience; he has freedom experience. He knows and understands the principles of liberty upon which America was founded. He knows that Liberty is the ultimate responsibility of every sheriff in this country. The people of Ada County will be able to trust him to run the sheriff's office in a manner that will guarantee safety and protect freedom. They must go together and with Doug, they will.

Traubel is also the author of a self-published book titled Red Badge: A veteran peace officer's commentary on the Marxist subversion of American Law Enforcement & Culture, available on Amazon. According to its description, Traubel "pulls no punches as he delivers hard-hitting evidence that reveals how Marxists have repackaged themselves and are subverting the rule of law with social justice and an administrative state, superimposed over the constitution."

It adds: "Controlling local police is essential to the success of the revolution. To do this the Marxist hammer of political correctness is reshaping a peace officer's oath over the anvil of ignorance and fear. Five decades of federal indoctrination, intimidation and seduction have turned local police leadership into tools for Marxist social engineering."

Traubel also wrote a screed for the far-right Gem State Patriot website claiming that former President Obama is "a laughable stooge of the tried-and-failed Marxist ideology" and claiming:

It is 2016! There is no longer black oppression in the United States. Police are good. Criminals are bad. It is not white versus black. It is police versus criminal. It is good versus evil. It is principles versus relativism. It is truth versus deception.

When Ada commissioners began grilling Traubel over these and other remarks on Wednesday, he unleashed a deluge of far-right conspiracist nonsense, much of it anti-semitic and racist in nature, including his insistence that Jews were responsible for the Communist regime in Russia—noting that while Jews were victims in Nazi Germany, "they were the villain class in the Soviet Union" because they "led the Bolshevik revolution."

Traubel's claim not only is false, it was a common propaganda trope known as "Judeo-Bolshevism" promoted by the German Nazi regime in the years leading up to and including the Holocaust, claiming that Communism was a Jewish plot to undermine Germany. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: "The existence of a communist state so close to Germany was not merely a political threat, but also an existential racial and ideological threat. For Nazis, both Jews and communists were made worse by their supposed identification with one another."

Traubel, however, insisted Wednesday that the claim was real: "What we don't often hear … is how many hundreds of thousands of people were killed (in the Soviet Union) and what group actually started that," he said.

If the commission were to select Traubel, he would not be the first CSPOA-affiliated sheriff to lay claim to jurisdiction in a large urban area. That distinction belongs to former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke of Wisconsin, the pro-Trump advocate who at one time was a Fox News regular.

As was the case with Clarke—who, after his tenure has ended, advocated for right-wing "patriots" to take to the streets in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions—having such a sheriff would play law enforcement in the hands of the same movement (that is, the "Patriot" movement, in which the CSPOA is an active and powerful presence) primarily responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

When CSPOA sheriffs have taken office, the results are often disastrous. Just ask the residents of Grant County, Oregon, where one such sheriff has taken to ruling the county like his personal fiefdom.

Traubel openly embraced the CSPOA belief in the supremacy of the sheriff during the interview. He told commissioners that if, in his view, a "social justice mentality is pulling the reins on the police" in Boise during a protest, "if I get wind of that, I'm going in." He indicated he believed the Boise Police officers would then be "under my command."

"It kind of sounds like you'd be willing to take up arms against the Boise police," commissioner Rod Beck commented.

Other commissioners questioned comments and claims that Traubel has made on social media, including his racist (and false) assertions that Black men are responsible for "at least 50%" of all rapes—which he asserted he read in a book that was "factual and well-sourced," but could not name—and other bigoted remarks, including the assertion that "Islam is the culture of death."

But Traubel's bigotry is part of the CSPOA package, which itself is founded on far-right conspiracy theories whose origins were profoundly racist and anti-Semitic. As the Southern Poverty Law Center explained in a 2016 report on the organization's spread, particularly in rural counties where such "constitutionalist" beliefs are often popular:

[T]he real root of the "county supremacy" movement that has been explicitly embraced by the CSPOA is the Posse Comitatus, a racist and anti-Semitic group of the 1970s and 1980s that also defined the county sheriff as the highest "legitimate" law enforcement authority in the country. The Posse, whose Latin name translates as "power of the county," said government officials who "disobey" the Constitution should be taken to a downtown intersection and "hung there by the neck."

Richard Mack (while insisting that the United States is "not a democracy" but "a constitutional republic") claims that sheriffs and police officers—by virtue of having taken an oath to uphold the Constitution—were the true arbiters of what the law permits, and may choose not to uphold laws they deem outside it, regardless of any court rulings, even at the highest federal levels:

Why do you think that I have an obligation to go along with any unconstitutional act or anything that violates liberty? It's not my definition. It's right there, it's plain and easy. I know what "shall not be infringed" means. I know what that means. Because my legislature bestows no obligation on me to go along. Just the opposite. I swore to uphold and defend the Constitution, and you, like everybody else, think I don't have to. That's the problem. We don't follow the Constitution anymore. Let's try that for a year. But it's your definition. It's not my definition.
… Why is the sheriff so powerful? Look at your history of the sheriff. Also, look, he is the only elected law enforcement officer anywhere in the country. He's the only one. He gets his power directly from the people. He reports only to them. They're his only boss. He has no other boss except the people. And he promised them that he would uphold and defend their constitutional rights. And so you're saying, no, he doesn't have to. If the legislature tells him not to, if they pass a law. You think all laws are good if they pass?
In his county … the governor's not his boss. He doesn't report to the governor. He doesn't report to the president. When they are wrong, what do we do?

Not one of these arguments has ever been upheld in any court of law in the United States. Moreover, as the Center for Public Integrity explored in depth in a 2014 study of the CSPOA, the organization's worldview is dangerously aligned with views held by domestic terrorists and violent white supremacists:

What's unique about his group is not that it opposes gun controls but that its ambition is to encourage law enforcement officers to defy laws they decide themselves are illegal. On occasion, some of his group's sheriffs have found themselves in curious agreement with members of the sovereign citizens' movement, which was also founded on claimed rights of legal defiance and is said by the FBI to pose one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats.

Indeed, the sovereign citizens movement that preaches the same beliefs vis-a-vis the role of government has, over the past 20 years, also posed the most lethal threat to law enforcement officers in the country. The FBI in 2010 designated the movement a significant source of domestic terrorism.

"It's terrifying to me," Justin Nix, a University of Louisville criminology professor who specializes in police fairness and legitimacy, told The Washington Post. "It's not up to the police to decide what the law is going to be. They're sworn to uphold the law. It's not up to them to pick and choose."

Insurrectionists Turned Informants Are Tightening Screws On Jan. 6 Conspirators

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

As the number of participants in the January 6 Capitol insurrection turning state's witnesses against their fellow rioters keeps adding up, so does the evidence against their cohorts—particularly the people who conspired to lead the siege of Congress. Along the way, the evidence also piles up demonstrating that, contrary to apologists like Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald, these people brought guns and other dangerous weapons to Washington and were preparing to use them.

Two insurrectionists cut plea deals with prosecutors this week: Mark Grods, a 54-year-old Oath Keeper from Alabama, and Graydon Young, 55, another Oath Keeper from Florida. Both men are believed to be providing evidence in the conspiracy case against the 15 other Oath Keepers charged in the riot, one that prosecutors have been gradually building and may eventually encompass the group's founder and leader, Stewart Rhodes.

One cooperating witness, Jon Ryan Schaffer, had already reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. However, his evidence was not considered key to the conspiracy cases against the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

Grods, one of the nine Oath Keepers who provided security for former Donald Trump aide Roger Stone at the "Stop the Steal" rally preceding the insurrection, is reportedly testifying in secret against his cohorts in the group. He pleaded guilty to two charges, conspiracy and obstruction of Congress' certification of the Electoral College votes, at his hearing this week.

He may provide key evidence in the conspiracy case against the Oath Keepers, since he has admitted to stashing guns at a Washington hotel in preparation for the assault on the Capitol. Prosecutors have contended throughout their filings that Oath Keepers' preparations included provisioning guns outside the city that could be delivered quickly to the Capitol.

Grods, who brought guns, combat gear and helmets, and radio equipment with him to D.C. for the siege, also admitted to taking part in paramilitary training efforts, and to recruiting people to join in the insurrection. Court records show he admitted to storming the Capitol with others, carrying a large stick while participating in the military-style "stack" formation used by the Oath Keepers to cut through the crowd.

Young, who entered his guilty plea last week, admitted that he was attempting to intimidate and coerce elected officials when he entered the Capitol with his fellow Oath Keepers. His plea suggested he would testify that his fellow conspirators believed they could obstruct Congress' election certification by intimidating and coercing government personnel, which is why they forced open Capitol doors to allow the mob inside.

As Marcy Wheeler observes, these two cases demonstrate the hollowness of Carlson's claims on Fox News that the informants whose identities were unknown were paid FBI infiltrators who were secretly orchestrating the Capitol siege; rather, it makes clear that most of them are other insurrectionists looking to have their sentences reduced.

For that matter, anyone succumbing to the dubious logic trotted out by Carlson, Greenwald, and others would probably have their illusions shattered by a viewing of the striking video published this week by The New York Times' visual investigations team, which gives a full picture of the assault on the Capitol. Anyone who can come away from that still claiming that the event was nonviolent, the rioters were unarmed, and that it was simply a protest that got out of hand is someone who has lost touch with reality.

In the meantime, prosecutors continue to file new indictments, and FBI agents continue to make fresh arrests, including:

  • Ricky C. Willden. The man from Oakhurst, California, with a history of confronting and assaulting antifascists at demonstrations was arrested Wednesday. He is believed to have played a role in the successful breach of the Capitol's security perimeter. Video shows Willden "raising his hand and spraying an unknown substance from a green can toward police officers who were standing guard," according to court documents.
  • Timothy Hart: The Dayton, Ohio, man wore a bright "Q" logo shirt into the Capitol, and is believed both to have knocked down police barriers and to have waved some of the mob into the building. He also was recorded smoking a marijuana cigarette while inside the Rotunda. Outside the Capitol, he had shouted: "We already voted, and what have they done? They stole it! We want our fucking country back! Let's take it!"
  • Chase Allen: The self-styled documentarian, originally from Massachusetts but currently living in Reno, Nevada, is accused primarily of destroying television and other broadcasting equipment belonging to the Associated Press and other news operations who were forced to abandon their gear by the mob. Allen—who operates a livestreaming operation called The Allen Report on Facebook—claimed the worst thing he did on January 6 was engage in cursing; however, prosecutors produced multiple photos of him destroying media equipment along with others on January 6.
  • Joshua Haynes: The man from Covington, Virginia, arrested this week on multiple chargesalso was a participant in the destruction of media equipment, though unlike Allen, he actively boasted about it on social media. "I liked it too," he commented on Facebook about a video of the vandalism. "I have already seen a report of it and I am in the video destroying the stuff but I'm wearing a mask," he wrote. "I had to keep my face covered." Haynes also entered the office of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and participated in its vandalization, then later boasted about that too: "broke lotsa stuff," he wrote, "lol."

Another indictee—Thomas Robertson, then an active officer with the Rocky Mount, Virginia, police department, who entered the Capitol with a colleague and later boasted about it to his colleagues on Facebook, claiming he had broken no laws—who had been granted pretrial release now faces a revocation of that release this week after FBI agents discovered that he has purchased an arsenal of over 30 guns and a stockpile of ammunition in the weeks after his arrest, and despite release conditions requiring him to abjure all weapons. Robertson and his colleague, Jacob Fracker, were both fired from the police force after their arrests.

The first search of his property after his release found him in possession of three Glocks, a Smith and Wesson handgun, and four other rifles, including one with a tactical scope. He also purchased some 34 guns from a gun dealer, but kept the guns there with the dealer. Investigators also found that he had constructed a booby trap intended to kill anyone who opened it.

Online, Robertson has been—like many of the insurrectionists—defiant of the law and unrepentant about his actions. When someone on Facebook asked him whether the other defendants were proud of what they did, Robertson responded, "I sure as fuck am."

He then added:

I've said before. They are trying to teach us a lesson. They have. But its [sic] definitely not the intended lesson. I have learned that if you peacefully protest than [sic] you will be arrested, fired, be put on a no fly list, have your name smeared and address released by the FBI so every loon in the US can send you hate mail. I have learned very well that if you dip your toe into the Rubicon. ... cross it. Cross it hard and violent and play for all the marbles.

Prosecutors said Robertson has "flouted his release conditions," and asked that he be detained prior to his trial. Robertson did not respond to queries from the Roanoke Times.

A Wave Of Fascist Vandalism That Can’t Be Ignored

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Unapologetically fascist organizations like Patriot Front pose something of a dilemma: They are numerically small but intense, and rely on highly public stunts as a way of attracting attention and, they believe, recruits to their cause. In some regards, it makes sense to ignore them as much as possible and deny them the oxygen they crave.

But at times, the stunts they pull demand a response, such as when they brazenly marched in Washington, D.C., with police escorts in both February 2020 and January 2021. That's been especially the case the past month, as Patriot Front extremists have been busily defacing monuments to African Americans, particularly memorials to George Floyd in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, as well as a bust of a Black explorer with the Lewis and Clark expedition in Portland, Oregon.

Patriot Front, the brainchild of a young Texas neo-Nazi named Thomas Rousseau, explicitly embraces fascism in its writings and recruitment material ("Fascism: The Next Step for America" reads one of its fliers). Its primary strategy is to perform attention-grabbing stunts—plastering their hateful stickers around communities and campuses, waving white-nationalist banners from freeways, harassing leftist protest groups, and occasionally organizing marches intended to create the impression that their numbers are larger than they are in reality—that force the media to cover them, which they believe will eventually draw more recruits their way.

Many of these tactics have grown ineffective over time, including the freeway banners and fliers, which increasingly draw little media attention. As a result, Patriot Front increasingly appears to be engaging in more brazen attacks on leftists, particularly by vandalizing monuments.

The first such attack occurred earlier this month in Philadelphia, when vandals sprayed white paint covering a mural dedicated to George Floyd in the Olney section of the city. They then spray-painted stencils featuring Patriot Front logos and slogans over the white paint.

The mural had been commissioned by the North 5th Street Revitalization Project in summer 2020 in the wake of Floyd's murder by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25.

Local residents were furious, Channel 6 ABC reported. "It's disrespectful. It's disrespectful," said one passerby.

"You don't touch his face. After what we've been through in the whole country and around the world? You don't touch his face," said Scott Hilton of Mt. Airy.

The Philadelphia Police Department said the vandalism was under investigation.

The Brooklyn defacement was even more brazen. Early last Thursday morning someone threw black paint onto the bust of Floyd -- dedicated on Juneteenth at Flatbush Junction near Brooklyn College -- and then stenciled graffiti featuring Patriot Front's online URL onto its base.

Security cameras caught images of four men with bandanas covering their faces walking toward the memorial early Thursday morning. One of the men appeared to be shaking a can of spray paint. Another image caught the license plate number of the vehicle that appeared to have brought the men to that location. New York police said they were investigating the incident as a hate crime.

"It's the epitome of not only anti-Blackness and racism, but it is also about the lack of even basic human decency about the life of George Floyd," Imani Henry, an organizer with Equality for Flatbush, told the New York Times. "For someone to desecrate an innocent person's tribute is just beyond the pale," Henry said.

"Patriot Front is explicit in its exclusion of people of color from its conception of pan-European identity as the authentic America," Susan Corke, the head of SPLC's Intelligence Project, told HuffPost's Christopher Mathias in a statement. "And their method of operation is to stage offensive racist propaganda stunts. Thus this abhorrent, hateful defacement of the George Floyd statue is more of the same garbage."

The incident in Portland involved a rogue memorial to York, the African American explorer who accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition west to Oregon in 1803 as Clark's slave and is believed to have been the first Black man to have reached the Pacific Ocean. In February, a bust of York—composed of wood and liquid urethane but simulating the appearance of a bronze—was placed atop a pedestal in Portland's Mount Taber park that formerly had featured a statue of onetime Oregonian editor Harvey Scott, which had been pulled down during an anti-police protest in October 2020.

The bust's artist is unknown, and city officials have discussed replacing it, perhaps with a more durable version of the same memorial. It was attacked and vandalized earlier this month by a woman who was recorded spraying paint on its base; 43-year-old Jeanette Grode was subsequently charged with criminal mischief for the act.

But Sunday morning's vandalism—white paint once again sprayed over parts of the bust and the pedestal, with a stenciled logo painted in red over the plaque marking the bust's commemoration—was clearly the work, once again, of someone affiliated with Patriot Front.

These acts serve as ongoing reminders of the limitations of the strategy of denying attention to hate groups seeking it: Almost inevitably, their hateful rhetoric generates real-world criminality and violence directed at vulnerable minority communities that cannot be ignored. And their small numbers, in the end, are often inconsequential: It only takes one or two of these violent extremists to wreak a great deal of havoc on the public.

Patriot Front in particular has been gearing up for the post-Trump era, counting on a strategy of "red-pilling" people already radicalized online by militias and the "Boogaloo" movement into extreme neo-Nazi beliefs. Yet they mostly view rival far-right groups with contempt.

"Proud Boys are a bunch of cucks," wrote one Patriot Front member from Texas. "They call themselves 'Western Chauvinists' which means they are a bunch of liberals who don't like PC culture and 'snowflakes' yet they are too scared to actually stand up to these things in a meaningful way lest they be called RACISTS!!!!"

One Patriot Front member, Bryan Betancur of Silver Spring, Maryland, currently faces charges for participating in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Betancur, who voiced support for the man who murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville in August 2017, actually wore an ankle bracelet as part of his probation for a burglary conviction, and the evidence against him includes data from that bracelet. A hearing on Betancur's status today in federal court noted that discovery was still under way in the case.

Richmond Murder Plot Shows Insurrectionists Aren’t ‘Regular Americans’

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

This past weekend, CNN began running stories ("Assault on Democracy: The Roots of Trump's Insurrection") dedicated ostensibly to examining what motivated the hundreds of people who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection, but which in the process primarily normalized them. "Before they were at an insurrection, they were regular Americans," read one promotional headline.

But the more we learn about the insurrectionists and their violent intentions, as evidence appears in the court record of their prosecutions, the more apparent it is that there is nothing remotely normal about the far-right movement into which they have eagerly been swept up. Even more self-evident is that, as we learn more about would-be insurrectionary events in the year leading up to Jan. 6—particularly the failed plans that were laid out to attack state capitol buildings in Virginia and Michigan—that the Capitol siege was not simply a one-off event; rather, the far-right extremists who still have not backed down in their belief that the election was stolen from Donald Trump intend to keep attempting it until they succeed.

The plot to unleash terrorist violence in Richmond, Virginia, was laid out in detail this weekend by the Winnipeg Free Press, which did a deep-dive exploration of the would-be terrorist career of Patrik Mathews, the onetime Canadian reservist arrested by the FBI five days before thousands of gun fanatics gathered in Richmond to protest the state's looming gun-control laws.

The Press had earlier exposed Mathews' activities as a budding recruiter for the neo-Nazi terrorist group The Base while serving as an active-duty combat engineer in Canada, leading to an RCMP raid on his home in Beausejour. Mathews fled to the United States in 2019 and began leading the life of a fugitive with other members of The Base, but his activities were being tracked and monitored by federal agents.

At one point, the agents obtained a "sneak and peek" warrant to search an apartment he shared with fellow Base member Brian Lemley Jr., which provided a trove of disturbing information:

What the agents found was disturbing: several self-recorded propaganda videos in which Mathews urged white supremacists to pick up arms and carry out attacks to spark a race war.
"If you want the white race to survive, you're going to have to do your f—king part… This is the age of war," Mathews said.
"Derail some f—king trains, kill some people, and poison some water supplies."
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland — which would later prosecute the criminal charges against the men — many of Mathews propaganda videos discussed killing people in furtherance of the neo-Nazi movement.

"The system has prevented a peaceful solution at every possible turn. It is the system that is fomenting violent revolution—not us—and they shall now reap what they have sown," Mathews said in one of the videos. "This is the century upon which this current civilization's rotting Jew-infested country comes to a collapse."

Moreover, the men were getting worked up about the upcoming Jan. 20, 2020, gun-rights rally in Richmond—whose politics they endorsed, but which they saw primarily as an opportunity to spark a violent conflict by opening up gunfire on rallygoers and on police. Among their purchases in the weeks leading up to the event was a semiautomatic assault rifle they assembled and then practiced with repeatedly at a gun range.

According to the FBI affidavit in the case, the three men discussed "the planning of violence at a specific event in Virginia, scheduled for January 20, 2020."

"Lemley discussed using a thermal imaging scope affixed to his rifle to conduct ambush attacks," the affidavit explains, "including attacks against unsuspecting civilians and police officers. Lemley stated, 'I literally need, I need to claim my first victim,' and when describing the optic, Lemley stated, "It's so unfair what I can do to people with that you know. There is no safety. Don't be caught alone at night in a place where I pop you."

Mathews stated, "We could essentially like be literally hunting people. Um. You could provide overwatch while I get close to do what needs to be done to certain things."

It quoted Mathews observing that "you know we got this situation in Virginia where this is going to be, that opportunity is boundless and the thing is you've got tons of guys who are just in theory should be radicalized enough to know that all you gotta do is start making things go wrong and if Virginia can spiral out to fucking full blown civil war.'"

In preparation for the Richmond event, the men gathered supplies: "bug out bags" they could stash as part of their getaway plans, purchasing body armor and an ammunition stockpile with over 1,600 rounds.

"I need to claim my first victim," Lemley told Mathews at one point.

"We can't let Virginia go to waste. We just can't. … Virginia will be our day," Mathews replied.

The men were arrested in Delaware on January 16. Several other members of The Base and another neo-Nazi terrorist band, Atomwaffen Division, were arrested over the next month on various charges involving their attempts to terrorize their political opponents.

The Richmond rally was raucous but generally nonviolent. However, its organizers made clear that their frequently seditionist rhetoric was not going away. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes—who eventually played a key role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, though he has not yet been charged—told protest supporters that the momentum was building for a civil war:

So yes, it could come down to a standoff. That's why it's important for, like I said, we want to reach out to the state police and National Guard as part of our mission when we go to Virginia, is reach out to them and encourage them to stand down because if they do act under the command of the governor, they come into a county, and they're resisted by the local militia or the sheriff and his posse, it will kick off a civil war in this country. That's what will happen. There will be a civil war between the left and the right and we'd prefer to see that not happen. That's where it's going to go.

And that was indeed where it went over the next year, particularly for the far-right "Patriot"/militia movement to which most of these various actors voiced allegiance—even as their opportunistic focus veered suddenly in the direction of anti-pandemic restriction protests. In late April, a group of armed militiamen attempted to take over the Michigan state Capitol in Lansing, and succeeded in threatening legislators who then voted to nullify Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's shutdown orders.

When federal and state investigators arrested 14 militiamen—many of whom had participated in the April protest—in October on charges that they had plotted to kidnap and execute Whitmer, it shortly emerged that the men's original plan had involved a massive takeover of the Capitol, at the culmination of which they intended to hold show trials and televised executions of state officials taken hostage.

Placing state capitols under siege was clearly a developing tactic that the radical right intended to keep repeating until it took hold. In Oregon, a group of far-right protesters successfully, but briefly, invaded the statehouse on Dec. 21; Republican state Representative Mike Nearman, who faces official misconduct charges for allowing the extremists into the building, was expelled from the Oregon Houseon June 11.

CNN should understand that it's true that these extremists all consider themselves not just regular Americans, but the apotheosis of national pride—even though they revealed their deeply seditionist natures on Jan. 6 and afterward. This is largely because the Patriot movement dresses its violent extremism in the swaddling clothes of jingoist patriotism, convincing its bellicose believers that they represent the "silent majority." This is a reality that CNN's project utterly neglects.

So despite a mountain of legal setbacks, many of the insurrectionists and their supporters and apologists remain defiant in their belief that they were trying to save America from a nefarious leftist cabal involving Joe Biden, Chinese communists, and "antifa/BLM leftists." One such activist—a Washington state-based "Patriot" who threatened a woman journalist on camera in Washington, D.C., during a November 14 "Stop the Steal" event—was unrepentant to a Washington Post reporter: "I'd do it all again," he said, "but with the mask on."

What's clear now is that the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol brought a year's worth of gathering momentum to a kind of fruition for the far-right tactic of threatening legislative buildings with invasion—and that the tactic remains a viable option for the future as well, at least until they finally succeed. Jan. 6 was a kind of culmination, but it likely also was a kind of beginning.

Supreme Court Upholds Conviction Of Neo-Nazi Thugs On Riot Charges

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

If white nationalists who engaged in acts of thuggish violence at protests during the Trump years were hoping they could escape culpability with the help of the Trump-appointed courts, then that gambit is not looking very solid right now, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court on Monday announced it would refuse the case of two members of the Rise Above Movement (RAM)—a band of neo-Nazi alt-righters from Southern California who like to travel around the country to participate in far-right protests with the intention of inflicting violence on "leftists"—who wanted to overturn the riot laws federal prosecutors had used to convict them for their violent roles in the August 2017 "Unite the Right" riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Members of RAM had flown from California to Virginia in August to participate in the event, and had committed numerous acts of violence there, at the culmination of which a young white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a young woman named Heather Heyer and maiming 19 other people. Three of the men pleaded guilty to felony federal charges of conspiracy to riot and crossing state lines to riot in May 2019; two of them, Michael Miselis and Benjamin Daley, filed appeals.

In 2020, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had considered the men's conviction and sentencing on the grounds that the Anti-Riot Law used to imprison them was unconstitutionally overbroad. It ruled that while certain provisions in the law—such as those criminalizing speech that "tends to encourage a riot"—are unconstitutional First Amendment violations, it nonetheless upheld the men's convictions because those charges fell under other parts of the law—namely, the men's "substantial conduct," which included "pushing, punching, kicking, choking, head-butting, and otherwise assaulting numerous individuals, and none of which 'were in self-defense'"—which the court found were perfectly constitutional.

The Supreme Court's announcement leaves the convictions of Miselis and Daly, as well as the rulings in their appeals, in place. As is typical, the high court offered no comment in turning away the cases.

Daley faces a 37-month prison term, while Miselis was sentenced to 27 months.

The Rise Above Movement's existence and its activities were first exposed in detail in a ProPublica investigative piece published in October 2017. Nearly a year later, federal prosecutors filed charges against the men and another Charlottesville participant, Cole Evan White. Four other RAM members, including co-founder Robert Rundo, were charged in October 2018 with conspiracy to riot as well; however, their convictions were overturned on appeal in June 2019 by a federal judge who deemed the law unconstitutionally overbroad. Those charges were reinstated this March, primarily as a result of the Ninth Circuit's 2020 ruling.

RAM, as a 2019 sentencing memo explains, "represented itself as a combat-ready, militant group of a new nationalist white supremacy and identity movement. RAM regularly held hand-to-hand and other combat training for its members and associates to prepare to engage in violent confrontations with protestors and other individuals at purported political rallies. All three of the defendants attended these trainings to prepare for their violence."

Like most far-right street-brawling groups, their entire raison d'être was to provoke fights with far-left and anarchist groups, particularly those attached to various campuses in California and elsewhere. "RAM's goal when they attended these rallies was simple: They sought to provoke physical conflict, or—even better—they looked for any reason to serve as an excuse which they believed would justify their use of violence against their ideological foes," the memorandum notes. Their violence included events in Huntington Beach and Berkeley, California, in the spring of 2017.

At the Aug. 12, 2017, event in Charlottesville, the RAM gang once again played a leading role in provoking violence on the streets, both at the Aug. 11 tiki torch march onto the University of Virginia campus and at the main Aug. 12 event in Charlottesville around the Robert E. Lee statue in a downtown park. The men were especially exultant about the Friday night march in which they had massively outnumbered counterprotesters and had mercilessly assaulted them: "After the students and protestors left, Miselis's own Go-Pro video captured him yelling 'total victory' and 'we beat you tonight, we'll beat you tomorrow too!'"

The next day, they engaged in such violence as punching protesters and knocking them to the ground, at which point they began kicking them so hard that Miselis broke his own toe. Daley infamously attacked a feminist and began strangling her, caught in an image reproduced frequently, and then threw her to the pavement with such force that she suffered a concussion.

Afterwards, online conversations made clear that "the defendants' primary regret about their time in Charlottesville was not having exacted enough violence."

Rundo, who fled the country after being cleared on appeals, is now an international fugitive. He is believed to be currently hiding out in Bosnia while being sought by police there, after having been expelled from Serbia.

Far-Right Gang Killed Cop In Plot To Blame 2020 Protest Violence On 'Leftists'

Despite the widespread media narrative blaming Black Lives Matter and antifascist activists for last summer's protest violence, there were plenty of suspicions that far-right extremists seeking to intensify the public's fear of the "violent left" were in fact responsible for a significant amount of it. These suspicions were fed by such incidents as the assassination of a federal officer in Oakland by two far-right "Boogaloo Bois" and the arrest of another "Boogaloo" enthusiast from Texas for attacking a police station in Minneapolis.

Now we know, thanks to federal prosecutors investigating the Oakland incident, that in fact it was not the act of a single "lone wolf" and his accomplice, but rather part of a larger plot by group of far-right extremists who called themselves the "Grizzly Scouts" and planned a series of deadly attacks on law-enforcement officers with the intent of making it appear to be the work of the "violent left." Even more disturbing, according to the San Jose Mercury-News, most of these conspirators, following their arrests for destroying evidence in the case, have been released on bond by federal magistrates who have deemed them not a risk to the community.

The Grizzly Scouts, according to the grand jury indictment handed down in April, plotted a variety of lethal actions targeting law-enforcement officers in the months and weeks before fellow "Boogaloo Boi" Steven Carillo—an active-duty Air Force sergeant—shot and killed federal protection officer Dave Patrick Underwood on May 29, 2020, and then a week later, a Santa Cruz sheriff's deputy seeking to arrest him. Carrillo was a key member of the group, which in addition to planning attacks on police, engaged in paramilitary training exercises at the home of a member near Turlock, California.

The four men named in the indictment—Jessie Alexander Rush, 29, of Turlock; Robert Jesus Blancas, 33, of Castro Valley; Simon Sage Ybarra, 23, of Los Gatos; and Kenny Matthew Miksch, 21, of San Lorenzo—and Carrillo used a WhatsApp chat group for the Grizzly Scouts labeled "209 Goon HQ" to plan their attacks and organize training sessions as part of the so-called "Boogaloo" movement with which they identified.

The men created a so-called "Quick Reaction Force" intended to perpetrate acts of violence against their perceived enemies, and sent one member to scout a protest in Sacramento. They also cooked up an "Operations Order" document describing police officers as "enemy forces," and described taking some law-enforcement officers prisoner: "POWs will be searched for intel and gear, interrogated, stripped naked, blindfolded, driven away and released into the wilderness blindfolded with hands bound."

On May 26, three days before he shot Underwood, along with another federal officer who survived, at a Black Lives Matter protest in Oakland, Carrillo had messaged Ybarra that he wanted to conduct a "cartel style" attack on police, and the two men then met in person in Ybarra's van to discuss the idea. Before leaving his home in Ben Lomond for Oakland on May 29, Carrillo had texted Ybarra that he was heading out to "snipe some you know what's."

Carrillo then met up with another "Boogaloo Boi" named Robert Justus Jr., 30, of Millbrae, who drove the van to the BLM protest with Carrillo in the passenger seat, armed with the rifle he then used to open fire at a guard booth at the Ron Dellums Federal Building manned by Underwood and his partner. Justus later turned himself in to authorities.

During the week following the shootings, the Grizzly Scouts discussed their hopes that then-President Donald Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act as a response to the violence at the protests, which were inspired by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman.

"[T]hat ^^^ will be our sign," Rush—who had himself previously served in the military—texted the others. "That effectively means the federal gov has declared war on things they're afraid of." He added that "the gov spent 100s of thousands of dollars on training me, im gonna use that s—."

The Grizzly Scouts also considered various ways to concoct violence between leftist antifascist groups and police. Blancas told the others that he was "totally down" with the idea of disguising himself as an antifascist while stirring up violence.

"It's the tactically sound option," Blancas wrote. "Them f—ing each other up only helps us."

Their plans, however, fell apart on June 6 when sheriff's deputies, investigating reports of a van in the Santa Cruz mountains matching the description of one that witnesses identified at the scene in Oakland, arrived at the scene of what turned out to be Carrillo's mountain compound stocked with guns, bombs, and ammunition just as the van pulled away. They followed it to Carrillo's home in Ben Lomond where he then retreated, and when deputies went to arrest him, he unleashed a torrent of gunfire and pipe bombs, killing Sheriff's Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller, and wounding another.

Carrillo, who was himself wounded during the fight, left the scene in a white sedan, and then was found an hour later after running through his back yard, jumping onto a neighbor's property, entering the man's home and demanding his car keys. After the neighbor obeyed, he seized an opportunity to tackle Carrillo from behind and did so, knocking away his AR-15 in the process, and then knocking away both a pipe bomb and his handgun when he tried to reach for them while on the ground. The neighbor held him there until deputies arrived and took Carrillo away.

Prior to the deputies' arrival at his mountain compound, Carrillo had texted the other members of the Grizzly Scout group on WhatsApp, according to the documents filed in the four men's indictment. He told the group that he was "preparing to engage in a shoot-out with law enforcement," the indictment says. "Carrillo asked the other Grizzly Scouts to come to his aid, saying: 'Kit up and get here. Theres inly one road in/out. Take them out when theyre coming in. ... Police are here fkr me . . . Theyre waiting for reenforcements im listening to them."

Carrillo explained his predicament to the "209 Goon HQ" participants: "Dudes i offed a fed."

At that point, the other Grizzly Scouts promptly went into ass-covering mode, destroying evidence of their interactions. Rush instructed Carrillo to "factory reset" his phone, which the indictment notes "would have had the effect of deleting and destroying any evidence on it, including any stored communications." The other men all promptly deleted any records of the "209 Goon HQ" WhatsApp group from their phones, including the discussions about violence against law enforcement and Carrillo's confession.

These deleted files, according to the indictment, "appeared to include, for example, files concerning the rank structure of the Grizzly Scouts, a non-disclosure agreement requiring members of the Grizzly Scouts to maintain the confidentiality of the group's materials, a liability release waiver, descriptions of Grizzly Scouts uniforms, and a scorecard to assess members of the Grizzly Scouts with respect to combat, firearms, medical, and other training."

Carrillo now faces multiple felony charges in both the Oakland murder and the Ben Lomond shooting, while Justus has been charged with acting as his accomplice.

However, his Grizzly Scout cohorts so far have only been charged with obstructing justice, primarily because of their attempts to cover the militia group's tracks leading to Carrillo. Three of the four men have been released from custody on bond; only Blancas remains in prison, largely because he also faces a child enticement charge related to alleged sexual conversations with a teenage girl discovered in the course of the investigation. Ybarra was released by a federal judge in Sacramento, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley released Rush and Miksch after their hearings in April.

Miksch was released on a $25,000 bond to the custody of his parents, who insisted their son was a "good kid." Corley, while calling his views "abhorrent," also released Rush under the custody of his wife on a $50,000 bond. Corley imposed certain restrictions on the men: monitored internet use, a prohibition on weapons possession, and not contacting other militia members.

Carrillo's path of radicalization was the subject of an April ProPublica investigative piece that detailed how social media and internet conspiracy sites led him to join the Grizzly Scouts and plan acts of terrorist violence in the name of a far-right-fueled civil war. The report uncovered documents showing how the Grizzly Scouts went about organizing for those acts:

The documents also make clear that Carrillo's military background, in particular his advanced combat and weapons training, provided exactly the qualities the Grizzly Scouts wanted in its recruits. The Grizzly Scouts' members — law enforcement officials say the group had attracted 27 recruits — were given military ranks and roles based on their level of military training and prior combat experience. Some Grizzly Scouts were designated "snipers," others were assigned to "clandestine operations," and some were medics or drivers. Whatever their role, all were expected to maintain go kits that included "combat gauze" and both a "primary" and "secondary" weapon.

"This group was different," Jim Hart, the sheriff of Santa Cruz County, where Ben Lomond is located, told ProPublica. "There was a definite chain of command and a line of leadership within this group."

Ironically, Carrillo's lethal violence nonetheless had its intended effect in spreading the right-wing narrative that the "violent left" was primarily responsible for the mayhem around anti-police-brutality protests. The very killings he perpetrated, in fact, were trotted out by Republican Senator Ted Cruz as evidence of "antifa violence" during a Senate hearing, and by then-Vice President Mike Pence in his GOP Convention acceptance speech.

GOP Extremists In West Challenging Party ‘Establishment’ For Power

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

One of the consequences of the GOP's sidelong embrace of its extremist elements—from the insurrection denialists and Big Lie gaslighters to the QAnon cultists like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert—is that far-right extremists are now perfectly comfortable identifying as Republicans. In some cases, they're demanding the overthrow of the party's establishment—which can't seem to decide whether to fight back or just succumb willingly to the incoming far-right tide.

Establishment Republicans in Western states are particularly under siege from extremist elements among their voting base. In Idaho, for instance, armed-standoff-guru-turned-pandemic-denialist Ammon Bundy filed paperwork to run for governor, in a race already featuring another leading state "Patriot" movement figure. In Nevada, an insurgent far-right group organized on social media and led by Proud Boys members are attempting an open hostile takeover of the Clark County GOP, the state's largest county-level Republican organization.

Bundy's filing is rich in irony. For starters, he is currently banned from the Idaho Statehouse in Boise after his two ejections and arrests for defying masking requirements, for which he is currently standing trial. For another, as KTVB notes, Bundy himself is not even registered to vote in Idaho, and has apparently never done so in the five years or so that he has lived in Emmett.

He also named himself the treasurer of his campaign, which means that he will have to refile the paperwork, according to the Idaho Secretary of State's office, which tweeted out an explanation: "Because a treasurer must be a registered Idaho voter, Ammon Bundy will either need to register and refile or name a new treasurer by refiling. IDSOS staff have notified him as such."

The Republican field to replace incumbent Governor Brad Little (who has not announced whether he will seek re-election) is already large, and Bundy's competition in the primary already features another leading "Patriot" movement figure, Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, who announced her candidacy last week. While Bundy was probably the earliest far-right figure in Idaho to take up the cause of opposing COVID-19-related public-health restrictions, McGeachin—who has supported Bundy and his fellow standoff-loving "Patriots" steadfastly from her office in Boise—has also been on the pandemic-denialist bandwagon.

McGeachin appeared alongside Bundy at one anti-restriction rally in Boise. More notoriously, she appeared in a video in which she brandished a handgun and a Bible while sitting in the driver's seat of a pickup, railing against coronavirus restrictions.

The political insurgency inside Clark County's GOP was reported Friday by Rory Appleton at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, who explained that a group of far-right activists with deep ties to the Proud Boys are positioning themselves to take over the county Republican leadership. Some of its members, meanwhile, are alleged to have threatened a number of prominent Republicans.

The group, Appleton reported, organized online—primarily using the encrypted chat app Telegram—while reveling in anti-Semitic and white-nationalist memes and rhetoric. "Two Republican women in public office told the Review-Journal they've been threatened by leaders of the fringe movement, as did the current board of the Clark County party, which is hiring security for a crucial meeting Tuesday," the story reads.

Calling itself the "Republican Chamber of Commerce" (despite lacking ties to any known GOP organization), the far-right group first made its presence felt last month when it organized a late surge in votes favoring the censure of Barbara Cegavske, the state's Republican Secretary of State, for refusing to play along with attempts to overturn the 2020 election results based on Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud.

Since then, it has been preparing to provide a similar wave of votes to sweep three of their three leading figures—Rudy Clai, Matt Anthony and Paul Laramie—into the leadership of the Clark County GOP. The group has no record of doing business anywhere in the state of Nevada, and has no connection to any of the known chamber or Republican groups already established in Nevada.

Yet its website appears to be a nominally mainstream GOP group. Its primary emblem resembles the Republican National Committee's logo but inverted, with a red elephant on a white background encircled in red with the letters "RCC" and "Republican Chamber of Commerce" within.

Anthony has achieved a level of media notoriety as one of Las Vegas' most prominent Proud Boys, though he insists the local chapter is nonviolent and nonracist. After the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, he defended the people arrested and warned against a law-enforcement crackdown on "Patriots": "They're basically going all in on tyranny, guys. … They're watching. It's to be expected. They're the enemy. They're going to shut down our ability to communicate."

As it happens, Anthony is also a fugitive: He is the subject of an arrest warrant from the state of Michigan after he broke probation by moving to Nevada and then refusing to return after Nevada declined to oversee his probation, all stemming from his 2012 arrest on a drug charge.

The group's Telegram channel—owned by Anthony, and administered by Clai—is titled "Keep Nevada Open," apparently an offshoot of a Facebook group with the same name that boasted 17,000 members and organized anti-masking and other pandemic-related protests. Appleton describes a review of the channel's contents by the Clark County GOP executive board, led by chief of staff Richard MacLean:

MacLean showed his fellow board members several pictures and videos posted within the group, though not specifically by Anthony and Clai.
One photo blamed the 9/11 terrorist bombings on Jews. Another video featured a long clip of an Adolf Hitler speech and Nazi soldier marches. Some featured cartoon characters with negative Jewish stereotypes, and one photo featured messages written on dollar bills.
A post even poked fun at Republicans, claiming they seemed to be shocked at certain current events while white nationalists were thrilled by them.

The board promptly ejected the three men from the party. However, on Thursday, 10 people including Anthony and Clai filed a lawsuit against both the county and state party central committees, accusing them of illegally boxing them out of Clark County GOP meetings. They claim Clai and Anthony are heading up an alternative leadership slate, and are running against a mainstream ticket headed up by state Sen. Carrie Buck.

Despite the pushback by local Republican officials, the extremist elements remain emboldened in no small part because national-level Republicans have shown their eagerness to ignore the radicalism and even embrace it. Certainly, the local far-right leaders are confident that the party's base supports them, and not the establishment players.

"We have the numbers, and they don't, so they have to play dirty," Anthony said in an interview Thursday. "It's that simple."

McGeachin's campaign signs feature the hashtag #IAmIdaho. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are at a pivotal moment in history, not just for Idaho but for our nation," McGeachin said.

Bundy told NBC News on Monday that, despite the filings, he hasn't formally announced his candidacy, but is preparing to build a campaign organization.

"The people of Idaho are very freedom-minded," Bundy said. "I had never desired [to run for office], but I knew as early as 2017 that I would run for governor of Idaho."

Far Right’s Covid Conspiracy Blames Fauci For Virus

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The far right has a favorite new conspiracy theory: Dr. Anthony Fauci, it seems, conspired with nefarious globalists to manufacture the COVID-19 virus in a Wuhan, China, laboratory and unleash it on the unsuspecting world in order to seize control of the global population. Or something along those lines.

But watching its progression into more mainstream settings—including a recent White House press conference—provides a vivid illustration not only of the ways that conspiracy-fueled extremists twist quasi-legitimate debate to their own ends, foisting their fantasies on a larger public in the process, but how they can almost instantaneously transform government-created information vacuums into fetid hothouses for their fearmongering and smears.

Far right promotes conspiracy theory blaming Fauci for COVID-19 www.youtube.com

"COVID-19's greatest power is fear," intoned conspiracy-meister Alex Jones in the introduction to a recent episode of his Infowars show, behind a distorted video portrait of Fauci and creepy soundtrack. "It is a psychological warfare weapon that has been deployed against the people of the world—to be the cover for a controlled global collapse, to consolidate power in the hands of the globalists, and establish their New World Order.

"If this power grab is ever to be defeated, we must meet it head on, and expose the fact that the virus was deliberately released from the Wuhan lab, and that Fauci was publicly in control of the gain-of-function coronavirus project," Jones asserted.

The stories about the Wuhan laboratories are not new. A number of far-right conspiracists, ranging from Jones to Donald Trump, have made similar claims in the past but were knocked down by leading scientists. However, their assertions have come under fire due to questions raised by an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists suggesting that the weight of evidence points to the likelihood that the COVID virus was produced in a Wuhan lab—which in turn has set the far-right aflame.

The article, by onetime New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade, argued that the consensus among leading virologists that the virus originated in wildlife and was transmitted to humans has no data to support it, and that the theory that it had leaked out of a laboratory—specifically, the Wuhan Institute of Virology—due to so-called "gain-of-function" research was supported by the weight of the evidence. Its primary conclusion, however, is that none of the theories are conclusive because of a lack of evidence—almost entirely due to the refusal of the Chinese government to allow a transparent investigation of the lab's role in the global pandemic.

That was all the opening the conspiracy crowd needed. As usual, Jones was only leading a parade of hysterical theorists eager to add their take on the Wuhan-lab controversy. "Did The Pandemic Start in Fauci's Lab?" asked one YouTube video. "Chinese Virologist Claims Coronavirus Was Man-Made In Wuhan's Laboratory," and "Is the Coronavirus a Chinese Bioweapon?" read others. At World Net Daily, the headline read: "New evidence ties COVID-19 creation to research funded by Fauci."

Wade's article was careful to specify that the evidence for any of the lab-leak theories is inconclusive, and acknowledges the natural-origin theory could yet prove correct. He complains that the lab-leak theories have been unfairly dismissed as conspiracies, but spells out clearly that "the idea that the virus might have escaped from a lab invoked accident, not conspiracy."

What he fails to acknowledge, however, is that reportage such as his becomes malleable putty for the conspiracy theorists. Jones was adamant about suggestions that the lab release was accidental: "None of it's accidental. You had the Rockefeller Foundation lockstep, you had the Event 201 with Gates and Fauci and the U.N.," he told his audience.

Jones blamed research under the auspices of "Fauci and Bill Gates" for the creation of what he called a "bioweapon." One of his guests went on to assert that the COVID-19 virus was not an accidental product, either: "This is clearly an offensive biological warfare weapon," he said.

On the "Real America's Voice News" podcast by former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, another ex-White House adviser, Peter Navarro, held forth at length about the Wade article, plainly eager to blame Fauci for it all: "If it came from the lab, Fauci did it," Navarro told Bannon. He also claimed that Fauci used contract legalese to "get around the Trump White House to give the Chinese Communist Party weaponization capability through gain of function."

"You know, Fauci pulled a fast one on the House of Trump, I'm telling ya," he said. "This Nick Wade article, Fauci is goin' down."

He concluded: "For whatever reason, Fauci wanted to weaponize that virus. And he is the father of it, he has killed millions of Americans, and now we are 99.99 percent sure of that."

A number of Republican politicians—notably Wisconsin Congressman Mike Gallagher and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul—have now called for an official investigation into whether U.S. taxpayers were helping finance "gain of function" research in Wuhan. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson blamed Fauci, saying: "So what were we doing cooperating with China?"

The extent to which the Wuhan-lab-leak-theory is becoming a right-wing obsession was manifested late last week when reporter Emerald Robinson of the conspiracy-friendly Newsmax operation tried to grill Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the matter. She asked a question similar to Johnson's: "Given that gain-of-function research is dicey, why would the U.S. fund that in China?"

When Psaki suggested she ask the National Institutes of Health that question, Robinson continued: "Who does the president agree with, Dr. Fauci or the other officials? Does he think it was a lab leak?"

"Well, the president has said, and I have said from here many times, that there needs to be a credible, independent investigation through the World Health Organization, and one that relies on data, that relies on participation from China and other countries that may have information," Psaki answered. "That's certainly something everybody has called for and we look forward to that happening."

The article that sparked the controversy is also deeply problematic, in no small part because of the author: While Wade is indeed a formerly well-regarded science writer, his reputation was permanently tarnished in 2014 when he published a book—titled A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History—contending that race is a biological reality, and that recent natural selection had created racial differences in economic and social behavior—claiming, as he is in the case of the COVID-19 theories, that "politics" suppressed a robust discussion of the matter.

The book was denounced in a letter signed by 140 senior geneticists who said that Wade had misrepresented and misinterpreted their findings, and that his conclusions fell well outside of any grounded hypothesis based on the science: "We reject Wade's implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not."

An American Scientist review of the book concluded: "A Troublesome Inheritance is itself troubling, not for its politics but for its science. Its arguments are only mildly amended versions of arguments discarded decades ago by those who methodically and systematically study human behavioral variation across cultures."

Wade, it seems, has a knack not only for distorting and misrepresenting science, but for promulgating "apolitical" discussions of scientific issues that just happen to become grist for white nationalists and far-right conspiracy theorists. His recent piece on the Wuhan labs is filled with similar key omissions.

For instance, he claims that the only evidence supporting the argument that the COVID-19 genomes indicate a natural origin is a letter by two scientists based on ostensibly slipshod claims, saying: "And that's it." But in fact another letter he cites (and dismisses), published in the medical journal The Lancet in February 2020, specifically references a list of studies by scientists from multiple countries who "have published and analyzed genomes of the causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2),1 and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens."

A recent debunking by Politifact of the claims regarding Fauci notes that, while Fauci was indeed involved in approving a grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, all parties involved deny that it involved gain-of-function research.

"We have not ever participated in gain-of-function research. Nor have we ever been funded to participate in gain-of-function research," Robert Kessler with the EcoHealth Alliance told PolitiFact.

"The research supported under the grant to EcoHealth Alliance Inc. characterized the function of newly discovered bat spike proteins and naturally occurring pathogens and did not involve the enhancement of the pathogenicity or transmissibility of the viruses studied," the NIH told Politifact.

Fauci himself recently addressed the underlying issue in an interview with National Geographic, calling the whole debate a "circular argument."

"If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what's out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated … Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species," Fauci said.

For conspiracy theorists, however, actual science, facts, and logic don't really matter. They have just learned how to trot out enough of them to seem interested in a good-faith discussion, and then using them to springboard into the bizarre alternative universe of fabricated smears where they dwell.