Before he was arrested for mailing more than a dozen pipe bombs to prominent critics of President Donald Trump — some of which included pictures of the intended targets with a red “X” over their faces — Cesar Sayoc lived a scattered and bizarre life in South Florida.
He was an avid bodybuilder who trained in mixed martial arts and a former exotic dancer and strip club manager who held a string of odd jobs, among them a Papa John’s pizza deliveryman and a DJ. He bought a house in Fort Lauderdale, which was foreclosed on in 2009, lived with his parents in an Aventura condo, and most recently slept in a white van papered with pro-Trump and right-wing stickers.
Along the way, Sayoc racked up a long rap sheet for everything from grand theft and battery to making a bomb threat against Florida Power & Light. He was also accused of domestic violence by a woman who appears to have been his grandmother.
So of course it HAD to be a Florida Man. But it gets funkier:
But of all of his diverse interests, 56-year-old Sayoc’s fervent support for Trump appears to have been his greatest passion in recent years. Sayoc’s social media accounts were filled with photos of him wearing a red Make American Great Again baseball cap, videos of a Trump rally he attended in 2016 and pro-Trump news stories. He also shared racist memes and spouted conspiracy theories.
His Twitter timeline was a greatest-hits collection of right-wing conspiracy theories: that Parkland survivor David Hogg is a government plant, that Oprah Winfrey wants “this whole generation of white people” to die and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is secretly Adolf Hitler’s daughter...
He lives in a world of Far Right Narrative, a comfort zone for Angry Guys who just happen to angry at minorities, women, libruls, moderates, gays, lesbians, Sportos, Motorheads, Geeks, Sluts, Bloods, Waistoids, and Dweebies (just not the Dickheads, because that's who the Angry Guys are).
It's the same kind of fantasy world that argued WMDs existed in Iraq, that tax cuts can raise wages and create jobs, that Hillary killed a whole list of victims and that Obama was secretly born a Muslim in Kenya. The fantasy world of Fox News and Breitbart and Drudge and Rush and Coulter and D'Souza and Alex Jones and Glenn Beck and O'Reilly and Hannity and Newsmax and more. A veritable industry of conspiracy theory that feeds on itself, with each dollar encouraging a greater lie requiring more members of the Far Right to repeat that lie until it becomes a foundation on which more lies can grow.
It's the same industry that's right now trying desperately to wash their hands of any responsibility for the MAGABomber's reign of error. Either blaming the Libruls for making the Far Right go all bomb-happy, or claiming it's a Lone Wolf who has NOTHING to do with being a red-hat-wearing trumpster (even though the guy is happily posing in pictures at trump rallies and shouting "LOCK HER UP" on videoclips).
But the bomber is NOT a Lone Wolf. There's a string of Far Right actors committing violent act after violent act all tied into that Far Right Narrative of "WE are under Attack From the Dread Other," with the WE being proud Whites of the Sacred Patriarchy (if there are women in this, they support that Patriarchy because it grants only them any power).
That Far Right Narrative is not just sitting there, like a novel on a reading table. It is actively prodding a willing and eager audience to pursue these paths of violence.
If I can link to Adam L Silverman at Balloon Juice:
...We also need to realize that what we’re dealing with is social learning driving terrorism and low intensity political violence. While Tom Nichols, who has been working through his own theory in regard to radicalization where he refers to these types of terrorists as Lost Boys, identified Sayoc’s domestic terrorism campaign without explicitly referring to it, it is actually the social learning and social behavioral drivers of terrorism. This includes the normal four components of learning: 1) Primary associations, 2) Definitions favorable, unfavorable, and neutralizing to behavior, 3) Imitation, and 4) Reinforcement. It also includes the social learning components of neutralization (of definitions unfavorable to behavior) and drift...
What we have seen this week with Sayoc’s terrorism campaign, as well as with conservative and/or Republican elites and notables (elected officials, appointed officials, pundits, and commenters) and just supporters of the President who continue to toss around the idea that this is all a false flag or a hoax or somehow actually perpetrated by the intended targets to harm the President or the GOP’s electoral chances in two weeks, are perfect examples of social learning in general and neutralization and drift in specific. We can clearly observe:
- Primary associations in regard to being an objective or subjective supporter of the President.
- Learning definitions favorable, unfavorable, and neutralizing of behavior. Sayoc clearly learned from the President, as well as other Republican and conservative authority figures, that it is okay to target and vilify former and current Democratic officials or officials appointed by them, center left to left of center funders of liberal and progressive causes, CNN and other news media outlets that the President doesn’t like and often denigrates, and outspoken elite and notable critics of the President. We can also see this at play in the attempts to wave away this terrorist campaign by claiming it is fake news or a hoax perpetrated by the victims.
- Reinforcement is also clearly present. Specifically, Sayoc received reinforcement from conservative news media and conservative social media as current and former Republican officials, news media figures, commenters, and pundits, as well as just a large number of the President’s supporters talked about and magnified Sayoc’s actions through the attempt to dismiss it with whataboutism and bothsiderism, as well as calling it fake news or a hoax or denying the legitimacy of the victimization of the actual targets.
- While we haven’t specifically seen imitation yet, it will, unfortunately, likely appear in copycat actions over the next couple of weeks. And potential copycats do not necessarily have to copy the method of trying to make and use pipe bombs sent through the mail.
Both in the run up to today’s arrest and since Sayoc was taken into custody, all five elements of neutralization and drift that I delineated above are clearly explicitly observable. The Republican Party, especially its base membership, realigned to the perspective of the President, as well as conservative news media and conservative social media are all now a tool for radicalization. We can expect to see more Cesar Sayocs until conservative and Republican elites and notables make a stand...
The Republicans never will. They are profiting from this radicalization, and are doubling down with it - alongside voter suppression of minorities and youth voters who lean Democratic - to ensure they retain political power (because with it they can continue to shift wealth from the middle class to the rich (including themselves)).
The Republicans profit from a toxic and boiling stew of hatred, turning up the heat over the last 25 years of post-Cold-War politics to keep themselves at the top of the hill. As Silverman notes:
There are more Cesar Sayocs out there. Just as there were more Dylan Roofs as we saw in Kentucky on Wednesday (a white gunman starting shooting innocent Blacks and even tried to shoot up a Black church during services). And they’re marinating in the President’s and other elite and notable conservatives’ and Republicans’ toxic rhetoric. At some point they’ll reach the point where they have learned both enough of the definitions favorable to neutralize the prohibition against attacking other people, as well as who is an acceptable target from the President, from Republican elected and appointed officials, from Fox News, or from Rush Limbaugh or Hugh Hewitt or others on right wing talk radio, or from conservative social media across a variety of platforms, and when that happens they’ll take action. We can’t predict who the next Cesar Sayoc will be, nor can we predict who he or she, though it is most likely to be a he, will target, nor can we predict when it will happen. But unless something changes and soon, it will happen. And it will happen again and again and again...
The wingnut base of the GOP is just waiting for a sign. All trump has to do is send out the one tweet that says exactly what they want to hear - IT'S OKAY TO KILL OUR ENEMIES - and there will be blood in every street.
This is not guesswork. This has been seen in history again and again. It's been happening right now in real time in places like the Philippines. It is happening with every Angry White Guy yelling at Blacks on airplanes and in cars and at public parks and everywhere else. The anger is boiling. The mindset of violence is right there.
It is only a matter of time before the real bombs go off.
Gods help us.