ADL Special Reports: Rage Grows in America: Anti‑Government Conspiracies
- Index / Summary
- Part One: Anger in the Mainstream
- Part Two: Anger on the Fringes
- Download a PDF of this report (.97MB)
- Press Release: Report: Rage Grows In America Conspiracy Theories Fuel Anti-Government Fervor (11/16/2009)
Rage Grows in America: Anti‑Government Conspiracies
Conspiracy Theories Prompting Action: The Iowa National Guard
Unfortunately, though many anti-government conspiracy theories are wild and unfounded, people may act on this information as if it were accurate. One incident caught an Iowa National Guard unit by surprise in February 2009 after it announced a four-day training exercise in the towns of Carroll and Arcadia. In anticipation of possibly being sent to Iraq to engage in urban patrolling efforts, the unit obtained the permission of local officials for a training scenario in which Guard troops would patrol local streets to apprehend a hypothetical weapons dealer.
News of the planned exercise quickly spread through the Internet. Conspiracy talk-show host Alex Jones spread the news even further on his radio show and Web sites. Extremists and conspiracy theorists were outraged; to them, these exercises were clearly not intended for operations in Iraq, but rather for operations in the United States. The military, they claimed, was being trained to disarm American citizens, as part of Obama’s sinister plan to institute gun confiscation.
“This false flag treasonous gun grab is a direct insult against the 4th and 10th amendment protections,” wrote “Jill” on one protest blog. A “Ray Burns” predicted on the same blog that things were heading to the “utter destruction of our country and the bloodiest ‘civil’ banker-led war the earth has ever witnessed.” Many people demanded some sort of action. “Everything is accelerating so fast,” declared one poster to a message forum operated by Alex Jones. “We need to organize now.” On a blog on the “Campaign for Liberty” Web site, “fadestyle” announced mass protests: “Iowa people are organizing in mass to protest the guards from training to take your guns…YOUR STATE NEEDS YOU NOW!”
As a result, hundreds of angry phone calls and e-mails from around the country flooded government and National Guard offices, especially after Alex Jones featured the incident on his show. He also appropriated a local news story on the planned training, putting it on one of his own Web sites with an altered headline that read “Iowa National Guard to train for gun confiscation.” Some people merely criticized or protested the planned operation, while others, according to a local newspaper, threatened to show up at Arcadia with weapons or even set booby traps to injure the soldiers.
The sudden and unanticipated angry protest had its effect. Within days, the Iowa National Guard decided to cancel the urban training. A National Guard spokesperson denied that the abrupt about-face was due to the angry protests from angry conspiracy theorists, but few others seem convinced. “Nothing this serious has ever happened in Arcadia,” said its mayor, Oran Kohorst. “I really feel sorry for the National Guard having to justify their actions.”
Nancy Genovese Incident
Not only did the gun confiscation conspiracy theories cause the reaction to the Iowa National Guard exercise, but, in a ripple effect, the extremist reaction to the exercise actually may have helped to create another incident. In late July 2009, a 53-year-old mother of three from Long Island, Nancy Genovese, was arrested for allegedly trespassing on a nearby Air National Guard base. Since the election of Obama, Genovese had become increasingly anti-government and fearful of President Obama. A fan of both Glenn Beck and Alex Jones, Genovese had become transfixed with conspiracy theories about one world government, FEMA, and more.
In February 2009, Genovese learned of the planned Iowa National Guard exercise in Arcadia. “This is the beginning of the end,” she posted to one Web site. “They will do this in some other town, but it’s just the beginning. Tell me how do I buy a gun? Do I buy a rifle or shotgun?” In the end, Genovese bought both, purchasing a shotgun and an XM-15 assault rifle. In subsequent months, she became particularly focused on FEMA, which she was convinced was operating concentration camps and preparing for martial law. She also began trying to take pictures at a nearby New York Air National Guard base, despite repeated warnings by base personnel (taking photographs of military bases is not permitted). It was on one of these trips on July 30 that military personnel allegedly found her just outside the base, taking photographs. Authorities found an assault rifle, as well as a shotgun, in the front seat of her car. She was arrested for third degree criminal trespassing, but the charge was later dropped because it was determined she had been in her vehicle the whole time.