Welcome to the Trumpocalypse

February 2nd, 2021 - by Bill Berkowitz / Buzzflash

A Legacy of Post-Trump Domestic Terrorists

Bill Berkowitz / Buzzflash

Editor’s Note: “The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security has issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin due to a heightened threat environment across the United States, which DHS believes will persist in the weeks following the successful Presidential Inauguration. Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.“

(January 28, 2021) — In a 1981 essay titled Socialization and Racism: The White Experience, Rutledge M. Dennis, a sociologist studying race relations in America, stated: “in order to understand the dynamics and the impact of racism, we must view it as a faith — and, for the American society, a permanent belief system rather than a transient apparition. Its longevity has been tried and tested. It now occupies a place in the American value pantheon alongside such concepts as democracy and liberty.”

In the aftermath of the January 6th attack on the Capitol, there have been increasing calls for the appointment of a Special 9/11-like Commission to investigate the insurrection. There have been calls for instituting new laws to deal with homegrown domestic terrorism.

While it is unclear how far those chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” those bringing zip ties, those carrying guns inside the Capitol building, those bringing the guillotine, those carrying confederate flags; and those that viciously assaulted the police, are willing to go, hardcore militia groups, white supremacist, and neo-Nazi organizations will not be deterred by arrests and prosecutions. Domestic terrorists will continue to metastasize on the political landscape.

White racist extremists and those calling for an overthrow of the government are a consistent and ever-present danger. Can their networks be dismantled and defunded? Will those elected officials that encouraged the Capitol coup be held accountable? Will punitive measures taken by the government result in a crackdown on free speech and assembly?

Warnings about the dangers of domestic terrorism extend far beyond the past two decades. The 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho; the Timothy McVeigh-led bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, the rise of the Michigan Militia and other armed groups in the Midwest and Northwest, planned abortion clinic assassinations, the advent of VDARE and other anti-immigrant organizations, were clear warning signs that America’s homegrown terrorists were arming themselves, and living next door.

Since 9/11, homegrown domestic terrorism has wreaked more damage and destruction than attacks by foreign terrorists. A 2002 FBI report stated that “between 1980 and 2000, the FBI recorded 335 incidents or suspected incidents of terrorism in this country. Of these, 247 were attributed to domestic terrorists, while 88 were determined to be international in nature.”

As Joel Rubin recently wrote in Foreign Policy, “White supremacist terrorism has been a feature, not an outlier, of American life.” While there’s no shortage of reports recognizing the rise of domestic terrorists, Rubin, the executive director of the American Jewish Congress and a former US deputy assistant secretary of state, wrote: The “US government is not properly equipped to counter the threat. Something structural needs to urgently change in the national security bureaucracy to deal with right-wing violence.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged over and over again that he would build a wall along the US-Mexico border to keep the “rapists” out, and he would keep America safe from “radical Islamic terrorism.” Both those promises were aimed at stoking fear and loathing against immigrants and Muslims.

Concomitantly, it certainly stirred up his base. Trump, who claimed to know nothing about the white supremacist David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, turned a blind eye on terrorism perpetrated by extremist right-wing groups as Duke endorsed hims. On January 6, 2021, Trump’s encouraging a raging nearly all white mob, ended up biting him in the ass.

In 2009, right wing activists and commentators pummeled the Department of Homeland Security for issuing a report on the growing threat of rightwing extremism in the US. Conservatives called for DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s resignation, and for the study to be deep-sixed. Although Napolitano did not resign, the report was subsequently withdrawn.

In 2012, The Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point produced a study of far-right organizations — written the previous November — that found that “since 2007, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating from individuals and groups who self-identify with the far-right of American politics.”

In late-August 2018, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), issued a report titled “Domestic Terrorism: An Overview,“ which maintained that while it was important to focus on terrorist attacks emanating from outside the country in the post-9/11 period, “in the last decade, domestic terrorists—people who commit crimes within the homeland and draw inspiration from US-based extremist ideologies and movements — have killed American citizens and damaged property across the country.”

However, “[a]ccording to the CRS report, it’s clear that domestic terrorism is not a top federal counterterrorism priority,” the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Daryl Johnson recently reported “Nevertheless, domestic terrorist threats feature prominently among state and local law enforcement concerns.”

Despite all the reports and warnings, the Trump administration took great pains to weaken structures combating white supremacy and domestic terrorism. Groups like the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Movement, QAnon have already spread their tentacles overseas. Similar to the Nazis attempt to bring its ideology to the US through pro-Nazi groups all across the country prior to Pear Harbor, “today’s alt-right white supremacists echo the same themes of white power used back in the 1920s and ’30s — and they have supporters abroad,” Rubin wrote.

At the Capitol on January 6, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, QAnoners, and MAGA-ites were raging about together, occupying the same space. It should be recognized, however, that there are many factions and divergent ideas among these groups.

If there was a unifying thread to the insurrection, it is the belief and acceptance of the twisted conspiracy — egged on by Trump’s refusal to concede — that the election of Joe Biden was a rigged election, perpetrated by the Democratic Party, election officials — many of them Republican — a big portion of the judiciary — including those appointed by Trump — rigged election machines, communists, pedophiles, African American communities, mail-in ballots, and even the ghost of long-dead Hugo Chavez. 

The American Jewish Congress’ Joel Rubin suggests that the Biden administration “create the position of a special presidential coordinator to counter white supremacist terrorism. … Their goal should be to seek out the links between international backers of domestic white supremacist terrorist groups and vice versa, disrupting the ties between them. This individual would take with them the mindset that US officials have been using for years to disrupt state sponsors of terrorism and their clients. Such an approach has worked on foreign threats. Now it’s time to apply these lessons learned to domestic ones.”

Domestic terrorists are not a one-size-fits-all phenomena. Whether these groups continue to work together, or are divided by political differences, remains to be seen. Whether they initiate a cooling off period, drifting quietly back into their refuges, is also unclear.

How elected officials and government agencies respond also remains to be seen. There is a danger of overreach, but there is also a clear and demonstrably present danger from right-wing domestic terrorists. One thing appears abundantly clear: The forces that staged the Capitol insurrection will not be going away anytime soon.

Trump’s DC Insurrection Is Tip of Right-Wing’s Terrorist Authoritarian Anti-Democracy Project

Bill Berkowitz and Gale Bataille / Buzzflash

(January 8, 2021) — “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening … Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” — Donald Trump speaking to a Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Kansas City, Mo., July 2018.

A January 6th story in The Washington Times went viral with claims of evidence that antifa was involved in the insurrection at the US Capitol building. The article was headlined, “Facial Recognition Firm Claims Antifa Infiltrated Trump Protesters Who Stormed Capitol,” and reported that a facial recognition company had identified antifa members among the mob that stormed the Capitol.

The story was bogus and a day later was removed from paper’s website. But the beast had been unleashed. And the alternative facts crowd was running with it. (Note: The Washington Times, founded in 1982 by the ultra-right Unification Church leader Sun Myung Moon, is currently owned by Operations Holdings, a part of the Unification movement.) 

The alternative facts crowd is jumping on the “blame it on antifa” bandwagon, desperate to deflect blame from pro-Donald Trump supporters for the insurrectionary terrorism he unleashed in Washington on Wednesday, January 6. , is jumping on the “blame it on antifa” bandwagon. The attack on the US Capitol building was shocking, but not surprising to those following white supremacist/neo-Nazi groups on social media.

However, what is somewhat surprising, is the extent to which right-wing partisans are attempting to blame the mob violence on leftists. In trying to explain away the trespassing, violence, destruction, that resulted in 5 deaths, Christian nationalists, right-wing radio talk show hosts, Fox News Channel and Newsmax hosts, and right-wing social media platforms are platforms are pushing an alternative narrative in which antifa was responsible.

As NBC News’ Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins reported, “Radical conservative activists and allies of President Donald Trump quickly began to spread disinformation about the Capitol riots Wednesday, claiming with no evidence that pro-Trump protesters photographed breaking into congressional chambers were anti-fascist activists.”

MSNBC’s Steve Benen reported: “Among the first hints of this that crossed my radar was a tweet from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), one of Congress’ most right-wing members, who suggested that the riot incited by the president was an example of ‘leftist violence.’ Soon after, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said on the House floor that he believes there were ‘antifa’ members ‘masquerading as Trump supporters’ committing acts of violence at the Capitol.”

However, according to BuzzFeed News Craig Silverman, the company XRVision, founded in 2015 in Singapore, “told BuzzFeed News it asked the conservative news outlet for a retraction and apology over the story, which was cited in the House of Representatives after the riot late Wednesday by Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, an ardent Trump supporter.”

According to BuzzFeed’s Silverman, “On Wednesday, the Washington Times published a story that claimed XRVision ‘used its software to do facial recognition of protesters and matched two Philadelphia Antifa members to two men inside the Senate.’ It claimed one man ‘has a tattoo that indicates he is a Stalinist sympathizer’ and the other ‘is someone who shows up at climate and Black Lives Matter protests in the West.’

“The story did not name the men or provide evidence that they were involved in antifa, a decentralized group of ‘anti-fascists’ who go to protests around the US and whom the right often uses as a bogeyman.”

An XRVision attorney, “issued a statement to BuzzFeed News refuting the Washington Times story. The statement said XRVision’s software actually identified two members of neo-Nazi organizations and a QAnon supporter among the pro-Trump mob — not antifa members.’ Our attorney is in contact with the Washington Times and has instructed them to ‘Cease and Desist’ from any claims regarding sourcing of XRVision analytics, to retract the current claims, and publish an apology,’ said the statement.

The Washington Times was forced to issue a correction, stating: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that XRVision facial recognition software identified Antifa members among rioters who stormed the Capitol Wednesday. XRVision did not identify any Antifa members. The Washington Times apologizes to XRVision for the error.”

Running With Rumors

According to NBC’s Zadrozny and Collins, “The rumors also spread on Fox News and Fox Business Network. Lou Dobbs and Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., discussed the possibility of antifa instigators’ infiltrating the pro-Trump mob. And former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made the same claim, telling Fox News host Martha MacCallum that it was unclear who was instigating the riots. ‘A lot of it is the antifa folks,’ Palin said, citing ‘pictures’ she had seen.

“Laura Ingraham, one of the channel’s primetime hosts, spent much of the hour of her show suggesting without evidence that the Trump protesters had been infiltrated by antifa. The only evidence she provided was that some protesters wore helmets and knee pads, which she said she hadn’t seen before at Trump rallies.”

Conservative evangelical Christians were particularly insistent that it was antifa, and not Trump supporters that caused the violence. Televangelist Mark Burns, a longtime Trump supporter, tweeted, “This is NOT a Trump supporter…This is a staged #Antifa attack.” 

Evangelist Franklin Graham stated, “The people who broke the windows in the Capital [sic] did not look like the people out there demonstrating. Most likely it was antifa.”

Proud Boys honor Trump’s request to “stand back and stand by.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, opined during a radio broadcast that it is “still uncertain as to the full composition of the group that breached security and made their way into the Capitol.” 

Sandy Rios of American Family Radio said that the rioters were people “who love their country,” enjoyed Trump’s “inspiring speech” and were angry over “the fraud that took place in their states.” And, Rios claimed that antifa was in the midst of the crowd: “I’m telling you, it was incitement. … They were dressed in black with Trump hats.”

As Rob Boston pointed out in his story at the Americans United’s Wall of Separation Blog, “These people did not try to hide who they were: They took selfies, made videos and posted to social media even as they rampaged — and when the police collect that material and start arresting the offenders, I’m going to bet there won’t be an antifa member among them.”

Alex Newhouse, a researcher of far-right extremism, wrote at The Conversation that not only was Donald Trump’s December 18 tweet, “Big protest in DC on Jan. 6. Be there, will be wild!” meant to encourage a huge crowd, but “[a]cross Twitter and Facebook, people began speaking of Jan. 6 in near-mystical terms. … I discovered thousands of posts referring to the planned protests as if they were a coming revolution.”

According to Newhouse, “QAnon adherents zeroed in on Jan. 6 as the beginning of a chain of events that would lead to apocalyptic cleansing they refer to as ‘The Storm.’ Some even believed that The Storm would arrive during the demonstration itself, and that Trump would, far beyond any reasonable expectation, arrest members of the Democratic and global elite for treason while also winning the election.”

So which is it: “right-minded” protesters expressing righteous anger and doing their patriotic duty, or antifa agitators? There really isn’t a question.

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