Editor’s note: We put together the newsletter on Thursdays so there’s no mention of yesterday’s Synagogue shooting beyond this point. However I want to flag that amplifying the shooter’s so-called manifesto is problematic and ask readers (especially our reporter and editor readers) not to do it. Think of these documents as the shooter’s press kit, a way to control the narrative and leverage their act of terrorism to mainstream hate. The more attention these documents continue to get, the more likely it is that others will imitate them. -Melissa
by Melissa Ryan
This week all of our newsletter content centers on the American far-right militia movement. It’s a pertinent topic given the arrest of Larry Hopkins, leader of United Constitutional Patriots (UCP) a far-right militia group operating along the U.S. Border in New Mexico. The group made headlines recently for a series of viral videos on social media showing them “stopping groups of migrant families and detaining them at gunpoint before handing them over to Border Patrol agents.” The videos and Hopkins’ arrest serve as a reminder that far-right vigilantism in America is thriving.
UCP have been using the videos to recruit and fundraise for their activities online for months now. Slate’s April Glaser has a good rundown on the social media strategy that both UCP and other militia groups use (and Facebook’s crucial role in creating their virality.) These groups are now being deplatformed by payment processors and Facebook’s own fundraising platform, which will hopefully have a significant and negative impact on their finances. But thanks to Fox News, they’ll still have plenty of eyeballs on their activities.
Far-right militia groups are nothing new in America. Daily Kos’ David Neiwert, who has been covering the far right for years, has written a comprehensive rundown of their history. (Neiwert’s book Alt-America also covers these movements in great detail and does a fantastic job connecting them to our current political climate.) Pacific Standard’s Jack Herrera also has a piece detailing the militia movement’s racist history.
Extremist groups have a lot of political clout in the US right now. Trump and the GOP treat them as a valuable political constituency group. Just this week alone Idaho’s GOP lieutenant governor gave pro-gun militia members a National Guard oath at state capitol (which Idaho’s Post Register wrote an editorial to denounce). Meanwhile in Washington State, GOP State Rep. Matt Shea’s Signal chats linking him to white nationalists haven’t led to any repercussions from the Washington Republican Caucus. And Vice News broke the story that Twitter doesn’t automatically ban white supremacists like they did with members of Isis because “content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material.”
Given all the political power extremists have amassed I was genuinely surprised by Hopkins’ arrest. FBI Director Christopher Wray has acknowledged that white nationalist violence is a “persistent, pervasive threat” but realistically the Trump Administration’s Justice Department won’t making combatting it a priority. Make no mistake, these militia groups are domestic terrorists. They’re a threat to migrants attempting to cross the border and to American national security more broadly. I’ll be interested to see if this arrest was a sign of more to come or simply an isolated blip.
Be sure to check out our other related articles below. HOPE not hate’s Joe Mulhall met and interacted with Larry Hopkins in 2016 and wrote about his experience. And Patrik Hermansson has a new report on The Base, a growing transatlantic militia movement that’s been recruiting and training far-right foot soldiers.
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An Eye on ‘The Base’: Transatlantic Militant Fascists Continue to Interact
by Patrik Hermansson
Formed in July 2018, The Base is a mainly-US militant fascist network which aims to encourage members of its forum to meet up with others in their local area to “Learn the skills that will keep you alive when society at large wants you dead”. It has described itself as an “international fraternal network of survivalists” but content posted online tells a story of a militant white supremacist group that promote violence and aim to instigate racial conflict.
The group was exposed in November 2018 when a number of internal chat logs and members were exposed, yet it continues to be active, not least in encouraging its ideas to spread to abroad as well.
My Time in the Desert with a Recently Arrested Militia Leader
by Joe Mulhall, HOPE not hate Senior Researcher
Over the weekend news broke that the FBI had arrested Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the commander of a private militia group called the United Constitutional Patriots, on a federal complaint charging him with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. It has since been claimed that his group were training to assassinate Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton and George Soros.
At first I didn’t recognise the name, but when I saw a picture of him, I realised I knew him. In late 2016 I would meet Hopkins after I convinced another militia group, the Borderkeepers of Alabama, to let me accompany them on their trip to the Mexican border. The group’s leader, who carried a.45 Glock pistol strapped to his leg at all times, told me “Our country is being invaded… We are the wall, for now”.
Research/Projects: ‘Russian Interference, and Where to Find It’
A new study from Anton Shekhovtsov and the European Platform for Democratic Elections identifies the key factors that “influence the occurrence of Russian interference in international elections”.
Shekhovtsov, a leading academic on Russian international interference campaigns and Russia’s relationship to the Western far right, provides an insightful analysis, drawing attention to how each case of Russian interference is “special and quite the opposite of routinised practice, as suggested by the mainstream media.”
- The Black Feminists Who Saw the Alt-Right Threat Coming (Slate)
- WikiLeaks and Fox News Are Silent on the Debunked Seth Rich Conspiracy Theory (Rolling Stone)
- Don’t Call 6-Week Abortion Bans “Heartbeat” Bills. Here’s Why. (Planned Parenthood Action Fund)
- Tucker Carlson’s Wild New Talking Point Is That Abortion Is Somehow a Tool of “Corporate” Oppression (Media Matters)
- The Cybersecurity 202: Cybersecurity proposal pits cyber pros against campaign finance hawks (Washington Post)
- Neo-nazi’s Facebook Account Left Active (BBC News)
- Hackers Could Target the 2020 Election. How Will Newsrooms Respond if They Release Stolen Data? (CNN)
Want even more links? Support us on Patreon to receive a second ICYMI Patreon post just for CARD members.
This week I made some tweaks to the CARD Patreon page. Mostly for the sake of transparency. I’ve gotten some questions about how the newsletter is funded and where the Patreon funds go. That information is now front and center on the page. We’ve also retired the $1 tier, mostly because processing fees were eating up most of it. Current patrons won’t see any changes but moving forward the minimum membership amount is $3 a month.
As a reminder when we hit 150 patrons we’ll produce a special investigation on Identitarianism commissioned exclusively by CARD readers. We’ll explore everything you need to know about this growing international far-right movement linked to the recent New Zealand Mosque shooting including its European origins and influence, international reach, and connections within the Republican Party.
That’s all for now. Talk again next week!