American Militias

28 04 19

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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