FBI Arrests Activist Daniel Baker Over Posts About Police Abuse and Self Defense
In the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot, many Democratic politicians and left-of-center pundits have been calling for the expanded use of “domestic terror” laws against people whose social media rhetoric seems too radical. Those who warned that this would backfire—being used not just against those who have committed crimes but anyone whose political views or online comments are deemed risky—were accused of things like excusing terrorism or aligning with white supremacists. Yet it hasn’t taken long for these warnings to come to fruition.
Look at the case of Daniel Baker, a military veteran and self-professed “hardcore leftist” whose home was recently raided by the FBI after he posted a flyer online calling for folks to fight back if “armed racist mobs” tried to take the Florida statehouse in Tallahassee. “This is an armed COUP and can only be stopped by an armed community,” Baker wrote.
In this example, The Washington Post sees evidence that right-wing extremists are “fueling potentially legitimate threats of violence from the opposite fringe of the political spectrum.” But “potentially” is doing a lot of work in that sentence.
Baker’s social media post promising to return intimidation and violence with intimidation and violence doesn’t mean he was actually planning an attack on anyone. It’s the kind of tough-talk rhetoric common online and in-person—if you come at me I will come at you. And absent other evidence that Baker was plotting some sort of revolt, it is absolutely not the sort of thing that should be garnering law enforcement action, let alone an FBI raid.
If this is the standard going forward, a whole lot of people across the political spectrum are going to find themselves in trouble. Meanwhile, the work of stopping actual terrorism and violence will be made harder, as federal agents spend increasing amounts of time investigating, targeting, and prosecuting people for harmless posts.
“This is nuts,” commented the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez. “Unless I’m missing something, this guy was arrested for writing flyers featuring rhetoric indistinguishable from what thousands of people say on message boards or Facebook without prompting visits from the FBI.” While rhetoric like this might be “disgusting,” people should not be arrested “on this basis alone,” Sanchez added.
Baker didn’t say, “On Inauguration Day, we’re going to go out and hunt down all the right-wingers,” Warren Stoddard, who served alongside Baker in the military, noted in the Post. “He said, ‘We’re going to stop people from taking the Florida Capitol.’ And if no one went to the Florida Capitol, there’s nothing to stop.”
In the criminal complaint against Baker, FBI Special Agent Nicholas Marti accuses him of “using social media to recruit and train like-minded individuals in furtherance of his Anti-Government or Anti-Authority Violent Extremism Ideology.”
Baker “may attempt to violently disrupt protest,” Marti opined, explaining that the basis for this opinion that Baker used social media to “project his displeasure with the current events unfolding in the United States as well as social issues he believes to be plaguing the country, including police brutality.”
Apparently, complaining about U.S. police brutalizing and killing Americans without consequence is now grounds for the FBI to start monitoring you.
Baker “made multiple violent threats,” Marti goes on to allege. And yet the “probable cause” Marti gives mostly includes things like Baker having traveled to Seattle over the summer
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