The SBS VICELAND documentary, Fringe Nation was completed prior to the 6 January siege in Washington D.C, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol amid a last-ditch effort to overturn his election loss. But it makes for essential viewing in light of the events of last week's riots, and amid fresh reports of planned "armed attacks".
Reporter Gianna Toboni examines the roots of the self-described "militias" whose heretofore "fringe" beliefs have evolved into a disproportionate – and potentially irreversible – impact on the United States.
Toboni interviews Mike Dunn, a representative of the so-called 'Boogaloo Bois', a movement whose name spawned from the forgettable sequel of '80s breakdance movie Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. That film was so panned by critics that the word boogaloo came to mean 'a bad sequel'. In recent years, this movement of would-be insurrectionists appropriated the term to mean a Civil War sequel. The following exchange between Toboni and Dunn is chilling, given the events of 6 January, in which United States Representatives were ordered to shelter-in-place in the Capitol building when armed rioters stormed the joint sitting of Congress:
Toboni: The term "boogaloo," is it fair to say that it refers to a future civil war in our country?
Dunn: No. It refers to a revolution.
That's what a lot of people -- Okay. What's the difference?
Not a civil war. There is a difference. Uh, civil war is a war between the people. Uh, a revolution is a war between the people and the government.
But, like, what does that mean? Bring war against, like, senators and, like, police officers? Literally, what does that look like?
I am not gonna comment on that. That can get me in a lot of trouble.
*According to a Reuters Reuters report, Dunn claims not to have participated in last week's riots, but he told Reuters, “just know there is more to come.” ("While Dunn said he did not participate in the Capitol siege himself, he shared footage on social media that purported to show boogaloo members tussling with police and forcing their way through barriers outside the building.")
Elsewhere in the program, Toboni examines the historical rise of extremist groups, and finds origins in the post-Vietnam War period. Kathleen Belew, an expert on right-wing extremism and white power movements, says militia activity was perfectly positioned to take off then, when, like today, anti-government sentiments were on the rise.
"So the '80s are a really significant period for this movement, because so many different groups that have previously been at odds with each other were able to use the aftermath of the Vietnam War to come together and to become very anti-government and dedicated to the overthrow of the nation in a way that they simply had never been before."
Belew goes on to cite the significant events in the 1990s that galvanised the white supremacist movement in the United States; among them the events around WACO siege, which helped to radicalise domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh, otherwise known as the Oklahoma City Bomber.
'Fringe Nation: Extremists in America' premieres on SBS VICELAND at 8.30pm Tuesday 12 January, and all episodes will be available to stream at SBS on Demand after broadcast.