Something rather alarming happened last week, and it was alarming because it raises some serious concerns about where the American right is heading.
I am referring to the attack on electrical substations in Moore County, North Carolina on Saturday night. The incident cut power to 40,000 customers and forced officials to declare a state of emergency due to the cold temperatures. Moore County Sheriff’s Department has stated that it was an act of vandalism, including using firearms to inflict damage that is expected to reach into the millions of dollars. The Moore County sheriff determined that the attack demonstrated some sophistication and was not just a couple of hayseeds on a bender.
The attack occurred right as a drag show in Southern Pines, North Carolina was about to begin. There is, so far, officially no motive, so a lot of the social media chatter about the drag show and this attack is certainly speculative until we know more. However, there is reason to think that is a good possibility that the attack was in response to the drag show.
First off, elements of our society are losing their minds about trans people. I wrote about it here, and I find it very strange. They are attracting a lot of hate. You may have heard about Proud Boys and other cretins showing up at drag events to intimidate people. Transgender people are targets, and it’s not just by the far right.
Oddly enough, the New York Times seems to have it in for transgender people as well. I won’t link to the latest opinion piece about trans folks in the Paper of Record, but instead link to a trans person’s opinion about this strange obsession of theirs, and what being trans at this moment is like.
In addition, attacking the power grid has long been a strategy for the far right. The Moore County attack is not the first, and perhaps most unnerving, they are getting better at it. It is also a key aspect of the right-wing how-to White Resistance Manual.
It is tempting, apparently, to laugh off this stuff as cos-playing weekend warriors. Think of the image of overweight dudes playing army men with live ammo in full camo out in the woods. But these people also have those with military experience, including special forces, in their midst.
One would hope we take this particular threat seriously. We have already seen the result on January 6, 2021, of dismissing the right’s penchant for violence. Right now, energy/power infrastructure experts point out that our power system is extremely vulnerable to attack. The consequences of such attacks are costly, not just in dollar numbers. From this link:
The immediate consequences resulting from the damage or destruction of transformers at multiple locations would be widespread power outages. The April 2013 attack at the Metcalf substation could have been devastating if the attackers had better knowledge of substation components’ criticalities and transformers’ defeat mechanisms than they displayed that spring night. Even more so if they had attacked more than one substation that night. A Federal Energy Regulatory Commission study in 2013 obtained by the Wall Street Journal assessed that taking down nine large transformers could cause a coast-to-coast blackout. However, there has not been an attack on multiple transformers in the U.S.
Fortunately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking the threat seriously. As far as power companies, well, not so much, because they don’t want to spend the money on the physical protection of transformers and better security.
All this feels unsettling, and I hope people start to take it seriously. If they see how successful the operation in Moore County was, and if indeed it was by a right-wing group, then we probably have not seen the last of this kind of terrorist attack.
The last word goes to Bruce Cockburn.