The newest IRS conspiracy theories have created such a deluge of threats against its employees that the agency is now reviewing its security measures to ward off actual terrorist violence.
IRS Deluged With Threats Generated By Right-wing Extremists
Credit: Getty Images
August 27, 2022

Right-wing conspiracy theorists have been concocting phony claims about the Internal Revenue Service, one of their favorite bogeymen, for decades. But their latest iteration—claiming that liberals plan to unleash an army of armed agents on unsuspecting conservatives—has raised their antigovernment hysteria to a threatening boil.

After being spread widely by mainstream Republican officials and Fox News pundits like Tucker Carlson, the newest IRS conspiracy theories have created such a deluge of threats against its employees that the agency is now reviewing its security measures to ward off actual terrorist violence. Considering that a right-wing extremist ginned up on similar rhetoric attacked FBI offices in Cincinnati recently, such steps are obviously becoming necessary.
The IRS has been a target of the radical right for decades, particularly in the realm of antigovernment tax protesters and sovereign citizens. In the 1990s, extremists attempted to bomb and set fire to IRS offices and to gun down IRS agents. In 2010, a Texas man spouting far-right conspiracy theories flew a plane into an Austin building that housed IRS offices, killing one employee and himself.

But the newest round of conspiracism is the result of the Biden administration’s plan under the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act to hire thousands of new employees—primarily analysts and other office workers—for the agency as part of its efforts to crack down on tax scofflaws and bolster federal revenues. That news set off howls of protest from Republicans whose wealthy donors are the primary targets of the accountability efforts.

Those protests and accompanying Fox-fueled conspiracy theories gained little traction until the FBI served search warrants on Donald Trump’s mansion in Florida two weeks ago, prompting Republicans to trot out a hysterical narrative claiming that Democrats were “weaponizing” federal law enforcement to attack conservatives—and the IRS hiring became a central component in that smear.

"The Biden Admin has fully weaponized DOJ & FBI to target their political enemies. And with 87K new IRS agents, they're coming for YOU too," Texas Senator Ted Cruz tweeted.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson joined in: "Who do you think they'll weaponize the 87,000 IRS agents against? The answer is obvious. Their political enemies," he tweeted.

“They have 80,000 employees. You know what the IRS also has? 4,600 guns. 5 million rounds of ammunition. Why? Democrats want to double its already massive size,” House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California told his colleagues on the House floor.

“With this new power, the IRS will snoop around in your bank account, your Venmo, your small business. Then the government will shake you down for every last cent,” he added. “In light of [the FBI’s search of Trump’s residence], let me ask: Do you really trust this administration’s IRS to be fair, to not abuse their power?”

Another Republican congressman, Andrew Clyde of Georgia—who last year compared the Jan. 6 insurrection to an ordinary House tour—followed a similar theme. “Think about it: If the left will weaponize the FBI to raid President Trump’s personal residence, they will surely weaponize the IRS’s new 87,000 agents, many of whom will be trained in the use of deadly force, to go after any American citizen,” he told his House colleagues.

Tucker Carlson led the usual gaslight parade at Fox News, suggesting that the crackdown was somehow related to gun control:

These are the people who created the crime wave America is suffering under and now they're blaming you for it. And for good measure, they're disarming you because you cannot be trusted with guns because you're too dangerous. And just in case you missed the theme here, they're hiring another 87,000 armed IRS agents just to make sure that you obey. Got it?

Other Republicans indulged in explicitly violent rhetoric urging Americans to resist federal agents with lethal force. A GOP candidate in Florida's House District 20 named Luis Miguel tweeted: “Under my plan, all Floridians will have permission to shoot FBI, IRS, ATF and all other feds on sight! Let freedom ring!”

Miguel was permanently banned from Twitter. He also was roundly defeated in the Republican primary on Tuesday, 77%-22%.

On social media—particularly Telegram, where extremists like the Proud Boys congregate—the response was predictably threatening. One Telegram channel repeated the false claim that the IRS was only looking to hire new agents who were “willing to use lethal force.” Memes compared IRS agents to Nazi officers, while others advocated forming a “tea party” at which they would tar and feather IRS employees.

Understandably, IRS workers are worried. “This terrifies me. This is the reason that I don’t tell people that I work for the IRS,” one employee wrote to a union leader.

“We see what’s out there in terms of social media. Our workforce is concerned about their safety,” Commissioner Charles Rettig told The Washington Post. “The comments being made are extremely disrespectful to the agency, to the employees and to the country.”

Rettig says the IRS plans risk assessments for each of the agency’s 600 facilities, which would include examining security around entrances and potentially increasing security patrols around the buildings’ exteriors.

“For me this is personal,” Rettig wrote in a letter to IRS employees. “I’ll continue to make every effort to dispel any lingering misperceptions about our work. And I will continue to advocate for your safety in every venue where I have an audience. You go above and beyond every single day, and I am honored to work with each of you.”

“This is a shot at the reputation of the IRS employees and the IRS and our country,” Rettig told the Post. “This country would not function without a functioning Internal Revenue Service.”

“Given the social media chatter we’re already seeing, it’s all too easy to imagine individuals using these conspiracy theories as justification for violence against public servants and their families,” Democratic Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in a statement. “It’s unbelievable that we even need to say this, but there are not going to be 87,000 armed IRS agents going door-to-door with assault weapons. This is funding for answering phone calls and upgrading computer systems.”

Published with permission of Daily Kos

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