If you take a poll of American pundits and policymakers about the greatest threat facing the US government, they’d probably put China at the top of the list. Maybe a handful would opt for Russia. A few holdouts from the War on Terrorism era might point to Islamic extremism.
But the greatest threat to the US government is actually Junior Airman Jack Teixeira.
The 21-year-old behind the leak of US intelligence documents might seem like just a guy who wanted to win a few points with his buddies in an on-line discussion group. Sharing insider information to demonstrate his street cred was, of course, an extraordinarily stupid thing to do. But Teixeira was no whistleblower like Chelsea Manning or Reality Winner. He shared the documents in the belief that they wouldn’t go beyond the relatively small circle of gamers in his chat group Thug Shaker Central on the Discord platform.
So, how much of a threat could that be?
This version of nationalism stripped of any love of government is only part of the ideological picture.
Teixeira was embedded in the right-wing gamer culture that has taken aim at women, minorities, and the presumed “deep state” through “trolling” and “doxxing” (calling in false reports to police and SWAT teams). Right-wing recruitment takes place in the chat of first-person shooter games and on social media applications like Discord, a platform for gamers since 2015 and also a popular meeting place for extremists. The organizers of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, for instance, used Discord to plan the event, while the white supremacist behind the Buffalo mass shooting last year used Discord to communicate his thoughts through a personal diary.
Discord: what a perfect name for a communications platform that has divided the country even as it has united the right.
Another piece by the paper provides more insight into Teixeira’s worldview:
The links between the US military and the far right go back many years, though it’s hard to know just how deep the relationship really is. Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, was a decorated veteran but developed his anti-government views largely outside the military. Between 2001 and 2013, , according to New America Foundation data, 21 veterans were involved in committing or planning far-right violence. A Florida National Guard member, who was the co-founder of the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division, was convicted in 2018 of possessing explosive materials (released from prison, he plotted to bomb a power station in Maryland and was re-arrested). Veterans were also overrepresented in the January 6 storming of the US Capitol.
According to an October 2020 Pentagon report on the inroads made by white supremacists in the military, “US military personnel and veterans are ‘highly prized’ recruits for supremacist groups, and leaders of those groups try to join the military themselves and get those already in their groups to enlist. Their goal is to obtain weapons and skills and to try to borrow the military’s bravado and cachet.”
In her 2020 congressional testimony, Heidi Beirich of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism reported that the
Before the 1970s, such white nationalism and racism would have overlapped substantially with official US government policy. But now, in the wake of the civil rights, affirmative action, and #BlackLivesMatter movements, this extremism has acquired a distinctly anti-government character. Unlike in Germany or New Zealand, the US government has not made much of an effort to eliminate this potential fifth column from the military’s ranks.
Given the ideological affinities, It’s no surprise that the far right has come to Teixeitra’s defense. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has supported Teixeira for being “white, male, christian and anti-war,” which “makes him an enemy to the Biden regime.” She goes on: “Ask yourself who is the real enemy. A young low level national guardsmen? Or the administration that is waging war in Ukraine, a non-NATO nation, against nuclear Russia without war powers?”
Fox’s Tucker Carlson, too, has sided with Teixeira and Russia against both Ukraine and the Biden administration:
The Pentagon has been consistently pessimistic about Ukraine’s ability to win the war outright, and some of that pessimism has even been expressed publicly. The leaks have only confirmed that less-than-sanguine viewpoint. But that doesn’t mean that Russia is winning the war. Quite the contrary. The Kremlin’s attempt this winter and early spring to seize the entire Donbas region resulted only in the acquisition of a few square miles of scorched earth.
Carlson, of course, is not interested in the truth, only in Biden-bashing and leading the charge against the US government more generally. Even when Trump was putatively in charge of the federal government, the extreme right and its media darlings managed to maintain their anti-government stance by transferring their animus to a “deep state” that they’d invented largely for that purpose. Look to Trump, indicted but still in the running, to exploit this extreme libertarianism in his campaign to be reelected in 2024.
The essential contents of the documents that Teixeira leaked is yesterday’s news. Ukraine is running low on missiles to defend itself against Russian aerial attacks, it has limited resources that it can use in its long-awaited spring counter-offensive, and Russia is having an equally difficult time dealing with the loss of troops and dissension within its own ranks.
The leaks don’t reveal anything about Ukraine’s upcoming counter-offensive because the government in Kyiv hasn’t shared that information with Washington—obviously a wise move given the porous nature of the US intelligence community. The documents don’t identify the specific sources of Russian intel. They don’t uncover any major behind-the-scenes funding of the Kremlin’s war efforts, though the Chinese promised to provide some military assistance disguised as civilian shipments and Egypt was planning to send 40,000 rockets on the sly.
Some revelations outside the Ukrainian front are indeed new—for instance, about China’s supersonic drone capabilities—but others have been relatively small bore. The allies have some Special Forces on the ground in Ukraine, including 14 from the United States. It’s hard to say what they’re doing, but given the Biden administration’s extreme caution around engaging Russian forces directly, they might be there only to facilitate a rapid evacuation of embassy personnel if things should suddenly go south. Israel might reverse its position on providing lethal aid to Ukraine—but then again, it might not. The United States has been spying on ally South Korea, but that’s not a surprise after the Snowden-era revelations about Washington listening in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.
The sad truth is that the edifice of US intelligence is so huge that it must rely on the services of the young and the restless. It’s not just the intelligence community. Every administration must deal with loose lips. The Trump administration sprang leaks in every direction and went to great lengths to try to plug them. Given the sheer number of opportunities and motivations, it’s surprising that more sensitive materials aren’t floating around the Internet.
Anti-government sentiment—in the military, in the political realm, among the public—adds something new to the equation. It’s happening not so much on the left, where it was a feature of the 1960s, but on the far right. Once confined to the fringes of American life, this far right is now committed to gaining power through government institutions like school boards and the National Guard.
That’s why Jack Teixeira is such a threat. Leakers will come and go. But far-right groomers and their recruits are in it for the long haul. The next time that an extremist president tries to overturn an election or seize power through illegal means, a radicalized military might not stay in the barracks to defend the constitution while a Congress led by Greene and her ilk might just roll over and die.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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