Watching the Watchmen: Vigilantes Backing the Blue
The “Watchmen” are a vigilante, pro-police, auxiliary-fantasy group based out of Gastonia, North Carolina. The group is led by “David Horton”, who resides in Gastonia, North Carolina. The group claims to adhere to a two-prong strategy: civil defense and civic engagement. The “Watchmen” group has a national body that Horton leads, but essentially two major chapters exist: New York and Gastonia. We cover the Gastonia Watchmen here.
At the Atlanta “World Wide Freedom Rally 3.0”, conspiracy narratives took center stage. On the surface, the rally opposed health measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including and especially vaccinations. During the rally, transphobia, racism, antisemitism, and old-school conspiracy narratives flowed over the speakers, highlighting the convergence of conspiracy thought as the fringe moves ever closer to normalization. While no speaker directly mentioned QAnon, the conspiracy beliefs shared come straight from the QAnon canon.
Deplatforming is a good thing, a fact that the literature backs. Removing hateful accounts from mainstream social media sites hampers their recruitment abilities. Unfortunately, for those entrenched in their extremist beliefs, deplatforming can send them further down the rabbit hole. As QAnon content was banned from sites like Twitter following the storming of the US Capitol on January 6th, 2021 and Parler, a “free speech” social media platform, faced instability and sporadic shutdowns. Here, the garden-variety QAnon adherents found themselves without a digital home. In the midst of confusion, posts began to circulate funneling people to Parler Lifeboat, on the white nationalist and radical right’s preferred platform, Telegram. Parler Lifeboat itself was repurposed Proud Boys chat. Through the group and later sub-groups, actors from the white nationalist milieu on Telegram worked systematically to push QAnon adherents, civic nationalists, and others further down the radicalization pipeline, thrusting them into an environment where explicitly antisemitic and national socialist content flourished.
On Thursday, 27/05/2021 Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene brought their “America First” rally to Dalton, Georgia, 1.5 hours north of Atlanta. At the rally, Gaetz and Greene utilized the standard playbook of the far-right wing of the GOP. The duo also latched onto the latest culture wars talking points, railing against critical race theory, the “woke military”, and Biden’s ATF nominee. While the man who gave Gaetz and Greene their national audience is out of the picture, the pair are doing their best to continue pushing the Republican Party to the right while espousing a dangerous form of Christian ethnonationalism.