The REAL False Flag Operation, Part 5
In Part 5 of this series, we will finally look at the disguised participants of the January 6 insurrection, and how they relate to the supposed “antifa” false-flag instigators of the event.
NOTE TO THE READER: This is another topical blog post that gotten to be so long in content and scope, that as a courtesy to the reader I have split up into a series of posts. It concerns a topic now of interest to the new conspiracy-crowd that is the Religious Right, who has now as a late-comer embraced this viewpoint after introduction to the conspiracy-minded “don’t believe your eyes or the establishment” perspective from their extremist hard-right Christian and other Christian media outlets, both large and small, “mainstream” and small-time fringe blogs, podcasts, Facebook posts and tweets. Through this they have become versed into the old conspiracy concept that has historical precedents but is now-overused and supersaturated, that of the “false flag operation,” by agents provocateur in disguise, to implicate and discredit rival ideological camps. It reviews the latest popular arguments in conservative and Religious Right professional and social media that leftist radicals actually conducted the Capitol insurrection by those otherwise-plainly identified as right wing extremists in the “patriot movement,” including the cases of violent or provocative incidents in the years leading up to it. It explores the arguments popularly disseminated to date, who are the main figures formulating and dispensing these narratives, what are their histories, track records and possible motives for such, the extent of their accuracy or inaccuracy, and the appearances of a REAL “false flag” narrative being promulgated that is not what is being popularly identified in this public relations “sleight of hand.” It also painstakingly documents who the actual insurrectionists and inciters were in these events, based upon hard evidence of video and photo documentation, self-incriminating posts and writing, announcements of planned operations prior to the event, law enforcement investigations and legal filing and pleas, and statements by top government officials who admitted their intentions to incite, or were eyewitnesses to the culprits and the events. In the introductory Part 1, we began by summarizing the key events and timelines of the pivotal day of the Capitol insurrection, how President Trump set the stage (including literally) to prepare the people for war beforehand (with the help of violent militia groups and others online), bring the people to Washington at the very hour of the election certification, and provoke them into the seditious mob and combination vandal gang and lynch mob, as well as identifying a few initial figures that have come from obscurity to experience a meteoric rise in the national media in capitalizing in those days on the dark and disturbing latent impulses now seething in the American public that they have exploited for immediate profit and future agendas of even higher ambition. Part 2 included a more in-depth profile of the individuals, leaders and organizations involved in the insurrection itself, derived from their writings and confessions, FBI reports and legal briefs, as well key representatives of some of our time-honored institutions (those revered by conservatives in particular) that shockingly had a pivotal role in the deadly event, and the demographics of the typical 2021 insurrectionist, with these findings having major implications in our society in the days ahead. In Part 3 of this series, we explored how different elements of America’s faith community responded on the day of the insurrection, and in the aftermath how they perceived the true culprits, including major Christian and conservative media and their “Antifa” claims, how it was generated and spread (and by whom), allied conservative figures who joined in and later ashamedly renounced such claims to Trump and the public, and how the conservative citizenry ignored such debunking and has clung to the “Antifa insurrectionist” manufactured narrative, and associated myths. In Part 4, we reviewed how an “Antifa apocalypse” hysteria wave had occurred as a precursor event a number of years ago, and how it was discovered to have come about, and who devised the scheme to exploit it. In Part 5 of this series, we will finally look at the disguised participants of the January 6 insurrection, and how they relate to the supposed “antifa” false-flag instigators of the event.
UPDATE ON THE DEMONIZATION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND LIONIZATION OF THE INSURRECTIONISTS IN CONSERVATIVE MEDIA SINCE PUBLICATION OF PART 4: After the publication of Part 4 of this article series in June 2021, the following month, Jim Hoft and the Gateway Pundit, whom we lovingly came to know in the same Part 4 of this series in their consistent misidentification of true perpetrators and identification of the culprits, as well as the virtuous and not in public events, the following month anxiously posted a story gleefully outing the name of the Capitol Hill police officer who tragically was forced to provide a last line of defense to the huddled congressmen behind him and a few security officials, firing on an insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt who was climbing through an interior window broken by the insurrectionists in the inner hiding chamber and last redoubt of the targeted elected officials. Her aggressive assault, a few feet from the last line of defense of a handful of security officials protecting the congressional body huddled not far behind them, with her behavior apparently associated with an imminent violent engagement assault on this last ring of defense, ignored the warnings and pointed weapons by authorized law enforcement to dissuade such an offensive engagement, resulting in a tragic death, even if based upon her senseless and violently aggressive act. Did the conservative media who prides itself on being “pro-law enforcement” and against “unlawful mobs,” hail the brave, far-outnumbered security official who “saved the republic” and constitutional government, like the Secret Service man taking the bullet for President Reagan or engaging with would-be assassins of President Ford? No, our man Jim Hoft proudly provides the following “tribute” to the heretofore unknown hero:
Earlier Tuesday The Gateway Pundit confirmed that Lt. Mike Byrd was Ashli Babbit’s shooter. Lt. Byrd killed Ashli Babbitt in cold blood on Jan. 6 in the US Capitol. One person was murdered that day. Her name was Ashli Babbitt, a Trump-supporting US veteran. In June Ashli Babbitt‘s husband Aaron Babbitt and Attorney Terrell Roberts joined Tucker Carlson to discuss the murder of Ashli Babbitt…WILLIAM HALL on Gab sent us this video that further incriminates Lt. Mike Byrd as the shooter…The Democrats, Pelosi, the Deep State, dirtbag FBI Director Chris Wray and the mainstream fake-news media have all been protecting Lt. Mike Byrd. They are all protecting a cold-blooded killer and see nothing wrong with it. This is who they are. (emphasis added)
Arguably the most popular conservative Christian news source online, World Net Daily, thought it virtuous at the time at further popularize and disseminate this report to target this law enforcement officer. They also decided to add the subsequent statements of Donald Trump, head of the government and its officials that Lt. Byrd and his peers were risking their lives to protect, and a candidate who ran on a “pro law enforcement” platform, on his take on the actions of this defender against violent lawlessness:
Last Thursday, former President Donald Trump joined several House Republicans in calling for the identity of the officer to be revealed. “Who shot Ashli Babbitt?” Trump said in a statement. At a campaign-style rally in Sarasota, Florida, Trump said he met with Babbitt’s grieving family. He asked why so many Jan. 6 protesters are still in jail, chastising Republican leaders such as Sen. Mitch McConnell who are “afraid” to bring up the subject. “A disgrace to our country. We need strong leaders,” Trump said. “And by the way, who shot Ashli Babbitt? Who shot Ashli Babbitt? Who? Who shot Ashli Babbitt? We all saw the hand, we saw the gun,” Trump said at the rally. “I spoke to her mother the other day, an incredible woman, she’s just devastated, like it happened yesterday, devastated.” Trump said that “if that were on the other side, the person that did the shooting would be strung up and hung. Now they don’t want to give the name, they don’t want to give, but people know the name, people know where he came from, and it’s a terrible thing. Right, shot, boom, there was no reason for it. Who shot Ashli Babbitt? It’s got to be released.” Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., charged Ashli Babbitt was “executed” by an officer “lying in wait.”
Neither Trump nor these two conservative Christian-friendly media outlets mentioned the 140 law enforcement officers injured in the insurrection and violence by Trump’s supporters, the fifteen officers injured seriously enough to be hospitalized in critical condition (and many others seriously injured by being struck on the head with lead pipes) and others impaled with American or Trump flags, pummeled or stabbed, or sprayed with toxic bear spray, Officer Sicknick who died of a stroke shortly after his beating, or the resulting suicides of at least 4 officers after their trauma that day, by the over 10,000 Trump supporters (including many “church goers”) who breached the Capital security barriers and 800 who broke into and invaded the vandalized Capitol through demolished windows and doors over the bodies of fallen officers and through the combat area and tear gas, with, as of December 2021, 719 people having been arrested and charged with federal crimes so far.
The technique of blaming right-wing shootings and terror events on Antifa “false flag” operations did not originate with the January 6 Capitol attacks, or events in the year leading up to it. Back in August 2019, Rolling Stone wrote that
After a tragic mass shooting event, many struggle to make sense of the bloodshed and unnecessary violence. Unfortunately, this often results in the spread of inaccurate information intended to mislead or confuse readers, and the response to the deadly El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, shootings over the weekend were no exception. In the wake of reports indicating that the alleged El Paso shooter was a Trump supporter whose manifesto made reference to far-right rhetoric about immigration, right-wing pundits immediately tried to distance themselves from the alleged shooter, blaming the shooting on everything from violent video games to drag queens.
It wasn’t particularly surprising that many on the far right threw their weight behind one particular rumor: that antifa, or far-left antifascists, were responsible for the attacks. And this happened via a pattern of expertly orchestrated misinformation campaigns on the right that extremism researchers say are sadly par for the course following mass shooting attacks. Rumblings of this conspiracy theory began almost immediately after the El Paso shooting, following emerging reports that the alleged shooter had posted a manifesto on 8chan prior to the attack, referencing his desire to imitate the Christchurch massacre as well as his motivation to curb the Latino “invasion” into Texas. Despite the first few signs that the shooter was motivated at least in large part by white-supremacist beliefs, some on the far right latched onto a Daily Caller article from July 30th, which accused antifa of “planning a terror campaign and siege of El Paso, Texas in an attempt to raise awareness of alleged abuses at the U.S.-Mexico border.” The report was based on a tweet by citizen journalist Andy Ngo, who became something of a cause célèbre on the far right after he was attacked by antifascist counter-protesters at a Proud Boys rally in Portland last June.
Of course, there was no evidence that the “Border Resistance” military tour was organized by antifa or promoted as such, with one organizer telling the National Observer that it was intended to be a series of nonviolent actions to raise awareness of human rights violations at the border. “Nowhere do we say that we’re antifa or part of antifa,” she said. “We never even said anything about fascism.” The Daily Caller later added a clarification noting this. But the claim in the piece was bolstered by comments made by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who alluded to the story on Fox News: “I just saw the last couple of days where Antifa is posting they want to come to El Paso for a 10-day siege,” Patrick said. “Clear message [to] Antifa: Stay out of El Paso. Stay out of Texas, basically.”
Such rumblings continued well into Monday, when a screengrab of the suspected El Paso shooter’s alleged profile on the social reputation website MyLife, which purportedly was “edited” by liberals to change his political views from Democratic to Republican, quickly went viral. (In reality, the suspect did not have a MyLife profile at all prior to the attacks.) One prominent far-right streamer and conspiracy theorist, Brendan Dilley, was suspended from Twitter after law enforcement sources told him antifa was behind the attack, according to Right Wing Watch; further, Rick Boswick, a member of the Canadian far-right group the Yellow Vests, also posted a video expressing his belief that the media was “scrubbing the facts” associated with the El Paso shooting in order to build a leftist-friendly narrative, claiming that witnesses had initially claimed in news interviews that the shooter was a member of the “radical left slash communist movement.”
The antifa conspiracy theory gained more traction when more information started to emerge about the alleged Dayton shooter, who fatally shot nine people outside of a bar in a popular downtown district in the early hours of Sunday morning. Unlike the El Paso shooter, the Dayton shooter undoubtedly harbored left-leaning rather than extremist right-wing views: Many on Twitter shared screengrabs of his social media account, in which he appeared to self-identify as an “anime/metal fan/leftist” and expressed his support for such candidates as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. BuzzFeed News also reported that he was a member of a local “pornogrind” metal band, with another band member in the scene tweeting he was, “another dime a dozen Ohio grind dude who caped progressive politics while treating women like shit.”
Based on these reported leftist bona fides, right-wing pundits immediately began speculating that the Dayton shooter was a member of antifa. But aside from a retweet of an antifa account, his Twitter does not contain any references to antifascist activity; nor did he appear to engage in any local antifa action, which would be expected in Dayton, an antifascist hotspot [sic – see below], says Emily Gorcenski, a far-right researcher and creator of First Vigil, which tracks far-right extremism in the United States. “Typically what we see is antifascist activists in they’re mostly focused on their local issues. The folks in Portland they talk about Portland; the folks in D.C. talk about D.C.,” says Gorcenski. “He didn’t talk about any antifascist activities.” Perhaps more importantly, the shooter reportedly had a history of making misogynistic, violent threats, circulating “rape or kill” lists with his classmates’ names on them while he was still in high school. The fact that he was clearly deeply immersed in toxic masculinity, as well as the fact that he attacked the outside of a bar rather than a border control center or another ostensible target for antifascist action, appears to indicate that the Dayton attack “was not politically motivated and is not equivalent to the El Paso shooting [in terms of being inspired by political ideology],” says Gorcenski.
While conspiracy theories that stir anti-leftist sentiment after national tragedies are undoubtedly toxic, they also aren’t particularly new, says Joan Donovan, PhD, director of technology and social change at Harvard Kennedy’s Shorenstein Center. After events of mass violence, far-right pundits will immediately try to “activate their networks to try to get [false] information to trend online” as an attempt to confuse the media or deflect from the central conversation. (Usually, this comes right after those on the far right falsely identify the shooter in question as a popular YouTuber, a meme borne out of chan culture.) Last year, for instance, a number of individuals on the far right known for promoting fake news stories about leftists linked both the Las Vegas, Nevada, concert shooter and the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooter to “antifa.”
It’s also not surprising that many of these rumors and conspiracy theories would point the finger specifically at antifa, a term used to describe a loose collective of anti-fascist groups that show up to counterprotest at far-right rallies. Over the past few months, anti-antifa rhetoric has sharply increased, especially following the widely publicized attacks on Ngo, which drew condemnation on both sides of the political aisle. President Donald Trump has threatened to label antifa a terrorist group, and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is calling for legislation to classify antifascist protesters as a domestic terrorism threat. This is in spite of the fact that white supremacist violence is verifiably on the rise, and that FBI director Christopher Wray explicitly told lawmakers at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last month that the majority of the FBI’s domestic terrorism cases “are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.”
…In one particularly cynical instance of a content creator capitalizing on the discussion, [Dennis] Prager U, a far-right media outlet that was invited to President Trump’s recent White House media summit, released a video on Monday morning with the hashtag #TheCharlottesvilleLie, propagating the (verifiably untrue) conspiracy theory that Trump never uttered the words “there are fine people on both sides” when addressing the violence at the Unite the Right rally in 2017. (A Politico transcript of his comments after Charlottesville proves otherwise.) Though only tangentially connected to news of the shootings, the deep well of emotions on both sides of the political aisle clearly played a role in the hashtag briefly trending. (emphasis added in section)
Correction Tues., Aug. 6, 11:00 am: An earlier version of this piece quoted Gorcenski as saying that Dayton was a hotspot of antifascist activity. Gorcenski actually said that it was a hotspot of fascist activity.
By April 2020, in an article entitled, “How The Antifa Fantasy Spread In Small Towns Across The US,” Buzzfeed reports how Antifa has become the new “boogeyman” with rumors of sightings like Bigfoot or Mothman, coming to menace any right-wing march in any small town, thereby (by paranoia) vastly multiplying the impact of antifa far beyond what they could ever muster with their meager, unorganized resources. It has become an antifascist “red scare” with one feared under every rock, bed and sofa, and behind every curtain, like a self-constructed terrorist goliath by the Right (also, to bolster their own fearmongering and thus recruiting and fund-raising). They write:
The rumor that shadowy leftists planned to start trouble in Great Falls, Montana, first appeared on the Facebook group of the Montana Liberty Coalition late last Wednesday afternoon. “Heads up,” a man named Wayne Ebersole, who owns a local cover crop business, wrote. “Rumor has it that Antifa has scheduled a protest in Great Falls Friday evening at 5 p.m. in front of the Civic Center.” He asked the group if anyone had any more information, or if anyone was available to “protect businesses.” “It has been confirmed through the police department,” one commenter replied. “They have a permit for tomorrow night and are in town now.” They weren’t. Police later said they had been “working to quell the rumor.” But that didn’t stop it from sweeping across various right-wing groups. Within 24 hours, a screenshot of Ebersole’s post had been posted to the Facebook Group for the Montana Militia, whose members have recently dedicated themselves to tracking the perceived threat of antifa all over the state, including coordinating armed responses to “protect” their towns. And by Friday at 5 p.m., as about 500 protesters gathered to protest systemic racism and police brutality, a handful of armed men had massed at the edge of the demonstration. “We heard that a little group called Antifa wanted to show up and not in our town,” one man, who declined to be named, told the Great Falls Tribune. “All it takes is a word and a whisper.”
As protests against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter continue to proliferate across the small towns and rural communities, so, too, have rumors of white vans of masked antifa driving from town to town, reportedly intent on destruction. In Hood River, Oregon, antifa were, according to screenshot of a fake Instagram story, calling on followers to “root loot do anything in your power.” In Spring Hill, Tennessee, there was a “busload” staying at the Holiday Inn, prepping to loot Walgreens at noon. In Wenatchee, Washington, bands of men dressed in black were surveilling potential targets. In Payette, Idaho, a plane full of protesters was circling overhead. In Honolulu, antifa had been flown in from the mainland. In Billings, Montana, some claimed agitators had been spotted by the National Guard. In Nebraska, they were creating Craigslist ads offering to pay people $25 a day to “cause as much chaos and destruction as possible.” In Sisters, Oregon, they were planning to show up at the local Bi-Mart.
To be clear: All of these rumors were false. They were all, as the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office put it, “fourth-hand information.” To combat them, police departments in dozens of towns are holding press conferences, posting announcements on social media, and telling anyone who calls the station that there has been no indication of a planned presence from antifa or any other outside agitators, whether “from Chicago” (code, in many parts of the Midwest, for black people) or “from Seattle” (code for liberals). Yet these rumors continue to spread. That spread is facilitated by Facebook — where they thrive in groups whose previous focus was protesting pandemic-related shutdowns and circulating conspiracy theories about COVID-19 — and fanned by President Donald Trump, who recently declared his intention to label antifa a terrorist group. This morning, the president raised the antifa menace yet again, tweeting that the protester violently shoved by police in Buffalo, New York, “could be an ANTIFA.” (He was not.) But the persistence of these rumors suggests a deeper fear of outside incursion, and the necessity of an ever-alert, armed response. As encapsulated in a Reddit thread out of Hood River, Oregon: “I’ll say this much: The people out here are armed to the teeth. If you want to bring mayhem to this area, the end result will likely have you begging for police protection.”
Antifa has become the right’s face of violent leftist protest in the United States, sloppily aligned with, as the president put it on June 1, “professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters.” In a tweet, Trump claimed the National Guard had “shut down” the “ANTIFA led anarchists, among others.” (The DC field office of the FBI reported no antifa involvement in protests, according to the Nation.)
It’s difficult to talk about antifa with any sort of precision. It’s “leftist” insomuch as it’s against, well, fascism, authoritarianism, and white supremacists. There are some local groups, but there’s no national leadership structure. Many antifa dedicate themselves to finding white supremacists in their communities and outing them. Most people within those groups are for violent protest only as a last resort, but a handful are for more forceful displays and destruction. Here in Montana, I encountered a very small handful in January 2017, when they showed up in Whitefish to counter a planned march by the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website.
The most important thing to understand about antifa is that there are very, very few of them: According to the Washington Post, when the group tried to gather nationally, they topped out at a few hundred. Nevertheless, Trump has been building up the menace of antifa for years. He first began evoking antifa following the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, when he famously claimed that there were “very good people, on both sides.” “Since then Trump has returned to the term often in speeches,” Ben Zimmer writes in the Atlantic, always “with an air of alien menace.” Lifted by Trump’s rhetoric, that “alien menace” has accumulated around antifa in the public imagination, making it all the easier to believe posts in which fake antifa accounts promise to act in the exact ways Trump has described. On Sunday, May 31, a newly made Twitter account — since linked to the white nationalist group Identity Evorpa — posted: “Tonight’s the night, Comrades,” with a brown raised-fist emoji and “Tonight we say ‘F— The City’ and we move into the residential areas… the white hoods…. and we take what’s ours …”
The antifa threat has also been co-opted by QAnon, the nation’s most powerful and influential conspiracy theory and movement. At Concordia University, Marc-André Argentino researches the way extremist groups use social media as a tool to recruit, spread propaganda, and incite acts of violence. Last week, he began tracking the uptick in mentions of antifa within QAnon social media forums, which began to rise when “Q” (the anonymous poster who guides the site) began mentioning it on May 30. At least for the moment, QAnon is celebrating the protests (and antifa’s presence) for their potential to spark the apocalyptic “storm” central to the QAnon theology. “Antifa is a nebulous enemy, one that serves as a rallying cry for keyboard warriors and on-the-ground militiamen,” Argentino told me.
Argentino has been noticing something else, too: a growing cross-pollination between QAnon, which is often referred to simply as a conspiracy group, and more far-right extremist groups, from the so-called Boogaloo Bois and Proud Boys to more straightforward militias. This intermingling was on display at the Reopen Michigan protests, where American flags waved alongside Confederate ones. And you can see it now all over the West, where the groups that advocated for reopening — often attracting a motley mix of constitutionalists, “patriots,” anti-vaxxers, Second Amendment advocates, anti-government advocates, and just straight up pissed off business people — have shifted their focus to “protection.” In the Tri-Cities area of Central Washington, the shift is so explicit that the Facebook group “Reopen Tri-Cities” has shifted, wholescale, to a second group called “Protect the Tri.”
In Montana, most of the rumors of antifa presence in the state can be traced back to state Sen. Jennifer Fielder, who warned her followers on June 1 of “multiple reports from credible witnesses” that five white panel vans of antifa were on their way to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and would then proceed to Missoula, Montana. Fielder, who lives in Northwest Montana, is known across the state for ultra-right, “liberty-minded” views on everything from public lands (they should be sold) to contact tracing (a form of governmental overreach). But Fielder didn’t start the antifa rumor. She just brought it to Montana. On Sunday, June 1, over in Klamath Falls, Oregon, the rumors were so compelling that hundreds of armed people showed up to line the Main Street during a planned protest. The next night, in downtown Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a man with an AR-12, an AR-15, two 9 mm handguns, and a .38 special told reporter Bill Buley that he was there, along with hundreds of others, because he’d heard “there were some people who shouldn’t be here.”
In some cases, the people with guns showing up at these rallies are “supportive” of the groups protesting — at least in so far as they’re supportive of the right to freely assemble. They don’t actually believe the protesters, in many cases local high school students, would turn to violence. Instead, they believe antifa is plotting to infiltrate the otherwise peaceful protests and turn them violent — or, as was suspected in Lewiston, Idaho, use the protest as a decoy in order to ransack the business district. Which is why, as over a thousand people gathered to march along the Snake River in Lewiston, dozens of others, many heavily armed, lined the streets downtown. One wore a Hawaiian shirt (the “uniform” of the Boogaloo Bois) and held a sign with the name of a III% militia member who had been shot by the police. Another wore a vest covered in Nazi paraphernalia. Others were decked out in flak jackets, in camo, and Clinton Conspiracy shirts. Similar scenes have played out this week in Bozeman, Kalispell, Billings, Sandpoint, and Coeur d’Alene.
Travis McAdam, who’s tracked anti-government and hate groups for 15 years with the Montana Human Rights Network, calls it the “Antifa Fantasy.” A version of this fantasy has long existed, in some form, in militia circles: “An outside, shadowy entity is going to come in,” McAdam recounted, “and whether it’s to disarm the community or attack it, these folks are going to mobilize and fight it off. Antifa is just the bogeyman that they’ve stuck in this narrative.” Put differently: Militia members get to plan, anticipate, and enact the idea at the foundation of their existence. And they get to do it in a way that positions them as “the good guys,” fighting a cowardly bogeyman easily vanquished by show of force alone. As a popular meme circulating in North Idaho put it, “Remember that time when Antifa said they were coming to Coeur d’Alene / And everyone grabbed their guns and they didn’t come? That was awesome!” It doesn’t matter if antifa was never coming in the first place. They didn’t come, and that’s evidence of victory.
And that victory can then be leveraged into further action — and a means to extend the fantasy. On the Montana Militia page, a man named Tom Allen, whose home is listed on Facebook as Wibaux, Montana, posted that he’d spent the night in Dickenson, North Dakota, “protecting” the veterans monument during a planned protest. A group of bikers showed up to guard the nearby mall, protecting “all of Antifa’s usual targets.” There was no incident. (Allen did not respond to request for comment.) Afterward, Allen wrote, a man who had helped coordinate the defense followed a group of perceived antifa to an Applebee’s, where he said he overheard them talking about “the waitress and how they wanted to rape her,” “killing cops” and “other violence,” and their future plans: “They’re saying there’s going to be a ‘firestorm’ in Billings this weekend.” The post was shared more than 1,800 times.
Like Argentino, the online researcher, McAdam sees this current “protect” movement as an extension and consolidation of anti-government movements that have been percolating for years. Back in 2008, when tea party rallies began sprouting up all over the United States, many of them were attended and organized by people authentically upset about economic policies. But those protests, like the reopen protests, also drew in anti-government agitators and militia members, who then began to influence and, in some cases, take over the leadership in the tea party groups. “That dynamic is very similar to what’s happening now,” McAdam said. “A core group of people coming from the anti-government movement are always looking for a crisis, where you have a divisive issue in the community that they can tap into and exploit. The COVID pandemic was one thing, and now we’ve got another avenue.” And people who might not ever consider themselves “militia” or even anti-government, who might have joined a reopen group in frustration, are now exposed, and perhaps more receptive, to rumors of roaming antifa in need of rebuke.
“You can really see that in the Facebook groups,” dozens of which McAdam monitors. “I would see people posting early on a Tuesday morning, saying, ‘I don’t know if this Antifa rumor is real,’ and then later in the day, they’d be like, ‘Well, I dunno if I believe this, but I’m going to go drive around Missoula and look for these Antifa vans.’” When someone in your Facebook feed posts a warning to be on the lookout for antifa in your small town, it might seem like low-stakes nonsense. But beneath such a seemingly silly rumor lurks a larger ideological iceberg: the idea that radical leftists are out to defile and destroy, and the only recourse against them is an armed, unrestricted militia. QAnon theory builds on this, suggesting that all of it — the protests, the police reaction, the presence of antifa — has been preordained as part of a coming mass destruction. And QAnon isn’t just a niche conspiracy theory. Tweets from its proponents are regularly retweeted by the president [Trump]. At least 50 current or former candidates for Congress, plus the Republican nominee for the US Senate in Oregon, are public QAnon supporters. And that doesn’t even include candidates running on the state or local level.
And as QAnon continues to cross-pollinate ideas with violent, extremist groups, “keyboard warriors” may bring their conspiracies into the real world. As Argentino put it, “If you’re in QAnon, and you see your messianic leader, Trump, at risk of losing the election, and the mass arrests that Q has promised is not coming, at some point people are going to question: If the Q team and Q can’t do this themselves, maybe they need the digital patriots to become offline patriots.”
On June 2, Trump sent out a blast to his email list. The subject line: ANTIFA. “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups are running through our streets and causing absolute mayhem,” the email said. “They are DESTROYING our cities and rioting — it’s absolute madness.” That night, in Forks, Washington, a multiracial family from across the state in Spokane pulled up to a local outdoors store. They were in a decommissioned school bus and picking up supplies on their way to go camping. In the parking lot, a group of people from seven to eight cars surrounded them and accused them of being antifa. According to a statement from the sheriff’s office, the family then drove off to their camping site, trailed by a handful of cars. In two of the cars, people were holding semi-automatic weapons. As the family was setting up camp, they heard the sound of chainsaws and gunshots in the distance. When they attempted to leave, they found that trees had been felled onto the road, trapping them on site. “For lots of folks, it’s much easier to accept the idea that the only people who could be protesting the local police would be from outside the area,” McAdam explained. “It couldn’t possibly be that people of color in our community could have bad experiences with local law enforcement.” Or, for that matter, with locals in general. (emphasis added in section)
This was written in June 2020, before their “messianic leader Trump lost the election,” and the “digital patriots became offline patriots” on January 6.
This described situation is an ideal application of the maxim, “If antifa did not exist, the Trump Right would have to invent them.”
The British prominent newspaper The Guardian published a July 2020 article that provides some historical and statistical perspective as to the overall “threat” of anti-fascism movements: They write:
Donald Trump has made warnings about the threat of antifa and “far-left fascism” a central part of his re-election campaign. But in reality leftwing attacks have left far fewer people dead than violence by rightwing extremists, new research indicates, and antifa activists have not been linked to a single murder in decades. A new database of nearly 900 politically motivated attacks and plots in the United States since 1994 includes just one attack staged by an anti-fascist that led to fatalities. In that case, the single person killed was the perpetrator.
Over the same time period, American white supremacists and other rightwing extremists have carried out attacks that left at least 329 victims dead, according to the database. More broadly, the database lists 21 victims killed in leftwing attacks since 2010, and 117 victims of rightwing attacks in that same period – nearly six times as much. Attacks inspired by the Islamic State and similar jihadist groups, in contrast, killed 95 people since 2010, slightly fewer than rightwing extremists, according to the data set. More than half of these victims died in a a single attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016.
The database was assembled by researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a centrist thinktank, and reviewed by the Guardian. Its launch comes as Trump administration officials have echoed the president’s warnings of a violent “leftwing” revolution. “Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate, violent and extremist agenda,” the attorney general, William Barr, said amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd. A new justice department taskforce on violent anti-government extremists listed “antifa” as a major threat, while making no mention of white supremacy.
Defining which violent incidents constitute politically motivated acts of terrorism, and trying to sort political violence into leftwing and rightwing categories, is inherently messy and debatable work. This is particularly true in the US, where highly publicized mass shootings are common, and some have no clear political motivation at all. Stated political motives for violent attacks often overlap with other potential factors, including life crises, anger issues, a history of violent behavior and, in some cases, serious mental health conditions. While researchers sometimes disagree on how to categorize the ideology of specific attacks, multiple databases that track extremist violence, including data maintained by the Anti-Defamation League, and from journalists at the Center for Investigative Reporting, have found the same trend: It’s violent rightwing attacks, not “far-left” violence, that presents the greater deadly threat to Americans today. “Leftwing violence has not been a major terrorism threat,” said Seth Jones, a counter-terrorism expert who led the creation of CSIS’s dataset.
Most of the deadly extremist attacks the CSIS researchers categorized as “leftwing” were killings of police officers by black men, many of them US military veterans, who described acting out of anger or retribution for police killings of black Americans. These shooting attacks include the murder of two police officers in New York City in 2014, after Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s killings; and the murders of five officers in Dallas, Texas, and three officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2016. Some of the gunmen who killed police had connections to black nationalist groups, which extremism researchers at CSIS and elsewhere said they typically categorize as leftwing, largely because in the 1960s, influential black nationalist groups like the Black Panther party were anti-capitalist and considered part of the New Left. Making that categorization is less straightforward today, some researchers acknowledge, since some prominent black nationalist organizations express homophobic, misogynistic and antisemitic views, values that set them in opposition to the current American left.
Mark Pitcavage, a senior fellow at the ADL’s Center on Extremism, noted that Gavin Eugene Long, who staged an attack on police in Baton Rouge, had ties to black nationalism and was also part of an offshoot of the sovereign citizens movement, an anti-government ideology that is typically categorized as rightwing. In several of the high-profile leftwing attacks included in the CSIS list the only fatality was the perpetrator. A mass shooting attack on a group of congressional Republicans during a baseball practice outside of Washington DC, in 2017 left the Republican congressman Steve Scalise seriously injured, and three other people shot. The gunman, James Hodgkinson, 66, was the only one killed in the attack. Hodgkinson had deliberately targeted Republicans and had expressed disgust with Trump.
Many of the other leftwing attacks or plots in the CSIS database, including by anarchists, environmental groups and others, resulted in no deaths at all. Often, leftwing plots, particularly by animal rights activists, have targeted businesses or buildings, “and their primary weapons have been incendiaries designed to create fires or destroy infrastructure – not kill people,” said Jones, the researcher who led the creation of the data set. The one deadly anti-fascist attack listed in the database occurred in July 2019, when Willem von Spronsen, a 69-year-old white man, was shot dead by police outside an Ice detention center in Tacoma, Washington. Authorities said von Spronsen had been throwing molotov cocktails, setting flares, that he set a car on fire and that he had a rifle. Local activists told media outlets they believed he had been trying to destroy buses parked outside the facility that were used to transport people who were being deported. Von Spronsen, who had previously been arrested at a protest outside the detention center, was involved in a contentious divorce, and both a friend and his ex-wife had described him as suicidal. In a letter he wrote to friends before his death, Von Spronsen called detention centers “concentration camps” and said he wanted to take action against evil, BuzzFeed News reported. “I am antifa,” he reportedly wrote. No one was harmed in the attack except Von Spronsen, according to media reports.
Researchers who monitor extremist groups at the Anti-Defamation League and the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism said they, too, were not aware of a single murder linked to an American anti-fascist in the last 20 to 25 years. Heidi Beirich, a co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said some leftwing groups were known for more radical and violent tactics in the 1960s, adding: “It’s just not the case today.” Mark Pitcavage said he knew of only one killing, 27 years ago, that might potentially be classified as connected to anti-fascist activism: the shooting of a racist skinhead, Eric Banks, by an anti-racist skinhead, John Bair, in Portland, Oregon, in 1993.
Given the discrepancies between the deadly toll of leftwing and rightwing violence, American law enforcement agencies have long faced criticism for failing to take the threat of white supremacist violence seriously, while at the same time overstating the risks posed by leftwing protesters. After a violent rally in California in 2016, law enforcement officers worked with neo-Nazis to build criminal cases against anti-fascist protesters, while not recommending charges against neo-Nazis for stabbing the anti-fascists. Antifa activists have been the targets of domestic terror attacks by white supremacists, including in a terror plot early this year, in which law enforcement officials alleged that members of the neo-Nazi group the Base had planned to murder a married couple in Georgia they believed were anti-fascist organizers. “Antifa is not going around murdering people like rightwing extremists are. It’s a false equivalence,” said Beirich. “I’ve at times been critical of antifa for getting into fights with Nazis at rallies and that kind of violence, but I can’t think of one case in which an antifa person was accused of murder,” she added.
The new CSIS database only includes attacks through early May 2020, and does not yet list incidents connected with the massive national protests against police violence after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, including the killings of two California law enforcement officers by a man authorities say was linked to the rightwing “boogaloo” movement. Today, Jones said, “the most significant domestic terrorism threat comes from white supremacists, anti-government militias and a handful of individuals associated with the ‘boogaloo’ movement that are attempting to create a civil war in the United States.” Daily interpersonal violence and state violence pose a much greater threat to Americans than any kind of extremist terror attack. More than 100,000 people have been killed in gun homicides in the United States in the past decade, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US police officers shoot nearly 1,000 Americans to death each year. Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be shot by the police as white Americans, according to analysis by the Washington Post and the Guardian.
But the president’s rhetoric about “antifa” violence has dangerous consequences, not just for anti-fascists, but for any Americans who decide to protest, some activists said. Yvette Felarca, a California-based organizer and anti-fascist activist, said she saw Trump’s claims about antifa violence, particularly during the George Floyd protests, as a message to his “hardcore” supporters that it was appropriate to attack people who came out to protest. “It’s his way of saying to his supporters: ‘Yeah, go after them. Beat them or kill them to the point where they go back home and stay home afraid,’” Felarca said.
Editor’s note: Since this piece was published in July 2020, the data has changed: domestic terrorism experts now link one homicide in the US to a self-described anti-fascist, the first such killing in 25 years.
Again, this comparison between both camps was done before the “anti-anti-fascists” (the military equipment-festooned Trump citizen storm troopers) laid waste to our seat of government, with gallows raised and over 100 law enforcement figures injured from impalement and stabbings, many seriously, and some dead, with their widespread publicly-shouted intent-to-lynch, and devastating the historical physical symbols of our heritage in the Capitol building (even defecating inside it), mere months afterwards, with the bulk of the evangelicals I hear from, along with their white supremacist allies, vigorously defending or excusing it, and attempting to marginalize or get us to ignore it.
PolitiFact is a Snopes-style independent, non-partisan fact-checker of political statements made by politicians and others, since 2007 and its founding by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper, and later by the non-profit Poynter Institute for Media Studies, having won the Pulitzer Prize and at times, having been accused of both conservative and liberal bias by those who they critique (a good sign), and is affiliated with many newspapers nationwide; its founder is now the Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University. In August 2020, they addressed a common accusation (particularly amongst my Christian friends and what I have seen online) that George Soros is a Nazi who funds antifa (they show examples of such on their site). They address the truth of this accusation on the following page:
A subset of misinformation about demonstrations that erupted across the United States in the wake of George Floyd’s death involve billionaire Democratic donor George Soros. We’ve debunked claims that Soros is leaving rocks for activists to cause damage in Los Angeles, among other cities. He isn’t providing “Soros Riot Dance Squad” buses to ferry people to protests. He’s not using Open Society Foundations, the philanthropic organization he founded, to fund “the chaos” in Minneapolis, where a police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck. An image being shared on Facebook now makes another claim about Soros in connection with the protests. It appears to show a tweet from actor James Woods, who uses the social media platform to comment on current events.
“This man funds #ANTIFA,” the text says above two photos — one of Soros and one of a younger man in an SS uniform. “He is a real #NAZI. His name is George Soros.” This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed.
As we’ve reported antifa — which stands for “anti-fascist” — is a broad, loosely affiliated coalition of left-wing activists. The Trump administration has blamed antifa for recent protests but government intelligence reports, media reports and experts haven’t produced any evidence that supports that claim.
…First, as we’ve previously reported, Soros was not a Nazi. The person in the photo in the Facebook post is Oskar Groning, one of 300 Auschwitz staff members. Groning was a corporal in Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS and he became known as the bookkeeper of Auschwitz. He was one of the last Germans to face war-crime charges connected to the Holocaust.
FEATURED FACT-CHECK…Facebook posts…Monique Curet • November 16, 2021
Soros fled fascism. When the Nazis invaded Hungary, his father obtained false identities for Soros and his brother and Soros was sent to live with an agricultural official who passed him off as his Christian godson.
“This is how Mr. Soros was able to survive the Nazi occupation,” Open Society said in the statement. “Mr. Soros was hiding from the Nazis in order to survive. To construe this in any other way is malicious, completely misleading, and, in fact, anti-Semitic.”
Next, there is no evidence Soros “funds antifa.”
Open Society Foundations refuted the claim and said that neither Soros or Open Society fund antifa. In a statement, a spokesperson for the organization said the false claims “touch on longstanding, often anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” When Fox Business published a story in June about antifa and “who funds it,” the story noted that it’s a difficult question to answer. “Little is known about who funds antifa activists, or how the groups get their resources,” the story said. “Antifa is not a single organization, and therefore, financial details, if any exist, are murky.” Mark Bray, a historian at Rutgers University who wrote “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” told PolitiFact that the Facebook post reflects “an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that the right has launched at all kinds of radical organizing over the years.” “Antifa groups do not have much in the way of funds,” he said. “The International Anti-Fascist Defence Fund exists to provide funds for medical or legal expenses of antifascists and those funds come from donations from allies but beyond that I’d imagine that whatever little money these groups have come from members themselves.”
We couldn’t find any evidence that Soros has contributed to this fund. We rate this Facebook post Pants on Fire.
It gets even better. As another example, popular conservative TV commentator Laura Ingraham was shown by The Daily Beast in September 2020 claiming that antifa was responsible for even greater atrocities:
Fox News host Laura Ingraham falsely claimed on Monday night that anti-fascist activists were behind the disastrous wildfires currently ravaging the West Coast, a rumor that has been repeatedly debunked by local authorities and the FBI…“Did Biden anywhere in that speech lay out his solution to prevent any wildfires in the future or the people who are intentionally setting them in California, including antifa?” Ingraham asked frequent guest Victor Davis Hanson. Law enforcement agencies in Oregon have been working overtime dispelling false rumors that have virally spread on social media of far-left activists setting fires in the region, with at least one of the conspiracies being fed by their own.
Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts said in a statement this past weekend that he “moved swiftly” to place a sheriff’s deputy on leave while he investigated a video of the officer baselessly alleging antifa was responsible for the raging fires. “Antifa motherf–kers are out causing hell, and there’s a lot of lives at stake and there’s a lot of people’s property at stake because these guys got some vendetta,” the deputy could be heard saying in the clip. The FBI also attempted to debunk the hoaxes that political extremists were intentionally starting the wildfires. “FBI Portland and local law enforcement agencies have been receiving reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon. With our state and local partners, the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue,” the bureau’s Portland division said in a statement. “Conspiracy theories and misinformation take valuable resources away [from] local fire and police agencies working around the clock to bring these fires under control,” the statement added. “Please help our entire community by only sharing validated information from official sources.”
Facebook, meanwhile, has said it is removing false claims that antifa and far-right group Proud Boys have been starting the fires along the West Coast, adding that its decision to delete the posts is due to law enforcement’s complaints that “these rumors are forcing local fire and police agencies to divert resources from fighting the fires and protecting the public.” Fact-checking website PolitiFact has also rated claims that the wildfires are being started by antifa “false,” noting that extremist groups are not suspected to be connected to the fires and that “arson appears to be the exception—not the rule.”
So – why are we not hearing more about the threat of white supremacists instead of antifa – at least over the previous few years – since the data bears out that they are the true threat of deadly force to Americans? Well, by September 2020 a few brave whistle-blowers began exposing the cover-up and psy-op that we have been exposed to over the last few years, as this published article example attests:
A whistleblower is alleging that top political appointees in the Department of Homeland Security repeatedly instructed career officials to modify intelligence assessments to suit President Donald Trump’s agenda by downplaying Russia’s efforts to interfere in the US and the threat posed by White supremacists, according to documents reviewed by CNN and a source familiar with the situation. The whistleblower claims that acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf instructed DHS officials earlier this year to “cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference” and, instead, focus their efforts on gathering information related to activities being carried out by China and Iran. Trump and several of his top national security advisers have repeatedly sought to emphasize the threat posed by China in recent months while downplaying the intelligence community’s warnings related to Russian interference in the 2020 election.
DHS did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment regarding allegations that Wolf and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli ordered officials to change intelligence assessments for political reasons but have broadly denied either man took actions that constitute as an abuse of power, as stated in the complaint. The complaint also alleges that Wolf and Cuccinelli, both Trump appointees, directed officials to change intelligence assessments to ensure they matched up with misleading public comments from Trump about Antifa and “anarchist” groups, according to a complaint filed with the DHS inspector general. Separately, both Wolf and Cuccinelli also tried to alter a report to downplay the threat posed by White supremacists and instead emphasize the role of leftist groups due to concerns about how the initial language would reflect on the President, according to a source familiar with the claims raised by the whistleblower.
The allegations were raised in a complaint filed recently by Brian Murphy to the DHS inspector general…if true, the actions detailed in the complaint mark yet another example of Trump officials attempting to adjust or minimize intelligence that does not align with the administration’s political priorities. “The whistleblower retaliation complaint filed by former Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy outlines grave and disturbing allegations that senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials improperly sought to politicize, manipulate, and censor intelligence in order to benefit President Trump politically. This puts our nation and its security at grave risk,” Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement following CNN’s reporting. “Mr. Murphy’s allegations are serious — from senior officials suppressing intelligence reports on Russia’s election interference and making false statements to Congress about terrorism threats at our southern border, to modifying intelligence assessments to match the President’s rhetoric on Antifa and minimizing the threat posed by White supremacists…” he said.
…Murphy says that he refused to modify intelligence assessments so that they more closely aligned with Trump’s rhetoric about Antifa and other groups, telling Wolf and Cuccinelli that he would only report accurate information as collected by DHS, according to the complaint. He also refused to alter the draft versions of the report warning of the threat posed by White supremacists, prompting Wolf and Cuccinelli to halt work on the document, the complaint states. The final version of that report has not been publicly released. The move to block the final report came in July from Wolf and Cuccinelli, the source familiar with the issue said. Murphy first argued with Cuccinelli then Wolf, pushing back against changes to the draft version of the report that would have watered-down language pertaining to White supremacists and added additional information about leftist groups like those the Trump administration has portrayed as a top threat to the US ahead of the November presidential election, according to the complaint. When Murphy refused to implement the changes as directed, Cuccinelli and Wolf stopped the report from being finished, the source said.
Drafts of the report, first published by the national security website Lawfare, show that an initial description of White supremacists “presenting the most lethal threat” to the homeland was changed in subsequent drafts to say “domestic violent extremists.” The language about the White supremacist threat varies slightly in the different drafts but they all state it is the deadliest. It has not been known until now why the changes were made…They [the allegations] also surface at a time when Trump and his top officials, most notably Attorney General William Barr, have emphasized the threat posed by leftist groups like Antifa, but rarely mentioned right-wing groups involved in some of the violence during recent protests in the US.…Trump himself has regularly downplayed the threat of White supremacist violence during his presidency, most notably when he said there were some “fine people” among the extremists who sparked violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. He’s also called Black Lives Matter a “symbol of hate” and has regularly pushed narratives on Twitter that emphasize violence against White Americans as he seeks to curry support in the suburbs.
Officials in his administration, however, have warned against White supremacist extremism. Last year, CNN reported that White House officials rebuffed efforts by their DHS colleagues for more than a year to make combating domestic terror threats, such as those from White supremacists, a greater priority as specifically spelled out in the National Counterterrorism Strategy. Then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said last year White supremacist extremism is one of the most “potent ideologies” driving acts violence in the US, when he released the department’s counterterrorism strategy, outlining the ongoing threats from foreign terrorism and focusing on domestic terror threats, particularly White supremacists.
“In our modern age, the continued menace of racially based violent extremism, particularly White supremacist extremism, is an abhorrent affront to the nation, the struggle and unity of its diverse population,” he said in a speech at the Brookings Institution almost a year ago…The earliest available version of the “State of the Homeland Threat Assessment 2020” drafts reads: “We judge that ideologically-motivated lone offenders and small groups will pose the greatest terrorist threat to the Homeland through 2021, with white supremacist extremists presenting the most lethal threat.”
The lead section on terror threats to the homeland is changed in the latter two drafts to replace “white supremacist extremists” with “Domestic Violent Extremists presenting the most persistent and lethal threat.” The reports, however, all contain this language: “Among DVEs [Domestic Violent Extremists], we judge that white supremacist extremists (WSEs) will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland through 2021.” Lawfare’s editor in chief Benjamin Wittes published the documents because he wanted there to be a “benchmark about what the career folks at DHS actually assessed the threats to be against” the final product that is released by the department.
When the FBI Director testified under oath that the President’s claims of the threat of antifa were virtually non-existent or overblown (as well as confirming the real threat of Russian meddling in the 2020 election), in September 2020 President Trump stated publicly that he might remove the FBI Director for such testimony under oath that did not promote his political narrative for his campaign. The Washington Post reported it as follows:
President Trump didn’t dispute Friday that he could consider removing Christopher A. Wray as FBI director after Wray gave congressional testimony Trump didn’t like on Russian interference in the 2020 election and the threat of antifa to Americans.
Wray told the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday that Russia is still working to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, trying to “denigrate” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Questioned about antifa protesters, Wray said that they were not a structured group, but an ideology or movement that attracts followers, and that some of those adherents are under investigation for possible crimes. Trump was asked outside the White House before departing for a campaign event whether he would consider removing Wray over his testimony. “We’re looking at a lot of different things and I did not like his answers yesterday and I’m not sure he liked them either. I’m sure he probably would agree with me. Antifa is bad, really bad,” Trump said…“And if you look at it, who is the real problem? The big problem is China. And we can have others also and I’m not excluding anybody. But the big problem is China, and why he doesn’t want to say that, that certainly bothers me,” Trump added…
…Trump had made his annoyance with the FBI director’s testimony known, tweeting after that the FBI was letting antifa “get away with murder.” The president has also complained privately about Wray for months, but advisers have urged him not to make any moves or personnel decisions before the election, according to people familiar with the discussions. This was the second time this week that Trump pushed back against sworn testimony from one of the top officials in his administration on issues that are central to the election and his own political interests…The president has frequently criticized Wray’s FBI for not pursuing criminal cases against former officials such as ex-director James B. Comey or former deputy director Andrew McCabe, who investigated the president’s 2016 campaign.
In March 2021, The same FBI Director was brought before Congress to testify again under oath in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, and addressed directly the assertion of Trump and conservatives nationwide – including most conservative Christians I know, hear from and read about – that antifa was at the root of the violent insurrection event. Here is how ABC News reported it at the time:
Testifying in front of Congress for the first time since the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers Tuesday he was “appalled” about the violent attack…the FBI director said that there are 2,000 domestic terrorism investigations, up from almost 1,000 when he first started in 2017. Pressed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin whether the Capitol attack involved white supremacists, Wray said the majority of the people arrested could be categorized as militia extremists. “We at the FBI don’t tend to think of violent extremism in terms of right, left, that’s not a spectrum that we look at. What I would say is that it is clear….a large and growing number of the people that we have arrested so far in the connection with the 6th are what we would call militia violent extremists…and some already who emerged that I would have been in the racially motivated extremist bucket,” he explained. The director said it is getting harder and harder to identify the motives of domestic extremists, but added that racially motivated extremist cases are “the biggest chunk of our domestic terrorism caseload overall…And the most lethality over the last decade has been from these same extremists. The things that drive these people, I think range. One of the things that we struggle with in particular is that more and more the ideologies, if you will, that are motivating some of these violent extremists are less and less coherent, less and less linear, less and less easy to kind of pin down,” adding it could be “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” with some personal grievance added in.
He said at the moment there is no indication that any antifa members participated in the Capitol assault as some Republicans have suggested. The FBI director said the smallest, but the most serious, group that attempted to disrupt Congress were domestic terrorists…Wray told lawmakers that the FBI has been “sounding the alarm” about the rising domestic terror threat for “a number of years now.”
There are elements of this vast social media deception regarding antifa as being the scapegoat culprit behind the January 6 insurrection that border on the absurd and surreal, and even, like a M*A*S*H episode, a tragic form of black or “gallows” humor about these hapless yet dangerous insurrectionists. One example that pertains to this article series is a report in The Huffington Post and other media outlets that the identified and indicted insurrectionists did not like antifa getting erroneous “credit” for their hard work:
Not long after he used a stick to swing and stab at police officers struggling to protect the U.S. Capitol from a pro-Trump mob seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Jonathan Mellis took to Facebook. He apparently didn’t like what he saw. Many of his fellow Trump supporters, the ones who like him bought into former President Donald Trump’s lies about mass voter fraud, were starting to believe in another conspiracy theory: that “antifa” was responsible for the attack Mellis participated in. Mellis wasn’t having it. He hated antifa. And he wasn’t about to see them get credit for his work. “Don’t you dare try to tell me that people are blaming this on antifa and BLM,” Mellis wrote, referring to Black Lives Matter. “We proudly take responsibility for storming the Castle. Antifa and BLM or [sic] too pussy…We are fighting for election integrity. They heard us”…He faces several charges, including for assaulting officers and aiding and abetting, civil disorder, entering a restricted building or grounds, violent entry or disorderly conduct, and obstruction of Justice/Congress.
Mellis wasn’t alone. While plenty of defendants later arrested and charged in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol joined many of their fellow Trump supporters in blaming antifa for the attack, plenty of others were also a bit upset that their work alongside a mob of Trump supporters was being attributed to some fictitious gang of anti-fascists. HuffPost found at least three other Capitol insurrectionists charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol who, the feds say, complained on social media about antifa getting credit for their work. “Listen up: I hear so many reports of ‘Antifa’ was storming the capital [sic] building. Know that every single person who believes that narrative have been DUPED AGAIN!” wrote Ryan Nichols, who was charged alongside his fellow insurrectionist Alex Harkrider. “Sure, there may have been some ‘Antifa’ in DC, but there wasn’t enough to ‘Storm the Capital’ [sic] themselves.” “Okay all you conspiracy theorists 😜 don’t worry I loves yous all just setting the record straight,” wrote Karl Dresch. “antifa did not take the capitol. that was Patriots, I can’t guarantee there weren’t some shit birds in the crowd but what multi-million crowd can you guarantee?.don’t give them the thunder, we the people took back our house, the news is all bullshit.and now those traitors Know who’s really in charge.” “It was not Antifa at the Capitol,” wrote Brandon Straka, a “Stop the Steal” organizer with ties to Trump who was charged last month. “It was freedom loving Patriots who were DESPERATE to fight for the final hope of our Republic because literally nobody cares about them. Everyone else can denounce them. I will not.”
The conspiracies that some mysterious gang of undercover anti-fascists cosplaying as Trump supporters was behind the Jan. 6 attack has gripped Trump supporters since that day. Even as the attack was unfolding, former President Trump himself was floating conspiracy theories about “antifa” being behind the attack. Trump told House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) during the attack that “antifa” was behind the violence at the Capitol, according to an account by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.). But when McCathy pushed back, Trump acknowledged reality: that the mob was pro-Trump. “Well, Kevin,” Trump reportedly said. “I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
I know what you’re saying now – what is the wisdom of the be-horned “Q Anon Shaman” on this matter, and his views on his peers – be they clad in Odin tattoos or not, like himself, and other Christians who joined alongside him in “Christian” prayer within the congressional chamber they trespassed and ransacked? Well, the Austin American-Statesman newspaper clarifies (via Politifact) from the Shaman’s own appearances and online words that descriptions of him as an “antifa thug” are far misplaced:
Hours after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol, several of his allies in Congress and the media baselessly claimed anti-fascist provacateurs were to blame for the violence. Some suggested, without evidence, that the crowd backing Trump’s efforts to overturn the election was infiltrated by antifa. Antifa stands for “anti-fascist,” and it is not a group but a broad coalition of activists. Others focused on specific protesters who forced their way inside the Capitol and were shown in photographs, such as a bare-chested man who wore face paint and a horned fur cap. “These are NOT Trump supporters,” said one Jan. 6 Facebook post. “Antifa THUGS.”
But the mysterious man in horns is not antifa-aligned. The man, Jake Angeli, supports Trump and is a well-known supporter of the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory. He goes by the moniker, “Q Shaman,” and he told the Arizona Republic he uses his unique outfit to stand out. Poynter reported that in December, Angeli launched an online crowdfunding campaign to fund his participation in pro-Trump events. The Arizona Republic described him as “a QAnon supporter who has been a fixture at Arizona right-wing political rallies over the past year.” The Associated Press reported that he was also seen in the same signature headwear at a pro-Trump rally Nov. 7 in Phoenix. PolitiFact’s review of Angeli’s private Facebook page showed photos and posts that indicated support for QAnon and Trump. False claims linking Angeli and other people who mobbed the Capitol to antifa took off online in the hours after the event. An NBC News analysis identified thousands of tweets that accused antifa members of “posing” as Trump supporters.
Angeli responded on Twitter when Lin Wood, an attorney who has filed lawsuits seeking to overturn the presidential election, posted photos of Angeli and claimed he is an antifa activist. The Daily Beast’s Will Sommer, who covers QAnon closely, highlighted the exchange. “Mr. Wood. I am not antifa or blm,” Angeli’s tweet said. “I’m a Qanon & digital soldier. My name is Jake & I marched with the police & fought against BLM & ANTIFA in PHX.”
One of the most respected news outlets, Reuters, further documents the fallacy of the “Capitol insurrectionist-as-antifa” allegation and conspiracy theory, as a final word on this matter:
Social media users have been sharing content online that suggests those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were Antifa, not Trump supporters. Many have been using compilations of pictures as purported evidence, but examination of these images shows they do not support this claim. Meanwhile, the FBI has said there is “no indication at this time” that Antifa had played a role in the mob that stormed the Capitol.
While it is impossible for Reuters to verify the identity of each person who took part in Wednesday’s siege, this article covers some of the key images presented in social media posts as false evidence of the rioters being “Antifa undercover.”
Reuters Fact Check previously debunked the claims that a man wearing fur and a hat with horns was a Black Lives Matter or ANTIFA supporter here…According to AZ Central, he has been a “fixture at Arizona right-wing political rallies over the past year.” In an interview with the news outlet in May 2020 visible here , Angeli spoke in favor of President Donald Trump and his policies. In another video visible here , Angeli can be seen praising Trump and “Q”… Angeli’s own Facebook page examined by Reuters included posts and photographs indicating his support for QAnon and Donald Trump.
Reuters Fact Check has previously debunked the claim of a man’s tattoo being proof that he is a part of ANTIFA [here]. Posts place an image of protesters inside the Capitol building alongside another image sourced to “phillyantifa.org.” The Philly Antifa website (phillyantifa.org) does have a page featuring an image of a bearded man who shares certain characteristics with the person seen in the Capitol building. However, this page does not describe the man as an Antifa supporter. Instead, it says the image shows an individual belonging to an entirely different group that Philly Antifa opposes. Reuters has not identified the person pictured in the Capitol Building. However, a comparison of tattoos on the right hands of both people would indicate that they are not the same person…The tattoo seen on the other hand of the man in the Capitol appears to be a symbol from a computer game (here) and not a hammer and sickle symbol as some posts have suggested (here).
Another photo used in social media posts shows a man with his feet on a desk in Nancy Pelosi’s office. As the image from Getty began circulating widely on January 6, New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg identified him in a tweet as 60-year-old Richard “Bigo” Barnett of Gravette, Arkansas [here]. He also included a video of Barnett [here]. Less than half an hour later, Northwest Arkansas NBC affiliate KNWA-TV reported (here) that its team “immediately recognized the man” from an interview they conducted with Barnett at a “Stop the Steal” rally hosted by the Benton County Republicans in November. NBC News reported that Barnett was arrested on Friday, January 8. There is no evidence that he has any connection with Antifa.
Another man shared in Facebook posts is wearing fur pelts and carrying a police shield, identifies himself as Aaron, a resident of Brooklyn, New York. In a YouTube video filmed inside the Capitol, the man says he came to “express (his) belief that the election was stolen.” Some outlets have identified him as Aaron Mostofsky, son of a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge. There is no evidence linking this man to Antifa, and his personal Facebook page, which now appears to have been removed, showed he had reposted content from Donald Trump, Jr. and Senator Ted Cruz, as well as conservative commentators Laura Ingraham and Ben Shapiro. When asked whether Aaron could be part of Antifa undercover, a source close to the Mostofsky family told Reuters via email: “It’s not true. What he was recorded saying reflects his politics.”
There is no credible evidence to support the notion that Antifa backers dressed up as Trump supporters or that they led or spear-headed the rioting. “We have no indication of that at this time,” said Steven D’Antuono, the FBI Washington Field Office’s assistant director in charge, in response to a question over whether there was any evidence to support allegations that perpetrators of the violence at the U.S. Capitol were “antifa infiltrators” who had disguised themselves as Trump supporters. Examining the most upvoted chat rooms in an online blog forum popular among Trump supporters on the afternoon of January 8, Reuters found a mixture of narratives being presented among this community. Some said “Patriots”, not Antifa, stormed the buildings while others blamed alleged Antifa infiltrators. Reuters has debunked other Antifa-related misinformation since Wednesday, including that Antifa did not receive police escort from D.C. Police to the demonstrations, an Antifa confession prank [here] and digitally altered news reports [here].
Well, after a very brief, four-and-a-half post preamble dedicated to establishing who all the people were in the insurrection event, as well as who is confirmed as not being a part of the insurrection (i.e., antifa), let us now finally consider the prime subject matter of interest of this article series – that is, if everyone thinks (at least one side) that someone there at the Capitol was deceiving everyone there and the public as to their true identity and allegiances and agenda, who then would those people actually be, and if it is a “false flag,” what are they up to? The answer may surprise you – but for some of you, maybe not.
The key figure that raises questions about the whole operation was identified by the Washington Post on March 2, 2021, and also fingers the mysterious figure whose picture adorns the top of every posting in this blog series, but heretofore has not been cited or identified. In their very important article and reporting at the time that forms the lynchpin that partially inspired this whole post series, they write that
The day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, William Robert Norwood III texted a group of friends and family to boast he had traveled to D.C. with a plan to fool the police. “I’m dressing in all black,” Norwood texted a group chat on Jan. 5, according to images included in a federal criminal complaint filed last week. “I’ll look just like ANTIFA. I’ll get away with anything.” Then, after joining in the mob, assaulting police officers and storming the Capitol rotunda, federal agents said, Norwood texted the group again to boast that his ploy had been a success. “It worked,” Norwood texted, along with photos of himself wearing a police officer’s vest that he allegedly took from the Capitol. “I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for.”
Norwood was arrested in Greer, S.C., on Feb. 25 and charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, obstruction of justice and Congress, theft of government property and other charges…Federal agents buttressed the criminal complaint against Norwood with text messages he allegedly sent about joining in the riot — including contradictory messages taking credit for attacking police, while also blaming the violence on antifascists. The texts echoed a popular but baseless theory that left-wing agitators instigated the insurrection, which led to the deaths of a Capitol police officer and four others. False claims that the rioters were not supporters of Donald Trump have been aired on Fox News and repeated by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) during congressional hearings. Yet evidence collected by federal investigators shows that among the hundreds of rioters who have been arrested, most expressed support for Trump and many had ties to far-right groups including the Proud Boys, which Trump had encouraged in the past and which has a history of violence.
In an interview with the FBI, Norwood said he had traveled to D.C. from South Carolina with his wife to attend Trump’s rally on Jan. 6. The FBI said it found evidence that Norwood’s cellphone had been active inside or near the Capitol building on Jan. 6 and that Norwood admitted he entered the rotunda. Surveillance photos filed in the case allegedly show Norwood inside the building, wearing a camouflage jacket and red “Make America Great Again” hat that match other photos he took that day. In the photos, he appears to be wearing all-black clothing under the jacket. “Norwood claimed that two U.S. Capitol Police officers were waving people inside, and that one of the Capitol Police officers told him, ‘I’m on your side,’” according to the criminal complaint…In texts sent on Jan. 7 allegedly recounting his role in the riot, Norwood claimed he “fought 4 cops” and “got a nice helmet and body armor off a cop for God’s sake and I disarmed him.” He then sent a selfie that allegedly showed him posing in a stolen tactical vest.
…Despite Norwood’s story that he had pretended to be antifa, he and some other members of the group chat also later blamed the fatal violence at the Capitol riot on leftist activists, according to screenshots of the conversation in the federal complaint. Apparently alone in feeling frustration, Norwood’s sibling told the group chat the sibling wasn’t buying those excuses. “Robbie literally bragged about pretending to be this mysterious Antifa yall go on and on about, and then you say no no REAL antifa did this,” the sibling said in one message, referring to Norwood’s nickname. “Listen to yourselves.” Norwood also claimed he had “saved several cops from being killed by antifa.” His sibling replied: “You are ‘antifa’ my guy.” Norwood responded to his sibling’s complaints by defending the attacks against Capitol Police officers, the texts show. “The cops who acted s—ty got exactly what they deserved,” Norwood texted. “The ones who were cool, got help.”
Well, that’s interesting.
Insider also added some further details to Norwood’s written words online that amounted to a “confession,” that were added to his FBI affidavit, which included the following:
…Later in the conversation, according to the photographs, Norwood claimed he was able to beat up police officers because “they were ordered to allow Antifa to get away with anything.” “It worked… I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for,” he wrote in one message. Norwood also claimed in the Facebook messages that he “saw ANTIFA being bussed and in and escorted by the police,” fought four police officers, and took the helmet and body armor from one of them.
Norwood’s messages underscore the scale of the conspiracy theory that Antifa, rather than far-right supporters of then-President Donald Trump, participated in the insurrection to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election…Yet, during and in the aftermath of the insurrections, figures like Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and even Trump himself have pushed the conspiracy theory that “Antifa” participated in the attack. The claim has irritated members of far-right groups who have desired credit for the insurrection, and numerous US intelligence agencies have debunked the myth.
The Greenville (SC) News subsequent newspaper investigation provided a little more information about Norwood, his own statements about the veracity of his allegations (much like others who have made such claims against antifa), and other attributes of how he fits a typical Trumpist/insurrectionist profile:
Prosecutor Max Cauthen referenced the Facebook group chat messages Norwood sent to his family members after the riot: “It worked I got away with things that others were shot or arrested for,” Norwood wrote in one message, according to the federal complaint. “I got a nice helmet and body armor off a cop for God’s sake and I disarmed him. Tell me how that works.” The messages continued: “The cop shot a female Trump supporter. Then allowed ‘ANTIFA Trump supporters’ to assault him. I was one of them. I was there. I took his” (stuff), Norwood wrote. “I fought 4 cops, they did nothing. When I put my red hat on, they pepper balled me.” Testifying Tuesday, Norwood said all of those statements were not true and he wrote those things only to provoke his sister, who has “complete opposite” political ideologies, he said. “It wasn’t true, although I did say it, yes,” he said…He was also a longtime church-goer at First Baptist North Spartanburg church, he said, and sang in a Southern gospel quartet where he would “travel the world and sing,” Norwood said.
Norwood was first interviewed by the FBI voluntarily on Jan. 22, Evanina said. At that time, Norwood told agents the tactical vest and helmet he stole was left in his hotel room in D.C. Norwood said Tuesday that he lied to agents because he was “scared to death”…When he was taken into custody, a U.S. Congress drink coaster, an AR-15 rifle, a Glock .40-caliber handgun and tactical gear were found in his possession.
So – was he lying in his boasting on Facebook about his acts and those of antifa, or lying to the FBI to save his skin?
But “aha” – what about the claims you may seem to vaguely remember about some guy sympathetic to Black Lives Matter, who told people in the Capitol to “burn it down”?
There was indeed an single, individual young man named John Sullivan who was present in the Capitol, and who had said those words as part of a larger address in some context. Here’s how the party organ of conservativism, Fox News, described his involvement and nature:
An anti-Trump activist who once said he wanted to “rip” the president out of office entered the Capitol Building Wednesday alongside a mob of pro-Trump protesters, but he said he was just there to “document” it. “There’s this narrative going around right now that Antifa was the people there causing the riots, causing the tension, they were the only people breaking into the Capitol, and I wanted to be able to tell a part of history and show that that was anything but the case,” John Sullivan, the founder of Utah-based Insurgence USA, told Fox News Thursday. Insurgence USA describes itself as “the revolution.” It began protesting racial injustice in policing last year following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. In August 2020 remarks to a small crowd at a Washington, D.C., intersection, Sullivan pointed to the nearby White House and unleashed a torrent of violent rhetoric. “We…about to burn this s— down,” he said. “We gotta…rip Trump right out of that office right there,” he continued, adding, “We ain’t about…waiting until the next election.” He then led the crowd in a chant of, “It’s time for revolution.” John Sullivan, the anti-Trump founder of Utah-based Insurgence USA, said he entered the Capitol Building Wednesday alongside a mob of pro-Trump protesters, but he said he was just there to “document.”
Sullivan told Fox News he didn’t notice other activists inside the building. But he added that he couldn’t know for sure without speaking to everyone individually. “As far as being able to understand who is in the crowd, based on being around protests a lot … I didn’t see any people who were originally at BLM protests,” he said. Sullivan says he was standing near Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt when she was shot and killed in the Capitol, and video appears to show him on the scene. Sullivan told Fox News he regularly attends protests to record what’s going on, including a clash involving Proud Boys on Tuesday near D.C.’s Black Lives Matter Plaza. “It’s just recording, solely, and not being active in it,” he claimed, although he reportedly was arrested in connection with protests back in Utah over the summer and admitted climbing into the Capitol through a window. His Insurgence USA group’s website advertised an event called “Kick These Fascists out of DC” on Wednesday around the same time as a pro-Trump rally near the National Mall.
A few days later, the investigative journalism outlet The Intercept provided more background on the circumstances, and what made Mr. Sullivan “tick,” referring to the “enigma of ‘Activist John'”:
JOHN SULLIVAN, a self-described activist for racial justice who filmed the fatal shooting of the QAnon cultist Ashli Babbitt during the storming of the U.S. Capitol, was detained in Utah on Thursday on federal charges of interfering with efforts by the police to stop the riot. According to an affidavit submitted to a federal court in Washington, D.C., the FBI determined that Sullivan was not just an observer but a participant in the riot, based on a review of nearly 90 minutes of raw footage of the raid that he recorded on his phone and posted on YouTube.
…John Sullivan, 26, a self-described activist who filmed the raid on the Capitol in Washington last week, was detained on federal charges on Thursday. For the past week, Sullivan’s presence in the Capitol and his previous record of anti-Donald Trump activism has been the focus of frenzied attention in the right-wing media, where the baseless conspiracy theory that pro-Trump rioters were led into violence by left-wing anti-fascist agitators lives on. At the same time, left-wing organizers have been keen to stress that they ejected Sullivan from their ranks months ago, accusing him of being either a right-wing infiltrator or a dangerously naive amateur.
Although Sullivan began describing himself as a journalist in the aftermath of the raid, when his footage of the shooting was licensed by major news organizations, including the Washington Post and MSNBC, his raw footage captured him repeatedly expressing what sounded like genuine enthusiasm for the success of the riot. At one point highlighted in the federal complaint, Sullivan could even be heard trying to convince police officers to abandon their posts and let the rioters seize the House chamber.
…Before Sullivan was arrested on Thursday, The Intercept conducted a careful review of his video of the raid and traced the contours of the heated debate over his true motives for being there that has played out over the past week in right-wing media and among left-wing activists on social networks. Here is that investigation.
…So it came as something of a shock that Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican House minority leader, felt the need during the impeachment debate on Wednesday to try to quash the delusional belief that anti-fascist agitators were to blame for the violence inflicted by the pro-Trump mob, six days after that conspiracy theory had been debunked. “Some say the riots were caused by antifa,” McCarthy told his colleagues. “There is absolutely no evidence of that, and conservatives should be the first to say so”…That’s why, even as federal agents round up rioters around the country with deep ties to the Republican Party, the false claim that the left was responsible for the right’s violence — repeated incessantly on Fox News, One America News, and Infowars — has become an unshakeable article of faith for diehard Trump supporters, no matter how much they are mocked for embracing that fantasy.
Among those pushing that conspiracy theory anyway is McCarthy’s Republican colleague Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, a Trump ally who used his Twitter account to amplify debunked speculation that the pro-Trump mob at the Capitol was led astray by covert anti-fascist infiltrators. The lie that Trump supporters were not to blame for their attack on the U.S. government is part of a desperate effort by the president’s enablers to deflect attention away from his responsibility for inciting a deadly riot — during which, investigators say, the mob fatally injured a police officer, one rioter was fatally shot by the police while storming a barricade, and another, carrying a Gadsden flag, was trampled to death.
Unable to find actual evidence that the pro-Trump hooligans who broke into the Capitol and assaulted the police were left-wing provocateurs, the right-wing mythmakers have seized instead on the incidental presence on the riot’s front lines of a single anti-Trump activist, a Black man from Utah who recorded his “adventure” on video. But while it is true that Sullivan, the Utahn — a former elite speed skater, Uber driver and cybersecurity salesman who reinvented himself as a self-described Black liberation activist last year — did witness the shooting of Babbitt, the QAnon adherent killed trying to break into the House chamber, and filmed the gunshot from close range, there is no evidence that he orchestrated that violent confrontation, or any other.
We know this because Sullivan, who began calling himself “Activist John” last summer when he organized a chaotic protest for racial justice that led Black Lives Matter Utah to denounce him, filmed almost every step he took inside the Capitol on his phone and posted the unedited footage on his JaydenX YouTube channel. Watching Sullivan’s footage makes it obvious that he was not leading but following the rioters as they made their way through police lines into the Capitol, eventually reaching the barricaded door of the Speaker’s Lobby, steps from the House chamber, where Babbitt was shot. That footage, which runs more than an hour in total, offers an unvarnished look at how easily the mob seized the Capitol and how freely they moved around while they were inside. A live CSPAN camera inside the Capitol and Sullivan’s own footage appeared to show that he arrived in the National Statuary Hall — shouting, “It’s our house, motherfuckers!” — near the very front of a group of rioters determined to enter the House chamber. His images, and Sullivan’s excited, real-time commentary on events as they unfolded, also raised questions from skeptics on the left about whether Sullivan was just posing as a right-winger to film the riot or really harbors right-wing sympathies.
Again and again, he can be heard celebrating the success of the riot. “Let’s go!” he shouted after the last police line was breached outside the Capitol. “This shit’s ours! Fuck yeah!” Moments later he turned to a man next to him who was wearing full tactical gear — with a walkie-talkie on his bulletproof vest, zip-tie handcuffs, and a skull-patterned face mask — and shouted: “I can’t believe this is reality! We accomplished this shit, together!” A screenshot from John Sullivan’s raw footage of the storming of the Capitol showing a man he celebrated with. “Fuck yeah, brother!” the man agreed. “Fuck yeah!” Sullivan replied. “This is fucking history! We’re all part of this fucking history!” Minutes later, as the crowd swarmed around the Capitol and Sullivan rushed to join the rioters inside, he said, apparently to himself, “Let’s burn this shit down now, fuck.”
At other points in the storming of the Capitol, Sullivan even urged on the rioters through the megaphone he had previously used to speak at racial justice protests. “Get in that shit! Let’s go! Let’s go! Move! Move! Move! Move! Storm that shit! This shit is ours!” he shouted through the megaphone early in the crowd’s battle to break through police lines on the west side of the Capitol, beneath the inaugural stage. “This is our fucking house!” he added, as his megaphone briefly entered the frame of his video. A minute later, he used it again to tell the crowd to keep pressing: “Hold the line, guys, come on! Hold the line!” A screenshot from John Sullivan’s footage of the storming of the Capitol shows a megaphone he used to urge on the crowd.
Sullivan said later that his apparent joy in the riot as it unfolded was just him “blending in” to evade detection, but it sounded genuine and would seem to fit with his broadly anti-government leanings and his stated desire to see the U.S. government destroyed and replaced. “I’m all for burning the system down and creating something better,” he had said in a livestream commentary on the possibility of civil war two weeks before the November election. “I’m about it. I’m about creating something new, something that works better than what we have in place that gives us more freedom.”
Sullivan’s free-form recording of his journey alongside the mob also reveals that some curious locals entered the Capitol simply to observe the spectacle. As he gazed up in wonder at the dome of the Capitol Rotunda, Sullivan let out a cry of ecstatic delight: “Ohhhh! This is 2021, y’all! This is insanity! Holy shit! What is this? What is life? What is life right now?” Sullivan then asked the man next to him if he knew what the huge painting in front of them was. The man, a Richmond, Virginia, rapper named Bugzie the Don replied: “I don’t even know, but I know we’re in this motherfucker.” “We are, dude, this is unreal,” Sullivan said. “Tell ’em we’re here,” the rapper added, “Bugzie the Don in the building.”
The rapper, who later retweeted a brief video clip of himself and Sullivan inside the Rotunda that was broadcast live on CNN, told me in an Instagram message that he was not there in support of Trump’s delusional fantasies of election fraud. “I’m far from a Trump supporter,” he wrote. “I really don’t even get into politics at all. It was an experience for me and that’s really the only reason I was there.” After the attack, the rapper shared a comment on Instagram that showed a rioter with a Confederate flag inside the Capitol and the message: “Y’all mad a woman is shot dead while storming a Capitol building but don’t care when a woman is shot dead while sleeping in her own house?”
Despite what Sullivan’s footage actually showed, however, to far-right media outlets desperate to blame the left for the mayhem, the presence of Sullivan, who was filmed denouncing Trump at protest in Washington last summer, was a godsend. When Sullivan went on CNN hours after he left the Capitol to offer witness testimony to the killing of Babbitt, he was introduced, inaccurately, as a “left-wing activist.” That description, and a subsequent report from the Deseret News in Utah, which noted that Sullivan faces charges for a protest he organized there in June at which another protester shot a man, set off a frenzy of speculation about him in right-wing outlets, which incorrectly identified him as “a BLM activist.”
In fact, Sullivan is a curious figure who is treated with suspicion or outright hostility by a number of left-wing organizers associated with Black Lives Matter and anti-fascism in Utah, California, and the Pacific Northwest. Months before Sullivan embedded himself in the right-wing mob that broke into Congress, a racial justice activist in Portland warned members of the movement “to not associate with Activist John,” calling him “deceptive, dangerous and daft.” According to the activist, who goes by the name Gila on Twitter, Sullivan was responsible for dozens of protesters getting arrested at a Portland demonstration in September because he argued with local activists about the route to take “and led people down a dark street straight into a police kettle. Even though he had zero knowledge of the area he insisted people follow him and disregarded warnings from security.” Sullivan, the activist wrote, “is living in a fantasy land.” Activists in Salt Lake City, Seattle, and Los Angeles have made similar warnings, and a member of the Seattle protest community shared a detailed briefing document on him headlined “John Sullivan: Naive Organizer or Agent Provocateur?” that has been circulating since November. The anonymous author of that memo also drew attention to the fact that his brother, James Sullivan, is an outspoken Trump supporter, a member of the far-right “Blexit” campaign to convince Black voters to exit the Democratic Party, and spoke at a Proud Boys rally in Portland.
Others on the left are convinced that John Sullivan has no real political convictions and is simply exploiting movements for racial justice and against fascism for personal gain. “Activist John,” they speculate, is a character Sullivan has invented, and the protests he organizes are a kind of performative, karaoke activism. The founder of Black Lives Matter Utah, Lex Scott, responded to a Fox News report calling Sullivan “a BLM activist” with a TikTok statement in which she said he “never has been and never will be” a member of the group and called him “a thorn in our side.”
Two days after the attack on the Capitol, Sullivan confirmed that in a live video stream of his own, saying, “I’m not with BLM the organization. Do I believe personally Black lives matter? I believe Black lives matter. They matter, right? That’s simple, but I don’t believe in the organization, right, I’m not a part of it.” He also added, “I’m not antifa,” before concluding: “It’s pretty simple, you don’t call Black Panthers Martin Luther King.”
Sullivan’s ideology and tactics do seem to be in almost constant flux. After another protester shot a man at the first racial justice demonstration he organized in Provo, Utah, last summer, a local right-wing militia began showing up to subsequent events to police Sullivan’s group. In response, Sullivan first handed the megaphone to a local member of the Proud Boys at his next rally, then arranged firearms training for his small group, and started demonstrating with an assault rifle. Those tactics both enraged right-wing groups and alienated local Black Lives Matter organizers.
…Scott also suggested that Sullivan had “a death wish,” and said that his provocative and incoherent approach to organizing in Utah had provoked such a strong backlash that “every white supremacist in this state hunts him. They want to kill him.” Untroubled by such facts, Brooks, the Trump ally who led the effort to have Congress reject the electoral votes from states the president lost so that he could remain in power, jumped in to amplify a misleading report about Sullivan from the far-right website Townhall, which falsely asserted in a headline that Sullivan had a “History of Organizing Violent Antifa, BLM Protests.” After Sullivan was briefly detained and questioned by the police in Washington on Thursday and then released, Brooks shared the conspiratorial Townhall report and further distorted the truth in an innuendo-laden tweet that concluded: “#BLM & fascist #ANTIFA supporter arrested for role in Capitol assaults, ‘standing next to’ killed Trump supporter.”
The president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, followed by highlighting Sullivan’s presence in the Capitol in a podcast that treated the baseless rumor that the pro-Trump rioters were framed by anti-fascists as fact. But instead of looking closely at the available video evidence of what Sullivan did during the raid on the Capitol — namely, following the crowd and cheering for their success as he filmed — Giuliani focused on video of Sullivan’s comments at a small protest in August when he had urged a handful of protesters gathered in Washington “to fucking rip Trump out of that office over there.” Giuliani made no attempt to explain how Sullivan, by following the Trump supporters into the Capitol, was responsible for their actions. Neither does Giuliani, nor anyone in the right-wing media, reckon with the audio on Sullivan’s recording, which reveals that he voiced almost continual support for the storming of the Capitol, expressing what sounded like genuine delight at the success of the rioters.
What’s more, although Sullivan now claims that he was just there to record the raid on video, on three separate occasions in his recording of the raid, he can be heard intervening on behalf of the rioters with the police. On each occasion, he tried to convince the officers guarding the legislators sheltering from the mob to stand down, abandon their posts, and allow the enraged Trump supporters to get into the House chamber. Those interventions would seem to undermine Sullivan’s claim that he was “just recording” the riot and not participating in it. In each of these exchanges he initiated with the police as he stood at the front of the mob, Sullivan told the officers that he was concerned for their safety and warned that they could get hurt if they did not step aside. The final time he made that plea, he told one of three Capitol police officers guarding the barricaded door just outside the House chamber: “We want you to go home. I’m recording, and there’s so many people; they’re going to push their way up here. Bro, I’ve seen people out there get hurt. I don’t want to see you get hurt.” Again referring to himself as part of the mob, Sullivan told the officer that the rioters would help them leave. “We will make a path,” Sullivan told the officers, unaware that a heavily armed SWAT team was about to arrive to take their place. “We’ll make a path, bro, please, just let us make a path.”
As another rioter leaned in to tell the officers, “We backed you guys this summer. When the whole country hated you, we had your backs!” the officers did, in fact, step aside. At that moment, Sullivan shouted in triumph: “I want you to go home! Go! Go!” He then immediately shouted encouragement to the rioters around him who moved to break down the barricaded door. “Let’s go, get this shit!”
Twenty seconds later, as Sullivan filmed the rioters smashing the glass of the door that was the last thing keeping them from getting at the members of the House inside, he suddenly saw an officer in a suit just beyond the door raise his pistol. He shouted, “There’s a gun!” and panned his phone over to record it. Even after other members of the crowd echoed his warning, Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from San Diego, tried to jump through an opening in the glass and was shot as Sullivan filmed the officer firing his weapon. In the chaotic aftermath of the fatal shooting, Sullivan described what he had seen to a videographer for the far-right conspiracy theory site Infowars, saying that he was sure Babbitt had been killed. “She’s dead. I saw the light go out in her eyes,” Sullivan told Infowars. “I’ll post the video. I have the video of the guy with the gun and him shooting,” he added. “I have it all, I was right at the doors.” When the Infowars cameraman asked for the footage, Sullivan told him, “Dude, this shit’s gonna go viral, bro.”
…When he posted his video of the shooting on Twitter, it did go viral, along with Sullivan’s caption, which described the killing of the Trump supporter as a murder. Despite what sounded like sympathy for the rioters in his comments as the storming of the Capitol unfolded, the focus of right-wing media on Sullivan since then has prompted a wave of threats against him online. From the left, activists and journalists who cover the movements for racial justice and against fascism are enraged at Sullivan for giving the right-wing media material for their conspiracy theory about anti-fascist provocateurs. Talia Jane, a journalist who filmed the right-wing attack on the police outside the Capitol, told me in a message that Sullivan “shows up for attention” and is now “not welcome in leftist activist spaces.” She said that he had tried to join a protest at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington on December 12, when local anti-fascists confronted a contingent of Proud Boys after a pro-Trump rally, and was not allowed to take part.
…Sullivan confirmed Lex Scott’s statement that he is not a member or a supporter of Black Lives Matter and told me he had formed his own group, Insurgence USA, to work for similar goals, like an end to police brutality and racial discrimination. Asked about his politics, he said, “It’s neither right nor left; it’s completely neutral, in the middle. I’ve never voted in my life nor will I probably ever.” That echoed comments Sullivan made in October, two weeks before the election, when he told a handful of viewers following his hourlong YouTube monologue on the possibility of an imminent civil war that he was not interested in “picking sides on right or left,” and even believed that “voting for Trump does not make you racist.” When I asked him to address left-wing critics who accuse him of either harboring secret right-wing sympathies or just exploiting their movement for profit — by selling “bloc gear” on his Insurgence USA website, including gas masks, bulletproof vests, and knives — he dismissed them. “These are all fallacies,” he said…
I only discovered after we hung up that the woman who was stalking Sullivan as he spoke to me was Millie Weaver, an Infowars contributor who filmed her harassment of him and posted a clip on Twitter, where the video went viral and has now been viewed more than 1.2 million times — including by Giuliani, who shared it with a comment blaming Sullivan for the attack on the Capitol. I also asked Sullivan about his brother’s recent claim, in an interview with a right-wing YouTuber, that John was, until recently, a conservative too. Jade Sacker, a filmmaker who is making a documentary about the two brothers — and was filming John as he filmed the riot in the Capitol — told me that the two men, who were both adopted, were raised in a deeply conservative military family. Their parents, Sacker said, are so right-wing that they refuse to watch Fox News, considering it too liberal. John Sullivan flatly denied that he had ever been a conservative. “I’ve never, even to this day, had a political ideology,” he said. He also maintained that his activist organization, Insurgence USA, which promotes protests and sells gear to people who want to attend, was not political. “No, it’s not, not in the least,” he said.
…Whatever his motives for being among the rioters, it is important to be clear about what Sullivan did not do with his footage of right-wing rioters forcing their way into the Capitol, overwhelming police officers, and forcibly shattering glass in the barricaded door to the Speaker’s Lobby. He made no effort to distort the footage of the pro-Trump crowd through misleading editing to make them look bad. In other words, whatever Sullivan’s politics, if any, he did not emulate any of the techniques commonly used by right-wing video journalists who attend left-wing protests with the goal of discrediting the protesters by recording acts of violence and stripping them of all context. Inside the Capitol, moments after Babbitt was killed, Sullivan could be heard on camera identifying himself to the rioters around him as “an activist.” In the days since then, once he sold his footage of Babbitt’s shooting to news organizations, including NBC and the Washington Post, Sullivan has started to describe himself himself as a journalist instead of an activist. On Sunday, he changed the self description on the homepage of his website — which appeared as a line of text over a photograph of himself protesting in tactical gear with an assault rifle outside the Utah state Capitol last summer — from “Activist. Athlete. Motivational Speaker.” to “Activist. Video Journalist. Athlete.”
By Monday morning, he had updated that text to “Video Journalist. Activist. Athlete.” On Tuesday, he replaced the cover image of him protesting with a loop from his video of the pro-Trump mob attacking the barricaded door outside the House and the gun being drawn that would kill Babbitt, and the self-description was updated again, to just “Video Journalist.” The sudden transformation of his public persona from activist to video journalist was complete by Wednesday, when Sullivan responded to a skeptical question during a live YouTube Q&A by saying that Insurgence USA, the activist group he founded last year to fight for racial justice, “is not antifa; it’s a media company, actually. You can look it up, it’s an LLC. It’s a media company that I created, and it is also a platform that I like to use as far as telling a lot of stories that are out there”…Also on Friday, Rudy Giuliani tweeted and then deleted a screenshot from a text message that appears to have been sent by James Sullivan, John’s far-right brother, who claimed he was “working with the FBI” to place blame for the Capitol riot on John and “226 members of antifa.” Rudy Giuliani just tweeted out a screen grab of a text conversation with someone, that contained a phone number for a “James Sullivan,” where he says he is working on blaming Antifa for the suspect John Sullivan, who is in fact a Proud Boy.
The official affidavit filed by an FBI Special agent who interviewed Sullivan after the January 6 event and filed with the court to recommend his arrest, which documents the aforementioned statements and actions of Sullivan, can be found at the Justice Department website here.
I think what we may be able to ascertain from this confusing narrative is that Sullivan, a twenty-something African American young man, may be very confused while also opportunistic, exploitative and ambitious with a contradictory and simplistic ideology, but evidently a “lone gunman” loner of sorts, and nothing like the sea of thirty to fifty-something businessmen, policemen and similar figures who worked in coordinated movements with professional military-style weaponry and obvious pre-planning all around him that day. He also represents a modern-day population of nihilistic thrill seekers who seek to gain meaning in life by jumping in with the latest “event” be it a protest or riot; I suspect a similar sub-crowd of such folk often participate in the many “Black Lives Matter” and other racial protests or counter-protest standoffs that have occurred across the country as well.
So – it may be true that a right-wing militia-man bragged about masquerading as a black-clad antifa anarchist at the insurrection grounds, and one or two confused, drifting souls like John Sullivan followed the crowd, with their own selfish and murky agendas that caused concerns of both left and right-wing activists, but at least we could rely on the high-profile “patriots” on the right that were on the scene for being true to the values they claim to the public that they cling to, and to be willing to sacrifice their lives and personal freedoms to stop elections that might otherwise permit those of other cultures and ethnicities to participate in the democracy previously thought to be the exclusive property of Anglo-Saxon, Protestant residents? They may be militant, violent hotheads that worship Odin or even Mars alongside a triumphalist version of Jesus, but at least we can trust the “purity” and genuine nature of their values and mission, regardless of how eyebrow-raising are their methods, and at least the faithful loyalty of their leadership to their fellow citizens and each other – right?
Well…reports such as those by the New York Times, published even before the month of the insurrection ended (January 2020), reveal that the top leadership who had planned the insurrection and the most violent and organized assaults and operations may have had other agendas and people they answered to:
Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys, a far-right nationalist group that is a major target of the sprawling investigation into the riot at the Capitol this month, has a history of cooperating with law enforcement, according to court records and a former prosecutor. The stunning revelation that Mr. Tarrio, who leads one of the country’s most notorious extremist groups, helped the F.B.I. and local police departments go after more than a dozen criminal defendants about a decade ago was first reported by Reuters on Wednesday. The news emerged as Mr. Tarrio himself has fallen under scrutiny for his role in encouraging the Proud Boys to attend a “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6, after which a mob of hundreds broke into the Capitol, disrupting the final certification of the presidential election.
“He cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises,” the former prosecutor, Vanessa Singh Johannes, said in a statement. The court transcript, which documents a hearing in 2014 where Mr. Tarrio sought to reduce his own sentence in a fraud case, shows that he helped law enforcement officers in his home state, Florida, to investigate and prosecute criminal enterprises, including an illegal gambling business, a marijuana grow lab, an operation that sold anabolic steroids and an immigrant smuggling ring.
Mr. Tarrio did not respond to messages from The New York Times seeking comment, but he denied to Reuters that he had ever worked undercover or cooperated with law enforcement. “I don’t know any of this,” he said. “I don’t recall any of this.” Mr. Tarrio, 36, has been a focus of the F.B.I.’s enormous inquiry into the Capitol attack, which has led so far to more than 150 arrests, including those of at least six members of the Proud Boys. The group of self-described “Western chauvinists” has a history of scuffling in street fights with left-wing antifascist activists and has made a name for itself in recent years for its vocal — and often violent — support of former President Donald J. Trump. Although Mr. Tarrio went to Washington earlier this month, he was arrested by the local police on suspicion of burning a Black Lives Matter banner torn from one of the city’s Black churches during a separate round of protests in December. After he was thrown out of the city by a judge, he posted messages online encouraging the Proud Boys to attend the rally on Jan. 6, not in their typical black-and-yellow polo shirts, but instead “incognito.” Federal agents cited the messages in their criminal complaint against one of Mr. Tarrio’s top lieutenants, Joseph Biggs, who was arrested last week.
Mr. Tarrio’s criminal history reaches back to at least 2004 when he was convicted of stealing a $50,000 motorcycle. In 2012, he was charged with fraud in Miami in connection with a scheme to sell loads of diabetes test kits that co-defendants had stolen from a truck in Kentucky and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. “He was kind of like the marketing person,” his lawyer, Jeffrey Feiler, said at the time.
In July 2014, Mr. Feiler went to court to ask a federal judge to reduce Mr. Tarrio’s sentence, arguing that his client had cooperated “in a significant way” in two other federal cases, leading to the prosecution of 13 people. Mr. Feiler also noted that Mr. Tarrio had worked undercover for police departments in Miami and Hialeah, at times putting himself at risk. “I find that the defendant has provided substantial assistance in the investigation and prosecution of other persons involved in criminal conduct,” the judge in Mr. Tarrio’s case, Joan A. Lenard, ruled. She ultimately cut his sentence to 16 months. While there is no evidence that Mr. Tarrio has continued to help the authorities fight crime, Mr. Feiler believed at the time that his client was good at it. “Frankly, in all the years, which is now more than 30 that I’ve been doing this,” he said at the hearing, “I’ve never had a client as prolific in terms of cooperating in any respect.”
There are several thoughts this revelation may suggest. First of all, it should be a surprise to no one that an organization respected on some level by many on the right for “doing something” to address the “lawless” antifa when law enforcement does not engage, and the supposed “criminal enterprise” of Democrats and leftists purported to overthrow the Constitution by letting the votes of the people stand, is in fact themselves led by and teeming with brigands of a notable and lengthy criminal past (and sometimes present) themselves. Secondly, that these brave, selfless “patriots” should be cowardly enough when held accountable by “the man” to rat on their fellow criminals for their own selfish personal interests and protection. Third, that they should be very good at hiding their underground operation for and financed by the government they later publicly pretend to want to overthrow. And lastly, the very real potential now that such valuable “inside assets” might be deployed by the government again to monitor and even control subversive organizations, even as the FBI did in the 60s under COINTELPRO within the Black Panthers and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, including as potential provocateurs – and that the public would not be aware until these cornered individuals “outed” themselves or by their counsel when they were indicted by other means. This does not prove he was in the secret employ of some facet of the government, but it is very “convenient” that he was arrested days before the January 6 insurrection so that he might be kept away and provide an alibi so as not be implicated in those more serious crimes – an old technique often used with cooperating and infiltrating mob figures, or even plants within the Ku Klux Klan, while still keeping their cover – until now. If such a relationship still existed, it is not clear what element of the government might have used such a person surreptitiously – even possibly pro-insurrection sects within the government that desired the Proud Boys to do their “dirty work” that day as agents provocateur, such as the “Minutemen”/Secret Army Organization used in the early 70s by the White House and FBI to discredit and justify eradication efforts of the peace movement, including plans exposed at trial to literally “blow up” the 1972 Republican Convention in San Diego with explosives while dressed as Vietnam Veterans Against the War, as exposed in the Los Angeles courts and press.
At that time, The Associated Press also added that “After Tarrio’s 2012 indictment, he helped the government prosecute more than a dozen other people, the federal prosecutor told the judge, according to the transcript. Tarrio’s lawyer said he was the first defendant to cooperate in the case and was also involved in a variety of police undercover operations involving things like anabolic steroids and prescription narcotics. ‘From day one, he was the one who wanted to talk to law enforcement, wanted to clear his name, wanted to straighten this out so that he could move on with his life. And he has in fact cooperated in a significant way,’ the prosecutor said, according to the transcript.”
As an aside, Tarrio’s hometown newspaper the Miami New Times provided additional details to Tarrio’s meteoric rise within the Proud Boys:
Tarrio was courted by a veteran Proud Boy at a May 2017 Miami mansion party for rightwing provocateur and internet troll [and flamboyant gay activist and evangelical favorite] Milo Yiannopoulos, toasting a pending lawsuit against Simon & Schuster over the cancellation of a book deal. Tarrio wasn’t present in any official capacity; he’d been asked to provide doorway security for the fancy bacchanal in his role as proprietor of Spie Security LLC, which provided consulting and security services. But that’s how he met Proud Boy Alex Gonzalez, future president of the Miami Proud Boys…Over the week that followed, Tarrio rebuffed Gonzalez’s repeated attempts to induct him into what he called a fraternal “drinking club,” the kind of place where grown men could get away from their families and be themselves without fear of reprisal for political incorrectness.
Tarrio, 33 years old at the time, was already once-divorced (after a brief marriage in his early twenties) and was working at Spie Security when he wasn’t “shaking hands and kissing babies” on the campaign trail for Lorenzo Palomares, a Republican vying for the Florida Senate. After a few days of prodding, though, he relented. He was intrigued about the group and its founder, Gavin McInnes, the Canadian co-founder of Vice magazine who became an extreme far-right online commentator…“Before me — and they hate it when I say this — they were the Gavin McInnes fan club,” Tarrio says. “We weren’t really political.” From that initial meeting in May 2017, Tarrio rocketed through the ranks. Within his first year, he was being invited to the Breakers resort in Palm Beach for breakfast with former Trump strategist Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who at the time was a member of the president’s inner circle. They were meeting with McInnes to discuss upcoming elections.
In August of 2017, Tarrio and other Proud Boys were present at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The event, which was widely attended by white nationalists and hate groups, is best remembered for the death of Heather Heyer, a counterprotester who was killed when a participant rammed his car into a crowd…With his growing connections, Tarrio started to steer the group in a decidedly political direction. The Proud Boys continued making headlines. No longer for drinking beers together and going over the finer points of McInnes’ podcast, but for brawling with anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter protesters at rallies and counterprotests across the nation. Their hard-to-overlook ties to white supremacy earned them a “hate group” designation from the Southern Poverty Law Center in February of 2018. Tarrio often japes about the designation, embracing his title as a hate group leader when talking to journalists. In November of 2018, seven Proud Boys were arrested for a violent street fight in New York and the FBI designated the organization as an extremist group, like the far-right Oath Keepers.
Though Tarrio recognized an opportunity, he hesitated; he was already president of the local Vice City chapter. But he didn’t want the group’s then-attorney, Jason Lee “J.L.” Van Dyke, to take the reins, either…(Van Dyke would later be accused of trying to use members of the Proud Boys’ Arizona chapter to assist in a failed assassination plot against Thomas Christopher Retzlaff, whom Van Dyke had sued for defamation…)
When the feds stepped in right before the January 6 event and forcibly took away Proud Boys leader Tarrio from the scene of the crime, either to try to prevent their violent engagement that day, or to protect their insider plant at the top (time will tell), the Proud Boys had contingency plans already for a succession of powers, and actually transferring the authority of “war powers” for the big day, according to CNN:
Federal prosecutors say a Seattle-area resident was nominated to have “war powers” to lead the Proud Boys on January 6, as they continue to allege that members of the Trump-supporting extremist group were prepping, communicating and organizing an attack on the Capitol.
Ethan Nordean, who will appear in court Tuesday, was allegedly ready to step in and lead the Proud Boys’ violent push to overtake the US Capitol, a new court filing said, after the group’s leader, Enrique Tarrio, was arrested and then told to stay away from Washington, DC. “Following the arrest of the Proud Boys’ Chairman on January 4, 2021, Defendant was nominated from within to have ‘war powers‘ and to take ultimate leadership of the Proud Boys’ activities on January 6, 2021,” prosecutors wrote in a court filing Monday arguing to keep Nordean imprisoned. “Defendant — dressed all in black, wearing a tactical vest — led the Proud Boys through the use of encrypted communications and military style equipment, and he led them with the specific plans to: split up into groups, attempt to break into the Capitol building from as many different points as possible, and prevent the Joint Session of Congress from Certifying the Electoral College results,” prosecutors added.
As part of their efforts, the group distributed Chinese-made Baofeng multifrequency radios, planned to meet at the Washington Monument at 10 a.m. and intentionally abandoned President Donald Trump’s speech railing against the election to get in position to overtake the Capitol, prosecutors said. “Defendant and those he was leading were not present for any part of the speech, because hearing the speech was not in their plan,” the Justice Department filing said about Nordean. “While other persons who would later participate in the Capitol riot were watching former President Trump speak, Defendant was leading Proud Boys members on a march around the Capitol and positioning them at an entrance to the Capitol grounds that was guarded by only a handful of Capitol Police officers.”
In Washington, a federal prosecutor said Monday that another Proud Boys member, Dominic Pezzola, had ordered a radio from Amazon ahead of January 6 and was trying to make sure it worked around that time…Investigators have said he picked up a riot shield in the scrum around the Capitol — and in the group’s scheme for the day, was “a warrior,” Kenerson said in court on Monday. Pezzola’s defense attorney has tried to distance him from the Proud Boys and argued he was nonviolent. The lawyer, Jonathan Zucker…also downplayed investigators finding a thumb drive with instructions for building explosives and weapons in Pezzola’s home, saying he hadn’t built a bomb.
The Justice Department also made note on Monday of the Proud Boys’ plan not to wear identifying uniforms or colors. “By blending in and spreading out, Defendant [Nordean] and those following him on January 6 made it more likely that either a Proud Boy — or a suitably-inspired ‘normie’ — would be able to storm the Capitol and its ground in such a way that would interrupt the Certification of the Electoral College vote,” the Justice Department filing said. “Defendant understood full well that the men he was leading as he charged past law enforcement and onto the Capitol grounds were likely to destroy government property, or attempt to do so.” Prosecutors have alleged Nordean was crowdsourcing money and tactical equipment before the riot as well. The new court filing documents a series of conversations Nordean is alleged to have had with people wanting to donate tactical vests, steel plates, bear mace and, in one instance, $1,000 to the Proud Boys for a travel fund before January 6.
Military operations by organized combatants without wearing or displaying your “colors” is the very definition of “false flag” engagements in international law, and violation of international treaties.
One of the reasons for the employment of the methods of plants and infiltration in organizations that ran afoul of the FBI, like the Klan, Black Panthers and peace movements, beyond gathering intelligence and being agents provocateur to stage violent events to discredit the groups, was to create a sense of distrust and paranoia within the group, breaking its unity and cohesion and thus fatally weakening it, once the presence of plants was made known, or even suspected. This was certainly true in the wake of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio disclosure of being a prior (or current) government informant, as this story from Business Insider attests:
The far-right Proud Boys group appears to be in chaos after evidence surfaced that its main leader, Enrique Tarrio, previously served as an FBI informant. Tarrio’s history with the FBI was reported by Reuters on January 28, several weeks after the riot at the US Capitol where members of the “male chauvinist” street gang played a prominent role. Tarrio had been arrested shortly ahead of the insurrection on destruction-of-property charges. Reuters obtained a transcript of a 2014 court proceeding in which Tarrio’s lawyer acknowledged his role as an informant in multiple cases unrelated to the Proud Boys, a group that was founded in 2016.
Since the January 6 riot, the group has been thrown into disarray, with Tarrio’s history as an informant — which he denied to Reuters — spreading paranoia. The group is split into various regional groups, or chapters. The Daily Beast reported on Sunday that the revelation about Tarrio prompted chapters in Alabama, Oklahoma, and Indiana to distance themselves from the central leadership. On Telegram, the encrypted app favored by the group after it was barred by other platforms, its main channel was recently renamed. This, say experts, indicates that many adherents no longer want to be associated with the Proud Boys name. “The Telegram channel dropping the name, different chapters breaking off from the national leadership, it all speaks to a rift that’s occurring in the Proud Boys,” said Jared Holt, a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab to USA Today. “That brand has become too toxic.”
Samantha Kutner, an expert on the group who has worked with the International Terrorism Center, told Insider that its loose structure had previously allowed leaders to distance themselves from chapters who broke the law. “This kind of plausible deniability built into their operating structure enabled them to mainstream their views, but as a subject matter expert, there is too much scrutiny on them to maintain their cover,” she wrote in an email. She said that the Proud Boys trademark had recently been surrendered, and that “this suggests a recognition that the group is no longer viable as a legal entity by interim leadership.” “Their success will be contingent on how well they maintain ties to conservative or Trump loyalists still in power,” she wrote. And to add to its woes, the group was designated as a terrorist group by the Canadian government on February 3. Canada’s public-safety minister, Bill Blair, said the group’s “pivotal role” in the Capitol riot influenced the designation, which allows authorities to freeze its assets and allows its members to be charged under terrorism laws in connection to violent crimes.
The group was founded by the Vice Media cofounder Gavin McInnes, a Canadian. He has since distanced himself from the group.
They gained notoriety for their involvement in violent clashes with Black Lives Matter supporters and antifa activists in cities across the US. As president, Donald Trump boosted the group’s profile when he told the Proud Boys to “stand by” when challenged by Joe Biden about white nationalist groups during their first presidential debate. Insider reported that the group sought to capitalize on Trump’s endorsement on Telegram, using the president’s comments to lure in new recruits and sell merchandise.
You should not shed too many tears over the suggested demise of the notorious Proud Boys. It turns out they have new plans to make their presence felt, vigilante style, a the upcoming mid-term elections, according to reports:
They showed up last month outside the school board building in Beloit, Wis., to protest school masking requirements. They turned up days later at a school board meeting in New Hanover County, N.C., before a vote on a mask mandate. They also attended a gathering in Downers Grove, Ill., where parents were trying to remove a nonbinary author’s graphic novel from public school libraries.
Members of the Proud Boys, the far-right nationalist group, have increasingly appeared in recent months at town council gatherings, school board presentations and health department question-and-answer sessions across the country. Their presence at the events is part of a strategy shift by the militia organization toward a larger goal: to bring their brand of menacing politics to the local level. For years, the group was known for its national profile. The Proud Boys were prominent at the rallies of Donald J. Trump, at one point offering to serve as the former president’s private militia. On Jan. 6, some Proud Boys members filmed themselves storming the U.S. Capitol to protest what they falsely said was an election that had been stolen from Mr. Trump. But since federal authorities have cracked down on the group for the Jan. 6 attack, including arresting more than a dozen of its members, the organization has been more muted. Or at least that was how it appeared.
Away from the national spotlight, the Proud Boys instead quietly shifted attention to local chapters, some members and researchers said. In small communities — usually suburbs or small towns with populations of tens of thousands — its followers have tried to expand membership by taking on local causes. That way, they said, the group can amass more supporters in time to influence next year’s midterm elections. “The plan of attack if you want to make change is to get involved at the local level,” said Jeremy Bertino, a prominent member of the Proud Boys from North Carolina. The group had dissolved its national leadership after Jan. 6 and was being run exclusively by its local chapters, Mr. Bertino said. It was deliberately involving its members in local issues, he added.
That focus is reflected in the Proud Boys’ online activity. On the encrypted messaging app Telegram, the Proud Boys’ main group in the United States has barely budged in number — with about 31,000 followers — over the last year. But over a dozen new Telegram channels have emerged for local Proud Boys chapters in cities such as Seattle and Philadelphia over that same period, according to data collected by The New York Times. Those local Telegram groups have rapidly grown from dozens to hundreds of members. Other far-right groups that were active during Mr. Trump’s presidency, such as the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, have followed the same pattern, researchers said. They have also expanded their local groups in states such as Pennsylvania, Texas and Michigan and are less visible nationally. “We’ve seen these groups adopt new tactics in the wake of Jan. 6, which have enabled them to regroup and reorganize themselves,” said Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab who researches domestic extremist groups. “One of the most successful tactics they’ve used is decentralizing.”
…By the 2020 election, the Proud Boys — who often wear distinctive black-and-yellow uniforms — had become the largest and most public of the militias…After the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, the group grew disillusioned with Mr. Trump. The president distanced himself from the riot and declined to offer immunity to those who were involved…That was when the Proud Boys began concentrating on local issues, Mr. Holt said. But as local chapters flourished, he said, the group “increased their radical tendencies” because members felt more comfortable taking extreme positions in smaller circles. Many Proud Boys’ local chapters have now taken on causes tied to the coronavirus pandemic, with members showing up at protests over mask mandates and mandatory vaccination policies, according to researchers who study extremism. This year, members of the Proud Boys were recorded at 145 protests and demonstrations, up from 137 events in 2020, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a nonprofit that monitors violence. But the data most likely understates the Proud Boys’ activities because it doesn’t include school board meetings and local health board meetings, said Shannon Hiller, the executive director of the Bridging Divides Initiative, a nonpartisan research group that tracks political violence.
…On the Proud Boys’ local Telegram channels, members often share news articles and video reports about students who were barred from schools for refusing to wear a mask or employees who were fired over a vaccine requirement. Some make plans to appear at protests to act as “muscle,” with the goal of intimidating the other side and attracting new members with a show of force, according to the Telegram conversations viewed by The Times…At some local meetings where the Proud Boys have shown up, they have spoken and threatened community leaders, according to news reports. At others, they have simply stood silently and watched. In the Telegram groups, some boasted that they had handed out their cellphone numbers to those interested in joining them. While the Proud Boys’ membership is not public, Mr. Holt said the group appeared to be growing in small towns and counties.
Often, their presence has been enough to disrupt events. Last month, the school board in Beloit, Wis., said it canceled classes because some of the Proud Boys were at a local protest over mask requirements. In Orange County, Calif., the school board said in September that it would install metal detectors and hire extra security after several Proud Boys attended a meeting and threatened its members.
In New Hanover County, N.C., which has roughly 220,000 people and is two hours north of Charlotte, Stefanie Adams, the school board president, said she had read about the group’s increasing appearances and began tracking the reports closely…Last month, Ms. Adams was notified by the board’s head of security, which she had hired for the monthly meetings, that some Proud Boys were outside the building for the mask mandate vote. Five Proud Boys eventually entered the room and stood in the back, Ms. Adams said. They folded their arms across their tactical vests and wore matching T-shirts with images of a rooster, the group’s insignia. While they did not speak publicly, video footage from the two-hour meeting showed them clapping and cheering as anti-mask speakers made their case.
To be fair to Mr. Tarrio, The Proud Boys, the FBI, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Norwood and others who are part of this shameful episode whom we have either confirmed as having been deceptive and duplicitous, or exhibiting circumstantial evidence that might suggest it, there are many others who have participated in their own form of “false flag” deception surrounding these events. The last few years of this blog have documented how the top Christian celebrities and leaders don’t always “play their hand” of their hidden agendas in public statements like they do in smaller circles, such as national “prophet” Lance Wallnau. During the week that I write this piece, the Congressional January 6 Investigation select committee released mere days ago texts they have collected already showing agendas of fellow congressional officials, most of whom they have not identified as of yet, who played roles in trying to address the insurrection in ways counter to their public personas; to date, only Jim Jordan has confirmed his private texts, such as texts to Trump Chief of Staff Meadows, recommending that the votes and electoral delegates of states whose results they do not like be summarily thrown out, for no other confirmed reason – however, as I write this sentence, reports on air this moment now finger former Texas Governor (and evangelical favorite) Rick Perry as another source of a text to Meadows recommending disallowing the votes of these states and allowing Republican state assemblies to pick them, sent the day after the election itself, and before any of these votes were even finished being counted. They did identify the authors of other texts imploring Meadows to get President Trump, whom they identified clearly as being the originator of the insurrection (unlike their public positions), to stop the carnage, such as his own eldest son and advisor (and heir apparent) Donald Trump Jr., and several of the most popular (particularly with evangelical Christians) Fox News hosts, who privately expressed different views about the causes of the insurrection and its nature than what they stated to the public on air.
Fox News hosts privately begged then-President Donald Trump to act during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, according to text messages to then-White House chief-of-staff Mark Meadows. Those texts were read aloud by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on Monday night during a hearing of the House select committee investigating the riot. Fox News did not air the hearing, though CNN and MSNBC did.
“Mark, the President needs to tell people in the Capitol to go Home. This is hurting all of us,” texted Laura Ingraham. “He is destroying his legacy.”
“Please get him on TV,” said Brian Kilmeade. “Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
“Can he make a statement, ask people to leave the Capitol,” asked Sean Hannity.
However, on the air, the Fox News hosts sang a different tune the violence.
On the night of January 6, Ingraham repeatedly suggested that the worst rioters might not have been MAGA at all, arguing Antifa was “sprinkled” through the crowd and saying she’d never seen Trump supporters armed or armored at rallies. “I have never seen Trump rally attendees wearing helmets, black helmets, brown helmets. Black backpacks. The uniforms that you saw in some of these crowd shots. Have you ever seen them wearing… those knee pads and the, you know, all of the pads on their elbows?” she said to The Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway. “I just, I mean, I’ve been to a lot of these rallies. I know you, you both have covered them. I have never seen that before. Ever.”
On his radio program that day, Hannity appeared to defend the rioters. “Apparently a standoff outside of the House door chambers. Not sure why, they knew this was coming,” he said on his radio program. “They knew there was going to be a march. They knew they were heading to the Capitol. I’m not surprised. I am surprised that they didn’t have more of a police presence there when they got there.”
…Kilmeade expressed opposition to holding Trump accountable for Jan. 6, but condemned the riot on January 6.
During the days of instability of the wobbly German Weimer Republic in the 1920s and 30s, the times were rife with intrigues, intimidation, misdirection, aborted insurrections and recoveries, scapegoating, armed and decorated vigilante storm troopers in the streets, political meetings and speaking halls, and outright false-flag events such as the Reichstag fire, and later, when they saw that that was “bought” by the public, the eventual fake “invasion” by Polish troops that led to the beginning operations of World War II. Germany was a very advanced “Christian” nation with a strong church with a brave legacy and much influence (both Protestant and Catholic). They were ideally positioned to discern the events that were transpiring and where they might lead, as an institution well-versed in Foxe’s Box of Martyrs, the stories of Nero and the scapegoating of Christians and the degeneracy of dictator-led Rome and its debauched citizens, and the long history of martyrdom in the narratives of history. As an institution they prided themselves on being the wise, discerning head as well as heart of their society, and self-appointed leaders and role models in their nation’s collective ethics and morals as well as spirit. The Church and its Christian citizens looked the other way when violent thugs began to be more prevalent in the streets and extremist politicians and groups began to make more outlandish threats and agendas, assuming they would eventually “calm down” in a modern society. Most of the Christian leaders did not want to raise their voice and thus lose their place in ecclesiastical leadership, of which the State still had influence, just like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. Some of them secretly liked when the organized thugs struck out against their ethnic or religious rivals, like the praise given after Kristallnacht that “Luther’s dreams had been fulfilled.” The Church and its Christian citizens liked how their controversial leader, despised by the rest of the world, had “made Germany great again” and even “made the trains run on time,” and restored them from economic decline to their great wealth, regardless of who on the margins was paying the price. They eventually sang louder in church to drown out the screams of the Jews in the rail cars that went by, or the gunshots in the suburban neighborhood concentration camps such as the one my wife and I toured outside Berlin.
The pampered church in America today has their historical example for which to be the wiser. And yet, are they responding to this scenario any differently, particularly here in the Bible Belt?
Please check out my latest book, Two Masters and Two Gospels, Volume 1: The Teaching of Jesus Vs. the “Leaven of the Pharisees” in Talk Radio and Cable News. It is available at Amazon in paperback, hard cover and Kindle, Barnes and Noble in paperback, hardcover, dust cover, and NOOK (Epub), Walmart in paperback and hardcover, Books a Million in paperback, hardcover and ebook form, at the UK Gardners book chain distributor in paperback and hardcover, and in ebook form at Apple Books, Kobo, and many other places. The BookBaby Bookshop also has a special deal, offering all three ebook versions (Kindle, EPUB and pdf) for one price, and with an email address left at checkout, I will send an additional special written work not available for sale. Links to audio interviews about the book and new announcements can be found at my personal book site, www.mikebennettbooks.com, and my publisher’s site, www.akribospress.com.
Please, PLEASE, pass on the word about this blog and my book(s) in your social media circles, on blogs and forums, Youtube and personal family, friend and church contacts, because that is the ONLY way this conversation on these supremely important topics of our spiritual destiny and decisions and actions of eternal consequence will continue and expand on wider circles, since I have no staff or other outfit focused on publicity or public relations to engage social circles and influencers I am unable to reach with my limits on promotional time, activities, capabilities, connections and venues. Let’s work together to learn, grow and act in ever wider circles and influence, asking neglected and important questions, and expanding the Kingdom of Heaven, in our hearts, communities and societies!