Category Archives: Domestic Terrorism

Killing Political Leaders


As some of my readers will know by now, I am not a fan of Donald J Trump. I was about to post about him again and have decided to give him a one day pass.   But I want to be clear I do condone assassinating him. I want Trump to be defeated at the polls. Not in the courts and not at the hands of a gunman. I denounce all attempts to impose political beliefs by violence.

Each time political violence occurs in the United States I am surprised by how surprised Americans are by it.

Joe Biden said the actions against Trump were “un-American.”  But that was not true. Political violence is very American. It is bred in the bone.

As Brian Stetler said on CBC last night:Former Democratic politician Gabby Giffords from Arizona once said, Political violence is  not American. History says it is.”

Matthew Dallek and Robert Dallek said in the New York Times today, “Among all major democracies, then, when it comes to assassination attempts on heads of government, the United States is the leader of the pack.” Those two also pointed out that 4 of the 46 American presidents have been assassinated. That is almost 10%! Such a high percentage is shocking. I would say, killing an American president is as American as apple pie.

  Watching CBC’s The National from yesterday I was struck by a man with a big grin driving a big truck with a big sign on it that said,  “Fuck Biden.” Sort of like many signs we have in Canada He was asked if he thought the temperature of American political debate was too high and he said quickly, without thinking, “Yes.”  Then the interviewer asked him about the sign on his truck? He answered, with another grin,  that it was “the best $25 I ever spent.” Clearly, he did not get it. Then he added, “no shame in my game.” Again, without any irony. He even claimed that 99% of the comments he had received about his sign were “positive.”

Canada of course is not immune to extremism in politics. But it is nowhere near the amount in the US. No Canadian prime minister has ever been assassinated. The US is a country filled with political anger and guns. That is a volatile combination. Yet in Canada there have been many such signs referring to our prime minister with the same words. I have seen such signs unashamedly in Steinbach, the Holy City. At least at once it was the Holy City.  I oppose such signs here as I do in the US.

I keep raising this question about America:  Why is there so much political violence in that country?  I am less concerned about their lax to non-existent gun laws than I am by the ubiquity of political violence. Why are they so quick to turn to violence to obtain political change? Why is their society so violent? Few people seem to be asking that question?  I think we should ask.



Demonization of Muslims



Right-wing extremists have always liked scapegoats.  It used to be Catholics, or Blacks, or Communists. After 9/11 another arose Muslims. And right-wing radio in America stepped right in.

As Justin Ling the host of the CBC series Flamethrowers said, “The demonization of Muslims became a sport. One that would ensnare millions of Americans. And it was disgusting.” As one visitor to right-wing radio said, “The Moslems are fighting the Jews. The Moslems are fighting the Christians. The Moslems are fighting the Hindus. The Moslems are fighting the Buddhists. They’re slaughtering the blacks. Even the Moslem blacks in African Darfur. Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, wherever you want.”

The right-wing radio talk-show host Glen Beck  made his point of view known , and that of the right-wing in America when he commented to that: “well they certainly are adept at slaughter, I give you that.”


After the 9/11 attack the right-wing attacks against Muslims escalated exponentially. As Ling said, “Every week brought a new terror alert. George W. Bush led the invasion of Afghanistan, launching the war on terror. And conservative radio is on it.”

The 9/11 incident electrified the American right. They had a new Satan to replace the presumably vanquished Soviet Satan. The Muslims were the new Satan. With  a new sinner, the gospel of hate was thriving as never before. And the domestic how grown terrorists were fired up.


January 6th:  A  Culmination


After 9/11, Americans understandably, began to fear foreign terrorists. They were hit hard by the events that day. As a result, they created the Department of Homeland Security which concentrated on doing everything possible to stop foreign terrorists. Over time, they began to realize that there was a much bigger problem and it was home-grown. Terrorism, by Americans in their own country!  I call this domestic terrorism.

In the talk by Professor Jacob Ware and  his cohort Bruce Hoffman that we listened to thanks to Arizona State University, the speakers concentrated on domestic terrorism. Their talk was called “God, Guns, and Sedition. “

Importantly, Ware and Hoffman do not see the events of January 6th as a ‘one-off.’ Rather, as Ware explained they see January 6th as the culmination of a movement that has been growing for decades. Many Americans, looking through their rose-coloured glasses frequently are heard to say, after each tragic event, ‘we are not like this,’ or ‘this is not America’ when actually that is exactly what America is about. America was created through violent insurrection, genocide of native peoples, and  violent slavery and the biggest problem is that this has never been seriously acknowledged by a country that thinks it is exceptional. It is another example of American wishful thinking. That is the way they want it so it must be true. Ignore reality. Live in FantasyLand where it is much more comfortable.

 That, of course, is why Republicans, and the American-right, including the extreme right in particular, is working so hard to deny history. They see January 6th as a bunch of rambunctious tourists or crisis actors as Matt Goetz claimed in the House of Representatives. They don’t see the reality, which I submit impartial observers with all the facts, would readily admit they saw that day. That reality is that they were American right-wing extremists: Trumpsters and their ilk.

 Unless Americans are able to face the truth about their country they will never solve the horrible problem they have with domestic terrorism. There is little room for optimism here either.  They show no signs of wanting to learn the truth. To them, ignorance is bliss.

Black Lives Matter Insurrection or not?


I want to talk a little about the Black Lives Matter movement.  Perhaps because the right-wing and the left in America get their information from completely different sources, Fox News and the Internet on one side, and CNN, the Internet, and traditional news media on the other. Even on the Internet both sides go to different sources that are polar opposites. The two movements (left and right) have completely opposite views of what happened in Minneapolis, or on Capitol Hill on January 6th,  and other parts of the US.  The right-wing saw insurrection in Minneapolis Portland, and other places, but not at the Capitol. The left wing saw insurrection at the Capitol.

I really think it is a matter of what images the media of choice has chosen to emphasize. Fox News likes to put the emphasis on black rebellion and CNN emphasizes right wing rebellion. This is a key source of division.

In Minneapolis, for example, the media showed graphic images of protesters, many of them, not insignificantly black, ignoring police and laws to burn down businesses, some of which are even owned by blacks. To many white Americans this is proof of the anarchy at the root of the protests against the current regime.

African-Americans and their allies on the left see a white privileged state supported and protected by police that will use all of its powers to tamp down non-white rebellion while doing nothing to protect innocent children of African-Americans.

Neither side is able to see any truth to the side of the other. The other side ignores truth in favor of its own self-serving ideology. The two sides are unable to agree on basic facts so are unable to reach any agreement about what the problem is and how it should be solved. each side is mystified by the apparent blindness of the other to obvious truths.

White spectators at a BLM rally in St. Louis brought out automatic weapons to protect their property. White vigilantes were seen bearing arms in cities to protect white businesses from perceived ruin. This is what the left saw from its media sources. Meanwhile peaceful white and black protestors fear for their lives on the streets of American cities.

It is very difficult for Americans to deal with domestic terrorism  when they cannot agree on what the basic facts are. In the “good old days,” where most news came from 3 television networks that had no strong ideological differences between them, there were no such disagreements about basic facts. As a result, there was not such strong polarization as there is now. As a result of all this the middle is being hollowed out. The extremes are growing, on both sides. I don’t know what we can do about it.

This does not augur well for America. It suggests, to me at least, ruin to come. I hope I am wrong.

A Covid Booster for Extremism


Ware and Hoffman continued their very interesting talk talk to us via Arizona State University in a talk entitled “Guns God and Sedition.”

They pointed out, that then  in the 2020s there was not just a booster for Covid, there was a Covid Booster for radical right-wing violent extremism. As Hoffman and Ware say in their book, and Ware repeated to us in his lecture, “pandemics are basically tailor-made for conspiracy theorists.” A pandemic provides fertile soil for crazies to plant the wildest conspiracy theories. Such as a theory that a presidential election was stolen, even no evidence has been provided for that theory.


Pandemics, like conspiracy theories are bred and hatched in secret and then explode into public view catching nearly everyone by surprise. It is almost natural to look for secretive causes for such disturbing events.


As Ware said, “2020 ends up becoming this tremendously tumultuous year with covid pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, and this very contentious political moment leading up to an election in which we have 2 candidates both claiming victory in that election which leads up to January 6th which is the most important moment in our book.”   Ware says that the riot on January 6th 2021is the most serious threat to American democracy that he and Hoffman catalogued in their book. It is the first breach of the capitol since 1814 when the British and their rough and tough Canadian allies stormed the Capitol.


Of all the incidents described in their book and the many they mentioned to us in their talk the event on January 6th 2021 was the most significant. It was an American game changer, though now in the US only one side recognizes that. On that day American democracy nearly died. And many now many fear in 2024 we are headed for another such momentous event. Many in America believe that if Donald Trump loses the election in 2024, though that does not yet seem likely but certainly is conceivable, Trump will raise his forces of rebellion and this time it will be worse. Much worse.


Why was the terrorism at Charlottesville so Important?

I want to return to the talk we heard  on line through the auspices of through Arizona State University this winter,  The talk was called God, Guns, and Sedition. That was more than enough to catch my eye it was led by 2 professors who wrote a book called by that name.

As Jacob Ware said,

This remains a huge moment for the emergence of the modern violent far right, because they felt they could organize publicly and they could commit acts of violence in the defence of the ideology and that they would have protection from the White House. Charlottesville marks the coming out party of a new far right, which dubbed itself the alt right, characterized by youthfulness, viciousness, mobilization on line, and passionate support for President Trump.”


In a word, I would characterize them as bullies.  This is significant, because in my view the essence of fascism is being a bully. Donald Trump, of course, as we all know is a classic bully. So are many of his faithful followers.

The extreme right in America for the first time ever, felt they had a fellow traveller in the White House.  They could see that Trump was one of their kind. They felt that one of their own was in charge and they were going to take advantage of it.

 This incident at Charlottesville contributed to a huge increase in violent extremism on the far right in the US. As Ware said, the 2&1/2-year period between the terrorism in Charlottesville to the start of the pandemic in March of 2020 is where there was a huge spike in far-right violence.

In 2018 there was the pipe bomb incident that targeted members of the media and left with bombs.

Shortly after that was the deadliest anti-Semitic terror attack in US history that occurred in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. In March 2019 of that year there was an attack in Christchurch New Zealand targeting the Muslim community and killing 51 worshippers. That terrorist also produced a lengthy Manifesto that he published on line.

The following month there was a terrorist attack in Poway California where a former college student fired an assault rifle inside a synagogue packed with worshipers during Passover in 2019, killing one woman and injuring three others. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his hate-motivated attack. On the same day, the terrorist pled guilty to a charge of arson in connection with a fire at another religious institution, namely, a Mosque and Islamic.


In August of that year the US experienced the deadliest attack against the Latino community in El Paso Texas.

There were also a number of similar events in Europe in 2019. Right-wing extremism was spreading around the world. Domestic terrorism was becoming a hit.

As Ware said, “so we see this explosion of White Supremacist and anti-government violence that really grabs the attention of western governments.” It also grabbed the attention of extremists around the world.

Things were heating up. Extremists were happy. It was their time to shine.

Hateful Words Matter


William Cooper, another frequent right-wing radio speaker or host,  later that year after the bombing in Oklahoma  said Timothy McVey had attended his offices seeking help, which he said he would not give. He did not care what they did, but he would not support them. He talked about how two people who looked like McVey and his partner Terry Nichols had vaguely tipped him off and gave his people a copy of The Turner Diaries which, among other things, talked about committing acts of violence to start a race war! This became a familiar trope among the far-right.


The FBI found a copy of that book inside McVey’s Ryder van. Added to that, as Justin Ling said on his CBC podcast about right-wing radio,


It is clear that Cooper did influence McVey and despite his insistence that he does not support violence and terrorism, he literally spent years calling his listeners cowards for not doing anything about Waco. And then one of his listeners did exactly what he was telling them to do!


One thing is clear from all of this: words matter. Particularly, hateful words have consequences, especially when they are frequently repeated to resentful people with grievances.


Many years later, Donald Trump learned valuable lessons from such right-wing commentators. He too was able to fire up his supporters. Bigly!


Unite the Right with Hate


A transformational event for the far-right occurred on August 11 and August 12 2017 in the US.  This was during the presidency of Donald J. Trump and  It happened in a  college town called Charlottesville Virginia. As Professor Jacob Ware described this event to his listeners at Arizona State University, this was “where a group of outspoken, explicit, proud, white supremacists, and Neo-Nazis, and anti-government extremists gathered in what they called a ‘Unite the Right Rally.’

Before the event, one of the main organizers, Jason Kessler, had been publicizing the event for months by his protests against the proposed removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee. This helped to fire up white supremacists and other right-wing extremists around the country. Even right-wing Canadians wanted to attend this event.

The trigger for the event was a threat to dismantle a Confederate statute in that community. A young woman, Heather Heyer, was killed during a domestic terrorist attack led by white supremacists. The attack was led by James Alex Fields Jr. who deliberately drove his car into a crowd of people who were peacefully protesting the right-wing rally that was being held in Charlottesville. Only one person, Heather Heyer, was killed but 35 others were injured. As Wikipedia reported,

“Fields 20, had previously espoused neo-Nazi and white supremacist beliefs, and drove from Ohio to attend the rally. Fields’ attack was called an act of domestic terrorism by the mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia’s public safety secretary, the U.S. attorney general, and the director of the FBI.”


Some witnesses reported that Fields’ vehicle sent protesters “flying through the air.” After the initial impact, Fields changed the car into reverse to target more people. He backed up at high speeds for several blocks with protesters chasing him.

Fields was subsequently convicted in a state court of the first-degree murder of Heyer, as well as 8 counts of malicious wounding and hit and run. He also pled guilty to 29  hate crime charges  presumably in order to avoid the death penalty. In typical America hyperbolic legal “justice,” Fields was sentenced to life in prison as well as 419 years for the state charges, with an additional life sentence for the federal charges.

As egregious an event as it was, it soon became an international sensation when President Trump entered the aftermath with his infamous tweets and statements. At first president Trump wavered about whether or not he should condemn the terrorists. Trump just could not bring himself to condemn outright the terrorism since the right-wing attackers did not look like terrorists to him. They looked like supporters, which many of them, of course were. How could be publicly criticize his base? That is not like him.

The marchers had been chanting repeatedly, “You will not replace us. Jews will not replace us.” as they carried their patio torches. This of course is a direct allusion to the common white supremacist trope that members of the American left are trying to replace whites with more compliant people from other races.  It was also clearly antisemitic. The closest he could come to criticism of his adoring fans was to say “I think there’s blame on both sides. You also had people, on both sides, who were very fine people.”  What was so fine about whites who mowed down protesters while chanting those racist memes? Recall, he did exactly the same thing on January 6, 2021when his staff insisted he tell the rioters to leave he did ask them to leave but first told them he loved them.

Trump has demonstrated a pattern of praising violent people who support his causes. He is always willing to do his best to unite the right with hate.

The reason this was such a pivotal event in the history of the rise of right-wing violent extremism is that those extremists realized they had a powerful friend and ally in very high places. In fact, they had an ally in the highest place in the land and this filled them with exuberance and confidence.


Racism provided the infrastructure for growth of the far right.


In their book and their talk to us at Arizona State University, Ware and Hoffman point out how much members of these domestic terrorist movements learned from each other. The Internet of course has made such self-education much easier than it had ever been before. And as they said, racism provided the infrastructure for the amplification of their ideas.

During the Obama presidency another major battlefield arose that would have profound effects on the United States, Canada, and in fact, the world. This was the establishment of social media that provided the fuel, the bombast, and the energy for profound political and social change. We still don’t know how this will end. We have no idea.

As Professor Ware said in his talk, “the Obama administration faced the rapid almost blitzkrieg emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”  This was very important for the development and normalization of the far right. It was supercharged by social media. ISIS showed how powerful social media can be. A small extremist group in a very short time grew into an organization that scared the entire western world. That could never have happened without social media. Social media was the powerful engine of modern far right terrorism.

The rise of ISIS led to an enormous increase of immigration into Europe which then was used by far-right extremists in Europe and around the world to amplify their movement. They latched onto the great replacement theory to enlist support virtually everywhere. They blamed the far left for trying to replace the white citizens with immigrants from countries around the world, but often with brown or black skinned people from places the whites had often not even heard of. No place in the world it seemed was immune to the invitations to hate the immigrants.

Immigration to many right-wing extremists, around the world was the key issue to justify their cause. Immigration was the issue that bonded Donald Trump and Steve Bannon into a dramatic force and is being used again in the start of the 2024 presidential election campaign. Immigration allows the right to pick scapegoats for every aspect as of the far-right agenda. It is impossible to imagine the far-right without immigration as a grievance.

Immigration at borders invariably is used to fire up domestic support for populist causes. It is usually the easiest cause to latch onto by populist leaders. Dissatisfaction with immigration is often the glue that holds together diverse unhappy actors into a powerful force for violent change.

Nowhere does it do that more than Arizona where we are currently living. Mention immigration and you are bound to obtain heated discussion.


The Return of the Right and racism rekindled


After the Oklahoma bombing the FBI started to realize the significance of the militia movement and clamped down on the more extreme of them. For a while it seemed to the terrorist analysts that the domestic problem was not so serious. In my view, this is partly because to so much of law enforcement the right-wing looks like home to them. And terrorists never look like your friends and neighbours, until they do. As Professor Hoffman said during his Arizona State University talk that Chris and I listened to,


“the last thing I ever imagined in my career was returning to this particular threat. Then in 2020 with the rise of the pandemic, I was amazed at how quickly, literally within days of the lockdown in March, anti-Sematic, anti-immigrant, anti-Asian and anti-Asian-American and also racist tropes began to surface attempting to target these groups to blame for Covid.”


The election of Barack Obama as the first black President of the United States unleashed an ugly and powerful streak of backlash. The FBI suppression of the far-right movement after the Oklahoma bombing led to the movement lying dormant in the US for 8 or 10 years. It was dormant, but it was not dead. It was revived by the election of Barack Obama. Racial fear by whites of being replaced by blacks is part of the bedrock of the modern right-wing and white supremacist movement.

As Professor Jacob Ware said at that same ASU talk, the election of a black president “also led to a huge surge in hate crimes.” White supremacy and anti-government extremism also exploded after that election.

During his first election the volume of threats against Obama led to the greatest secret service protection so early in an election in the history of the country. There was a tidal wave of hate against him and his family. As Ware said. “this was a harbinger of things to come.

During his terms in office Obama faced two major terrorist attacks. The first was in Norway in 2011in Oslo and Utoeva island by a massacre by Anders Breivik. 77 people were killed the large majority of whom were children. It was a summer camp of the youth wing of the Norwegian labor party. He published a long Manifesto in which he called his victims cultural Marxists, a term since adopted widely in the American right. He said that by attacking the next generation of the left he would be cutting off the head of the snake of multi-culturalism. He saw what he thought was a movement to replace ethnic Norwegians, resembling of course, similar fears of replacement of white nationalists in other parts of the world such as New Zealand, America, and many other places.

In 2015 the Obama administration faced another attack by the right, this time in Charleston North Carolina. There a young white supremacist, Dylan Roof, who killed 9 people during a Bible Study in a black church.

According to Ware these were both highly significant events because “they both provided tactical and ideological inspiration.”