The FBI raid on former president Donald Trump’s home located at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, FL. has far-right conservatives calling for civil war on social media. Some are trying to be more subtle about it. On extremist message boards, not so much. But if we’ve learned anything over the last two years is that most in the U.S. aren’t interested in this kind of talk or these ideas.
No, there won’t be a civil war in the United States anytime soon. The reality, however, suggests we should be more concerned with individual terrorist attacks on minority communities. Unreal fantasies of war-like internal conflict by far-right political hacks are beyond ignorance. They’re based on the assumption that the majority of the country will take up arms against one another and be on the side of white male-dominated ethnonationalism and Christian fundamentalism.
The idea isn’t only out of touch, but ridiculous.
Less than three months after one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history, society seems to have forgotten the tragic event and most of America has apparently learned nothing. Despite the explosion of mass shootings, especially in our public schools, tangible solutions have fallen short and failed to address the cause of these terrorist attacks: the radicalization of young men.
When we talk about radicalization, it’s essential to focus not just on hateful beliefs such as racism and bigotry, but on the many issues infested by extremist ideologies. While the vast majority of mass shootings can be linked back to those who harbor hate for others based on race and ethnicity, what drives them also pushes the idea that terrorist attacks are a way of sending a message to the government or sparking a civil war while killing as many as possible.
This goes beyond the meme-culture and ‘doomerism’ major media employed to make excuses for the anti-Semitic attack in Highland Park, IL. While the radicalization of young men can begin with memes, ideologies are carefully applied leading to intolerant beliefs. This is a process I and many others have documented extensively. Extremist groups have developed a successful system of recruitment. One that is decentralized, thus making terrorists appear as lone wolves.
This idea of ‘leaderless’ networks among hate groups isn’t new. Louis Beam – a product of David Duke’s Ku Klux Klan – popularized the concept in 1983 after the KKK and the Aryan Nations were targeted by authorities. An idea originally proposed by Col. Ulius Louis Amoss in 1962, ‘phantom cells’ make members appear as individual actors. This is the best way for leaders to avoid detection and prosecution despite the direct ties to specific movements.
See, Gavin McInnes, founder of the Proud Boys.
In Beam’s essay, he lays out the groundwork for how today’s hate groups operate. While Beam may no longer be directly associated with any of these groups, he still promotes his essay and various groups have adopted his template. Groups such as the Proud Boys, among others, rely heavily on secrecy using encrypted communications to mobilize their members.
“Organs of information distribution such as newspapers, leaflets, computers, etc., which are widely available to all, keep each person informed of events, allowing for a planned response that will take many variations, says Beam. No one need issue an order to anyone. Those idealist truly committed to the cause of freedom will act when they feel the time is ripe, or will take their cue from others who precede them.”
While Lee Atwater may have shown us what dog whistles sound like, Beam explains in clear language how they work. It’s something we saw play out over and over again with Trump and the ensuing terrorist attacks carried out by ‘lone wolves’. Coded language like this has been around since the birth of this nation. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and many more used dog whistles to demonize non-protestant immigrants coming to the United States.
What the founders gave birth to lives on today in modern hate groups and political extremism put on display by Republican politicians. Many in the U.S. public continue to be shocked by the hateful rhetoric coming from the political right. The reality is that it’s always been here. There is no time in American history when this language wasn’t used in the political mainstream.
Many of the posts reported on by major media over the last few days could have easily come from foreign accounts. But it’s clear that many on the far-right bought into it as can be seen on any social media platform. The people behind these accounts are now posting videos calling for domestic terrorist attacks and civil war. If you still think dog whistles aren’t a thing, I remind you of how extremists were activated by Trump’s rhetoric. There are a lot of them.
Since the American people ejected Trump from the White House, hateful rhetoric and threats against reporters (like me), politicians, judges, and law enforcement have only escalated. Yes, Trumpers are now threatening cops, federal agents, and elected officials in their quest for civil war. One that will inevitably end before it starts.
Leaderless movements don’t succeed because they all want to lead – leaving them fighting their own civil wars among themselves. We’ve seen it over and over again.
None of This is New
None of what extremists do or say is new. The U.S. was built on domestic terrorism and hateful rhetoric. It will continue for the foreseeable future. While the notion of a civil war is far-fetched given the amount of military-style power on the streets to defend itself from such a battle, spontaneous and seemingly random attacks will continue to be a threat in our everyday lives.
While police continue to embrace the far-right, what they’re also realizing is that no one in that realm actually supported the police. They adopted Blue Lives Matter and Thin Blue Line counter movements simply because of the anti-Black nature behind them. But more and more cops are starting to realize that those screaming “come and take it” (referring to confiscation of firearms conspiracy theories) are anti-cop. Unlike Black Lives Matter activists.
Especially after the events of January 6, 2021.
The fact that white men kill more cops than any other race is too often ignored. Anti-government movements are anti-police by default because law enforcement is government. Sovereign citizen movements, hate groups, and extremists are almost always behind police killings. But police union representatives and police trainers (who are often racists) don’t teach the facts. They use manipulated statistics grossly taken out of context to promote prejudicial policing.
There’s no doubt extremist chatter online is increasing after Trump was allegedly stole top secret documents relating to nuclear weapons. Some of the narratives differ because they’re all speculative using circular reasoning. The one commonality between them all is that they parrot the rhetoric of their dear leader who claims everything is a hoax, fake news, or a witch-hunt.
As the promotion of civil war continues to trend, I remind you that the military is structured in such a way that prevents such an event. What we have experienced since the beginning of this country and exacerbated by those who opposed the election of Barack Obama is a rhetorical civil war. Politically speaking, Republicans continue to escalate their language while Democrats dangerously ignore them. The key to tamping this down is calling it out and exposing the liars.
Yes, terrorist attacks are imminent. And while many in the U.S. don’t think that talking to their friends and family who harbor these ideas will make a difference, it bears repeating that these conversations must be had. We may think that those close to us aren’t capable of mass murder but that relative or close friend could very well be the next domestic terrorist. We can not allow for extremist thought to continue festering unabated. It’s time to treat the infection.
Silence is never an option. Especially now.
The Antagonist Magazine is a project made up of journalists, activists, and writers focused on amplifying the stories of marginalized communities. The goal is to educate the public by sharing narratives focused on independent voices. Born of an online community in 2019, our platform operates independently; free of corporate influence. Please consider supporting the work of dozens of writers from various communities.