The right-wing militia in the United States of America: any hope to slow its momentum?
After the insurrectionists descended upon the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, I remember thinking, parsimoniously: those “gun-toting psychopaths” are probably from some rural area in middle America, so what do I have to worry about living in Southern California? As the dust settled, and law enforcement gradually secured the Capitol, reports emerged that a woman named Ashli Babbit had been killed. My first thought was: maybe she was an onlooker, that she was accidentally in the line of fire. Nope. As the footage and reports emerged, it was not only clear that she was tremendously immersed in the insurrection, but also that she was exceedingly dangerous. Where was she from? San Diego, California. I’m sure this not only shocked me but the entire San Diego community as well. A right-wing militia member living in this city? Major blow.
However, the more I pondered this revelation, the more it didn’t seem so improbable. While I legitimately believe this group of domestic terrorists are the minority in our nation, they are hastily growing and spreading out all over the country, even in my special state of California. The question for us as a nation will be how we handle this minority moving forward. Do we solely ignore it and act like it will just diminish? Or do we take this seriously (as important as we approached exterminating ISIS) and put an end to it?
I definitely fear this new group of extremists, and I think we all need to fear this group. We need to first grasp what it is they are attempting to change and what are their designs. I turned to a piece by Amy Cooter in Scientific American titled, “Militia Expert Warns Trump’s Capitol Insurrectionists Could Try Again.” Cooter lays out the objective of these extremists and what it is that fuels their efforts.
“Militias are comprised mostly of white men in their 20s and 30s who own and train with firearms to be able to defend themselves against a variety of perceived threats. The comparatively few women connected to such groups tend to be involved for two reasons: Some care about the same ideological issues but largely view militia participation as sharing a hobby that their husbands or boyfriends enjoy. A small subset of women, however, take their membership incredibly seriously – almost fervently – and have visible leadership roles.
I prefer to describe militias as part of a broader network of “nostalgic groups” rather than “right-wing” because I believe what is more important for understanding their collective motivations is their idealization of the past. The precise ideal they have in mind varies somewhat across organizations under this umbrella. Yet all of them have in common the notion that the best version of the U.S. existed in the past, that it has already been lost, and that it is the group members’ responsibility to fight further loss or even attempt to return society to that former, ideal state.”
We can see a resounding sentiment that this group of people, who, as Cooter points out, tend to be young, white, and male. They are incapable of recognizing the concept that our ever-evolving society is not stationary. We have evolved from the historical benchmarks of the past and even learned from dismal misfortunes and atrocities. Yet, this group of extremists will not see it any other way. There is no way to justify their movement. This group is fundamentally racist, sexist, and homophobic, and they are unwilling to see anything other than the idealisms of historical irrelevance.
“When I ask members what they believe has been lost in American society, they usually reference things such as individual responsibility and self-sufficiency – lamenting the idea of a “sissified society,” to quote one of my interviewees. They complain about a country that – from their perspective – is run by a government that is unnecessarily bloated in size and wastes tax dollars by giving too many people things that they should be working harder to earn for themselves. Many of these individuals state they long for “a simpler time” in our past where, they say, men took care of their families and did not have to rely on that government.
“It is impossible to ignore how that supposedly simpler time reflects a point in history where white men held much more power, relative to other demographic groups, than they do today. Women had less financial security, and women and all people of color had substantially less political power and presence.”
In a strictly speculative theory, how many of these extremists benefit from the government? Secondly, how many of these extremists have adequate financial resources or are even prospering within their communities? I’d venture to theorize that it’s slim to none. If a person chooses to root themselves in the unnecessary and unambiguous detriments of a foundation of hate, discontentment, and lies, then how would a person see something else more beneficial? To me, it seems as though these extremists treat their existences like they are martyrs in an attempt to gain more followers that will plunge into the destruction as well.
“In their vision of the ideal past, America and its citizens are largely safe, with historical enemies such as Russia or China both far away and easily managed by a powerful U.S. military. Importantly, these group members say the one legitimate function of the federal government is to ensure citizens’ safety with a strong army and secure borders. These people feel that today they are much more immediately threatened on a variety of fronts, both with economic instability and more present specters of terrorism within our borders. The latter are represented by fears of “Muslim extremists” and, more recently, “anarchist antifa.” One militia member told me, “Black Lives Matter had some good points.” But he went on to make the false claim that “it has completely been taken over by antifa.” And antifa, he said, “is a communist organization that doesn’t care about racial justice – just anarchy and destroying the American way of life.”
So the people who want to claim our historical safety was prosperous in the “old days” are now the same people causing terror and danger to law enforcement and communities. I also find it peculiar, when analyzing Cooter’s point, that they feel as if their very existence is threatened by minorities and foreign terror groups. Don’t they look around their community and see who is living in there? It strikes me as so inconceivable that they believe they can live in a bubble of misconception and insensibility. Nevertheless, they are growing in size and popularity and that’s why we should be very concerned.
In a piece by Matthew Schmidt, “The Capitol insurrectionists and ISIS have a lot in common,” I couldn’t help feeling that my apprehension falls along these same parameters. When ISIS emerged, I remember being concerned about their behavior, what influence they would have on the global community, as well as here in our country. Thankfully, through President Obama’s calculated and militarized campaign, ISIS was dealt a major setback and practically defeated. Schmidt draws on some major comparisons with this new group of extremists.
“American ISIS groups are similar to their foreign counterparts in a number of ways. American terrorists are loosely organized around a core set of beliefs, but are not hierarchical and not in agreement on everything. Such groups form around charismatic leaders who feed their followers a sense of grievance, while simultaneously hinting at a return to power, a return to the “real” America. Over and over again, the rhetoric on social media is that this renaissance of the “real” America won’t happen until the so-called illegitimate leaders currently in power are defeated, or worse.”
Doesn’t it seem like false promises, false beliefs, and misguided leaders are the extremists’ declaration? But with that comes very dangerous motives among the extremists to recruit more members and incite their base. It seems to be this credo that things will improve once you eliminate the people in “power” now. There is no compromise or debate with the extremists, only the promise of violence and reform. But reform to what? What makes very little sense, as well, is their proclamation of “real America.” They seem to feel as though America was different at a certain point, that the diversity and growth we have sustained throughout our past just does not exist.
We can fear these extremists, but we also realize we can defeat them as well. Schmidt states:
“The Republican Party needs to denounce these movements in the same way it has denounced the actual ISIS. That means giving a straight read to the evidence against former President Trump and conducting a full investigation into members of Congress who may have aided our native ISIS. Republican leaders can’t go into this process afraid to convict; they must be willing to see these insurrectionists for who they are, terrorists little different from ISIS.”
If the Republican party ever decides to stop participating in the promotion of domestic terrorism and allowing these extremists (Marjorie Taylor Greene) to be a part of their representative body, then we might have a chance to force this new attempt at obstruction into a position of defeat and quietude. Democrats and President Biden can use the Justice Department and the laws of our country to suppress the extremists, but ultimately, it has to be a concerted effort from both parties. At this time, I am not sure it’s possible, because the current majority of elected Republican representatives very much are obliged to allow it to go on. However, as I had noted in the previous posts this week; if the younger generation of Republicans can find a way to change the course of their party, and denounce the ugliness and the disastrous platform these extremists preach, then we might get to the point where the domestic terrorists have no leverage. In the meantime, I will keep the hope, and try to limit the anxiety…
- Cooter, Amy. “Militia Expert Warns Trump’s Capitol Insurrectionists Could Try Again.” Scientific American. January 11, 2021. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/militia-expert-warns-trumps-capitol-insurrectionists-could-try-again/. Accessed February 12, 2021.
- Schmidt, Matthew. “The Capitol insurrectionists and ISIS have a lot in common.” Fortune. January 22, 2021. https://fortune.com/2021/01/22/domestic-terrorism-capitol-riot-jacob-chansley/. Accessed February 12, 2021.