Members Only | December 8, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Property is now a victim of the rightwing insurgency. Will the Republicans help end it?

Maybe, but don't hold your breath.

Roy Cooper.
Roy Cooper.

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The “rule of three” is one of those informal guidelines that help us journalists decide whether an event is newsworthy. If something occurs three times, it’s probably a trend. Trends are newsworthy. 

Trends can be fads, but three rifle attacks on critical infrastructure in less than 10 years – two this week alone – isn’t a fad. That goes double since the attacks appear to correlate with another political trend, which is wider and greater social acceptance of trans people. 

Even as GOP-dominated state legislatures move to restrict trans rights, more than 500 municipal governments are moving the other way, opening cities to greater equality and freedom. Two-hundred major urban centers and 50 state capitals have enacted or are set to enact laws, policies and services inclusive of the LGBT-plus people.  

Anti-trans laws are jim-dandy, as is the massacre of innocents, but taking out the power supply? That crosses the line. Crosses! The! Line! 

That’s democratic politics. It never stops. But neither does the political violence that erupts in reaction to democratic politics. The more Americans perceive trans people as people, rather than subhuman perversions, the more political violence we can expect.

Thus is the nature of the ongoing rightwing insurgency. 

It’s not a fad
Two electrical substations were damaged Saturday in Moore County, North Carolina, knocking out power in more than 37,000 homes. 

In what police said was an “intentional” and “malicious” attack, a person or persons “open fired” on the transformers, leaving behind more than two dozen shell casings from a “high-powered rifle.”

Investigators initially said there was no evidence linking the attack to “a local drag show that had been targeted with threats of violence and calls to cancel the show in recent weeks,” reported USA Today.

There’s still no hard evidence linking the events, but investigators appear now to be broadening their perspective, setting the attack, according to CNN, “in context with the growing tensions and armed confrontations around similar LBGTQ+ events across the country.”

They are looking at “writings by extremists on online forums encouraging attacks on critical infrastructure” as well as “a series of recent disruptions of LGBTQ+ events by domestic extremists.”

CNN reported that paramilitaries have for the last two years used online forums to discuss attacking critical infrastructure, including the power grid, and to encourage individuals to act. These paramilitaries “posted documents and even instructions outlining vulnerabilities and suggesting the use of high-powered rifles.”

A government report from 2013 determined that attacks on 17 transformers in Silicon Valley were the result of sniper fire. More than 100 bullets were expended over 20 minutes, leaving scores of thousands without power and costing the public utility $15 million.

The Seattle Times reported today the investigation of at least five rifle attacks on electrical substations in Washington state. The damage was similar to the damage in North Carolina. Authorities there said it was a “deliberate physical attack,” though the newspaper reported it was unclear whether they caused service disruptions.  

That, my friend, is three related events. It’s not a fad. 

It’s a trend. 

“Normal reality”
It’s also an example of the friction between democratic politics and an established political order (white power) that refuses to yield to democratic politics. That friction can be healthy, but more often than not in this country a consequence of it has been political violence. 

It bears repeating at this point that the greatest locus of friction was probably when Americans elected their first Black president. Given that white power was “normal reality” to most white Americans, Barack Obama’s ascendance was a perversion of the natural order. 

I don’t find it surprising that a person or persons fired on 17 electrical substations after Obama was reelected in 2012. If democratic politics couldn’t stop “normal reality” from being turned upside down, political violence was justified in returning us to “normal reality.”

But the attack on critical infrastructure was, in 2013, an outlier. 

Most of the political violence we have seen since then has been inflicted on people. As I have said before, every shooting massacre is a reaction to white people’s perceived loss of racial status. There have been so many mass shootings, in fact, that if they happened anywhere else in the world, they would be called an insurgency. 

If the attackers were Black or brown, yes! Then that’s an insurgency! But we don’t call it that. Most people in this country are white and most white people can’t see a political insurgency in front of them, even when it erupts in schools, even when it mows down children

Property over people
Maybe that will change given this new trend.

This America, after all. Here, the rights of property have historically superseded the rights of people, as is evidenced by Republican legislators bent on outlawing gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth, banning certain trans-related books in public schools and forbidding the discussion of LGBT-plus topics in the classroom.

All of that is jim-dandy, as is the massacre of innocents, but taking out the power supply? That crosses the line. Crosses! The! Line!

There’s no hope for gun control as long as the Republicans don’t want it – and they won’t want it when the status quo is mere mass death. 

The Republicans, however, are the party of property, of business, of old white people. Power outages cost time. Time costs money. And money is the entire point of living a once-only existence on Earth. 

I’m not the only one who sees a crack in the GOP’s united front. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, said Tuesday: 

“When we look at all the money that’s being lost by businesses here at Christmastime, when we look at threats to people in nursing homes having lost power, hospitals having to run off generators and not being able to do certain kinds of operations at this point – all of those are deep concerns here, and we can’t let this happen” (italics mine).

I’m not holding my breath, but if this new trends gains some momentum, we might see a few Republicans actually stand up to the paramilitaries among them and put an end to this insurgency.

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

1 Comment

  1. Bern on December 8, 2022 at 1:41 pm

    Hi John –
    The Metcalf substation shootup in south San Jose´ in 2013 has not been solved, but the FBI concluded in 2014 that it was not domestic terrorism, but more likely a disgruntled employee. Their conclusion was based on simply the fact that no one ever took credit for it, thereby negating the ‘terror’ factor.
    In any case, the power station targeting has been a threat for years, and several months ago Homeland Security warned about it on their website. Link is one of several in this article:

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