The armed militia movement formed as the militant wing of the patriot movement following the government’s excessive use of force against the Weaver family in Idaho and the Branch Davidians in Texas. Patriots and militia members have an anti-government agenda laced with paranoid-sounding conspiracist theories, many of which echo apocalyptic millenialism of Christian fundamentalists. Endnote1
Persons in the patriot movement fear impending attack by government or UN troops and the establishment of a dictatorship as part of the New World Order. They distrust all mainstream media. The patriot movement made aggressive use of alternative electronic media such as fax networks, radio talk shows, shortwave radio, and online computer telecommunications. Endnote2
Much of the information circulated in this sector of the hard right is undocumented rumor and irrational conspiracist theory, some of it merely paranoid lunacy, some based on classic white supremacist and segregationist legal arguments or allegations of secret plots by international Jewish bankers traced back to the hoax text, The Protocols of the Secret Elders of Zion. Endnote3 Print sources frequently cited as having “proof” of the conspiracy include the New American magazine from the reactionary John Birch Society, the Spotlight newspaper from the antisemitic Liberty Lobby, and Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) and The New Federalist from the neofascist Lyndon LaRouche movement. Most of the contemporary conspiracist allegations in the US are variations on the themes propounded in the late 1700’s by John Robison, Proofs of a Conspiracy and Abbe Augustin Barruel, Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism, which claimed that the Illuminati society had subverted the Freemasons into a conspiracy to undermine church and state and create a one-world government. Endnote4
One of the earliest examples of the use of online computer networks for mass organizing occurred during the 1992 presidential campaign of independent Ross Perot. Libertarians and populist conservatives, who appear to have strongly influenced the politics of early cyber-culture and the Internet, helped circulate organizing documents and position papers for the Perot campaign, quickly reaching a large audience. Endnote5 Perot’s anti-government themes also attracted support from some persons in the hard right who later went on to promote the patriot and armed militia movements. These pre-exisiting online relationships were a factor in the use of computer networks by the patriot and militia movements, which was apparently the first major US social movement organized extensively via horizontal telecommunications networks. Endnote6
A voluminous amount of information and numerous discussions about tactics and strategy for the armed militia and patriot movements moved across the Internet, appearing in Usenet newsgroup conferences such as <alt.conspiracy>, <talk.politics.guns>, <alt.sovereignty>, <misc.survivalism> and <alt.politics.usa.constitution>. Eventually a militia conference was established at <misc.activism.militia>. Information also appeared online at individual BBS’s set up by patriot and militia technophiles, tossed to multiple BBS’s through FidoNet and other messaging and echoing networks, and appeared in commercial online system discussion groups. Endnote7
Not all scapegoating conspiracist theories originate on the right. Alternative analysts who merge the rhetoric of the right and the left in their conspiracist diatribes include Linda Thompson, Mark Koernke, Sherman Skolnick, Dan Brandt, David Emory, Bob Fletcher, John Judge, and Ace Hayes. In a lengthy article on snowballing conspiracism in The New Yorker, Michael Kelly called this “fusion paranoia.” Endnote8 With the rise of “info-tainment” news programs and talk shows, hard right conspiracism, especially about alleged government misconduct, jumps into the corporate media with increasing regularity. Endnote9 As Kelly observes, “It is not remarkable that accusations of abuse of power should be leveled against Presidents–particularly in light of Vietnam, Watergate, and Iran-Contra. But now, in the age of fusion paranoia, there is no longer any distinction made between credible charges and utterly unfounded slanders.”
A-albionic Research describes itself as “A private network of researchers dedicated to identifying the nature of the ruling class/Conspiracy(ies).” A-albionic and the New Paradigms Project web page, <http:a-albionic.com>, are run by James H. Daugherty, a mail-order distributor of printed matter who believes the Vatican and British Empire are locked in a mortal battle for world control. Endnote10 Daugherty’s anti-Catholic bigotry tracks back to earlier allegations that the Pope was the antichrist. Endnote11
Conspiracist information circulates in online newsletters such as “Conspiracy Nation” by Brian Francis Redman, and “The People’s Spellbreaker” by John DiNardo. Glenda Stocks runs a computer information network pushing even more exotic theories. DiNardo’s The People’s Spellbreaker carries the flag motto “News They Never Told You…News They’ll Never Tell You.” The People’s Spellbreaker sometimes consists of transcripts of radio programs. In the following excerpt, the text is transcribed from “A World of Prophecy,” a conspiracist radio program hosted by Texe Marrs. The title was “New Currency: The Banksters’ Way To Rob Us Of Our Life Earnings.” Endnote12
TEXE MARRS:You know, most investment advisors don’t understand how the money system works. They don’t know of the problems being concocted by the New World Order. They don’t know the Illuminati conspiracies. And they simply cannot address these things. But I’ve got a gentleman on the line, and I’ll bet he has got some exciting information to give you. And keep in mind God’s prophetic word, and see how these things are working out. David Dennis, I’m so glad to have you on A WORLD OF PROPHECY.
Well, I’m certainly glad to be on your show, Tex, and I bring the greetings of Lawrence Paterson. He asked me to say hello.
Well, good. I’m glad to hear from Lawrence Paterson. I get CRIMINAL POLITICS Magazine every month. I love to open that envelope and read that magazine. It’s one of the first things I grab ahold of when it comes in the mail. David, you’re the resident editor there.
One subject of interest is the new currency. You’re sort of ahead of your time. You’ve been warning us about a “two-tier dollar.” I’d like to get into that a little bit later. But what is this new money, this new currency?
The new money actually was introduced not long ago. However, it might come as a surprise to all your listeners that the new money was NOT introduced here in the United States to our public. Rather, it was introduced in Moscow, [Russia] by the United States Treasury Department. And the idea was to have it serve as sort of a trial run, if you will. And, also, to let the Russian People know that the United States currency, which they depend so much on for value, will continue to be of value, even after this new currency comes on-line. So, it’s quite interesting that our new currency would not be discussed [or introduced] here in the U.S. first. Instead, it was introduced in Moscow to the Russian People.
That is just INCREDIBLE!
[rest of text deleted]
The information in this posting certainly is “INCREDIBLE!,” but is typical of the genre. Note the plug for Paterson’s conspiracist Criminal Politics newsletter and the mention of the Illuminati variation of the longstanding freemason conspiracist theory. Marrs is the author of a book on the Illuminati titled Dark Majesty: The Secret Brotherhood and the Magic of A Thousand Points of Light, described in an ad in the John Birch Society magazine as revealing “a secret society of grotesque rituals…whose symbol is the death’s head–the skull and bones…their plot has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.” Endnote13This apocalyptic tone is typical. Consider John DiNardo’s tag line to his posting:
I urge you to post the episodes of this ongoing series to other newsgroups, networks, computer bulletin boards and mailing lists. It is also important to post hardcopies on the bulletin boards in campus halls, churches, supermarkets, laundromats, etc.–any place where concerned citizens can read this vital information. Our people’s need for Paul Reveres and Ben Franklins is as urgent today as it was 220 years ago.
The most zealous sector of the hard right is the far right or ultra-right, which mixes scapegoating conspiracism with open race hate, fascism, and neonazism. Even in this sector their is a vigorous debate over policy. Endnote14 One online skinhead conference is dominated by neonazi skins, but attacked by anti-racist skins. Endnote15 The screed of Holocaust revisionists can be found posted in <alt.revisionism> where they are isolated by the majority of Internet netizens (citizens of cyber space) who wish to preserve intellectual freedom but refuse to allow Holocaust deniers even the smallest space to spread their views on other conferences. In <alt.revisionism> you can find the rebuttals to the deniers posted by online human rights activists such as Ken McVay, Jamie McCarthy, Danny Keren, and others. Ted Frank posted scores of carefully-researched rebuttals to hard right legal arguments on <alt.conspiracy>. Endnote16A few ultra-right participants manage to post messages in discussion groups on the commercial services such as America Online (AOL), sometimes suggesting the purchase by mail-order of specific anti-government books and pamphlets with innocuous-sounding titles. When the material arrives in the mail it is often accompanied with a list of other materials with white supremacist or antisemitic themes. This attempt to hide or encode overt race hate and antisemitism is a common tactic of the ultra-right. The following excerpt from the Pennsylvania-based Christian Posse Comitatus newsletter The Watchman was found on the home page of Stormfront: Endnote17
“Meet the torch with the torch; pillage with pillage; subjugation with extermination.”–Colonel William C. Quantrill
As we enter the fall season, which is incidentally the best time of the year to recruit new people, I feel it necessary to comment briefly on new developments nationally. I received a phone call this morning from an acquaintance who asked me if I would like to receive an interesting fax. I did and it regarded a newspaper article about a “Klanwatch” report. Joe Roy of Klan Watch alleges that more than thirty right-wing extremist groups are gathering information about governmental agencies and so-called civil rights groups. He fears that this intelligence will be used in a future terrorist campaign against these same agencies. This is also evidently the fear of many law enforcement agencies as I have been contacted by such officials who expressed their concern. My answer to them was that public servants are supposed to be afraid of the people, do…us no further harm and all will be well.
I regret that it does not appear that government learned this lesson in Oklahoma City. There is currently legislation pending that will effectively outlaw free speech and classify such organizations as Aryan Nations, militias and the Posse as terrorist organizations.
Prepare for the men and boys to be separated! I personally believe the militia movement to be a bunch of well-intentioned persons who have a bit to learn. It is all well and good to prepare for another Ruby Ridge or Waco but the belief that hundreds or even thousands of conventional soldiers will be able to stand down the United States Army is ludicrous. It also stands to reason that the feds are infiltrating the militias as they did the Klans in the 1960s. Use the militia movement as a place to spread the truth and to meet people but beware the agent provocateur. The militias are also filled with the ridiculous rhetoric about “black helicopters” and even “space aliens” controlling the government from a secret base in the desert and so on. The helicopters were green at Randy Weavers and at Waco and they were sent and operators by White traitors.
While there is yet a little time arm yourselves and prepare to face some very difficult decisions. Knowledge is power, go to the Gun shows and buy the how-to books and learn the art of war. Live free or die!
An average reader might miss the neonazi subtext of this posting. The “Aryan Nations, militias and the Posse” are lumped together and portrayed only as victims of demonization whose free speech rights are threatened. The Aryan Nations and the Posse Comitatus promote Christian Identity, a vicious antisemitic religious philosophy that often overlaps with neonazi beliefs. The phrase “fourteen words” is a coded pro-Hitlerian reference to the phrase “To secure the existence of the white race and a future for our children.” Endnote18 Notice how the author derides the “ridiculous rhetoric” of conspiracism in the militias, but points out a real example of government infiltration. Endnote19The networking through alternative media implied in this text is as interesting as the ideological assumptions. A phone call leads to the receipt of a fax containing a facsimile of a text article. This in turn leads to an article in a print newsletter that is then posted on the Internet, and ends up on the Web home page of a sympathetic group in another state.
The gun shows mentioned are a major meeting place for patriot and revolutionary right activists, and while most attendees and display tables focus on weapons, a handful provide books, magazines, pamphlets, audiotapes, and videotapes servicing the armed hard right. Endnote20 At gun shows different tables have different selections based on ideological loyalty with tables featuring The New American magazine from the John Birch Society, videotapes of militia stars Linda Thompson and Mark Koernke, copies of the Spotlight newspaper, and overt White supremacist and neonazi books. Endnote21
Radio is another vehicle for education and recruitment into various sectors of the hard right. Generic right-wing scapegoating theories are broadcast daily on mainstream commercial AM and FM, with programs featuring Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North, and G. Gordon Liddy, and scores of similar hosts. Much anti-government rhetoric flows back and forth on right-wing radio, and it helped create the mindset that led to the growth of the patriot and armed militia movements. Endnote22 Sometimes there is crossover, such as Colorado Springs AM radio host Chuck Baker interviewing Linda Thompson in August of 1994 about her plans for an armed march on Washington, DC to remove the “traitors” in Congress. Thompson later canceled the march and lost much credibility in the militia movement, but one Baker listener, Francisco Martin Duran, drove to the capital city in October and shot-up the White House. Endnote23
Major purveyors of right-wing conspiracist scapegoating in recent years have included radio personalities Tom Valentine, Chuck Harder, Craig Hulet, Mark Koernke, John Stadtmiller, Norm Resnick, William Cooper, Linda Thompson, Jack McLamb, Tom Donahue, and Bo Gritz. Sometimes right-wing populist radio shows introduce hard right ideologues as innocuous experts. On his “For The People” syndicated program, Chuck Harder once used notorious antisemite Eustace Mullins as an expert on the Federal Reserve. Harder’s newspaper, tied to the radio program, sold several Mullins’ books––including one claiming a Rothschild family Jewish banking conspiracy––for over a year. Yet Mullins did not sound antisemitic on the radio program. Harder stopped promoting Mullins after a listener documented Mullin’s beliefs. Endnote24
Many programs are part of elaborate information networks. For example, Paul Valentine hosts a daily talk show called “Radio Free America” (RFA), that is originally broadcast from WBDN 760 AM in Tampa, Florida. RFA is also broadcast on the shortwave band operated by World Wide Christian Radio (WWCR). Endnote25 The RFA program is also carried by satellite into homes with receiving dishes. Endnote26 Most people are unaware that audio programs can arrive through a home satellite dish simply by turning off the video and tuning in a specific audio frequency. Audiotapes of RFA are sold through the quasi-Nazi Liberty Lobby’s Spotlight newspaper which carries capsule descriptions of recent RFA programs in every issue accompanied with an order blank. Valentine is affiliated with the southern regional bureau of the Spotlight newspaper, but his on-air demeanor avoids hateful rhetoric.
World Wide Christian Radio (WWCR) carries more mainstream evangelical programs along with hard right programs broadcast on several shortwave frequencies. WWCR played a key role in networking and assisting the growth of the patriot and armed militia movements in 1994 and 1995, airing a program by Linda Thompson and the show “The Intelligence Report” hosted by Mark Koernke and John Stadtmiller, which was pulled off the air after the Oklahoma City bombing. A number of conspiracist radio programs are sponsored by precious metals commodities dealers and those selling gold and silver coins. The pitch is that precious metal is a secure investment to hedge against possible financial chaos and economic collapse that might deflate paper currency or cause bank failures. Endnote27 Shortwave listeners can also hear conspiracism and scapegoating from WRNO based in Louisiana, WINB from Pennsylvania, and several other stations. Endnote28 There are so many right-wing shortwave radio programs that a progressive shortwave radio station broadcasting out of Costa Rica, Radio for Peace International, has a radio program called “Far Right Radio Review” devoted exclusively to monitoring and discussing the rightwing broadcasts.
Another emerging alternative media, fax networks and fax trees, were used extensively by the armed militia movement in its formative stages and continue to be utilized by the hard right including the far right. The Spotlight featured a cover story on how rightwing populists in New Jersey had distributed fliers and faxes opposing a proposed state environmental law. According to The Spotlight, “Virtually overnight hundreds of thousands of copies of the flier appeared as if by magic on bulletin boards, store windows and fax machines throughout the state.” The flier was circulated in part through a fax hotline operated by northern New Jersey resident Franklin Reich. Endnote29
Daniel Junas, “Rise of the Citizen Militias: Angry White Guys with Guns,” CovertAction Quarterly, spring 1995; Chip Berlet & Matthew N. Lyons; “Militia Nation,” The Progressive, June 1995, pp. 22-25; Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
See Brian E. Albrecht, “Hate Speech,” The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), June 11, 1995, pp. 1, 16-17.
Eric Ward, ed., Conspiracies: Real Greivances, Paranoia, and Mass Movements, (Seattle: Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment [Peanut Butter Publishing], 1996). On Protocols, see Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide, (New York: Harper & Row, 1969).
On nativist roots, Ray Allen Billington, The Origins of Nativism in the United States 1800-1844 (New York: Arno Press Inc., 1974); John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism 1860-1925 (New York: Atheneum, 1972).; David H. Bennett, The Party of Fear: The American Far Right from Nativism to the Militia Movement, (New York: Vintage Books, 1995, (1988)). Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” in The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965); David Brion Davis, “Some Themes of Counter-Subversion: An Analysis of Anti-Masonic, Anti-Catholic, and Anti-Mormon Literature,” in Davis, ed., The Fear of Conspiracy, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1971), pp. 9-22.
On Perot’s online support, author’s monitoring of political postings on the Internet and various BBS conferences. On libertarian influence on cyber-culture, conversation with Paulina Borsook 11/96 based on her forthcoming book.
Some of my research into the right online was to prepare for an interview by Grant Kester that appeared as “Net Profits: Chip Berlet Tracks Computer Networks of the Religious Right,” in Afterimage, Feb./March 1995, pp. 8-10.
A BBS in its simplest form is a single computer hooked to a phone line through a modem that allows offsite computer users with a modem to connect through a phone line to a menu-driven list of information and messages. More elaborate BBS’s can handle multiple phone lines, and some are networked through systems such as FidoNet or linked into the Internet.
Michael Kelly, “The Road to Paranoia,” The New Yorker, June 19, 1995, pp. 60-70.
Kelly, in his New Yorker article, writes of this seepage phenomenon from alternative to mainstream in terms of conspiracist anti-government allegations.
David McHugh “Conspiracy Theories Grow,”Detroit Free Press, 4/29/95, p. 1A.
Davis, The Fear of Conspiracy, pp. 9-22.
From “A World of Prophecy,” hosted by Texe Marrs, broadcast over WWCR, 5.065 Megahertz shortwave, December 23, 1995, 8:00 P.M. EST. Downloaded in late 1995 from <alt.conspiracy> and posted to private e-mail list of persons studying far right. Original posting by John DiNardo. Spelling corrected as a courtesy.
Ad for Texe Marrs, Dark Majesty: The Secret Brotherhood and the Magic of A Thousand Points of Light in The New American, 10/5/92, p. 41.
Betty A. Dobratz and Stephanie Shanks-Meile, “Conflict in the White Supremacist/Racialist Movement in the United States, International Journal of Group Tensions, Vol. 25, No. 1, 1995, pp. 57-75.
In the US many skinheads are culturally identified youth rebels who are not explicilty racist, and in some cases are actively anti-racist.
Rebuttals to Holocaust deniers is collected globally at <http://www.nizkor.org>.
Newsletter from fall 1995, located and downloaded in early 1996 and posted on private e-mail list for persons studying the far right. Stormfront homepage was at the time: <http://www2.stormfront.org/watchman/watch-on.html>.
According to the Coalition for Human Dignity, the phrase “fourteen words” is a coded white supremacist greeting that originated with David Lane, a member of the neonazi Order. Another coded phrase is “88,” representing the eighth letter in the alphabet as in “HH” for “Heil Hitler.”
Although the FBI infiltrated some ultra-right groups during the 1960’s and ’70’s, it also formed alliances with the paramilitary right to infiltrate left and people-of-color groups which sometimes faced extralegal and sometimes lethal repression not experienced by the right until the 1980’s. See for example: Frank J. Donner, The Age of Surveillance: The Aims and Methods of America’s Political Intelligence System (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980); Ward Churchill & Jim Vander Wall. Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement, (Boston: South End Press, 1988); Kenneth O’Reilly, “Racial Matters:” The FBI’s Secret File on Black America, 1960–1972, (New York: Free Press, 1988); Ward Churchill & Jim Vander Wall. COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States, (Boston: South End Press, 1989); Brian Glick, War at Home: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It, (Boston: South End Press, 1989).
Kristen Rand, “Gun Shows in America: Tupperware® Parties for Criminals,” Violence Policy Center, 1996.
Author’s visit to gun shows in Ohio and Massachusetts.
Leslie Jorgensen, “AM Armies,” pp. 20-22 and Larry Smith, “Hate Talk,” p. 23, Extra! March/April 1995. Ed Vulliamy, “Clinton Tackles the Mighty Right,” The Observer (London) April 30, 1995, p. 16. Steve Lipsher, “The Radical Right,” The Denver Post, January 22, 1995, p. 1.
Marc Cooper, “The Paranoid Style,”The Nation, April 10, 1995, pp. 486-492. William H. Freivogel, “Talking Tough On 300 Radio Stations, Chuck Harder’s Show Airs Conspiracy Theories,” St. Louis Post Dispatch, May 10, 1995, p. 5B.
Through 1996 at shortwave band 5.065 kHz .
Satcom1, transponder 15, audio channel 7.56.
David McHugh and Nancy Costello, “Radio host off the air; militia chief may be out,” Detroit Free Press, 4/29/95, p. 6A.
The author monitors far-right shortwave broadcasts on a Radio Shack DX-390. See also James Latham, “The Rise of Far-Right/Hate Programming on the Shortwave Bands,” Vista (Radio for Peace International), Oct. 1994, pp. 2-4. Contact RFPI, POB 20728, Portland, OR 97220.
The Spotlight, 12/11/95, p. 1.