Leah Weiger: To be fair, the 2,500-member militia across the US that has been carefully organized on Telegram and promotes the use of armed weapons in response to anything from natural disasters to false claims of election fraud is still truly troubling. I am worried.

David Gilbert: Absolutely, I think this will be lost. When you write articles like this, a lot of people say, “Oh, you shouldn’t take advantage of these people. They’re making this up. They’re bluffing.”

Leah Weiger: definitely.

David Gilbert: But there are people in these Telegram groups who want to join armed militias, and that’s part of a larger resurgence of far-right paramilitary activity and discussions that I and other experts have been seeing online in recent weeks and months, and that’s really concerning.

Leah Weiger: We’ll take a quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk about how all these types of militias are starting to become mainstream again and what this means for 2024. Welcome back to the WIRED Politics Lab. David, you were talking about how militias are making a comeback now. What exactly does that mean?

David Gilbert: What I mean is that Lang and his network of militias they launched are just one part of a broader movement that I and other journalists and researchers have seen monitoring the space in recent weeks, all tied to the 2024 election. People must be prepared to respond if something happens, and of course whether So too if Donald Trump loses.

Leah Weiger: So what does Lange say will happen if Donald Trump loses?

David Gilbert: Well, Lange talks about civil unrest, and that if Trump loses, people will automatically get angry. Do you think the result was accurate with Joe Biden winning the election?

Jake Lange: No, I think it’s pretty much an extreme or impossible statistic.

David Gilbert: When I spoke with him, he offered me a list of the most notorious election conspiracies of 2020.

Jake Lange: Counterfeit, stolen, manipulated, scam, whatever you want to call it. It was not the will of the people.

David Gilbert: When he looks to 2024, he expects that if Trump loses, there will be a major catastrophe and there will be a lot of angry people, and that is where his militias will be ready to intervene.

Leah Weiger: is this real? I mean people say a lot of things online. What kind of connections do you and other researchers draw between this moment in 2020?

David Gilbert: The network of people organizing this is much larger and much stronger because they’ve had four years to create these national networks of contacts and groups, whether it’s online or in person. We saw before 2020 that there were some researchers and some journalists who were raising flags, not many, but they were raising flags and saying, “This is troubling.” Intelligence agencies were also noticing this happening, but no one took any action. I think this time, we’re about five months away from the election, and I think the signals are much stronger. In recent weeks, I’ve definitely noticed a big uptick in people discussing things like militias, things like the mayor’s property, that people need to prepare for 2024, and the idea that something is going to happen on November 5th if the outcome doesn’t go the way people think it will. It will go. So I think the similarities you see with 2020 is that people ignored what was in front of them. In 2020, you can see why this happened because something like January 6th has never happened before. So what’s happening this time is much bigger, but people at this moment, at least, don’t seem to care.

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