April 19, 2021
It’s been three-and-a-half months since an assortment of ultra-right militia members, lunatic conspiracy mongers, and other violent insurrectionists stormed the halls of the United States Capitol in an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election and install Donald Trump for a second, stolen term in office.
In that time, the zeitgeist-y focus on those various far-right factions that participated in the attempted coup has seemingly receded slightly, as the immediate shock from the events of Jan. 6 has given way to the more banal churn of related federal indictments and — as of last week — plea deals. Still, those corners of the ultra-right ecosystem which breached Congress haven’t disappeared. If anything, events of the past week have shown just how potent a force they still are — and will continue to be.
First, consider this weekend’s CBS News interview with Jim Arroyo, a member of the anti-government “Oath Keepers” militia that’s found itself at the center of the federal investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“Our guys are very experienced,” Arroyo told 60 Minutes. “We have active-duty law enforcement in our organization that are helping to train us. We can blend in with our law enforcement and in fact, in a lot of cases, our training is much more advanced because of our military backgrounds.”
To be perfectly clear about what Arroyo is saying: He is claiming that what is believed to be the largest hard-right anti-government militia in the country, estimated to have as many as 30,000 members nationwide, is being trained (in what, he doesn’t clarify) by active-duty police officers — the same people who, presumably, are pulling over drivers and walking beats on city streets.
In part, this isn’t wholly shocking news; the overlap between violent right-wing groups and law enforcement agencies is well-documented at this point. Still, for a member of perhaps the most prominent of such groups to openly brag about his militia’s police-enhanced operational capacity shows just how brazen and unapologetic that relationship has become.
Meanwhile, overseas, another wing of the ultra-right is making inroads of its own, with QAnon adherents gaining enough of a toehold in France that even the government has started taking notice, calling it “highly concerning” and “very worrying” in recent months. And it seems there’s reason for the alarm, as what was once seen as a uniquely American cultish mindset has since gone global.
Last week French officials rescued an 8-year-old girl who had been taken from her grandmother’s home by a group of QAnon adherents hired by the girl’s mother who’d lost custody of her daughter after vowing to “live on the margins of society.”
The kidnappers were described by a French prosecutor as being “against the state and mobilized against what they call a health dictatorship.”
QAnon in France and cops in the Oath Keepers — just two helpful reminders that the hard right is still here, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.