To successfully combat violent, far-right extremism in a post-Trump America, you absolutely do not need a new domestic front in the disastrous War on Terror. What you do need is for law enforcement to simply enforce laws that have been on the books for ages.
Also, it would be helpful if fewer cops ended up taking the side of MAGA extremists, far-right conspiracy theorists, and—of course—the Trumpist Capitol rioters.
On this week’s episode of The Daily Beast’s Fever Dreams podcast, hosts Asawin Suebsaeng and Kelly Weill welcome NBC News journalist (and Daily Beast alumnus) Ben Collins, who breaks down some of his latest reporting and investigations into online disinformation and political extremism—and how that kind of absurd disinformation can warp a police department’s priorities.
“Last year, there were these rumors of antifa buses that existed solely on the dumbest accounts on Instagram and Facebook. They didn’t exist. There’s no such thing as… this marauding magic school bus of antifa people just going around,” Collins recounted. “However, law enforcement [in California] put a helicopter in the sky to try to find an ‘Antifa bus’ that was rumored on Instagram and Facebook, in one of the dumbest Instagram posts that you’ll ever see. They take that very seriously, when a lot of this stuff… is coming from the militias… This isn’t just a police thing, or a training thing. It’s like, how are law enforcement so targeted algorithmically by this stuff? Or how are they falling down these rabbit holes?”
Collins pointed out that “one of the biggest vectors last year of these, ‘Antifa is coming to your house personally to, you know, take your grandma’s medicine’ stuff was police Facebook pages, who have like blue checks next to the name on Facebook, who are trusted by the community… So there's a larger systemic problem there with how police interact with social media on a local level.”
Elsewhere on this episode, Weill and Suebsaeng also discuss how the horse paste and “sheep drench” craze raging among many anti-vaccine COVID truthers—and to a certain extent, on Fox News—is getting so out of hand… that the FDA had to spend part of its weekend telling people to knock it off.