The terrifying consequences of President Trump’s constant demonizing of the “fake news” media as the “enemy of the people” once again made themselves deadly clear over the weekend when a U.S. Army soldier was arrested by the FBI for plotting to bomb a major news organization.
Private First Class Jarret William Smith, 24, has been charged with “one count of distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction,” reports CNBC News.
Smith had used Facebook to connect with an American man, Craig Lang, who had traveled to Ukraine to fight with a white supremacist militia. Smith was considering travelling to Eastern Europe himself to join the notorious neo-Nazi Azov Battalion.
During his discussions with this man and an undercover FBI agent, Smith bragged about how he knew how to make improvised explosive devices out of cellphones and rig car bombs — and shared information on how to do so.
In a press release, the Department of Justice said that “On Aug. 19, 2019, Smith told an undercover investigator he was looking for ‘radicals’ like himself…Smith talked about killing members of Antifa and destroying nearby cell towers or a local news station.” The criminal complaint against Smith alleges that “Smith told the [source] that the headquarters of a major American news network would be a suggested target, utilizing a vehicle bomb” and that last Friday, Smith said that presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke could be his target for a terrorist bombing.
The FBI announced just last week that it was finally adding white supremacist violence to its list of priority threats after not just ignoring the infiltration of white supremacists into American law enforcement for decades but also refusing to take the threat of white supremacy seriously, instead of remaining hyperfocused on Islamic terrorism and the threat of imaginary “black identity groups.” In one of the most egregious examples of this, the FBI was busted actively investigating civil rights groups for “conspiring” against the “rights” of the Ku Klux Klan.
While the FBI was busy torturing and extracting false confessions from the abused Muslim wife of a mass shooter and entrapping mentally troubled young Muslims for “terrorism plots” that they themselves had provided the weapons for, white supremacist violence skyrocketed. In the past two years, there have been six mass shootings explicitly linked to white supremacy in the United States that have killed 41 and 52 injured, on top of the 7,175 hate crimes committed in 2017 alone.
The arrest of Smith again brings into sharp perspective of how tech companies enable white supremacist violence. Far from being a “lone wolf,” Smith connected to other white supremacists through Facebook and shared his knowledge on explosives on the platform Telegram. While social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have to be relentlessly pressured into making even a cursory effort to stem the tsunami of white supremacist content circulating on their platforms, tech companies knowingly host white supremacist websites and finance companies like Mastercard profit off processing fundraising payments to white supremacists across the world.
Fighting white supremacy is going to a be a battle unlike any other our nation has ever faced; while we must rely on questionably trustworthy law enforcement agencies to be the first line of defense, the public and our politicians must work to hold social media and finance companies accountable for their role in promoting hateful rhetoric and enabling the radicalization of young white men.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.