Monday 8 February 2021
The Joe Biden inauguration came and went without incident. Yet, the story of the 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol continues to unfold. In this section we’re featuring two stories that add more colour to the story. The first, tells the story of one Pennsylvania mother that was radicalised by far-right media, came to be involved in the Capital riots and is now a fugitive from the FBI. The second, covers the Boogaloo Boys, a loosely organised far-right extremist group in the US that were involved in the Capital riots. Together, they help explain the interrelated nature of the right-wing ecosystem. How many people sympathetic to right-wing causes find themselves falling down a rabbit hole of right-wing media and social media that ends up with groups like the Boogaloo Boys, the Proud Boys and other growing right-wing extremist groups.
The first article looks at Rachel Powell, a forty-year-old mother of eight, who worked at the local farmers market and frequently used Facebook to post about yoga, organic food and her children. Over the past year, her Facebook posts tell the story of someone that started dabbling in right-wing media before falling deep down the rabbit hole of Alex Jones, election-fraud and COVID-19 conspiracies. This descent into the right-wing ecosystem ended at the Capital riots where video shows Powell using a battering ram to smash a window and a bullhorn to issue orders to fellow protestors.
For many people, this right-wing media rabbit hole ends at the extremist groups that have grown in profile and number over the past few years. One such group (or by some definitions, an overarching group that many other right-wing extremist groups fall under) is the Boogaloo Boys. Founded on the belief of an inevitable and imminent armed revolt against the US Government, the Boogaloo Boys are known for wearing Hawaiian shirts along with military fatigues. The group have become a magnet for current and former military service members (leading the US Military to review extremism within its ranks).
This is the emerging story of the US Capitol riots, and something policymakers around the world should be taking note of. The process by which everyday people can be radicalised by right-wing media, find common cause with likeminded people online, and grow the ranks of fringe extremist groups. Unless the world is able to address the roots of radicalisation, we shouldn’t expect this problem to go away.