VICE News perpetuated the already-debunked claim that the Colorado Springs branch of the NAACP was the target of a bombing earlier this year in a documentary Friday on HBO.
The main focus of VICE’s documentary, titled “We the People: Countdown to the Extinction,” was the patriot movement and militia groups.
But one expert interviewed by VICE somehow worked in a reference to a Jan. 6 bombing in Colorado Springs which many initially believed was targeted at the NAACP.
“We’ve had a number of recent domestic terrorism attacks that no one even realizes has happened. For example the NAACP office in Colorado was recently bombed,” Daryl Johnson, a former senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security told VICE.
“We’ve had police officers shot in Florida and Pennsylvania under political causes. There have been a number of these attacks that the media doesn’t follow up on to see what the motivation was so a lot of people don’t realize that these are terrorist attacks.”
The Jan. 6 bombing did little damage to the outside of a building which housed a barber shop and the Colorado Springs NAACP’s headquarters. The explosion left a scorch mark on the building — the side opposite the NAACP’s office.
But the incident generated intense speculation from the media, politicians and activists that it was a racially motivated attack.
Except racial animus does not appear to be the bomber’s motive.
The FBI arrested 44-year-old Thaddeus Murphy on Feb. 19. Murphy admitted to setting off the explosion but claimed that his target was his former accountant whose offices were once located at the building. Murphy said that the accountant had defrauded him and had withheld some of his tax forms which led to an audit.
In its documentary, VICE interviewed a number of militia and patriot movement members. It claimed that the groups’ membership numbers have increased dramatically over the past several years, and tied that spike to the election of President Barack Obama. (RELATED: What Do The Politicians Who Claimed Bombing Targeted Colorado NAACP Say Now?)
The VICE documentary — relying on Johnson’s expertise — dramatized the threat posed by those groups’ members.
“Today we find ourselves at a white-hot period of extremism in America. Due to the sheer size of the patriot movement, the fact that we’ve got hundreds of thousands of people that subscribe to these extremist belief systems,” Johnson told VICE.
The movement members’ military training and their cache of weapons makes them “one of the greatest threats here in the country,” Johnson added.
“In fact a recent study funded by the Department of Homeland Security found that local law enforcement considers extreme anti-government groups two of the top three greatest terrorist threats to America,” VICE reporter Gianna Toboni narrated.
She was referencing an intelligence assessment on “sovereign citizen extremists” (SCEs) first reported last month by CNN. The network hyped the report, calling its segment, “Bigger Threat Than ISIS?”
Reason also noted that the DHS assessment notes that sovereign citizens extremists’ tactics “are reactive and personal, rather than symbolic.”
“Other domestic terrorists typically attack symbolic targets to oppose laws and policies they disagree with rather than certain individuals,” the report reads. “By contrast, even when SCEs plot their violence over time or threaten attacks, it is often in direct response to an ongoing personal grievance, such as an arrest or court order.”
Despite that assessment, Johnson believes that sovereign citizens and patriot group members still pose an existential threat.
“Patriot groups inspire people to carry out violence in the name of a political cause,” he told VICE. “Individuals become radicalized to the point of carrying out acts of terrorism, and we’re long overdue for a mass casuality-producing attack.”