A brief summary of extremism
Extremist groups can be difficult to define as many members shift between ideologies, conspiracy theories, religions, and other traits. Extremism can therefore be like a kaleidoscope, with different corners interacting at different times.
The Northwest region has a history of extremism, such as white supremacist organizations. To help better understand this complex web of history and groups, the following is a brief description of groups and terms one might find while reporting on extremism.
This guide will be updated for time-to-time as the issue evolves.
Anarchists: The anarchist label can cover many different groups. When it comes to the extremism element that the FBI might investigate, it's individuals who damage property and engage in violence.
Aryan Nations: A neo-Nazi organization based in North Idaho that has ties to Christian Identity. The FBI has listed the group as a terrorist threat. It was founded by Richard Butler who became known to law enforcement for his participation with attempts to overthrow the US government and seditious conspiracy. After facing lawsuits, the Aryan Nations lost ownership of its 20-acre compound in Idaho.
Boogaloo movement: A movement aimed at causing a second civil war in the United States. The name is the product of internet slang and a humorous reference to the movie Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. On the internet, “boogaloo” is often jokingly attached to sequels and follow-ups, such as the movie itself (for example: Stranger Things Season 2: Electric Boogaloo; Reagan’s second presidential term: Electric Boogaloo). For those who promote a new civil war, it boils down to “American Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo.” Some who desire a second civil war refer to themselves as “Boogaloo Boys / Bois” and reportedly wear Hawaiian shirts as a signal of their ideology. The movement is known to attract both left- and right-wing extremes.
Christian Identity: An anti-Semitic, white supremacist interpretation of the Bible. Christian Identity groups have a history in the Northwest and are related to the Aryan Nations, which was previously present around northeastern Washington and Idaho. They believe white Europeans are the true chosen people of God.
John Birch Society: A far right group associated with Libertarians and Republicans. It has drawn the ire of mainstream GOP, as well as mockery from 1960s folk artists, including Bob Dylan and John Denver, who lampooned the group’s communist paranoia. The group is adamantly anti-communist, socialist, Marxist and has used that position in its opposition to the 1960s civil rights movement. Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich argues that many extremists in his region are influenced by John Birch Society ideology and have attempted to infiltrate the local Republican Party. He says this element is responsible for most candidates who have run against him in the past.
According to Sheriff Knezovich said that this element is responsible for the majority of candidates who have run against him: “The local (Spokane area) Republican Party for the last, almost decade and half, has been under attack and has been infiltrated by John Birch Libertarians who want to take over their local Republican Party. Their goal is to take over every elected position … up to county commissioner. Once they have accomplished that, they will work on the state level and then the national level. But the local Republican Party has always pushed back … it ebbs and flows. And the sad part is mainstream Republicans are walking away from the Spokane GOP.”
Oath Keepers: The Oath Keepers are an antigovernment militia that targets recruitment at law enforcement, military, firefighters, and other first responders. They argue that their oath to the Constitution requires them to disobey orders they deem unconstitutional. They subscribe to a range of conspiracy theories that claim a New World Order aims to oppress United States citizens. Oath Keepers reportedly helped plan the January 6 storming of the US Capitol Building and its members have been arrested in association with the insurrection. Washington State Senator Matt Shea is reportedly a member.
The Order: The Order was a neo-Nazi group based in Washington state, often referred to as a terrorist organization, that was active in 1983-84. Its goal was to start a revolution against the United States government and form a white homeland in the Northwest. It was funded through armed bank robberies which drew the attention of the FBI. Its members were responsible for the assassination of Jewish talk show host Alan Berg. The Order's founder, Robert Jay Mathews, was killed in a shootout with federal agents on Whidbey Island in 1984. His death spurred a white supremacist holiday that is celebrated annually in December.
Proud Boys: While many label Proud Boys as a white supremacist organization, it’s more complicated than that. According to Abass Golfrey, assistant agent in charge of the Seattle FBI office, the group is not white supremacist as a whole and is partially led by people of color. However, in some branches of the Proud Boys are members who support white supremacy and promote the formation of an ethnostate. The group also refers to themselves as “western chauvinists,” rhetoric that is shared by many white supremacist groups. In any case, brawling and violence is a common feature of Proud Boys demonstrations.
Canada has listed the Proud Boys as a terrorist group alongside ISIS and Al-Qiada.
QAnon: A continually evolving conspiracy theory that has spread through internet message boards such as 4Chan. It claims a person, or persons, within the military (referred to as “Q”) are covertly working to counter an evil organization with influence throughout the United States government and the world. This satanic organization is supposedly involved with the human trafficking of children, which Democrats sexually abuse. Some believe Democrats also eat these children. Since the conspiracy theory emerged in 2017, it evolved to include that President Donald Trump was working behind the scenes to take down this organization within the “deep state,” and arrest its members. They believed in a day called “The Storm” in which the deep state would be taken down. QAnon believers were part of the January 6 insurrection at the United States capitol, which some members referred to as “The Storm.” Before he was banned on Twitter, President Trump reportedly retweeted and pointed people to QAnon content more than 315 times. Some recent politicians are believers in QAnon, such as the mayor of Sequim,
Redoubt: A movement built around the concept of a redoubt; a defensive structure built around a fort to create a barrier to the outside world and invading armies. The Redoubt Movement aims to get people of similar politics, religious views, and ideologies to move to parts of the Midwest and Northwest to create a dominant culture. It has become popular with preppers and survivalists. A modern take on the redoubt movement is motivated by religious separatism. While some within the movement promote anti-racism, the effort mirrors previous movements aimed at getting white separatists to move to the same parts of the United States to create an ethnostate (that effort has ties to Christian Identity and the Aryan Nations).
Sovereign citizens: Individuals who claim independence from the Unites States, or any government. As such, many refuse to pay taxes or have a driver’s license, etc. People claiming sovereign citizenship have been responsible for violent activity, such as the killing of police officers at traffic stops. On the other end of the spectrum, Wesley Snipes used similar rhetoric when charged with tax evasion.
The Turner Diaries: The Turner Diaries is an apocalyptic white supremacist novel that, despite being fiction, is considered a guidebook by many neo-Nazis as it refers to continuing the work of a "great one" (aka Hitler). It was originally published in the 1970s and tells the story of a man who leads a group in guerilla warfare against the FBI and the government. They also sabotage the economy and attack the US Capitol Building. The main character, Turner, is a member of a group called The Order, which was the inspiration for the real life terrorist group of the same name, based in Washington state. Turner ultimately flies an airplane with a nuclear weapon into the Pentagon and the book concludes as the movement spreads across the globe with a large scale ethnic cleansing and the killing of race traitors (journalists, politicians, and women in interracial relationships).
Aspects of the book's plot are found throughout right wing conspiracies, such as QAnon. During the January 6 storming of the US Capitol Building, rioters made nooses and referenced the "Day of Rope," a concept taken from the novel.
Following the January 6 attack on the US Capitol Building, Amazon pulled all copies of The Turner Diaries from its online store.