David Neiwert

As white nationalists and Jan. 6 extremists embrace Christian nationalism, even darker forces revive

Most of the far-right extremist movements that arose online and then in real life over the past decade—the alt-right, white nationalists, and other authoritarian proto-fascists—have been generally ecumenical and areligious in their rhetorical appeals and organizing, other than their frequent expressions of antisemitism. But that’s beginning to change, as Jack Jenkins explored this week at the Washington Post.

With “Groyper” leader Nick Fuentes leading the way, it’s becoming much more common to hear them embracing Christian nationalism—an ideology long embraced by the larger radical right, particularly the so-called “Patriot” movement. Moreover, a number of these white nationalists appear to be pushing even farther into a particularly ugly—and previously stagnant—brand of religious nationalism: Christian Identity, the bigoted theological movement claiming that white people are the true “Children of Israel,” that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan, and that all nonwhite people are soulless “mud people.”

As Jenkins reports, since the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, Fuentes’ white-nationalist “America First” organization has increasingly employed Christian nationalist rhetoric: Chanting “Christ is King” at the antiabortion “March for Life” last week and at anti-vaccine protests, using crucifixes as protest symbols, and similar rhetorical appeals. In a speech at the America First conference in Orlando in March at which he declared America “a Christian nation,” Fuentes warned his audience that America will cease to be America “if it loses its White demographic core and if it loses its faith in Jesus Christ.”

“Christian nationalism—and even the idea of separatism, with a subtext of White, Christian and conservative-leaning [influences]—took a more dominant role in the way that extremist groups talk to each other and try to propagandize in public,” Jared Holt of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab told Jenkins.

Christian nationalism has long been a feature of the nation’s extremist right, dating back to the original Ku Klux Klan of the 1860s and its later version in the 1920s. Fuentes’s rhetoric “could have come word-for-word from a Klan speech in 1922,” historian Kelly J. Baker told Jenkins. “The Klan’s goal here was patriotism and nationalism, but it was combined with their focus on White Christianity.”

This worldview was a powerful animating force at the Jan. 6 insurrection, embodied by the moment when the self-described “Patriots” entered the vacated Senate chambers, took over the dais, and proceeded to share a prayer led by Jacob “QAnon Shaman” Chansley.

A video captured by The New Yorker shows the moment: One insurrectionist shouts, “Jesus Christ, we invoke your name!” The men bellow “Amen!” Then Chansley begins to lead them in prayer, saying: “Thank you heavenly father for gracing us with this opportunity to stand up for our God-given inalienable rights.” He also thanks God for allowing them to “exercise our rights, to allow us to send a message to all the tyrants, the communists and the globalists that this is our nation, not theirs.”

He concluded: “Thank you for allowing the United States of America to be reborn. Thank you for allowing us to get rid of the communists, the globalists, and the traitors within our government.”

As historian Katherine Stewart explained in the New York Times:

A final precondition for the coup attempt was the belief, among the target population, that the legitimacy of the United States government derives from its commitment to a particular religious and cultural heritage, and not from its democratic form. It is astonishing to many that the leaders of the Jan. 6 attack on the constitutional electoral process styled themselves as “patriots.” But it makes a glimmer of sense once you understand that their allegiance is to a belief in blood, earth and religion, rather than to the mere idea of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

A number of the groups, notably the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, who led the insurrection similarly voiced their affinity for Christian nationalism. The morning of Jan. 6, as Jenkins reports, a group of Proud Boys led by Ethan Nordean—the primary leader of the men who later spearheaded the siege of the Capitol, were seen praying together.

At a gathering of Proud Boys near the Washington Monument on Dec. 11 captured on video by independent journalist Dakota Santiago for Religion News Service, Nordean had spoken about “sacrificing ourselves for our country” while speaking at an impromptu Proud Boys rally near the Washington Monument, according to footage provided to Religion News Service (RNS) by independent journalist Dakota Santiago.

Nordean—a notorious street brawler nicknamed “Rufio Panman”—described an epiphany he had during a protest about Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross:

I had a moment of realization where I was like, “You know what, I’m going to be diehard about everything in my life. I’m gonna be real.” Because everything that we have sacrificed—because you know how hard it is in this environment that we live in—it is time that you rise to the occasion. Be real.
Now you may not believe in that, but it’s important in the very least for my case for me, because this man did this thing. Just as we sacrifice ourselves for our country. A man provides and protects even when he’s not loved. That is what we do. We are hated but we do it in anyway, we keep showing up every day and we protect these people from these tyrannical dictators.

The same religious fervor has intensified in the aftermath of the insurrection, particularly as “Patriot” movement believers and their mainstream Republican enablers have doubled down with a gaslighting narrative insisting that what happened Jan. 6 wasn’t an insurrection, it was a righteous protest by Real Americans.

That narrative has been ardently adopted by Christian nationalists like the Trump supporters interviewed earlier this month by NPR:

Outside on the walkway, Murray Clemetson stands with an armful of hand-made signs he brought to church, such as, "Set the DC Patriots Free" and "We Are Americans, Not Terrorists." The law-school student and father of three —all home-schooled— was at the "Stop The Steal" rally in Washington, D.C., last year.
"The only insurrection that happened on Jan. 6 was by the agent provocateurs, paid actors, and corrupt police and FBI," he says, disputing all the evidence made public in the more than 700 criminal cases that the rioters were Trump fanatics.

The church the interviewers reported from is Ken Peters’ Patriot Church in Tennessee, one of the nation’s most prominent Christian nationalist congregations. 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 Jan. 5 at a pre-rally for the next day’s “Stop the Steal” protest that devolved into the Capitol insurrection.

Peters’ predilection for linking arms with violent white-nationalist thugs like the Proud Boys manifested itself in summer 2021 in Salem, Oregon, outside a Planned Parenthood clinic targeted by Peters’ “Church at Planned Parenthood” campaign. A phalanx of Proud Boys provided “security” for the event, including notorious brawler Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, currently in jail awaiting trial on assault charges.

The sermon Peters delivered during NPR’s visit to his church turned a similarly convenient blind eye to Donald Trump’s manifest flaws as a Christian hero. "We consider the left in our nation today to be a giant bully,” Peters said. “And when there is a bully on the schoolyard and somebody rises up and punches back, 'Hallelujah!' So we are thankful for Trump."

Then he added: "But you know what? If Trump passes away tomorrow, God forbid, does that stop us? Does that slow us down? Not one bit. We'll be looking for the next guy to lead the way."

Indeed, the long-term determination of Christian nationalists to impose a narrow sectarian view on American government and society are reflected in its legislative assault on state laws, an attempt to reshape U.S. laws from the ground up as well as the top down. Their program “Project Blitz,” revealed by journalist Frederick Clarkson in 2018—a detailed and complex system of proposed legislation with which Christian nationalist beliefs are gradually embedded within state laws—is only one example of the breadth and depth of their assault on liberal democracy.

"The use of Christian symbols, iconography, Scripture in efforts to dominate and exclude are as old the republic itself," Rev. Fred Davie, executive vice president of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, told Trevor Hughes of USA Today. "It's deeply baked into our nation. It's deep, but it's also been proven time and time again to be wrong."

While many Christian nationalists are grounded in more traditional evangelical views, there is also a component who are cynically embracing religious fervor as a way of broadening their community of white supremacists and expanding their recruitment base.

"For them, it's just shorthand for identity," Edward Ahmed Mitchell, deputy executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Hughes. "There absolutely is a connection between far-right political extremism and far-right religious extremism, but I doubt these people are showing up at church every Sunday and reading their Bibles."

Research sociologist Matthew DeMichele told Hughes that many of today's religious displays are an "intense redeployment of old tactics."

"People don't want to say that this is a country founded on white supremacy. But we know that to be true," DeMichele said. "It's very important to understand that it's not new for white supremacists to have a Christian identity. But it is intriguing there has been the strengthening overlap of the white nationalists and those of Christian Identity."

The striking aspect of the surge of Christian nationalism has been its ability to unify sectors of the radical right, from militia-oriented “Patriots” to bigoted white nationalists to conspiracists like the authoritarian QAnon cult. Alex Newhouse, deputy director of the Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies Besides faith, told Jenkins that social media have been powerful vectors for this confluence.

“This unification is pretty unprecedented,” Newhouse said. “The infusion of Christian nationalism throughout that unification process has been particularly interesting and, in my opinion, is going to end up being pretty dangerous.”

Newhouse particularly has noticed a sudden uptick, since 2019, of interest in Christian Identity, the infamous religious movement long associated with neo-Nazis, particularly the Aryan Nations operation in the northern Idaho Panhandle between 1978 and 2000, which was an Identity church. Newhouse noted that Christian nationalist appeals may “disguise a much more dangerous uptick in adoption of Christian Identity.”

One of the leading voices in this resurgence of Identity beliefs, Newhouse says, is Kyle Chapman, the cofounder of the Proud Boys-affiliated Fraternal Order of the Alt-Knights who later attempted to create an explicitly racist and antisemitic offshoot called “Proud Goys.” (Chapman is currently awaiting trial in Idaho on charges of assaulting a health-care worker when he was hospitalized last November.)

Newhouse said Chapman has been interacting with Christian Identity influencers on the encrypted chat platform Telegram, while “blasting out Christian Identity propaganda.” Another key Trumpist figure—Qanon influencer GhostEzra,who has 300,000 followers on Telegram—posted explicit Identity messages. Identity theology—including references to the “two seedline theory,” which claims that Eve also mated with Satan in the Garden of Eden and thus gave birth to Jews—has been popping up with regularity on QAnon and Proud Boys channels on Telegram, Newhouse reported.

“There’s this gradual move toward a more revolutionary, burn-it-all-down posture, and I think Christian Identity for a lot of these people has become a way for them to organize their thoughts,” he said.

As Stewart explained in the NYT, Christian nationalist beliefs are not merely spreading among far-right extremists. Perhaps even more pernicious is their spread among mainstream conservatives in the media and especially within the Republican Party:

National organizations like the Faith & Freedom Coalition and the Ziklag Group, which bring together prominent Republican leaders with donors and religious right activists, feature “Seven Mountains” workshops and panels at their gatherings. Nationalist leaders and their political dependents in the Republican Party now state quite openly what before they whispered to one another over their prayer breakfasts. Whether the public will take notice remains to be seen.

As I’ve observed previously (while reviewing Stewart’s excellent review of Christian nationalism, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism): When viewed through the lens of its real-world outcomes, fundamentalist Christianity is less a coherent theology than it is a form of spiritual or religious totalitarianism, one that requires abject submission to what is actually a very perverse and narrow interpretation of the meaning of Scripture.

This approach translated naturally into political authoritarianism—the kind that Donald Trump practices. And Trump in turn has proven very adept at feeding the psychological needs of the kinds of personalities that adhere to such movements.

Many leaders of the Christian right like to dress up in red, white, and blue and announce themselves as true patriots. But they are the same people who seek to pervert our institutions, betray our international alliances, treat the Constitution as a subcategory of their holy texts, demean whole segments of the population, foist their authoritarian creed upon other people’s children, and celebrate the elevation of a “king” to the presidency who made a sport out of violating democratic laws and norms.

We can only be grateful that he is out of power now. And it will be incumbent on everyone who treasures their democratic institutions to do everything in their power to defend them against this lethal tide of extremism now.

Red-pilled conservatives ready to give up on democracy and embrace fascism

After the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, American conservatives were faced with a stark choice: Recognize that their movement had inspired a seditious attack on democracy itself and work to restore the damage, swallowing the cold blue pill of the reality that they lost the 2020 election; or instead embracing the authoritarianism that had inspired a significant chunk of their base to attempt to lynch members of Congress and overthrow the legitimate counting of ballots, gulping down the red pill of conspiracism that fueled those warped beliefs.

It is now abundantly clear that they have chosen the latter. They have lied brazenly about who committed the attack, tried to claim that efforts to counter extremists' presence in the military and law enforcement are an attack on conservatives, and muttered darkly about secession while punishing members of Congress for voting to impeach Donald Trump. The final step—an open embrace of fascism—is now being discussed as a rational option among their leading pundits, including Fox News' Tucker Carlson.

Tucker Carlson and Jesse Kelly agree that Republicans are headed into fascismwww.youtube.com

On his nightly Fox News show last Thursday, Carlson invited radio talk-show Jesse Kelly on to discuss how Hunter Biden's gun permit somehow proves Democrats have rigged the system to their own exclusive benefit (no mention of Ivanka's multitudinous business deals was made). Kelly complained that "it's just item Number 1,000 in proving to people that there's two sets of rules in this country, there are rules for powerful Democrats, and there are rules for people like you and I. This is what they do and people are sick of it. It's making people feel helpless, it makes people feel like there is no justice out there, it feels as useless as going to a feminist rally and trying to find a woman who can cook."

Carlson then veered into a discussion of how all this undermines society:

CARLSON: I think you make a really solid point about the sadness and the powerlessness that people feel in the face of this. And at some point people are going to say, "Why should I follow the rules? Why should I be a good citizen if they don't have to follow the rules?" I mean, things kind of break down at some point, don't they?

KELLY: They will break down, they are breaking down, Tucker. I have said this before, and I'm telling you I'm worried that I'm right, the right is going to pick a fascist within 10 to 20 years. Because they're not going to be the only ones on the outs. There's 60, 70 million of us. We're not a tiny minority, and if we're going to be all treated like criminals and all subject to every single law, while antifa, Black Lives Matter guys go free and Hunter Biden goes free, then the right's going to take drastic measures.

And it's not about Hunter Biden and his drug use. Nobody cares that he was bumpin' Booger Sugar and European hookers on the weekend, it's about justice, that he's never held accountable for it and none of the Bidens are, but you would be, Tucker, and so would I.

CARLSON: That's so well put, and you're absolutely right. We're moving toward actual extremism because they're undermining the system that kept extremism at bay. I don't think we can say that enough. I'm so glad that you just said it. Jesse Kelly, thank you.

This is an argument straight out of a Matt Bors cartoon—you know the one, where a young MAGA fanatic embraces neo-Nazism because of mild criticism from a liberal , saying: "I feel bullied, really"—that is recycled with great regularity on the right, particularly by young men who've embraced a proto-fascist ethos: "The left is making people become Nazis!" Portland Proud Boys figure Tusitala "Tiny" Toese is fond of regaling audiences with a similar origin story.

I have heard versions of this legend for many years in covering the radical right, and each time, given further probing with questions, it uniformly became clear that people who say they were pushed into extremism were already there in most regards, and whatever "pushed" them simply removed the pretense. Each of them had a pre-existing antipathy toward liberalism and "the left"—the same animus that historically fueled fascist movements—as well as a predilection toward conspiracism and violence.

But take special note of how Kelly frames the discussion: The Jan. 6 insurrection is never mentioned, but it forms the subtext of his complaint that "we're going to be all treated like criminals and all subject to every single law, while antifa, Black Lives Matter guys go free"—because in their minds, those are the factions responsible for terrorist violence in America, not a mob of right-thinking MAGA folks.

This narrative runs throughout much of mainstream conservative discourse in the aftermath of the Capitol siege. Seizing on modern variations of the timeworn "bloody shirt" trope, they have tried to depict the insurrectionists as "decent Americans in good standing" being victimized by a vengeful left. When the military sought to offer fresh training intended to weed out far-right extremists from their ranks, right-wing pundits complained that it was an "attack on conservatives."

The left is not driving conservatives towards fascism: Rather, their own embrace of far-right radicalization is the engine in all this. The simple existence of "the left" is enough to drive them into an eliminationist rage, and provides a handy rationalization for their own radicalized worldview.

This reality was crystallized in an article published this week in the house organ of the right-wing Claremont Institute, The American Mind, headlined "Conservatism is no Longer Enough: All hands on deck as we enter the counter-revolutionary moment," from an Institute fellow named Glenn Ellmers. Unlike Carlson and Kelly, the piece does not embrace fascism explicitly, but rather explicates in detail a political ethos that is almost classically fascist in the scholarly sense.

Besides being authoritarian, populist, and palingenetic, the piece—an attempt at laying out a fighting plan for the American right after the epistemic break of Jan. 6 (which again goes unmentioned specifically, but is an essential subtext of the piece)—is a remarkable example of undiluted eliminationism, rhetoric that dehumanizes, demonizes, and disenfranchises other members of a society and argue for their elimination.

Ellmers divides the nation into two warring halves: the "real Americans" (who, seemingly, engage in violent seditionist insurrection out of patriotic impulses) and the "not Americans"—i.e., the rest of us. And only the former half deserves to hold the political franchise:

Fewer are willing to take the next step and accept that most people living in the United States today—certainly more than half—are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term.

I don't just mean the millions of illegal immigrants. Obviously, those foreigners who have bypassed the regular process for entering our country, and probably will never assimilate to our language and culture, are—politically as well as legally—aliens. I'm really referring to the many native-born people—some of whose families have been here since the Mayflower—who may technically be citizens of the United States but are no longer (if they ever were) Americans. They do not believe in, live by, or even like the principles, traditions, and ideals that until recently defined America as a nation and as a people. It is not obvious what we should call these citizen-aliens, these non-American Americans; but they are something else.

Like so many other red-pilled right-wing authoritarians, Ellmer's cognitive worldview is so skewed that he engages in outright projection here, especially in describing the enemy in greater detail as "a party that stands for mob violence, ruthless censorship, and racial grievances, not to mention bureaucratic despotism," and that the Real Americans voted against a "senile figurehead." This cognitive difference made voting for Trump "an easy choice," and in his view, voting for Biden branded one instantly a Not Real American: "Both Right and Left know where they stand today… and it is not together. Not anymore."

Ellmer somehow concludes that "the progressive, or woke, or 'antiracist' agenda" attacks and "repudiates" the notion that "any temporary majority in power must represent the rights and interests of all"—a concept that seems not to apply to vote-suppressing, anti-immigrant Republicans, not to mention precluding a liberal majority from applying policies that represent the rights and interests of people outside the majority—and so it "now corrupts our republic, assaults our morality, and suffocates our liberty."

Ellmer explains that his goal "is to show why we must all unite around the one, authentic America, the only one which transcends all the factional navel-gazing and pointless conservababble." A photo illustrating the piece, showing a muscular man in a tank top wrapping his hands in preparation for a fistfight, suggested what he has in mind: the thuggish street-brawler strategy of the Proud Boys.

As historian John Ganz explored in a responding piece at Substack, given there really is only one word to accurately describe this kind of authoritarian political ethos: fascism. His opening salvo—arguing for the disenfranchisement of the majority of the nation's voters on the basis of being insufficiently American is really only the beginning.

"These themes of pervading national corruption and decadence, and the need for a counter-revolution and a national rebirth put this text firmly in the radical reactionary or fascist ballpark," Ganz observes.

He also notes the obvious eliminationism: "Like many fascist theoreticians, the author of the Claremont essay puts the condition of America in terms of a 'toxin,' a 'disease,' a 'sickness,' and awaits the appearance of a providential man with the cure: 'What is needed, of course, is a statesman who understands both the disease afflicting the nation, and the revolutionary medicine required for the cure.'

"There are also hints of the kind of dehumanizing rhetoric that fascist propagandists employ: 'If you are a zombie or a human rodent (who wants a shadow-life of timid conformity, then put away this essay and go memorize the poetry of Amanda Gorman. Real men and women who love honor and beauty, keep reading.' "

Ganz also discusses Kelly's appearance on Carlson's show, noting that both of them clearly stated that fascism is a justifiable response to the left, one forced on the right. "Carlson, of course, has long been a mouthpiece of mainstream conservatism, and has now taken a more radical turn," he adds.

It's probably also worth noting that Kelly has a history of spinning reality through his own authoritarian prism, as Vanity Fair details:

In a 2018 Federalist piece titled "It's Time for the United States to Divorce Before Things Get Dangerous," Kelly pointed to intracountry division on the issues of firearms, immigration, and religion to predict that "sooner or later, the left-wing rage mob will start coming for the careers (and lives) of any normal American who sees things differently." He further warned that right-wing Americans could be massacred in a liberal-led purge, writing in his Federalist post "America Is Over, but I Won't See It Go Without an Epic Fight" that conservatives should fight to the death against "an eventual socialist abyss" that Kelly believes will take over the country. "Close your eyes and imagine holding someone's scalp in your hands," the article's first line reads. "I mean a real scalp, Indian-style, of some enemy you just killed on the battlefield; somebody you hated and who hated you back." After projecting that conservatives will "almost certainly" be massacred in an America's "inevitable communist purges," Kelly jumped "back to the scalping thing" and insinuated that conservatives should prepare to wage a bloody insurgency against fellow Americans: "When you make that long trek to the reservation the leftists have set up for you—and make that trek you will—what memories do you want to take with you? When living in the liberal utopian nightmare of 57 genders and government control over everything in your life…You'll want to know, to remember, even just cherish the knowledge that, one day, you rode out onto the plains and made them feel pain."

In the epistemologically demented world that people like Kelly and Carlson occupy, the left is the source of all the world's ills, its political violence, its social dysfunctions, while "real Americans" like themselves are standing up for goodness and righteousness. In the end, this is why fascism becomes an acceptable option, especially after Jan. 6, when the web of denial that normalized the American right's descent into radicalization was wiped away and its inherent authoritarianism and anti-democratic intent became unmistakable.

As I wrote after the insurrection:

The Republican Party's hostility to democracy—embodied by conservatives' running refrain that "America is not a democracy, it's a republic"—has become its official policy over the past decade, manifested most apparently in its egregious voter suppression policies and court rulings that reached a fever pitch in recent years. It's now a commonplace for Republican politicians (notably Trump himself) to fret that a high voter turnout is nearly certain to translate into Democratic wins as a reason to even further suppress the vote.

As David Frum (a never-Trump conservative) noted in his book Trumpocracy: "If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. The will reject democracy." On Wednesday, that rejection became undeniably, irrevocably manifest.

Rather than taking a hard look at what they have become after the mob their president ginned up stormed the Capitol, today's lame attempts by conservatives to gaslight the public about what happened Wednesday (with figures like Matt Gaetz and Mo Brooks trying to gaslight the public by claiming the invaders were actually "antifa") make all too clear that the Republican Party, now consumed by right-wing authoritarianism, has ceased to be a viable partner in a working democracy. The problem the rest of us now face is how to proceed from here.

The red pill of authoritarianism is a helluva drug. And as its addicts descend into an embrace of fascism, it's clear they have the capability of not only warping their own reality, but everyone else's too.

Tucker Carlson transmits rising ecofascist themes about immigrants in attacks on border policies

Tucker Carlson has never been one to shy away from using extremist or even white-nationalist talking points, as he demonstrated recently while rolling out the right's latest rhetorical vehicle for leveraging the surge in asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border as a weapon to attack the Biden administration: The crowding at the border is a threat to the environment!

It's a claim Carlson has used before, but then, so have many others—notably, organized anti-immigrant hate groups, white nationalists, and the far-right "ecofascist" movement. Again, that's never stopped Carlson from regurgitating their a-factual garbage.

Tucker Carlson claims Biden border policies are harming the environmentwww.youtube.com

On his March 9 show, Carlson attacked Biden's border policies by claiming that Democrats just want to let all these immigrants into the country in order to gain voters. And in the meantime, they're degrading the environment in places like southern Texas:

It doesn't really matter what effect it has on the country. It doesn't really matter what more crowding does to the natural environment. We have about 100 million more people living in the United States now than we had 30 years ago. What does that do to the environment? No one cares. Who does it hurt? They don't care.

This is a recurring theme for Carlson. Back in November 2019, Carlson opined that immigrants were making America a grubby, unpleasant place:

[I]f you cared about the environment, which I personally do, emphatically care—I actually go outside once in a while unlike most people on the left—why would you want a crowded country? Isn't crowding your country the fastest way to despoil it, to pollute it, to make it, you know, a place you wouldn't want to live?

A few weeks later, in an interview, he falsely claimed that immigrants were dirtying up the Potomac River: "It has gotten dirtier and dirtier and dirtier and dirtier," he said. "I go down there, and that litter is left almost exclusively by immigrants."

He continued harping along these lines on Wednesday when he again attacked Biden's border policies by talking about how America was becoming too crowded because of these immigrants:

Over the past 30 years, the population of the United States has exploded by nearly 100 million people, mostly due to immigration. Were you even aware that that happened? This is becoming a crowded country, and crowded countries are ugly, unhappy countries. Why are we letting that happen?

As Sam Seder observed on his Majority Report radio show, this rhetoric echoes the same arguments made by the ecofascist movement—who blame immigrants and Third World nations for environmental degradation and climate change, and adopt a nihilistic "accelerationist" solution based ultimately on genocide. "He is walking right up to the line if not crossing it, with his eco-fascism," Seder commented.

"I mean, when he starts talking about how 'we don't have the room for these people in this country because we have resources and it's hurting our environment,' he is now like that El Paso shooter," he added.

This same rhetoric has been essential to the gradual creep of ecofascism into the mainstream because it cloaks itself in ostensibly liberal-leaning concerns—a clean environment, quality of living conditions, good public health. And this creep, as a report out this week from the UK organization Hope Not Hate (HNH)—titled "From Climate Denial to Blood and Soil"—explores in detail, is a phenomenon that's happening globally, particularly in Europe.

"This is something that's happening internationally," HNH researcher David Lawrence told The Independent. "Across Europe, for example, lots of the right wing populist parties are adopting environmental causes as in the [United] States."

The HNH report describes how ecofascist groups successfully disguise themselves with seemingly generic environmentalist or communitarian labels that don't immediately reveal their underlying far-right agendas. One such group calls itself "Local Matters" (LM), describing its activism as "agitating for radical, cross-spectrum policies for an environmentalist, regionalist, direct-democratic England," while encouraging homegrown vegetable gardening and railing against corporate carbon pollution, as well as other environmental issues.

This is only a façade, however:

Beneath this inoffensive green sheen, however, lies something nastier. LM is spearheaded by former members of Generation Identity, a European far-right network that promotes "identitarianism", a form of racial segregation. In an email obtained by the anti-fascist group Red Flare and published by Vice, co-founder Charlie Shaw describes LM as "a political project with a softer face […] The ideas are certainly identitarian, but it's [sic] presentation removes any interest that a group like Hope Not Hate or Antifa might have."

Like all ecofascist groups, LM blames overpopulation in the UK, fueled by immigration, for a decline in ecological health. Its solution: "Comprehensively put a stop to immigration in its entirety."

LM is only one of a number of such organizations whose agenda is a front for ecofascist ideology, some of whom have even taken to falsely presenting themselves in the guise of such established left-wing environmental movement entities as Extinction Rebellion. These groups, HNH found, are operating not just throughout Europe, but also enjoy rhetorical support from populist right-wing groups such as Nigel Farage's Reform UK and the UK Independence Party (UKIP)—whose manifesto reads: "The most significant threat to the Green Belt, and the UK environment in general, especially England, is unsustained population growth, which is predominantly fuelled by uncontrolled mass migration"—as well as such traditional far-right groups as the British National Party.

As Lawrence explained to the Independent, these movements are poised to take advantage of real-world crises as climate change and other environmental disasters manifest themselves.

"If you take the long view, as we see more extreme weather, extreme politics will come as a natural result of that," he said. "We're facing devastating effects on both the world's poorest people but also on wealthy nations and there'll be a volatile social situation, potentially destabilizing economies and unemployment. Of course this will be something that the far right will seek to capitalise on."

He added: "Anti-racism has to be woven into environmental action. This is the vital cause of our time, and we have to be very vigilant to combat the spread of divisive and hateful movements, stopping them co-opting those issues for their own ends."

The ecofascists' agenda melds neatly with the populist right's "instinctive distrust of established authorities and official narratives" which fuels conspiratorial thinking and coincides with the radical right's deep hostility towards left-wing positions, the HNH report explains. So mainstream or liberal environmental efforts combating climate change wind up being portrayed as a "globalist" scam by the left, part of a larger, more nefarious scheme to enslave ordinary people.

For instance, the UKIP splinter group For Britain claims: "The Far Left are extremely keen on the Climate Narrative, as part of the agenda is dismantling capitalism and wealth redistribution. As we have seen with the Black Lives Matter movement, it is foolish to take the narrative at face value, particularly when a cause is hijacked by Marxists and Communists."

"The blaming of immigration for overpopulation, and therefore environmental destruction, is near-ubiquitous across radical and far-right groups that delve into green issues," the report observes.

A report published last month by the Center for American Progress (CAP) explored how far-right extremists increasingly are blaming immigrants for environmental problems in the United States as their latest attempt in a long line of such attempts, some of them dating back more than a century and buried in the legacy of early conservationist activism, others reflecting more recent ongoing efforts by white nationalists to exploit what they believe is "common ground."

"While their scientifically meritless arguments are no longer welcome within the mainstream environmental movement, they continue to fuel the vitriol—and bad policy decisions, including draconian cuts to immigration levels, the evisceration of the U.S. refugee asylum systems, and the separation of families at the border—that hurt legitimate, effective solutions to the conservation and climate crisis," report observed.

One of the more pernicious aspects of ecofascist-friendly populism is that it's built on misinformation, deliberate smears, and a bedrock of flawed assumptions. These include the misconception that the U.S.'s environmental health exists in isolation from the rest of the world—something that the climate-change crisis Americans face in 2021 manifestly belies.

More importantly, it's a hollow diversionary distraction that allows the corporate and political interests responsible for the real problem—namely, unregulated development and overconsumption—off the hook. "Per capita, the United States has a greater rate of climate emissions, air pollution, and nature destruction than most other countries and is an outlier even among countries with similar standards of living," the report observes. "Policies aimed at limiting corporate capture and protecting public health—not curtailing immigration—are the solutions to these problems."

Indeed, one of the deep ironies around the right's growing "concern" for the environmental health of the southern border region is that one of the most devastating manmade environmental disasters in that region of the recent past has been the construction of the border wall, promoted by Donald Trump at the behest of his nativist base. As the CAP report observes:

One of the most dramatic examples of how greenwashed nativism can harm the planet is the Trump administration's U.S.-Mexico border wall. Its construction was not only regarded as ineffective and wasteful but has also caused immense damage to the environment, including by blasting mountains, destroying ancient cactus, desecrating sacred sites of the Tohono O'odham Nation, and disrupting the migration routes and survival of nearly 100 already imperiled species ranging from jaguars to monarch butterflies. Notably, the Trump administration's extensive use of waivers to circumvent environmental standards and regulations allowed the federal government to destroy these lands with impunity in the name of immigration control.

As Gabe Ortiz reported last year, the environmental damage inflicted by the wall's construction is, in the views of regional activists, "incalculable."

"Saguaro cactuses, some nearly a century old, in shards on the desert floor," Laiken Jordahl of the Center for Biological Diversity wroter for the New York Times. "Jaguars, lost, because a metal wall has blocked their migratory path. Endangered species homeless because their critical habitats have been destroyed. Living and working along the U.S.-Mexico border means watching the surreal, slow-motion leveling of the wild and fragile ecosystems I've spent my career fighting to protect."

All of which, as Ortiz reports, has fueled an effort by a coalition of 70 indigenous-rights, wildlife, and civil-rights groups to have Trump's wall removed posthaste. The Biden administration has paused all construction work as it reviews its legal options.

Tucker Carlson, of course, thought the border wall was a terrific idea. In fact, he hosted a segment in 2019 touting the wall as environmentally beneficial—because, you see, it would stop would-be border crossers from grubbying up the desert landscape, "damaging fragile ecosystems."

"That's been known for a long time," Carlson told his guest, then-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. "If you cared about the environment, you would care about that, and yet anyone who raises alarms is called names. We don't care because we care about the environment and this country."

"Well, the reality is that common sense says that when you have tremendous trafficking, trails, trash, debris and fires, you have a lot of damage to native vegetation, wildlife, and to the ecosystem," said Bernhardt.

"Spewing trash, debris, and fires," Carlson added. "So we are not allowed to be concerned about that. But if you care about the environment, that would be a concern, correct?"

Carlson, as far as we can find, never discussed, or expressed any concern for, the damage wreaked by the wall's construction itself.

FBI warns of far-right extremist infiltration of law enforcement in intelligence assessment

It became clear in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection—which included the participation of dozens of off-duty officers from around the country—that any effort to confront the right-wing extremism that fueled it would need to include police reforms that rooted such extremists out of the ranks of law enforcement. Now it appears that the FBI is turning its attention to the reality of such infiltration.

ABC News' Josh Margolin reports that a confidential intelligence assessment by the FBI's San Antonio division concludes that white supremacists and other far-right extremists would "very likely seek affiliation with military and law enforcement entities in furtherance of" their ideologies. The report also outlines the extraordinary threat that this infiltration poses both to those authorities and to the public generally.

"In the long term, FBI San Antonio assesses [racially motivated violent extremists] successfully entering military and law enforcement careers almost certainly will gain access to non-public tradecraft and information, enabling them to enhance operational security and develop new tactics in and beyond the FBI San Antonio" region, the assessment said.

The document, which was based on investigations between 2016 and 2020, was distributed to law-enforcement agencies in Texas and around the nation. It particularly focuses on neo-Nazis inspired by the white supremacist tract Siege, written by an associate of Charles Manson named James Mason, which advocates for the destruction of American democracy through "race war" and its replacement with a white ethnostate. These include the domestic terrorism organization Atomwaffen Division, whose members have been the subject of multiple FBI arrests in the past couple of years.

Titled "Siege-Inspired Actors Very Likely Seek Military and Law Enforcement Affiliation, Increasing Risk of Tradecraft Proliferation and Color of Law Offenses in the FBI San Antonio Area of Responsibility," the report's authors wrote that their assessment is "based on evidence [extremists] expressed a desire to join the military and law enforcement primarily to obtain tradecraft to prepare for and initiate a collapse of society, specifically by engaging in violence against the US government and specified racial and ethnic groups. Online peers encouraged them to seek these careers and [extremists] built relationships with associates seeking military employment, focusing on the associates' current and future martial skills."

The assessment also says extremists are "likely to seek to exploit familial and social connections when pursuing military and law enforcement employment, reducing obstacles and increasing opportunities ... to acquire tradecraft."

"When we asked the FBI last year to testify about white supremacists executing plans to infiltrate law enforcement entities across America, the bureau refused and told us it had no evidence that racist infiltration was a problem," Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland told ABC News in a statement. "Now, the January insurrection—and the growing evidence of off-duty law enforcement officers being involved in the attack on Congress—and this newly leaked report confirm in my mind that the FBI's failure to level with the American people about organized racist infiltration of law enforcement is having dangerous and deadly consequences."

The problem was evident well before Jan. 6. Police participation in the QAnon conspiracy theory became an issue over the summer as increasing numbers of law enforcement officers started showing up in support of the Trumpian conspiracy cult. An August 2020 report by the Brennan Center for Justice's Michael German examined far-right infiltration of law enforcement and concluded that authorities' efforts at preventing it and rooting it out were lackluster at best.

"Efforts to address systemic and implicit biases in law enforcement are unlikely to be effective in reducing the racial disparities in the criminal justice system as long as explicit racism in law enforcement continues to endure. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that it does," German wrote. He also noted that the Justice Department has no national strategy designed to identify extremist officers or to protect the communities they are assigned to serve.

The presence of ideologically sympathetic extremists within law enforcement also poses a security threat to any agency dealing with their criminal activities, particularly officers who keep any fascist affiliations secret and work to implement a far-right agenda from within the force.

"Police officers have access to sensitive information," explains associate Georgetown Law professor Vida Johnson. "For example, they might know if they're looking into the Proud Boys or the Three Percenters or the Oath Keepers, so they can tip them off. That's one reason why careers in law enforcement are so appealing to people who hold far-right belief systems. They get this opportunity to not only police people of color, to control their goings and comings and how they live their lives, but also they get this inside information about whether [far-right groups] are in fact being investigated."

American law enforcement has never systematically addressed the problem of extremism within its ranks, which historically speaking is not a new phenomenon at all, but has worsened dramatically in the past few decades. "It's clear that extremist groups on the right and white supremacists have been agents of chaos, of violence in our community, and the fact that police are just now interested in training on this, I find more than disturbing," Johnson told the Los Angeles Times.

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

"We are continuing to press the FBI for information about how it plans to counteract the contagion of white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement bodies," Raskin said after learning of the new FBI report. "The FBI must answer specifically for what it is doing to combat white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement. It must work to root out officers who seek state power to terrorize our communities under color of law."

As German wrote in the Brennan Center report:

The failure of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to aggressively respond to evidence of explicit racism among police officers undermines public confidence in fair and impartial law enforcement. Worse, it signals to white supremacists and far-right militants that their illegal acts enjoy government approval and authorization, making them all the more brazen and dangerous. Winning back public trust requires transparent and equal enforcement of the law, effective oversight, and public accountability that prioritizes targeted communities' interests.

Police leadership confronts far-right extremism in the ranks

American policymakers face a real conundrum when it comes to tackling the spread of right-wing extremism and its attendant terroristic violence, a problem that became self-evident amid the January 6 Capitol insurrection and its aftermath: How can law enforcement effectively curtail the illegal activities of right-wing extremists when so many officers are themselves participants in these movements?

The answer — which is that it cannot — suggests that effectively confronting far-right extremism must begin with police reform, and particularly the task of weeding extremists out of our police forces. The public cannot expect agencies tasked with enforcing the laws that prohibit extremist violence to do so seriously when those same extremists permeate their ranks.

The issue became self-evident when it emerged that some 31 law-enforcement officers in 12 states have been linked to the January 6 Capitol siege. Police departments around the country are now struggling with the enormity of the job, as the Los Angeles Times recently examined, focusing on the efforts of Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore to confront extremism within the force he oversees.

The most difficult aspect of the problem for police is the extent to which far-right views have been normalized within the mainstream, and particularly within the ranks of police officers. The issue gets to the heart of a police culture that has become increasingly penetrated by right-wing politics and is simultaneously hostile to accountability for its officers' behavior. When cops are also far-right extremists who engage in discriminatory policing, American police officials have a history of closing ranks and defending the status quo.

Moore, in an interview with the Times, voiced some of these cultural tensions when asked whether he would drum out officers who were found to be members of the Proud Boys, a far-right hate group. He at first suggested that the Proud Boys were part of a broad category of groups that included Black Lives Matter with which the public was still grappling.

"America is struggling today with understanding whether the Proud Boys, some aspects of BLM, other groups including Heritage Foundation and others, represent ideology that's counter to this democracy," Moore said. "What I know is that this democracy is made best when there is discussion and there's dialogue and debate."

However, he clarified that he personally considers the Proud Boys an organization that "runs counter to this democracy," and does not believe that "there is any place for a law enforcement officer to be a member of such organization or advocate for their existence."

Moore added that he is unaware of any Proud Boys or members of any other extremist group within the ranks of current LAPD officers, but is prepared to investigate any such claims, indicating he would fire anyone who "crosses the line" of what is acceptable.

LAPD officials were driven by last summer's anti-police-brutality protests, Moore said, to examine how best to comb their ranks for extremists and weed them out, suggesting they were especially motivated by the realization that the presence of such police would seriously undermine efforts to rebuild trust within the city's diverse neighborhoods. Moore rejected any suggestion that extremism was prevalent among his officers, noting that the LAPD is a diverse department, both ethnically and politically.

"What's really critical I believe going forward is for America to ... recognize extremes and have no place for them in this democracy, but also to recognize views that are different from their own and not vilify or call them extremist," Moore said.

Extremism within the ranks of law enforcement, however, is not just a community relations problem. Much more broadly, it also affects what laws are enforced and how. And it has a direct impact on the broader national effort to push back the incoming tide of white nationalist and other far-right extremist violence.

The primary problem with domestic terrorism in America is that our law-enforcement apparatus at every level—federal, state, and local—has failed to enforce the laws already on the books that provide them with more than enough ability to confront it. The ongoing presence of officers sympathetic to their cause—and for whom, in fact, their radical extremism is invisible—is one of the major proximate causes of this failure.

It is already, for example, a federal crime to share bomb-making recipes on the internet. It's also a federal crime to advocate the assassinations of public officials or to otherwise threaten them with violence. Yet what began as a few angry voices on the fringes of the internet—and thus easy for law-enforcement authorities to ignore—has grown into a massive flood in large part because these laws are only selectively and lightly enforced.

As Moustafa Bayoumi observed at The Nation:

[T]here is already plenty of prosecutorial power on the books to deal with far-right violence. The problem is not that we need to expand our laws. Rather, the problem is making sure we use our laws, and that we use them fairly, consistently, and to the full extent possible. The real scandal here is not the lack of a domestic terrorism statute. The real scandal is the free pass white supremacy has had from law enforcement for all these years.

National security expert Michael German of the Brennan Center for Justice, in a paper for Just Security, has explored in detail why new laws are not necessary to confront the problem. As he explains, the problem for federal law enforcement has not been a lack of tools to deal with domestic terrorism, but an utter lack of prioritization of the issue by high-level officials.

"While Justice Department officials have used notorious incidents of white supremacist violence to push for a new domestic terrorism statute, the Department itself continues to de-prioritize far-right violence and focus its most aggressive tactics instead against environmentalists, political protesters, and communities of color," he wrote. "It isn't hard to guess who would likely be targeted with new domestic terrorism laws."

The presence of ideologically sympathetic extremists within law enforcement also poses a security threat to any agency dealing with their criminal activities, particularly officers who keep any fascist affiliations secret and work to implement a far-right agenda from within the force.

"Police officers have access to sensitive information," explains associate Georgetown Law professor Vida Johnson. "For example, they might know if they're looking into the Proud Boys or the Three Percenters or the Oath Keepers, so they can tip them off. That's one reason why careers in law enforcement are so appealing to people who hold far-right belief systems. They get this opportunity to not only police people of color, to control their goings and comings and how they live their lives, but also they get this inside information about whether [far-right groups] are in fact being investigated."

American law enforcement has never systematically addressed the problem of extremism within its ranks, which historically speaking is not a new phenomenon at all, but has worsened dramatically in the past few decades. "It's clear that extremist groups on the right and white supremacists have been agents of chaos, of violence in our community, and the fact that police are just now interested in training on this, I find more than disturbing," Johnson told the Times.

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

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

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

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

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

An antidemocratic insurgency takes shape as ideological lines vanish and QAnon, militias meld

The question about the QAnon cult that lingers in many people's minds is, "Where will they turn as the multiple failures of Q predictions begin to mount and their authoritarian belief in Donald Trump falls apart?" We're starting to get an answer: The vigilante militia movement and white nationalism.

Militia groups in Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, are forming alliances with an array of other Trump-supporting far-right organizations, including the QAnon groups aligned with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. It reflects a much broader trend in the post-Trump world of the radical right in which what used to be distinct movements with widely differing sets of beliefs are commingling and coalescing into a singular far-right insurgency against liberal democracy.

The goal of the Georgia groups, according to Justin Thayer of the Georgia III% Martyrs, is to advocate for the state's secession from the United States. He says the final straw was the arrests of people who were involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

"The way patriots are now being hunted down and arrested by fellow men and women who have taken the same oath has disheartened any faith I had in the redemption or reformation of the USA as one entity," Thayer told the Journal-Constitution.

Thayer's group have now allied themselves with other "Three Percenter" militias, mainly the American Brotherhood of Patriots and American Patriots USA (APUSA), headed by Chester Doles, a Dahlonega man with a background in neo-Nazi hate groups. Thayer foresees a need for Georgians to leave the union because of what he calls "the collapse of the American experiment."

Doles also told the paper he had given up on democracy: "Things are different now. Everything has changed. We've seen our last Republican president in American history. The ballot box—we tried as hard as we could try. It's not working."

Amy Iandiorio, an Anti-Defamation League researcher who has been monitoring these groups' online activities, told the Journal-Constitution that a "shared victimhood narrative" around Trump's defeat at the hands of Joe Biden had fostered an environment that encouraged "tactical" alliances among normally disparate groups.

"We saw members of traditional militias, white supremacists, QAnon and other people in the same spaces and claiming very similar enemies," she said.

These are "extensions of trends that extend back well before the Capitol insurrection," Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) told Daily Kos. "The silos that used to segment the far-right have been eroding since the days of the Tea Party. The Trump years obliterated that segmentation almost entirely."

The two militia groups had earlier had a kind of falling out revolving around Greene and Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler when the Martyrs showed up at a joint campaign rally in Ringgold working as the private security detail for Greene. Doles had championed Greene's candidacy during both the primary and general campaigns with members of his group posing for photos with her, but had become an embarrassment when photos of him posing with Greene and Loeffler were publicized on social media. Loeffler subsequently disavowed Doles.

So when Doles showed up in Ringgold, Greene asked the Martyrs group to escort Doles out of the event, setting off a round of internecine bickering. Thayer said he and Doles have repaired the relationship.

"We both have the same objective and work with other organizations," he told the Journal-Constitution. "So it was in the best interest of the movement to become ally's (sic) and work together."

Journal-Constitution reporter Chris Joyner was interviewed by Georgia Public Broadcasting. He observed that there was already a considerable overlap between people who joined vigilante militias and QAnon conspiracy theory subscribers:

QAnon is an entirely separate segment of sort of this universe of people who might have been at the Capitol. … Because it is so wide-ranging, parts of it have become ingrained in the militia movement to a degree that I found sort of surprising. 2020 was a really big year for QAnon. Part of that had to do with the pandemic, which was, you know, the conspiracy theories about the pandemic were absorbed into the sort of QAnon network of conspiracy theories. People were more inclined to stay at home. So they were online more often and they got sort of drawn into these at the time, Facebook groups that were incubators for QAnon and that did find its way into some channels of the militias as well. So there was there was crossover there between the QAnon conspiracy theory and … the Three Percenters, for instance.

Trump's ongoing refusal to concede the election—and his promotion of groundless conspiracy theories about "election fraud" at the core of that refusal—created a pressure cooker-like environment in which all those disparate parts came together. And Jan. 6 became the bursting point for all that pressure.

"Their backs were against the wall," Joyner observed. "This was a final opportunity. They felt like they were getting strong signals from the president himself as to there being some way they could change the outcome on this date if enough pressure was applied to, say, Vice President Pence or to Republicans in the Senate. I think one of the things that's sort of striking about this moment, compared to others, is these are not groups that normally talk to each other."

This was reflected in the way that the demographics of the people who entered the Capitol suggested a remarkable shift in the participants in the same far-right extremist groups that led the assault on the police barricades—the Proud Boys particularly, who have tended toward recruiting men between ages 18 and 35. The insurrectionists' average age was 40, according to a University of Chicago study, and only a handful of the people arrested so far belonged to organized far-right groups; a high percentage were employed, many were business owners, most were middle-aged, and nearly all of them were middle class.

The Capitol insurrection, as the study's authors concluded, "revealed a new force in American politics—not merely a mix of right-wing organizations, but a broader mass political movement that has violence at its core and draws strength even from places where Trump supporters are in the minority."

These trends have been coalescing all during the Trump era. "Going back as far as Charlottesville, heavily-armed Three Percenters and Oath Keepers marched alongside Proud Boy streetfighters and unabashed white nationalists," observed Burghart. "The President refused to denounce these 'fine people.'"

However, 2020 produced two extraordinary events that had the effect of driving this "multidimensional approach" straight from the margins to mainstream American politics: the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 election. Burghart says:

The pandemic mobilized a significant mass base of individuals who were radicalized in record time. Ammon Bundy and his group People's Rights demonstrated the power of armed confrontation and created a model for armed opposition to government intervention to stop the spread of COVID-19. Before the insurrection in DC, there are attacks on state capitol buildings in numerous states built on Bundy's model. Those efforts have been designed to be easily repurposed to fight against anything they dislike. Efforts like Bundy's also brought new constituencies into insurrectionism, particularly women.

The 2020 election, and the so-called "Stop the Steal" efforts to overturn the election results started to congeal the various segments of the far-right into an oppositional force against the Biden administration. The election cycle supercharged Qanon conspiracists as they reached a surprisingly large audience, while the Oath Keepers provided security at MAGA rallies and the Proud Boys got a shout-out from the President. In November, when election results showed Biden as the winner, we witnessed the coalescing of a wider range of far-right forces into mass opposition fueled by a sense of white dispossession and anti-democratic rage. That inchoate coalition included MAGA supporters, Tea Partiers, Qanon conspiracists, COVID insurrectionists, far-right paramilitaries, racist reactionaries, and unabashed white nationalists. Each of those segments provided multiple onramps onto the radicalization conveyor belt. The multiplier effect of those groups all working together turned the radicalization conveyor belt up to eleven, swiftly moving people from political opposition to insurrection.

After the Jan. 6 insurrection there has been some breakdown in intergroup relations and some internecine quarreling, mostly as a result of fallout from both the law enforcement crackdown on participants and the sudden deplatforming of far-right extremists from social media sites that followed the attack on the Capitol. This is not surprising since historically the American radical right has gone through periods of shakeup following high-profile public events involving them, such as the 1996 Oklahoma City bombing or the 2017 riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But as Burghart observes, these periods mostly involve reshaping of the movement to fit new conditions on the ground. "The situation inside the Proud Boys right now captures many different movement dynamics," he told Daily Kos. "There is increased law enforcement scrutiny and multiple arrests on serious charges related to the Capitol insurrection. There are chapters in Indiana and Oklahoma that split from the national organization, largely because of that scrutiny (and the revelation that the group's leader was an informant). Most importantly, however, is that there is a faction trying to pull the group in a more explicitly white nationalist direction. Despite all the internal chaos, the Proud Boys are still looking to recruit disaffected Qanon believers."

As Joyner noted: "Over the last several years, the level of crosstalk between … disparate factions of outright racist groups, white nationalist groups to … militia groups, they may not share those same beliefs, but they there's a thread that runs through it that had allowed them to talk to each other and coordinate primarily on social media in a way that we had not seen before. That sort of led us to this moment, I think."

Burghart sees three major issues likely to bond the various sectors of the radical right during this period of adjustment:

  • Look for nativism to be the glue that binds together mainstreamers and armed insurrectionists during the first years of the Biden administration.
  • Opposition to COVID-19 health restrictions, widespread distribution of the vaccine, and spending to fight the virus can become a flashpoint for the far right, as recent confrontations in Los Angeles, California, and Vancouver, Washington, have demonstrated. Expect more confrontations.
  • Attacking Black Lives Matter/antifascists has been a vital part of the far-right playbook for some time. It provides a common racialized enemy and their rationalization for street violence.

Regardless of how it all takes shape, we can expect that the insurgency the Biden-Harris administration will be facing will be relentlessly conspiracist, with those conspiracy theories providing "justification" for the various kinds of violence they will unleash: Proud Boys-style street violence with armed vigilante militias participating as well, and various acts of domestic terrorism—both so-called "lone wolf" violence by radicalized individuals as well as organized small-cell attacks of trained paramilitary groups, probably on both government and media targets.

It's going to be a very long four years, and probably much longer than that.

'We must act': Far-right conspiracy cultists watch Myanmar’s military coup unfold — and hope for the same in US

The American far right is comprised of an amalgam of widely varying belief systems, from QAnon conspiracy theorists to hardened neo-Nazis; the primary thing they all have in common is a powerful antipathy to democracy and its institutions. So that core exposed itself online in clear terms this week after Myanmar's military pulled off a coup that suspended the country's fragile democracy, and American right-wing extremists began chatting about it loudly—hoping for the same thing to happen to the United States.

QAnon cultists pronounced it a concrete sign foreshadowing the imminent arrest of President Biden, cheering the Myanmar coup as an "awakening." Meanwhile militant white nationalists posted memes showing a crying "Groyper" below the text: "TFW [that feeling when] you learn that Myanmar's military can't come over to arrest your politicians too."

As Media Matters' Alex Kaplan reports, top QAnon influencers wondered "when will this happen here" and when the military will "arrest [American] politicians too." Others believe the Myanmar coup ought to be "a lesson" for Biden.

"The Burmese military has arrested the country's leaders after credible evidence of widespread voter fraud became impossible to ignore. Read this Reuters article and watch them cover for the government, calling it a 'coup against a democratically elected government'," posted one influencer on Telegram with more than 45,000 subscribers. "Sounds like the controlled media and Biden admin are scared this might happen here."

"We will see this headline here soon," another QAnon believer with more than 50,000 subscribers on Telegram wrote, linking to a tweet from a far-right news website about the Myanmar coup.

One of the many theories floating about Telegram (featured in a thread with more than 165,000 subscribers) claims that Myanmar is a major site of human trafficking—which is the ostensible focus of the QAnon theories—and that, moreover, there are "links" between the country (notably deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi) and QAnon's primary suspects, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. This theory's implication is that "we are seeing the first signs of military takeover that is also planned for the U.S.," Amaranth Amarasingam, a professor and researcher at Queen's University in Ontario, told Rolling Stone.

Another theory connected China and two companies that played major roles in Trumpian promoters of false voter-fraud conspiracy theories, Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems, with the coup. The theory claimed that the two companies also oversaw fraud in Myanmar's elections, suggesting the military acted in order to blunt the electronic vote fraud.

On the far-right message board 4chan, one commenter posted: "They too had a disputed election in November but unlike the Americans, they seem to have actual balls."

Other comments from around the far-right corners of social media:

"That should be us."

"Maybe Q meant Myanmar this whole time?"

"I'm thinking this is a wake up call that not all military coups are bad."

"When will this happen here?"

"Take note; Let this Myanmar thing be a lesson; when the Military decides to move – it comes out of nowhere and is swift and clean."

"Myanmar's awakening and Peruvian government waking up. When will the rest of the world decide it's time to end the cyclical treasonous fraud and purge their government of the corruption? U.S. will you do the same? Letssss Gooo!"

"More and more having red pill revaluations. If we are to clean out the garbage we must ALL act. Words without action are just words!"

As Rolling Stone's Ed Dickson observes, QAnon cultists seeking vindication after the serial failure of all their conspiracy-theory predictions have become obsessed with the claim that the the results of the election were fraudulent: "Many have been pushing the claim that Trump will return to office, possibly by force of a military coup. And they have been invigorated by watching this exact scenario taking place in the small southeast Asian country."

Republicans who keep a finger on reality are discovering that their voters have gone off the deep end

It's becoming much clearer why Republicans in Congress are so reluctant to acknowledge factual reality—such as that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential fairly, or that Donald Trump incited a mob that attacked the Congress and ransacked the U.S. Capitol—and have doubled down on their embrace of anti-democratic disinformation that fueled the insurrection: If they dare admit any of it, they risk the insane wrath of the millions of GOP voters out there who have wholly swallowed all that false Trumpian propaganda.

That's become especially self-evident among Republicans at the state and local levels throughout the country in the weeks since the January 6 riot. As Hunter recently explained, the GOP at the ground level not only has fully embraced the conspiracist rot that Trump promoted after he lost, but it also has become even more openly extreme than it was before the election. Liz Cheney is finding that out.

Whenever Republicans have made any gestures toward acknowledging either Biden's win or Trump's seditionist behavior, as the Guardianrecently reported, voters at the state and local level have responded with outrage and threats.

"The evidence is overwhelming that local parties across the country, in blue states and red states, are radicalized and support extremely far outside the mainstream positions like, for example, ending our democratic experiment to install Donald Trump as president over the will of the people," Tim Miller, former political director of Republican Voters Against Trump, told the Guardian.

"They believe in insane COVID denialism and QAnon and all these other conspiracies. It's endemic, not just a couple of state parties. It's the vast majority of state parties throughout the country."

The list is long and worrisome:

  • Arizona: The state Republican party last weekend re-elected Kelli Ward, a conspiracy-theory-promoting "Trump Republican" who unabashedly promoted the "election fraud" disinformation. Party officials also voted to censure Governor Doug Ducey for certifying Trump's loss in Arizona, along with Cindy McCain, the widow of Senator John McCain, and former Senator Jeff Flake, both for having supported Biden in the election.
  • Texas: The state Republican Party encouraged its members to follow them on Gab, the favorite social-media platform of white nationalists, with a pro-QAnon conspiracy trope: "We Are the Storm." Even after Biden's inauguration, the party insisted that he had won fraudulently: "It took a global pandemic, a thoroughly corrupt media, and massive election irregularities for President Trump to be removed from office," the GOP said in a statement on its website.
  • Hawaii: The Hawaii Republican Party's official account published a thread of tweets sympathizing with supporters of QAnon—dismissing cult's conspiracy theories that Democrats and media figures are secretly operating as global pedophilia ring, but arguing that adherents nonetheless were engaged in a form of patriotism. The same account also praised the "generally high quality" work of a Holicaust-denying YouTuber named Tarl Warwick, saying: "It is good to periodically step outside the 'bubble' of corporate commentators for additional perspective." The party deleted and condemned the tweets; the communications official who sent them resigned.
  • Oregon: The state's Republican Party issued a lengthy statement stuffed full of conspiracy theories and disinformation condemning the 10 Republican members of Congress who voted to impeach Trump after the insurrection. It claimed "there is growing evidence that the violence at the Capitol was a 'false flag' operation designed to discredit President Trump and his supporters." Some 23 Republican members of the state House repudiated the statement, noting that "there is no credible evidence to support false flag claims," adding that such rumormongering had become a distraction.
  • Wyoming: State activists opened up a campaign to "recall" Congressman Liz Cheney after she joined the Republicans voting to impeach Trump, and have collected over 55,000 signatures. Ten county-level parties in the state voted to censure Cheney. A state senator named Anthony Bouchard announced a 2022 campaign against the congresswoman. The Wyoming Republican state party said "there has not been a time during our tenure when we have seen this type of an outcry from our fellow Republicans, with the anger and frustration being palpable in the comments we have received."

Pro-Trump Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida even traveled to the state to lead a rally attacking Cheney. "We are in a battle for the soul of the Republican party, and I intend to win it," Gaetz told the rally.

The sentiments in Wyoming were deep and widespread. A Gillette woman named Shelley Horn started the Cheney recall petition, and told CNN: "You just can't go, 'Oh well, I need to vote with my conscience.' No! Vote for what your people put you in there to do. You're a Republican, you're supposed to back your party regardless."

Trump supporter Taylor Haynes told CNN, "In my view, she's done in Wyoming." A poll commissioned by the Trump political operation purportedly showed the impeachment vote had hurt her popularity. "Liz Cheney's favorables there are only slightly worse than her father's shooting skills," quipped Donald Trump Jr.

Other polls, however, supported the claim. A January 27 McLaughlin poll that showed 70% of Wyoming voters believe the impeachment trial was unconstitutional; more than two-third disapprove of Cheney's vote, and 63% say they are unlikely to vote for Cheney again.

Some longtime GOP figures defended her. Gale Geringer, a veteran Republican strategist, told CNN that Cheney showed "courage" in casting the Trump impeachment vote: "I don't underestimate the anger people are feeling right now. It's huge. And Liz Cheney has become the target of that anger, but I don't think she's really the cause of it. I think it's fear of what the Biden administration is going to do to Wyoming. We're petrified. Our entire economy, all of our jobs, our tax base has been threatened. And there's nothing we can do about Joe Biden for four years. But we can take that fear and anger out on Liz Cheney."

But Politico reporter Tara Palmieri tagged along with the CNN crew, and found it nearly impossible to find anyone in the state who wasn't angry with their Congressman. Her impression was that Cheney is in serious political trouble.

Honestly, it was hard to find anyone who would defend Cheney — and I really tried to talk to as many people as I could not at the rally. I stopped at a biker bar, a gun shop, a vape shop, a hardware store, a steakhouse, a diner, a dentist's office and a pawn shop …

— At Harbor Freight Tools, when I uttered the name "Liz Cheney," an employee behind the cash register hurled a threatening epithet. Then a beefy and tattooed supervisor, Torrey Price, 48, came over mad as hell. His mask hung below his nose when he told me, "I don't think she spoke for Wyoming."

Price never votes in primaries but said he will in August 2022 — to oust Cheney. He shared more of his thoughts: the election was stolen, the U.S. Capitol raid was staged, and the number of Covid deaths were grossly inflated. He and his colleague Joe agreed on all of these points, adding that they would not be getting the vaccine.

— At the Outlaw Saloon, I envied the way a recently vaccinated NYT reporter sauntered into the biker bar maskless, when earlier, a middle-aged DJ in a cowboy hat asked me for my credentials. Likely because there were only two masks in the bar — the one on my face and another on a table, with the words "political prisoner" printed in red. The guy who threw down that mask predicted the size of the rally against Cheney, telling me the night before, "I guarantee you there will be 600 people there." I didn't believe him.

— At the steakhouse, our comely waitress said "a lot of people are fired up" about Cheney. As a lifelong native of Wyoming, she said Cheney made a grave mistake by not representing the people of her state.

Palmieri concluded: "If there was any doubt this is still Trump's Republican Party, my time in Cheyenne dispelled it."

The push to embrace Trumpism is roiling other state Republican parties. In Wisconsin, where 15 Republican lawmakers signed a letter to Vice President Mike Pence the day before the D.C. riot urging him to postpone the certification, and two Republican congressmen, Scott Fitzgerald and Tom Tiffany, objected to the electoral votes, the party is divided into two camps: in several states that Biden won.

"The Republican Party right now is relatively divided, but it's not the traditional ideological divisions that used to be in place, as much as it's between the sane and insane wings of the party," RightWisconsin editor James Wigderson told the Madison Capital Times. "I think that there's a chance of a real fracture coming."

Establishment Republicans such as former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, however, defended the Trumpists for their paranoia and embrace of partisan disinformation: "That is the perspective they have, that is the view that they have and it's valid; you can't say someone's opinion of a subjective matter is invalid," she said. "I mean, what gives us the right to judge someone's opinion like that?"

In Michigan, where Republicans also embraced the "Stop the Steal" campaign prior to the insurrection, the impulse to maintain their embrace of Trumpism remains largely undiminished. The Allegan County Republican party censured Congressman Fred Upton because he voted to impeach Trump.

"Not a lot appears to be changing. We have former Ambassador Ron Weiser (expected to be the new Michigan GOP chair) and Meshawn Maddock (expected to be Weiser's co-chair)," WKAR politics reporter Abigail Censky observed. "(Maddock) led 'Stop the Steal' efforts in the state and was a key part of the kind of infrastructure to overturn the state's election results, which we know from bipartisan clerks and expert testimony was a fair and safe and secure election. It's interesting to see that that's kind of beyond reproach still, and that, that leadership is still going to go into place."

And in Georgia, Republican Party officials are grimacing at the wounds being inflicted on their voter-appeal operations by the presence of QAnon-loving Congressman Majorie Taylor Greene in the state's delegation, as well as in the media as her multiple conspiracist pronouncements—such as her approval of lynching House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—have come increasingly to light.

"If you have any common sense, you know she's an anchor on the party. She is weighing us down," said Gabriel Sterling, a Georgia Republican election administrator who criticized the baseless election conspiracy theories espoused by Trump and his supporters.

"Some people are saying maybe Nancy Pelosi will throw her out" of Congress, Sterling said. "The Democrats would never throw her out. They want her to be the definition of what a Republican is. They're gonna give her every opportunity to speak and be heard and look crazy — like what came out Wednesday, the Jewish space laser to start fires. I mean, I don't know how far down the rabbit hole you go."

The unhinged behavior and conspiracism is widespread. The Oregon GOP's statement was rife with conspiracy theories, including a passage explaining why they viewed the January 6 insurrection as a "false flag" operation:

Whereas this false flag will support Joe Biden plans to introducing new domestic terrorism legislation likely placing more emphasis on themes from post-9/11 Patriot Act such as allowing those charged with terrorism to be automatically detained before trial, outlawing donations to government-designated terrorist groups, allowing electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists, letting the government use secret sources in those trials, and perhaps new provisions such as codifying putting conservatives on a secret no-fly list without recourse to due process and restricting free speech, similar to the Sedition Act of 1798, which criminalized making "false statements" critical of the Federal government.

The peculiar combination of self-righteousness, persecution complex, and projection endemic to extremist conspiracism were omnipresent. Shelley Horn, the Wyoming petitioner, blamed Cheney's impeachment vote for dividing the nation: "It's just sows more hate and division," Horn told the Cowboy State Daily, "and people are tired of it. Our country can't stand much more."

As Zack Beauchamp observed at Vox:

It's obvious that some of the party's national leaders, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, don't actually believe in these conspiracy theories. But for too long, the party has been comfortable letting their rank-and-file supporters believe them because it's politically advantageous. Now, true believers are rising up and capturing the leadership of state parties and local activist groups — putting pressure on national politicians to conform to extreme ideas or risk a serious primary threat.

This makes the GOP's post-Trump trajectory look even scarier. No one person or organization is in charge of the party, in a position to fix the root causes of its continuing turn toward extremism. Reforming the party requires a fight on multiple levels and in multiple arenas: reforms to the local and national party, transformations of both the party and adjacent institutions like Fox News.

This what Barack Obama adroitly describes as America's "epistemological crisis." It will not stop happening as long as there are news organs that traffic in falsehoods as a profit model, and who devote 24 hours a day, seven days a week of broadcast time using those lies to coach half of the nation how and why to hate the other half—and politicians who gleefully profit from it as well.

Ohio fringe candidate threatens governor with a revived far-right terror tactic: ‘citizen’s arrest’

Renea Turner protested Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's COVID-19 orders earlier this summer, and this week declared she was making a citizen's arrest, but denies plotting to kidnap him.

Citizen's arrests are all the rage among right-wing extremists these days, it seems. Barely two weeks after 14 Michigan militiamen were arrested as part of a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer under the rubric of a "constitutionalist" fantasy, a similar plot to make a "citizen's arrest" of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine—accused similarly of "tyranny" by imposing coronavirus-related health measures—bubbled to the surface this week.

The alleged Ohio plot revolves around a fringe-right activist named Renea Turner, who ran a write-in campaign for governor in 2018. A man who worked with her told police that Turner had attempted to join her plan to perform a citizen's arrest of DeWine at his home—which he claims involved then trying him for treason and punishing him accordingly.

On Thursday, Turner conducted a ceremony in Columbus (posted as a since-deleted video on Facebook) in which she announced that she was deposing DeWine as governor, and took the gubernatorial oath to replace him. On Monday, she held a press conference in which she denied she intended to harm DeWine—she merely intended to serve him with citizen's arrest papers, she said.

The idea of using citizen's arrest powers against government officials engaged in the far right's conception of "treason" and "tyranny" has its origins in the "Patriot" militia movement's activism in the 1990s. It was a common strategy for so-called "constitutionalists" and "sovereign citizens" to file reams of documents containing flowery pseudo-legal language to claim that various government officials—including judges, prosecutors, and elected authorities—had betrayed their oaths of office and thus committed treason.

Some, such as the Freemen in eastern Montana, issued bounties of $1 million for the arrest of various public officials on charges of treason. These tactics, in the Freemen's case, grew so egregious—along with the fraud the group committed among local businesses—that eventually the FBI began to arrest its members, culminating in an 81-day armed standoff near Jordan in 1996.

The tactic largely fell into disuse during the first decade of the 21st century. However, its apparent revival among far-right extremists illustrates how deep the connection to old "Patriot" belief systems and strategies among current-day radicals really runs.


At her Thursday ceremony, Turner read a long-winded declaration (which she also posted on Facebook) to "alter and remove" DeWine, a Republican, as governor. "Mike DeWine has used his position; he has become so corrupt that he has oppressed the people," her statement read. "Governor Mike DeWine has become concentrated, grown and has become a Tyrant and will be held accountable immediately. He will receive a Tyrant's punishment."

Turner's language was different from that preferred by sovereign citizens—she refers to herself throughout it as "one people"—but conceptually her declaration was identical to that made by the 1990s "Patriots." This included the apparent belief that the same "one people" who arrest the governor are automatically slotted to replace him.

Afterward, she took the oath of office as governor of Ohio with the assistance of several supporters, one of whom was a notary public, and it was signed by several of the supporters as witnesses.

"This is a huge step for America," she said afterward. "This is just getting started with Ohio. We have figured out a way to save America and we are starting it today."

One of those witnesses—a man who Turner and her contingent referred to as "Wild Man"—wore a jacket declaring himself a "Patriot" and a member of the "III Percent" militia movement.

The man who reported that Turner was planning to arrest DeWine told police that Turner, a Springfield native, had called him at his home the morning of Oct. 16 and asked if he wanted to participate in arresting the governor at DeWine's home later that weekend and try him for allegations of tyranny before a "citizens court." He also said that Turner had suggested two penalties for conviction: permanent exile or execution.

He said that while he agreed that DeWine should be arrested, he expected the process to occur under established law enforcement authorities. He had hoped the group of DeWine critics could find a prosecutor who would charge him.

"(The caller) said 'no, we the people, we're going to arrest him,'" the source said.

"Do I think (DeWine) needs to be arrested? Absolutely," the man said. "But all that needs to happen within the confines of the law."

Turner told cleveland.com that she had participated in the call, but insisted that she had only discussed placing DeWine under house arrest, and made no specific plans to do so. She dismissed the man's claims: "He's a dingbat," she said.

The Ohio Capital Journal reported that a state representative said he recently met with Turner prior to the alleged call, and that she had inquired about the governor's home. Ohio State Police say they are investigating the matter, but Turner has not been detained.

DeWine commented on Friday about the plot: "At this point in my life, nothing shocks me anymore," he said. "We're going to continue to do what we need to do every day. Our life goes on and I'm going to do what I need to do. I don't know the details of the so-called plan. I can't really comment about that. As I said in regard to what happened with Governor Whitmer, it's despicable anyone would want to in any way go around our legal process that we have. We are a country, a state, a rule of law, we have a long tradition of that and anybody that wants to violate that or go around that, we all have a responsibility to denounce."

Ohio law on citizen's arrests permits them in only limited circumstances. There first has to be a reasonable belief—one based on real and not imaginary or theoretical evidence—that the arrestee committed a felony. You also can only detain a suspect until the police can furnish an arrest warrant; if there isn't a law enforcement officer, you have to transport the person to a court or judge who can make the determination.

An Ohio sheriff explained: "Felonies are capital offenses and a reasonable person would know. J-walking, littering are misdemeanor violations. A citizen would not have the right to engage themselves in something of that nature, but that certainly shouldn't deter them from reporting a crime."

The viability of citizen's arrests for broader uses such as Turner's, or the Michigan militiamen who appear to be planning a legal defense around the claim that they only planned to perform such an arrest of Whitmer, has never been recognized by any court or legal jurisdiction.

Attorney Sarissa Montague of Kalamazoo explained to mlive.com that in order for defendants in the Michigan case to claim they were making a citizen's arrest, they'd have to prove "that a felony actually had been committed and that any reasonable person acting without passion or prejudice would have fairly suspected" the same.

There was another citizen's arrest incident in Michigan recently involving a city councilman in Warren who attempted to make an arrest of his own. Eddie Kabacinski, a Trump supporter who at an April council meeting had donned a gas mask to mock anti-pandemic measures, is currently under investigation for having slapped a pair of handcuffs onto a protester who showed up at a Trump rally Oct. 14 in Eastpointe.

The woman had stuck three small Black Lives Matter stickers on Trump signs placed along the boulevard. Kabacinski chased her and grabbed her, at which point she sprayed him with silly string. The councilman—who carries the handcuffs regularly—pulled them out and put them on the woman with her hands behind her back until officers arrived. Eastpointe officers promptly removed the cuffs and released the woman.

"Putting a decal sticker over a Trump sign, and it says Black Lives Matter, you are promoting a domestic terrorist organization on a Trump sign and that's not good," he told a local weekly newspaper. "That's not the image that the Trump campaign or the Republican Party is trying to convey. We are trying to get back to law and order in this country."

Kabacinski's behavior in other situations is also under fire. After the home of a Black family in his council district was attacked three times—rocks through windows, tires slashed, a Black Lives Matter sign shot up with a gun—he had shown up as a counterprotester at a Sept. 19 event intended to voice support for the family, dressed in military fatigues with a gun on his hip, carrying a large Trump flag.

Most of the time, however, the threats of a citizen's arrest as a far-right tactic have been directed at public officials—and the intent has always been clear, too. In Montana in the 1990s, the judges who were threatened with it identified the issue clearly.

"Terrorism is what it is," said Marty Bethel, a city judge in the town of Hamilton who had faced an "arrest" threat unless she dismissed a traffic charge against a member of a local militia. "I hope someone takes this seriously, before blood is shed. If you let these people walk up one side and down the other, all you've done is empower them."

Ammon Bundy is building a far-right theocratic army under the guise of defending ‘rights'

There's been a buffoonish quality to Ammon Bundy's brand of far-right "constitutionalist" politics over the past six months, primarily organized in a typically paranoid response to COVID-19-related public-health measures: Protesting at the home of a police officer who had arrested an anti-vaccination fanatic for violating the closure of a playground. Trying to bully his way inside a health-board meeting. Getting arrested twice in two days for ignoring his ban from the Idaho Statehouse. Going maskless at a Caldwell High School football game that forced the game to be called off, for which he was not only ejected but banned from future games by the local school district.

The endless antics, however, have always obfuscated a darker, much more dangerous agenda. A disturbing new in-depth report by Devin Burghart at the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights reveals that all the time that Bundy has been gathering media time and headlines, he's been building a massive army of volunteers—a network called People's Rights—intent on imposing a far-right authoritarian state, all under the guise of defending individual rights.

Bundy first announced the formation of the People's Rights network in March, when he held a gathering not far from his home in Emmett, Idaho, discussing plans to organize people to form ad-hoc gatherings to "defend" local citizens against COVID-19-related "tyranny." Bundy told the audience that they didn't need to obey the governor's stray-at-home or business-closure orders. And he pledged to bring fellow "Patriots" to the rescue if anyone felt pressure from "authorities" to comply.

"I will be there," Bundy told the Idaho Press. "I will bring as many people as we can. We will form a legal defense for you, a political defense for you, and we will also, if necessary, provide a physical defense for you, so that you can continue in your rights."

As it has played out on the ground, these gatherings have become bellicose, and frequently armed, mobs protesting police officers at their homes, breaking into health-board meetings that were being held online, and breaking down the doors inside the Statehouse and attending committee meetings unmasked in order to intimidate state legislators.

The incident resulting in the cancellation of the football game between Caldwell and Emmett high schools is emblematic of these anti-democratic intimidation tactics at work.

Bundy, whose son plays for Emmett High, showed up in Caldwell for the game without a mask—though one was required for entry—and refused to put one on, first taking a seat in the stands, then moving to a fenced area away from the stands. As he livestreamed the exchange, Bundy refused to leave when game officials asked him to.

Moreover, members of his network watching on Facebook sprang into action and began phoning 911 dispatchers in Caldwell—not merely to complain, but to threaten and intimidate. The flood of threats was so overwhelming and worrisome that at halftime, officials announced the game was being cancelled.

"The threats made to dispatch appear to have stemmed from the dispute between Mr. Bundy and the Caldwell School District personnel that requested he wear a mask while attending the game," a Caldwell police spokesman told the Idaho Statesman. "The calls did specifically reference the football game."

Ten days later, the district voted unanimously to ban Bundy from Caldwell school grounds for the next year.

The IREHR report explores how this is all being organized. The People's Rights network, it explains, has seen rapid growth fueled by "a fusion of Bundy's core of the far-right paramilitary supporters built up over years of armed standoffs with a mass base of new activists radicalized in protest over COVID-19 health directives."

Bundy devised a secure online system built on SMS text messaging to enable the network to organize without public scrutiny or exposure. IREHR managed to obtain access to the network, however, and reports that "Bundy has assembled a team of 153 'assistants' in sixteen states." It goes on to identify all of those people, and found that their backgrounds include significant activism in radical right causes—and that, somewhat unusually, the majority of those local assistants are women (though the national and state leadership remain dominated by men).

This network is not engaged in the usual far-right battle against "government tyranny," which is the usual rhetoric that surrounds "Patriot" groups. Bundy's network instead is pro-government—but one that has no compunction about erasing the rights of people its participants have deemed morally depraved:

Instead of a more traditional "anti-government" narrative, People's Rights leaders have expressed a desire for governmental power to be used to protect the "righteous" against "wicked" liberals, antifa, Black Lives Matter activists, and others. Several People's Rights leaders are running for elected office—to become the government. Absent that sort of intervention, leaders have proposed a type of armed enclave-style "neighborhood" nationalism, where "righteous" neighbors stand against the "wicked." People's Rights leaders have often defined the "wicked" using far-right conspiracism, racism, antisemitism, anti-indigenous, and anti-transgender sentiment.

Moreover, in addition to building an "Uber-like" paramilitary response system that can be mobilized whenever people believe their rights are under attack from godless liberals, IREHR's report explains that discussion within the surreptitious network go well beyond such imagined "self-defense" measures.

Some of the People's Rights network participants are running for elective office, hoping to promote the group's theocratic-state agenda from within the halls of power. Mario Perea, a People's Rights assistant from Idaho, told would-be participants in a rally for a political candidate: "We claim, and we use, and we defend our rights. In order to defend our rights, we have to get people into these government positions. That is a form of defense because we're being attacked politically. So we need to fight back and resist politically."

The politics include a sensibility attuned to modern "Patriot" movement rhetoric, particularly the rising "Boogaloo" talk about broad social breakdowns and violence surrounding the coming election. Mostly, there is a fairly typical eagerness for the battle to begin.

"Are you ready for Civil War November 4?" asked People's Rights leader Tony Pellegrino in a Facebook post.

Michigan Republicans struggle with recognition of their own roles in fueling militia kidnap plot

Discovering that terrorists can look like the guys next door is a jarring thing, especially if that's not how you've been conditioned to think of such matters. In Michigan this week, cognitive dissonance has been thick on the ground—especially as public officials who came too close to the plotters and their incendiary rhetoric have tried to wrestle with the consequences of last week's arrests of 13 Michigan militiamen who schemed to kidnap and assassinate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

A local sheriff who had appeared onstage at an anti-Whitmer rally this spring suggested to a TV interviewer that maybe the plotters—some of whom he knows personally—were just trying to make a citizens arrest. A Republican state legislative candidate opined that the arrests were "a totally bogus sham." And the state's Republican Speaker of the House, who has helped stoke the incendiary "tyranny" rhetoric that fueled the plotters, chastised Whitmer for pointing out the connection between the plotters' actions and the rhetoric used by Donald Trump and Michigan Republicans.

Michigan sheriff who rallied with militiamen soft-pedals FBI arrestsyoutu.be

Dar Leaf, the sheriff of Barry County—where two of the accused domestic terrorists, William and Michael Null, reside and were arrested by the FBI Thursday—told a Grand Rapids interviewer that he believed the men might have been within their rights.

"It's just a charge, and they say a 'plot to kidnap' and you got to remember that. Are they trying to kidnap? Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt? Because you can still in Michigan if it's a felony, make a felony arrest," Leaf told Fox17 reporter Aaron Parshegian.

He added: "The two gentlemen that I know of from my county, were they involved in that? I don't know. They're innocent till proven guilty. And we really, really should be careful, trying to try them in the media."

The evidence unveiled by the FBI included multiple instances of surveillance of Whitmer's summer home, where the militiamen—who called themselves the Wolverine Watchmen—planned to abduct her, as well as multiple instances in which the men discussed killing her. The evidence also showed that not only had the men originally planned a paramilitary assault on the state Capitol, they also made plans to kill law-enforcement officers. The discussion of a "citizens arrest" of Whitmer was largely rhetorical.

Leaf's comments created an uproar. Shortly after the interview aired, Michigan's attorney general, Dana Nessel, ripped into him on Twitter:

As Michigan's top law enforcement official, let me make this abundantly clear-Persons who are not sworn, licensed members of a law enforcement agency cannot and should not "arrest" government offficials with whom they have disagreements. These comments are dangerous.

Leaf tried to defend the remarks subsequently by insisting that he only wanted to ensure that men weren't being "tried in the media."

"I don't want anybody to think I'm sympathetic towards these charges, right, these are very, very serious charges," he said. "What I don't want is I don't want us to be trying it in the media and we mess it up in the justice system somewhere, 'cause they can't get a fair trial."

Leaf told MLive: "The governor has the right to govern and also the right to be safe." Yet he went on to criticize officials like Whitmer and Nessel for blaming people like Trump and himself for creating an atmosphere empowering fringe groups. Leaf said the militia movement "has been brewing for quite some time" over what he described as "a gradual and growing loss of rights."

In fact, as Jen Hayden explored earlier, Leaf is a member of a law-enforcement organization closely aligned with the "Patriot" militia movement with which the plotters identified. He also was an outspoken critic of Whitmer's anti-COVID-19 pandemic orders.

At a May 18 "Michigan Patriots Rally" held at Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids, Leaf had appeared onstage with several militiamen, including Michael Null. In his speech, he compared Whitmer's stay-at-home orders to being held unlawfully under house arrest. Leaf had also described Owosso barber Karl Manke—who had defied the governor's order by opening his shop—a "little version of Rosa Parks."

Meanwhile, Republican legislative candidate Paul Smith of Sterling Heights angrily denounced the arrests on Twitter.

"What a totally bogus sham," Smith commented. "These citizens never did anything illegal. Law enforcement is employed to punish people who COMMIT crimes, not people The Governess simply HATES. You can legally hurt Whitmer by voting out her minions."

State Republican leaders were appalled, and announced they had withdrawn financial and other support for Smith's candidacy, calling the remarks "conspiracy theories and hateful remarks."

"If you can't denounce the evil plans and actions of these white nationalists, we don't want you in our caucus," Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield said. "In fact, if there's any 'Republican' who thinks like this guy, we don't want your vote either. We don't support domestic terrorism."

Chatfield, however, also chastised Whitmer for her remarks laying some of the blame at Trump's feet that week: "Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacists and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups," Whitmer said, adding that extremists had "heard the president's words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry—as a call to action."

In a Twitter thread, Chatfield criticized Whitmer, claiming she had kept the investigation under wraps: "Why weren't we warned of the plot to take hostages at the Capitol? The plot by these terrorists was against us too. Why weren't House sergeants warned? You knew and we weren't even given a warning. We had people working in the building and their lives matter too." However, it was the FBI, and not Whitmer, who had overseen the sharing of information with potential victims.

Chatfield also suggested that she shared in the blame: "Hatred and violence are wrong, and that's why I've continually denounced it," he wrote. "And I agree, it's time to tone the partisan rhetoric and 'the heat down.' Will you do the same for President Trump? Will the [lieutenant governor] do it to the entire GOP? We have to make this decision together."

However, Chatfield and other leading Michigan Republicans, had played their own not-insignificant roles in whipping up anti-Whitmer hysteria, as Michigan journalist Joshua Pugh pointed out on Twitter. When "Patriot" protesters had locked down Lansing with an anti-Whitmer protest on April 15 that featured Confederate flags and incendiary rhetoric, Chatfield had greeted them by waving a flag out his window and tweeting out encouragement.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey had been even more incendiary. On the floor of the Senate during a subsequent Lansing protest—during which armed militia members were watching from the gallery above—Shirkey had called the governor a tyrant: "If she does not recognize the end of the emergency declaration, we have no other choice but to act," he said, not clarifying what kind of action he intended.

After Thursday's arrests, Shirkey was defiant: "This is no time to be weak in our commitment to freedom," Shirkey told a "Let MI People Go" rally at the Capitol. "We need to be strong…and not be afraid of those who are taking our freedoms away from us."

Shirkey also told the crowd at Thursday's rally that they were not the same people involved in the plot to kill the governor. However, the Detroit Free Press identified several of the arrestees as participants at the earlier protests against Whitmer's orders.

In Barry County, Leaf's remarks sparked calls for his resignation. Local residents organized a protest demanding he step down or face a recall movement—but that protest was called off when organizers became concerned about the safety of participants amid the likelihood of armed right-wing counter-protesters.

"Whereas I truly believe in the statement we were trying to make, I cannot in good conscience compromise the safety of my fellow Barry County residents," organizer Olivia Bennett wrote on the event's Facebook page.

"I have come to this conclusion for a couple reasons. First, there were many concerns about confrontational counter protesters. Second, this protest garnered enough attention this weekend that crowd size was a concern given short notice, security, and capacity at the commissioners' meeting."

Bennett tried to clarify that she and other protesters aren't suggesting the sheriff was a participant. "We are not accusing him of having known about the kidnapping plot and we are not accusing him of being a part of it at all," Bennett told MLive. "What I am suggesting is his actions and his words embolden people who would attempt to do such things."

How fascism ascends: 2020 election may be the crisis of democracy that opens the door to a coup

American democracy almost certainly faces a real crossroads this year: If Donald Trump—who just this week refused to say that he would make a peaceful transition, and threatened to “get rid of the ballots”—loses the popular vote on Nov. 3 to Joe Biden, as polls currently indicate, he appears poised to dismiss millions of mail-in votes. He would likely do this through the courts that he has assiduously packed over the past three years, particularly via the Supreme Court seat he and his fellow Republicans are intent on seizing just prior to the vote. The legitimacy of both our system of elections and the foundational courts that embody the rule of law will have been not just undermined, but potentially destroyed.

Many observers—notably including authors Jason Stanley and Jared Yates Sexton—have remarked that the nation’s path under a Trump presidency has much more than a passing resemblance to the descent into fascism that has befallen other societies, the best-known examples being prewar Germany and Italy. The correlations are powerful:

  • Eliminationist rhetoric is the backbone of Trump’s appeal, and has been from the start. His opening salvo in the campaign—the one that first skyrocketed him to the forefront in the race poll-wise and proved wildly popular with Republican voters—was his vow (and subsequent proposed program) to deport all 12 million of the United States’ undocumented immigrants (using, of course, the deprecatory term “illegal alien”) and to erect a gigantic wall on the nation’s southern border. Significantly, the language he used to justify such plans—labeling those immigrants “criminals,” “killers,” and “rapists,” contending that they bring crime and disease—was classic rhetoric designed to demonize an entire class of people by reducing them to objects fit only for elimination. This became more refined and pronounced over the course of his presidency, as when he attacked four women Democratic congressmembers of color: “If somebody has a problem with our country, if somebody doesn’t want to be in our country, they should leave!”
  • Trump’s palingenetic ultranationalism is his central theme. After the race-baiting and the ethnic fearmongering, this is the most obviously fascistic component of Trump’s presidency and its neverending campaign, embodied in those trucker hats proclaiming: “Make America Great Again.” (Trump himself puts it this way: “The silent majority is back, and we’re going to take the country back. We’re going to make America great again.”) That’s almost the letter-perfect embodiment of palingenesis—that is, the myth of the phoenix-like rebirth from the ashes of an entire society in its “golden age.” In the meantime, Trump’s nationalism is evident not just in these statement but in the entire context of his rants against Latino immigrants and Syrian refugees.
  • Trump’s deep contempt not just for liberalism (which provides most of the fuel for his xenophobic rants, particularly against the media) but also for establishment conservatism. Trump’s biggest fan, Rush Limbaugh, boasts: “In parlaying this outsider status of his, he’s better at playing the insiders’ game than they are, and they are insiders. He’s running rings around all of these seasoned, lifelong, highly acclaimed professionals in both the consultant class, the adviser class, the strategist class, and the candidate class. And he’s doing it simply by being himself.”
  • Trump constantly proclaimed America to be in a state of crisis that has made it “the laughingstock” of the rest of the world during the 2016 campaign, and insists that this occurred because of the failures of (primarily liberal) politicians. During his presidency, the crises varied according to Trump’s political needs—an immigrant caravan’s arrival on the border with Mexico was portrayed hysterically by Trump during the 2018 midterm elections as an existential threat, while this year, America is in grave danger (according to Trump and his fellow Republicans) from a largely imaginary “antifa threat.” The coronavirus pandemic that the world knows his incompetence allowed to kill 200,000 Americans—not so much.
  • He himself embodies the fascist insistence upon male leadership by a man of destiny, and his refusal to acknowledge factual evidence of the falsity of many of his proclamations and comments embodies the fascistic notion that the leader’s instincts trump logic and reason in any event.
  • Trump’s contempt for weakness (another classic fascist trait) is manifested practically every day on the campaign trail, ranging from his dissing of former GOP presidential candidate John McCain (a former prisoner of war) as “not a hero” because “I like people who weren’t captured,” to his mockery of a New York Times reporter with a disability, and more recently to his decision not to attend a ceremony at a World War II gravesite near Paris because the American soldiers there who had died in the war were “losers” and “suckers.”

Some of have argued—myself included—that Trump is not a fascist ideologue in the classic mold, but rather a living model of a right-wing-populist demagogue. But fascism, properly understood, is itself a species of right-wing populism: one that has simply turned metastatic, a cancer raging out of control in the body politic. If, as it seems, he is nonetheless leading America into fascism, it would be a distinction without a significant difference.

But, as one Twitter wag adroitly observed recently: “The road to fascism is lined with people telling you to stop overreacting.” Conservatives (see, for example, claims by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and right-wing pundit Candace Owens that the threat of white nationalism is a hoax concocted by Democrats) and centrists have unsurprisingly dismissed such observations as undue alarmism and hyperbolic exaggeration. But then, movement conservatism, as I explored in some depth more than 15 years ago, is in many regards the source of the problem, as it has been the all-too-hospitable host for the fascist cancer. Centrists and some liberals, meanwhile, seem so emotionally wedded to a belief that underneath our ongoing chaos all these things are still normal that they’re incapable of comprehending that there is nothing remotely normal at all about them.

Even within a certain bandwidth of progressive thought—primarily Glenn Greenwald and his million-plus-follower Twitter cohort—the response to the rise of a fascist threat to American democracy is greeted with a kind of sneering dismissiveness. Recently, that was how Greenwald and Co. reacted when Max Berger, the cofounder of the Jewish anti-Israeli occupation organization If Not Now, tweeted: “The most surreal part of living through a fascist coup is that we’re not even talking about it as such.”

Greenwald quote-tweeted Berger in reply:

Liberal stars have spent 4 years convincing their followers of 2 claims:

1) Their domestic opponents are Nazis, fascists, and White Supremacist Terrorists.

2) Russia is lurking everywhere, an existential threat to US democracy.

Ponder what that means for how they’ll wield power.

Greenwald’s colleague at The Intercept, Lee Fang, appeared to chime in later that day:

What motivates the ruling class is a routine desire for maintaining power and self-interest. But political storytellers need lurid emotionally driven narratives, so the far left invents a white supremacist elite in charge of the country, just as the far right imagines a pedo cabal.

This line of argumentation is nothing new for Greenwald, who has previously dismissed concerns about the rising tide of white nationalism by suggesting that the politicians and activists raising those concerns were analogical to the right-wing “neocons” who used Islamophobic rhetoric to bash Muslims after 9/11. In these tweets, he’s extending that argument to suggest not only that the threat of white nationalism is an imaginary concoction existing solely as a club to bash the right, but that Democrats are the real fascists, or at best loony-tunes conspiracists, as does Fang.

This is nothing short of an outright denial of established facts. The reality we are confronted with daily—that the United States (and the rest of the world, with no small assist from Russian interests) are awash in a tide of white nationalism and its attendant violence, and that moreover this tide has been enabled, encouraged, and empowered by Donald Trump, both on the streets of America and within his administration—is not something that can be erased with a sneer.

Predicated by his mutual embrace of the far right in the 2015-2016 campaign, Trump’s election to the presidency unleashed a Pandora’s box of white-nationalist demons, beginning with a remarkable surge in hate crimes during his first month, and then his first two years, in office. Its apotheosis has come in the form of a rising tide of far-right mass domestic terrorism and mass killings, as well the spread of armed right-wing “Boogaloo” radicals and militiamen creating mayhem amid civil unrest around the nation.

Trump’s response all along has been to dance a tango in which, after sending out a signal of encouragement (such as his “very fine people on both sides” comments after the white-nationalist violence in Charlottesville in August 2017), he follows up with an anodyne disavowal of far-right extremists that is believed by no one, least of all white nationalists. Whenever queried about whether white nationalists pose a threat—as he was after a right-wing terrorist’s lethal attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, when he answered: “I don’t really, I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems”—Trump has consistently downplayed the threat of the radical right.

More recently, the appearance at the very least that Trump is deliberately encouraging a violent response to his political opposition has been growing. When far-right militiamen have gathered in places like Richmond, Virginia, and Lansing, Michigan, to shake their weapons in an attempt to intimidate lawmakers and other elected government officials, Trump has tweeted out his encouragement. When a teenage militiaman in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot three Black Lives Matter protesters, two fatally, Trump defended him while mischaracterizing the shootings. When far-right conspiracy theorists created a hoax rumor that antifascists and leftists were responsible for the wildfires sweeping the rural West Coast—resulting in armed vigilantes setting up “citizens patrols” and highway checkpoints, sometimes with the encouragement of local police—Trump retweeted a meme promoting the hoax.

The reality currently confronting Americans is that the extremist right has been organizing around a strategy of intimidation and threats by armed “Patriots”—embodied by street-brawling proto-fascist groups like the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, American Guard, and the “III Percent” militias, along with their “Boogaloo” cohort, all of them eager to use their prodigious weaponry against their fellow Americans in a “civil war.” And what we have seen occurring as the 2020 campaign has progressed is that the line of demarcation between these right-wing extremists and ordinary Trump-loving Republicans has all but vanished.

Finally—and perhaps most importantly—Trump has empowered far-right white nationalist and conspiracy theorist elements within the walls of his administration, and pursued an agenda friendly to extremist elements. The architect of Trump’s immigration policies (not to mention his eliminationist scare campaigns about immigrant caravans and refugees from the Middle East) has been senior adviser Stephen Miller, whose deep ties to white nationalists were exposed last year by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Trump’s resulting policy agenda has been a white nationalist’s dream.

Trump’s see-no-evil approach to white nationalism meanwhile has translated into a deliberate blind spot within federal law enforcement agencies, particularly the Department of Homeland Security, where a whistleblower recently revealed that he was directed to skew intelligence assessments to minimize the threats of both white nationalist terrorism and Russian interference in American elections.

These are all established factual realities—in stark contrast with the utterly fantastical world of QAnon and other conspiracy theory universes that Fang seems to think they are comparable with—though Greenwald, who after all resides in Brazil, appears unfamiliar with them. Certainly his well-established blind spot for far-right extremism contributed to his decision to continue harping on Berger’s remarks a few days later, tweeting:

The United States is currently living under a “fascist coup,” and we must destroy the Nazi dictator who has seized power by spending the next 60 days vigorously campaigning against him and then obtaining more votes than he in the regularly scheduled election to be held Nov. 3.

Greenwald’s subsequent tweets in the thread laid out his argument further, pointing out that even though the Nazi party won a plurality of votes in the 1933 German election, paving Hitler’s ascension to the chancellorship, “once in power, he wasn't susceptible to being removed by a democratic election because he was a fascist dictator.”

This is a remarkably simplistic approach to historical fascism, both in the 1930s and currently. First, as historian Robert O. Paxton explained in his definitive text The Anatomy of Fascismneither Hitler nor Mussolini ever even won their positions of national leadership through election. Rather, they were appointed by conservative establishment powers because their democratic states were mired in significant crises of legitimacy—crises they had major roles in inflaming themselves.

Both Mussolini and Hitler were invited to take office as head of government by a head of state in the legitimate exercise of his official functions, on the advice of civilian and military counselors. Both thus became heads of government in what appeared, at least on the surface, to be legitimate exercises of constitutional authority by King Victor Emmanuel III and President Hindenburg. Both these appointments were made, it must be added at once, under conditions of extreme crisis, which the fascists had abetted.

Moreover, as Paxton pointedly observes: “We are not required to believe that fascist movements can only come to power in an exact replay of the scenario of Mussolini and Hitler. All that is required to fit our model is polarization, deadlock, mass mobilization against internal and external enemies, and complicity by existing elites.”

Greenwald’s formulation of the history completely misapprehends the nature of fascism itself, as well as how it spreads and seizes power. As Paxton explainsfascism is not a single, readily identifiable principle but a political pathology, best understood (as in psychology) as a constellation of traits. He defines it thus:

Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal constraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Fascism is moreover highly mutative, changing shape and appearance as well with each successive phase of its development. Paxton identifies these five stages:

  1. The initial creation of fascist movements
  2. Their rooting as parties in a political system
  3. The acquisition of power
  4. The exercise of power
  5. Radicalization or entropy

In each phase, fascism behaves differently and pursues different agendas, often in sharp contradiction of the ideals and policies it had previously embraced. What Greenwald is describing with regard to Hitler is fascism in its fourth stage, exploiting the powers Nazis already had obtained—while the “fascist coup” Berger describes, and indeed what we are currently experiencing in the United States, is the process: namely, fascism in its third stage, that is, in the process of acquiring enough political power to declare a dictatorship.

This process can vary according to the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the established democracies that it infects. The fascists in prewar Germany and Italy—where the systems of democracy and their institutions were both comparatively recent developments and accordingly unstable—were able to rise to power through discrete and explicitly fascist political parties, seizing the political stage from outside the normal parameters of the established democracy, as it were.

In the United States, Paxton explains, fascist elements have always been present—and indeed, many threads from American history contributed powerfully to the ideologies of European fascism—but there has never been the “political space” for them to form discrete fascist parties capable of winning broad support.

The United States itself has never been exempt from fascism. Indeed, antidemocratic and xenophobic movements have flourished in America since the Native American party of 1845 and the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s. In the crisis-ridden 1930s, as in other democracies, derivative fascist movements were conspicuous in the United States: the Protestant evangelist Gerald B. Winrod's openly pro-Hitler Defenders of the Christian Faith with their Black Legion; William Dudley Pelley's Silver Shirts (the initials "SS" were intentional); the veteran-based Khaki Shirts (whose leader, one Art J. Smith, vanished after a heckler was killed at one of his rallies); and a hot of others. Movements with an exotic foreign look won few followers, however. George Lincoln Rockwell, flamboyant head of the American Nazi Party from 1959 until his assassination by a disgruntled follower in 1967, seemed even more "un-American" after the great anti-Nazi war.

Much more dangerous are movements that employ authentically American themes in ways that resemble fascism functionally. The Klan revived in the 1920s, took on virulent anti-Semitism, and spread to cities and the Middle West. In the 1930s, Father Charles E. Coughlin gathered a radio audience estimated at forty million around and anticommunist, anti-Wall Street, pro-soft money, and—after 1938—anti-Semitic messages broadcast from his church on the outskirts of Detroit. For a moment in early 1936 it looked as if his Union Party and its presidential candidate, North Dakota congressman William Lemke, might overwhelm Roosevelt. The plutocrat-baiting governor Huey Long of Louisiana had authentic political momentum until his assassination in 1935, but, though frequently labeled fascist at the time, he was more accurately a share-the-wealth demagogue. The fundamentalist preacher Gerald L.K. Smith, who had worked with both Coughlin and Long, turned the message more directly after World War II to the "Judeo-Communist conspiracy" and had a real impact. Today a "politics of resentment" rooted in authentic American piety and nativism sometimes leads to violence against some of the very same "internal enemies" once targeted by the Nazis, such as homosexuals and defenders of abortion rights.

As Paxton explains, in the United States, as in France and elsewhere, fascism typically failed in the second stage because it failed to become a cohesive political entity, one capable of acquiring power. But make no mistake, he says: It can happen here.

It would, true to its mutative nature, adapt its shape, appearance, rhetoric, and agenda to its peculiarly American audience:

The language and symbols of an authentic American fascism would, of course, have little to do with the original European models. They would have to be as familiar and reassuring to loyal Americans as the language and symbols of the original fascisms were familiar and reassuring to many Italians and Germans. No swastikas in American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy.

Around such reassuring language and symbols in the event of some redoubtable setback to national prestige, Americans might support an enterprise of forcible national regeneration, unification, and purification. Its targets would be the First Amendment, separation of Church and State (creches on the lawns, prayers in the schools), efforts to place controls on gun ownership, desecrations of the flag, unassimilated minorities, artistic license, dissident and unusual behavior of all sorts that could be labeled antinational or decadent.

Similarly, the mechanism by which fascism can acquire power is more likely to adapt to the nature of the nation it infects. Whereas both Italian and German democracies were relatively new and unstable when fascists overwhelmed them, American democracy is the most robust and mature in the world, with over 200 years’ history behind it. Its democratic institutions are more deeply established and less susceptible to attack—which is a large reason why fascism has failed to previously obtain the political space required to attract a large enough following to succeed as a discrete party.

I have contended for many years—since at least that 2004 Orcinus series on what I then called “pseudo fascism”—that in America, fascism is far more likely to worm its way under the foundations of our democracy by taking over an established party, “the transformation of an existing party into a fascist entity from within — not necessarily by design, but by a coalescence of political forces already latent in the landscape.”

As I explained then, this mechanism was suggested by one of the significant American fascist "intellectuals" who arose in the 1930s named Lawrence Dennis. He penned an ideological blueprint entitled The Coming American Fascism. Dennis predicted that eventually, the combination of a dictatorial and bureaucratic government and big business would continue exploiting the working middle class until, in frustration, it would turn to fascism. What's especially noteworthy was the political path he foresaw for this to happen:

Yet how infinitely better for the in-elite of the moment to have fascism come through one of the major parties of the moment than to have it fight its way to power as the program of the most embittered leaders of the out-elite.

This indeed is what has occurred. Rather than being guided consciously, this transformation has happened almost spontaneously as the forces that fascism comprises gradually have come together under their own gravity. As I explained, the takeover really occurred within the realm of movement conservatism, which by the 1980s had almost completely subsumed the Republican Party:

The primary impetus has been the change under which conservatism became a discrete movement intent on seizing the reins of power. In the process, the means—that is, the obtaining of power—became the end. And once the movement became centered around obtaining power, by any means necessary, then ideology became fungible according to the needs of its drive to acquire power, just as it was with fascism. This virtually guaranteed it would become a travesty of its original purpose. The nature of today's "conservative movement" is no more apparent than in how distinctly un-conservative its actual conduct has been: busting budgets, falling asleep at the wheel of national security, engaging wars recklessly and without adequate planning.

Two things occurred to the conservative movement in this drive for power:

  • It increasingly viewed liberals not merely as competitors but as unacceptable partners in the liberal-conservative power-sharing agreement that has been in place since at least the New Deal and the rise of modern consumer society. Ultimately, this view metastacizes into seeing liberals as objects to be eliminated.
  • It became increasingly willing to countenance ideological and practical bridges with certain factions of the extremist right. This ranged from anti-abortion and religious-right extremists to the neo-Confederates who dominate Republican politics in the South to factions of the Patriot/militia movement.

The combination of these two forces exerted a powerful rightward pull on the movement, to the point where extremist ideas and agendas have increasingly been adopted by the mainstream right, flowing into an eliminationist hatred of liberalism. In the process, their own rhetoric has come to sound like that on the far right. A lot of the dabbling in far-right memes has been gratuitous, intended to "push the envelope" for talk-radio audiences in constant need of fresh outrageousness.

Back in 2004, however, the primary reason not to fear the ascension of fascism directly was that there was not, at that point, a crisis of democracy and its legitimacy, even though George W. Bush’s 2000 victory via the Electoral College decidedly set the stage for the current crisis, as did the right-wing authoritarianism his administration and its cohorts unleashed. Paxton agreed that the danger was not imminent despite the growth of far-right groups in the American body politic: "Of course the United States would have to suffer catastrophic setback and polarization for these fringe groups to find powerful allies and enter the mainstream,” he wrote.

However, that caveat has vanished because the 2020 election is unmistakably a looming crisis with effects we are already feeling. And that crisis has, historically speaking, always been the trigger that opened the door for fascists to seize power, as Paxton explains:

Fascism can appear wherever democracy is sufficiently implanted to have aroused disillusion. That suggests its spatial and temporal limits: no authentic fascism before the emergence of a massively enfranchised and politically active citizenry. In order to give birth to fascism, a society must have known political liberty -- for better or for worse.

… In other words, it's clear that the "crisis of democracy" necessary to create a genuinely fascist dynamic is a real potential that lies around many corners on our current path. The key, then, is to finding the path that does not take us there.

Paxton concludes The Anatomy of Fascism with this warning:

Fascism … is still visible today. Fascism exists at the level of Stage One within all democratic countries—not excluding the United States. “Giving up free institutions,” especially the freedoms of unpopular groups, is recurrently attractive to citizens of Western democracies, including some Americans. We know from tracing its path that fascism does not require a spectacular “march” on some capital to take root; seemingly anodyne decisions to tolerate lawless treatment of national “enemies” is enough. Something very close to classical fascism has reached Stage Two in a few deeply troubled societies. Its further progress is not inevitable, however. Further fascist advances toward power depend in part upon the severity of a crisis, but also very largely upon human choices, especially the choices of those holding economic, social, and political power. Determining the appropriate responses to fascist gains is not easy, since its cycle is not likely to repeat itself blindly. We stand a much better chance of responding wisely, however, if we understand how fascism succeeded in the past.

While there is no shortage of voices denying the reality of the fascist threat we now face, American democracy really does stand on the precipice in the 2020 election. Should we step off, then only the abyss awaits.

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Red pills and radicalization: Here's how conspiracism is overwhelming us

America is drowning in conspiracy theories: QAnon cultists are taking over the Republican Party, the occupant of the Oval Office praises them in press conferences, rational COVID-19 pandemic measures are met with armed protests and raging open defiance, and Proud Boys and militiamen are bringing violence to liberal cities while armed vigilantes riled up about nonexistent “antifa arsonists” harass strangers and journalists in fire-stricken rural areas.

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'Antifa arson' hoax rumors spread faster than wildfires in besieged West Coast rural areas

Fresh on the heels of spreading hoax rumors about “antifa buses” coming to rural towns to create mayhem, right-wing conspiracists eager to spread the narrative about the supposed existential threat posed by black-clad antifascist activists have a hot new fraud for their armies of gullible social-media followers: The forest fires raging along the West Coast from California to Washington are an antifa plot!

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Ammon Bundy’s anti-pandemic antics earn him 2 ejections from Idaho Statehouse in 2 days

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Far-right 'Patriots' beclown themselves on the Fourth of July with two hoax rallies

America’s far-right “Patriots” explored new ways to snooker themselves this holiday weekend in two rallies, both ostensibly aimed at attacking the “radical left,” on opposite sides of the country.

The Gettysburg rally attracted an armed crowd, many of them carrying semi-automatic rifles and handguns, waving all kinds of banners: the American flag, the Confederate flag, the bright-yellow Gadsden flag, and Trump flags. They all believed they were coming to prevent “antifa” from burning American flags.

“These people are acting like savages,” one AR-15-toting participant told his fellow patriots, according to the Washington Post.

“We’ve been letting them get by with it for too long, but that changes now,” said Don Kretzer, 52, of Chambersburg, Pa.

Rather like the crowds of similar so-called “Patriots” around the country who turned out with guns to protect their small towns from “antifa buses” they were told were about to descend on their communities, the militiamen who gathered in Pennsylvania had been duped on social media. There never was a legitimate threat from any antifascist group to burn flags—just trolling spread widely on social media particularly Facebook.

As the Post explored in some depth, the tales of a July 4 “antifa” rally at Gettysburg appear to have originated with a Twitter account with dubious provenance by a man named Alan Jeffs, who claimed to be a 39-year-old graphic designer and onetime Bernie Sanders supporter (his former handle was @Bernieorelse). His personal photo was faked, and none of his claims checked out.

Still, the posters promoting a “Flag Burning” event in Gettysburg (“Antifa is Coming to Take Our Country Back From Right-Wing Lunacy”) created by Jeffs’ new Twitter handle—@LeftBehindUSA—spread quickly on social media, which accelerated even more rapidly when right-wing media such as the Gateway Pundit blog picked it up and ran with it.

Pretty quickly, other hoaxers jumped aboard. One poster shared widely on Facebook—announcing a “4th of July Flag Burning” featuring “Children Welcome—Antifa Face Painting”—was accompanied by dead-serious text claiming that the “antifa plan” had been “confirmed by the Gettysburg Police Department” and chiding readers: “If you fail to copy or share this you are not a patriot you are part of the problem.” It told readers that the “antifa” activists in every state were “trained by radical Islam” and that “they plan on killing as many Trump supporters and whites as possible!”

Hal Turner, a notorious ex-radio host with a long history of involvement in white-supremacist movements, also promoted the Gettysburg hoax, along with a similarly groundless tale that “Antifa” was distributing fireworks in black neighborhoods as part of a nefarious scheme to condition Americans to the sounds of explosions just before they went on a national rampage killing white people. He claimed the July 4 flag burning was to occur “just before they begin MURDERING White people and BURNING DOWN Suburbs the same day.”

“So yes, this is the great purge,” Turner wrote. “The evidence is all there. … The objective is clear: It makes no difference as to what ideology a white person has; as long as you are white, you must be erased. This is their sick agenda.”

None of this was true, of course. That, however, did not seem to perturb the people who turned up with guns on Saturday.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a hoax or not,” one of them told the Post. “They made a threat, and if we don’t make our voices heard, it’ll make it seem like it’s okay.”

The gathered crowd was apparently on edge for much of the day. An African-American man named Trent Somes showed up to pay his respects to an ancestor buried in the Gettysburg cemetery wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. He was instantly surrounded by a cluster of “Patriots” who proceeded to badger him. Police escorted Somes from the scene “for his own safety.”

In Seattle, the hoax was more direct: A fake-news site called Prntly began promoting a rally to “retake” the autonomous zone on Capitol Hill, which supposedly featured the participation of Bikers For Trump and the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia organization. The only problem was that both groups denied they were involved in any such plans.

Prntly’s owner/founder, Alex Portelli, boasted on social media that he had convinced “12,000 patriots to commit to tearing down the barricades” on the Fourth of July. He collected donations for it as well.

But the crowd of “Patriots” who turned up Saturday on Capitol Hill numbered closer to 30, according to Puget Sound Anarchists (the gathering was so small that the Seattle Times did not bother covering it). Most of the participants were familiar to observers of the far-right rallies that have been organized over the past three years in the Pacific Northwest by the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, particularly onetime Proud Boy Alan Swinney of Portland.

They marched relatively peacefully from nearby Volunteer Park down to the CHOP zone farther south, and then found themselves surrounded by a crowd of residents when they attempted to march through Cal Anderson Park, the center of the zone. Police intervened and largely protected the marchers for awhile, but eventually they wound up being chased back to their cars at Volunteer Park, spraying mace in the direction of their pursuers as they fled.

At least one “Patriot” participant, Drew Duncomb—an African-American who apparently flew up from California to participate—voiced his disappointment at being hoaxed. “Alex with Prntly never showed up to this event,” he wrote on Facebook. “He organized it then left us out to face the violent mob alone. If you donated money for the event in Seattle demand a refund.”

“They claimed they were going to “clear CHOP” yet when faced with an evenly-matched crowd largely comprised of the same people they claimed they were going to remove from the city, most of whom have spent the last month fearlessly confronting SPD and facing down violence and mass arrests, they literally ran away,” noted Puget Sound Anarchists. “Antifascists didn’t even call for a public mobilization and still the far-right were run the fuck out of town.”

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Internet platforms are finally cracking down on right-wing extremists and their 'Boogaloo' cult

It’s been a rough week for right-wing extremists on the Internet. On YouTube, neo-Nazi patriarch David Duke and white-nationalist gadflies Richard Spencer and Stefan Molyneux got the boot, along with video channels for racist organizations such as American Renaissance. Reddit finally got around to banning a number of subreddits where racism and misogyny had flourished, including the notorious r/The_Donald subreddit. (Twitch actually suspended Donald Trump himself.) Meanwhile, Facebook—after dragging its feet while the real-life threats mounted—banned hundreds of pages related to the so-called “Boogaloo” shared violent fantasy about a civil war that’s become immensely popular on the far right.

Reddit’s action focused on deplatforming hate speech, and involved banning roughly 2,000 communities (mostly inactive) from across the political spectrum, including the “dirtbag leftist” podcast Chapo Trap House, home to some 160,000 users. The most prominent, however, was r/The_Donald, which had more than 790,000 users, and became infamous for hosting a broad array of white-nationalist disinformation, along with videos and memes that made their way into Trump’s Twitter feed.

Reddit officials said the subreddit “had consistently broken its rules by allowing people to target and harass others with hate speech.”

“Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people,” Steve Huffman, the company’s chief executive, told The New York Times. “‘The_Donald’ has been in violation of that.”

Trump’s Twitch account was temporarily suspended, the streaming-media company said, primarily because of his ongoing demonization of Hispanic immigrants, including a recent rant at his failed rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 21.

“Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch,” a spokesperson for the streaming giant told TechCrunch. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.”

Meanwhile, after allowing the “Boogaloo” cult to fester for months even as a number of followers engaged in escalating acts of domestic terrorism, Facebook showed signs that it was taking the problem seriously by taking down over 300 accounts related to the shared violent fantasy of a “second civil war.”

CNN reported that the social-media giant banned “a core set of 220 Facebook accounts, 95 accounts on Facebook-owned Instagram and dozens of pages and groups that Facebook, in a blog post, said posed a ‘credible threat’ to public safety.”

The “Boogaloo” accounts, Facebook said, were “actively promoting violence against civilians, law enforcement, and government officials and institutions,” and was moreover recruiting followers for “clearly violent purposes.”

Another 400 groups and 100 pages hosting "similar content" praising or supporting the movement—but which Facebook said were not primarily operated by members of the first network and did not appear to promote as much violence—were similarly targeted.

Three Democratic senators—Mark Warner of Virginia, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey—signed a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg voicing concerns about the spread of extremist content on the platform. The letter said the senators feared Facebook may be "unable (or unwilling) to enforce its own Community Standards."

"The prevalence of white supremacist and other extremist content on Facebook—and the ways in which these groups have been able to use the platform as organizing infrastructure—is unacceptable," the letter said, citing reports on the Boogaloo cult.

The senators’ concerns were well grounded. On Wednesday, after Facebook announced its purge, BuzzFeed reported that it found the company had been profiting significantly from the “Boogaloo” phenomenon: Ads featuring “Boogaloo” themes were running on both Facebook and its photo-sharing site, Instagram, for months.

By accepting money from Boogaloo supporters, Tech Transparency Project Director Katie Paul told BuzzFeed News, the company amplified its violent agenda.

“The company is not just failing to address the fact that its platform is really feeding this echo chamber of supporters, but also the fact that it’s profiting off that movement that is predicated on violence,” she said.

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QAnon-loving Senate candidate wants martial law declared in Oregon to combat 'antifa'

The Oregon GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate, Jo Rae Perkins, decided to let her “Q light” shine on a Facebook livestream earlier this week—and it was a doozy.

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This militia-loving lieutenant governor is leading the fight against Idaho’s stay-at-home orders

Janice McGeachin probably holds the highest elected office of any explicit far-right “Patriot” extremist in the United States: Idaho’s lieutenant governor is an unabashed fan of the “Three Percent Militia,” is happy to pose with men flashing the “OK” hand signal, is closely allied with a key figure in the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada, and is unperturbed  when supporters tell her, “I’m proud to be white again!”

McGeachin, a former legislator from Idaho Falls, recently reopened the tavern her family owns in her hometown, in defiance of Gov. Brad Little’s stay-at-home orders, which recommended businesses in the state remain closed until June 13.

"As Lieutenant Governor, I am one heartbeat away from the governor’s chair. I am also a small business owner,” she opined in The Idaho Press a few days earlier:

My family and I own four small businesses in the restaurant and automotive industries, employing hundreds of Idahoans. … I lose sleep at night because the heavy hand of our government is hurting so many Idahoans. Idahoans were sidelined and left to watch silently as the government closed Main Street by unilaterally deciding which businesses were “essential” and which ones were not.

… While most Idahoans supported the public safety aspect of the Governor’s Stay-At-Home Order, the one thing that is missing in all of this is the confidence that Idahoans are smart enough to put in place public health protocols so they can reopen their business, welcome customers, and take care of their employees.

Though both are Republicans, Little and McGeachin have a contentious history, dating back to the 2018 election in which both of them won higher office. And since the pandemic, she’s not the only far-right figure to attack Little publicly: Her legislative cohort, Rep. Heather Scott of Sandpoint, attacked the governor for his COVID-19 measures in a radio interview.

“I mean, they are already calling him ‘Little Hitler,’ ‘Governor Little Hitler,’ and so I think people will start educating others and people will be more and more vocal until they will say ‘enough of this’ and put the pressure, hopefully political pressure on him,” Scott said.

Little, widely considered a business-oriented Republican, has generally worked to steer away from politics in discussing the pandemic, suggesting that his critics are out of step with most Idahoans—a point reinforced by polls showing over 65 percent support in the conservative state for the governor’s orders. “The vast majority of the people are all-in on this,” Little told a gathering of retirees last week.

McGeachin has a history of dalliances with Idaho’s “Patriot” far right, including her purported use of “Three Percenter” militiamen as security during her 2018 campaign. Asked by the Idaho Statesman for information about her security staff, McGeachin’s campaign flatly refused.

During the campaign, one of her supporters chimed in on one of her pro-Trump Facebook posts, declaring: “I’m proud to be white again! Go Trump and may God be on your side Janice McGeachin this November!” McGeachin responded: “Thank you Bob!”

Asked by Idaho Reports whether she supported the man’s sentiment, she responded: “I hope the voters in Idaho know that I believe that our country should celebrate diversity. My ‘thank you’ was in response to his support of Trump and my campaigns.”

After winning the election, McGeachin maintained her relationship with militia figures, primarily Eric “E.J.” Parker, currently a legislative candidate who previously stood trial for infamously pointing his rifle at federal agents during the Bundy ranch standoff (but won acquittal). In April 2019, while serving on a temporary basis as governor, she administered an oath of office to a cadre of militiamen, including Parker, at an antigovernment rally, swearing the group of mostly untrained vigilantes in as full members of the National Guard in Idaho.

At the same rally, she voiced her support for jailed Bundy ranch figure Todd Engel, an Idaho native serving a 14-year sentence for his role in the standoff, by posing with two militiamen dressed in prison garb. The two men flashed “OK” signs—which serves as a hand signal both for “Three Percenters” and for white nationalists—while McGeachin flashed a heart-shaped hand signal.

The post—later removed—read: “Sending love to Todd Engel from the Idaho Capitol and ‘getting to know’ the new Senate Pages.”

As Justin Rorhlich at The Daily Beast reported, McGeachin more recently appeared alongside Parker, Bundy, and Idaho Freedom Foundation president Wayne Hoffman at a May 1 “Liberate Idaho” rally in Boise. In his speech at the rally, Bundy compared Idahoans under lockdown to Jews before the Holocaust:

Just look at the pictures of the Holocaust. It always amazes me how you see pictures of men and women stripped completely naked, lined up and facing a mass grave, where they are shooting them in the back of the head and falling in the grave.

Now the answer to that is not easy—but it is this, and I have been there and I know for a fact that this is true. When you have faced so much tyranny in your life, there is a point when you would rather line up naked and get shot in the head. And my friends, why we’re here today right now is to make sure that never happens!

McGeachin left that protest and flew to the northern Idaho town of Kendrick, accompanied by Idaho GOP chairman Raul Labrador, and appeared at a rally in support of the reopening of the Hardware Brewery, a local brewpub that was defying the governor’s closure orders. McGeachin said Little was abusing his power to “harass and intimidate private businesses.” Like Ammon Bundy, Christine Lohman, the brewery’s co-owner, compared Idaho to Nazi Germany under the pandemic measures.

“Brad Little has acted like a Democrat through this whole thing, and the people know it,” Lohman told Rohrlich. “These are people who want their freedom. This is the perfect time for America to fight for its civil rights.”

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'Never Trump' conservatives like Meghan McCain are trying to whitewash Sarah Palin's role as the proto-Trump. Don't let them

Like many of the so-called #NeverTrump crowd, Meghan McCain would like to airbrush history when it comes to explaining how and why Donald Trump came to be the bullying, dominating leader of the Republican Party—to paint Trump as an aberration who seized control of the party from the outside. Recently, she even tried to blame Barack Obama for the Trump phenomenon: “The culture war that I believe is real, and is raging in this country, I believe was ushered in with his administration,” she said, “and then exacerbated in the Trump administration.”

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Those armed protesters won't be as easy to control as their GOP financiers believe

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How a 'constitutionalist' Oregon sheriff rules his rural county like a personal fiefdom

Having a sheriff who believes he himself—not the federal government, not the state—is the supreme law of the land in the county where you reside is probably always going to present problems for people who understand basic civics.

As an Oregon Public Broadcasting report explored this week, Palmer’s continuing rule of the county has become a nightmare for anyone who dares oppose him politically, including a man named Gordon Larson, the former head of the Oregon State Patrol in the region and a fellow Republican—one who says he wants nothing to do with the sheriff’s political extremism.

For standing up to him, Palmer has made Larson pay. Anyone else who lives in the county—even dispatchers from the city of John Day police department—who has crossed him has tasted Palmer’s various forms of revenge.

Palmer came under investigation in 2016 for his role in the Malheur standoff. Due to his long history of involvement with the antigovernment “constitutional sheriff” movement—Palmer was “lawman of the year” in 2012 for Richard Mack’s Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, and made numerous speeches and appearances on CSPOA’s behalf in ensuing years—he was approached by leaders of the Malheur takeover about becoming involved, but he initially declined.

Mack’s organization—which has a long history of association with the Bundys—claims that the U.S. constitution grants sheriffs, and not federal or state officers, powers as the supreme law of the land. These powers include the ability to annul federal and state gun-control and land-use laws.

Despite rebuffing their initial plea, Palmer praised the occupiers as “patriots” in the local press, and met with some of them in a local café. He agreed to help organize a gathering of the Malheur militants, including leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy and others, in the town of John Day (the county seat) on the evening of Jan. 26. It was as those people were en route to that gathering that afternoon that they were arrested by an FBI-led law-enforcement operation, and militant LaVoy Finicum was shot to death while resisting arrest.

Palmer’s role—or lack thereof—in that operation first raised attention to his behavior: The John Day city dispatcher handling Palmer’s radioed request for information about the Malheur arrests hesitated initially, because Palmer was considered “a security leak, not only by local law enforcement including his own staff, but by the Oregon State Police and the FBI.”

"I felt uncomfortable knowing that I had to relay vital and confidential information to someone who may not be trustworthy," the dispatch manager, Valerie Luttrell, later explained to her supervisor.

In fact, it shortly emerged that Oregon State Police had originally planned to make the arrest in Grant County, but moved the location of the planned traffic stop to Harney County to avoid dealing with Palmer.

Eventually, not only was Palmer cleared by the Department of Justice, he also was handily reelected sheriff, and his brother elected county commissioner. After the investigation opened, however, it emerged that Palmer had been using the power of deputization to create a private armed force comprised of his political supporters—and he gave them tremendous powers, including the ability to harass his enemies.

These “special deputies” were not officially cleared to receive secure law-enforcement information from the dispatch system, which caused a problem for John Day dispatchers. Sean Hart, a reporter for the local Blue Mountain Eagle, searched local records and found that Palmer had hired about 70 such “special deputies.”

Hart reported that public records showed Palmer had deputized seven people as deputies, seven as reserve, five as search and rescue, six as corrections, one as chaplain, nine as special deputies, three as land use deputies, 11 as public lands patrol, nine as public lands deputies, one as limited to concealed handgun license and 11 as a natural resource committee.

Gordon Larson, as OPB recounts, ran afoul of one of these “special deputies” while he was running for the county commission, against Palmer’s brother. Two of these “deputies” filed affidavits against his water rights, and Palmer himself accused Larson of timber theft. He lost by a wide margin.

At one time, the rural folk of Oregon were celebrated for their good common sense and their strong democratic values. In Grant County, at least, the bullies have taken over instead.

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The far right wants to make its shared fantasy of violent civil war a reality

The Age of Conspiracy Theories in which we are now immured has produced a kind of bastard offspring: the Shared Violent Fantasy. Exhibit A is the “Boogaloo,” the far-right’s ironic name for the long-sought “second civil war” they believe is on the verge of erupting in the United States—and in which the ongoing novel-coronavirus pandemic has become a virtual petri dish for cultivating the fear of societal collapse essential to their worldview.

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Oprah just became the latest focus of QAnon conspiracists' embrace of coronavirus theories

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White supremacist propaganda incidents more than doubled in 2019: report

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FBI has finally recognized far-right domestic terrorism as a top-tier threat

That recent spate of FBI arrests of violent neo-Nazis planning acts of terrorism is apparently not a fluke: The agency, according to its director, now recognizes far-right extremists as the leading threat of domestic terrorism in the United States, and has adjusted its enforcement work accordingly.

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The radical right's terrorist faction has long followed the 'anti-Communist' blueprint from the 1960s

Far-right terrorist gangs are all in the news these days, thanks to the recent arrests of members of The Base for planning to cause violence at the Richmond, Virginia, gun rally of Jan. 20, as well as to murder a couple believed to be antifascists in Georgia. But this is hardly the first such operation in the United States.

First, let’s be clear: We’re not talking about those Minutemen—the border vigilantes who prowled the Mexico border during the first decade of the 2000s. I am talking about an even earlier iteration of a right-wing action/terror organization supposedly inspired by the Revolutionary War heroes, concocted by a vitamin salesman in the late 1950s.

Robert Bolivar DePugh was a Missouri man, born in 1923, who gained some wealth through a veterinary drug firm called BioLabs, which specialized in a vitamin for dogs that promised to increase their lifespans. In the mid-1950s he also began producing a malt-flavored, ultra-compact storage food designed for human consumption, called Minuteman Survival Tabs. You can still find a version of these tabs in stores today.

DePugh became devoted to the anti-Communist cause as an early member of the John Birch Society (JBS) in the late ‘50s, and became friends with JBS founder Robert Welch. But within a few years he had decided even it was too namby-pamby for his tastes.

DePugh was all about a militant approach, and in 1960 formed an offshoot he called the Minutemen. As a consequence—and because his rhetoric was so extreme—he was ejected from the JBS. In 1961, he published a manual for organizing guerilla-warfare militias, and published a monthly newsletter titled On Target.

Not only did the Minutemen preach an even more rabid, wildly conspiracy theory-fueled style of anti-Communist paranoia than the Birch Society, but their activities also manifested, for the first time, the violent undercurrent of these beliefs.

DePugh, like Welch, believed that government had been infiltrated at its highest levels by Communists, but that moreover a takeover was virtually inevitable, and the most important thing for a “patriot” to do would be to prepare for the counterattack. So the Minutemen told their members to arm themselves with anything at hand that could be used strike back when the “Communist takeover” finally happened.

DePugh also was fond of attention from the press. At one gathering of reporters he donned a “germ warfare protector”—essentially just a large clear-vinyl bag—that would-be survivalists might need in 1961.

His “Minute Men” operations—paramilitary training operations in the woods (DePugh in fact had washed out of the U.S. Army for “nervousness and depression”)—were the clear progenitors of today’s Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, playing soldiers. Most of these operations were held in the woods near BioLabs’ Norborne, Missouri, headquarters.

Walt Kelley’s satirical daily “Pogo” comic strip hilariously lampooned DePugh as the free-shooting Wiley Cat, whose “Minute-Men” were the scourge of the Okeefenokee Swamp.

DePugh also told his followers to harass "the enemy," and compiled at his headquarters a list of 1,500 people he identified as members of the "Communist hidden government," with the intent to assassinate them in the event of the Communist coup. In his newsletter, DePugh listed the names of 20 congressmen who had criticized the then-active House Committee on Un-American Activities.

The newsletter also contained a warning (which later became a flyer circulated by the Minutemen), featuring the image of a crosshair, and text reading:

Traitors Beware!

See the old man at the corner where you buy your papers? He may have a silencer-equipped pistol under his coat. That extra fountain pen in the pocket of the insurance salesman who calls on you might be a cyanide gas gun. What about your milk man? Arsenic works slow but sure. Your auto mechanic may stay up nights studying booby traps. These patriots are not going to let you take their freedom away from them. They have learned the silent knife, the strangler’s cord, the target rifle that hits sparrows at 200 yards. Traitors beware. Even now the cross hairs are on the back of your necks.

Now outside even the realm of the Birchers, the Minutemen soon became associated with neo-Nazi groups like Wesley Swift's Church of Jesus Christ Christian, a Christian Identity church located in Hollywood. Swift preached the "two-seed" brand of Identity, holding that not only are white people the true Israelites, but that blacks, Asians, and other non-whites thus are "pre-Adamic" people without souls, and Jews are either descendants of Satan or practitioners of a Satanic religion.

Among Swift's more notable adherents: retired Col. William Potter Gale, a former MacArthur aide who eventually became a key figure in Posse Comitatus; and a quiet-spoken Lockheed engineer named Richard Girnt Butler. The latter would later take over and move the church to the Idaho Panhandle, renaming it the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian at the Aryan Nations. It became its own wellspring of criminality, violence, and ugly hatred.

Also attending Swift's services was Keith Gilbert, a Minutemen member and gun shop owner convicted in 1965 of stealing 1,400 pounds of TNT that he later claimed was intended as a bomb under the Hollywood Palladium stage during a speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Released from prison in the 1970s, Gilbert migrated north to Idaho, where he became a prominent part of the Aryan Nations scene.

Other Minutemen were getting into trouble around the nation. Some 19 members were arrested in October 1966 by the FBI in New York for plotting to bomb three summer camps operated by liberal East Coast organizations. Charges were later dropped because of warrant violations.

By this point, though, DePugh had decided to move into the political arena. Using the Minutemen's agenda as a platform, he formed the Patriotic Party, whose platform insisted that “all known or suspected communists now holding jobs in government” should be fired and put on trial.

DePugh made public speeches around the country touting the Patriotic Party as a “conservative alternative” in the wake of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential election defeat. Two of those appearances were in Seattle in 1966.

A mailroom employee of Seattle City Light named Duane I. Carlson put up $500 of his own money to sponsor the Northwest convention of the Patriotic Party at the Hyatt House. A few months later, DePugh made a stump speech for a November Patriotic Party gathering. Some 600 people, paying $1 apiece, were in attendance. DePugh, however, only spoke to the crowd by a telephone hookup. The Minutemen's fearless leader was temporarily indisposed: He and an associate had been recently convicted on a variety of felony firearms violations and sentenced just the week before to four years in prison.

Over the next year, DePugh fought that conviction, and managed to stay out of jail through a string of appeals. But the legal troubles started taking their toll on the organization's finances, and pressure mounted to find alternative sources of revenue. This is apparently when his most ardent supporters, such as Duane Carlson, moved into transforming their paramilitary training into acts of terrorism—with a steady eye on profits, as with all far-right terror groups. Because public meetings became an afterthought.

Carlson gathered a group of six other Seattle-area men—a longshoreman, a church sexton, a grocery clerk, a civilian driver at the Fort Lewis Army Base, a self-employed draftsman, and an unemployed ship's oiler—and began plotting ways to finance the Minutemen's arms operations. Of course, it was all couched in language about striking a blow against the "Communist controlled" government at the same time. But the centerpiece of the whole plot was plain old bank robbery.

Their plan: set off a bomb at the city hall of a small Seattle suburb, Redmond, while simultaneously detonating another at the local power station, thereby creating a major distraction while taking out police communications at the same time. This would enable the gang to strike three Redmond banks they had targeted for a series of successive robberies.

Their downfall, however, came when a federal informant infiltrated the group. On the day the Minutemen planned to strike—January 26, 1967—the FBI swooped down on them in two parking lots, one in Bellevue and another in Lake City, and arrested all seven.

DePugh denied they were part of his organization, claiming Carlson had been dropped from his rolls for "non-payment of dues." Federal prosecutors, who found evidence that DePugh actually was party to the plan from its early stages, put out a warrant for his arrest. DePugh went into hiding but was caught a few months later hiding out in Spokane, where he was charged in the Redmond plot. He then went on the lam for two years, and was finally captured in 1969 in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Five of the seven plotters were charged, and all five were convicted. DePugh, convicted in September 1970, wound up serving four years out of a 10-year sentence on the original firearms charges, but by then, his career in politics was in the ash heap.

He later tried to resuscitate his ambitions by heading up an ultra-conservative organization called the Committee of 10 Million, but those numbers remained a fantasy. DePugh was imprisoned again in 1992 for sexual exploitation of a minor, but later beat the rap. When he died in 2009 at age 86, he had been living alone in an apartment beneath a storefront church in Richmond, Missouri.

The Minutemen, however, created a lasting blueprint for far-right terrorism organizations that has been followed ever since—by everyone from The Order (the 1984 gang, organized out of the Aryan Nations, that murdered a radio talk-show host and robbed multiple banks and armored cars) to the Phineas Priesthood (another inland-Northwest gang that bombed a newspaper, a Planned Parenthood clinic, and robbed several banks in 1996) to AWD and The Base. It works in steps:

  • A) Begin with a core of rabid anti-communism which reduces opponents to inhuman vermin. Defense of the “white race” and overt anti-Semitism often is included in this core.
  • B) Expand the fear of communism into a culture of extreme paranoia dominated by conspiracy theories, and encourage the belief that it controls all levels of government.
  • C) Whip the paranoia into an enclosing circle of cultism by accusing every person outside the circle of being not just dupes, but active communist conspirators—including your own former political allies.
  • D) Begin organizing paramilitary operations and other forms of survivalism, ostensibly to prepare for the collapse of American society and the “communist takeover.”
  • E) Redefine “self-defense” against communism to include aggressive acts of violence against “socialist” targets, including banks and government facilities. Prepare for these acts with more paramilitary exercises.
  • F) Carry out these offensive measures, or attempt them. Get caught. Go to prison.

Robert DePugh created a blueprint that is still being followed to this day.

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Why do Republicans in Congress keep inviting Candace Owens to testify on white nationalism?

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