“This is scary,” Tucker Carlson said on Fox News on Friday. He was referring to the House passing a bill that would expand the DOJ’s toolbox for investigating and prosecuting domestic terrorism, including white supremacist violence.
Last week, congressional Democrats sought to expedite the long-stalled legislation after a mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, left 10 dead and injured three others. All the victims but two were Black, and the gunman, a white teenager, explained in a racist rant posted online that he specifically targeted the area because of its demographic makeup.
The gunman, who’s now been charged with first-degree murder, also wrote that he’d been radicalized on 4chan and made references to the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory. The idea, which stokes fears of whites being “replaced” via immigration, has gained mainstream traction in recent years, and many of its core ideas have shown up on Carlson’s segments and elected Republicans’ social media feeds.
Some in the far-right have since hailed the suspected shooter as a “hero,” while others, including Arizona State Sen. Wendy Rogers, have spread baseless conspiracy theories claiming that the shooting was a “false flag,” staged by the Biden administration to justify a crackdown on its political opponents. Some proponents of that conspiracy have even pointed to Democrats’ efforts to expedite the domestic terror bill as “evidence” of some nefarious plot.
“Are you ready to be on a watchlist?” asked a North Carolina chapter of the Proud Boys on their Telegram channel, along with a link to an AP article about the bill. Another Proud Boys group said the bill “is essentially the creation of an anti-white secret police.”
Meanwhile, the mainstream GOP is accusing Democrats of opportunistically pouncing on the Buffalo shooting to advance legislation that they claim would lead to mass surveillance of their political opponents.
The original version of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act was introduced just weeks after the Jan. 6 insurrection, and a newer iteration of the bill made it through the House with just one Republican vote (Rep. Adam Kinzinger) after the Buffalo mass shooting.
The new bill would establish dedicated domestic terrorism departments in the FBI, DOJ, and Homeland Security authorized to monitor, analyze, investigate, and prosecute acts of domestic terrorism. Those offices would be required to produce biannual joint reports on domestic terrorism, which must have a specific section on white supremacist–related incidents.
(It’s worth noting that there’s currently no general domestic terrorism statute. There are, however, limited circumstances where someone can be charged with domestic terrorism, such as attacking transport infrastructure. Judges can also tack on “terrorism enhancement” in federal cases, which typically adds about 15 years to a sentence.)
The bill would also establish an interagency task force to investigate white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration of uniformed services and federal law enforcement agencies. It also directs the FBI to assign a special agent to each field office who would be responsible for investigating hate crime incidents and their possible nexus to domestic terrorism.
FBI Director Chris Wray has repeatedly stated that the threat of domestic terrorism in the U.S. has been growing and said the data indicates that “racially motivated violent extremism” makes up the biggest chunk of the bureau’s domestic terrorism portfolio.
But some Democrat progressives, like Reps. Cory Bush and Ilhan Omar, initially expressed concern about the bill over what they saw as open-ended language that could, in the wrong hands, be used to unfairly persecute civil rights activists and people of color. But after protections were added into the bill for protesters, they voted in favor.
Still, Senate Republicans have vowed to block the legislation after Sen. Chuck Schumer introduces it later this week.
The right-wing Gateway Pundit said that the goal of the bill was to “silence conservatives and those Americans who disagree with them.” “Democrats used the mass shooting by a lunatic in Buffalo, New York, to justify the legislation that will allow the FBI to continue to spy on and harass conservatives and critics of their radical agenda,” the Pundit wrote.
Carlson, on his Friday segment, dubbed the legislation the “New War on Terror” and made sweeping, incorrect statements about the bill.
He railed against the fact that the bill doesn’t specifically mention “BLM or antifa” and incorrectly claimed that the bill redefines domestic terror to include hate crimes, “whatever those are.” (The bill directs federal agencies to explore possible overlaps between hate crimes and domestic terrorism).
Some members of Congress have echoed Carlson’s whataboutism, accusing Democrats of failing to address other acts of violence that have happened in the past year.
“White supremacy shouldn’t be the main target,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in an interview from her car with Real America’s Voice over the weekend. “We should go after criminals that break the law and not pursue people based on their skin color and how they vote.”
Others have suggested that the Domestic Terrorism Act was just the latest attempt by Democrats to target their political opponents, after the Biden administration’s proposed “Disinformation Governance Board,” whose goal was to counter misinformation related to immigration, collapsed alongside intense public backlash.
“It sounds terrible,” said Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley in response to the House-passed bill, according to the Hill. “It’s like the disinformation board on steroids.” Hawley expressed doubt that the bill would be able to muster the 10 Republican votes needed to overcome an expected filibuster in the Senate.
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