Violent threats in the wake of Mar-a-Lago search

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More than three weeks have transpired since the FBI executed a search warrant on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. Since then, various factions of the conservative right — private citizens, social media users, even some politicians — have wasted little time issuing violent threats.

Sadly, threats against federal agents have been routine and commonplace.

On social media platforms such as Gab, Telegram, and Facebook, researchers have cited a notable increase in calls for violence. Elizabeth Neumann of Moonshot, a London-based agency that analyzes and counters online extremism, told Insider that references to terms such as “armed rebellion,” “revolution,” “lock and load,” and “civil war” increased 106% following the Mar-a-Lago search.

“In these right-wing and extremist spaces, they interpret the Mar-a-Lago search not as a legitimate legal process, but as the first shots of a war by the federal government,” said Alex Friedfeld, a researcher with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, “So consequently, you’re seeing calls for people to arm up, to lock and load, and to be ready to use real bullets to defend themselves.”

Indeed, in the initial days following Mar-a-Lago, the situation became so volatile, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued advisory bulletins pertaining to the dramatically increased number of threats against federal officers. According to NBC News, the FBI also warned that some far-right social media users were targeting certain individuals for violence by disclosing information such as home addresses and identification of family members, warning that such actions were very real and credible threats.

Such announcements were certainly well-founded. Ricky W. Shiffer, a 42-year-old gunman from Columbus, Ohio, attempted to force his way into an FBI field office in Cincinnati with an AR-15 rifle and a nail gun on August 11. Shiffer was killed in a standoff with police.

Meanwhile, in the northeast, Pennsylvania resident Adam Bies was arrested and charged with threatening to kill FBI agents on multiple occasions following the search on Mar-a-Lago.

“Every single piece of s—t who works for the FBI in any capacity, from the director down to the janitor who cleans their fucking toilets deserves to die,” one of Bies’ posts on Gab said, according to the FBI affidavit supporting his arrest. “You’ve declared war on us and now it’s open season on YOU.”

Such threats and alarming behavior have not been relegated solely to extreme right-wingers. Living up to their bombastic, acerbic reputation, some Republican MAGA politicians have also joined in, participating in the “we will kill them” brigade.

Recently, Martin Hyde, a Republican Congressional candidate in Florida, stated in a campaign video that FBI agents would leave his home “in a body bag” if they tried to search him like they did Mar-a-Lago. Also in the Sunshine State, Florida House of Representatives candidate Luis Miguel was banned on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook after saying he would ratify shooting federal agents “on sight.”

Former president Donald Trump menacingly warned that “terrible things are going to happen” in response to the increased threats, and that the country is in a “very dangerous position” following the search at his residence. These politicians, including Trump, know exactly what they are doing. Such rhetoric, designed to rile up and agitate the more unhinged segments of their political base, is nothing short of abominable.

In response to such irresponsible rhetoric, Democratic lawmakers are pushing for social media companies to take more aggressive action to curtail and eradicate such volatile behavior on their platforms by lowering the volume.

The hard core, undeniable truth is that the MAGA right are a group of people who have no disregard for either the constitution or the rights of others. They have made it clear that they will stop at nothing to secure their own right-wing, dystopian society regardless of what sort of havoc and debris they have to create to do so.

Due to such an unsettling state of affairs, many Americans from across the political spectrum are experiencing periods of self-reflection of their current status in our country. Some are even leaving the country.

After all, we currently reside in a society where the far right has been so spiteful with their language they have emboldened racists, anti-Semites, homophobes, xenophobes, misogynists, and others filled with violence and hate. From a political, social and cultural standpoint, the state of the union is looking ominously grim at the moment.

Copyright 2022 Elwood Watson, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate

Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker.