Pentagon leak: Dangerous radicalization of American white youth now a national security threat


The photograph, in retrospect, seems quaint.  Taken in 1969, it depicts helmeted SDS Weathermen marching through the streets of Chicago during their “Days of Rage” demonstration. It shows young men and women, most of them college students or college-age, who were radicalized by the war in Vietnam.  The slogan for the demonstration, which lasted for three days in October, was “Bring the war home.”

That is as good a description as any for what Jack Teixeira, who is about the age of the Weathermen radicals, did when he stole top secret documents from his job as a junior airman in the Air National Guard and posted them on a gamers’ chat group on the social media site Discord.  The documents, largely slides and pages from top secret briefing books for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, contained reams of information about the war in Ukraine and the role the United States is playing in support of its army there.  Dozens of the documents found their way from the chat room on Discord onto Telegram, a social media site similar to Twitter, which is used by the Russian intelligence services and the Russian military. 

Not much is known about Teixeira’s motive in stealing the documents and posting them.  Teixeira named his group on Discord “Thug Shaker Central,” apparently as a racist joke playing on a hip-hop phrase that refers to young black men performing a “rump shaker” dance to popular rap songs. Reports about posts on the chat group say that members shared racist and antisemitic jokes and memes.  According to the Washington Post, whose reporters interviewed a teenage member of the group and saw more than 300 secret documents shared on Discord, Teixeira posted a video of himself wearing protective glasses and ear covers at a shooting range.  “He yells a series of racial and antisemitic slurs into the camera, then fires several rounds at a target,” the Post reported.

The New York Times reported that Teixeira had posted the documents on the chat group to “teach the young acolytes who gravitated to him about actual war.”  A 17-year-old recent high school graduate who is a member of the group said of Teixeira, “This guy was a Christian, antiwar, just wanted to inform some of his friends about what’s going on.  We have some people in our group who are in Ukraine. We like fighting games; we like war games.”

While teaching someone about “actual war” does not usually include stealing top secret Pentagon intelligence documents, in the case of Teixeira and his little gang of gamers and racist Jew-haters, it was all part of the fun they were having combining their love of video games, guns, and Christianity in a toxic mix of right-wing online sludge.

On Thursday, after the arrest of Teixeira on charges of violating the Espionage Act, the greater right-wing media and political sphere took up for Teixeira and started turning him into a conservative cause-celeb.  Right-wing Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted, misspelling his first name, “Jake Teixeira is white, male, Christian, and anti-war.  That makes him an enemy to the Biden regime. Ask yourself who is the real enemy?  A young low level national guardsmen? Or the administration that is waging war in Ukraine, a non-NATO nation, against nuclear Russia without war powers?”

Tucker Carlson was right behind her with his show on Fox News, claiming that Teixeira’s arrest was part of some kind of vast conspiracy to cover up the secret involvement of American ground forces in Ukraine.  “Tonight, the news media are celebrating the capture of the kid who told Americans what’s actually happening in Ukraine. They are treating him like Osama Bin Laden, maybe even worse actually, because, unlike Al Qaeda, apparently, this kid is a racist,” Carlson said.

Carlson’s reference to Teixeira as “a racist” was apparently meant to be a sarcastic baiting of liberals, who he regularly accuses of calling anyone they don’t like a racist.

Vice News reported, “On the rabidly pro-Trump message board known as The Donald, members were openly hailing Teixeira as a hero for what he had done. Among the numerous threads dedicated to his arrest were ones titled: ‘Fucking Legend,’ ‘May God Watch Over Him,’ and ‘American Hero Busted for Telling the Truth.'”

This is just the beginning of the lionization of the secret-stealer who called himself “OG” on his Discord chat room, an apparent racist reference to the initials for “Original Gangster,” long used by rappers and members of street gangs to refer to older, senior members deserving of respect. 

The FBI and other law enforcement organizations are not spending enough time trolling the edges of the web.

Some of this stuff is just political signifying, making a symbol of someone who is under criticism by the so-called liberal media by turning him into a right-wing hero.  But I think it’s deeper than that.  Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson believe this stuff.  They are real admirers of signifiers who bubble up out of the racist swamp for whatever reason.  In the case of Teixeira, the fact that his emergence is tied to his theft of government secrets about the war in Ukraine makes it all the better.  Carlson and Greene are reflexively against American support of Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression because Biden and “the libs” are for it.

This little cell of radicalized racists and gamers was hit by a shaft of sunlight because the documents Teixeira stole got shared on Twitter and Telegram and were seen around the world, exposing secrets the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies had successfully kept out of the hands of Russia and other foreign adversaries since the Ukraine war began. 

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But there are other radical cells out there.  They might not be stealing secrets, but they’re using violent video games and racist, antisemitic propaganda as recruiting tools to lure young people – nearly all of them white and associated with Christian nationalism and white supremacy – into the larger sphere of right-wing politics that now has a national focus:  the Republican Party.  Some of the members of Teixeira’s “Thug Shaker Central” aren’t yet old enough to vote, but those who are form a key part of the base of the Republican Party.  Some of them might end up as shock troops for the party in groups like the Oath Keepers and The Proud Boys, who celebrate guns and God and embrace antisemitic beliefs.

When the SDS Weathermen hit the streets of Chicago back in 1969, they had already been under the watch of COINTELPRO, the FBI’s program of infiltrating and surveilling the radical Left in this country. It was a massive program that spied on every corner of the Left, from the off-shoots of the Communist Party like the Young Socialist Alliance and other splinter groups, to the Moratorium, the organizers of the largest demonstrations against the war.  The FBI didn’t care if you were a bomb-maker like some of the Weathermen or a peaceful organizer like Sam Brown and David Mixner of the Moratorium.  They watched them all.

That’s not going on with the radicalized Right in this country today.  As we saw from the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies had little knowledge of the plans of radical groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys in advance of the largest insurrection against the government in recent times.  An FBI report on right-wing radicalism in 2009 was buried under a barrage of conservative criticism by Republicans, and surveillance of right-wing groups was curtailed, allowing armed militias to proliferate around the country.

The FBI and other law enforcement organizations are not spending enough time trolling the edges of the web like Discord and Telegram looking for the kinds of things that just happened with the release of top secret national security information by a tiny group of young racist and antisemitic gun-lovers.

Teixeira is described as “charismatic,” apparently because of the ability he showed to gather young gun lovers and gamers and racists around him.  There are other such groups – the Rod of Iron Ministries, run by descendants of Reverend Sun Myung Moon, glorifies the AR-15 rifle and uses it as a symbol of the Biblical “rod of iron,” a so-called instrument of God’s will.  Followers of the ministry are required to own the weapons as the “accoutrement which allows people to always keep their political servants in check.”  The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Rod of Iron Ministries as “an anti-LGBTQ cult.”

The whole mess over the stolen top-secret documents and the damage they’ve done to our national security is a wake-up call to the danger posed by radicalized white youth.  Because many of them are comparatively sophisticated with technology, their power to burrow into important parts of the country like our military and police forces makes them inherently dangerous. 

How many other sleepers like Jack Teixeira are out there in military units, being trained to accurately shoot weapons and learning the tactics of war – and as we’ve learned in this case, its most important secrets?  It’s time for law enforcement to start paying attention, and it’s time for the Pentagon to up its game when it comes to the recruitment of young soldiers, sailors, and airmen.  


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