WHours after Ricky Shiffer was shot dead following an altercation with Ohio police last Thursday, far-right message boards Gab and Truth Social began to glow with conspiracy theorists asking questions.
Why hadn’t the negotiations with Shiffer ended peacefully? Why couldn’t the police disarm him without using deadly force? Did any of this even really happen?
“These questions allow people to theorize, and over time they will start finding answers and filling in the blanks,” says Kris Goldsmith, CEO of threat intelligence group Sparverius and a combat veteran who deals with disinformation and the far-right movements concerned The Independent.
“That’s how it starts.”
Asking such questions creates a feedback loop in which disinformation ebbs and flows from the corridors of electricity and cable to the dark corners of the internet, says Mr Goldsmith.
The mythology that has begun to gather around Shiffer, a 42-year-old Navy veteran who openly advocated violence against FBI agents, follows this familiar theme.
It’s the same tactic used after Ashli Babbitt was shot by police while trying to climb through the window of a barricaded door in the US Capitol on Jan. 6.
Like Shiffer, Babbitt became involved in far-right politics after leaving the military. Both urged “patriots” to turn their extreme rhetoric into real violence online.
Babbitt quickly became the martyr of the Maga movement, and Donald Trump was its top cheerleader.
“We have these characters on the right who are martyred after they die, which I think makes sense given that this cult has formed around Donald Trump,” says Joseph Russo, an assistant professor of anthropology at Wesleyan University, of the studied conspiracy theories The Independent.
He describes Trumpism as a “theopolitical” movement whose core belief posits that the former president is a messianic figure who is the only person capable of saving the country.
Corresponding Rolling StoneMr Trump has told people close to him that Shiffer may actually have posed as a supporter to discredit him.
The magazine quoted unnamed sources as calling Mr Trump’s comments a “false flag theory”.
These false flag allegations persist as events are retold to become part of a covert operation to frame Mr Trump, Professor Russo says.
And they’re a key part of an unprecedented escalation in threats of violence against federal officials since the FBI executed a search warrant in Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, law enforcement experts warn.
“We must be ready for war”
Ricky Shiffer arrived at the FBI’s Cincinnati office at approximately 9:15 am on August 11 wearing protective gear and carrying a nail gun and an AR-15. He attempted to enter the visitor’s field of vision and fired the nail gun, police later said.
When agents confronted him, he fled in his car toward Interstate 71, where he was spotted by a police officer and fired shots as the officer gave chase, Lt. Nathan Dennis, a spokesman for the Ohio State Highway Patrol, told reporters.
In a post on Trump’s online platform Truth Social at 9:29 a.m. after the shooting began, Shiffer wrote: “Well I thought I had a way through bulletproof glass and I didn’t. If you don’t hear from me, it’s true that I tried to attack the FBI, and that means I was either taken off the internet, the FBI got me, or they sent the regular cops.” The message appeared to be broken off.
Shiffer exited the interstate north of Cincinnati with police in pursuit and pulled to a stop just before 10 a.m. on a remote road in Clinton County, about 45 miles from Cincinnati.
He fired with police while hiding in a corn field before being shot dead around 3.45pm, police said.
The standoff continues after a gunman threatens the Ohio FBI office and then escapes into a cornfield
A Sparverius threat assessment report shows that Shiffer created a Twitter account in April 2022, around the time news broke about the possibility of Elon Musk acquiring the platform.
In the months leading up to his death, he interacted with right-wing figures such as Donald Trump Jr., Josh Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Dinesh D’Souza, calling for a “1775”-style revolution and spreading right-wing talking points about guns, slavery, and transgender people -Questions .
In response to an Aug. 5 tweet by Mr. D’Souza promoting a conspiracy theory that the Jan. 6 riot was the fault of US Capitol Police, Shiffer replied: “We must be ready for the war against the communists, the chemically (neuter prepubescent) kids and call it sex reassignment, not gutache about the arguments of 30 years ago. Save ammo.”
Shiffer also referenced being at the Capitol on Jan. 6, and social media posts and photos taken on the day appear to confirm his presence.
On Truth Social, Shiffer posted several times in the days following the Mar-a-Lago raid, according to a NBC News.
He called for killing FBI agents “on sight” and released a vague list of enemies to target.
Shiffer had been on the FBI’s radar for months, law enforcement said The New York Times.
But due to the protection of free speech, none of his threats appear to have crossed the high threshold of illegal incitement.
“He didn’t break the law until he picked up a gun and tried to kill FBI agents,” says Mr. Goldsmith The Independent.
As the FBI warns of an unprecedented spate of threats against the agency, Mr Goldsmith says it’s imperative the Justice Department begins to monitor violent rhetoric more vigorously on social media.
“America needs to consider how law enforcement treats terrorist threats as frivolous,” he says.
“I think it’s time for someone like (Attorney General) Merrick Garland to accept the reality of the internet age and understand that the former President of the United States is a stochastic terrorist.”
Stochastic terrorism refers to the use of mass media to provoke indiscriminate acts of ideologically motivated violence.
“He knows what he’s doing, he’s intentionally inciting violence, it’s not an accident,” says Mr Goldsmith.
There are signs that the Justice Department is being spurred into action.
On Monday, the Justice Department indicted Adam Bies of Pennsylvania Threats against FBI agents.
According to court documents, Mr. Bies released explicit violent warnings about Gab to the FBI and law enforcement agencies, stating, “My only goal is to kill more of them before I fall over” and “If you work for the FBI, you deserve it.” die.” .
Two days after the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago on August 8, Mr. Bies reportedly wrote: “Every single motherfucker that works for the FBI in any capacity from the director to the janitor who has their f**** ** Toilets deserve to die for. You declared war on us and now the season is open to YOU.”
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told CNN on Tuesday that FBI agents have lived in fear of retaliatory violence since the Mar-a-Lago raid and called for strong condemnation from political leaders.
The firestorm of violent rhetoric that erupted in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago raid was just a warning shot of what could happen if Mr Trump was charged in connection with one of the many criminal investigations underway against him, says Professor Russo The Independent.
“I think we will see at least one more January-type incident. We’re going to see violence against federal agencies, which in turn will lead to increased securitization of those agencies,” he says.
“On the more dramatic end of things, we could see something like a civil war. But we are seeing more deep civil unrest and I think we will be seeing more of these violent events in the near future.”
Veterans on the front lines of information warfare
Mr Goldsmith has studied extremism in the military and says there is no evidence veterans are particularly vulnerable to propaganda.
But he says it’s perfectly clear that propagandists and those who seek to foment violence have an incentive to target veterans.
Veterans are more likely to assume leadership roles. They run for office, start small businesses and become community leaders in greater numbers than civilians, says Mr Goldsmith.
They’re also more likely to indoctrinate their immediate social network “down the rabbit hole.”
“The Russians, the Republicans, and the far right are attacking veterans for the same reasons as Fortune 500 companies.”
Veterans were also at the center of some of the most serious crimes committed on January 6th.
The language used by propagandists, which emphasizes patriotism and duty to their country and urges them to stand up against a so-called stolen election, can be particularly effective for veterans, says Mr. Goldsmith.
“All of these things combined are why conspiracy theory communities like Qanon are so obsessed with the military.”
He wants US military members to keep the interdiction service away from sites like Gab and Truth Social as it would undermine their mission at home and abroad.
“It would be the right of military commanders to say that active-duty troops are not allowed to use Gab or Truth Social or Telegram, all of which have been used to perpetuate disinformation designed to undermine good order and discipline in the US military .”
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/ricky-shiffer-ashli-babbitt-trump-b2146095.html How Trump-loving Ohio FBI gunman Ricky Shiffer became the new Ashli Babbitt of the right