Extremism & Terrorism » ADL Blogs
June 17, 2016 2

Alleged Triple Killer had Extreme Anti-Government Views

Erick ShuteOn June 14, Penn­syl­va­nia author­i­ties caught and arrested a fugi­tive accused of hav­ing shot and killed three of his neigh­bors in West Vir­ginia the pre­vi­ous day. Erick Shute, 29, who allegedly had a long-running series of dis­putes with the neigh­bors, report­edly attacked the three (and a fourth who escaped) over a con­flict about firewood.

Shute was a minor pub­lic fig­ure as the vocal­ist for the long­stand­ing death metal band Pyrexia, with which he had report­edly been involved since child­hood. He also worked as a fire and water dam­age restorer in New Jer­sey and was involved with a vari­ety of odd busi­ness ven­tures, involv­ing crowd­sourc­ing, dig­i­tal cur­ren­cies, and multi-level mar­ket­ing, among others.

After the slay­ings, a woman who described her­self as “one of his ex girl­friends” posted on-line that “he has never been [one] for the police or gov­ern­ment.” That seems to have been a seri­ous under­state­ment. West Vir­ginia author­i­ties claimed that Shute was an adher­ent of the extreme anti-government sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment and even sug­gested that he was build­ing a com­pound on the West Vir­ginia land report­edly pur­chased by his mother and used as a week­end home by Shute. Author­i­ties have said they found stock­piles of food, weapons and ammo on the prop­erty, as well as “bunkers.”

Actu­ally, Shute’s involve­ment with anti-government extrem­ism appears to have been more exten­sive than just the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. Rather, to vary­ing degrees, Shute iden­ti­fied with all three major wings of the anti-government “Patriot” move­ment: the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment, the tax protest move­ment, and the mili­tia move­ment. Shute was also sup­port­ive to some degree of anar­chism, which is also anti-government, though from a more left-leaning perspective.

Shute’s old­est known extrem­ist ties do relate to the sov­er­eign cit­i­zen move­ment. While liv­ing with his mother in New Jer­sey dur­ing the period 2009-11, he sub­scribed to sev­eral sov­er­eign cit­i­zen beliefs, espe­cially those reject­ing the legit­i­macy of motor vehi­cle laws. In 2011, he tried to get a local police depart­ment to sign a “peace treaty” with him that would some­how allow him not to have a license or reg­is­tra­tion. This visit led to his arrest for dri­ving a vehi­cle with no license plates as well as charges of aggra­vated assault on a police offi­cer, resist­ing arrest, and obstruc­tion. Based on a court­room video he uploaded to the Inter­net, Shute seems to have defended him­self in court—as many sov­er­eign cit­i­zens do—claiming that the judge in his case was not a judge but an “exec­u­tive admin­is­tra­tor” and that there had been no judi­cial courts in Amer­ica for cen­turies. Shute was con­victed and spent half a year in jail.

Shute also became involved to at least some degree with the tax protest move­ment, which claims that a con­spir­acy is hid­ing the “fact” that most Amer­i­cans don’t have to pay income taxes. He engaged in argu­men­ta­tive phone calls with IRS rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sent hos­tile let­ters to the IRS as late as 2015 claim­ing that he had been given no “proof” he was required to file an income tax return or that the IRS had juris­dic­tion over him. Judg­ing by some of his on-line remarks, he may not have been pay­ing income taxes for more than five years.

In recent years, how­ever, Shute seems to have iden­ti­fied most strongly with the ideas of the mili­tia move­ment. The mili­tia move­ment believes that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is col­lab­o­rat­ing with a “New World Order” glob­al­ist con­spir­acy to strip Amer­i­cans of their rights and enslave them. Sub­sidiary con­spir­acy the­o­ries ema­nat­ing from the move­ment include a belief that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to round up cit­i­zens and place them in intern­ment or con­cen­tra­tion camps; a belief that the gov­ern­ment is plot­ting to sus­pend the Con­sti­tu­tion and declare mar­tial law, per­haps on a pre­text such as a ter­ror­ist attack or pan­demic; and that the gov­ern­ment will engage in mass gun confiscations—among others.

Mili­tia move­ment adher­ents oppose this per­ceived gov­ern­ment con­spir­acy. Many, though by no means all, join para­mil­i­tary mili­tia groups. Though Shute “liked” a num­ber of mili­tia groups on his Face­book pages, he does not seem to have joined a for­mal group himself.

How­ever, Shute’s on-line state­ments clearly indi­cate an adher­ence to the movement’s ide­ol­ogy. Respond­ing to a con­spir­acy arti­cle about an employ­ment ad for a U.N. “dis­ar­ma­ment offi­cer,” Shute claimed in 2014 that any­one who took such a job “deserves to be killed” by some sort of “painful and hor­ri­fy­ing” man­ner such as being “eaten alive by dogs.” When the gov­er­nor of West Vir­ginia vetoed a per­mit­less carry firearms bill in 2015, Shute posted that “some­one needs to behead this mofo.”

In 2015, Shute expressed hap­pi­ness at the thought that police offi­cers might be among the first Amer­i­cans “to get put in intern­ment camps.” He also posted that he could not sup­port the troops “if the troops are train­ing to take you and me away into an intern­ment camp.” Like many other anti-government extrem­ists, Shute became out­raged at the mil­i­tary exer­cises held in the south­ern U.S. under the name “Oper­a­tion Jade Helm,” claim­ing that they were mar­tial law train­ing scenarios.

Shute, an avid fan of anti-government con­spir­acy web­sites such as InfoWars, believed in a wide array of stan­dard “Patriot” move­ment con­spir­acy the­o­ries, from air­planes using “chem­trails” to poi­son the Amer­i­can peo­ple to vac­ci­na­tion pro­grams being part of an agenda “to kill off mil­lions of peo­ple.” Shute even claimed to have tried to attend the 2012 Bilder­berg con­fer­ence in Chan­tilly, Vir­ginia, a mag­netic lure for con­spir­acy the­o­rists who believe that “Bilder­berg­ers” are part of an inter­na­tional conspiracy.

By 2015, it is clear that Shute had devel­oped extreme, and extremely para­noid, atti­tudes towards gov­ern­ment and law enforce­ment. In Feb­ru­ary, Shute stated that it was time “to pull the gov­ern­ment offi­cials out of their beds at night and hang them from the trees in their front yards.” Urg­ing peo­ple to “arm up,” Shute stated in March that every­body should have a gun in every room in their house and that they should even sleep with their guns, so that they would be ready to kill any police offi­cer who came through the door. “This is the time for war,” he wrote, “and if you don’t get pre­pared to fight, that’s your problem.”

In Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary 2016, Erick Shute became a sup­porter of the anti-government extrem­ists who engaged in an armed takeover of the Mal­heur National Wildlife Refuge in Ore­gon and sub­se­quent stand­off, even lis­ten­ing to the live broad­casts by the final few occu­piers in the last hours of the stand­off, before they were arrested. After their arrest, Shute wrote that he “loved” the occu­piers and that “even though we never met, I feel so close to these peo­ple now.”

Inci­dents such as these increased the already extreme hos­til­ity that Shute felt for law enforce­ment. Respond­ing in Feb­ru­ary 2016 to a news report of one offi­cer who had killed a dog, Shute urged that the offi­cer be tor­tured and mur­dered, includ­ing being hung over a fire, whipped, teeth and nails pulled out, fin­gers cut out, among many other vio­lent and grue­some meth­ods. Indeed, so hos­tile was Shute to law enforce­ment that he may have well posed a risk to local law enforce­ment as well as to his neighbors.

Shute will be extra­dited back to West Vir­ginia to face mul­ti­ple homi­cide charges.

 

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June 16, 2016 1

Bigots Express Hateful Rhetoric After Orlando Attack

In the wake of the bru­tal ter­ror­ist attack by Omar Mateen that killed 49 mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity and wounded 53 oth­ers at a gay night­club in Orlando, com­mu­ni­ties held vig­ils across the coun­try to express sol­i­dar­ity with the vic­tims. In marked con­trast to the love and sup­port shown by peo­ple around the world, haters voiced anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT sen­ti­ment and pro­moted anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries in the after­math of the event.

Not sur­pris­ingly, big­ots and extrem­ists used the mas­sacre in Orlando to demo­nize Mus­lims and Jews and to assert that the LGBT com­mu­nity got what it deserved because of their lifestyle. The sen­ti­ments they expressed demon­strate that these haters will exploit any tragedy to pro­mote their ideology.

Anti-Muslim activism

Over the past year, anti-Muslim activism has been on the rise across the United States. The Orlando attack has pro­vided a boost to such hate­ful sen­ti­ment and big­oted rhetoric.

  • Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller com­mented on the Orlando attack on her blog on June 12: “The media is call­ing it a hate crime. So it’s safe to assume Islam is a hate ideology.”
  • Robert Spencer, direc­tor of the anti-Muslim web­site Jihad Watch, wrote an arti­cle on the site about the ter­ror­ist who car­ried out the Orlando attack: “He was a devout adher­ent of a reli­gion that man­dates death for homo­sex­u­als, and the son of a man who sup­ports a group that puts gays to death (even as homo­sex­ual behav­ior is ram­pant in Afghanistan).”
  • A self-claimed ex-terrorist who is now a Chris­t­ian con­vert and an extrem­ist anti-Muslim activist, Walid Shoe­bat, used the Orlando attack as an oppor­tu­nity to renew his sup­port for calls to ban Mus­lims from enter­ing the U.S.  He wrote on his offi­cial web­site on June 12, “First of all it is 100% impos­si­ble to screen Mus­lims to weed out the ter­ror­ists.… Any­one who thinks that the U.S. or Europe are prop­erly vet­ting or can vet these ter­ror­ists [is] dream­ing. They can­not even mon­i­tor a few ter­ror­ists.”  He con­cluded his state­ment: “What more can we do? In a nut­shell, all you west­ern­ers, unless you com­pletely ban Islam, your’e [sic] screwed.”
  • Over social media plat­forms, some have cheered what they con­sid­ered proof that pre­vi­ous calls to ban Mus­lim immi­gra­tion to the U.S. were wise and “spot-on,” attack­ing at the same time what they described as a pol­icy to “import more Mus­lims.” Other anti-Muslim state­ments over social media recy­cled old claims about the inher­ently vio­lent nature of Islam, and the threat of not using the words “rad­i­cal Islamic ter­ror­ism” in the con­text of describ­ing such ter­ror­ist attacks.

Anti-LGBTQ hatred

While the LGBT and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties banded together to pro­mote tol­er­ance over hatred, extrem­ists, includ­ing two pas­tors who are close asso­ciates, pro­moted a vir­u­lent strain of homo­pho­bia. Neo-Nazis also expressed con­tempt for the LGBT com­mu­nity, with some cel­e­brat­ing the ter­ror­ist attack.

Anti-LGBT and anti-Semitic tweet on Orlando attack

Anti-LGBT and anti-Semitic tweet about Orlando attack

  • Steven Ander­son, a pas­tor in Tempe, Ari­zona, who is known for his hatred of the LGBT com­mu­nity as well as Jews, gave a ser­mon cel­e­brat­ing the mur­der of gay peo­ple. He said: “The good news is that there’s 50 less pedophiles in this world, because, you know, these homo­sex­u­als are a bunch of dis­gust­ing per­verts and pedophiles.” He asserted that “they should have been killed through the proper chan­nels as in they should have been exe­cuted by a right­eous gov­ern­ment that would have tried them, con­victed them, and saw them executed.”
  • Roger Jimenez, a pas­tor of a church in Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia and an asso­ciate of Anderson’s, voiced sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments. He posed the rhetor­i­cal ques­tion, “Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?” He answered, “Um, no. I think that’s great. I think that helps soci­ety.” He added that “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is—I’m kind of upset that he didn’t fin­ish the job.” He con­tin­ued, “I wish the gov­ern­ment would round them all up, put them against a fir­ing wall, put a fir­ing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.”
  • On his neo-Nazi web­site Infos­tormer, Lee Rogers wrote, “I find your dis­eased lifestyles dis­gust­ing and toxic to the body politic.” He added that if the LGBT com­mu­nity “choses to fol­low The Don [a ref­er­ence to Don­ald Trump]… we will not openly attack you or slaugh­ter you. Your rights to defile our mar­riage cer­e­monies and push your agenda will of course be rescinded, and there will no longer be pride parades fea­tur­ing mas­sive dil­dos on Amer­i­can streets.”
  • In an early response to the shoot­ing, a poster on the neo-Nazi forum Van­guard News Net­work said that Mateen “offed 20 of the most degen­er­ate pieces of excre­ment on the face of the earth, and if he gets vir­gins in par­adise, as far as I’m con­cerned, he earned them.”
  • Oth­ers on social media, in par­tic­u­lar Twit­ter, used the pejo­ra­tive term “homo­caust” to describe the mas­sacre in Orlando.

Anti-Semitic con­spir­acy theories

Fringe anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­rists rarely miss an oppor­tu­nity to exploit tragedies to pro­mote their hatred of Jews, as they did blam­ing Jews for events rang­ing from coor­di­nated ter­ror attacks across Paris in Novem­ber 2015 to the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School mas­sacre in Decem­ber 2012 to the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks.

Tweet promoting anti-Semitic conspiracies in response to Orlando attack

Tweet pro­mot­ing anti-Semitic con­spir­a­cies in response to Orlando attack

  • In this lat­est round of blam­ing Jews for all that is wrong with the world, David Duke, the for­mer Klan leader, posted a video on YouTube titled “The Orlando Ter­ror and the Dark Side of Diver­sity.” In this video, Duke invokes anti-Semitic the­o­ries about Jew­ish con­trol and sup­pos­edly evil Jew­ish inten­tions stat­ing, “…the pow­er­ful Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tions have led the push for open bor­ders.” He added, “…the takeover of Amer­i­can elite media, pol­i­tics, and bank­ing has directly led to the poli­cies of eth­nic cleans­ing in the coun­try our fore­fa­thers cre­ated and they lit­er­ally brag about this.” Duke blames the Jews and oth­ers for what he describes as the “the eth­nic cleans­ing of Amer­ica, Europe, and every West­ern Nation” and calls on “every white nation” to “rise up and defend West­ern Chris­t­ian civilization.”
  •  Addi­tion­ally, Vet­er­ans Today, a U.S.-based web­site that presents anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries as news, pub­lished a num­ber of arti­cles blam­ing Israel or Jews for the Orlando shooting:

 –In an arti­cle titled “MK-Ultra Triple Play in Orlando,” Vet­er­ans Today colum­nist Pre­ston James tries to place the Orlando shoot­ing into a larger Jew­ish con­spir­acy. He wrote, “[I]t is rea­son­able to view this Orlando shoot­ing as a pos­si­ble joint Mossad/CIA Gladio-style, inside-job, false-flag “triple-play” op designed to help moti­vate the Amer­i­can masses to col­lect the guns, accept polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and homo­sex­u­al­ity as the pre­ferred norm, and to fur­ther moti­vate Amer­i­cans to sup­port deploy­ing our war machine to fight more wars for Israel and the KM (Roth­schild Zion­ist Banksters).”

–In “Orlando Shoot­ing: Why Israel Availed the Vicious Cir­cle of Ter­ror­ism?” Saj­jad Shaukat claims that Israel is behind a num­ber of attacks in coop­er­a­tion with “the Zionist-Israeli-led Amer­ica” in order to stir up hatred against Mus­lims. Shaukat writes: “And most probably…Mossad might have arranged this mas­sive shooting…to divert the atten­tion of Amer­i­can pub­lic from inter­nal prob­lems, pro­longed war on ter­ror etc., and espe­cially to avoid the solu­tion of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”

Kevin Bar­rett, an anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­rist and fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to Iran’s Eng­lish lan­guage pro­pa­ganda news net­work, Press TV, wrote a Vet­er­ans Today arti­cle titled “Orlando Nigh­club Shoot­ing Another False Flag?” In this arti­cle, Bar­rett places Israel at the cen­ter of “the long list of false flags that cre­ated [the Orlando shoot­ing], claim­ing that “Zion­ists have been pan­ick­ing, fear­ing that Obama is going to…officially estab­lish the State of Palestine…The usual sus­pects may have responded with a mas­sive pub­lic­ity stu­dent in Orlando designed to make us for­get Muham­mad Ali [who Bar­rett describes as a pos­i­tive Mus­lim role model] and make it much harder, if not impos­si­ble, for Obama to force the Israelis to with­draw from the ter­ri­tory they stole in 1967.”

  • Some social media users responded by post­ing vehe­mently anti-Semitic mes­sages on Twit­ter, mak­ing accu­sa­tions sim­i­lar to those of Duke or Vet­er­ans Today, either blam­ing Jews them­selves for per­pe­trat­ing the attacks or Jew­ish con­trol of a num­ber of sec­tors in the U.S. for inspir­ing the attacks.

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June 15, 2016 1

The Orlando Shooter’s Many Paths to Violence

This weekend’s shoot­ing at the Pulse night­club in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 dead and 52 peo­ple injured, has rein­vig­o­rated debate sur­round­ing the nature of rad­i­cal­iza­tion and what it means when some­one claims to act on behalf of a for­eign ter­ror­ist organization.omar mateen

While details about the attack and the per­pe­tra­tor, Omar Mateen, con­tinue to emerge, there are indi­ca­tions that the assailant may have been moti­vated by more com­pli­cated fac­tors than a sim­ple alle­giance to any one, or com­bi­na­tion of, ter­ror­ist groups. Dur­ing his call to 911 at the time of the attack, Mateen pledged alle­giance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al Bagh­dadi, called the Boston marathon bombers his “home­boys” and men­tioned Moner Abusalha, a Florida res­i­dent who com­mit­ted a sui­cide attack on behalf of Jab­hat al Nusra, Al Qaeda in Syria, in 2014.

There are signs, how­ever, that extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy may have been only one of many ele­ments that led him to carry out the mas­sacre. Mateen report­edly exhib­ited vio­lent ten­den­cies prior to the attack; he was accused of domes­tic abuse by his ex-wife and report­edly threat­ened cowork­ers in the past. Domes­tic vio­lence has been linked to mass shoot­ings – extrem­ist or oth­er­wise. His ex-wife has also sug­gested he may have been gay. If true, that could point to a host of per­sonal, psy­cho­log­i­cal rea­sons for his deci­sion to attack Pulse, which was a gay nightclub.

Still, the fact that Mateen had claimed sup­port for Hezbol­lah and Al Qaeda in a con­ver­sa­tion with co-workers – which, along with his pos­si­ble con­nec­tions to Moner Abusalha, led to him being inves­ti­gated twice by the FBI– may indi­cate he had some pro­found attrac­tion to these groups.

Mateen is far from the only indi­vid­ual whose activ­ity appears to have been shaped by a com­plex web of fac­tors, of which extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy may be just one ele­ment. For example:

  • In August 2014, Ali Muham­mad Brown was allegedly engaged in a rob­bery when he shot a man in a car in New Jer­sey. Brown is also accused of killing three indi­vid­u­als out­side a gay night­club in Cal­i­for­nia that June; Brown had allegedly lured them to his car on Grindr, a gay  (dat­ing) app, and then mur­dered them. When appre­hended, Brown claimed that the mur­ders were revenge for U.S. actions in the Mid­dle East. Brown had also report­edlyali-muhammad-brown writ­ten in a jour­nal that he planned to fol­low ISIS and “learn the way of jihadis,” and had pre­vi­ously been linked to a con­spir­acy to send funds to Al Shabaab, al Qaeda in Soma­lia. The cir­cum­stances of this par­tic­u­lar mur­der, how­ever, indi­cated that he was hop­ing to get away with rob­bery, rather than under­tak­ing a polit­i­cally charged act.  Sim­i­larly, there were no clear indi­ca­tions that his mur­ders in Cal­i­for­nia were under­taken for polit­i­cal reasons.

At least two other indi­vid­u­als never claimed their attacks on behalf of spe­cific for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions, but were linked to those orga­ni­za­tions in their online activ­ity – and in both cases, ISIS even­tu­ally claimed credit for their vio­lent actions. ISIS has also claimed credit for the Orlando attack.

  • In Sep­tem­ber 2014, Okla­homa res­i­dent Alton Nolen was sus­pended from his work­place, a food pro­cess­ing plant. Nolen returned with “a large bladed knife,” with which he beheaded a for­mer col­league and attacked a sec­ond. Nolen’s social media feed indi­cated an inter­est in vio­lent extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda, and par­tic­u­larly vio­lent acts asso­ci­ated with ISIS, even as it became clear that he had no actual links to extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions or a com­pre­hen­sive adher­ence to extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy. Indeed, his online activ­ity may have influ­enced him to some extent — his inter­est in extrem­ist vio­lence may have informed his deci­sion to under­take a behead­ing rather than another form of vio­lence. Dabiq, ISIS’s Eng­lish lan­guage mag­a­zine, claimed credit for Nolen’s activ­ity and boasted that he had acted based on ISIS pro­pa­ganda. The cir­cum­stances of the activ­ity, though, seemed more directly related to work­place vio­lence than to Islamic extremism.
  • In Octo­ber 2014, Zale Thomp­son of New York attacked law enforce­ment offi­cers with a hatchet. Thompson’s online his­tory  indi­cated he had exper­i­mented with a vari­ety of extrem­ist ide­olo­gies, but had most recently engaged with Islamic extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda and ide­ol­ogy, includ­ing ISIS-specific pro­pa­ganda, prior to the attack – pre­sum­ably because it jus­ti­fied such an attack more than other groups he had asso­ci­ated with. He had also inde­pen­dently expressed anger against law enforce­ment. Thompson’s ulti­mate motives have not been made clear; the NYPD clas­si­fied his actions as a ter­ror­ist attack, but the FBI did not. Like Nolen, Thomp­son did not state that his action was under­taken on behalf of a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, but ISIS claimed that it was inspired by their pro­pa­ganda in Dabiq magazine.

The appar­ent com­plex­ity of the moti­va­tions in the Orlando Shoot­ing would indi­cate that this tragedy can fall under the rubric of many other mass casu­alty attacks – such as Sandy Hook and Charleston– as well as under the rubric of domes­tic ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy – such as the Boston Bomb­ing and the San Bernardino shooting.

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