The Modern Militia Movement
October 9, 2020
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“Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or we grow weak, and at last some crisis shows us what we have become.” — Brooke Westcott
“Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, hate leads to violence. That is the equation.” — Averroes
The Modern Militia Movement
(Matthew Hatcher via Getty Images)
On Thursday, the FBI announced that they had thwarted a plot that seems like it was pulled straight out of a spy thriller movie. Six men were charged with conspiring to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and seven others were accused of plotting to attack police in hopes of igniting a civil war. According to a federal affidavit, this group of anti-government extremists planned to take the Democratic governor hostage, transport her to Wisconsin, and hold her on “trial” for her imposition of COVID-19 restrictions. In their eyes, state-imposed measures to slow the spread of the virus were in direct violation of the Constitution, granting them the right to violently overthrow their oppressors.
Criticism of Whitmer is not new amongst far-right groups. Protestors crowded outside of the Michigan statehouse in May to protest statewide lockdowns — a movement that even got a cosign from President Trump. The sitting president of the United States rallied his supporters with a call to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” in an April tweet. Soon after, the FBI caught wind that some folks were taking this message a bit too literally. In June, they began tracking social media posts of militiamen who were intent on “creating a society that followed the U.S. Bill of Rights and where they could be self-sufficient.”
If it wasn’t for an FBI informant — who wore a wire and recorded the group as they planned their attack — then perhaps this rogue plot to kidnap Whitmer at her summer home would have materialized. If this plot had resulted in violence, it wouldn’t have been the first time that a decentralized militia movement fanned the flames of unrest this summer. From Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha or the Proud Boys in Portland, modern militia groups have been emboldened by a sympathetic president and pandemic chaos to take their agendas to the streets.
But what is their agenda, exactly? What binds the gun-touting vigilantes who keep showing up to and causing trouble? Not much, experts explain. Rather than adhering to a strict organizational ideology, it appears that a mere disdain for “government tyranny” can bring together Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, pro-police, anti-police
“It’s almost like people are choosing their own adventure,” said Oren Segal, vice president of the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League. “People are organizing more around concepts and less around groups,” Segal says. “They identify with an ideology, maybe with a movement. But not everyone is going to be part of Militia Group A, B or C,” he said.
And this phenomenon is only being exacerbated by the pandemic, where increased fear and anxiety breeds institutional distrust and more time online gives fringe theories more space to advertise their subversive doctrines. Without a president who is willing to condemn or shame these violent militias, they will only grow in prominence. All in all, Trump and COVID-19 coincided to form a perfect storm for far-right rebellion movements.
A Frozen War Heats Up
(Nick Lachance via Getty Images)
- On September 27th, Armenia and Azerbaijan resumed what has become known as Europe’s oldest “frozen war,” which pertains to a land dispute in the mountainous Nagorno Karabakh region. Major players in the international community, including Russia, have come out in support of an unconditional ceasefire. However, one major power is being accused of supporting and even encouraging, conflict in northwest Asia.
- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has accused Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan of sending between 1,500–2,000 Syrian “terrorists” to the region in support of Azerbaijan, a country with whom Turkey shares deep cultural and economic ties. In a no-holds-barred attack on the neighboring Middle Eastern state, Pashinyan proclaimed that Erdogan’s military support of Azerbaijan was “nothing short of action aimed at reinstating the Ottoman empire.”
- While such claims may be overstating Erdogan’s ambitions, they do speak to the international consequences that a war between these nations with crucial oil pipelines could cause. Just ask Charlotte Dennett, an expert in resource-based politics. “Small wonder that regional leaders and their intelligence agencies are watching the whole region with heightened concern,” Dennett says. “A single spark could set off a conflagration that could engulf the entire world.” (Time)
Hanging Ten In A Toxic Dump
- It’s not every day that a group of Russian surfer bros discovers a potential ecological disaster, but such is the case off the Kamchatka Peninsula, where a suspected toxic leak left the thrill-seekers with retina burns and poison-like symptoms. The Russian authorities dismissed their claims at first, but once the water changed color to a greyish-yellow with a thick milky foam on the surface, they began to feel the heat from concerned citizens.
- On Wednesday, as octopuses, seals, and other sea creatures washed up onto the foul-smelling shore — officials caved in and launched an investigation into the toxic tides. What local scientists discovered was nothing short of an ecological catastrophe.
- “On the shore, we did not find any large dead sea animals or birds,” scientist Ivan Usatov said. “However, when diving, we found that there is a mass death of benthos [bottom-dwelling organisms] at depths from 10 to 15 meters — 95% are dead. Some large fish, shrimps, and crabs have survived, but in very small numbers.”
- Scientists expect that the unknown toxin has spread farther than just the areas they investigated, and also predict that more sealife will die in the coming days as the bottom of the food chain has been completely decimated. Initial water tests revealed that levels of phenol — a substance often used as antiseptic or disinfectant — were 2.5 times higher than normal, and petroleum levels 3.6 times higher.
- Speculation has run rampant throughout the Russian Far East as to what this mystery substance could be. Some suspect a possible oil tanker leak or a botched military drill — but the Defense Ministry has denied such claims. (CNN)
Additional World News
- 26 countries urge Western sanctions lifting to tackle virus (ABC)
- Afgone-istan: NATO chief says allies will leave Afghanistan together (Yahoo!)
- ‘A threat from within’: Iraq and the rise of its militias (Guardian)
- A Low-Income Quarter Needs to Grow. A Treasured Forest Could Pay the Price. (NYT, $). The price of branching out in Jerusalem.
- Why Trump wants Sudan to befriend Israel (BBC)
- Beijing Olympics face boycott calls over Chinese repression of Uighurs (WaPo, $)
- Pyongyang loves a good parade: What we can expect to see at North Korea’s ‘biggest military parade’ (BBC)
- Clashes erupt in protests against new Indonesian jobs law (Reuters)
- UK probe finds no evidence that Cambridge Analytica misused data to influence Brexit (Politico)
- Not much confidence from the north: Trudeau says government is braced for ‘disruptions’ in event of unclear US election result (CBC)
- Women are systematically excluded from global coronavirus coverage, experts say (WaPo)
- What China’s speedy COVID vaccine deployment means for the pandemic (Nature)
- A Vaccine That Protects Against COVID-19 May Be Right Under Our Noses (NPR)
- What’s Special About Bat Viruses? What We Don’t Know Could Hurt Us (NYT)
If You Can’t Beat Em’, Indict Em’
- Back home at the White House and recovering from COVID-19, Trump gave his first extended remarks to the press on Thursday morning when he called into Fox Business for a rambling hour-long phone interview. As usual, it was hard to pin down one specific message from the commander in chief, but there was one salient takeaway.
- As he trails democratic nominee Joe Biden by a sizable margin in the polls, Trump unveiled a new angle from which to attack the former vice president. He called for the indictment of both Biden and former President Obama for their participation in the “Russia hoax” — which he labeled “the greatest political crime in the history of our country.”
- He made dramatic appeals to members of his own cabinet — his secretary of state, his attorney general, and the F.B.I. director and a senior Justice Department prosecutor — attempted to will them towards some form of sweeping October prosecution of Trump’s political enemies. He really piled on the pressure to his primary ally in the Justice Department, Attorney General Bill Barr.
- “Bill Barr is going to go down either as the greatest attorney general in the history of the country or he’s going to go down as a very sad, sad situation. I mean, I’ll be honest with you. He’s got all the information he needs,” Trump said, attempting to stake his friend’s legacy on his most ambitious attack yet. (NYT)
Additional USA News
- Donald Trump’s baffling debate boycott (Politico). He hates Zoom just as much as the rest of us.
- Trump the trendsetter: Now Joe Biden Says He Won’t Do the Second Debate Either (Vice)
- White House Physician Expects Trump’s ‘Safe Return To Public Engagements’ Saturday (NPR)
- Mike Pence’s Trumpian Makeover at the Vice-Presidential Debate (New Yorker)
- More than 6.6 million Americans have already voted, suggesting record turnout (Reuters)
- Republican senator says ‘democracy isn’t the objective’ of US system (Guardian). Is that so?
- Supreme Court Refuses To Block Lower Court Order On Abortion Pills (NPR)
- Inside the People of Praise, the Tight-Knit Faith Community of Amy Coney Barrett (NYT, $)
- Do you back the pack? Biden and Harris Need an Answer on Court Packing (Atlantic, $)
- Footage of a Kansas City officer kneeling on the back of a pregnant Black woman sparks ongoing protest (CNN)
- ‘This is not a bad dream’: New hurricane menaces Louisiana (AP)
A Trip to the Mound
- There have only been 303 recorded no-hitters in baseball history. The achievement — which occurs when a pitcher makes it through an entire game without letting the opponent hit themselves on base — is so rare that the odds of pitching a no-hitter in regular conditions is less than 0.05% on any given night.
- Those odds certainly can’t get much better when you’re on acid. But 50 years ago, a Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher did just that. In 1970 — during the peak of the Major League drug era — Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter while tripping on LSD. Yes, seriously, the man whose name would have shown up in the box score as “Ellis, D.”
- After losing track of time during a Los Angeles drug bender, Ellis woke up on the morning of June 12th and took a tab of acid, thinking he wasn’t due to pitch until the next day. Upon realizing his mistake, the major leaguer hopped on a flight to San Diego and geared up to play.
- While playing under the influence was commonplace in the 70’s— many players used stimulants such as Dexmyl and Benzedrine — using psychedelics was unheard of. Ellis reported a series of visual hallucinations while attempting to strike out batters, including a fluctuating perception of the size of the ball.
- Merely making it out of the game unnoticed would be an accomplishment within itself, but somehow Ellis was able to piece together one of the most unlikely sports accomplishments of the 20th century. While he did walk eight batters while only striking out six, Ellis’ psychedelic performance stands alone as both an incredulous and somewhat endearing relic of a peculiar era in sports history. (The Guardian)
- To hear the story from the legend himself, check out this video of Dock Ellis just before he passed in 2008.
- Mao Scroll Stolen in Hong Kong Heist (NYT, $)
- Cash cows: Offcut Gems: Inside the Million-Dollar Market for Cow Gallstones (Vice)
- The Newly Legal Process for Turning Human Corpses to Soil (OneZero)
- Your Food Isn’t ‘Natural’ and It Never Will Be (Wired)
- A step ahead: Study of 14,000 runners reveals surprising link between pros and beginners (Inverse)
- ‘It’s not a question of belief’: the film examining government UFO records (Guardian)
- How Louise Glück, Nobel Laureate, Became Our Poet (New Yorker)
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