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SW Mo. experts on political unrest say power of the pen has been replaced by power of the post

Published: Jan. 29, 2021 at 7:03 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - It’s been an eventful week in regards to concerns about domestic terrorism.

The Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin warning of heightened threats of violence nationwide by extremists who object to the change in Presidents.

The Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police is calling for permanent fencing to be placed around the Capitol because of the potential of more civil unrest.

On Thursday, the same day a California man with five pipe bombs and 49 firearms (including a machine gun) was arrested for making threats to attack Democrats, closer to home a federal judge was denying bail for 60 year-old Richard Barnett of Gravette, Ark. for his part in the Capitol occupation and Rogersville resident Zachary Martin became the second riot-related person from Missouri arrested when he was picked up near US 65 and Battlefield in Springfield.

On Friday Martin was released on a personal recognizance bond after appearing before federal Magistrate Judge David Rush. His case has been transferred to the District of Columbia.

And as people drive down the streets of Springfield and see FBI billboards asking for help in finding those who participated in the Capitol riots, it’s enough to make us wonder what in the world is going on in our country.

“We may have to go through some difficult times,” said Dr. Dr. Loren Lundstrom, the Dean of Students at OTC who knows all about difficult times. As a former intelligence officer in the Air Force he survived an act of terrorism on American soil that was caused by foreign terrorists when he was at the Pentagon during the 9/11 attacks.

“We’ve been through this before,” he pointed out. “In the Vietnam War era that was a lot of social dissent and domestic terrorism then. After 9/11 we suddenly realized we had external enemies and so everyone jelled for a while. But now we have an inability to reach compromise like we have in the past. Individuals feel that politically their voice isn’t being heard.”

As a member of military intelligence Lindstrom said that one of his assignments involved creating an operations plan for going to war with Communist China and is very aware of the role foreign countries play in fueling our domestic discontent not through military means, but through computer hacking and influencing social media.

“When we show disunity it’s welcomed by Russia, Communist China and not so welcomed by our allies,” Lindstrom said. “I think some of them are quite concerned right now. As a cold war Sovietologist I know in the Soviet Union the propaganda and disinformation that was used in other countries that they wanted to dominate. So with social media being the way it is, and knowing that some people believe everything they read, that’s a concern.”

Missouri State criminology professor Dr. Michael Suttmoeller has researched terrorism and agrees that the growth of social media is what makes political unrest these days different from movements in the past.

Martin is alleged to have live streamed from inside the Capitol during the January 6 riots.

“A lot of these extremist groups are really tech savvy,” Suttmoeller said. “It let’s them radicalize so many more people that maybe they weren’t able to before. You don’t have to call on the phone, you don’t have to write letters. Now all across the world these groups are interacting. They can just put something out on the internet like, ‘Hey, somebody ought to do this’, and somebody could pick that up and go carry that out.”

Suttmoeller pointed out that extremism from the far left-and-right has always been around.

“But when you have political polarization extremism has a way of gaining a foothold,” he said. “We all have a role to play in being responsible with what information we’re spreading around on social media. Too many people form this bubble around themselves where you can find what you want to hear at your fingertips with the click of a mouse.”

Suttmoeller also said in terms of other countries taking advantage of America’s political instability, he is more concerned about cyber terrorism than military action.

“I think they’re saying, ‘Why should we attack someone when we can take ‘em down by taking out the grid using our computer,’” he said. “But political instability is certainly not healthy for the country. I was reading that some right-wing groups in Germany were watching the stuff going on at the Capitol live and cheering it on. I do think there is some vulnerability from that aspect.”

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