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Extremism in the defense of stupidity is a vice

There was shootout last week between police offi­cers in Louisiana and what appear to be sev­en indi­vid­u­als asso­ci­at­ed with [1] the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens move­ment [2]. It’s the most recent tragedy in a string of anti-gov­ern­ment attacks [3] by fol­low­ers of the ide­ol­o­gy includ­ing Jared Lough­n­er’s shoot­ing spree last year [4]. As Bar­ry Gold­wa­ter once famous­ly quipped [5], “extrem­ism in the defense of lib­er­ty is no vice”. Posse comi­ta­tus and the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens move­ment should prob­a­bly be viewed as an excep­tion to Bar­ry’s rule.

This lat­est attack result­ed in two dead and two wound­ed offi­cers in a pair of sequen­tial shootouts start­ing in the park­ing lot of an oil refin­ery. Two mem­bers of the group were also wound­ed. One of them was a mem­ber of the noto­ri­ous white suprema­cist-infest­ed “posse comi­ta­tus” [6]:

Louisiana Ambush Sus­pect Tied To ‘Anti-Gov­ern­ment Group’

Nick R. Mar­tin August 17, 2012, 5:50 PM

A year ago, he was want­ed by Nebras­ka author­i­ties for alleged­ly mak­ing “ter­ror­is­tic threats” to law enforce­ment.

By Fri­day, inves­ti­ga­tors said Kyle Joekel, 28, was one of sev­en peo­ple involved in what was being described as a pair of ambush­es on sheriff’s deputies out­side of New Orleans. Two deputies were killed and two oth­ers wound­ed before it all came to an end ear­ly Thurs­day morn­ing.

Accord­ing to a report by the Shreve­port Times, inves­ti­ga­tors in Louisiana had Joekel on their radar for months before the shoot­ing and believed he was part of some sort of “anti-gov­ern­ment group.”


The details of the inci­dent were not imme­di­ate­ly clear on Fri­day after­noon, but the New Orleans Times-Picayune report­ed [7] that the sher­iff of Gage Coun­ty believed Joekel was part of a group known as Posse Comi­ta­tus. The group, which was large­ly active in the 1970s and 80s, was seen as the pre­cur­sor to the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens move­ment.

“It just didn’t look right,” Sher­iff Mil­lard “Gus” Gustafson told the news­pa­per. “These guys would be dri­ving around at night, and they’d have weapons on the front seat. If you’re doing that, something’s wrong — you’re either hunt­ing ille­gal­ly or doing some­thing else.”


Posse comi­ta­tus, a far-right anti-tax/an­ti-gov­ern­ment move­ment that does­n’t rec­og­nize legal author­i­ty above the lev­el of coun­ty sher­iff, is an espe­cial­ly impor­tant rad­i­cal move­ment to under­stand with­in the con­text of the cur­rent eco­nom­ic cri­sis and the finan­cial sec­tor loot­ing that led up to it. It emerged in the 1970’s and 80’s in rur­al Amer­i­ca as a farm­ing cri­sis dis­placed and dis­lo­cat­ed rur­al com­mu­ni­ties. Not only was it a pre­de­ce­sor to the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens move­ment and the larg­er col­lec­tion of sur­vival­ist-ori­ent­ed, anti-tax/IRS, Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty far-right white sprema­cist under­ground that exists today. It was also a trail­blaz­er in “paper ter­ror­ism” and some very strange legal the­o­ries [8]:

The Wash­ing­ton Month­ly
Too Weird
for The Wire
May/June/July 2008

How black Bal­ti­more drug deal­ers are
using white suprema­cist legal
the­o­ries to con­found the Feds

By Kevin Carey

In Novem­ber 16, 2005, Willie “Bo” Mitchell and three co-defendants—Shelton “Lit­tle Rock” Har­ris, Shelly “Wayne” Mar­tin, and Shawn Earl Gard­ner— appeared for a hear­ing in the mod­ern fed­er­al cour­t­house in down­town Bal­ti­more, Mary­land. The four African Amer­i­can men were fac­ing fed­er­al charges of rack­e­teer­ing, weapons pos­ses­sion, drug deal­ing, and five counts of first-degree mur­der. For near­ly two years the pros­e­cu­tors had been method­i­cal­ly build­ing their case, with the aim of putting the defen­dants to death. In Bal­ti­more, which has a mur­der rate eight times high­er than that of New York City, such cas­es are depress­ing­ly com­mon­place.

A few min­utes after 10 a.m., Unit­ed States Dis­trict Court Judge Andre M. Davis took his seat and began his intro­duc­to­ry remarks. Sud­den­ly, the leader of the defen­dants, Willie Mitchell, a short, unre­mark­able look­ing twen­ty-eight-yearold with close-cropped hair, leapt from his chair, grabbed a micro­phone, and launched into a bizarre solil­o­quy.

“I am not a defen­dant,” Mitchell declared. “I do not have attor­neys.” The court “lacks ter­ri­to­r­i­al juris­dic­tion over me,” he argued, to the amaze­ment of his lawyers. To sup­port these con­tentions, he cit­ed decades-old acts of Con­gress involv­ing the aban­don­ment of the gold stan­dard and the cre­ation of the Fed­er­al Reserve. Judge Davis, a Bal­ti­more-born African Amer­i­can in his late fifties, tried to inter­rupt. “I object,” Mitchell repeat­ed robot­i­cal­ly. Shelly Mar­tin and Shel­ton Har­ris fol­lowed Mitchell to the micro­phone, giv­ing the same speech ver­ba­tim. Their attor­neys tried to inter­vene, but when Harris’s lawyer leaned over to speak to him, Har­ris shoved him away.

Judge Davis ordered the three defen­dants to be removed from the court, and turned to Gard­ner, who had, until then, remained qui­et. But Gard­ner, too, intoned the same strange speech. “I am Shawn Earl Gard­ner, live man, flesh and blood,” he pro­claimed. Every time the judge referred to him as “the defen­dant” or “Mr. Gard­ner,” Gard­ner auto­mat­i­cal­ly inter­rupt­ed: “My name is Shawn Earl Gard­ner, sir.” Davis tried to explain to Gard­ner that his behav­ior was putting his chances of acquit­tal or lenien­cy at risk. “Don’t throw your life away,” Davis plead­ed. But Gard­ner wouldn’t stop. Judge Davis con­clud­ed the hear­ing, deter­mined to find out what was going on.

As it turned out, he wasn’t alone. In the pre­vi­ous year, near­ly twen­ty defen­dants in oth­er Bal­ti­more cas­es had begun adopt­ing what lawyers in the fed­er­al cour­t­house came to call “the flesh-and-blood defense.” The defense, such as it is, boils down to this: As offi­cers of the court, all defense lawyers are real­ly on the government’s side, hav­ing sworn an oath to uphold a vast, cen­tu­ry-old con­spir­a­cy to con­ceal the fact that most aspects of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment are ille­git­i­mate, includ­ing the courts, which have no con­sti­tu­tion­al author­i­ty to bring peo­ple to tri­al. The defen­dants also believed that a legal dis­tinc­tion could be drawn between their name as writ­ten on their indict­ment and their true iden­ti­ty as a “flesh and blood man.”

Judge Davis and his law clerk pored over the case files, which led them to a series of strange Web sites. The fle­s­hand- blood defense, they dis­cov­ered, came from a place far from Bal­ti­more, from peo­ple as dif­fer­ent from Willie Mitchell as peo­ple could pos­si­bly be. Its antecedents stretched back decades, involv­ing reli­gious zealots, gun nuts, tax pro­tes­tors, and vio­lent sep­a­ratists dri­ven by the­o­ries that had fueled delu­sions of Aryan suprema­cy and race war in gun-loaded com­pounds in the wilds of Mon­tana and Ida­ho. Although Mitchell and his peers didn’t know it, they were inher­it­ing the intel­lec­tu­al lega­cy of white suprema­cists who believe that Amer­i­ca was irrev­o­ca­bly bro­ken when the 14th Amend­ment pro­vid­ed equal rights to for­mer slaves. It was the ide­ol­o­gy that inspired the Okla­homa City bomb­ing, the biggest act of domes­tic ter­ror­ism in the nation’s his­to­ry, and now, a decade lat­er, it had some­how sprout­ed in the crime-rid­den ghet­tos of Bal­ti­more.

Note that these ideas that the US con­sti­tu­tion negates vir­tu­al­ly all fed­er­al laws (and most oth­er laws) are found in the youtube videos made by Jared Loughner...along with a strange gram­mer obses­sion. Lough­n­er sort of puts a new spin on the term “gram­mer nazi” [4].

Skip­ping down in the arti­cle...


A month after the hear­ing, Judge Davis took the unusu­al step of issu­ing a writ­ten opin­ion deny­ing all of the defendant’s “unusual—if not bizarre” argu­ments. “Per­haps they would even be humor­ous,” Davis wrote, “were the stakes not so high … It is tru­ly iron­ic that four African- Amer­i­can defen­dants here appar­ent­ly rely on an ide­ol­o­gy derived from a famous­ly dis­cred­it­ed notion: the ille­git­i­ma­cy of the Four­teenth Amend­ment.” One can under­stand his increduli­ty that four Bal­ti­more drug deal­ers might invoke a racist argu­ment that dates back to the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. But as it turns out, that’s when the seeds of the flesh-and-blood defense were sown.

In 1878, south­ern Democ­rats pushed leg­is­la­tion through Con­gress lim­it­ing the abil­i­ty of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to mar­shal troops on U.S. soil. Known as Posse Comi­ta­tus, (Latin for “pow­er of the coun­ty”) the law’s authors hoped to con­strain the government’s abil­i­ty to pro­tect black south­ern­ers from vio­lence and dis­crim­i­na­tion. The act sym­bol­i­cal­ly marked the end of Recon­struc­tion and the begin­ning of Jim Crow.

For the next eight decades, black Amer­i­cans lived under the yoke of insti­tu­tion­al racism. But by the late 1950s, the civ­il rights move­ment was grow­ing in strength. In 1957, Pres­i­dent Eisen­how­er sent 1,200 troops from the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion to Lit­tle Rock, Arkansas, so that nine black stu­dents could safe­ly enter a pre­vi­ous­ly all-white high school. The land­mark Civ­il Rights Act fol­lowed in 1964.

These devel­op­ments hor­ri­fied one William Gale, a World War II vet­er­an, insur­ance sales­man, self-styled min­is­ter of racist Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty the­ol­o­gy, and rav­ing anti-Semi­te. In 1971, he launched a move­ment whose impact would rever­ber­ate through the rad­i­cal fringes of Amer­i­can soci­ety for decades to come. He called it Posse Comi­ta­tus, named for the 1878 law he believed Eisen­how­er had vio­lat­ed by send­ing the troops to Lit­tle Rock. In a series of tapes and self-pub­lished pam­phlets, Gale explained that coun­ty sher­iffs were the supreme legal law enforce­ment offi­cers in the land, and that coun­ty res­i­dents had the right to form a posse to enforce the Constitution—however they, as “sov­er­eign cit­i­zens,” chose to inter­pret it. Pub­lic offi­cials who inter­fered, instruct­ed Gale, should be “hung by the neck” at high noon.

Gale’s racist beliefs were hard­ly unique. His sin­gu­lar inno­va­tion was to devise a “legal” phi­los­o­phy that was enor­mous­ly appeal­ing to dis­af­fect­ed, alien­at­ed cit­i­zens. It was a promise of pow­er, a means of assert­ing that they were the true inher­i­tors of the found­ing fathers’ ide­al, a dream they believed had been cor­rupt­ed by a vast con­spir­a­cy that only they could see. Gale’s ideas gave peo­ple on the para­noid edge of soci­ety a col­lec­tive iden­ti­ty. It told them what they des­per­ate­ly want­ed to hear: that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment was ille­git­i­mate, and that the legal weapons the state used to oppress them could be turned against the state.

Soon, Poss­es were sprout­ing across the coun­try, attract­ing vet­er­ans of the 1960s-era tax protest move­ment, Sec­ond Amend­ment abso­lutists, Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty adher­ents, and ardent anti-com­mu­nists who had aban­doned the John Birch Soci­ety because they felt the orga­ni­za­tion wasn’t extreme enough. Local groups would meet to share lit­er­a­ture, lis­ten to tapes of Gale’s ser­mons, and dis­cuss prepa­ra­tions for the approach­ing End Times. This extrem­ist stew pro­duced exot­ic amal­ga­ma­tions of para­noia, such as when Posse mem­bers would explain the need for local mili­tias to stock­pile weapons in order to defend white Chris­tians from blacks in the com­ing race war sparked by the inevitable eco­nom­ic col­lapse caused by the income tax and a cabal of inter­na­tion­al Jew­ish bankers bent on glob­al dom­i­nance through one world gov­ern­ment, for Satan.

While local Poss­es would peri­od­i­cal­ly con­front law enforce­ment offi­cials in the 1970s, (usu­al­ly in prop­er­ty dis­putes), they were often incom­pe­tent, and few peo­ple were hurt. But things took a seri­ous turn in 1978, when thou­sands of farm­ers ral­lied in Wash­ing­ton D.C. seek­ing relief from low com­mod­i­ty prices, high inter­est rates, and farm debt. When Con­gres­sion­al relief attempts failed, some farm­ers became sus­cep­ti­ble to ped­dlers of the Posse ide­ol­o­gy, which preached that the farm cri­sis had been brought on by the inter­na­tion­al Jew­ish bank­ing con­spir­a­cy, aban­don­ment of the gold stan­dard and a malev­o­lent Fed­er­al Reserve.


It’s an impor­tant les­son we can learn from the rise of posse comi­ta­tus in the 70’s and 80’s: When gov­ern­ments fail to address the eco­nom­ic trou­bles fac­ing their cit­i­zens, those cit­i­zens tend to become much more amenable to extreme nation­al­ism and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, espe­cial­ly the exist­ing lega­cy con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries of a cabal of inter­na­tion­al jew­ish bankers. One les­son we can take away from this is that any move­ment that wants to pro­mote such theories/worldviews has an incen­tive to destroy the econ­o­my in order to rad­i­cal­ize the pop­u­lace. It’s a les­son the pub­lic real­ly needs to learn in the con­text of a glob­al reces­sion brought on by an inter­na­tion­al finan­cial cri­sis because the banks haven’t been the only sec­tors of soci­ety bailed out in the wake of the finan­cial cri­sis. A num­ber of bank­rupt polit­i­cal ide­olo­gies have also [9] been bailed out [10] by the gov­ern­men­t’s kid glove treat­ment of the finan­cial sec­tor [11] after the obscene behav­ior by the banksters [12].


By 1982, Bill Gale had flown to Kansas to con­duct para­mil­i­tary train­ing and indoc­tri­na­tion for splin­ter groups of dis­af­fect­ed farm­ers. At night, a coun­try music sta­tion in Dodge City broad­cast tapes of Gale’s ser­mons. “You’re either going to get back to the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States in your gov­ern­ment,” he intoned, “or offi­cials are gonna hang by the neck until they’re dead … Arise and fight! If a Jew comes near you, run a sword through him.” As Posse ide­ol­o­gy rip­pled across the dis­tressed farm belt, vio­lence fol­lowed. Sev­er­al dead­ly con­fronta­tions between Posse adher­ents and law enforce­ment made nation­al head­lines; Ger­al­do Rivera descend­ed on Nebras­ka to doc­u­ment the “Seeds of Hate” in America’s heart­land. By 1987, Gale’s rhetoric had esca­lat­ed fur­ther. He told his fol­low­ers that “You’ve got an ene­my gov­ern­ment run­ning around … its source and its loca­tion is Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and the fed­er­al build­ings they’ve built with your tax mon­ey all over the cities in this land.”

Huck­sters and char­la­tans prowled the Mid­west as the farm cri­sis deep­ened, sell­ing des­per­ate farm­ers expen­sive sem­i­nars and prepack­aged legal defens­es “guar­an­teed” to can­cel debts and fore­stall fore­clo­sure. Since the gold stan­dard had been aban­doned in 1933, they argued, mon­ey had no inher­ent val­ue, and so nei­ther did their debts. All they had to do, farm­ers were told, was opt out of the sys­tem by send­ing a let­ter to the appro­pri­ate author­i­ties renounc­ing their driver’s license, birth cer­tifi­cate, and social secu­ri­ty num­ber. That num­ber was alleged­ly tied to a secret gov­ern­ment account held in a secure sub­ter­ranean facil­i­ty in low­er Man­hat­tan, where cit­i­zens are used as col­lat­er­al against inter­na­tion­al debts issued by the Fed and everyone’s name is on a mas­ter list, spelled in cap­i­tal letters—the very same cap­i­tal let­ters used in the offi­cial court doc­u­ments detail­ing fore­clo­sure and oth­er actions against them. The cap­i­tal let­ter name was noth­ing but an arti­fi­cial con­struct, they were told, a legal “straw man.” It wasn’t them—natural, live, flesh and blood men.

Bill Gale died on April 28, 1988, three months after being sen­tenced in fed­er­al court for con­spir­a­cy, tax crimes, and mail­ing death threats to the Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice. By that time, the farm cri­sis had begun to recede. Posse ide­ol­o­gy sim­mered for the next few years, mor­ph­ing into the “Chris­t­ian Patri­ot” move­ment, which sand­ed down some of the rough­est racist and anti-Semit­ic edges while retain­ing the core beliefs of Con­sti­tu­tion­al fun­da­men­tal­ism. The patri­ots saw them­selves as “sov­er­eign cit­i­zens,” unlike the “fed­er­al cit­i­zens” who had been cre­at­ed by the 14th Amendment’s guar­an­tee of equal pro­tec­tion under the law.

The dead­ly con­fronta­tions between fed­er­al agents and extrem­ists at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and Waco, Texas in 1993 brought latent anger with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment back to a boil. The mili­tia move­ment of the 1990s built on Posse tenets of coun­ty- based, self-orga­nized para­mil­i­tary groups led by cit­i­zens express­ing their basic Con­sti­tu­tion­al rights. Most groups stuck with con­duct­ing sur­vival­ist train­ing camps and fil­ing bogus liens against hous­es owned by local judges. But a few did much more.

In 1993, a Michi­gan farmer and sur­vival­ist named James Nichols was pulled over for speed­ing. Instead of sim­ply pay­ing the fine, he argued in court that his “sov­er­eign cit­i­zen” sta­tus made him immune to pros­e­cu­tion. That same year, James’ broth­er Ter­ry tried to pay off a $17,000 debt with a fake check issued by a rad­i­cal “fam­i­ly farm preser­va­tion” group run by Posse adher­ents. Two years lat­er, Ter­ry Nichols helped to bring the Posse’s anti-gov­ern­ment hatred to its ulti­mate fruition. On April 18, 1995, he and a friend named Tim­o­thy McVeigh loaded 108 fifty-pound bags of ammo­ni­um nitrate fer­til­iz­er into a Ryder truck. The next day, McVeigh bombed the Mur­rah fed­er­al build­ing in Okla­homa City, killing 168 peo­ple on the sec­ond anniver­sary of Waco.


As the above arti­cle indi­cates, posse comi­ta­tus is root­ed in the desire to estab­lish a white-suprema­cist god-ordained utopia of con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly man­dat­ed real­ly real­ly real­ly small gov­ern­ment. And no Jew­ish bankers. It’s sort of ear­ly ver­sion for the broad­er spec­trum of mil­i­tant far-right move­ments we’ve seen explod­ing across the US over the last cou­ple of decades, includ­ing Okla­homa City bomber Tim­o­thy McVeigh and his direct co-con­spir­a­tors. Think of the posse comi­ta­tus world­view as sort of the John Birch Soci­ety viewed through the lens of a mil­i­tant hyper-Lib­er­tar­i­an Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty [13] neo-nazi. They’re pret­ty extreme but also some­what pro­to­typ­i­cal for the hard­core ‘Patri­ot’ scene [14]:

Rush, Newspeak
and Fas­cism:
An exe­ge­sis

by David Nei­w­ert

POSTED AUGUST 30, 2003 —

V. Pro­to-Fas­cism in Amer­i­ca

by David Nei­w­ert

It’s clear by now, I hope, that fas­cism isn’t some­thing pecu­liar to Europe, but in fact grew out of an impulse that appears through­out his­to­ry in many dif­fer­ent cul­tures. This impulse is, as Roger Grif­fin puts it, “ultra-nation­al­ism that aspires to bring about the renew­al of a nation’s entire polit­i­cal cul­ture.”

We need­n’t look far to find this impulse at play in the Amer­i­can land­scape — social, reli­gious and polit­i­cal renew­al all appear as con­stant (though per­haps not yet dom­i­nant) themes of Repub­li­can pro­pa­gan­da now. But it is espe­cial­ly preva­lent on the extrem­ist right; indeed, it’s prob­a­bly a defin­i­tive trait.

Grif­fin argues that cur­rent-day fas­cism is “grou­pus­cu­lar” in nature — that is, it forms out of small­ish but vir­u­lent, poten­tial­ly lethal and cer­tain­ly prob­lem­at­ic “organ­isms”:

After the war the dank con­di­tions for rev­o­lu­tion­ary nation­al­ism “dried out” to a point where it could no longer form into a sin­gle-mind­ed slime mould. Since par­ty-polit­i­cal space was large­ly closed to it, even in its diminu­tive ver­sions, it moved increas­ing­ly into dis­parate nich­es with­in civic and uncivic space, often assum­ing a “metapo­lit­i­cal” mode in which it focussed on chang­ing the “cul­tur­al hege­mo­ny” of the dom­i­nant lib­er­al cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem. … Where rev­o­lu­tion­ary nation­al­ism pur­sued vio­lent tac­tics they were no longer insti­tu­tion­alised and move­ment-based, but of a spo­radic, anar­chic, and ter­ror­is­tic nature. To the unini­ti­at­ed observ­er it seemed that where once plan­ets great and small of ultra-nation­al­ist ener­gies had dom­i­nat­ed the skies, there now cir­cled an aster­oid belt of frag­ments, most­ly invis­i­ble to the naked eye.19

When we con­sid­er some of the oth­er his­tor­i­cal traits of fas­cism, includ­ing those it shares with oth­er forms of total­i­tar­i­an­ism, then it becomes much eas­i­er to iden­ti­fy the polit­i­cal fac­tions that are most clear­ly pro­to-fas­cist — that is, poten­tial­ly fas­cist, if not explic­it­ly so. (As Pax­ton argues, its latent expres­sion will not nec­es­sar­i­ly rep­re­sent its mature form.) Sur­vey­ing the Amer­i­can scene, it is clear that just such a move­ment already exists. And in fact, it had already inspired, before 9/11, the most hor­ren­dous ter­ror­ist attack ever on Amer­i­can soil. It calls itself the “Patri­ot” move­ment.

You may have heard that this move­ment is dead. It isn’t, quite yet. And its poten­tial dan­ger to the Amer­i­can way of life is still very much with us.

Those who have read In God’s Coun­try know that I con­clude, in the After­word, that the Patri­ot move­ment rep­re­sents a gen­uine pro­to-fas­cist ele­ment: “a unique­ly Amer­i­can kind of fas­cism.” Let’s explore this point in a lit­tle more detail.

As Grif­fin sug­gests, the “grou­pus­cu­lar” form that post­war fas­cism has tak­en seems to pose lit­tle threat, but it remains latent in the wood­work:

But the dan­ger of the grou­pus­cu­lar right is not only at the lev­el of the chal­lenge to “cul­tur­al hege­mo­ny”. Its exis­tence as a per­ma­nent, prac­ti­cal­ly unsup­press­ible ingre­di­ent of civ­il and unciv­il soci­ety also ensures the con­tin­ued “pro­duc­tion” of racists and fanat­ics. On occa­sion these are able to sub­vert demo­c­ra­t­ic, paci­fist oppo­si­tion to glob­al­i­sa­tion, as has been seen when they have infil­trat­ed the “No Logo” move­ment with a rev­o­lu­tion­ary, vio­lent dynam­ic all too eas­i­ly exploit­ed by gov­ern­ments to tar all pro­test­ers with the same brush. Oth­ers choose instead to pur­sue the path of entry­ism by join­ing main­stream reformist par­ties, thus ensur­ing that both main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive par­ties and neo-pop­ulist par­ties con­tain a fringe of ide­o­log­i­cal­ly “pre­pared” hard-core extrem­ists. More­over, while the semi-clan­des­tine grou­pus­cu­lar form now adopt­ed by hard-core activist and metapo­lit­i­cal fas­cism can­not spawn the uni­formed para­mil­i­tary cadres of the 1930s, it is ide­al­ly suit­ed to breed­ing lone wolf ter­ror­ists and self-styled “polit­i­cal sol­diers” in train­ers and bomber-jack­ets ded­i­cat­ed to a tac­tic of sub­ver­sion known in Ital­ian as “spon­taneism”. [Empha­sis mine] By read­ing the ratio­nalised hate that they find on their screens as a rev­e­la­tion they trans­form their brood­ing malaise into a sense of mis­sion and turn the servers of their book-marked web grou­pus­cules into their mas­ters.

Grif­fin iden­ti­fies this man­i­fes­ta­tion of fas­cism not only in Europe but in the Unit­ed States:

One of the ear­li­est such acts of ter­ror­ism on record harks back to hal­cy­on pre-PC days. When Kohler Gun­dolf com­mit­ted the Okto­ber­fest bomb­ing in 1980 it was ini­tial­ly attrib­uted to a “nut­ter” work­ing inde­pen­dent­ly of the organ­ised right. Yet it lat­er tran­spired that he had been a mem­ber of the West Ger­man grou­pus­cule, Wehrsport­gruppe Hoff­mann. It also emerged at the tri­al of the “Okla­homa bomber”, Tim­o­thy McVeigh, that he had been deeply influ­enced by the USA’s thriv­ing grou­pus­cu­lar right sub­cul­ture. His dis­af­fec­tion with the con­tem­po­rary state of the nation had been politi­cised by his expo­sure to the shad­owy rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­cul­ture cre­at­ed by the patri­ot­ic mili­tias, rifle clubs and sur­vival­ists. In par­tic­u­lar, his belief that he had been per­son­al­ly called to do some­thing to break ZOG’s (the so-called Zion­ist Occu­pa­tion Gov­ern­ment) stran­gle­hold on Amer­i­ca had crys­tallised into a plan on read­ing The Turn­er Diaries by William Pierce, head of the Nation­al Alliance.20

Con­ser­v­a­tives have suc­cess­ful­ly re-air­brushed the Okla­homa City bomb­ing as the act of a sin­gle mani­ac (or two) rather than the piece of right-wing ter­ror­ism it was, derived whol­ly from an ide­o­log­i­cal stew of ven­omous hate that has simul­ta­ne­ous­ly been seep­ing into main­stream con­ser­vatism through­out the 1990s and since.

Note that the 1980 Okto­ber­fest bomb­ing in Munich was reviewed in 2011 and the bomber was indeed part of a larg­er neo-nazi net­work but the inves­ti­ga­tors inten­tion­al­ly ignored these links and pushed the ‘lone wolf’ sto­ry in order to avoid the polit­i­cal fall out for the Ger­man right-wing [15]. It’s a phe­nom­e­na fre­quent­ly found (often upon lat­er inves­ti­ga­tions) ‘into the many ‘lone wolf’ US domes­tic ter­ror­ists [16]:

Wash­ing­ton Post
Behind the Lone Ter­ror­ist, a Pack Men­tal­i­ty

By Mike Ger­man
Sun­day, June 5, 2005

The FBI has long main­tained that Tim­o­thy McVeigh, who was exe­cut­ed in 2001 for the Okla­homa City bomb­ing that claimed 168 lives, was the pro­to­typ­i­cal “lone wolf” ter­ror­ist and that any­one impli­cat­ed in the bomb­ing con­spir­a­cy is behind bars. But old loose ends and trou­bling new rev­e­la­tions about McVeigh’s asso­ci­a­tion with white suprema­cist groups have led many peo­ple to won­der whether a wider con­spir­a­cy was behind the bomb­ing that took place just over 10 years ago. Rep. Dana Rohrabach­er, a Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, is con­sid­er­ing hold­ing hear­ings to try to answer these lin­ger­ing ques­tions. What he is like­ly to dis­cov­er is not a dis­agree­ment over the facts, but a fun­da­men­tal mis­per­cep­tion of how most extrem­ist groups oper­ate.

Most peo­ple have nev­er been to a Ku Klux Klan ral­ly or a mili­tia meet­ing; you don’t stum­ble into one by walk­ing through the wrong door at the den­tist’s office. Chances are, you would­n’t know how to find where a white suprema­cist group meets in your com­mu­ni­ty. In fact, you’d prob­a­bly be shocked to learn that there was one in your com­mu­ni­ty.

I learned how extrem­ist groups oper­ate first­hand as an FBI under­cov­er agent assigned to fight domes­tic ter­ror­ism. They don’t always call them­selves the KKK or the mili­tia; they some­times use benign names that mask their true nature. They might wear Nazi sym­bols right on their sleeves, but they might not. They could be just a cou­ple of grumpy old geezers who meet for cof­fee at a local cafe, or a few young punks look­ing for trou­ble, or even one guy sit­ting in his base­ment chat­ting on neo-Nazi Web sites. But they are all part of an under­ground extrem­ist com­mu­ni­ty.

Even if you could find them, they would­n’t just wel­come you into a meet­ing. They tend to be sus­pi­cious of strangers. They use cod­ed lan­guage and sym­bols that help them dis­tin­guish insid­ers from the unini­ti­at­ed, and they are care­ful to avoid infil­tra­tors.

But every once in a while, a fol­low­er of these move­ments bursts vio­lent­ly into our world, with dead­ly con­se­quences — McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, Buford Fur­row Jr., Paul Hill, to name just a few. And all these con­vict­ed mur­der­ers were iden­ti­fied as “lone extrem­ists,” the most dif­fi­cult ter­ror­ists to stop because they act inde­pen­dent­ly from any orga­ni­za­tion.

Or do they?

Tim McVeigh seemed able to find a mili­tia meet­ing wher­ev­er he went. He was linked to mili­tia groups in Ari­zona and Michi­gan, white suprema­cist groups in Okla­homa and Mis­souri, and at gun shows he sold copies of “The Turn­er Diaries,” a racist nov­el writ­ten by the founder of a neo-Nazi orga­ni­za­tion. No one finds such groups by acci­dent. Eric Rudolph, who plant­ed bombs at the Atlanta Olympics, two abor­tion clin­ics and a gay night­club, grew up in the Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty move­ment, which iden­ti­fies whites as God’s cho­sen peo­ple and encour­ages the faith­ful to fol­low the bib­li­cal exam­ple of Phineas by becom­ing instru­ments of God’s vengeance. Aryan Nations, for­mer­ly of Hay­den Lake, Ida­ho, was a cen­ter of Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty thought; not inci­den­tal­ly, Buford Fur­row worked there as a secu­ri­ty guard before going on a shoot­ing ram­page at a Jew­ish day-care cen­ter in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Paul Hill wrote of the need to take “Phineas actions” to pre­vent abor­tions and was so well known that the news media used him to speak in sup­port of Michael Griffin’s killing of abor­tion doc­tor David Gunn. That Hill lat­er shot an abor­tion provider him­self should have sur­prised no one.

The fact that these indi­vid­u­als, after being exposed to extrem­ist ide­ol­o­gy, each com­mit­ted vio­lent acts might lead a rea­son­able per­son to sus­pect the exis­tence of a wider con­spir­a­cy. Imag­ine a very smart leader of an extrem­ist move­ment, one who under­stands the First Amend­ment and crim­i­nal con­spir­a­cy laws, telling his fol­low­ers not to depend on spe­cif­ic instruc­tions.

He might tell them to divorce them­selves from the group before they com­mit a vio­lent act; to act indi­vid­u­al­ly or in small groups so that oth­ers in the move­ment could avoid crim­i­nal lia­bil­i­ty. This method­ol­o­gy cre­ates a win-win sit­u­a­tion for the extrem­ist leader — the vio­lent goals of the group are met with­out the legal con­se­quences.

Actu­al­ly, there’s no need to imag­ine this. Extrem­ist group lead­ers pro­duce a tremen­dous amount of lit­er­a­ture, includ­ing train­ing man­u­als on “lead­er­less resis­tance” and lone wolf ter­ror­ism tech­niques. These man­u­als have been around for years and now they’re even avail­able online.


Beyond the griz­zly real­i­ty that Louisiana police offi­cers were just ambushed and gunned down by a bunch of polit­i­cal extrem­ists, part of the rea­son that the string of attacks by the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens (and now posse comi­ta­tus) is so top­i­cal is because both posse comi­ta­tus and the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens are exam­ple of “lead­er­less resis­tance [17]” and encour­age the cre­ation of both inde­pen­dent cells and the kinds of “inde­pen­dent” cells described in the above excerpt. It’s a type of “lead­er­less resis­tance” that’s become eas­i­er than ever before with the cre­ation of the inter­net p(The Michi­gan Mili­tia was already using the inter­net to com­mu­ni­cate its mes­sage pri­or to the Okla­homa City bomb­ing [18]). And since folks can’t help but notice [19] that there have quite a few right wing lone wolves in recent [20] years [21], an obvi­ous ques­tion for soci­ety is just how large the sym­pa­thet­ic com­mu­ni­ty could be for these move­ments. As the pre­vi­ous arti­cle excerpt from “Rush, Newspeak and Fas­cism: An exe­ge­sis [14]” dis­cussed, posse comi­ta­tus is a kind of extreme pro­to­type for the much larg­er Patriot/militia move­ment that has ebbed and waned in the US over the past cou­ple of decades and the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens appear to be a sort of “posse comi­ta­tus 2.0”: a posse comi­ta­tus-like world­view stripped of much of the under­ly­ing racism with an exclu­sive focus on the strange legal the­o­ries. So when we see a group of sov­er­eign cit­i­zens team up with a posse comi­ta­tus mem­ber to ambush the police it’s sort of like see­ing the past and future of US far-right polit­i­cal extrem­ism inhab­it the same sense­less act and same sense­less polit­i­cal space. And parts of that same sense­less polit­i­cal space is not only shared by a num­ber of ‘Patri­ot’ and far-right groups with a his­to­ry of vio­lence but, increas­ing­ly the Repub­li­can Par­ty [14]:

Rush, Newspeak
and Fas­cism:
An exe­ge­sis

by David Nei­w­ert

POSTED AUGUST 30, 2003 —

V. Pro­to-Fas­cism in Amer­i­ca

by David Nei­w­ert

The Patri­ot move­ment that inspired Tim McVeigh and his cohorts — as well as a string of oth­er would-be right-wing ter­ror­ists who were involved in some 40-odd oth­er cas­es in the five years fol­low­ing April 15, 1995 — indeed is descend­ed almost direct­ly from overt­ly fas­cist ele­ments in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. Much of its polit­i­cal and “legal” phi­los­o­phy is derived from the “Posse Comi­ta­tus” move­ment of the 1970s and ‘80s, which itself orig­i­nat­ed (in the 1960s) from the teach­ings of renowned anti-Semi­te William Pot­ter Gale, and fur­ther prop­a­gat­ed by Mike Beach, a for­mer “Sil­ver Shirt” fol­low­er of neo-Nazi ide­o­logue William Dud­ley Pelley.21

Though the Patri­ot move­ment is fair­ly mul­ti­fac­eted, most Amer­i­cans have a view of it most­ly through the media images relat­ed to a sin­gle facet — the often pathet­ic col­lec­tion of bun­glers and fan­ta­sists known as the mili­tia move­ment. More­over, they’ve been told that the mili­tia move­ment is dead.

It is, more or less. (And the whys of that, as we will see, are cru­cial here.) But the Patri­ot move­ment — oh, it’s alive and rea­son­ably well. Let’s put it this way: It isn’t going away any­time soon.

Note that this arti­cle excerpt was pub­lished in 2003, and the obser­va­tion that the Patri­ot move­ment is “dead” has, itself, expired [22].



The mili­tia “move­ment” was only one strat­e­gy in the broad coali­tion of right-wing extrem­ists who call them­selves the “Patri­ot” move­ment. What this move­ment real­ly rep­re­sents is the attempt of old nation­al­ist, white-suprema­cist and anti-Semit­ic ide­olo­gies to main­stream them­selves by strip­ping away the argu­ments about race and eth­nic­i­ty, and focus­ing almost sin­gle-mind­ed­ly on their under­ly­ing polit­i­cal and legal philoso­phies – which all come wrapped up, of course, in the neat lit­tle Manichean pack­age of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. In the process, most of their spokes­men care­ful­ly eschew race talk or Jew-bait­ing, but refer instead to “wel­fare queens” and “inter­na­tion­al bankers” and the “New World Order”.

Form­ing mili­tias was a strat­e­gy main­ly aimed at recruit­ing from the main­stream, par­tic­u­lar­ly among gun own­ers. It even­tu­al­ly fell prey to dis­re­pute and entropy, for rea­sons we’ll explore in a bit. How­ev­er, there are oth­er Patri­ot strate­gies that have proved to have greater endurance, par­tic­u­lar­ly “com­mon law courts” and their var­i­ous per­mu­ta­tions, all of which revolve around the idea of “sov­er­eign cit­i­zen­ship,” which makes every white Chris­t­ian male Amer­i­can, essen­tial­ly, a king unto him­self. The move­ment is, as always, muta­ble. It includes a num­ber of “con­sti­tu­tion­al­ist” tax-protest move­ments, as well as cer­tain “home school­ing” fac­tions and anti-abor­tion extrem­ists.

As I explained it in the After­word of In God’s Coun­try:

...[T]he Patri­ots are not Nazis, nor even neo-Nazis. Rather, they are at least the seedbed, if not the real­iza­tion, of a unique­ly Amer­i­can kind of fas­cism. This is an overused term, its poten­cy dilut­ed by overuse and over­state­ment. How­ev­er, there can be lit­tle mis­tak­ing the nature of the Patri­ot move­ment as essen­tial­ly fas­cist in the purest sense of the word. The beliefs it embod­ies fit, with star­tling clar­i­ty, the def­i­n­i­tion of fas­cism as it has come to be under­stood by his­to­ri­ans and soci­ol­o­gists: a polit­i­cal move­ment based in pop­ulist ultra­na­tion­al­ism and focused on an a core myth­ic ide­al of phoenix-like soci­etal rebirth, attained through a return to “tra­di­tion­al val­ues.”

As with pre­vi­ous forms of fas­cism, its affec­tive pow­er is based on irra­tional dri­ves and myth­i­cal assump­tions; its fol­low­ers find in it an out­let for ide­al­ism and self-sac­ri­fice; yet on close inspec­tion, much of its sup­port actu­al­ly derives from an array of per­son­al mate­r­i­al and psy­cho­log­i­cal moti­va­tions. It is not mere­ly an acci­dent, either, that the move­ment and its belief sys­tems are direct­ly descend­ed from ear­li­er man­i­fes­ta­tions of overt fas­cism in the North­west — notably the Ku Klux Klan, Sil­ver Shirts, the Posse Comi­ta­tus and the Aryan Nations. Like all these unique­ly Amer­i­can fas­cist groups, the Patri­ots share a com­min­gling of fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tian­i­ty with their eth­nic and polit­i­cal agen­da, dri­ven by a desire to shape Amer­i­ca into a “Chris­t­ian nation.“22

Grif­fin, in The Nature of Fas­cism, appears almost to be describ­ing the Patri­ot move­ment two years before it arose, par­tic­u­lar­ly in his descrip­tion (pp. 36–37) of pop­ulist ultra-nation­al­ism, which he says “repu­di­ates both ‘tra­di­tion­al’ and ‘legal/rational’ forms of pol­i­tics in favour of preva­lent­ly ‘charis­mat­ic’ ones in which the cohe­sion and dynam­ics of move­ments depends almost exclu­sive­ly on the capac­i­ty of their lead­ers to inspire loy­al­ty and action ... It tends to be asso­ci­at­ed with a con­cept of the nation as a ‘high­er’ racial, his­tor­i­cal, spir­i­tu­al or organ­ic real­i­ty which embraces all the mem­bers of its eth­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty who belong to it.”

The Patri­ot move­ment cer­tain­ly is in a down cycle, and has been since the end of the 1990s. Its recruit­ment num­bers are way down. Its vis­i­bil­i­ty and lev­el of activ­i­ty are in sta­sis, if not decline. But right-wing extrem­ism has always gone in cycles. It nev­er goes away — it only becomes latent, and res­ur­rects itself when the con­di­tions are right.

And dur­ing these down peri­ods, the remain­ing True Believ­ers tend to become even more rad­i­cal­ized. There is already a spi­ral of vio­lent behav­ior asso­ci­at­ed with Patri­ot beliefs, par­tic­u­lar­ly among the younger and more para­noid adher­ents. As Grif­fin sug­gests, we can prob­a­bly expect to see an increase in these “lone wolf” kind of attacks in com­ing years.

But there is a more sig­nif­i­cant aspect to the appar­ent decline of the Patri­ot move­ment: Its believ­ers, its thou­sands of foot­sol­diers, and its agen­da, nev­er went away. These folks did­n’t stop believ­ing that Clin­ton was the anti-Christ or that he intend­ed to enslave us all under the New World Order. They did­n’t stop believ­ing it was appro­pri­ate to pre-emp­tive­ly mur­der “baby killers” or that Jews secret­ly con­spire to con­trol the world.

No, they’re still with us, but they’re not active much in mili­tias any­more. They’ve been absorbed by the Repub­li­can Par­ty.

They haven’t changed. But they are chang­ing the par­ty.

Once again, note that the above arti­cle was pub­lished in 2003. It’s been nine long years since the above obser­va­tion that the GOP had already absorbed the ‘Patriot’/militia move­ments of the 90’s and what a nine years it’s been. Now, it’s impor­tant to reit­er­ate that you aver­age GOP mem­ber would prob­a­bly find the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens to be absolute lunatics and posse comi­ta­tus to repug­nant at best. At the same time, it’s impor­tant to reit­er­ate that posse comi­ta­tus, the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens, the gen­er­al ‘Patri­ot’ move­ment all share a com­mon under­ly­ing John Birch Soci­ety-style con­spir­a­to­r­i­al world­view [23]. And it’s a con­spir­a­to­r­i­al world­view increas­ing­ly shared with the Tea Par­ty base. Now, there’s noth­ing wrong with a good con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, but this is bad mojo [24]:

Tea time with the posse: Inside an Ida­ho Tea Par­ty Patri­ots con­fer­ence
Writ­ten by Devin Burghart
Mon­day, 18 April 2011 10:02

A year ago, Pam Stout, a soft-spo­ken 67 year-old retiree from Bon­ners Fer­ry, Ida­ho was fea­tured in the New York Times and asked to appear on the David Let­ter­man show. She per­formed swim­ming­ly, and por­trayed the Tea Par­ty as a whole­some move­ment of Mid­dle Amer­i­cans con­cerned about issues like TARP and health care reform.

An inside look at a recent Tea Par­ty event orga­nized by Stout shows a very dif­fer­ent side of the Tea Par­ties, and high­lights a dis­turb­ing direc­tion tak­en by many local groups.

Lit­tle talk of repeal­ing “Oba­macare” or of mod­i­fy­ing objec­tion­able pro­vi­sions of health­care leg­is­la­tion took place at Stout’s “Patri­ots Unite” event, held March 26. The impend­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty of a gov­ern­ment shut­down due to an impasse over the bud­get was hard­ly men­tioned. Nary a word was spo­ken about bailouts or tax­es. Instead, speak­ers at this Tea Par­ty event gave the crowd a heavy dose of racist “birther” attacks on Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, dis­cus­sions of the con­spir­a­cy behind the prob­lem fac­ing Amer­i­ca (com­plete with anti-Semit­ic illus­tra­tion), Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism, anti-envi­ron­men­tal­ism, and seri­ous calls for leg­is­la­tion pro­mot­ing states’ rights and “nul­li­fi­ca­tion.”

Stout, the Ida­ho state coor­di­na­tor for Tea Par­ty Patri­ots attract­ed around sev­en­ty Tea Par­ty activists from Ida­ho, Mon­tana, and Wash­ing­ton to the Coeur D’Alene Inn for the con­fer­ence. The goal: to bring iso­lat­ed Tea Par­ty groups togeth­er. Orig­i­nal­ly sched­uled as a two-day con­fer­ence, Stout not­ed that the event was short­ened because, “our work­shop pre­sen­ters are still in Wis­con­sin” pre­sum­ably engaged in Tea Par­ty anti-union orga­niz­ing efforts.


States’ Rights and Nul­li­fi­ca­tion

What Shea pro­posed is called the doc­trine of nul­li­fi­ca­tion, part of the seces­sion­ist states-rights posi­tion which argues that indi­vid­ual states can uni­lat­er­al­ly refuse to fol­low or enforce fed­er­al law they don’t agree with, or even aban­don their rela­tion­ship with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment com­plete­ly if they’d like. These beliefs under­lay the Con­fed­er­ates states’ ratio­nale for seced­ing dur­ing the Civ­il War era, and also under­gird­ed the defense of “legal­ized” Jim Crow seg­re­ga­tion in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, thanks to the Tea Par­ty surge, this set of ideas has moved back into the main­stream.


The John Birch Soci­ety and Anti-Semi­tism

After a short break, Leah South­well, the nation­al devel­op­ment offi­cer for the John Birch Soci­ety (JBS) took the stage. She made sure to point out one of the Birch orga­niz­ers in the house, Dale Pearce, from Nam­pa. South­well also intro­duced her col­league Robert Brown, the Birch Soci­ety orga­niz­er for the region.

The John Birch Soci­ety has been part of the far-right since its found­ing in 1958. It has pro­mot­ed a num­ber of anti-com­mu­nist con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries over the years, but its mem­bers occa­sion­al­ly veer off to advance more direct­ly racist or anti-Semit­ic ideas. As a result of the Tea Par­ty upsurge, the Birchers have found a more ready audi­ence will­ing to buy what they are sell­ing. That was the case in Ida­ho dur­ing this con­fer­ence.

Brown’s did a Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tion with a col­lec­tion of slides enti­tled “The Pow­er of 500.” It attempt­ed to con­vey a diag­no­sis of “the root of the prob­lem” fac­ing Amer­i­ca. But in actu­al­i­ty, his speech was like a far-right ver­sion of the on-line game Mad Libs – a fill-in-the-blank con­spir­a­cy with cul­prits left to the audi­ence mem­bers imag­i­na­tions.

Some in the crowd took it upon them­selves to start shout­ing out answers. “The Tri­lat­er­al Com­mis­sion,” yelled one man. “The Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions,” blurt­ed anoth­er. “The Bilder­burg­ers,” declared a third. Brown didn’t dis­suade any of their sug­ges­tions; instead he just kept hint­ing that the real root of the prob­lem was big­ger and more omi­nous.


Brown cred­it­ed the John Birch Soci­ety strat­e­gy with “real change,” cit­ing poli­cies in Okla­homa such as a law pro­hibit­ing a NAFTA super­high­way pass­ing through the state, and a statute pro­hibit­ing use of Sharia law.

“The only thing that works is the John Birch Soci­ety approach,” Brown told the audi­ence. While admit­ting the big Tea Par­ty ral­lies of 2009 were a “big shot in the arm to the free­dom move­ment,” Brown cal­cu­lat­ed that the mon­ey spent to get peo­ple to those ral­lies would be bet­ter spent hir­ing orga­niz­ers (pre­sum­ably Birch orga­niz­ers) in every con­gres­sion­al dis­trict.

Dur­ing the ques­tion ses­sion, a radio host from Sand­point said, “The Birch Soci­ety used to be the whip­ping boys and laugh­ing stocks of the move­ment. How do we get beyond get­ting black­balled?

Brown said that “repeat expo­sure” to John Birch Soci­ety ideas was the key. It took him a while to get com­fort­able with the Birch Soci­ety, too, he con­fessed. He then went on to try to again link the Birchers and the Tea Par­ties, claim­ing that the way they attack the JBS is sim­i­lar to the way they try to smear the Tea Par­ty. “When you’re get­ting flack, you know you’re over tar­get,” he exclaimed, to the delight of the audi­ence.

Over lunch, many of the atten­dees expressed their pleas­ant sur­prise at the at Brown’s pre­sen­ta­tion and his approach. “I thought… “ahh, those Birchers...,’” not­ed one attendee, “but now I have a dif­fer­ent opin­ion.”


Robert Brown (the John Birch soci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tive quot­ed above) was quite right when he advo­cat­ed repeat expo­sure as the best tech­nique for the John Birch Soci­ety to move past get­ting black­balled by the larg­er con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment. Repeat expo­sure to their world­view has worked won­ders for the Birchers with the larg­er con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment [25]. Of course, it did­n’t hurt that the chief archi­tects for the Tea Par­ty and the con­tem­po­rary GOP have a long his­to­ry with the John Birch Soci­ety [26]:

Tea Par­ty Blood Ties: The reemer­gence of the John Birch Soci­ety in 2012

2012 Politcs
August 19, 2012
By: Gre­go­ry Boyce

In the mind of most lib­er­al think­ing Amer­i­cans who stand staunch­ly on the side of America’s strug­gling 99%, there isn’t an ounce of doubt that tens of mil­lions of fel­low hard work­ing and well-mean­ing Amer­i­cans who reli­gious­ly cast their bal­lot as “Repub­li­cans” are in real­i­ty being brain­washed, hood­winked and manip­u­lat­ed by the new {but not improved} John Birch Soci­ety and their ram­bunc­tious “grand­chil­dren”,… The Tea Par­ty.

This insid­i­ous manip­u­la­tion to dupe mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans into believ­ing “Amer­i­ca and free­dom” is under siege by Social­ism and Com­mu­nism is being orches­trat­ed by well-spo­ken, well-groomed and well-paid ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive politi­cians. Their “game” is to cre­ate in the mind of White vot­ers a strong belief that America’s White Euro­pean her­itage is under attack and if gone unchal­lenged, White Amer­i­can cul­ture will go the way of the dinosaur.

His­to­ri­ans and old­er Amer­i­cans have heard this rant before, it’s not new, indeed, cre­at­ing boogey­men while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly sell­ing fear and hatred is an ancient tac­tic that is often used by pow­er-hun­gry humans.


The John Birch Soci­ety is an Amer­i­can far-right polit­i­cal advo­ca­cy group that vehe­ment­ly sup­ports an anti-com­mu­nist, lim­it­ed gov­ern­ment, and “per­son­al free­dom” polit­i­cal plat­form, even if accom­plish­ing their objec­tive comes at the expense of wrong­ful­ly smear­ing Amer­i­cans who stand up for civ­il rights, labor unions, a diverse Amer­i­ca and the lim­it­ing of big busi­ness’ influ­ence in our gov­ern­ment and in our lives. It was the John Birch Soci­ety that brand­ed Amer­i­can Gen­er­al and Pres­i­dent, Dwight D. Eisen­how­er “an agent of Com­mu­nism.” Even JFK was accused by the John Birch Soci­ety as being a Com­mu­nist sym­pa­thiz­er and an Amer­i­can trai­tor. Mem­bers sim­ply believe that absolute­ly no one (that is tar­get­ed) is above their smear cam­paigns and their mod­ern day “Salem Witch Hunts”.

The John Birch soci­ety warned in a record­ed 1963 speech that still sur­vives on tape in a Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan archive, that “Amer­i­cans must always be on high alert against a takeover of Amer­i­ca in which Com­mu­nists would infil­trate the high­est offices of gov­ern­ment in the U.S. until even­tu­al­ly the office of the pres­i­den­cy is occu­pied by a Com­mu­nist, unknown to the rest of us.”

In essence this exact same speech can be heard at Tea Ral­lies across Amer­i­ca in 2012.

The ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive mantra of “The Com­mu­nists are out to get you” was sung by the Birch Soci­ety in 1958 and fifty years lat­er it’s still being sung by the Tea Partiers in the 21st cen­tu­ry. The John Birch Soci­ety and the Tea Par­ty, “two peas in a pod” or again, is it all just a coin­ci­dence?

“Behind the vel­vet cur­tains”, Koch fam­i­ly foun­da­tions have con­tributed tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to Dick Armey’s “Free­dom Works” which in turn serves as a major spon­sor to the Tea Par­ty. Tax records indi­cate that from 1998 to 2008, Koch-con­trolled foun­da­tions have donat­ed more than $196 mil­lion to its con­ser­v­a­tive foun­da­tions and insti­tu­tions.

With the cou­pling of free 24/7 media expo­sure from Rupert Mur­doch’s Fox News empire and the seem­ing­ly end­less sup­ply of mon­ey from David and Charles Koch, the Koch-Mur­doch col­lab­o­ra­tion is an ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive force that has used tal­ent­ed “actors” to build / prime a polit­i­cal base that is inspired by a fear of an Amer­i­ca that does­n’t resem­ble a Nor­man Rock­well paint­ing.

When David Koch ran to the polit­i­cal right of Rea­gan as vice pres­i­dent on the 1980 Lib­er­tar­i­an tick­et, he cam­paigned for the elim­i­na­tion of Social Secu­ri­ty, wel­fare and fed­er­al reg­u­la­to­ry agen­cies. He also cam­paigned on abol­ish­ing the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and pub­lic schools. Sounds famil­iar?


Oh...and by the way....

Koch Indus­tries, based out of Wichi­ta, Kansas, began with oil explo­ration and drilling in the 1930s and now man­u­fac­tures a vast vari­ety of indus­tri­al prod­ucts. From Dix­ie cups to Lycra, — a syn­thet­ic fiber known for its excep­tion­al elas­tic­i­ty — Koch Indus­tries have made the Koch broth­ers bil­lion­aires and like their father, Fred C. Koch, they view the world in ultra con­ser­v­a­tive “hues.”

Fred Koch, a MIT grad­u­ate was a found­ing father of the John Birch Soci­ety and was among a select group of ultra con­ser­v­a­tives that was cho­sen to serve on the John Birch Society’s top gov­ern­ing body.

Anoth­er coin­ci­dence? We don’t think so.


The takeover of the GOP by the Tea Par­ty is now a well estab­lished polit­i­cal real­i­ty in the US, as is the pri­ma­ry spon­sor­ship of the Tea Par­ty by the bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers. But as the above arti­cle points out, a takeover of the GOP by the Tea Par­ty is, in effect, a takeover of the GOP by the John Birch Soci­ety. Or at least by the gen­er­al “there’s a com­mie hid­ing under you bed”-worldview held by the Birchers (note that the anti-com­mu­nist views of the Kock broth­ers is some­what iron­ic [27]). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, because the John Birch Soci­ety shares so much ide­o­log­i­cal over­lap with move­ments like posse comi­ta­tus and the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens [23], the recent surge in the pop­u­lar­i­ty of far-right con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries also means there’s going to be an inevitable increase in gen­er­al expo­sure to vio­lent rad­i­cal anti-gov­ern­ment move­ments like posse comi­ta­tus. It’s just a mouse-click away these days.

Now, to be sure, we should not equate the Tea Par­ty mem­bers with posse comi­ta­tus or the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens [2]. The vast major­i­ty Tea Par­ty mem­bers may hold a real­ly real­ly real­ly con­ser­v­a­tive polit­i­cal per­spec­tive. What makes the rise in the num­ber of attacks by sov­er­eign cit­i­zen cells so dis­turb­ing is that it’s a sign of the inevitable: The vast vast major­i­ty of indi­vid­u­als cur­rent­ly “drink­ing the Tea”, so to speak, are sim­ply very con­ser­v­a­tive Glenn Beck fans. While they might dream of some pret­ty rad­i­cal over­hauls of soci­ety, they would still nev­er share the kind of ultra-rad­i­cal visions of soci­ety by the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens, posse comi­ta­tus or any of the oth­er rad­i­cal fringe groups that share that Bircher world­view. And as Jared Lough­n­er demon­strates, the appeal of the sov­er­eign cit­i­zens is not lim­it­ed to the right-wing [28], espe­cial­ly when men­tal ill­ness is involved [29].

The threat of vio­lent rad­i­cal­ism of the posse comi­ta­tus vari­ety is noth­ing new. Tim­o­thy McVeigh and Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolf [30] took the polit­i­cal griev­ances to the same vio­lent “next lev­el” of in the 90’s and both were steeped in the kind of “lead­er­less resis­tance” vio­lence char­ac­ter­ized by posse comi­ta­tus. And that “lead­er­less resis­tance” form of “polit­i­cal activism” is still very much in the fringe. But with esti­mates of up to 100,000 ‘hard core’ sov­er­eign cit­i­zen adher­ents and as many as 200,000 “dab­blers” in the ide­ol­o­gy [31] we unfor­tu­nate­ly should expect a grow­ing per­cent­age of unhinged and/or des­per­ate indi­vid­u­als to become immersed in the some­times vio­lent under­world of far-right qua­si-anar­chist/qua­si-fas­cist extrem­ism in com­ing years. Many ideas that would have con­sid­ered the sole domain of con­spir­a­to­r­i­al mili­tia groups are now accept­able “red meat” suit­able for pub­lic con­sump­tion so a lot of memes push­ing the next Jared Lough­n­er are sim­ply part of the din of the dai­ly dis­course. For instance, in addi­tion to the gen­er­al “Pres­i­dent Oba­ma is a Kenyan Mus­lim Social­ist” refrain, there’s the “Oba­ma is secret­ly plan­ning on imple­ment­ing ‘Agen­da 21’ in order to turn us into a glob­al­ist com­mu­nist hell hole” meme. And that’s pret­ty much the John Birch Society/‘Patriot’ move­ment reboot­ed [32]:

Think Progress
Repub­li­can Par­ty Offi­cial­ly Embraces ‘Garbage’ Agen­da 21 Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ries As Its Nation­al Plat­form

By Stephen Lacey on Aug 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm

If you want to under­stand just how extreme and con­spir­a­to­r­i­al many in the “main­stream” Repub­li­can par­ty have become, look no fur­ther than a res­o­lu­tion on Agen­da 21 passed qui­et­ly in Jan­u­ary.

Agen­da 21 is a com­plete­ly non-bind­ing inter­na­tion­al frame­work for sus­tain­abil­i­ty passed in 1992 at the Rio Earth Sum­mit. The frame­work, which sets out very loose aspi­ra­tional goals for mak­ing com­mu­ni­ties more effi­cient and less car­bon-inten­sive, was signed by then Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush and lat­er upheld by Pres­i­dents Bill Clin­ton and Pres­i­dent George W. Bush.

Since the frame­work was adopt­ed, right-wing con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists have pushed bizarre the­o­ries about Agen­da 21 being a cen­tral tool for the Unit­ed Nations to cre­ate a one-world gov­ern­ment and take away the rights of local prop­er­ty own­ers. In recent years, ele­vat­ed by the mega­phone of extreme pun­dits like Glenn Beck and Rush Lim­baugh, these con­spir­a­cies made their way into main­stream pol­i­tics. Today, Agen­da 21ers — many affil­i­at­ed with the Tea Par­ty and the John Birch Soci­ety — are ped­dling fears about Agen­da 21 in order to stop basic effi­cien­cy and renew­able ener­gy pro­grams on the state lev­el.

Con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists active in pol­i­tics have called Agen­da 21 “social­ism on steroids” that would cause Amer­i­cans to be “herd­ed into cen­ters like the UN wants.”


So what do these his­tor­i­cal­ly-chal­lenged and com­plete­ly inac­cu­rate claims have to do with the Repub­li­can par­ty? The Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee has offi­cial­ly adopt­ed these con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries as its nation­al plat­form. In Jan­u­ary, the RNC adopt­ed a res­o­lu­tion call­ing Agen­da 21 “insid­i­ous” and “covert.”

The Unit­ed Nations Agen­da 21 is being covert­ly pushed into local com­mu­ni­ties through­out the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca through the Inter­na­tion­al Coun­cil of Local Envi­ron­men­tal Ini­tia­tives (ICLEI) through local “sus­tain­able devel­op­ment” poli­cies such as Smart Growth, Wild­lands Project, Resilient Cities, Region­al Vision­ing Projects, and oth­er “Green” or “Alter­na­tive” projects

The Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee rec­og­nizes the destruc­tive and insid­i­ous nature of Unit­ed Nations Agen­da 21 and here­by expos­es to the pub­lic and pub­lic pol­i­cy mak­ers the dan­ger­ous intent of the plan.

Inter­est­ing­ly, Agen­da 21 activist Vic­to­ria Baer is a big sup­port­er of Flori­da Tea Parti­er Ted Yoho, a man who unseat Repub­li­can Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cliff Stearns in a major upset dur­ing a pri­ma­ry race yes­ter­day. Along with sup­port­ing the Agen­da 21 con­spir­a­cy, Yoho also believes we should abol­ish the Depart­ment of Ener­gy — the agency tasked with pro­tect­ing our nuclear waste and nuclear weapons arse­nal.

This is where the main­stream Repub­li­can par­ty is head­ed.

So what are the ori­gins of this bizarre shift in pol­i­cy? And why have Agen­da 21 activists gained such promi­nence with­in main­stream pol­i­tics?

To explore the issue, I spoke with Mark Potok of the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter. Potok has been track­ing the rise of the Agen­da 21 move­ment, which is root­ed in the John Birch Soci­ety — a rad­i­cal right-wing group that opposed the Civ­il Rights Act of 1964 because they said it infringed on states’ rights. But Potok says that the issue is much broad­er than one sin­gle con­spir­a­cy and one sin­gle group.

Stephen Lacey: Many folks with­in the Agen­da 21 move­ment have come from or are loose­ly aligned with the John Birch Soci­ety. So give us some back­ground, what is the John Birch Soci­ety, how did it get formed, and what does it rep­re­sent today?

Mark Potok: Well, it’s no sur­prise that it’s the John Birch Soci­ety that seems to be the pri­ma­ry push­er of the Agen­da 21 con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry. I say that because they are most infa­mous, real­ly, for two things. One is accus­ing Pres­i­dent Eisen­how­er of being a “Com­mu­nist agent,” which was a sur­prise cer­tain­ly to Eisen­how­er. And the oth­er, which is per­haps more like Agen­da 21, is for their pro­mo­tion of the idea that putting flu­o­ride in drink­ing water is a plot to con­vert our chil­dren and all the rest of us to Com­mu­nism. In oth­er words, this is an orga­ni­za­tion that from the very begin­ning has tout­ed com­plete­ly ludi­crous and base­less con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. And, in fact, the John Birch Soci­ety was essen­tial­ly dri­ven out of the Con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment because it was such an embar­rass­ment.

SL: But they’ve made a resur­gence in recent years. What do they rep­re­sent today? How are they becom­ing aligned with sup­pos­ed­ly more main­stream Con­ser­v­a­tives? And how have they regained a foothold in pol­i­tics?

MP: It is hard to under­stand exact­ly how the John Birch Soci­ety has made itself more palat­able to “main­stream” con­ser­v­a­tives. The John Birch soci­ety began to reap­pear in a fair­ly sig­nif­i­cant way back in the 1990s when vir­tu­al­ly every gun show in Amer­i­ca, or every large gun show, had a booth with the orga­ni­za­tion. Back then, they were very heav­i­ly pro­mot­ing the mili­tia move­ment, as well as var­i­ous con­spir­a­cies they believed the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment was involved in. Then they sort of went qui­et with the rest of the mili­tia move­ment, which more or less petered out at the end of the 1990s. And in the last few years they have sud­den­ly reap­peared with quite remark­able suc­cess.

So the real answer to your ques­tion is that I do not quite under­stand how the John Birch Soci­ety has got­ten so many city coun­cils and coun­ty com­mis­sions and even state leg­is­la­tures to lis­ten to their non­sense. But they have. I sus­pect that it is relat­ed less to them hav­ing a huge amount of mon­ey or enor­mous num­bers of peo­ple, and more to do with the idea that we’ve become so polar­ized polit­i­cal­ly as a nation that this kind of tripe real­ly sells today. You know, what is most astound­ing of all is that the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee has adopt­ed oppo­si­tions to Agen­da 21 as a core part of its plat­form and has asked that Mitt Rom­ney include it as a part of his con­ven­tion plat­form when the GOP con­ven­tion gath­ers lat­er this month.

SL: Well, let’s get into Agen­da 21 more. For peo­ple who are para­noid about the UN pro­mot­ing a One World Gov­ern­ment, this is a gold mine for con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries. How has this group evolved and become more vocal?

MP: This is very sim­i­lar to what we see going on with regard to arms con­trol, gun con­trol. The fact is, Barack Oba­ma has done lit­er­al­ly noth­ing on gun con­trol except to allow fur­ther loos­en­ing of gun reg­u­la­tions to go for­ward — for instance, to allow peo­ple to open car­ry weapons in Nation­al Parks. And yet, there are groups out there that say that as soon as he is reelect­ed — if in fact that hap­pens — he will grab all Amer­i­cans’ weapons and throw any­one who resists into con­cen­tra­tion camps that have been secret­ly built by the gov­ern­ment.

I think what’s hap­pen­ing with Agen­da 21 is some­thing very sim­i­lar. There is an enor­mous, enor­mous amount of mis­in­for­ma­tion and plain fool­ish­ness being tout­ed in the polit­i­cal main­stream as fact. We live in an era in which a Con­gress­woman [Michele Bach­mann] is per­fect­ly hap­py to accuse some­one in the Depart­ment of State, with absolute­ly no basis what­so­ev­er, of being an agent of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. My own Con­gress­man, Spencer Bau­cus, from the mid­dle of Alaba­ma, has claimed that he per­son­al­ly knows that there are 17 Social­ists secret­ly in the Con­gress. Alan West, anoth­er Con­gress­man, said the oth­er day he knew of 70 Com­mu­nists in the gov­ern­ment.

So, you know, this is the kind of garbage we are see­ing every day now. And this has been going on for quite a lit­tle while. Let’s not for­get that a can­di­date for Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, Sarah Palin, just a few years ago, sug­gest­ed that the President’s attempts to pass some kind of nation­al health­care plan, or exten­sion of health­care to more peo­ple in this coun­try, was actu­al­ly a plot to set up Death Pan­els to decide whether your and my grand­moth­ers would live or die. So I just think that we live, sad­ly enough, at a time where con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries are pret­ty much destroy­ing any kind of rea­son­able polit­i­cal dia­logue in this coun­try.

SL: You point to polit­i­cal par­ti­san­ship as a main fac­tor. But as you look through­out his­to­ry at how con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists and hate groups have grown, what oth­er con­di­tions need to be in place to make these the­o­ries so preva­lent?

MP: I think that what is real­ly going on is that the world is chang­ing. And in our coun­try, we’re see­ing change in fair­ly dra­mat­ic ways. So, you see these kinds of crazy the­o­ries pop up at a time when major changes are a foot in our soci­ety — changes that real­ly cause peo­ple to strug­gle, that make a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple out there gen­uine­ly uncom­fort­able.

There are many things hap­pen­ing right now. Prob­a­bly the most sig­nif­i­cant is that we, as a coun­try, are los­ing our white major­i­ty. The cen­sus bureau has pre­dict­ed that whites will fall under 50 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion by the year 2050. Well, you know, that’s an enor­mous change. It’s already hap­pened in Cal­i­for­nia 12 years ago. And as a result, the pol­i­tics of that state changed sig­nif­i­cant­ly. So it’s those kinds of changes, along with the very seri­ous dis­lo­ca­tions caused by eco­nom­ic glob­al­iza­tion and by the kind of decline in the pow­er of the nation state.


If the Agen­da 21 “UN com­mu­nist takeover of the US” stuff adopt­ed by GOP seems a lit­tle too arcane for most peo­ple to latch onto, what we just saw com­ing from a judge in Texas should ade­quate­ly clar­i­fy that meme for pub­lic con­sump­tion [33]:

Texas Judge Warns Of ‘Civ­il War, Maybe’ If Oba­ma Wins
Nick R. Mar­tin August 22, 2012, 3:26 PM

Updat­ed: August 22, 2012, 4:08 PM

Texas Judge Tom Head is wor­ried about what might hap­pen if Pres­i­dent Oba­ma wins reelec­tion in Novem­ber. There could be riots, unrest or a “civ­il war, maybe,” he told a local tele­vi­sion sta­tion this week.

Because of that, the Lub­bock Coun­ty judge has decid­ed the only way to pre­pare is to increase tax­es to help beef up local law enforce­ment.

“I’m think­ing worst case sce­nario now,” Head said dur­ing an appear­ance on FOX 34 in Lub­bock. “Civ­il unrest, civ­il dis­obe­di­ence, civ­il war, maybe. And we’re not talk­ing just a few riots here and demon­stra­tions, we’re talk­ing Lex­ing­ton, Con­cord, take up arms and get rid of the guy.”

The judge spun the elab­o­rate con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry while call­ing for a 1.7 cent hike per $100 on prop­er­ty tax­es in Lub­bock Coun­ty, a mea­sure being con­sid­ered by the com­mis­sion there. He said he feared Oba­ma would hand over sov­er­eign­ty of the Unit­ed States to the Unit­ed Nations and the unrest would nat­u­ral­ly fol­low.

Head’s role as judge is an elect­ed posi­tion akin to exec­u­tive of the coun­ty com­mis­sion, which is known as a court. He pre­sides over com­mis­sion meet­ings, pre­pares the bud­get and is in charge of the county’s emer­gency man­age­ment.

Under Head’s the­o­ry, the Unit­ed Nations would then send in peace­keep­ing troops to try to quell the vio­lence and that’s where he would draw the line. He vowed to stand in front of the county’s armored vehi­cle and stare down the U.N. troops if that hap­pens.


In keep­ing with “UN takeover meme”, we also find the chair­man of the House Over­sight Comit­tee push­ing the clas­sic “the gov­ern­ment is plot­ting to take your guns away so it can forcibly imple­ment a secret glob­al com­mu­nist agen­da” meme [34]:

LA Times
Tar­get­ing Eric Hold­er, Dar­rell Issa buys into gun nut delu­sions

By David Horsey

June 22, 2012, 5:00 a.m.

The brouha­ha over Atty. Gen. Eric H. Hold­er Jr. and the con­tempt of Con­gress charge brought by U.S. Rep. Dar­rell Issa (R‑Vista) are pro­vid­ing new evi­dence that the lunatics are run­ning the Repub­li­can asy­lum.

Issa, the Repub­li­can chair­man of the House Over­sight Com­mit­tee, would have us believe Pres­i­dent Obama’s asser­tion of exec­u­tive priv­i­lege in the dis­pute — “an eleventh-hour stunt,” he called it on Fox News — is part of a White House cov­er up of some­thing much more sin­is­ter.

At issue are Jus­tice Depart­ment doc­u­ments relat­ed to a botched Bureau of Alco­hol, Tobac­co, Firearms and Explo­sives oper­a­tion run out of the bureau’s Phoenix office. As the ATF had done at least twice dur­ing the admin­is­tra­tion of George W. Bush, Oper­a­tion Fast and Furi­ous allowed ille­gal pur­chas­es of about 2,500 guns so that agents could fol­low the trail of the firearms to drug gangs in Mex­i­co. In the event, the Phoenix team lost track of the guns, only to have a cou­ple of them turn up after a fire­fight in which Bor­der Patrol Agent Bri­an Ter­ry was killed.

When Con­gress began look­ing into the failed oper­a­tion, the Phoenix office made things worse by pro­vid­ing false infor­ma­tion to the DOJ that was then passed on to the inves­ti­gat­ing com­mit­tee. Now, the com­mit­tee wants every doc­u­ment relat­ed to the inci­dent. Hold­er, backed by the pres­i­dent, is refus­ing to give Con­gress com­plete access.

In response, con­ser­v­a­tive blog­gers have gone bal­lis­tic about Obama’s invo­ca­tion of exec­u­tive priv­i­lege, com­par­ing it to Richard Nixon’s Water­gate cov­er-up.

Just what is being cov­ered up is not so appar­ent, at least to objec­tive observers. But less-than-objec­tive right-wing con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists have a ready answer: Oper­a­tion Fast and Furi­ous was part of an elab­o­rate plot to under­mine the 2nd Amend­ment and take away cit­i­zens’ guns.

Michael Van­der­boegh, a blog­ger with mili­tia ties and a long his­to­ry of talk­ing up armed resis­tance to the gov­ern­ment, asserts that the ATF pur­pose­ly let the guns go to the bad guys in Mex­i­co so that, after the ensu­ing blood­bath, the feds could jus­ti­fy a crack­down on assault weapons and gun shows.

Now, to ratio­nal human beings, that may sound total­ly ludi­crous, but not to the folks at Fox News. They have made Van­der­boegh a prime source for their cov­er­age of this dis­pute, being elas­tic enough in their mea­sure of qual­i­fi­ca­tions to iden­ti­fy him as an “online jour­nal­ist.” It’s not just Fox News, though. Vanderboegh’s curi­ous the­o­ry has been picked up and repeat­ed by Repub­li­can mem­bers of Con­gress, includ­ing Iowa’s pre­vi­ous­ly sane Sen. Charles E. Grass­ley who, in a TV inter­view, echoed the idea that Oba­ma and Hold­er could be using the Phoenix fias­co to build a case against gun rights.

This fits in with the broad­er con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry of Wayne LaPierre, the head of the Nation­al Rifle Assn. The NRA boss has insist­ed that the rea­son Oba­ma has done noth­ing to harm the 2nd Amend­ment in his first term is so he can win anoth­er four years in office, at which point his admin­is­tra­tion will start con­fis­cat­ing guns with no fear of ret­ri­bu­tion from vot­ers. Accord­ing to LaPierre, Oba­ma is not tak­ing your guns now so he can take them lat­er.


And then there’s the main­stream­ing of iron­i­cal­ly mil­i­tant “pro-life” pol­i­tics [35]:

Sher­iff Can­di­date OK With Dead­ly Force To Stop Abor­tions

Nick R. Mar­tin August 22, 2012, 7:07 PM

Frank Szabo wants the peo­ple of Hills­bor­ough Coun­ty, N.H., to know that if they elect him as sher­iff this year, he will do what­ev­er it takes to stop doc­tors from per­form­ing abor­tions — even if that means using dead­ly force.

In an inter­view on Wednes­day with local tele­vi­sion sta­tion WMUR, Szabo said he believed sher­iffs were grant­ed spe­cial pow­ers under the Con­sti­tu­tion. That means, he said, he would be empow­ered to arrest or even use dead­ly force against doc­tors for pro­vid­ing legal abor­tions for women.

“I would hope that it wouldn’t come to that, as with any sit­u­a­tion where some­one was in dan­ger,” Szabo said. “But again, specif­i­cal­ly talk­ing about elec­tive abor­tions and late term abor­tions, that is an act that needs to be stopped.”

He clar­i­fied it did not apply to cas­es in which the mother’s life was in dan­ger. “That’s a med­ical deci­sion. That’s out of the area I’m talk­ing about,” he said.

It’s not clear what kind of chance Szabo has at win­ning the race. He claims endorse­ments from Jack Kim­ball, the for­mer chair­man of the state Repub­li­can Par­ty, as well as mul­ti­ple tea par­ty groups. But WMUR report­ed that the state’s House speak­er was already call­ing for Szabo to drop out of the race after his com­ments sur­faced.

Szabo said he believed sher­iffs are giv­en enor­mous author­i­ty under his inter­pre­ta­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion. When pressed about what he would do if a pros­e­cu­tor declined to charge a doc­tor he arrest­ed, he said the answer was sim­ple.

“If they choose not to do their duty and uphold the Con­sti­tu­tion,” Szabo said, “they can be brought up on charges before what’s called a citizen’s grand jury, which is some­thing that’s not that com­mon in the Unit­ed States. But again, it is some­thing based in com­mon law that’s with­in the purview of the coun­ty sher­iff.


On top of the mil­i­tant “pro-life” stance did you catch the posse comi­ta­tus lin­go? “Spe­cial con­sti­tu­tion­al pow­ers” for coun­ty sher­if­f’s and “cit­i­zens’ grand juries”? That cer­tain­ly sounds famil­iar [36]. Now, giv­en that Mr. Szabo apol­o­gized and retract­ed his state­ments [37], it might be easy to write off most of these fringe exam­ples of extrem­ism that don’t rep­re­sent the polit­i­cal main­stream. But that would ignore the real­i­ty that con­tem­po­rary main­stream pol­i­tics appears to be focused on the def­i­n­i­tion of “legit­i­mate rape” with­in the con­text of abor­tion restric­tion exemp­tions [38]. It would also ignore the real­i­ty that Mr. Szabo appeared to be will­ing to tem­per his abor­tion oppo­si­tion when the health of the moth­er was a risk, which is less extreme than Vice Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Paul Ryan’s long-stand­ing stance on the top­ic [39]. In oth­er words, once Szabo retract­ed his posi­tion on the use of lethal force against abor­tion providers, his stance on the top­ic appeared to actu­al­ly be less extreme than the GOP’s Vice Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. And that’s just on exam­ple of the crazy state of affairs [40] in US pol­i­tics.

Return­ing to the top­ic of the grow­ing num­ber of attacks on gov­ern­ment and law enforce­ment by by a cell of sov­er­eign cit­i­zens led a posse comi­ta­tus mem­ber, what are we to make of such a sit­u­a­tion when the nation­al meta-dis­course has start­ed to resem­ble a John Birch Soci­ety gath­er­ing [41]? Well, for starters, it will do absolute­ly no good to sim­ply refute all aspects of this Bircher-esque world­view. Assert­ing that gov­ern­ment con­spir­a­cies can’t/don’t take place or that there isn’t a long his­to­ry of egre­gious behav­ior by pow­er inter­na­tion­al finan­cial inter­ests is both stu­pid and wrong [42]. Bogus con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries can and should be addressed and refut­ed (usu­al­ly fair­ly eas­i­ly). Sad­ly, the best mes­sen­gers for refut­ing this ‘Patriot’/militia world­view would be the lead­ers from with­in the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment itself and that’s not very like­ly to hap­pen any­time soon [43].

So, can any­thing be done about the ongo­ing and growth and main­stream­ing of this sec­tor of extrem­ism? Well, one pos­i­tive approach might be to cel­e­brate the march of progress. After after, the US may be once again in the midst of some form of hys­te­ria and neo-McCarthy­ism, but when the top neo-McCarthyites in con­gress are Alan West and Michelle Bach­mann push­ing these Bircher memes [44] at least we can cel­e­brate the far-right’s steps towards a post-racial [45]/gen­der-neu­tral [46] form of far-right nut­ti­ness. There was nev­er any rea­son why far-right fringe pol­i­tics in the US would have to retain its racist tenor and it appears that the next gen­er­a­tion of “sov­er­eign cit­i­zens” real­ly will encom­pass a more post-racial atti­tude. It may not be much, but it’s some­thing [47]:

The Dai­ly Beast
The Patri­ot Movement’s New Best­seller Tests Their Anti-Racism
Jun 8, 2012 4:19 PM EDT
J.M. Berg­er

Years after the racism of The Turn­er Diaries inspired Tim­o­thy McVeigh, the Patri­ot Move­ment has embraced a new best­selling series. J.M. Berg­er reads close­ly to see what they say about race and gov­ern­ment in Amer­i­ca.

An Amer­i­can Nazi Par­ty vol­un­teer recent­ly pro­duced a three-minute online video pro­mot­ing the group’s plat­form. It spot­light­ed issues like the nation­al debt, gas prices, domes­tic oil drilling, and America’s wars.

Almost as an aside, it men­tions affir­ma­tive action. And despite some provoca­tive imagery, the video nev­er men­tions the words Jew or black, or any relat­ed eth­nic slurs. A white nation­al­ist blog­ger praised the video for not “spam­ming peo­ple with inane Holo­caust sta­tis­tics or end­less dry argu­ments over whether or not gas cham­bers exist­ed.” Many mili­tia groups now explic­it­ly tell would-be mem­bers that they can’t also belong to a hate group.

Racism just doesn’t sell like it used to.

The paint is peel­ing on the myth­i­cal age of white hege­mo­ny that once pro­vid­ed a strong back­bone for the Patri­ot move­ment, a diverse col­lec­tion of loose­ly con­nect­ed anti-gov­ern­ment groups and ide­olo­gies that moti­vat­ed Tim­o­thy McVeigh and many oth­ers.

Groups under the Patri­ot umbrel­la have often, but not always, embraced racial pol­i­tics. The movement’s ori­gins were heav­i­ly influ­enced by racist activists such as white nation­al­ist William Pierce, author of the infa­mous 1978 nov­el The Turn­er Diaries, a dystopi­an nov­el about a racist rev­o­lu­tion, which inspired a slew of imi­ta­tors and suc­ces­sors.

Since the 1990s, some with­in the move­ment have tried to side­line or rede­fine its racial politics—whether out of sin­cere con­vic­tion or to avoid an incon­ve­nient stigma—and focus on oth­er issues such as gun rights, sur­vival­ism, indi­vid­ual lib­er­ties, tra­di­tion­al moral­i­ty, and Con­sti­tu­tion­al hyper puri­ty.

This process has gone far enough to sug­gest the out­lines of what a post-racial Patri­ot move­ment might look like. Con­sid­er Ene­mies For­eign and Domes­tic, a Patri­ot-themed nov­el self-pub­lished by for­mer Navy SEAL Matthew Brack­en in 2003. Known to fans as EFAD, it’s the first in a tril­o­gy of polit­i­cal thrillers. The plot goes like this: A rogue ATF agent stages a ter­ror­ist attack and blames it on an alleged racist mili­tia (which turns out to be nei­ther racist nor a mili­tia). The attack is used as a pre­text for repres­sive gun seizures by mis­guid­ed lib­er­als, while the ATF vil­lain foments more trou­ble, killing inno­cent gun own­ers, and fram­ing them as racist ter­ror­ists. In response, a series of indi­vid­u­als and small groups rise up to car­ry out acts of resis­tance and/or ter­ror­ism, cul­mi­nat­ing in a direct con­fronta­tion with the vil­lain.

While spot­light­ing sev­er­al Patri­ot memes, the first book in the tril­o­gy has an almost mil­i­tant mul­ti­cul­tur­al drum­beat. EFAD’s heroes come from almost every imag­in­able eth­nic background—white, black, Arab and Jew­ish. Between its ser­vice­able writ­ing and self-inoc­u­la­tion against charges of racism, EFAD is prob­a­bly as close to a main­stream recruit­ment tool as the Patri­ot move­ment could hope for.

Dur­ing Feb­ru­ary and March of this year, Brack­en made the book avail­able for free as an Ama­zon Kin­dle e‑book, and sev­er­al Patri­ot blogs and Twit­ter feeds spent sig­nif­i­cant time pro­mot­ing it, result­ing in a brief stint as the No. 1 free Kin­dle book on Ama­zon. The idea was to break into the main­stream of con­ser­v­a­tive media (talk radio and the like). That effort fell short, but an online post­ing by orga­niz­ers said more than 30,000 copies were down­loaded.

EFAD rep­re­sents a sharp break from its Patri­ot Lit fore­fa­thers, most infa­mous­ly Pierce’s The Turn­er Diaries. That book has inspired at least dozens of admir­ers who tried to real­ize its con­cept of a rev­o­lu­tion born from a cam­paign of ter­ror­ism, Tim­o­thy McVeigh among them. Told from the first-per­son per­spec­tive of a ter­ror­ist named Earl Turn­er, “Diaries” drips with racial ani­mus from its open­ing pages, in which “negroes” armed with base­ball bats forcibly dis­arm white Amer­i­cans to enforce a repres­sive gun con­trol bill. This inspires a gen­er­al upris­ing tar­get­ing the gov­ern­ment, Jews, and blacks and cul­mi­nates in the use of nuclear weapons to eth­ni­cal­ly cleanse New York, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and Tel Aviv. White encamp­ments are con­struct­ed in what remains of the Unit­ed States; “race trai­tors” (such as those who inter­mar­ried with minori­ties) are sum­mar­i­ly lynched.

In short, it is not a pleas­ant book, either for its val­ues or its mind-numb­ing prose, read­ing more like a nasty after-action report than a sto­ry. Despite its lim­i­ta­tions, The Turn­er Diaries spawned a legion of bad­ly writ­ten dystopi­an future tales of race war, which are dis­trib­uted online and in self-pub­lished tomes.

Unlike EFAD, The Turn­er Diaries and many of its imi­ta­tors preach exclu­sive­ly to the racist choir, aim­ing to inspire exist­ing racists to action rather than try­ing to attract new blood for a broad­er anti-gov­ern­ment move­ment. But EFAD’s depic­tion of a racial­ly egal­i­tar­i­an, pro-gun, anti-gov­ern­ment groundswell may be more evo­lu­tion than rev­o­lu­tion. The trilogy’s sec­ond and third books Domes­tic Ene­mies: The Recon­quista released around 2006 and For­eign Ene­mies and Trai­tors in 2009—continue to sep­a­rate racial hate and love for lib­er­ty, but they do so while draw­ing ever deep­er from the well of white racial para­noia.

Book two describes the takeover of the Amer­i­can South­west by ille­gal immi­grants, specif­i­cal­ly His­pan­ic racists out to reclaim their his­toric lands from the “grin­gos.”

This dra­mat­ic shift toward racial pol­i­tics is off­set by the fact that the book’s major pro­tag­o­nists are all brown peo­ple, from a Lebanese Arab hero­ine to a half-Cuban FBI agent to a cryp­to-Jew­ish-His­pan­ic-Amer­i­can for­mer jour­nal­ist. (The author’s olive branch to peo­ple of col­or does not, inci­den­tal­ly, extend to Mus­lims, gays, col­lege pro­fes­sors, or peo­ple with pierc­ings).

Book three, fea­tur­ing a cor­rupt pres­i­dent who invites for­eign mer­ce­nar­ies to run ram­pant on U.S. soil, sees Bracken’s con­tin­ued stip­u­la­tions against racism slow­ly but sure­ly shout­ed down by the arrival of Earl Turner’s world. After an earth­quake demol­ish­es Mem­phis, black refugees turn into a seething mob of gang-rapists and cannibals—characterizations that fea­ture mem­o­rably in The Turn­er Diaries—while urban blacks loot a path from Bal­ti­more to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where they demand and receive a new Social­ist con­sti­tu­tion engi­neered by a thin­ly veiled car­i­ca­ture of Pres­i­dent Oba­ma. The nar­ra­tive dis­claimers continue—one char­ac­ter con­demns white racist killings in the chaos after the quake, and a bat­tle-weary white racist girl near the end of the book accepts a hand of com­fort offered by a black Army medic. But these and oth­er moments of indi­vid­ual race grace are hard pressed to coun­ter­weight the vivid, lengthy depic­tion of African-Amer­i­cans en masse as can­ni­bal rapists direct­ly respon­si­ble for destroy­ing America’s Con­sti­tu­tion.

EFAD per­haps illus­trates both how far and how not-far the Patri­ot move­ment has come over the years. Inas­much as the move­ment coheres, it has shift­ed from fair­ly open and aggres­sive racism to a more ambiva­lent, con­flict­ed pos­ture. It’s not uncom­mon for Patri­ot move­ment mem­bers to vehe­ment­ly deny they are racists, even as they speak in hushed, rev­er­en­tial tones about Turn­er author William Pierce. Brack­en doesn’t have that par­tic­u­lar prob­lem. In response to an email request­ing an inter­view, he called The Turn­er Diaries a “racist screed” and insist­ed it brooks no com­par­i­son to his series, angri­ly declin­ing to answer ques­tions.

On the oth­er hand, in a recent online post­ing, Brack­en advised peo­ple who want to be safe from a pos­si­bly impend­ing civ­il war to ana­lyze where they live based on a spec­trum of rich vs. poor, urban vs. rural—and lighter skin vs. dark­er skin.

Racism has been the Achilles’ heel of efforts to uni­fy the Patri­ots for as long as the move­ment has exist­ed, with dif­fer­ent fac­tions embrac­ing wild­ly dif­fer­ent views about whether to embrace it and to what degree. The Patri­ot sub­set that declines to accept racism con­tin­ues to cope with the issue uneven­ly and defen­sive­ly. As in main­stream pol­i­tics, those who wish to par­tic­i­pate or influ­ence the direc­tion of the move­ment face pres­sure to cater to the rad­i­cal base.

The result is a mud­dled mes­sage in which racism may be vocal­ly con­demned, but race war is deemed inevitable. Tra­di­tion­al racist lan­guage is avoid­ed as taboo, but racial stereo­typ­ing is seen as “fac­ing facts.”

It is a rar­i­fied vision of a non-racist “real­ism” that can alien­ate white nation­al­ist insid­ers while look­ing to out­siders like a dis­tinc­tion with­out a dif­fer­ence.

Awww, isn’t that pre­cious: sure, a race war is inevitable, but racism is still bad. Now THAT’s progress! Any­one else feel­ing all warm [48] and [49] fuzzy [50]?