Militias, disinformation and civil war drums

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During the wildfire wave that ravaged the West Coast of the United States last August, it was not just the fire that spread at an uncontrollable speed. So did the misinformation. In rural Oregon, vigilantes armed with assault rifles seized access roads to the region amid widespread rumor that the fires were being spread by far-left militants. It was no more than a hoax, denied by local authorities, but it served to anticipate the risks facing the country in these presidential elections, the most explosive in its recent history. Almost half of the population does not believe they will be clean and honest, according to a recent YouGov poll, and both disinformation and the threat of violence are everywhere.

No one has contributed more to inflame tensions and sow doubts about the elections than the president Donald Trump. When the ‘impeachment’ left his future up in the air, he warned that there would be “something like a civil war & rdquor; if the Democrats managed to remove him from power, and before the first votes by mail began to be cast, he had already proclaimed that there will be a massive fraud on November 3. “The only way we can lose is if the elections are rigged,” he said in August. The mantra has permeated conservative America. Through its waves and social networks proliferate all kinds of conspiracy scenarios that endorse the theories of the president and prepare the ground for an armed response from the ‘patriots’ of the right.

No one has contributed more to inflame
tensions and sowing doubts about the elections that the president himself

A public office like Michael Caputo, one of the coordinators of the White House health response to the coronavirus, asked Republicans last month to arm themselves to face the alleged “insurrection & rdquor; that Democrats prepare for after the election. And in a more recent viral video, the radio host And Bongino he claimed that the president’s rivals are cooking up a military-backed coup for November 3. Few are taking the insistent background noise lightly, particularly since Trump called on his supporters to watch the polling stations.

Veneration for Trump

Those followers include the American extreme right, a violent nebula of paramilitary militias, Patriots groups, white supremacists, doomsday prophets, or tax insubordinate. The militias alone have about 20,000 members, at least a quarter of them Army veterans, according to the most recent estimates by experts. Until recently, the main link that united all these groups was their hatred of the federal government, which they see as the embodiment of tyranny, but that phobia has mutated in the last four years into boundless veneration for Trump. So much so that they are now something like his shadow praetorian guard.

“Free Michigan”

When those militias stormed Michigan State Parliament in the spring to protest the pandemic’s lockdowns, the president cheered on their audacity by calling to “liberate Michigan & rdquor; and other states. The immediate consequence was similar outpouring of gunmen in the Idaho and Oregon Capitols. But everything took on a much more sinister turn a few days ago, when the FBI arrested 13 members of a paramilitary organization that wanted to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan to try her for “treason & rdquor; aboard a boat on the lake that bears the name of the state.

Only the militias have 20,000 members, at least one
quarter of them Army veterans

“These groups believe that social polarization and recent race riots are proof that the country is on the brink of collapse and that their violence will help precipitate the regime and social changes they seek,” says Bruce Hoffman in an interview, Terrorism expert from the Council on Foreign Relations. For months, he maintains, they have been preparing to act during the elections, based on their activity on the networks and in private messaging channels intercepted by the authorities. Some, like the Proud Boys or the Bogaloo movement, have held information sessions and planned rallies to attend polling stations on Election Day.

Calls for civil war

“What we are seeing are calls for civil war and racial conflict, combined with a growing stockpile of weapons,” he said. the former number two of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Department, Frank Figliuzzi. Threats that are shared by a substantial part of the citizenry. A poll this month published by ‘USA Today’ found that 61% of Americans believe the country could be on the brink of a second civil war and half of those surveyed say they have stockpiled essential food in anticipation of a potential scenario of chaos derived from the elections or the worsening of the pandemic.

Nor are the masters of social networks taking it as a joke. Facebook will suspend political ads after November 3, when there is very likely no definitive result, and you have banned the pages from QAnon, the conspiratorial movement that sees Trump as the savior of the world and advocates among others to assassinate the country’s Democratic elites. Too Twitter has vowed to slow down its traffic and change some of its basic functions to stop the misinformation and calls for electoral violence that circulate on its website.

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