Debunked: Prosecutors and Press Calling a Militia Cell “Anarchists”

by Will Potter on August 30, 2012

in Government Priorities

Click to read the full story at the Daily Beast.

Prosecutors in Georgia are seeking the death penalty for three non-commissioned military officers who formed a militia cell called FEAR (“Forever Enduring Always Ready”), murdered two people, and allegedly plotted to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.

It’s a bizarre tale on its own, but what makes the story even more odd is that prosecutors went out of their way to proclaim that this is a group of “anarchists.” Mainstream press jumped all over it. CNN’s headline: “Anarchists accused of murder; broader plot against government.” NBC is running an AP story: “Anarchist GIs plotted to overthrow the government.”

For anyone familiar with present-day anarchist social movements, this was all simultaneously baffling and not surprising. It’s shocking to see how national media outlets unquestioningly repeat unsubstantiated (and just plain odd) government claims that a militia of military officers is “anarchist.” It’s predictable, though, in the sense that “anarchist” has become a catch-all form of demonization. All too often, anarchism is stripped of any meaning as a political ideology with historical and contemporary significance, and is instead reduced to a synonym for “radical” or “terrorist.”

What’s particularly odd about this whole thing is that it’s actually the inverse of many “anarchist plots” we’ve seen lately. In the case of the Cleveland 4, for example, the FBI used informants to manufacture a plot, going so far as to provide instructions, encouragement, and materials. Afterwards, prosecutors distributed press statements announcing that “terrorists” have been brought to justice. In this case, though, the government didn’t have to manufacture any plot — it just had to label it “anarchist.”

Eli Lake, senior national-security correspondent for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, has an article today about the case in which he debunks the anarchist rhetoric:

“Press reports have described FEAR as an anarchist militia, but Durden [the district attorney] on Wednesday said he had no evidence that the group was linked to any other known anarchist organization.”

I spoke with Lake about the broader campaigns against anarchists that I have documented, and he included a bit from me  in his story:

And no known contemporary anarchist groups have proposed the kind of horrifying violence alleged in the case against Aguigui and FEAR. “There is a lot of debate within the Occupy movement and anarchist circles about tactics like property damage,” said Will Potter, an author who has covered the anarchist movement since the late 1990s. “These are debates about breaking windows. They are not about killing innocent people or assassinating the president.”

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