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Monday, March 27, 2023

Accelerationist Guide Calls for Metcalf-Style Attacks on ‘Sitting Duck’ Electricity Infrastructure

Extremists claim that with an extended blackout "all hell will break lose [sic]" and white supremacists would be poised to take control.

An accelerationist handbook being shared among extremist Telegram channels calls for shooters to bypass softer targets in favor of causing chaotic blackouts by emulating on a broader scale an unsolved sniper attack on a California transmission substation.

The cover of the 14-page PDF features a depiction of a masked and hooded gunman wielding a semiautomatic handgun with a suppressor affixed and wearing panoramic night-vision goggles. In the branches of a swastika behind the gunman are depictions of acts of violence including three people being hanged, a group of buildings ablaze, and a police car on fire next to a figure holding an incendiary weapon.

The document begins by asserting it is not a text aimed at radicalizing new adherents, as the author(s) assume that readers are already committed to “doing what you can to strike a blow to this system.”

While lauding with racist language “noble acts of violence” perpetrated by white supremacists, it brands the mass shooting in May at a supermarket in a Black area of Buffalo, N.Y., as “treating symptoms of the cancer, not the cause,” and argues that attackers should choose targets “that do the most damage to the system and spark revolution and chaos.”

“So long as the power turns on, the status quo, the downward decline of our race, and the increase in nonwhites in our lands will carry on unhindered,” the guide states, vowing to steer adherents to “more fruitful acts that will REALLY harm the system and brings us closer to the collapse that is needed for our race to once again thrive on this planet.”

The document refers to the power grid as “the main thing that keeps the anti-White system going” and calls power distribution substations “sitting ducks, worthy prey” that are “largely unprotected and often in remote locations,” setting the stage for a spree of attacks.

The 2013 incident in which multiple gunmen opened fire on the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Metcalf Transmission Substation south of San Jose, Calif., causing more than $15 million in damage to 17 transformers, is commonly referenced on social media by domestic extremists — especially accelerationists and ecofascists — as an example of how to inflict damage on electricity infrastructure with the goal of hastening governmental and societal collapse. There have been no arrests in the attack, and there was not significant impact on customers’ power.

The new accelerationist guide theorizes that the power grid could be “crippled” over a large area if three similar substations were struck simultaneously or within days of each other with “armor piercing rounds,” arguing that with an extended blackout “all hell will break lose [sic]” and white supremacists would be poised to take control. Referencing the practice of extremists bestowing “sainthood” upon mass shooters who meet certain criteria, the document declares that an extremist who successfully attacks the power grid would be revered “above Sainthood when the lights don’t turn back on and we are plunged into urban warfare.”

The guide also mentions “telecommunications/Internet, oil transportation/pipelines, water lines, and similar things” as being prime targets because “they allow for all that we hate and despise” by supporting a diverse population.

As the document declares that Metcalf-style sniper attacks would be “unquestionably more effective” than a grocery store mass shooting, the pages’ background shows news images of fires at various electricity substations.

The guide continues by counseling extremists in conducting assassinations against figures other than “low hanging fruit,” using the Manson Family murders as their example of an attack suitable in “barbarity and gruesomeness” and advising attackers to “let hatred be personified by your actions.” The document also encourages “urban guerrilla sniping” with 1966 UT Austin clock tower shooter Charles Whitman used as an example of a sniper who blended into his surroundings. In a subsequent section on “urban camouflage,” the guide encourages extremists to “learn from the IRA’s successful examples of insurgency, especially if you are meeting with a small group of comrades”; that page also includes a photo of the car used in the 2002 D.C. sniper attacks while advocating that shooters use similar tactics.

Attacks against cellular towers are also encouraged — with the accelerationist guide calling them “towers of hell” — along with satellite broadcasting systems.

The document concludes with a call for gas or firearms attacks against “Jewish think tanks” and places crosshairs over a photo of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaking at an Anti-Defamation League event.

In January, a Department of Homeland Security memo warned that domestic violent extremists including white supremacists and accelerationists continue to aspire to attack the power grid utilizing encrypted messaging platforms and simple tactics that could make a plot harder to detect in the planning stages.

The Office of Intelligence and Analysis document produced at the request of energy-sector stakeholders said that the dispersed nature of electricity infrastructure — with more than 6,400 power plants, 55,000 substations, and 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines serviced by 3,000 companies — leads extremists to believe that they will have breathing room to commit an attack and escaped undetected, perceptions “likely reinforced” by the Metcalf attack.

Since at least 2020, domestic violent extremists have developed “credible, specific plans” to attack energy infrastructure, noting the downstream affects that taking out power would have on other critical infrastructure sectors. Even small-scale attacks, which are more likely without insider help or “significant technical knowledge,” pose risks to operations or personnel, the memo noted.

One of the cases cited by DHS I&A was the indictment last year that alleges a quartet of neo-Nazi accelerationists — some with military experience — “discussed their plans to take out the power grid,” including “a handwritten list of approximately one dozen intersections and places in Idaho and surrounding states” that “contained a transformer, substation, or other component of the power grid for the northwest United States, that if destroyed could cause damage exceeding $100,000 to the power grid.” Also noted was the 2020 case in which a trio of professed Boogaloo adherents allegedly plotted to attack a power substation in Las Vegas as part of a wider accelerationist plot to stoke violence and chaos in the city.

Online narratives have also been attempting to inspire physical attacks on energy infrastructure with a range of tactics adapted to the perpetrator’s skillset, the memo stated. As HSToday previously reported, a neo-Nazi National Socialist Order video posted on Telegram last year used simple animation to encourage followers to identify allies and enemies and finally act – and the first “act” depicted an individual chucking an incendiary device at a power substation that subsequently bursts into flames. The video encouraged followers to educate themselves with books such as The Turner Diaries before attacking. The Base, another neo-Nazi group, in New Jersey distributed a 2019 propaganda image showing two members saluting in front of power lines.

One social media account that was sharing accelerationist memes and references to the Boogaloo Bois posted an animated meme depicting a masked shooter in front of a power substation to the tune of “Electric Avenue.” Another meme posted on YouTube in April 2020 and circulated in other online forums asked people to “repost if you would dismantle the electrical transmission grid with your male followers” and included a short video showing an unknown individual blowtorching the leg of a transmission tower.

A Joint Intelligence Bulletin released late last year from DHS, FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center to law enforcement said that on July 16, 2020, a small, four-rotor off-the-shelf drone was discovered on the top of a building next to a Pennsylvania power substation. Nylon ropes hanging from the drone dangled a two-foot curved piece of copper wire, and analysis of the device indicated that this was likely intended to short circuit the substation in “the first known instance of a modified UAS likely being used in the United States to specifically target energy infrastructure.”

Online posts that emphasize how power stations are a vulnerable and enticing target for violent extremists also commonly cite founder of the eco-fascist Pine Tree Party Mike Ma: “Electricity is a ghost, but one you can catch and kill… Do not become the sort of person who gets really good at blowing power stations up while never getting caught,” Ma wrote in his 2019 book Harassment Architecture.

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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