A Spokesman article on June 11 declared "Elected officials condemn ‘armed vigilantes’ attending Spokane protests." The condemnation was in response to quasi-military, heavily armed, camo-clad folk who showed up in downtown Spokane a couple of weeks ago to "protect local businesses," some of them claiming (without evidence) that they were asked to appear by local proprietors. (I saw that claim made by an AR-toting man in the dim light of evening recorded in one of those ephemeral Facebook-posted videos you can never find again). The signers of the condemnation included Mayor Nadine Woodward and new City Councilperson Michael Cathcart, both of whom, though technically in "nonpartisan" positions, count on local Republican, 2nd Amendment-waving, support. In the relatively liberal-voting City of Spokane one can feel free (once in office) to make a reasonable statement about armed vigilantes without fearing a Republican backlash. Contrast that to Spokane County officials: Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, and County Commissioners French, Kerns, and Kuney did not sign. (The article notes that French was asked and declined, while the other three may not have been asked.) No one interviewed for the article thought the presence of armed vigilantes was constructive and most suggested it added to the tension.
What brought these people out with their camo and their weaponry? Echo-chamber rumors of "antifa" infiltration at the protests. The rumor was widespread through much of the United States. Fear of an "antifa" uprising was fueled by Trump and Attorney General William Barr (and Ozzie Knezovich locally, who immediately suspected "antifa socialists") and spread on Facebook and across the web, inciting heavily armed defenders to parade around in small and medium-sized towns from Michigan to Sandpoint, Idaho, to Klamath Falls, Oregon, likely all of these folks believing they were offering essential service to their communities.
Who benefits? To read the article in Spokesman it is certainly not the shopkeepers downtown, many of whom expressed dismay that the presence of armed militia-types was scaring away customers. Benefit accrues only to those hoping to sow discord, the folks hoping to ignite the "boogaloo," the hoped-for (by some) Second American Civil War or to any group anxious to see the United States in flames. Fortunately, it didn't happen--this time. One could hope a few of these people would have learned their lesson, but, in fact, there's plenty of evidence they are drawing the opposite conclusion: that their presence actually prevented an imminent uprising by antifa. Check out "COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO STANDS UP…ANTIFA STANDS DOWN!" on a glossy website by an untraceable author writing from an unknown location under the name "The Media Accountability Collective." Who is this collective, whom does it represent?
There are many parallels. The Pizzagate Conspiracy Theory of 2016 had a nearly lethal ending and, on account of that, lives on in memory. Possibly originating from a Tweet, and certainly spread in the electronic rumor mill, the theory led to a 28 year man from North Carolina shooting up the Comet Ping Pong Pizza Parlor in the nation's capitol with his assault rifle in order to "save the children." The gullible man and several others like him who were stimulated by the rumor are now serving time.
In the slower news era of World War II rumors of an imminent Japanese invasion on the west coast helped lead to the infamous Japanese internment camps. Check out The Battle of Los Angeles for an example of things that can happen when people are on edge.
I am reminded, too, of one of my favorite movies, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, from 1966, a film well worth revisiting--but I fear our current circumstances will end differently than the movie.
The folks most militantly pushing second amendment rights are same folks parading around in our streets with their assault weapons, accountable to no one but themselves, ready to intimidate, and, if they deem it necessary, based on rumor and circumstance, ready to pull their triggers. For me, as a gun owner, hunter, and one time competitive shooter, I'm done thinking these guys (and a few gals) with their assault weaponry represent a benefit of defending the Second Amendment. Their turning out in response to rumor was a chance for them to feel self important, even masterful; for some of them, perhaps a chance to get something started. Their congratulating themselves on a job well done is delusional.
Keep to the high ground,