A far-right mob brutally beating counter-protesters while yelling “faggot.” A series of pipe bombs mailed to the prominent liberals who are most featured in right-wing conspiracies. A white supremacist murder of two black senior citizens in a Kentucky grocery store. The mass shooting of eleven worshipers at a synagogue in what is described as the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.
All these events have happened in just over a fortnight. More crucially, they all bear hallmarks of violent, far-right bigotry, which President Donald Trump still refuses to call out and denounce.
Proud Boys’ attacks
Events started spiraling on Oct. 12 after the Proud Boys, a “Western chauvinist” group who frequently ally with other far-right groups, left a talk at the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York City. Their leader, Gavin McInnes, had taken part in a “lecture” at the club in which he re-enacted the murder of a Japanese socialist politician. When the Proud Boys were confronted by counter-protesters, they violently attacked them, yelling “Do you feel brave now, faggot?”
One day later, a “Flash Mob for Law and Order” in Portland, Ore., in which the Proud Boys took part in also descended into violence.
Soon after the New York attack, the NYPD announced it was seeking charges of riot and assault against nine members of Proud Boys. So far, five men affiliated with the group have been charged, and a sixth man was arrested on Friday. Among those charged, at least two were also members of prominent skinhead gangs. One of them was part of a far-right organization linked to the brutal beating of two grad students in 2017; another attended last year’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Attempted pipe bombings
On Oct. 22 police were called to investigate after a crude explosive device was delivered to George Soros, the billionaire and prominent liberal philanthropist. Soros is routinely the central figure in far-right conspiracy theories, which mainstream Republicans have now picked up. The most recent conspiracy theory about Soros, also parroted by “mainstream” conservatives, including elected officials, claims Soros is covertly funding the migrant caravan in Mexico headed towards the U.S. border.
BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source! pic.twitter.com/5pEByiGkkN
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) October 17, 2018
One bomb quickly turned into a cascade. Over the next three days pipe bombs were discovered to have been sent to prominent Democrats, including Hillary and President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama, former Attorney General Eric Holder, the offices of CNN, and others. On Friday, officials arrested Cesar Sayoc, a Trump devotee who frequently attended rallies and who had engaged with far-right conspiracy theories online.
Kentucky hate crime
In the midst of the panic over the pipe bombings, a hate crime in Kentucky initially flew under the radar. Gregory Bush, 51, entered the Kroger supermarket in Louisville, Ky. and shot two elderly African-Americans before being arrested. According to police, Bush initially tried to enter an African-American church, as white-supremacist mass murderer Dylann Roof had done in 2015.
According to one witness, Bush engaged in a brief standoff within the supermarket with a white bystander who was armed. “Don’t shoot me and I won’t shoot you,” Bush was reported to have said. “Whites don’t kill whites.”
Synagogue mass shooting
On Saturday, as authorities were still piecing together Cesar Sayoc’s motives, another attack unfolded. A gunman had entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn. and killed eleven worshipers — most of them elderly — before engaging in a gun battle with police. He was taken into custody and will be charged with 29 criminal counts, including charges related to hate crimes.
Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich called the crime scene “one of the worst I’ve ever seen.”
(3/3) "It is time to treat domestic terrorism as the national threat that it is, and track, analyze, and punish political violence at the federal level. Winning the fight against domestic terrorism is not about parties or political views; it is about ending political violence.”
— FBI Agents Assoc. (@FBIAgentsAssoc) October 24, 2018
It emerged that the shooter, Robert Bowers, was a rabid anti-Semite. He’d repeatedly aired extreme, hateful views on Gab, a far-right-friendly social media site, and told a SWAT officer in the aftermath of the attack that “all Jews must die.” Federal prosecutors have now filed hate-crime charges against him. Gab, meanwhile, is rapidly being “deplatformed.”
It’s not hard to the common thread between the suspects or attackers in these cases. An embrace of the conspiracy theories which have now become popularized by the GOP, clues to online radicalization that could have been picked up earlier by tech companies hosting that hate speech, and, of course, a hatred and targeting of minorities.
If these attacks were carried out by anyone else — ISIS, MS-13, Hezbollah or any other of the perpetual conservative boogeymen — there would be ear-splitting outrage from the GOP. But as it is, and despite the “domestic terror” warnings of law enforcement agencies like the FBI, the attacks are treated as separate, isolated incidents from whom the Trump administration can absolve blame, and place on others.
There’s little reason to expect there won’t be more incidents: the president himself has doubled down on blaming the media for the recent wave of violence.
“There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news,” Trump tweeted on Monday morning. “The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly.”