From the Left



What the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tells us about militant extremists

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Sometimes it hurts to be right.

I have received more than a little mockery in my inbox in response to my concerns about right-wing wackos, left-wing loonies and other militants.

Pipe down, I have been advised by some readers, especially when I imply a link between the internet-fueled resurrection of white extremism and President Donald Trump’s penchant for tweeting or speaking attaboy comfort to the likes of the far-right Proud Boys, the self described “western chauvinists” to whom he called out “Stand back and stand by” when asked for a repudiation during a presidential campaign debate.

But my suspicions don’t sound as alarmist now that the FBI has charged 13 men with terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and take her to Wisconsin, for “trial.”

Her offense? They didn’t like the lockdown she imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19. Last April our “favorite president,” as he recently branded himself, tweeted a call to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” from the lockdown.

Yeah, right. An invitation from the president to “liberate” themselves presumably from the country over which he presides seemed to most rational people to be too assured to take seriously. But not everyone is rational.


According to an FBI affidavit detailing the kidnapping plot, the alleged ringleader was said to have been particularly outraged by the state’s closure of private gyms. Heaven forbid that he should be denied the right to tone up his abs at a time that he sees fit to be fit.

But if this sounds like another laughably crazy Keystone-crooks caper, think again. “In white power discourse, kidnapping people for ‘trial’ is often followed by references to lynching,” writes Kathleen Belew, assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago, an expert on white power movements, in a Washington Post op-ed. “Whitmer might have been assassinated by this group.”

That’s not much of a stretch for a group allegedly determined enough to plot an attack on Michigan’s state capital and a kidnapping across state lines — which presumably also would have included Illinois and Indiana.

Maybe that possibility was on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s mind when she responded. “It’s chilling,” and “I think all roads lead back to Donald Trump.”


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