On Monday, June 22nd, Pvt. Ethan P. Melzer, 22, was charged with planning an ambush of members of his unit during an upcoming deployment with the help of an “occult-based neo-Nazi” group known as the “Order of the Nine Angles” and a related group known as the “RapeWaffen Division.”
Melzer was stationed in Vicenza, Italy, and was slotted to deploy to Turkey. He provided the neo-Nazi groups with information about his unit’s upcoming deployment, including locations, movements and security. His iCloud account contained a satellite image showing a military installation with coordinates and notes, including one for a chow hall.
The Justice Department describes the Order of the Nine Angles as a white nationalist group. Members have “espoused violent, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and Satanic beliefs, and have expressed admiration for both Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler, and Islamic jihadists, such as Usama Bin Laden, the now-deceased former leader of Al Qaeda.”
Melzer allegedly passed information regarding the deployment to a purported member of al Qaida. He acknowledged that he might die in the attack on his own unit, stating “who gives a f— … it would be another war … I would’ve died successfully … [causing] another 10-year war in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said, “Melzer allegedly attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength, and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group.” She added, “Melzer allegedly provided this potentially deadly information intending that it be conveyed to jihadist terrorists.”
In May, Michael McGarrity, Assistant Director for Counterterrorism, reported to the House Homeland Security Committee that the FBI is investigating 850 open domestic terrorism cases. He estimated that about half involve anti-government and anti-authority extremists – 40 percent of which involve cases of racially motivated violent extremism.
“The FBI assesses domestic terrorists collectively pose a persistent and evolving threat of violence and economic harm to the United States,” McGarrity said. He added, “In fact, there have been more arrests and deaths in the United States caused by domestic terrorists than international terrorists in recent years.”
A quarter-century ago, in 1995, Timothy McVeigh bombed an Oklahoma City federal building that killed 168 people and injured more than 680 others. Over the last couple of years, there have been a growing number of incidents in which rightwing race nationalists have targeted innocent people. Among them are the following:
October 27, 2018 – mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, at which 11 worshippers were killed.
November 2, 2018 – Tallahassee, FL, yoga studio shooting in which six women were shot, two fatally, and a man was pistol whipped.
April 27, 2019 – shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, CA, that killed one person and wounded three others.
August 3, 2019 — a mass shooting occurred at a Walmart store in El Paso, TX, killing 23 people and injuring 23 others.
August 4, 2019 – a mass shooting at a Dayton, OH, bar, with nine people killed and 17 wounded.
The University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database showed that, from 2010 to 2016, right-wing inspired terrorist acts in the United States have grown from 6 percent of total domestic terror attacks to 35 percent.
Ethan Melzer’s reported action was a singular deed involving a U.S. soldier located at a foreign base providing critical information to an enemy. More troubling, it represents an increase in rightwing actions involving current and former military personnel, some leading to killings. In February, Lt. Christopher Hasson, Coast Guard office, was arrested for planning attacks on a target list of prominent Democratic politicians and cable news journalists. For at least two years, Hasson, a self-described white nationalist, visited white supremacist, neo-Nazi websites and studied far-right extremist manifestos. He also researched biological weapons and improvised explosives.
In June, Air Force Sergeant Steven Carrillo was charged with the killing of a Santa Cruz, CA, police deputy. That same month, federal prosecutors report that three white men with military experience conspired to incite mass violence at a Black Lives Matter rally and to use firebombs to create chaos.
Carrillo and the others are reported to have been members of what is known as the Boogaloo movement. It is a far-right, anti-government movement with roots in the online culture and message boards. Its core ideology is grounded in a belief of a coming civil war or violent uprising against the government. However, the movement includes groups ranging from armed militias, white supremacists, Second Amendment advocates and online trolls.
According to the Anti-Defemination League (ADL), the movement grew out of the 1984 breakdancing film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. In June 2018, someone started a Reddit thread titled “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo.” Citing the Feurrkrieg Division, a white supremacist – “accelerationist” – group, it cites the following lyrics:
Do the Boogaloo!
Kill the kikes, and save the whites
Come on, it’s time to go!
Do the Boogaloo!
Plug a pig, and then a Yid
Let’s do the Boogaloo, all together now!
The ADL cautions its analysis of the Boogaloo movement as follows: “Care must be taken when evaluating boogaloo-as-civil-war references, as some people—even those in extremist movements—still use the phrase jokingly, or to mock some of the more fanatical or gung-ho adherents of their own movement.”
And then there is Q anonymous or “QAnon.” This is a rightwing conspiracy movement that supposedly follows the theories of a mysterious figure known as “Q.” They use the hashtag #WWG1WGA, signifying the motto “Where We Go One, We Go All.” Q propagates a host of never-proven conspiracies that have included Pizza Gate, about Hillary Clinton and the D.C. sex trafficking ring. Q and his followers promote the notion of a “deep state” out to destroy Trump. Once a group of Internet-only supporters, a QAnon proponent, Marjorie Taylor Greene, ran for 14th Congress as a Republican in northwest Georgia. (The Pizza Gate hoax continues to perpetuated by the website TikTok, among others.)
Adding to the growing fears of politically motivated terrorism is the repeated assertion that “antifa” – or anti-fascism movement — is a threat. Pres. Trump declared that “the United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.” The White House posted a tweet claiming “antifa and professional anarchists are invading our communities, staging bricks and weapons to instigate violence. These are acts of domestic terror.” Robert O’Brien, a national security adviser, claims that antifa is a loosely organized group of anti-fascist activists that was behind the killing of Dave Patrick Underwood, an Oakland, CA, security officer.
The New York Times reported that Dept. of Homeland Security and the FBI have made numerous, unsubstantiated or false reports of antifa threats. Among these claims was that the 75-year-old Buffalo, NY, protester, Martin Gugino, who the police knocked down was “an antifa provocateur.” (Trump claimed that Gugino was an “ANTIFA provocateur” who may have been trying to “set up” law enforcement.) Other incidents involving false police reports of antifa threats occurred in Sioux Falls, SD (involving busloads of antifa protesters coming to cause violence); in Yucaipa, CA, a city about 70 miles from Los Angeles; and “two bus loads of antifa” were heading to Locust, NC, about 25 miles east of Charlotte.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) identifies 940 “hate groups” operated in the U.S. in 2019, up 55 percent from 2017. It notes, “White nationalism poses a serious threat to national security and pluralistic democracy. It’s a virulent and profoundly authoritarian ideology that infects our political system with hate, fear and resentment.” It points out a more disturbing fact:
The Trump administration has installed members of hate groups into government—particularly those with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim or anti-LGBTQ animus—and put in place highly punitive policies that seemed unthinkable just a few short years ago. These political moves will far outlast this administration.
There appears to be a direct connection between Pres. Trump’s declining approval rating and the public presence of the militant rightwing groups. As of June 26th, the website 536 pegged his “approval” rate at 40.6 percent and his “disapproval” rate at 56.1 percent. Gallup pegs his approval rate at 43 percent, a further slippage from a month earlier when it was 49 percent.
As Trump approval rate will likely continue to decline in the face of a variety of factors further undercut his legitimacy. The Covid 19 pandemic will likely the spread to more traditionally conservative states if the nation doesn’t face a second wave in the Fall. The economy may well stumble along unable to fully rebound. Popular resentment over racial and other forms of inequality may well continue. And Trump may well overplay his bombastic hand only making this worse. Sadly, these factors may contribute to a more embolden white rightwing and an increase in nationalist violence.