Imagine, if you will, that you live in a fairly rural community not unlike Martinsville and Henry County.
One cold December evening, you’re watching TV on the couch when the power suddenly goes out. You look out the window and notice your neighbors are without power, too. You check Facebook looking for information and discover that homes are without power all over the county, tens of thousands of them.
You go to bed, and you probably don’t sleep that well unless you have a fireplace; it’s a cold night. The following morning, you find out that this power outage was no accident.
It was the result of a terrorist attack.
A group of unknown terrorists drove to two different unmanned electrical distribution substations and opened fire on them with high-powered rifles, knocking out power to 40,000 homes and businesses. It will be days before power can be restored.
In the meantime, your house gets colder each day. Area hospitals and nursing homes are running on backup power. Grocery stores are forced to throw out perishable food. Area storefronts, hoping to make some money by selling Christmas presents, have no choice but to shutter their doors and hope the outage ends soon.
All this because of an act of terrorism.
To make matters worse, no arrests have been made. No perpetrators have come forward. The terrorists could be anywhere. Your next door neighbor could be one of them.
It’s a chilling thought, the sort of thing that should be at the very top of the news cycle for days if not weeks on end, a terrorist attack on rural American soil.
And it happened a couple of weeks ago in Moore County, North Carolina.
You may have seen some stories about the incident; in my opinion, it didn’t get nearly the coverage it deserved. On Dec. 3, two electrical substations in Moore County were riddled with gunfire, causing 40,000 homes and businesses to lose electricity for days on end in freezing temperatures. This wasn’t a prank; according to Moore County law enforcement, it was a targeted attack by individuals who knew exactly what they were doing.
Why was this attack carried out? There has been a great deal of speculation that the motive may have been to disrupt a drag show taking place in a nearby town that evening, and the power outage did indeed disrupt the show.
Every source is quick to point out that as of now, there’s no concrete link between the substation attack and the drag show. I suppose the attack could have been related to another prominent location in Moore County. Maybe the terrorists lost a lot of money betting on the 2014 U.S. Open and decided it was finally time to send a message to Pinehurst No. 2.
Personally, I’m leaning towards the drag show.
Less than two weeks before the attack, the FBI had released a report warning that there was an uptick in reported threats to electric infrastructure from people who held “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist ideology.” The FBI had gleaned this information from the encrypted instant messaging service Telegram, a favorite of far-right white supremacist hate groups. You might remember Telegram as being a favorite service of the Proud Boys that was used extensively during the 2021 Capitol attack.
Apparently, a 14-page document was making the rounds on Telegram; according to the Department of Homeland Security, it featured “a white supremacist instruction guide to low-tech attacks meant to bring chaos, including how to attack a power grid with guns.”
That sure sounds like terrorism to me.
When someone mentions the word “terrorism,” I think most people — especially those of us who vividly remember 9/11/2001 — think of Muslim extremists attacking our country from the outside.
Lately though — to quote a classic of 1970s horror cinema — the calls are coming from inside the house. We have more than enough domestic terrorism to go around.
The bitter irony is that while our home-grown terrorists would likely hate the idea of being lumped in with Islamic extremists, there is far more that unites them than divides them. Both are motivated by extremely conservative religious ideology. Both are committing acts of terrorism to combat a perceived moral decline in society. Both use fear and violence to try to impose their will on the majority. It’s tempting to say that Islamic extremism and Christian extremism are two sides of the same coin, but realistically, they’re more like the same side of the same coin.
In fact, there’s only one real difference between them.
In my rural community, I’m not worried about Muslim extremists.