Masks Off: How the Brothers Who Fueled the Reopen Protests Built a Volatile Far-Right Network - 2020-07-17
The emails played to fear. "Entire police departments are being overwhelmed by mobs of criminals bent on violence, robbery, arson, and more," read one sent in June, as demonstrations against police brutality rocked the country. "Minnesotans have seen our peaceful streets turn violent overnight with riotous mobs," read another, sent not long after the burning of Minneapolis's Third Precinct. "Radical leftists … are looting in our streets, lighting buildings on fire, terrifying citizens, and murdering cops," intoned a third. Antifa is in the streets, coming for your guns, and did you know that Nickelodeon is removing the police dog character from the hit toddler show "Paw Patrol?" (It isn't.)
For right-wing fringe activist Ben Dorr, who sent the emails, outrage about Black Lives Matter was an easy pivot from another cause he'd been promoting. With his brothers Aaron, Chris, and Matthew, Ben Dorr helped launch protests to reopen states across the country shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic this spring. Alone or together, the four Dorr brothers started a slew of Facebook groups, joined by hundreds of thousands of members, that have helped to fuel skepticism about health precautions and pushed for states to open prematurely. In a country where the simple act of wearing a mask has become a political statement, the people who organize against masks are worth watching.
The Dorr brothers, who range in age from 29 to 40, have ties to tea party figures like Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul and have been dismissed by people on both the right and the left as astroturfing hucksters who are more interested in profit than policy. Even the National Rifle Association has denounced them as scammers. Before they began railing against public health measures, the brothers started gun rights and anti-abortion groups in multiple states, registering them as nonprofits and then paying out some of the money that they raise from donations to a for-profit direct mail company that they themselves control, according to IRS tax forms required to be filed by nonprofits.