A Natural Alliance: Law Enforcement and the Far Right Have Always Worked Together
Since there was law enforcement, those tasked with protecting the law and property have partnered with extremists to undermine reform and change
There’s a hardly a day now that passes without damning new information regarding the deadly coup attempt of January 6th, 2021, an incident where an alliance of Trump supporters, conspiracy theorists, and trained, organized domestic extremists overran the Capitol and came incredibly close to decapitating our federal government. Each piece of news paints a more and more disturbing picture, whether it’s the violent intention of the extremists, the government’s apparent unwillingness to address the situation, or the emerging picture that law enforcement more than likely had advanced knowledge from informants within organizations like the paramilitary street gang the Proud Boys.
Antennas were raised back in January when, on the 4th, just forty-eight hours prior to the attack, Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys leader, was picked up by authorities, a tactic informants often enjoy in order to avoid a larger implication in a coming operation. Sure enough, it has emerged that Tarrio has worked extensively as an informant. Joining him as an informant was Joseph Biggs, another Proud Boys leader, who, it was revealed after his storming of the Capitol, had been working with the FBI on counteracting “Antifa” operations for quite some time. “They spoke often,” his attorney said. Other reports have revealed that the FBI not only spoke with members of the group, but advised them on when and where to hold their events in order to avoid any legal complications.
When these facts were revealed many were surprised. The Proud Boys is a violent street gang with a long history of altercations and crimes. That they would be operating with law enforcement seemed contradictory. But the truth is that as long as there has been law enforcement they have partnered with these far right groups in both sharing intelligence but also in attacking reform and populist movements. The truth is that they are natural partners in a shared goal.
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In the late 1790’s England was on edge. Across the Channel, France was in the midst of a total revolution that was working to overturn hereditary rights, stringently hierarchical society, and destroy monarchy altogether. This tumultuous moment sent shockwaves throughout Europe and worried neighboring powers that, unless something was done, the zeal for revolution might spread and lead to unthinkable changes and chaos.
Faced with this possibility, England was overcome with a conservative counter-revolution in which anyone criticizing the royalty, government, or societal structure was censored, harassed, and jailed. Society was weaponized to deal with the threat of emerging personal rights. Even renowned reformers like Edmund Burke moved to the right as they decried the revolution in France and lionized traditions of inequality.
As reformers and the Left were attacked, the new institution of organized law enforcement was innovated with the twin goals of protecting the property of the wealthy elite and weeding out any radicals who might challenge the status quo. This permanently radicalized law enforcement as a defender of power and capitalism at the expense of people of color, women, and the poor, but it was not alone in this ugly crusade.
One of the leaders of the initial push for an organized law enforcement to stave off revolution was John Reeves, a legal philosopher who saw the protection of the British system as non-negotiable. In addition to heading up the police force, Reeves saw a need to found what would come to be called the Association For Protecting Liberty and Property Against Republicans and Levellers. The Association was a private society dedicated to maintaining the system of power, private ownership, monarchy, and established wealth.
The Association should seem familiar. Their warnings that radicals interested in reform or a more equal society would destroy everything and plunge the world into violent anarchy are a precedent for the modern American Right. They also shared a taste for extralegal behaviors, including illegal surveillance of citizens, infiltration and disruption of group dynamics, and violent intimidation of the Left.
That both law enforcement and this paramilitary, ultra-nationalistic group were founded and led by the same individual should be no surprise. They were dedicated to the same aim: the perpetuation of wealth, power, property, and influence by the wealthy. The police were designed to use the law as a weapon, wielding it like a bludgeon, while the paramilitary extremists worked outside of it and received aid, oftentimes the two groups being made up of the exact same individuals.
We have been taught that the law is blind, a universal yoke that binds all of us together while it protects open, shared society. Regardless of our race, gender, identity, or wealth, we are supposedly all equal and to be treated equally. This is an insidious mythology that only becomes glaringly more untrue with every injustice.
The law is meant as a weapon, a restriction that binds people, instructs them how to operate within a framework that serves the state and the established wealthy and powerful, while giving that group a means of disposing of individuals who might challenge their rule. New legislation being pushed by the increasingly desperate Republican Party only make this more obvious as their historically low popularity has sent them scrambling to disenfranchise voters while pushing laws that will deny basic aid should citizens protest their racist, classist policies.
This isn’t new, obviously. From the beginning of America, the law has been intended to aid the wealth and power of the white, male aristocracy while squashing possible slave uprisings, disenfranchising all other groups, and then, as reforms were realized, burying the prejudiced nature of the system behind efforts like the so-called “War on Drugs,” the mass incarceration epidemic that reflects the British Empire of the 18th century, and a whole slew of offensive means the Right is now embracing in desperation.
None of this was ever meant to be impartial. The legacy of white supremacy is that all of the remaining features, namely all of them, were sculpted with intention. It is an exhaustingly well-crafted system of oppression that purposefully targets and attacks anyone interested in challenging it.
The mindset of late 18th century Britain is still alive to this very day. Those in power have told and retold the same mythologies over and over again in order to protect themselves, and it is a rather simple story. It goes something like this: there is a nation, which is good, and it is under attack by a legion of enemies, a conspiracy between a foreign terror (it was France for the British, then it turned to Jewish “puppetmasters” in the age of Fascism, then Communists post-revolution, and now those are interchangeable depending on the situation), leftist, socialist traitors within the nation, and a population of people of color who are incapable of reasoning for themselves and sources of constant, potential violence.
To turn on Fox News is to watch this story continue to play out. George Soros + liberals + Black Lives Matter is the current iteration. This is the story of Cultural Marxism. Of the New World Order. Of the Deep State. Of Qanon. The same story. Over and over and over again.
In the First Red Scare, this led to a spate of lynchings by white mobs assisted by white law enforcement. In the Civil Rights Movement, this led to accusations that Black Americans seeking equal protection were agents of a Communist conspiracy, leading police officers, violent segregationists, and the FBI and CIA to partner in an attempt to crush what they saw as a treasonous operation. Now, we see Proud Boys and militia members conferring with police officers on the sidelines of BLM battles and reports of these street gangs partnering with the feds to take on “Antifa.”
They are natural allies. Actually, that might not accurately encapsulate the moment. They are the same, different hands in different puppets, talking in different puppets, but of one mind. The purpose of the Far Right, fascistic, paramilitary group is to carry out the actions that law enforcement cannot in the light of day. And, just like with the Association and the emerging police force, they share a whole lot of members. This is why, even as white extremists have constituted the largest threat to the safety of Americans for decades, even as we scoured the world in search of “Muslim terrorists” and the “Axis of Evil,” the very real, very persistent threat has been largely ignored.
Because even though these white extremists are the single biggest threat to our safety, it’s our safety. Not white supremacy and the wealthy and powerful. White supremacy is the unifying force, the ideology they share. And the wealthy and powerful, as long as there has been wealthy and powerful, have relied on similar-minded people to carry out their violence in their defense.