Some former military members took part in DC insurrection. How prevalent are hate groups in the armed services?

A man in a military-style outfit walks toward rioters storming the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. as the U.S. Congress meets to formally ratify Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo by Jasper Colt-USA TODAY

U.S. military veterans were among the mob of Trump supporters storming the halls of Congress last week. Ashli Babbitt, the San Diego woman who was shot and killed during the riot, served in the Air Force. So did Larry Rendell Brock, who was photographed inside the Senate chambers carrying zip ties and has since been arrested. Jake Angeli, the shirtless man wearing the giant horns, served in the Navy and has also been arrested. 

To the Pentagon, it’s not surprising that ex-military members were involved in the Capitol riots. Last month, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller ordered a review of current policy around extremist and hate group activity within the military. 

But with more than 1 million active duty members and 18 million veterans, where should the Pentagon begin to address extremist activity within its ranks?

KCRW talks with Bryan Bender, senior national correspondent for Politico. 

How to spot and track military members with extremist ideologies

“You're not going to walk through the mess hall wearing a Nazi SS tattoo, or display your sympathies overtly. That means that commanders at lower levels need to be aware of the signs and be aware of where their soldiers are going online. What subscriptions are they signing up for? All the experts will say it's the kind of issue that needs constant vigilance, and needs to be understood at all levels of command.”

Recruiting former military for extremist groups

“What a lot of the experts tell us is that the rise of extremist viewpoints in the military tends to mirror rises in society at large. So if there's more of this going on in the wider population, it tends to seep more heavily in the military. And a lot of the right wing groups, anti-government militias, for example, tend to recruit people that have military experience.”

Credits

Guest:
Bryan Bender - senior national correspondent for Politico - @BryanDBender

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Angie Perrin, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Bennett Purser