Will the United States descend into civil unrest?
This is a futures topic I’ve been tracking for years. There’s a lot of data from multiple domains to follow, with various trends and stories emerging. Today I want to update on one of those trends.
Two weeks ago I wrote about a spate of incidents in several states, where still unknown parties shot at electrical power stations, damaging local grids. As far as I can tell the attackers’ technique was to bypass security by shooting at facilities from a distance. Nobody has claimed responsibility. It is unclear if these attacks were the coordinated actions of a single entity, several competing strikes, some kind of DIY copycat acts, or a mix of these.
Again, as far as I can tell no suspects are in custody nor has a credible theory of the case appeared.
Today another attack has taken place. Or rather, four such attacks in a small area. Once again Washington state is the setting. Four electrical substations belonging to two different utilities were victims. However, the modus operandi was different. It doesn’t look like rifles were the tools this time. USA Today described the quartet of incidents as “burglaries”:
Deputies saw forced entry into the fenced-in area at all four substations, with equipment vandalized but “nothing had been taken” from the substations, the department said.
In addition, “Authorities have not said what type of vandalism was involved but a fire was reported at one of the substations belonging to Puget Sound Energy.”
What does this mean?
It’s difficult to assess now, since today’s story is so fresh and we have little in the way of details. (“Authorities have not said what type of vandalism was involved”) Again I fall back on my guesses from my earlier post. This could be a copycat act by someone who is bored or has some ax to grind or is looking for attention or a criminal job. They heard about the attacks in Washington, as well as Oregon, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, and thought there was a good pattern to emulate. And hey, security’s gotta be lax on Christmas Day.
Perhaps the Tacoma hits are part of a broader campaign by a domestic group with an agenda. Maybe they want to ratchet up uncertainty and chaos for a political or religious end.
Or they have some goal which I can’t glimpse. It could also be a foreign national or non-state actor, testing American weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Or it’s some actor making a certain public point. Call it a demonstration of capability, aimed at state or federal governments, or at criminal/terror/foreign entities looking to hire an effective force. “We did these small things, and could do the same – or more – for anyone who wants to compensate us appropriately.
Or it’s a mix of these. Say the initial Oregon strike was the work of an organized entity, while Ohio and now Washington (again) are what some inspired copycats got up to. Today’s attacks have a different method, which could mean either a) it’s a different group, b) it’s the same entity, just exploring a new approach, or c) the police are hiding that it’s guns because they don’t want to scare people or for investigative purposes.
Once more, I think we should be cautious here. This is one story recounted nearly live. We have little information on the previous attacks. Linking them risks apophenia, as I warned last time. Yet we are seeing *something* surfacing.
I’ll keep an eye on it and what it might lead to. Be safe, everyone.