Domestic extremists cheered when two shootings at North Carolina substations left tens of thousands of people in the dark, despite a long-running campaign by far-right communities threatening to attack the country’s power grid.
Their remarks, however, went beyond rejoicing and urged more significant attacks on vital American infrastructure. According to experts interviewed by Newsweek, the attack in Moore County, North Carolina, and other comparable recent attacks across the nation, may only be the beginning of a more destructive campaign.
Newsweek acquired documents showing dozens of instances of radical groups and individuals sharing online threats against vital infrastructure sites across the country prior to the attacks on Saturday and in the run-up to the midterm elections. Two more reports now demonstrate how neo-Nazis and other far-right groups responded to the most recent sabotage.
Although the Moore County Sheriff’s Office has not yet identified a perpetrator or motive in the attack on December 3, initial speculation has focused on right-wing opposition to a drag show that was scheduled to take place at the Sunrise Theater in the Southern Pines town that day.
In response to that incident, armed protesters dressed in military garb and organizations like Moore County Citizens for Freedom—whose director is a former U.S. After the attack, the Moore County Sheriff’s Office questioned Army psychological operations officer Emily Grace Rainey.
Rainey, who was accused of being part of the pro-President Donald Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, in an attempt to rig the election, blamed the substation shootings on “God,” who she claimed was “chastising Moore County” for hosting the drag show.
Additionally, far-right talking points linked the attacks to the drag show, which eventually went on despite its critics. One neo-Nazi Telegram post that the SITE Intelligence Group shared with Newsweek and those contained insults directed at the LGBT+ community praised the “magnificent act of sabotage” as a “beautiful escalation” in a larger culture war.
If such gatherings are not held, “these attacks will only continue,” a different neo-Nazi publication warned. On the message board 4Chan, several posts described specific strategies to further harm the power grid, and others suggested carrying out similar actions in bigger cities like New York and Washington, D.C. because “white is not the majority”
According to Rita Katz, the SITE Intelligence Group’s founder and executive director, the Moore County attack is consistent with the neo-Nazi propaganda spread online.
However, Katz, who recently wrote “Saints and Soldiers: Inside Internet-Age Terrorism, From Syria to the Capitol Siege” about the danger posed by saboteurs to digital infrastructure, explained how targeting infrastructure as “a key objective for accelerationist neo-Nazis, who care less about any distinct outcome and far more about sowing any kind of chaos”
She claimed that “mass shooters all over the world have been inspired by these communities.” As I stated in my most recent book on Internet-age terrorism, if this act of sabotage was indeed motivated by these communities, it is further evidence of how dangerous these online spaces are.
A second report provided to Newsweek by the Domestic Terrorism Threat Monitor (DTTM) of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) highlighted a neo-Nazi collective on Telegram calling for increased attacks on substations and railways, as well as supermarkets and centers for the online retail behemoth Amazon.
The same channel forwarded a video from another account that showed two men firing on what one person refers to as a “water plant” while carrying rifles.
The clip ends with the message “Kill Infrastructure” and is subtitled in English and Russian.
Some of the information in the two reports overlapped with it, as well as with materials Newsweek had previously seen in an intelligence assessment published by the California State Threat Assessment Center and a corporate intelligence security memo in October.
An earlier article from a neo-Nazi publication from the summer that Katz cited contained “a detailed manual” that referred to power grids as “the main satiating tool the system uses to keep the masses from rioting” and offered guidance on how to cause the most destruction.
Simon Purdue, director of DTTM, told Newsweek that “the threat posed by attacks on critical infrastructure cannot be underestimated” given the easy access to such information for potential saboteurs.