The Boogaloo Boys Catalogue
A new compendium of far-right terrorism lights up decades of resentment, damage and death
HARD TO BELIEVE, but there are Americans who spend their days dreaming of the mass uprising known as the “boogaloo” when blacks, Jews, gays, liberals and so forth will be eradicated and at last the white race will be safe from vaccines, taxes and mongrelization, and everybody will get to have all the guns they want, if they didn’t already, etc. etc.
This is the mindset of far-right terrorism, a pathogen that breaks out at various levels of virulence—riots, bombings, assassinations, mass shootings, stand-offs…events that can be forgettable in their pointlessness or were until Jan.6, 2021, when President Donald Trump inspired a mob to storm the Capitol of the United States, bearing a gallows and set on overturning the election he lost. Lately he’s threatening “bedlam” if the courts keep him from being president again.
Here now is a reference book, an authoritative cataloging of events: God, Guns and Sedition, by scholars Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware, the latest in a 29-title series on terrorism from Columbia University Press.
Far-right terrorism in particular frightens the educated classes, not with its ingenuity or discipline but with a mindlessness some may remember from getting beaten up in school for raising their hands too much. The uppers see these lowers as vulgar and dangerous, as vandals recruited out of mobile homes decorated with busts of Hitler, louts who hate them for being educated and powerful.
Violence—massacres in Charleston, El Paso and Orlando, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh—becomes a horrific mode of discourse.
Granted, we’ve had left-wing terrorism too in the last half-century—the Weather Underground acquiring a certain glamor in far-radical academia by robbing a Brinks truck, the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapping Patty Hearst and robbing banks.
Both sides are dangerous and capable of astonishing incompetence—the Weathermen blew up their own Greenwich Village townhouse. They both cherish the curious belief that their violence will provoke mass uprisings and overthrow of the government.
But for many far-right terrorists in America, intellectual influence peaks with a novel called The Turner Diaries, by the neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, in which Jews, non-white people, liberals and agents of the System are murdered en masse by the Organization. System politicians are executed on the Day of the Rope, which was called to mind by the gallows that appeared outside the Capitol on January 6. A picture of that gallows is on the cover of the Hoffman-Ware book. The internet, meanwhile, offers a DAY OF THE ROPE tee-shirt.
When he murdered 168 people in 1995 by blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Timothy McVeigh was carrying pages from the novel, including Turner’s instruction to create uprising and overthrow “by destroying the population’s sense of security and their belief in the invincibility of the government.”
McVeigh’s threat to invincibility lasted about 90 minutes. He may have been wearing a tee-shirt that said “Sic Semper Tyrannis” but he was driving a getaway car with no rear license plate. The trooper who pulled him over then spotted a loaded pistol in a shoulder holster. He took McVeigh to jail. The FBI was not far behind—the bomb had gone off in a truck he’d rented under his own name.
He was executed by lethal injection in 2001.
McVeigh practiced his terror as part of the “leaderless resistance” or “phantom cell structure” preached by Louis Beam, a Vietnam veteran and a former Grand Dragon of the Texas Ku Klux Klan. The idea was a lone-wolf strategy that avoided infiltration by law enforcement. But with no hierarchy, how to organize? Beam saw the answer in the internet. He reached it with his Commodore 64, a popular computer introduced in 1982. He founded the Aryan Nations Liberty Net, and wrote:
“At last, those who love God and their Race…will be utilizing some of the advanced technology available heretofore only to those in the ZOG [Zionist Occupation Government] and others who have sought the destruction of the Aryan people.”
Leaderless resistance and the internet aimed to create the chaos of “accelerationism,” a term the right has borrowed from Marxists. Accelerationism promises to bring on mass uprising. Amazing how popular the pipe dream of uprising is.
Death to Pigs
One thinks of Charles Manson predicting the race war that his cult would foment by murdering Hollywood celebrities; or ‘60s pothead radicals who recommended keeping bathtubs half-full of water to be ready for the revolution.
Ted Kaczynski, the math-genius Unabomber, killed three people and published a 35,000-word “manifesto” in The Washington Post urging nature-based anarchy. The result: his brother recognized the writing style and turned him in to the FBI. Sic semper terroris.
Hoffman, an eminent authority on extremism at the Council on Foreign Relations and Georgetown University, and Ware, a research associate at the CFR, provide a catalog of far-right terrorism, its prophets, martyrs, standoffs, bombings, mass shootings, plots, techniques, trials and catastrophes. They cite the words known as “the 14”: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” They describe lethal FBI screw-ups at Ruby Ridge and Waco.
They provide the who, what, when, where and how of terrorism, but much less of the why.
They ignore Manson and Kaczynski, who may not fit their concepts of far-right ideology. More oddly, they omit fascism, despite references to Hitler and Nazis as far-right heroes. With its biological racism and its belief in violence as a purifying force, German fascism sprang out of the humiliation of World War I.
Nowadays, in America, educated elites don’t understand humiliation, the resentment of lower classes whom they dismiss as “rednecks” and “gun nuts” seething with “toxic masculinity,” not to mention a “basket of deplorables.” They think their contempt is a secret that does not go beyond their dinner parties. Could humiliation be part of the why? Doesn’t Donald Trump understand this? In keeping with American reluctance to even admit its existence, the authors eschew analysis of class relations.
We’re left wondering, too, about the point of far-right violence. Terrorism is the use of violence to send a message, but so often no message gets through. Or it doesn’t exist. What message was sent by Timothy McVeigh? Is it possible that violence, like virtue, is its own reward?
Violence for the sake of violence verges on innate depravity—another subject that does not easily lend itself to scholarly examination.
Hoffman and Ware end their catalogue by urging solutions to the terrorism problem, things like “strengthening media literacy” and “restoring national unity and the common sense of purpose” and other nostrums.
Good luck to them. And us. ###
Henry Allen, a former U.S. Marine in South Vietnam and longtime feature writer at The Washington Post, won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2000.
God, Guns and Sedition – Far-Right Terrorism in America
By Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware
Columbia University Press – a Council on Foreign Relations Book
429 pp. $26.49