Today, white supremacist, anti-LGBTQ+ and even anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have become so widespread that what was taboo not long ago is accepted by many as not only normal, but admissible, notes leading far-right expert Spencer Sunshine*.
For years, many observers of the far right have hoped that the forces unleashed by Trump’s rise in 2016 would reach a point of collapse, as has happened in the past. These hopes were initially linked to Trump’s electoral defeat (first in 2016, then in 2020), then to an expected delegitimization after the January 6 insurrection. But this was not the case, and even in the absence of new high-profile events, the far-right’s militant base remained very solid and influential under President Biden. An examination of its organizations and strategies, as well as the issues of the past year, shows what the 2024 presidential campaign is going to be all about. And it’s pretty frightening.
Violence, attacks, civil war ?
Donald Trump remains the figurehead of the far right, with a devoted following and he’s at the center of media coverage. Just like Marine Le Pen in France.
Experts who monitor the far right worry about possible violence if Trump doesn’t become president. David Neiwert, author of The Age of Insurrection, says that even if he doesn’t win, his “hardcore supporters will engage in acts of domestic terrorism.” If he is convicted and sentenced to prison, David Neiwert believes they may even go so far as to “try to get him out of jail. Journalist Teddy Wilson, editor of Radical Reports, is equally pessimistic, claiming that “another mass casualty event” like the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people, is entirely conceivable. Professor Amy Cooter, author of Nostalgia, Nationalism, and the US Militia Movement, says she “would not be shocked” by post-election violence.
If Trump regains power, the threat he poses is exponentially greater. According to Teddy Wilson, even those who have grown cold on him because of his inability to deliver on promises like “building the wall” are energized by his threats of revenge. Trump has already vowed to crown himself dictator (but only on “day one”), to “get even” with his enemies, to “stop the Marxist prosecutors” at the Justice Department and elsewhere, and to bring tens of thousands of federal jobs under his direct control (see box below).
One of the most disturbing recent developments is that what has come to be known as the “MAGA movement” has emerged in Trump’s wake and is no longer dependent on him. While it follows his policies, it acts politically without him. Its most visible elected representatives are members of Congress, notably Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Paul Gosar. Among them, Greene has managed to attract the most attention, sharing the spotlight only with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who himself is waging a merciless war against LGTBQ+ people and the state’s education system. Trump’s ideas on issues such as immigration and foreign policy have so permeated the Republican Party that they have dominated several GOP (Grand Old Party is the nickname of the Republican Party) presidential debates in which he himself did not participate.
Of course, even deprived of power, the far right continues to practice what it is best known for violence. Among the massacres perpetrated by white supremacists in 2023 were that of a store in Jacksonville, Florida, and that of a shopping mall in Dallas (eight dead). There are also individual murders, such as that of Laura Ann Carleton*, who was killed for hanging a Pride flag outside her store.
Thanks to online anonymity, threats against anyone perceived as an enemy (yes, enemy, not opponent) are now commonplace. While many target elected officials, such as opponents of Jim Jordan’s nomination for Speaker of the House, it’s now common to see judges, juries, teachers, and even hospitals targeted. According to the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center, last year saw the highest number of federal prosecutions for these threats in a decade, with more expected.
Conservatives Who Attacked School Boards in 2022 Now Go After Libraries
In recent years, conservatives have made libraries the target of extreme anger, downright unhinged rage, as evidenced by the moral panic over drag queen storytimes now spreading from Idaho to New York. But it’s school libraries that are likely to come under increased right-wing scrutiny in the coming year, thanks to a group that grew out of Moms for Liberty. “Moms for Libraries hopes to establish itself in libraries across the country this year.
The Moms for Libraries campaign, which appears to have been launched in 2022 but kicked into high gear in 2023, is part of the much larger and better-known national group Moms for Liberty, whose backers are largely unknown and which brings together conservative women to influence and/or take control of school boards. Ostensibly, Moms for Libraries encourages its supporters to buy copies of books from a handful of small conservative publishers it has selected, such as Heroes of Liberty, which in December published a book glorifying Elon Musk. “This has been an extraordinary month for liberty, thanks to Elon Musk and the Twitter Files,” the publisher said on its Facebook page. Moms for Libraries said in January that it would distribute the book to students “across the U.S.,” joining several other titles it has touted as ways to get its program into libraries.
Another Moms for Libraries partner, Brave Books, recently used a book by former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron* to fuel a misinformation campaign that libraries discriminate against Christians. In late December, Kirk Cameron complained that the Indianapolis Public Library had discriminated against him by refusing to host a promotional reading of his book. He had previously complained that if a library welcomed stories about drag queens, why wouldn’t it welcome him? The Indianapolis Library refuted K. Cameron’s claims, stating that its programming staff organizes library events such as storytimes, not outside publishers who are invited to rent space for their own promotional programs. Catherine Rahimian, founder of Moms for Libraries, was originally the founder of the Moms for Liberty chapter in Orange County, California. “Catherine’s roots in the liberty movement go back to her teenage years, when she volunteered for local campaigns in her home state of Indiana,” reads her biography as a board member of the Gavel Project, an organization that has sued schools to block health policies and vaccination campaigns. In a January interview with the Moms for Liberty podcast, Catherine Rahimian paints a bleak picture of the education system and library organization and presents Moms for Libraries as THE solution. According to her, children are not interested in reading because of the lack of funding for libraries. At the same time, she claims that when libraries depend on private donations, that money can come from some anonymous organizations that don’t do a good job.
An example of Moms for Libraries propaganda for such a campaign in partnership with Brave Books: “Moms for Libraries will be partnering with Brave Books to launch the new campaign. Brave Books is an organization that publishes books that “instill conservative values in the youth of this generation” while “glorifying the Lord in all that we do (…)” They define themselves as “a conservative alternative to the current progressive agenda that dominates our culture. The books are written by a wide range of conservative experts and influencers, and the stories focus on characters who defend “the island of liberty”…
Between Wokism and the far right, it promises to be the America of 2024!
*Spencer Sunshine is an American writer, researcher, and activist known for his work on the far right, the anti-fascist movement, and social movements. He has written numerous articles and books on these topics. Sunshine is also a frequent speaker at media and university conferences. His books include Neo-Nazi Terrorism and Countercultural Fascism: The Origins and Afterlife of James Mason’s Siege.
*Actor Kirk Cameron co-founded the evangelical organization The Way of the Master with Ray Comfort in 2002. This led him to participate in demonstrations challenging Darwinism…
*On August 18, 2023, businesswoman Laura Ann “Lauri” Carleton, 66, was murdered after hanging a Pride flag outside the Mag. Pi clothing store in Cedar Glen, California. The killer, Travis Ikeguchi, 26, had made “several disparaging remarks about a rainbow flag outside the store before shooting Lauri. Later that day, Ikeguchi was shot and killed by police after opening fire on them. This murder is part of a widespread anti-LGBT campaign being waged by the right-wing in the United States. Although not a member of the community herself, Lauri Carleton, a mother, was a staunch supporter of LGBTQ+ people. The killer, Travis Ikeguchi, a 26-year-old man from the same city, regularly posted anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion messages on Twitter and other platforms.