Insurgent Chic is a “high-growth sector”, analysts say
In this daily series, Newsweek explores the stages leading up to the January 6 Capitol Riot.
At January 1stThomas Edward Caldwell of Berryville, Virginia, began organizing a group of pro-Trump protesters to attack the Capitol. A former naval intelligence officer and federal government contractor to the DEA, he worked with locals outside to come to Washington for the big protest, arranging accommodations and making plans to bring in guns.
“We’re working on a farm location… Some bring long guns,” Caldwell wrote to one of his former soldiers on New Years Day. Since the District of Columbia does not allow firearms passage in the district, Caldwell told his supporters that in addition to finding a place to store the guns, he planned to bring a “handgun” to the protests, one that could be more easily hidden.
“I have sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic,” he wrote. He said he did his duty while in the military, but now is the time to abandon peaceful protests and stand up for the sacred document again. The election had “turned into pure evil,” he wrote. An unknown, they were responsible for “blatantly rigging an election and paying the political caste. We must strike them now and bring them down.”
The FBI says Caldwell also compiled a “death list” of targeted government officials, describing these so-called enemies of the Constitution as “cockroaches” and “maggots,” claiming he would eliminate traitors by “killing them, shooting at them and mutilating their corpses to use them as shields. “
On January 1, Caldwell’s band of dissidents awaits his instructions and his plan. One of those co-conspirators, according to the FBI, is Donovan Crowl, a 50-year-old former Marine from Ohio, who wrote on Facebook Messenger: “Happy New Year to you sir !! I’ll see you soon. I’ll probably call you tomorrow … mainly because … I like knowing it’s the wtf plan. You’re the Commander man. “
Caldwell recommended a hotel in Arlington, Virginia for travelers. Surprisingly, they still had rooms available, he said, given the size of the crowd coming to Washington. He said other hotels were filling up because so many people were coming. He told Crowl he was “settling” there in the Ballston neighborhood, creating a “rapid reaction force”. He told Crowl he would do a ‘before strike’ reconnaissance on the 5th.
“Maybe he can do a night hunt,” he said, referring to the Dec. 14 demonstration where pro-Trump protesters roamed the streets of Washington looking for Antifa operatives and of Black Lives Matter, attacking them.
The Arlington hotel “is a good location and would allow us to hunt at night if we wanted to,” he wrote.
Caldwell also coordinated with a group of Oath Keeper friends from North Carolina, a group he hosted in November for the first post-election protest. They were taking a commercial bus to arrive early in the morning of the 6th. He told his troops that they would all be ready as hosts and arms suppliers “in case things go wrong and we need to weigh ourselves.” , a military reference to the escalation of the fighting.
The FBI says Crowell was one of the main leaders in coordinating and planning an armed attack on the Capitol. The indictment and government statement of facts allege that Caldwell used his military background to plan the attack in an “organized and practiced fashion” – including preparing for possible snipers and considering to store weapons on a van or boat in the Potomac River, so that a rapid reaction force could be armed if necessary. Caldwell was charged after January 6 with charges of conspiracy, obstructing due process, trespassing, destruction of government property and aiding and abetting.
Caldwell’s planning and leadership of “trained fighters,” prosecutors say, dates back to November. “I’m already working on the next DC operation,” Caldwell wrote after the first post-election protest, projecting “real violence” into the future.
Caldwell’s track record, according to the FBI, gave him the operational experience he used “to the detriment of the citizens he has sworn to serve at any given time.” Prosecutors also allege that before January 6, Caldwell also searched online for a “surgical steel Tomahawk ax” and a concealed pistol designed to look like a cell phone.
During the riots themselves, according to the FBI, based on the phone seized by Caldwell, the leader received a message stating that “All members [of Congress] are in the tunnels under the capital.
“Seal them in turn with gas,” he said.
In addition to being linked to the Oath Keepers, prosecutors allege Caldwell was linked to Proud Boys and bragged about a local Virginia group of Vietnamese-American Trump supporters who were also planning to join his military.
Caldwell, 66, and suffering from chronic back pain, never entered the Capitol on January 6, although the FBI alleges he served as a “sideline coach” for those who did, directing riot.
This included Donovan Crowl, who showed up in a mishmash military uniform, complete with a combat helmet, tactical vest, ballistic goggles, and a portable radio. On his sleeve was a patch identifying him as a member of the Oath Keepers. Crowl later said he was also a member of the Ohio State Regular Militia. He was then pictured shouting “we are the first wave” inside the Capitol rotunda.
Caldwell’s attorney, David Fischer, has responded to government charges of conspiracy to cause violence. He said his client’s “locker room” speech was “male bravado … and did not lead him to commit an act of violence on or before January 6”.
Were Caldwell and Crowl armed insurgents or were they just playing lost soldiers in a fantasy army world?
Both, says David Pedersen, associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, San Diego. He describes the ransacking of the Capitol as “ambitious and motivated”: the demonstrators “want to be considered” as “soldiers, as something honorable.
The prepper, survivalist and militia movements all have a “full-fledged component of fashion,” explains Pedersen, which represents a set of norms and standards that already exist in society, “a grammar and vocabulary” that are co-opted and inflected in their disguised army.
“It’s a wish to be recognized, to be heard, based on the idea that they are heard less than they want to be,” Pedersen said. News week.
Groups like Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have some of the same “qualities as Greek fraternities and street gangs … masculinized social networks that provide many material and social resources to their members.”
“These are support groups at a time when, at least for these guys, they feel like there aren’t many more,” Pedersen said. “Aggression, masculine qualities, ritualized physicality, commitment to transcendent principles and ideals, the standard of loyalty, lifelong belonging, brotherhood and connection, that sense of purpose.”
The attack on the Capitol “is an insurgency because it’s supposed to say something big. Their performances displayed in front of their smartphone cameras make as much sense as political speech,” Pedersen said. According to him, all insurgencies are about saying something, making sense, not just destroying. “We have to understand what they are saying, why they are saying it, and then how to detach them from the more infamous elite coalition that is essentially using them as infantry in an attempt to gain and maintain control in the United States and elsewhere. in the world.
“This base is unfortunate and has grievances worth hearing. We shouldn’t just dismiss them as irrational lunatics and deplorable to be locked up.”
Finally, Pedersen says the military attire itself deserves a closer look. According to him, analysts say that insurgent clothing – from MAGA hats and t-shirts, to military uniforms and accessories, and all aftermarket modifications – is a “serious growth area … billed as growing rapidly unlike the rest of the US clothing and fashion industry. “
“It may or may not be a movement, but it is definitely a market,” says Pedersen. Much of what they do is go shopping, choosing this outfit as consciously as others who wear their own identifying uniforms. “This is not just a declaration of militarism, but also a declaration – that of Hurricane Katrina to COVID – that society is precarious enough to leave people without basic needs, which they literally need to survive.”
“The way they dress, that broader language of patriotism, of protecting society, their allegiance to those ideals,” clings to a language that everyone wants to own.