Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Is the Hutaree Militia the Final Word in Lunacy–or Just the Beginning?

SOME GET LEFT BEHINDIt's hard to know how worked up to get about the Hutaree, the Antichrist-obsessed militia group arrested by the FBI over the weekend for allegedly plotting to kill a police officer, blow up members of law enforcement at the resulting funeral, and thus set in motion the annihilation of the federal government. When the Tea Party kicks you out of its massive tent, and neighboring militias dismiss you as a cult, you might just be out there on the fringiest fringe in Fringeville.

On the other hand, the Hutaree's plots almost sound familiar — like a garbled outtake from the popular post-apocalyptic video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the hands-on companion to Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling End Times novels. The object is to "wage a violent war against United Nations-like peacekeepers who, according to LaHaye's interpretation of Revelation, represent the armies of the Antichrist. Each time a Left Behind player kills a UN soldier, their virtual character exclaims, 'Praise the Lord!'" (Eternal Forces was shipped, with the blessing of Bush's Defense Department, in "Freedom Packets" to soldiers serving in Iraq!)

Remember the 90s? The Okahoma City bombing seemed to come out of nowhere. Two generations after Pearl Harbor, it was the first time most of us watched people emerge from smoking wreckage because of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Over the months and years that followed, though, we and the media became conversant in militia-speak: black helicopters, Ruby Ridge and the coming One World Government.

When my fundamentalist mother started using this language, I got nervous: exactly how far did these anti-government conspiracy theories reach in Pentecostal circles? By the end of the millennium, far enough that there was a Christian Patriot Movement; my mother and stepfather could have been members, though he denied that they were. Mom was receiving faxes from militia groups, anyway. I know because, when I visited once, I slept in the room with the machine. Early every morning, the thing would start up; I'd jolt awake as it switched on and the pages tumbled to the floor. To be fair, she might not have given them the number; every right-wing group in Western North Carolina seemed to have it. Their bulletins ran the conspiracy gamut: the dangers of contrails, antiperspirant and fluoride; the approaching New World Order and reign of the Antichrist; some sort of militia propaganda that I was too anxious to read in detail. On a different visit, my sister was subjected to a video about how the government was controlling the weather.

While I can't remember the name of faxing militia(s), likely suspects include Citizens for the Reinstatement of Constitutional Government, whose mantra is "Bibles, bullets, beans and bandages," and whose members seek to "make the Holy Bible and the United States Constitution the law of the land."

Most of these groups started to peter out when Bush took office. His call, after September 11, 2001, to "rid the world of evil-doers" really seemed to resonate with the take-up-arms crowd. Suddenly, rather than planning to attack the U.S. government, they were eager to avenge it.

For some fundamentalist Christians, including the former president, this fight was a holy battle. "I am driven with a mission from God," he reportedly said. "God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did." Late Great Planet Earth types were galvanized and exhilarated, ready for America to incite the Rapture so Jesus would call them home.

Now Obama is deescalating in the Middle East. If the polls are to be believed, 14% of Americans believe he's the Antichrist; 32% believe he's a Muslim. For some of these people, the enemy is literally in the White House, taking away citizens' guns, putting our paramount ally, Israel, in jeopardy-and pandering to terrorists.

Fundamentalists have already been mapping the ungodly nations and preparing for Spiritual Warfare. It's a little frightening to think about how their maps might be changing-especially when, separately (?), armed "patriot" groups are growing.

One, the Oath Keepers, "consists of men and women in uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans. At regular ceremonies in every state, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution-but then they go a step further, vowing to disobey 'unconstitutional orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government." Former Alabama Militia boss Mike Vanderboegh, of break-their-windows fame, is one of the speakers at a massive Restore the Constitution gun rally set for April 19, the fifteenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, or, as Rachel Maddow puts it, Christmas Day for the militia movement.

Let's just hope the Hutaree, in marrying weapons with End Times zealotry, are an aberration.

Maud Newton has been writing about writing and reading at her blog since 2002.

47 Comments / Post A Comment

Moff (#28)

But you know, as crazy as the militia-folk and fundamentalists are, you always have to wonder: What if they're right?

barnhouse (#1,326)

It's almost the only thing I don't wonder.

Moff (#28)

HAHAHA JUST KIDDING. They're not right.

barnhouse (#1,326)

Oh, whew.

You were just kidding about the "sex with animals is OK" thing, too, right?

Moff (#28)

I still think it's gross. I just can't see how it's wrong. I mean, I just had a turkey sandwich.

kneetoe (#1,881)

Is that where one turkey's on top, one's on the bottom, and you're in the middle. And did you take mustard with it?

Oh he TOOK it all right.

brent_cox (#40)

On the flip side, it's probably a good way to meet people. Like a book club. Where you only read one book. And shoot shit.

myfanwy (#1,124)

They're going to be pretty angry once they get to the end of "Eats, Shoots and Leaves".

Abe Sauer (#148)

They are not an aberration but they are hardly new. I went to school with posse commitatus kids in Wisconsin in the 80s. Their parents were scary. That group was active then and gunned down cops (FBI?) in North Dakota. People went apeshit then too. There are also the non-zealotry 9/11 inside jobbers who overlap with the black helicopter/UN clan. I think while conspiracy theorizing is on the rise, the likelihood of anyone "doing something about it" is probably about where it's been for decades. We're too soft and too fat and too happy to bitch about it.

HiredGoons (#603)

The far left and the far right overlap more frequently than either side would care admit.

Mindpowered (#948)

Yes they nicely dovetail around an anti-government core.

Abe Sauer (#148)

PLUS: It's in the corporately-owned media's interest for us to THINK this kind of group is on the rise and get bent out of shape about THIS BIG DOMESTIC TERRORIST MILITIA so that we don't worry about (focus less on) the million little ways, thanks to big business, that our lives and potential happiness are actually in danger.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

My parents had some militia friends when I was little. They weren't bad people, just fucking crazy. And even that's hindsight; as a kid, I loved them. They had a religious backstory – basically, we are already living in the 1000 years of antichrist rule? – but weren't as bent about that as they were about TAKIN MAH GUNS AWAY and TAXIN MAH INCOME. They were also fitness nuts.

The whole militia deal for them was basically "prepare to be attacked by the evil gummint." They didn't try to start shit with the gummint because they figured it was coming for them anyway – the longer that took, the more time they would have to prepare and recruit and broadcast their message.

So fucking crazy! But generally harmless.

kolk (#3,846)

uh scariest article of the day.

HiredGoons (#603)

I get your point, but Pearl Harbor was not a terrorist attack, it was an act of war.

Fuzzy distinction, but important I feel.

HiredGoons (#603)

Also: antiperspirants are actually bad for you. My father works in a hospital and all the doctors he works with tell him this, and he told me it.

Matt (#26)

I know this because I paid attention during Batman in 1989.

I know this because an internet commenter's dad's doctor co-worker's told me so.

HiredGoons (#603)

Oh come now, it's coming from medical professionals.

Mostly it's the aluminum and parabens; I'm not generally reactionary.

Maud Newton (#600)

Fixed this. Thanks.

I know, I'm just being mean. My bad. At any rate, I'll wear antiperspirant if it kills me. Smelling bad is not the business.

p is for pee (#900)

Use deodorant?

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

People will believe absolutely any theory that tells them that their lives are right, no matter how absurd. If your a rich guy who dosent like to share, heres The Fountainhead, if your a lazy white kid who likes to shoplift, heres Evasion. If you descended from homesteaders and missionaries and live in a town that hasn't seen job growth in 30 years? well…

Whether these fringe-y beliefs translate into violent actions seems to be a whole other thing though.

HiredGoons (#603)

The rich have armies to fight for their interests.

p is for pee (#900)

Holy shit! Have you watched Zeitgeist? It's crazy propaganda, and has millions of views on Google video. Seriously, shit is wack. Link:

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

It's funny you mention Zeitgeist, because that is the one flagrant conspiracy movie that has been recommended to me in earnest. It's all fun and games until a friend starts bringing the free dvds home…

mrschem (#1,757)

How bizarre; five black helicopters just flew over my house, twice, heading in the direction of Logan. I only dragged my ass off the sofa to have a look because the building was shaking. Now, I live directly under a flight path, so not much impresses me, sonically but this, I just had to see. I checked the local news for some 'breaking news' and got nothing. After reading this and clicking the link for 'Black Helicopters,' I am spooked. Thanks.

Mindpowered (#948)

I've never understood the mentality that underlay the militia movement. Has it been there since 1776? Or is it of more recent vintage?

Abe Sauer (#148)

Man-children who like to play bad ass soldier but are too talentless, chicken and gutless to actually be a bad ass soldier.

musicmope (#428)

Too much Chuck Norris on the t.v., not enough Civics in the classroom.

Mindpowered (#948)

A little more looking and it seems to be a post 1960's movement, drawing on traditions that went out of style a century earlier. Boomers again.

Foxy (#2,703)

Ha I was wondering why Drudge had a stock photo of a black helicopter accompanying links about the raid

The thing I learned from this post (okay, it may have only been from the accompanying photo) is that Chandler Bing is definitely going to hell.

kneetoe (#1,881)

When in doubt, assume something is not a big deal, risk-wise.

Scum (#1,847)

Speaking of conspiracy theories how about the one about how Sarah Palin's nature show inspired by the BBC's Planet Earth was being shopped around as a nature show inspired by the BBC's Planet Earth, not because it was a nature show inspired by the BBC's Planet Earth, but because there is an obscure fundamentalist text which has Planet Earth in the title and although there is no evidence Sarah Palin has ever even heard of said text surely shows that she means to kill us all?

City_Dater (#2,500)

You think it's more plausible that Sarah Palin has any knowlege of, or interest in, programming on the BBC?

Tulletilsynet (#333)

That "obscure fundamentalist text" that you think Sarah Palin is unaware of has sold more copies than Betty Effing Crocker or, more to the point, 1984. In the 1970s, everybody I knew except me had a copy of The Late, Great Planet Earth (which I scoffed at because I was a member of a sect that teaches that prophecy ceased sometime soon after Jesus's apostles died). I'm not sure how far I think Sarah Palin would like to go with her coded reference to the run-up to Armageddon, but there's no question that Maud nailed the allusion in her excellent Awl post on the subject, the one before her current excellent Awl post on the subject.

alexanderchee (#3,995)

Not enough people know about this video game, sadly, or they underestimate it. I didn't know it was shipped to soldiers! This is a great breakdown, Maud.

BadUncle (#153)

Apocalypse junkies, who shrilly scream at everyone to "read your bible," have usually only have passing familiarity with the volume, and certainly not with the inconvenient passages. For instance, John the revelator's Anti-Christ fairy tale also includes this passage:

And they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. For it is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins.

(Revelation 14:3-5)

So, whether you think Revelations was a metaphor for the eventual decline of the Roman Empire, or the fever dream of a mad man (and I suspect it was both), you have to wonder why hetero militia men would fight for a heavenly tree house with a big "no girls allowed" sign hanging on the door.

WC Fields put it more succinctly when he said, "I'd never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member."

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

Yeah well they also believe in the rapture, which is nowhere in the text AT ALL. Pretty much all these people retain from actually reading Revelation is, "whoa, that was scary."

DrKnow (#4,247)

I thought that was Groucho Marx

BadUncle (#153)

You're probably right. But I never read the Bible.

DrKnow (#4,247)

These guys might be crazy and dangerous on a small scale, but the danger is people like Sarah Palin and George Bush. That's putting the second largest collection of nuclear weapons in the world in the hands of sick patriots.

roboloki (#1,724)

i'm with you there doc. i don't want someone that looks forward to the end of days to have the weapons to bring them about.

I gotta say that I did recently switch to Tom's natural deodorant and things have been pretty good lately.

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