When I was originally crafting this post, I wanted to discuss the baselessness of the culture wars in society1. I have become disgusted with the left and the right both demonizing and antagonizing each other in contorted, hyperbolic, and often oxymoronic manners. Over the past month I have had discussions with a very liberal person who wanted to censor free speech online, and a very conservative person who was entertaining moving to CCP controlled China because they would squash liberal cultural dissent. The culture war leads both sides to relinquish the core tenets and principles of our society in order to beat out their own neighbors. The question must be asked, what country or society would even be left if one side were to win?
When I was sketching out the original post, I was looking to build a case against the culture wars, stating they were essentially being propped up by the interests of the media, social media, foreign governments, corporations, and federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. As my research into each avenue grew it quickly became clear that attempting to give each of these discussions the space they deserved would balloon the post to near book length. So, I have decided to turn each segment into an individual post in a series, the first of which is a focus on how federal law enforcement agencies are assisting in undergirding the vitriol and fear that is fuel in the fire of the culture wars.
The culture war between conservatives and liberals is in many ways bolstered by fear of the other side. Both factions, liberal and conservative, devolve into viewing their alleged opponents as being led by ideologues and extremists. A poll from January of this year showed that the majority of Americans believe that other Americans are the largest threat to this nation. Another poll from a month later shows that Democrats find far-right extremists as the top threat to the nation, Republicans find far left-extremists as the second largest threat. This nation is a house divided through fear of each other, but how real is this fear and is it being amplified by other forces?
Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies stand to gain immense amounts of influence and resources by directly promoting an atmosphere of fear and mistrustfulness in the US population. They have continuously capitalized on tragedy and sensationalism over the past 70 years ranging from COINTELPRO up through the post 9/11 War on Terror, and there is ample evidence that they are continuing to do so with the burgeoning war on domestic extremism that undergirds the culture wars.
Under the guise of the war on terror the FBI and other federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies actively promoted and amplified the threat of terrorism. For a few examples one can look at the below list:
There is the 2017 case of a suicidal Pizza boy in Michigan, whom FBI agents, masquerading as an multiple online love interests, urged to pledge allegiance to ISIS and commit a suicide attack, before arresting him on weapons charges when he refused to do so. They still trumpeted the act as arresting a “public safety threat,” a sentiment echoed in the media.
There was the 2010 case in Baltimore where government agents approached an alleged Jihadi lone actor without any actual ties to terrorist orgs and handed him a fake bomb and detonation device to be set off at an Army recruitment center.
A remarkably similar case happened earlier that year in Portland.
There were two separate instances in Kansas City where the FBI had deep involvement with would-be “terrorists”.
One was a plot in 2017 of alleged jihadists – who again had no actual links to any terrorist orgs – to detonate “weapons of mass destruction.” In this instance undercover FBI agents supplied fake bombs and devised the actual plans for the attack – further the “jihadists” actually needed the FBI informant to loan them $20 in order to buy batteries, duct tape, nails and copper wire to construct the would-be WMD.
In an earlier Kansas City case in 2015, the FBI actually gave details on how to build a pressure cooker bomb to the would-be bomber who was later found too mentally incompetent to stand trial because he was “paranoid, childlike and unable to understand the legal proceedings against him.”
There is also the case of the Newburgh four – who despite being a rag tag crew of drug addicts, petty criminals, and a stockman at Walmart were allegedly Islamic terrorists with plans to first blow-up Jewish Synagogues and shoot down military jets with missiles, and then take on the Sears Tower, Hollywood movie sign, and eventually the Empire state building. Fortunately, their plans, motivations, money, and weapons all came from the FBI.
All of these alleged plots and more were headline news articles and pushed as irrefutable proof of the success and need for LEAs to be protecting us against terrorism an allegedly ever-present danger and threat. Many of these “cases of terrorism” were just skirting around legal definition of entrapment – which is an actual noted FBI tactic. Many of these men are often enfeebled, pitifully poor, and generally incompetent, if not downright mentally ill and functionally impotent. All too often within these terrorist “schemes,” plans and ideas come directly from FBI agents or informants, and there is no connection to any real extremists groups. Not to mention that the funds, purchase of weapons and explosives, and other resources are all too often funneled through federal agents and informants.
This is all part of standard operating procedure for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. As FBI Academy instructor David J Gottfried noted in the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin, the agency finds it insufficient to just catch late-stage terror plots or solve crimes, instead they must proactively coax would be terrorists out to act on the FBI’s own plots. The sad fact of the matter is that these FBI groomed terrorists are much more widespread than anyone would imagine. A 2014 report by the Human Rights Watch indicated that “nearly all of the highest-profile domestic terrorism plots in the United States since 9/11 featured the ‘direct involvement’ of government agents or informants.”
The question must be asked, why do the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies provoke these men into this? To get a handle on this, we should stay away from conspiratorial thinking that there is a nefarious or evil plan afoot and remember that all of these agencies are large government institutional bureaucracies. As Samo Burja points out large bureaucracies do not adapt and change for external benefit; but rather they optimize and act to ensure and safeguard their own continued existence and proliferation. A bureaucracy’s goal is to survive and grow not to pursue its nominal mission.
At the institutional level, bureaucratic safeguarding takes the form of gamifying objectives, the transforming of ambiguous and often fleeting goals into obtainable targets. Unfortunately, these targets don’t always map directly to the original stated goal of the organization or are fairly disconnected from real world efficacy. Take for example that the ideal goal of a traffic police force is to ensure safety along roads and highways, but all-to-often their real-world aims devolve into generating revenue through the meeting of ticket quotas. Similarly, the arms of the FBI and other agencies tasked with the amorphous goal of fighting terrorism quickly devolve into needing to arrest a certain number of terrorists in order to prove their necessity and even to demand more resources. If the rubric for success of an agency will be the amount of terrorism prevented, then why not just create more “prevented” terrorist plots?
On an individual bureaucrat level, agents in these government bureaucracies are typical of those who enlist into bureaucratic government service in that they are generally looking for safe and surefire ways to ascend a corporate/institutional ladder, gain power, and grow their reach. If someone’s job was to surveil, why would they not look to be able to surveil more and with greater ease – especially if their job depended upon it? Like any employment position there is an innate inability to look like you’re doing nothing, busy meaningless work is better than no work. If these bureaucrats are incentivized to show results from their snooping, then the pressure will be on to produce them. Creating terrorists is the easy way out. it allows for people to have more absolute power and effectively make their job easier, reach quotas and tackle objectives.
In 2012, Dianne Feinstein, then chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, held up a picture of Sami Osmakac as evidence for the success and necessity of the FISA Amendments Act because they enabled the FBI and other agencies to take down would be terrorists through sweeping new surveillance powers. What Dianne didn’t reveal (and perhaps didn’t even know) was that Sami was a schizophrenic who FBI agents referred to amongst themselves as a “retarded fool.” He had no real terrorist contacts, and only had access to FBI weapons which he “purchased” from undercover agents with cash other FBI agents provided. He was convicted in 2012 of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction because he agreed to wear a fake suicide vest to a casino. This is the culmination of the FBI constantly bolstering and propping up terrorists who posed no genuine threats to US citizens, the FBI and other LEAs able to use these cases as examples in order to demand more money, more power, and the relinquishing of more rights from US Citizens.
Often the public harps on the government as being gridlocked, inefficient, and ineffective. But it seems these descriptions only really stick to branches that represent the population through elected officials. When it comes to more bureaucratic institutions (especially within the law enforcement, security, and military agencies) government moves and grows remarkably nimbly and often practically unbounded. This is because they are continuously able to hold the rest of America hostage with fear, fear which is often a direct product of their own handiwork and fear which is only bolstered by politicians willing to echo it to win over easy votes, and media which can gain easy viewers and clicks by propagating it – it’s turtles all the way down.
The downside of the FBI’s tactic of growing their own terror is that it often goes awry. Take the following examples:
In the first ISIS claimed attack on US soil, the Garland, Texas mass-shooting of a cartoon contest. Not only did an undercover FBI agent goad the shooter on, sending him a text message of “Tear up Texas” the day before, but, as CBS’s 60 Minutes revealed, there was an FBI agent at the scene of the attack taking photos just minutes before the shooting.
Ample evidence exists that the older brother in the Boston bombing pair, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was an FBI informant turned rogue. Including the fact that in months leading up to the bombing, the FBI repeatedly directly and specifically requested that the state department expedite his application for citizenship. And that despite being on two terrorist watch lists and lacking a passport he was allowed to fly back and forth between the US and Russia.
The Pule Nightclub shooter in Orlando was the protected son of a long time FBI informant, who likely became radicalized by constant engagement with his father’s Pro-Taliban, anti-American contacts that the agency paid his father to engage with.
As Seamus Hughes, the deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University has stated, “every major [ISIS linked] U.S. attack was linked to FBI investigation before it happened.” Further, the FBI may also be causing chaos in the collateral damage of their pursuits. FBI informants are allowed to constantly commit crimes with FBI directors authorizing over five thousand criminal acts a year on average between 2011 and 2014.
Given all this context and the fact that both the FBI and ATF had prior knowledge that an attack was to take place in Oklahoma on the same day that Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building, is it even beyond reason that there are suspicions about the original OKC bomber was being prodded on by suspected informants and agents?
Allow me to take off my tin-foil hat for a second, I do not want it to distract from the sad fact that in either scenario, if a supposed loser turned terrorist is captured in an entrapment scheme, or is actually radicalized and competent enough to become an actual shooter or bomber, federal law enforcement agencies win regardless. They are able to tout both cases as evidence that the US populace should be constantly operating under fear and looking over their shoulders and that their agencies absolutely need more resources, more funding, more powers and less constraints.
It should not be of any surprise that if the FBI would go to so far to enflame fear and anger within the war on terror that they would also do similar feats in the culture wars too. It seems that there is ample evidence that they can be tied to various headlines of far-right extremists and domestic terrorists which have been used to galvanize anger and aggression between the left and the right. Take the following examples:
Two alleged members of an “anti-government extremist group” named the Boogaloo Bois who travelled from North Carolina to Minnesota after the George Floyd protests were charged with terrorism, yet they were housed by FBI informants and the only attempts at terrorism made by them seem to be boasts and threats that they made to FBI informants.
In the 2020 case of a would be extremist bomber looking to “make a violent anti-government statement,” undercover FBI agents gave a schizophrenic, who lives with his parents and doesn’t have a driver’s license, a van full of fake explosives after convincing him to bomb the BancFirst building in OKC.
Earlier this year, numerous men described as right-wing militants and extremists in the Wall St. journal were arrested for plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan. In the plot of over 15 individuals, informants and undercover agents consisted of at least a quarter of the conspirators and one of the main organizers and provider of transportation was an informant. Numerous of the defendants were cognitively deficient and financially and socially unstable and one was on the brink of homelessness. The Michigan Governor’s kidnapping was so odious that even the very liberal Jacobin Magazine published a story doubting the FBI narrative given their history of being provocateurs.
The leader of the Proud Boys, who the NYT pointed out specifically as part of what FBI director Christopher Wray called the “metastasizing” domestic terror threat inside the US, was a “prolific” informant for the FBI and other Law Enforcement agencies following an arrest in 2012 (he became national chairman of the Proud Boys in 2018).
The founder and leader of the Neo-Nazi group the Base was identified by the BBC as a former FBI analyst. The man, Ron Nazzaro, did work as a contractor for the Pentagon in the “Special Operations Command (SOCOM), one of the most secretive elements of the U.S. military,” additionally as the Guardian points out “as late as 2019, Nazzaro billed himself as an intelligence expert working with various government and military agencies.”
It appears that ahead of the January 6th riots and Capitol storming the FBI knew ahead of time about possible violent plots, even receiving info about threats from Parler, but still never issued an intelligence bulletin about the potential threat. In addition, there are at least 20 identified but un-indicted co-conspirators who explicitly planned events, shared hotel rooms with other rioters, and actively provoked people to violence that have not been prosecuted, despite the DOJ’s promise to prosecute to the full extent of the law and having one of the largest probes in U.S. history. We have already confirmed that there was already one undercover law enforcement agent who trespassed on capitol grounds during the riot, do the numerous other antagonists on the scene who have evaded charges mean there may have been more? It is certainly a point worth further investigation.
Let’s take a breather here – I am not going so far as to say that Law Enforcement was behind the Jan 6th insurrection. I also am not looking to absolve the far-right of any sins nor portray them as victims. Clearly there are very real threats and real far-right extremists out there, this is not meant to undermine those facts. I am not attempting some hand-wringing defense of conservatism nor an expunction of their wrong-doing. I personally find many of the major tenets of both conservatism and liberalism revolting and do not identify with either. Further, I have no reason to doubt that there are informants and undercovers working as provocateurs within AntiFa and many other leftist orgs.
If anything, the catalyzing and amplification of the threat of the far-right is just the shoe-on-the-other-foot from the 2000’s when left-leaning civil liberty organizations pushed to stop the targeting of Muslims in the US from LEAs while right-wingers blindly backed the government agencies. My take on the Jan 6 Riot is that after thoughtlessly pledging allegiance to law enforcement and government force during the months of protests following George Floyd’s murder that the supporters of Donald Trump learned that day that if you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes.
A derisive othering of both sides is the nuclear fuel that powers our culture war. Each side sees the other as being lead by extremists who are looking to upend society into a either a communist/socialist hell-hole or a fascist white ethno-state. But really cui bono? What people or institutions stand to gain from this collective viewpoint - who is bolstered by having each side living in mortal fear of the other and being willing to give up their own freedoms and tax dollars to protect against it.
Akin to how in post 9/11 America saw billions of tax dollars flow into Federal Law Enforcement and the creation and proliferation of Security agencies. So too, on the back of the rising threat of domestic terrorism and extremism do we see money and resources pour into law enforcement and security agencies. The US Capitol police are set to secure nearly $2bn in funding and in the process of opening field offices in California and Florida “with additional regions in the near future.” The Department of Homeland security has issued numerous unfounded warnings about the domestic extremism, a tactic of issuing baseless threats it has a history of using for attention and political gamesmanship. And the current administration is pushing for the passage of bills that would make domestic terrorism the new focus of the war on terror, read: continued funding and powers for government agencies and loss of powers, privacy, and liberty for citizens.
No matter which side they antagonize and enflame, these Federal Law Enforcement Agencies are looking to use the current zeitgeist, be it the war on terror or the culture war to keep people angry and afraid as a means to an end. If they have you afraid, they have you controlled - and by feeding into the culture wars and believing their own neighbors are blood thirsty extremists, people are only helping their cause.
Special thanks to @BoltzmannBooty on Twitter for sourcing a vast number of these article references, as well as continuing to remind us of our own government’s troublesome habit of brewing terrorism.