Last week's raid by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on former President Donald Trump’s residence, at his Mar-a-Lago golf course in Florida, ignited the anger of millions of his supporters. But, beside tweets and posts on the Internet, hundreds of his supporters showed up at the residence – some were carrying guns – shouting and swearing to defend him, and America.
It was worse yet that some called for another “Civil War.” In fact, the FBI search was not political as much as it was technical: it is about the National Archives keeping the records and documents of the Trump presidency, as it has been doing for presidents before him.
The National Archives and the FBI grew increasingly concerned that Trump, or his lawyers and aides, had not returned all the documents and other material that were government property.
When Trump gave 15 boxes of items to the National Archives about seven months ago, key records were not delivered. Over months of meetings about whether documents were still missing, some officials also came to suspect Trump’s representatives were not truthful.
But, as Trump did on the day when his supporters attacked the Congress on January 6, 2021, he again made inflammatory statements: What the FBI “did was not only unprecedented, but completely unnecessary.”
Again, within hours of the search and the inciting statement, Republican lawmakers, conservative talk show hosts, anti-government provocateurs, and pro-Trump conspiracy theorists began issuing explicit, or thinly-veiled, calls for violence.
There was a concern about the safety of the federal judge in Florida who approved the FBI search warrant. His name and home address found their way to right-wing forums, and threats and conspiracy theories soon followed.
Following are two opposite opinions about this call for violence, excerpts from their tweets, websites, and statements to the media:
On one side, extreme conservative Steven Crowder, who has nearly two million followers on Twitter, and nearly six million on YouTube, declared: “Today is war.”
On the other side, Casey Cox, a political scientist at Texas A&M University who studies domestic terrorism, warned that a “war” might be started by some of Trump supporters.
Steven Crowder: “War”:
“Today is war. That is all you will get on my show today …
A bell has been rung that cannot be unsung. And let me tell you this, as I have never done: there is a lot of misinformation out there, largely from the left and mainstream media.
What the FBI did was so wrong, so tyrannical, a reflection of the Biden leftist administration.
I am not calling you to commit violence as the left is saying about me. Nor fight like hell against the spies of Communist China.
But, the world should know that half of the Americans felt insulted by what the FBI did, not only to President Trump, but to our country, our constitution, and to what America is about …
We need to hit the purge button, and we want the whole world to see us hitting the purge button.
Why not hit the purge button and today we feel insulted, hurt and neglected. Therefore, we have the right to scream. Not as egregiously as the left, but it is time to fight fire with fire ...
This is not a call for violence, for a physical civil war, because I know that YouTube [where he publishes his opinions] is on high alert.
Then there are leftist organs, like CNN and MSNBC who pointed out that the FBI top officials and the Florida judge who authorized the operation were appointed by Trump.
But that is not important because we know that a person, any person, at the end of the day, wants to keep his job …
We don’t blame these people; we blame this leftist government that has embarked on destroying America so as to achieve its agenda.
Do you know what they are going to do next, after the FBI raid on Trump’s residence? They are going to have spies, and like the German Gestapo, are going to knock at our doors to collect our guns …
The left is getting ready for physical violence in the name of the administration that they are having now. And that is why they are talking about our physical violence. We know about this leftist administration’s secret meetings in Washington, preparing to go after your guns, your houses, your culture, and your way of life …”
Casey Cox: “Might be ‘War’”:
“If this line of violent thought [from Trump supporters] continues, I suspect we’ll see more far-right chatter about the federal government buildings being legitimate targets …
If the goal is to normalize vigilante violence as a political response, studies show that the tactic seems to be working.
A recent "Washington Post"-University of Maryland poll found that about 1 in 3 Americans said they believed violence against the government can at times be justified. That was the largest percentage to feel that way in more than two decades.
Other studies similarly have found a growing tolerance of violent ideologies that historically were confined to fringe elements …
I have tracked how these ideas were laundered into the mainstream right over decades, creating an increasing undertone of violence that has been simmering from the early 1990’s.
By 2008, coinciding with the right-wing backlash to Barack Obama’s presidency, the messaging was becoming more overt. We saw more pronounced violence. We saw more campaign ads either on TV or online featuring targets to be attacked ...
Dangerously, Republican leaders helped to ignite the fire. We saw Senator Ted Cruz cooking his breakfast on the barrel of a gun …
Aggressive gerrymandering [of election districts] has created a more extreme electorate, forcing politicians to veer further right to stay in office. Violent rhetoric that once was considered disqualifying is now politics as usual, a shift that began before Trump but was hastened under his presidency.
As shown by the Congressional investigation of the January 6 [the attack on the Congress], veiled calls for violence in political speech move quickly from more mainstream outlets such as Fox News to far-right extremist forums.
By the time you get through some of that, you can really see a lot of the sheen coming off. 'We're going to have a wild rally’ becomes `Bring weapons, we’re going to storm the Capitol (again) ...”