The alt-right thrives in certain parts of Alaska, specifically in the Mat-Su Valley region just north of Anchorage. And lately, the alt-right posts on Alaska social media have gotten downright scary. Mat-Su is a Trump stronghold, and has also emerged as a stronghold for ultra-conservatives who make up Alaska’s alt-right. Results from the precincts in the 2016 president election document that between 75% and 86% of Mat-Su voters voted for Trump. Alaska’s Governor Mike Dunleavy, an ultra-conservative Republican, won 80% to 90% of the vote in 2018.
As documented by journalist and blogger Dermot Cole <https://www.dermotcole.com/>, as a candidate, Dunleavy ran on a platform of a balanced budget and no cuts to state services or institution. But once in office, Dunleavy submitted a budget that decimated nearly every state agency, institution, and service. For example, the University of Alaska, where I am employed, would see a 41% cut to its state funding. Adding salt to the wounds, the governor has insisted that the state pay Alaskans a “full” PFD this year–$3000—instead of funding state services. This would shift the costs of services to municipalities, boroughs, and to individuals, and would result in mass layoffs, closures, and the elimination of programs, offices, and services.
The pushback against the Dunleavy budget has been fierce, with rallies and protests, upstart advocacy organizations, and plenty of blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts. The Alaska legislature ended its regular session without a finalized budget. In its first special session, the Alaska legislature undid the vast majority of the Dunleavy austerity budget and then gaveled out before passing a bill that set the amount of the October 2019 PFD. Governor Dunleavy immediately utilized his constitutional powers to issue a proclamation for a second special session, and in an unprecedented move, proclaimed that the legislature would meet in Wasilla Middle School, in Wasilla, instead of at the capitol building in Juneau. He set the only agenda item as passing the $3000 PFD.
The alt-right in the Mat-Su area, and apparently in other hot-red precincts in Alaska, reacted with glee to the idea that the legislators would be meeting in their home town. There are several extremist pro-PFD Facebook sites, and their members quickly got busy to agitate the masses. And this is where social media about the topic got particularly scary.
In the first week after the legislature gaveled out after passing the operating budget, one of the more extremist pro-PFD Facebook sites urged Alaskans to “go general [sic] Sherman” on Alaskans who support the compromise budget instead of a “full” PFD. Sherman, of course, is the famous civil war general whose scorched earth tactics brought the South to its knees. Suggestions included harassing individual Alaskans who voted for legislators who voted for the compromise budget, including picketing individual businesses whose owners voted for them. Calls went out for the home addresses of legislators so that “the people” could protest in front of their homes. On the extremist pro-PFD sites, there is commonly talk of armed rebellion, tar & feathering legislators, and hanging politicians who voted in favor of the compromise budget. Ultra conservative Representative David Eastman and Governor Dunleavy, both from Wasilla, are hailed as modern day heroes. Moderates, liberals, and other Alaskans and Alaskan legislators are mocked and subjected to angry, invective filled rants and veiled and not-so-veiled threats of violence.
A poster on the FB group, Alaskans Against the PFD Theft, initiated a “call to arms” the following week, using militia language. He wants 300,000 Alaskans to storm the capitol, to physically seize the legislators, and to arrest and to imprison them. Other posts call for legislators to be hanged, to rot in hell, to be tortured in hell, and to be locked up as criminals, crooks, liars, and thieves. Tarring & feathering continues as a common theme. State Senator von Imhof, who suggested that the majority of Alaskans are not as obsessed with the PFD as the legislature is, has repeatedly been called the c-word and the b-word. There are active recall petitions for Imhof, Senate President Geissel, and others who voted for the compromise budget. On another post, a participant urged people to physically surround individual legislators and to shout at them to let them know that the people are “angry.” A suggestion was floated to drench Juneau in oil and to set it, and its people, afire. That post even has its own hashtag, which I will not cite here because I do not want it to get hits.
This past week, the state legislature defied the governor’s proclamation that they meet in Wasilla, and instead announced that they would hold floor sessions in the capitol, their regular meeting space, and schedule committee meetings in Anchorage at the Legislative Information Office (LIO). The following day, the state attorney general issued a statement that he says authorizes the governor to send Alaska State Troopers out to round up the legislators who do not report to Wasilla as ordered. The alt-right rhetoric about the legislators increased dramatically on Alaska social media as a result. One fellow, for example, fantasized about the governor sending the Alaska National Guard to rappel down the outside of the Capitol Building, to storm the legislative meeting, to arrest the wayward legislators, to bind them with duct tape, to corral them in Blackhawk helicopters, and to carry them to Wasilla Middle School. Other posters call for all of the legislators to be imprisoned in a local correctional center and not to be released until they had funded the “full” PFD. Yet another poster suggested a mass camp-out at the Wasilla Middle School parking lot so that the legislators could be harassed upon entering and leaving legislative sessions.
Many of the persons I have talked with about the alt-right rhetoric on Alaska social media scoff at my concerns, stating that the threats are being made by keyboard warriors. However, several of the last incidents of American domestic terrorism were conducted by alt-right keyboard warriors who then acted on their terroristic threats. Additionally, the very fact that the rhetoric exists should be a cause of great concern. The rhetoric is anti-elite, anti-government, anti-intellectual. The true believers agree with the governor’s budget that decimates the state university system, defunds the public school system, shuts down the Marine Highway, shutters many of the health and social services, raises the rates on elderly persons living in the state retirement homes, and seizes borough property taxes on oil lands to put into state coffers. Perhaps most frighteningly, the calls for the governor to seize, to arrest, and to imprison his political opponents pass over the border into full-fledged fascism.
We are living in dangerous times, my friends.
How Alaskans voted in 2016 president election https://www.adn.com/politics/2016/11/19/interactive-map-precinct-by-precinct-presidential-results-show-a-deeply-divided-alaska/