Photo: iStock

A white nationalist who had an online friendship with the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect has been arrested for having a small arsenal in his possession. His relatives alerted the authorities.

Thirty-year-old Jeffrey R. Clark Jr. of Washington, D.C., has been charged with “one federal count of unlawful possession of firearms by a person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance, and one count in the District of Columbia of possessing high-capacity magazines,” according to CBS News.

The arrest comes after the recent suicide of his brother Edward Clark, who had also been associated with alt-right movements. From the Washington Post:

Jeffrey Clark told FBI agents he and his brother became interested in guns in 2016 “because they believed there was going to be a civil war,” according to an account of his statement filed in court.

Police said in court documents that he used the social networking site Gab to share his views with others, including Robert Bowers, the suburban Pittsburgh man charged with federal hate crimes in the synagogue attack. Jeffrey Clark was “DC Bowl Gang” on the site, court files said, and Edward Clark went by “DC_Stormer.”

Advertisement

The Clark brothers had four registered guns between them: two handguns, a shotgun, and a rifle. In addition to that, they had an unregistered handgun and “agents also confiscated two kits to convert semiautomatic AR-15s into fully automatic rifles,” according to the Post:

Court papers assert that after his brother’s death, Jeffrey Clark posted on Gab a photo of the brothers wearing masks and holding a shotgun and a rifle, in front of a flag with a skull and cross bones. The documents said Jeffrey Clark posted a description of himself as a “Meth-Smoking, Pipe bomb making, mailman-murding . . . Che Guevara of the altright.”

I want to point out the sheer absurdity of the image in that description, but I’m honestly at a loss. It’s like a game of Mad Libs with every possible stereotype about white nationalists—and it was on an alt-right social media platform which had recently been made infamous by an alleged violent criminal.

Advertisement

On Nov. 7, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro subpoenaed Epik, the provider hosting the Gab service, for internal documents. GoDaddy had previously supported the site but pulled service following the discovery of violent statements made by Bowers. It’s unclear how much of a case Shapiro has for getting these documents. The creators of Gab have strongly defended their First Amendment rights as a provider of a “free speech” hub, and experts agree that it will be difficult for Shapiro to gain steam on such a case as culpability for Bowers’ statements will likely not be assigned to Gab’s hosts.

In a rambling blog post, Epik’s founder and CEO Rob Monster explained why they had made the decision to host Gab:

As the news broke, and as some elements in the mainstream media rendered their judgement, I embarked on my own search for truth. Along the way, I did have an opportunity to meet with the Founder of Gab, Andrew Torba, an entrepreneur who was willing to swim against the tide for what he believes is right, namely empowering netizens to discuss openly about matters of mutual interest with limited risk of censorship.

Although, I did not take the decision lightly to accept this domain registration, I look forward to partnering with a young, and once brash, CEO who is courageously doing something that looks useful. As I reflect on my own journey as a truth-seeking tech entrepreneur, I have no doubt that Andrew will continue to develop not only as tech entrepreneur but also as a responsible steward — one that can balance bravado with diplomacy and who tempers courage with humility. …

De-platforming a haven of free speech is not about left or right. Anyone who remembers studying civics is familiar with the concept of inalienable rights—rights that a worthy government can only protect but would have no moral authority to take away. The idea of Natural Law and Inalienable Rights dates back to Ancient Greece, if not before. Tolerance for competing views—including those protected by Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press —is not an American concept even though the Founding Fathers of the United States built a prosperous nation around the concept.

Advertisement

A haven for free speech for Nazis? So has Twitter solved their white nationalist problem? I hadn’t noticed.

It’s one of several cases of white people exaggerating and magnifying a “problem” that’s not really a problem—misperceiving their own power relative to others, pretending that any challenge, no matter how theoretical or far-flung, to their overwhelming institutional power is a serious act of violence against them. They think the world is theirs, and when anyone else manages to carve out a little space to breathe, they believe something significant has been taken from them.

Here’s the thing: Would police have found anything had Clark’s relatives not spoken up? You’d want to think Gab would be cooperative in helping authorities find people who might be using the platform to plan violent criminal acts, but the fact that the site exists at all shows at least passive acceptance of its ability to empower and incite white nationalists.

Advertisement

I shouldn’t have to note how scary it is to think we have to rely on white nationalists’ family members to out them before they commit violence— given that from the personal to the political level, white people have a terrifying predilection for protecting their own, even in the face of undeniable and indefensible acts of savagery. We know that many white people’s sense of protecting their own is protecting their power with irrational and extreme acts of violence. And we know there are people with a vested interest in turning a blind eye to these things, including police officers who have racist ties to a self-identified nationalist-who-happens-to-be-white Donald Trump.

From the Post:

Court papers said Clark’s relatives told authorities that Clark admired Oklahoma bomber Timothy Mc­Veigh, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and killer Charles Manson and that relatives said “Jeffrey and Edward Clark believed there would be a race revolution and they wanted to expedite it.”

Advertisement

Clark called the synagogue shooting a “dry run for things to come.” We’ve known for a while just how serious this shit is getting. Maybe everyone else should start paying attention.