Home > Uncategorized > How the threat of far-right extremism was underestimated – posted 1/24/2021

How the threat of far-right extremism was underestimated – posted 1/24/2021

When the mob of ardent Trump supporters, QAnon conspiracy theory followers, and far-right extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, there was no denying the shock value of their acts. While some may have seen it coming, most of us were taken by surprise.

With so many millions of dollars spent on national security, the scale of the failure of intelligence is remarkable.How was the threat of far-right extremism so badly missed?

I would submit the reasons are deeply rooted in our societal failure to recognize and acknowledge white supremacy. Hate groups are drenched in the ideology of white supremacy and anti-semitism and there is a history of giving such groups a pass. The overwhelming tendency has been to look at darker-skinned people, especially Islamic terrorists, as the primary national security threat.

During the Trump years, Black Lives Matter and Antifa were wrongly held up as a bigger threat than far-right extremists.

Looking back, the evidence is clear. In 2009, Daryl Johnson, who was then an analyst with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, wrote an internal report entitled “Right-Wing Extremism”. Johnson was no left-winger. He was a conservative and a Republican.

In his report, Johnson pointed out that returning military veterans were being targeted for recruitment by right wing extremists. Johnson predicted a rise in violent attacks by these extremists as they, even then, were armed to the teeth. He predicted a rise in their group membership. Johnson’s report was meant for law enforcement. His predictions turned out to be accurate.

Instead of being seriously considered, right wing news media leaked the report and derided it. They argued that the report was targeting conservatives and the Tea Party as potential terrorists. The American Legion demanded that Homeland Security apologize to veterans. Republicans demanded that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano rescind the report.

Under pressure, the Department of Homeland Security caved in. Management at Homeland Security turned on the people who produced the Right Wing Extremism report and Johnson’s unit was disbanded. There was a chilling effect on any investigation of right wing extremism. According to Johnson, morale plummeted at Homeland Security.

I should note that Johnson’s 2009 report followed on the heels of a 2006 FBI report that warned of white supremacist groups infiltrating and recruiting law enforcement personnel. That report mentioned the novel, The Turner Diaries, by William Pierce.White supremacist infiltration of the federal government played a prominent role in the novel and was interpreted as practical guidance within white supremacist circles.

Before the U.S. Capitol riot, Charlottesville was probably the most public demonstration of far-right power. Instead of a repudiation of the neo-nazis and white supremacists who were chanting “Jews will not replace us”, President Trump famously said “there were very fine people on both sides”. It was a shot in the arm for the worst of the far right.

When asked to disavow white supremacy during his debate with Joe Biden, Trump could not do it. We got his comment on the Proud Boys: “stand back and stand by”.

Since the 2009 Homeland Security report, there have been innumerable far-right terrorist attacks. I think of the 2015 Charleston church massacre, the 2018 Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue attack, the 2019 Poway California synagogue shooting and the 2019 El Paso Walmart mass killing directed at Latinos.

It is a mistake to see these shootings as crazy lone wolf attacks carried out by deranged individuals. All the shooters have been motivated by the white power movement. The lone wolf narrative hides the common thread.

Other episodes show the far right hatred of the federal government: the 2014 Bundy standoff in Nevada and the 2016 takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

I would say that by now far right extremists in the United States number in the hundreds of thousands. They do not hide any more.

Trump has empowered the far right. Particularly in the last two months since the election, Trump’s narrative of a rigged election fueled an apocalyptic mindset. Trump kept saying we are losing our country. His supporters on social media talked of civil war. This false narrative unleashed the dogs. Rage and paranoia stoked Trump’’s hardcore supporters. They came to believe Trump’s big lie that an election he lost was stolen.

It is hard to ignore the role of social media in feeding the stolen election frenzy on the far right. This combined with high levels of fear among those on the right that their guns were threatened.

The U.S. Capitol riot was not the only recent occupation of a capitol building. In 2020 two other state capitol buildings in Michigan and Idaho were breached and overrun.

I am not alone in thinking the far right recruitment of police and military is a genuine problem. When black people are profiled and viciously murdered by police which is an all-to-common event, it needs to be asked if those police are white supremacists. Police need to be vetted and rejected for their position as public safety officers if racism is compromising job performance.

I would guess some low percentage of white officers do hold neo-fascist, white supremacist views and they may sympathize with the white power movement. That is probably also true of some active-duty military. To address it, we must recognize the problem exists.

Conservative news media and Republicans have simply been in denial about the existence of the white power movement. For years they have covered for it. If we allow the denial to continue, it is reasonable to assume we will see more serious efforts to undermine our democracy.

However imperfectly, America is moving in the direction of becoming a more authentic multi-racial democracy. Far right extremists remain absolutely opposed to that goal. They want an Aryan Nation. They talk about extermination of people of color and Jews. It is not a witch hunt to recognize a sickness which is trying to kill our democracy. We got to January 6, in part, because we have swept the whole matter of far-right extremism under the carpet.

It would be a mistake to see the Capitol riot as an end to the story. It is not.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Etika T
    January 29, 2021 at 4:07 am

    Sad times in our Un -United States… Me personally, Im glad Im not raising a child in all this hatred…

    • January 30, 2021 at 12:30 am

      Yeah the last four years have been the worst. I do feel like a cloud has lifted though. Trump being unable to tweet daily has added to positivity in the universe. Still, obviously much is awful but Trump’s demise has improved collective mental health dramatically.

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