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The FBI shooter was a prolific poster of Trump’s social truth

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Within minutes of an armed man wearing a body armor attempting to break into an FBI field office in Cincinnati, an account with the suspect’s name, Ricky Shiffer, was posted on the FBI’s social network. ‘Former President Donald Trump, Truth Social: ‘If You Don’t Hear About Me, It’s True I Tried to Attack the FBI’

The Shiffer account appeared to be one of Truth Social’s most prolific posters, writing 374 posts there over the past eight days — mostly to echo Trump’s lies about voter fraud and, in the hours after the raid from Trump’s home in Florida, calling for all war. “Be prepared to kill the enemy,” Shiffer posted on Tuesday. “Kill [the FBI] on sight.”

Shiffer was killed Thursday in a shootout, police said, and the Truth Social account has since been deleted. But pro-Trump calls for violence are still present online — including on Truth Social, where the top “trending topics” on Friday morning were “#FBIcorruption” and “DefundTheFBI.”

Truth Social’s parent company, Trump Media & Technology Group, did not respond to requests for comment.

The Cincinnati shooting offers a glimpse into the real dangers of constant attacks by Trump and allied Republicans on federal officials since FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach estate and center of his operations post-presidential.

He also showed how such violent anger could be fostered in plain sight at loosely moderated online havens like Truth Social, where Trump supporters frequently gun down perceived enemies and call for civil war.

Gunman killed after trying to break into FBI office in Ohio, authorities say

Trump has repeatedly attacked FBI and Justice Department officials in public posts, including on Truth Social, where he told his more than 3 million followers on Thursday that the search for Mar-a-Lago was “a surprise attack, POLITICS, and all the while our country is going to HELL!”

People close to the investigation told the Washington Post that the FBI searched the house while looking for classified documents relating to nuclear weapons that could seriously harm national security.

A Twitter account bearing Shiffer’s name included numerous posts mimicking Trump’s false claims about a stolen election. But a review of his social media accounts shows Shiffer was most active recently on Truth Social, the Twitter clone Trump created after most social networks blocked him following the US Capitol riots on May 6. January 2021. In April, Shiffer tweeted to Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., that he had just opened his account there, adding, “I’m just waiting for your dad.”

Authorities declined to say whether Shiffer was connected to the Truth Social and Twitter accounts, but both featured his name, photo and general location and had been active prior to the shooting.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told the Post that officers are investigating Shiffer’s possible ties to extremist groups, including the Proud Boys – a far-right group whose leaders are accused of helped launch the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States. Capitol.

FBI searched Trump’s home for nuclear documents and other items, sources say

A review of the Shiffer account’s Truth Social activity showed he posted dozens of times a day to the site, responding to pro-Trump influencers, attacking the government and suggesting violence was the most important way to true Trump believers to defend the former president.

Similar posts are common on the site, including from Trump himself. In May, Trump reposted — or, in Truth Social terminology, “ReTruthed” — a post from another user that read “Civil War.”

But Shiffer’s Truth Social account, which had 23 followers, showed him not only venting his anger but also calling for direct action to provoke armed conflict, urging Trump supporters to stock up. in balls and to “have the heart, the spirit and the body ready to jump”. in the civil war.

On August 5, he posted, “This country has never had a worse enemy. 1776 was for much less, even World War II was for less. That day he also wrote, “Save ammo and be ready and willing to hit the road as soon as you hear it has started. Someone who wanted to be a hero couldn’t have lived in a better time.” The post was ‘liked’ 24 times.

Shiffer’s posts seemed to consider the search for Mar-a-Lago as a triggering event. On August 8, the day of the search, he posted: “People, this is it. … This is your call to arms from me. Leave work tomorrow as soon as the gun shop opens…get everything you need to be ready for battle. We must not tolerate this once.

On August 9, he posted that “Patriots are heading to Palm Beach” and that if “the feds” try to break it up, “kill them.” “Damn direct insurrection against the people who usurped our government,” he wrote in a separate post that day. “I hope to see you there (I will not be disarmed this time).”

His second most recent public post was a meme image showing Trump in the White House: “Retruth To If You Want President Donald Trump Back In Office!” His last post on August 11, the day police said he had tried to break into the FBI office, said, “Well, I thought I had a way through bulletproof glass, and I didn’t. If you haven’t heard from me, it’s true that I tried to attack the FBI, and that will either mean I was taken off the internet, or the FBI got me, or that they sent the regular cops all over,” before ending abruptly.

All of the posts were visible Thursday evening, and there is no indication that Truth Social ever sought to delete them before they disappeared.

Simmering threat of violence manifests with raid of Trump’s property

Shiffer’s profile said he was a construction electrician in Columbus, Ohio, who previously had accounts on Twitter, the video site Rumble, and other sites blocked or deleted. In his biography, he writes: “I am ready to handle this like an American”.

The FBI said Thursday that Shiffer attempted to break into the field office’s visitor screening area before fleeing down a highway. He pulled over and raised a gun at police before officers shot and killed him, authorities said.

Since the attempted breach of the FBI office, some Truth Social users — including a verified account with 74,000 followers who said he was a designer of the site — have also shared conspiracy theories with no evidence suggesting that the attack was a “false flag” staged to make Trump look bad.

After months of low user activity and technical issues, Truth Social remains a minor player on the internet with fewer than 4 million users — a small fraction of the 88 million Twitter followers Trump had before his ban.

Since January 6, Trump’s online audience has fractured between a number of right-wing sites competing for the same limited audience, including Gab, Gettr and Parler, where subscriber numbers this year are at the peak. dead.

But David Thiel, a researcher at Stanford’s Internet Observatory who studied the site, said Truth Social has specialized as an endless Trump gathering that functions almost like a fan message board, full of loyal followers eager to reaffirm d other members of Trump’s base.

“It’s incredibly boring in so many ways. This is not where content producers put their efforts. They just syndicate content from right-wing news outlets and other places,” Thiel said. “But it’s a place where you’d expect to see this kind of bachelor showing signs that he’s potentially going to act on something more drastic.”

Truth Social’s online traffic jumped on Tuesday, the day after the FBI’s research, to nearly 700,000 visits worldwide, according to estimates by online analytics firm Similarweb. The site averaged about 300,000 hits a day last month. Twitter says it has about 37 million active users in the United States every day.

Trump’s disastrous launch of Truth Social raises doubts about its long-term viability

Gina Ligon, director of the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology and Education Center, a federally funded research center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said Shiffer’s calls for online violence showed similarities to messages previous attackers and offered a warning sign for a potential future. attacks.

Shiffer’s “call to arms,” ​​Ligon said, was reminiscent of similar online posts by a gunman in May who shot and killed 10 black people at a Buffalo grocery store. She also compared Shiffer’s anti-government slant to that of Oklahoma City suicide bomber Timothy McVeigh, whose 1995 attack killed 168 people.

“The rhetoric that is so strong online right now should be taken very seriously by people because it has mobilized [McVeigh] to an incredibly violent event,” she said.

Truth Social’s link to the FBI attack bears a similarity to Parler, another social media site once popular with Trump supporters that boasted about freedom of speech. Prior to Jan. 6, Trump supporters shared false theories about voter fraud and plans to raid the Capitol to confront members of Congress voting to finalize the former president’s loss. Groups were organized on the platform, then users documented themselves on it by participating in the riot. Amazon Web Services, which ran the cloud computing system the site depended on, suspended it soon after.

Incidents of domestic terrorism have increased in recent years, fueled in part by heightened white supremacist propaganda.

Extremists used social media to share inflammatory political rhetoric, as planners of the January 6 violence spread election disinformation and plans to stop the election. During the coronavirus pandemic, government restrictions have energized attacks on public health officials and Democrats, such as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the target of a kidnapping plot by militia members.

The recent altercations reflect a trend in the nation’s psyche: One in three Americans say they believe violence against the government can sometimes be justified, the largest share feeling that way in more than two decades, according to a recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.


Washington

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