Not even the NY Times can ignore the escalation of deadly political terrorist violence this week after the FBI served a warrant on Trump, galvanizing his right-wing minions to "declare war" against the Biden administration and tens of millions of American voters.
The armed attack this week on an F.B.I. office in Ohio by a supporter of former President Donald J. Trump who was enraged by the bureau’s search of Mr. Trump’s private residence in Florida was one of the most disturbing episodes of right-wing political violence in recent months.
But it was hardly the only one.
In the year and a half since a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, threats of political violence and actual attacks have become a steady reality of American life, affecting school board officials, election workers, flight attendants, librarians and even members of Congress, often with few headlines and little reaction from politicians.
In late June, a former Marine stepped down as the grand marshal of a July 4 parade in Houston after a deluge of threats that focused on her support of transgender rights. A few weeks later, the gay mayor of an Oklahoma city quit his job after what he described as a series of “threats and attacks bordering on violence.”
Even the federal judge who authorized the warrant to search for classified material at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s beachfront home and club, became a target. On pro-Trump message boards, several threats were issued against him and his family, with one person writing, “I see a rope around his neck.”
While this welter of events may feel disparate, occurring at different times and places and to different types of people, scholars who study political violence point to a common thread: the heightened use of bellicose, dehumanizing and apocalyptic language, particularly by prominent figures in right-wing politics and media.
Several right-wing or Republican figures reacted to the search of Mar-a-Lago not only with demands to dismantle the F.B.I., but also with warnings that the action had triggered “war.”
“This just shows everyone what many of us have been saying for a very long time,” Joe Kent, a Trump-endorsed House candidate in Washington State, said on a podcast run by Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief political strategist. “We’re at war.”
On Thursday, a 42-year-old Ohio man, identified as Ricky W. Shiffer, showed up at the Cincinnati field office of the F.B.I. with an AR-15-style rifle and was subsequently shot to death after firing multiple times at the police during a standoff. There is no evidence of what prompted Mr. Shiffer to act. But Mr. Shiffer’s social media posts later revealed that he was full of rage about, among other things, the search at Mar-a-Lago — and that he wanted revenge.
“Violence is not (all) terrorism,” he wrote — on Mr. Trump’s own social media app, Truth Social. “Kill the F.B.I. on sight.”
Despite that threat, one day later, when the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News published the warrant underlying the Mar-a-Lago search, it did not redact the names of the F.B.I. agents on the document. Almost immediately afterward, posts on a pro-Trump chat board referred to them as “traitors.”
According to the F.B.I., there are now about 2,700 open domestic terrorism investigations — a number that has doubled since the spring of 2020 — and that does not include lesser but still serious incidents that do not rise to the level of federal inquiry. Last year, threats against members of Congress reached a record high of 9,600, according to data provided by the Capitol Police.
Nonetheless, it is exceptionally rare for most adults to willfully inflict harm on other people, especially for political reasons, said Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow in the democracy, conflict and governance program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Still, Ms. Kleinfeld said, there are ways of lowering the average person’s tolerance for violence.
If political aggression is set in the context of a war, she suggested, ordinary people with no prior history of violence are more likely to accept it. Political violence can also be made more palatable by couching it as defensive action against a belligerent enemy. That is particularly true if an adversary is persistently described as irredeemably evil or less than human.
“The right, at this point, is doing all three of these things at once,” Ms. Kleinfeld said.
There is little evidence that Republicans and right-wing media figures have tempered their rhetoric, even as Congress and the Justice Department investigate the Jan. 6 attack. Several defendants charged in the riot have said they were moved to act by Mr. Trump’s words. Still, many Republicans have sought to minimize his role.
Even before the search at Mar-a-Lago this week, some of Mr. Trump’s most vocal supporters had been casting the political stakes as existential, suggesting that the country was already embroiled in an end-of-times clash between irreconcilable foes.
“This is truly a battle between those who want to save America and those who want to destroy her,” Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for the governor of Arizona, told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas in early August. “That’s where we are at the moment. My question to you is: Are you in this fight with us?"