From the Past, a Chilling Warning About the Extremists of the Present writes Neil MacFarquhar in the NY Times. Almost four decades after officials dismantled the Order, a violent far-right group, experts see echoes in the far right of today.
Excerpts follow. (And thanks to Scriber’s Editor-at-Large Sherry.
What initially seemed to F.B.I. agents like distant, disparate crimes turned out to be the opening salvos in a war against the federal government by members of a violent extremist group called the Order, who sought to establish a whites-only homeland out West.
Their crime spree played out in 1984. Fast forward to 2021. Federal agents and prosecutors who dismantled the Order see troubling echoes of its threat to democracy in the Capitol riot and the growing extremist activity across the country.
"When you see the country as politically and philosophically divided as it is today, that makes it more likely that somebody could take advantage of these times to bring about another revolutionary concept like the Order,” said Wayne F. Manis, the main F.B.I. agent on the case. “We stopped the Order. We did not stop the ideology.”
Though the motivations are related, there is plenty that separates groups active now from those that operated in the past. Far-right organizations once needed to engage with possible recruits in person; now much of that radicalization occurs online. They can connect, scheme and even act through the internet. [In the 1980s] It was also unthinkable that any high-profile politician would voice opinions that such groups considered encouragement. Now those words have come from a former president.
Former agents viewed the Capitol riot and last year’s protests over social justice issues as possible seeds for radicalization.
“I feel that if there is an organization today from the extreme right that is following in the footsteps of the Order,” Mr. Manis said, “you will not know anything about it until it is too late and they have already done something dastardly.”