A trio of far-right, pro-gun provocateurs is behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests around the country, offering the latest illustration that some seemingly organic demonstrations are being engineered by a network of conservative activists.
The Facebook groups target Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and they appear to be the work of Ben Dorr, the political director of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his siblings, Christopher and Aaron. By Sunday, the groups had roughly 200,000 members combined, and they continued to expand quickly, days after President Trump endorsed such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states.
The Dorr brothers manage a slew of pro-gun groups across a wide range of states, from Iowa to Minnesota to New York, and seek primarily to discredit organizations like the National Rifle Association as being too compromising on gun safety. Minnesota Gun Rights, for instance, describes itself as the state’s “no-compromise gun rights organization.”
The online activity instigated by the brothers helps cement the impression that opposition to the restrictions is more widespread than polling suggests. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans said they supported a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats backed such a measure in the survey.
Still, the Facebook groups have become digital hubs for the same sort of misinformation spouted in recent days at state capitol buildings — from comparing the virus to the flu to questioning the intentions of scientists working on a vaccine.
Public health experts say stay-at-home orders are necessary to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, which has already killed more than 40,000 in the United States. The Trump administration last week outlined three phases for states to reopen safely — guidelines contradicted by the president when he urged citizens to rise up against the rules that heed the recommendations of his own public health advisers.
“If people feel that way, you’re allowed to protest,” Trump said Sunday. “Some governors have gone too far, some of the things that happened are maybe not so appropriate.”
Facebook won't lift a finger to stop dangerous misinformation like this from spreading, because they are paid handsomely to spread dangerous misinformation. The right absolutely learned the correct lessons from 2016.
Facebook said Sunday it did not remove the groups or events partly because states have not outlawed the activity. Organizers also have called for “drive-in” protests, in keeping with recommendations that people keep a short distance between each other. In other cases, involving protests planned for states like New Jersey and California, the company has removed that content, Facebook said.
“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook. For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook,” said Andy Stone, a spokesman for the company.
Like Trump, they are blaming the states. It's their fault that protest events aren't being specifically outlawed, you see. I don't see many governors willing to go that far, either. It's exactly what these groups want, too, and state governors are smart enough not to create martyrs for the cause.
And of course, these right-wing groups are happily in bed with our white supremacist domestic terrorist friends, because they are all one big incest fest. Will Bunch makes this clear (he's literally written an entire book on the Tea Party phenomenon, The Backlash):
These right-wing groups certainly want to reelect Trump (and keep the wretched DeVos in her Education Department post) but what they’re really afraid of is that both the public-health catastrophe and the growing economic meltdown will lead to a political, economic or even social revolution in the United States that will threaten the status quo — i.e., them. The coronavirus has exposed the everyday disaster that is America’s employer-based health-care system and the broader fragility where millions were just one lost paycheck away from a miles-long line at a food bank. The conservative movement in America, therefore, will die a deserved and overdue death unless the oligarchs can change the political conversation around to your God-given right to buy plant seeds and Baskin-Robbins — and fast.
It’s also worth noting (and probably worthy of a separate column) that these billionaires and millionaires have zero moral qualms about working with some of the worst white-supremacists or neo-fascists in order to make sure a crowd turns out, which would explain how swastikas and the like turned up at the DeVos-sponsored protest in Lansing. Here in Pennsylvania, the protest planned for Monday in Harrisburg by a rapidly growing Facebook group called Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine is led, curiously, by (ahem) a gun activist from (double ahem) Ohio. And just last August, that so-called gun activist, Chris Dorr, was investigated in Ohio after a Facebook rant in which he vowed that, after any effort to restrict the right to bear firearms, “there will be political bodies laying all over the ground ... we gun owners will pull the trigger, and leave the corpses for the buzzards."
Dorr’s alarming words speak to one of the real risks here — the kind that experts call stochastic terrorism, in which a movement leader’s incitements, such as the president of the United States urging gun activists to “LIBERATE” Virginia, are translated into specific acts of violence by low-level and possible unhinged followers. If it sounds familiar, we’ve already seen it play out from El Paso to Germany, and now the danger in this time of coronavirus is very, very real.
Trump, of course, is a vainglorious narcissist incapable of understanding how his hateful words affect other humans, but the fact that so many other conservatives are willing to amplify this dangerous message should give you some insight into what’s really happening here. The right-wing movement is so used to what it now feels is its entitlement to wield power in America that it is willing to risk many lives — both among its political friends and foes, either from the suffocation of COVID-19 or even from a hail of bullets — in its pathetic need to hold on by its fingernails.
Besides, locking up a couple of hundred protesters kind of assures a new COVID-19 hotspot.
I am glad to see the Post calling these groups out, however, instead of playing the both sides game for once. These assholes aren't wasting time to try to create deadly distractions to try to help Trump, no matter how many of us die in the process.