Extremists’ suspicion of law enforcement might seem strange, given that off-duty police officers were among the mob who stormed the Capitol earlier this month. But although far-right extremists tend to see local law enforcement as the ultimate authority, federal agents, to many of them, are extensions of the federal government, and therefore illegitimate.
In fact, as Arie Perliger, a professor of security studies at UMass Lowell, pointed out in a recent paper, even as law-enforcement officers have joined the ranks of far-right militias, militias have increased their attacks on law-enforcement and military targets. “You can be a police officer, but if you’re not someone who’s part of their constituency,” Perliger told me, “you’re the enemy.”
Many people who have expressed support for the Capitol insurrection talk of glowies, but it’s not yet clear how many of the people who actually seized the building are familiar with the term. Though dozens of known white supremacists who were on a terrorist watch list joined in the Capitol attack, as The Washington Post reported, the mob also included everyone from a horned shaman to a tech CEO. Members of militias like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters also appeared to be there, but several experts told me those groups don’t typically use online lingo like glowing, which is more commonly used by younger, more tech-savvy radicals.
Regardless of their affiliation, the rioters largely saw the day as a success. To some, it was a sign that the broad far-right movement is growing in strength. “The race war that they really fantasize about, you know, ‘It feels like that we can actually bring this to fruition now, that we’re really gathering steam following what happened on the 6th,’” Peter Simi, a sociologist at Chapman University who studies extremists, told me. Counterterrorism officials are predicting that the boogaloo movement, in particular, might commit additional violence in the coming weeks.
That’s especially likely because the Biden administration will stoke these groups’ rage. “The history of the militia movement for the past four years has been them scrounging around to find other enemies to spend energy on—antifa, Democrats in Congress, governors doing lockdown measures, Black Lives Matter, all sorts of other things to occupy their time,” Pitcavage, of the Anti-Defamation League, told me. “But with Biden as president, it’s quite possible that they will revert to form and once more become extremely antagonistic to the federal government and grow.”
And though extremists have recently been kicked off mainstream sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are still active on more esoteric platforms, such as Gab, Rocket.Chat, MeWe, Signal, Rumble, DLive, BitChute, and AR15.com, among others.
Still, even in these obscure corners of the internet, they might be right to be paranoid about glowies. “There’s a long history of law enforcement infiltrating these groups,” Simi said. It’s highly likely that federal agents are actually monitoring these forums today, several experts told me. Trump ignored the threat of domestic terrorism for much of his presidency, but federal law enforcement has cracked down on the groups somewhat in the past year. Federal agents charged several boogaloo bois last fall, and last winter agents arrested the former leader of the white-supremacist group Atomwaffen Division for planning “swat” attacks on journalists and other foes.