Stochastic terrorism and the scripted violence that comes with it have become essential features of post-insurrection Trumpism and its unfolding strategy: claim your political opponents are literally satanic pedophiles conspiring to traffic your children and destroy America by replacing white people, and then tell your army of True Believers the names and identities of these fiends. Paint targets on them.
It’s a strategy that’s already come home to roost in Buffalo, El Paso, and elsewhere. And we can see it unfolding in real time in Missouri, where a far-right organization has published an interactive graphic called the “Woke Heat Map,” which lists and identifies specific schools in Missouri engaged in allegedly promoting “crazy ideas” ranging “from Critical Race Theory to grooming toddlers with sexually explicit books.”
So far, the outfit calling itself the Liberty Alliance has collected 12 “hot spots,” including a well-regarded private school in Kansas City and St. Louis University. When you click on the tag for each one on the map, the site takes you to articles or videos explaining why each of the schools identified has become part of “woke” activity in the state.
The articles and videos at each of the 12 locations mainly attacked such programs and antiracist efforts as simply “critical race theory” and diversity training.
According to its website, the Liberty Alliance is “committed to fighting back against the woke agenda permeating all across Missouri.”
“The first step in fighting back is uncovering their crazy ideas — from Critical Race Theory to grooming toddlers with sexually explicit books,” the statement added. “That is why we have officially launched the Woke Heat Map — an interactive tool designed to expose the insane actions of the radical Left. This map will alert Missourians of craziness happening in their own communities.”
Parents deserve transparency when it comes to what their children are exposed to.
That’s why we launched the #WokeHeatMap two weeks ago to shed light on how tax dollars are being spent and what children are being taught.
One of the links in the map takes users to an article by Christopher Rufo, one of the primary promoters of the fraudulent claims about “critical race theory” being foisted upon students as part of a “cultural Marxism” program. Others go to right-wing “PragerU” disinformation videos claiming that all Missouri schools incorporate “CRT” into students’ curriculum, or link to smear tweets from LibsOfTikTok.
Liberty Alliance founder Kenneth Bone complained to a right-wing news outlet that the publication of a HuffPost piece by Mary Papenfuss exposing his website’s dubious tactic has led to him receiving a flood of disapproving mail and death threats.
He claimed the death threats have been uncountable among the “hundreds and hundreds of hateful, disgusting and disturbing messages” his organization has received. One reportedly urged him to commit suicide, while another claimed the site had been reported to the FBI, but added: “Get fucked, rednecks.”
“They’re the ones saying that we’re dangerous, which is crazy because they’re the ones who are threatening us,” Bone said, then continued: “I think this just shows exactly why this is necessary. I think it validates everything that we’re doing. I think we’re on the right side of this.”
In addition to its map targeting schools, the organization also appears to be targeting Pride events in Missouri, including this weekend’s “Burg Pride” festival in Warrensburg. Reminiscent of the threatening rhetoric of Idaho’s Panhandle Patriots regarding a June 11 Pride gathering, its tweet warns: “An All-Ages Drag Show is just another example of grooming.”
As HuffPost noted, little is known about the Liberty Alliance’s funding. It’s registered as a social welfare organization rather than a political action committee under 501(c)(4) of the IRS code, which enables it to evade campaign-finance filing requirements.
The Missouri Democratic Party claimed in a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission that the group is involved in elections and thus should face penalties. However, the complaint was dismissed.
Liberty Alliance was exultant afterward. Executive Director Chris Vas said: “We want to make one thing clear to Nicole Galloway, the Missouri Democrat Party, and anybody else who tries to silence us—we will never stop fighting for conservative causes and opposing socialism, and we will continue working to limit the size and scope of government in order to protect taxpayers.”
“I think it’s disappointing that the MEC is unwilling to address dark money groups engaging in election advocacy without disclosing their donors,” Missouri Democratic Party Executive Director Lauren Gepford told The Missouri Times. “Missouri voters have said they want transparency in their elections, and groups like Liberty Alliance are set up to bypass transparency. If the MEC won’t act then we need to change the laws, that’s why we’re fighting to elect lawmakers that will reform our campaign finance laws.”
The strategy of targeting small local entities like schools, school boards, and other similarly vulnerable operations for bellicose campaigns of intimidation with explicit threats of violence carried out by others has been intensifying over the past year. In the meantime, the violence associated with all this has similarly compounded. That’s how stochastic terrorism and scripted violence work.
As Chip Berlet explains in his essay on scripted violence:
The potential for violence in a society increases when the mass media carries rhetorical vilification by high profile and respected figures who scapegoat a named ‘Other’. This dangerous ‘constitutive rhetoric’ can build an actual constituency of persons feeling threatened or displaced. Or to put it another way, when rhetorical fecal matter hits the spinning verbal blades of a bigoted demagogue’s exhortations, bad stuff happens.
The resulting violence can incite a mob, a mass movement, a war, or an individual actor. Individual actors who engage in violence can emerge in three ways. They can be assigned the task of violence by an existing organizational leadership; they can be members or participants in an existing organization, yet decide to act on their own; or they can be unconnected to an existing organization and act on their own. According to the US government definition, a ‘Lone Wolf’ is a person who engages in political violence and is not known by law enforcement agencies to have any current or previous ties to an organization under surveillance as potential lawbreakers. The person committing the violence may expect or even welcome martyrdom, or may plan for a successful escape to carry on being a political soldier in a hoped-for insurgency. Either way, the hope is that ‘a little spark can cause a prairie fire’. Revolution is seldom the result, but violence and death remains as a legacy.
This plays a key role in how violence created by a tide of young men radicalized online by far-right ideologues and conspiracy theories is spread. Having a figure like Trump both normalizing their extremism and encouraging violence in support of it means that it is being spread throughout American society.
The way this finds expression is with men like Cesar Sayoc (the #MAGABomber), and the Buffalo shooter: men who see themselves as “warriors” in a larger fight against evil itself, which in their view is embodied by liberals and leftists. This is why so many right-wing Trumpists speak so eagerly of launching a “civil war” against urban liberals.
No actual war ever arrives, of course. But a lot of people get hurt and even killed when the True Believers finally act out.
Republished with permission from Daily Kos.