The narrative that domestic anti-government extremism is the greatest threat to U.S. national security — the official position of the U.S. security state and the Biden administration — received its most potent boost in October 2020, less than one month before the 2020 presidential election. That was when the F.B.I. and Michigan state officials announced the arrest of thirteen people on terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges, with six of them accused of participating in a plot to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who had been a particular target of criticism from President Trump for her advocacy for harsh COVID lockdown measures.
The headlines that followed were dramatic and fear-inducing: “F.B.I. Says Michigan Anti-Government Group Plotted to Kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer,” announced The New York Times. That same night, ABC News began its broadcast this way: “Tonight, we take you into a hidden world, a place authorities say gave birth to a violent domestic terror plot in Michigan — foiled by the FBI.”
Democrats and liberal journalists instantly seized on this storyline to spin a pre-election theme that was as extreme as it was predictable. Gov. Whitmer herself blamed Trump, claiming that the plotters “heard the president’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry — as a call to action.” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) claimed that “the president is a deranged lunatic and he’s inspired white supremacists to violence, the latest of which was a plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer,” adding: “these groups have attempted to KILL many of us in recent years. They are following Trump’s lead.” Vox’s paid television-watcher and video-manipulator, Aaron Rupar, drew this inference: “Trump hasn’t commended the FBI for breaking up Whitmer kidnapping/murder plot because as always he doesn’t want to denounce his base.” Michael Moore called for Trump’s arrest for having incited the kidnapping plot against Gov. Whitmer. One viral tweet from a popular Democratic Party activist similarly declared: “Trump should be arrested for this plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer. There’s no doubt he inspired this terrorism.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo instantly declared it to be a terrorist attack on America: “We must condemn and call out the cowardly plot against Governor Whitmer for what it is: Domestic terrorism.” MSNBC’s social media star Kyle Griffin cast it as a coup attempt: “The FBI thwarted what they described as a plot to violently overthrow the government and kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.” CNN’s Jim Sciutto pronounced it “deeply alarming.”
A lengthy CNN article — dressed up as an investigative exposé that was little more than stenography of FBI messaging disseminated from behind a shield of anonymity — purported in the headline to take the reader “Inside the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer.” It claimed that it all began when angry discussions about COVID restrictions “spiraled into a terrorism plot, officials say, with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer the target of a kidnapping scheme.” CNN heralded the FBI’s use of informants and agents to break up the plot but depicted them as nothing more than passive bystanders reporting what the domestic terrorists were plotting:
The Watchmen had been flagged to the FBI in March, and one of its members was now an informant. That informant, others on the inside, as well as undercover operatives and recordings, allowed the bureau to monitor what was happening from then on.
The article never once hinted at let alone described the highly active role of these informants and agents themselves in encouraging and designing the plot. Instead, it depicted these anti-government activists as leading one another — on their own — to commit what CNN called “treason in a quaint town.” The more honest headline for this CNN article would have been: “Inside the FBI’s tale of the plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer.” But since CNN never questions the FBI — they employ their top agents and operatives once they leave the bureau in order to disseminate their propaganda — this is what the country got from The Most Trusted Name in News:
Gov. Whitmer herself attempted to prolong the news cycle as much as possible, all but declaring herself off-limits from criticism by equating any critiques of her governance with incitement to terrorism. Appearing on Meet the Press two Sundays after the plot was revealed, Whitmer said it was “incredibly disturbing that the president of the United States—10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial, and execute me, 10 days after that was uncovered—the president is at it again, and inspiring, and incentivizing, and inciting this kind of domestic terrorism.”
On October 22 — just two weeks before Election Day — MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow hosted Whitmer and told the Michigan Governor that the evidence was clear that Trump had been “turning on a faucet of violent threats” against her. Whitmer agreed that Trump was to blame for the kidnapping plot by having repeatedly attacked her in his rallies:
Joe Biden also made repeated use of this storyline. Appearing at a campaign rally in Michigan on October 16, the Democratic candidate blasted Trump for the crime of continuing to criticize Whitmer even after she was the target of a terror plot. He explicitly blamed Trump for having incited it: “When the president tweeted ‘Liberate Michigan, Liberate Michigan,’ that’s the call that was heard. That was the dog whistle.” And he accused Trump of purposely stoking a wave of the worst kind of terrorism on U.S. soil: “it’s the sort of behavior you might expect from ISIS,” he said of the accused.
When Governor Whitmer worked to protect her state from a deadly pandemic, President Trump issued a call to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”
That call was heard.
He’s giving oxygen to the bigotry and hate we see on the march in our country — and we have to stop it.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 9, 2020
Yet from the start, there were ample and potent reasons to distrust the FBI’s version of events. To begin with, FBI press releases are typically filled with lies, yet media outlets — due to some combination of excessive gullibility, an inability to learn lessons, or a desire to be deceived — continue to treat them as Gospel. For another, the majority of “terror plots” the FBI claimed to detect and break up during the first War on Terror were, in fact, plots manufactured, funded and driven by the FBI itself.