However, there is a certain amount of anticipation throughout the chatter of the groups, sparked by rumblings of potential left-wing violence on far-right blogs by conservative cable news personalities. President Donald Trump’s unequal rejection of these militant groups has only been seen as confirmation of their chest pounding.
Some groups – like the Oath Keepers, who are recruited from police and military veterans, and Patriot Front, who Recruits and trains white supremacist extremists – were open and urged their most loyal supporters to prepare for war against violent, seditious left that day. During an appearance Thursday with Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Oath Keepers militia leader Stewart Rhodes said the group’s “battle-hardened veterans” would stand guard at polling stations to protect voters from “coercion and threat” against Trump “protect” forces.
Many of these militant groups, often advocating anti-government, white supremacist and pro-Trump ideologies, are segregated and diffuse, with no large base of devoted members. However, researchers and government officials say they still pose an acute threat. One recently report The Center for Strategic and International Studies found that right-wing extremists were behind two-thirds of the terrorist attacks and attacks reported in the United States this year. And a recent Department of Homeland Security threat assessment warned white supremacist extremists were the “most persistent and deadliest threat in the homeland”.
“The dangerous thing about election day is that groups can plan this,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, a research group that studies the spread of disinformation. “There will be a moment of opportunity and there.” will be a moment of information about who may win the election or what the conversation about the election results is like. And they will look for signals and dog whistles. “
In the run-up to this year’s election, Trump and his allies have repeatedly warned that the outcome could be easily “manipulated” due to the coronavirus-induced surge in mail-in and early voting – a claim that is not supported by evidence or recent election history. By this weekend, nearly 90 million Americans had cast their votes – roughly two-thirds of the total number of Americans who voted in 2016. The president and his circle have paired these warnings with dire predictions of left-wing and anti-fair street violence, a claim that dramatically exaggerates the spread of such violence and inaccurately links legitimate protesting with left-wing violence.
Conservative media have hyped these claims, highlighting moments of riot and looting amid protests in places like Philadelphia, where protesters took to the streets after police fatally shot a black man. Conservative media outlets such as Fox News and OAN also focused on attacks against the police during the protests. Attention has ignored other elements of the unrest, including the increasing presence of far-right militias.
“Most right-wing media outlets completely ignore right-wing militia activities,” said Angelo Carusone, president of the progressive watchdog Media Matters. “But they are pushing for reports of possible left violence and covering up reports [law enforcement officers] Preparing for election day violence without specifying a page from which it came. “
And with the upcoming election, militia leaders have responded to the possibility of left-wing violence by recruiting, training and strategizing if the results don’t go their way.
“Although there was occasional talk of poll surveillance, much of the discourse in extremist communities has centered on speculation about what might happen in different election scenarios,” said Jared Holt, formerly of Right Wing Watch and currently visiting scholar at the Digital Forensic Research Lab.
While much of this speculation is viewed as a rattle of empty sabers, government officials and researchers say that these extremist groups, often aligned with white supremacist ideologies, pose a strong threat. Since 2018, white supremacist extremists have “carried out more deadly attacks in the US than any other violent extremist movement,” according to the DHS threat analysis. However, the report also found that “violence against law enforcement and government symbols increased significantly in 2020”.
The pandemic has exacerbated these threats as anti-government movements shy away from restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19. Federal officials recently arrested A group of extremists who allegedly trained with the intent of starting a civil war and kidnapping the Michigan governor in retaliation for strict coronavirus protocols.
These frustrations, according to the DHS report, could affect the electoral process, particularly the “open air parts of the public” such as “polling stations and voter registration events.” The report called these locations “likely hot spots for potential violence”.
One recently report The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, in collaboration with MilitiaWatch, suggests that a predictive factor for potential militia and street gang activity is whether an area is viewed as the basis for “left wing coups”. Critical electoral states like Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin fall into this category, as do traditional hotbeds of militia activity like Oregon. In addition, places with a strong democratic but not overwhelming presence are more likely to be grounds for such activities.
There has been robust recruitment and training activities from militia and street gang organizations over the past month, according to the report.
These groups have different goals. The Boogaloo movement, for example, wants to overthrow the state and is against the police. The aim of the Patriot Front is to establish a white ethnic state. The three percent are virulent against gun control and share a unanimous dislike of the nebulous “radical left,” a gathering of Antifa, Black Lives Matter protesters, Democrats and progressives.
Researchers have found that the militia’s stance in relation to the elections will not lead to actual demonstrations or violence. As long as conservative rhetoric focuses on playing left-wing violence, Media Matters’ Carusone warned, it will help maintain militia culture.
“Hyping warnings of potential left-wing violence are significant because that’s what we see militia groups planning around,” he said. “We see a similar issue in the militia / extremist activity – that they are heavily focused on the potential of left groups to become violent during or after the elections.”
The feedback loop was seen when Rhodes appeared on Infowars to promote the activities of his Oath Guardians on election day and predicted a “civil war” after the elections.
“It won’t be an easy struggle for the radical left,” he told Jones. “They are inundated with very competent, battle-hardened veterans on our side.”
Steven Overly contributed to this report.