tv A.C. Thompson CSPAN April 15, 2021 12:18pm-12:53pm EDT
billions. a billion infrastructure. charter is connecting us. charter communications supports c-span along with these other providers. transportation secretary pete buttigieg testifies on thursday before a house appropriations sub committee. watch live at 2:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 3, online at c-span.org, or listen live with the c-span radio app. joining us next is public correspondent, ac thompson, also on "american insurrection," and ac thompson, welcome to washington journal. >> thank you for having me on.
>> the piece is titled "american insurrection," and so much recently the word insurrection has been used in that one date in january, and your piece begins in charlotte in 2017. why is that? >> in looking at the course of the film it was the rise of the in insurgence by the far right. groups rebrand, they change their names, they modify their politics, but in many ways a lot of the same ideas that were an mating the people in
charlottesville came to animate the people at the capitol. >> much deeper, though, the events in charlottesville, how many years was that in the making to get to such a public display of that? >> what people who were there and people involved in the white supremacists movement would say to me over and over again, donald trump was the catalyst for me being out here in the streets. he started saying things that i believed in but didn't want to say and i felt more comfortable saying -- comfortable participating in this movement when he became president or ran for president. the people in this film says the white power movement is over, and people are not comfortable with those politics, but there is a sort of brand of extremism that is more palatable to people, and you might call it
civic nationalism or ultra nationalism, but that's the sort of current wave that in many ways propelled the events of january 6th, and we're talking about the militia groups and the proud boys, these types of outfits. >> our guest is ac thompson the documentary airing on front line, it's called "american insurrection." how long did it take you to put the documentary together? >> so we started working on that right after the first presidential debate in which then president donald trump gave a shout-out to the proud boys, the ultra nationalists street gang. >> could you see then where the
culmination would be -- the culmination being that the january 6th attack on the capitol, could you see back then that that sort of event would be possible given the people you were interviewing and the things you were seeing in these groups? >> the thing that we kept feeling as we were talking to people was that something dramatic, ex -- spectacular and very because bad was going to happen, but we didn't know what itspectacular and very because bad was going to happen, but we didn't know what itad wa didn't know what it was. you have millions of people who are primed for that sort of cause, who believe that, the potential for dramatic action is quite high. as well you had the militia groups and they had been talking for years about a civil war,
they have been saying for years we are on the cusp of a civil war and if donald trump is forced from the white house we will ignite a civil war, and then you had the pwraogle boys who had been involved in alleged attacks on law enforcement officers and bombs and guns all across the country, so we saw a lot of signs that there was going to be something spectacular and bad, we just didn't know what it was going to be. >> this is a clip looking at proud boys from the documentary. here it is. >> many still subscribe to extremist beliefs. >> this is a t-shirt in reference to the mass slaughter of jewish people during the holocaust. their view is not to deny the holocaust but to say the holocaust did not go far enough. >> so he's flying proud boy
colors and the neo-nazi ideas here. >> we get fixated on all the different groups out there, and from my perspective it's more helpful to view it as a different point of view. >> if you look at, for instance, the history of the racist skin head movement in the united states, any number of different racist skin head crews across the country, they would not be white necessarily. you have the capacity for people of various different backgrounds to embrace fascism as a world view ideology, and what we are dealing with is a broad and fascist movement. >> talking about embracing fascism as a broad world view. that seems like a bigger chunk
of what these groups are all about then being opposed to the election of joe biden, say, or the other issues that motivated them in the past? >> yeah, absolutely. i think with a lot of groups that we saw there was a profound authoritarian streak in their politics. i remember noticing this as protests in portland, oregon, when we were following the proud boys several years ago, and there were people wearing shirts paying homage to pen yo shea, the late chilean fascist dictator, or shirts that talked about throwing communists out of helicopters, and i thought this is a different politics and what we are seeing is a multiethnic fascist world view here. >> where did the proud boys originate? >> the proud boys were founded by a guy named gavin mcguiness,
who was the founder of one media empire. when they first came on the scene i didn't pay attention to them because i was more interested in more aggressive openly white supremacists outfits, and over time they became the sort of dominant force on the streets, and that was not something that i saw coming from a few years ago. >> how about the boogalo boys, you can see them as an update to the malishen movement in the 1990s, and by that i mean they are full of jokes and big on irony, and they spend a lot of time online and they are younger, and many ways they are like the older militia movement and they are absolutely committed to the violent overthrow of the u.s. government. >> do any of those groups in your reporting, these militia
groups have they been bolstered by the fact of the looser gun laws in the u.s.? >> that's a great question. it's hard to answer, exactly that, but i will tell you this, when i talk to folks in those movements they sense this absolute, like, creeping tyranny and refreshen and they feel that their gun ownership rights are under attack in these major ways and then i point out to them, look, for example, hey, we're at a gun rally in virginia you can own many more types of guns here and carry them many more places than 20 years ago, and the gun laws are much less restrictive than they used to be, so i don't know why you would see in many of the states of there being a move to take away guns, it has really gone the opposite direction. >> how old were many of the groups talking with you? >> a lot of them were open.
it was a challenge for us, honestly to try and understand them and let viewers understand who these people are and what they represent, while at the same time not allowing them a platform to proselytize and to grow their communities and grow their groups, and so that was kind of a constant film making challenge for us. but in some cases these people clearly wanted to use us to get their message out. >> they are also using what wasn't available even a decade -- just the proliferation of the social media and the ability to get out their message regardless of what the medium is it? >> right, i first started writing about extremist movements and neo-nazi movements in the 1990s, and it was remarkable because it was hard for those groups to circulate information at that time. it was so hard for them to get
their books and pamphlets and everything else out and find new recruits. it's entirely the opposite now. it's so easy and so fast for these groups to spread their ideas. for example, the boobaloo boys podcast, and they discuss openly and celebrate the idea of committing drive-by shootings on law enforcement and government officials, and that's on spotify and other companies. >> we talked to former law enforcement officials as well. i think what we sensed from them was deep, deep concern across the board, and i think that there was a fear that we are facing potential mass casualty terror events by people who have
been radicalized by these groups and may spin off on their own or spin off with a small cell. i think there was a fear that it had taken a while for the intelligence piece of this to catch up to what was actually happening out in the country, so there were a lot of fears. >> we have calls waiting but we want to play another clip from the film on the pwaog alou boys, and this is a clip with warnings to white house advisory from 2020. here's a look. >> i need to see the movement for myself. i go to virginia where a pwaog alou cell is marching against a local gun ordinance. 50 protesters show up in body armour, assault rifles and outlawed high capacity magazines. they carry igloo flags and carry
hawaiian shirts and ironic patches. the group is led by mike dunn. >> how are you feeling about today? this is the next dish >> liberty shout-out being french. >> posture is like a seasoned squad leader, but it doesn't look like a group that is going to lead a violent insurrection, but i can see the threat they pose, though. they have demonstrated the potential to carry out acts of violence. some in law enforcement and the intelligence community also saw the threat. i have been told their concerns were rejected by the white house. >> among the counterterrorism community we took it seriously, but we need the presidential level leadership saying this is a threat and we are going to use all our tools to go after this threat and that never happened under trump. >> she said she tried to warn the white house about the rising
threat of far right extremists, but the president and his allies claimed the real threat was from black lives matter and antifa. >> does antifa exists? it's not an organization but a movement and you have groups of people that associate with them, and do they show up in mass at protests, sure? it's in the anti-government militia movement and in the pwaog alou boy movement. >> we heard elizabeth's response. what do you think? are there radical forms and radical members in antifa, and is it near the size of the pwaog alou boys or proud boys? >> it's hard to get any kind of real numbers about antifa. i mean harder, i would say, than even the militia groups or anybody else, basically. they are much more into
operational security. you can say for sure there were a lot of incidents that happened over the last year in which there were people masked up and in black clothes that were dangerous and at times violent incidents. that has absolutely happened. nobody will dispute that. i think, though, when you look at federal arrests and when you look at more significant crimes, crimes that are terroristic in nature, we have seen a lot more of that from these other movements. >> let's get to calls here and hear from malik in arlington, texas. the independent line. good morning, you are on with our guest, ac thompson? >> i would like to say the republican party itself is a socially accepted fascist movement and it's a has happened the past ten years, and it's like stop and risk, and blue
lives matter, and it's a lot of these people that drum up things that are autocrat policies on what you describe right wing -- i call them republicans. the republican party, like malcolm x said, the republican party is nothing but a bunch of white people after the civil war that have nothing invested in the institution of democracy and they only participate in the democracy against an oppressive measure against blacks, and you look at the numbers now and you see that democracy doesn't fit their agenda, and what we have here now is in our militia group, we have the military wing, the armed wing of the republican party which has become the proud boys, and they have always been there and always had the ku klux klan and
had the police to do there and be their foot soldiers. >> are these groups closely aligned with republicans? >> i would say they fall into two categories, there are groups that are very heavily trumpists, and i would say trumpists more than broadly republican, because trump is who they identify with, and then there are groups that i would say are more agnostic and less focused on trump and less devoted to trump, i would say, but i think he's a big part of what things had changed. if mitt romney had been president or george bush would have been president i don't think the movements would have had the energy they have had the last few years. >> let's hear from mereta,
california. >> caller: good morning, gentlemen. great conversation. just in the last week the nation's capitol, we have the national guard and we had that gentleman drive into two police officers and did it with a knife and not a gun, and then the nation of islam, where do you place that in reference to say the pwaog alou boys. would you say farrakhan's movement is more of a democrat socialists or independent or republican? secondary, how did you vote in the last election? >> yeah, so the first thing is i don't have talk about how i am voting and i have been registered independent for many, many years. here's what is up. the farrakhan movement, the nation of islam, i don't think you can put it in any kind of political framework. it exists in its own space that
transcends politics, i would say. >> okay to diana livingston, new jersey. democrat's line. go ahead. >> caller: hi. good morning. i watched a documentary last night on pbs called "no-man's-land" and it was about the bundy ranch and the wildlife refuge and you saw how the feds had lured them out and then, you know, took them on a road and arrested them and then they went to court and they were arrested, and a lot of them were just destruction of property like minor offenses and only one guy out of the whole group got the conspiracy. but in there at the end because they were found not guilty they were all with their guns and saying it was government overreach and they had formed this anti-government militia and
they said this is just the beginning. and so it made me see how much of this grew out of the waco and the ruby ridge and the ted bundy, those types of groups and not saying race, it's more government, they don't trust the government and that's why they need the guns and they are forming these militias because of the tyranny. i have two nephews in the service and one is in the national guard and he's in washington right now and he aspouses also the gun rights they need from tyranny. i said how can you say you are against the government while you are supposed to be defunding the -- defending the government? >> that's a fascinating question. we saw a lot of overlap between the armed forces and these anti-government militias. that's the question i asked as well, how can you get a government paycheck and be
dedicated to overthrowing the government, and that doesn't compute with me and that's a fairly common thing. what you have seen with the current regime with the department of defense is a very strong concern about extremism within the ranks that we have not seen in recent decades. that's led to plans to draft a new order across the entire military governing extremism. that's led to the 60-day stand-down that the military had in which all employees needed to have training on extremism. i think there's a real consciousness within military leadership right now that there are serious problems with extremism. >> american insurrection airs tonight at 10:00 front line on pbs, 9:00 central. reporting this morning front page of the "washington post," the rise of domestic terrorism. data shows surges in homegrown terrorism not seen in 25 years.
driven chiefly by white supremacists and anti-muslim and anti-government extremist on the far right, and the center for strategic and international studies the surge reflects a growing threat from homegrown terrorism not seen in a quarter century with right wing extremist attacks and plots greatly eclipsing those in the far left and causing more deaths the analysis shows. cameron is in nevada, missouri. go ahead on the democrat's line. okay, we will go to john in north hills, california. john, welcome. >> caller: hi, yes. i would like to ask the guest, what is the reluctants of the media to perpetrate that blm did
not engage in insurrection through the entire summer of 2020, and these are the people that are perpetuating the violence. in los angeles, blm burned over 1,000 cop cars, and they marched through my city, burning and looting screaming no justice, no beach, and the politicians took a knee and took my money to support the police away and did not explain where it went to. where did it go to? why are these violent groups not being characterized by supremacist and hate groups? >> any response? >> that's a great question. having been at some of those protests as well, i don't think i would characterize blm as a black supremacists organization. that's not something that ever has occurred to me, and i would
say that's a loose network of people more than an organization. the debate about what is more important, the scattered riots that happened this summer or the insurrection at the capitol or this event or that event, that's not a debate i am interested in having and i am not trying to weigh which is worse or more important, but i would say what we know from facts is that when you look at domestic terrorism, what has happened over the last 25 years as you were just noting with the reporting based on the csis information is that we see just a lot more of these types of anti-government and white supremacists far-right attacks. that's what we see. >> you touched on this earlier, but a question on -- from edward in key port, new jersey, he says what is the end game these groups process they want when they overthrow the usa?
>> yeah, so it's different for everybody. if you look at the old line militias, they became very trump aligned in the last several years so they were anti-government, but as long as trump was the president they were supportive of trump. when trump was no longer the president then they swung back into full anti-government mode. they talk relentlessly about the constitution and returning to a true interpretation of the foundational documents of this country. that's the sort of thing that they are excited about and that they are fixated on. when you get to the boogaloo boys, they are also very fixated
by libertarian theories, so they talk about reducing all government to the point where basically the only functional government is your local sheriff and your local county government and that basically federal government kind of withers away. >> tonight's documentary also addresses the plot to kidnap michigan governor, gretchen whitman, and i want to ask your response on it and a little more about it. here it is. >> police and federal agents arrested militia members and charged them with the plot to kidnap governor whitmer and try her in their own cart and execute her for treason. >> we have had a big problem from a young woman from michigan. >> for months trump had been railing against the governor and her restrictions.
you have to get your governor to open up your state, okay? lock 'em up. >> a kidnapping plot against a sitting governor, it was a shocking revelation. not long after the arrest i went to michigan to investigate. the fbi identified the militia behind the plot as the wolverine watchmen. their social media is full of boogaloo information. among the people arrested for the kidnapping plot were joe morrison, and his father-in-law, the founders of the watchmen, and also arrested was barry croft who was the most violent extremist of the entire group.
according to the fbi some of the plotters convened secret meeting at this vacuum store in rapid islands. an fbi agent recorded the conversations. they met in this basement. snatch and grab, he tells the informant. grab the governor because at that point it's over. >> ac thompson, your voice over there describing that plot is dramatic and a shocking escalation in tactics. what is the status of that case right now? >> yeah, so it's really two cases. there's a state case that is built around domestic terror charges and gang charges, perceiving the militia as a gang and stuff like that. there's also a federal case that is a conspiracy case that is
very, very specifically about the kidnapping. out of the two cases one man, ty garvin, has plead guilty and the rest are pleading not guilty and fighting their cases. we interviewed garvin's attorney about the case and he basically said that his client kind of felt like he had been dragged into something that was more extreme than he expected to get into and seemed to be regretful about that. that was why he pleaded guilty. i think that guilty plea will not be helpful for the other people in the federal case. i interviewed barry croft, who is alleged to be one of the ring leaders of the federal case and what he said to me is basically i believe that the u.s. government is run by -- is basically a mob, that it's
illegal mafia rule and illegal military rule, there's no legitimacy to the u.s. government. what he had said before being arrested was that the tyrants by which he meant elected officials need to be killed, that they need to be hung and that he needed to be acting in ways that were unconstitutional, they needed to die. that was the motivational point for him. barry is a member of the three percenters militia and they were involved in the capitol insurrection, and he allegedly was part of the group of the kidnapping plotters. >> a couple of the guys of the group wolverines watchman. what are they about? >> what we know about the wolverine watchman is they were
a secret militia that was started by pete and his son-in-law in rural michigan. they got together and trained and shot guns and blew stuff up, and the way it has been told to me is eventually the group evolved into a much more extreme thing that was plotting to kidnap the governor. they are all sort of coming together last year at this time when we have the pandemic, we have covid restrictions, and michigan had particularly strong covid restrictions that many people were not happy about and a lot of these guys were meeting at these events at the state capitol in michigan where the state capitol was basically taken over by many, many armed gunmen. you could sort of see that as a precursor to what happened in washington with the takeover of the u.s. capitol, and that's
where the guys first started meeting, many of them. >> let's go back to calls. here's george in jacksonville, florida, the republican line. >> caller: ac, i would like for you to check things and i will world are the communist/socialists who have murdered 100 million people. i was working overseas, the south china sea, in computers, radio systems, et cetera. and i was asked to look at some systems used to counter what the chinese are doing. and they have a system that is the most advanced pavlov frequency system in the world. pavlov worked for stalin, mass murderer. pavlov found that certain frequencies can invoke things like riots, hatred, et cetera. and so look up these things. number one, the chinese said they were ahead of us economically and militarily by
spending $10 billion on this type of system. they've done it starting in 2014. trump also said he didn't like these guys, arrest them. then the next thing is, here are the three parts that you should study that have to do with the system. number one is quantum waves. number two is pavlov frequency. and number three is artificial -- >> all right, george, we're running a little short on time, we'll try to get one more call from richard in oklahoma. richard, go ahead. >> good morning, how are you doing? >> good morning. >> i've got a couple of questions i would like -- more than a couple, actually. but some questions i would like to ask mr. thompson. >> why don't you make it one or two quick ones there, richard, and we'll try to get to them for you. go ahead. >> okay. mr. thompson, can you first tell me what your political affiliation is? there's a lot of reporters out there that don't want to -- they
kind of hide what their political -- >> richard, he already said earlier today that he was an independent. do you have another question about that? >> uh, i must have missed that part. i'm sorry that i missed that part. okay. now, on your documentary slash piece of propaganda that you're putting out, can you tell us who funded that? >> yeah. that's great. it's good you're calling it a piece of propaganda when you haven't seen it yet, that's not the best plan, i don't think. i would encourage you to wait and see it and tell me if you think it's a piece of propaganda. i spent six months traveling across the country and to go people from different political parties and different views, so you can decide on that. every time i come on the show people ask me if i'm a george soros puppet, if i'm funded by this vast left wing conspiracy. and the answer is no. >> i guess a quick question