“Will the History Books Record How Neo-Nazis Made Eyes at the Bundy Militia?”

… As the Malheur occupation fades into history, there are many insights on the US social and political landscape to be distilled both from this episode and from the national conversations it has sparked. One underreported aspect of the affair is what it revealed about the nature of the partial but significant overlaps between neo-Nazis and anti-federal-government activists like the Bundys.

The occupiers had been demanding the abolition of the federal government as we know it, using a set of rationales that were originally derived from racist movements. Some of the occupiers were known to spout anti-Semitic or Islamophobic conspiracy theories, while another denied that slavery existed. And so it should not have surprised anyone that neo-Nazis and other organized racists have applauded the occupation.

read the full article at Truthout

“Dispatch from Oregon: Armed White Occupiers Are Enjoying Warm Food, Wi-Fi—and No Violence From Feds”

Just as they have been since January 2, an armed, mostly White, mostly male group of radical right-wing paramilitaries are still occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. So far, local and federal authorities in nearby Burns, Oregon, have taken almost no action. At press time, the buildings are not surrounded by law enforcement. They have electricity, heat and Internet access. Members of the press, supporters and FedEx workers can drive right up to the occupied territory.

A nearby restaurant called The Narrows is still open, too. One can walk in and see a number people—mostly a mixture of media and armed occupiers—enjoying the warm food, Wi-Fi and bar. The atmosphere recalls the cantina scene from the first “Star Wars.”

Read the full article at Colorlines

“What the Oregon Standoff Is Really About”

For a town of fewer than 3,000 residents, Burns, Oregon, sees a lot of business. Travelers heading from Boise to Bend on I-20 stop by here, as do visitors to the nearby wildlife refuge and from other parts of Harney County. Some blocks look like a quaint old Oregon town, the rest is “Anywhere, USA.” The residents seem nice but also direct and unafraid to speak their minds.

When armed right-wing paramilitaries took over the headquarters of the nearby Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on January 2, this is the town they thrust into the national headlines. The armed group’s apparent leaders—Ammon Bundy, 40, and Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, 54—succeeded in drawing media coverage and pushing their talking points. But their occupation is starting to divide the community, turning neighbors against each other.

Read the full article at Yes! magazine.

“Where the Oregon Militias Came From”

Contrary to the impression you may get from recent media coverage, the occupation of the Oregon Malheur Wildlife Refuge is not led by ranchers who are tired of being pushed around by the federal government. Instead, the armed occupiers are self-selected militants from the Patriot movement’s paramilitary network—known for invading rural communities and staging armed protests that distract from local attempts to fix real economic problems.

These paramilitary groups work by latching onto local events and manipulating them to serve a general political ideology. The case of Dwight and Steven Hammond elicited widespread community support, but there was no local interest in staging an armed resistance to the court’s decision to return them to prison. Nonetheless, Patriot movement activists including the Bundys and members of the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers held an armed march in Burns, Oregon. Then Ammon Bundy and a handful of allies drove to the Malheur Refuge buildings to make their political stand. They used the movement’s usual bait-and-switch strategy: a protest against an unpopular prison sentence turned into a call to privatize federal land.

Read the full article at The Progressive

Daniel Levitas: on militias and projection

I think this passage from Daniel Levitas’s The Terrorist Next Door (about Posse Comitatus) is deeply insightful about the mindset of the Patriot movement. Projection much?!

Convinced [after Ruby Ridge and Waco] the government  was at war with its own citizens by simultaneously trying to kill and disarm them, a broad spectrum of right-wing activists coalesced around the notion that it was time for paramilitary rebellion. Rather than declare themselves outlaw revolutionaries like Bob Matthews and the Order, militia organizers defined themselves according to the language of patriotic constitutional vigilantism that had been popularized by [Posse Comitatus founder] Bill Gale. Theirs was a lawful movement, grounded in centuries of divinely inspired jurisprudence; a defensive movement to protect American values and ideas; and a deliberative movement composed of men arranged in hierarchies governed by order and legitimacy.

In reality, the militias were nothing of the sort. Most were patently illegal or tutored their followers in a litany of crime. Rhetoric about “defending” America was nothing more than a smoke screen for offensive action against agents of the supposed New World Order and other perceived enemies of the Republic. And as for their obsession with order and discipline, the militias were just an anarchic as the Posse had ever been. The only difference was that the militia movement was much larger and involved many more would-be guerrilla warriors, some of whom were eager for violence.

from Daniel Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002), pages 301-2.

Jane Kramer: Militias and ‘the cult of guns & property’

I read Jane Kramer’s Lone Patriot: The Short Career of an American Militiaman on my flight back from Oregon in December. It’s the story of the Whatcom County-based Washington State Militia, one of the 1990s militias that was busted by the feds. In one passage, she eloquently describes the “cult of guns and property” that was fostered by Western colonial expansion, but lingers among certain rural areas. The cult certainly seems to be alive and well among those taking part in the Malheur occupation.

His point, I think, was that a passion having originally and essentially to do with a settler’s right to his own square mile of America, free and easy, could easily, in a complicated new economy of skills and specialties and services and regulations, turn into a cult of guns and property among people who had been left behind by the change. The rhetoric of entitlement was really the rhetoric of expansion. It was scrip only for as long as it took the continent to be cleared, though this was clearly one detail no one had bothered to share with [Washington State Militia member] John Pitner or his neighbors. In a way, John and his neighbors still thought of themselves as settlers, and, as [local historian] Mike [Vouri] liked to remind his audiences, in Washington’s history a settler’s home wasn’t just his castle but everything he saw from his castle, and thought to claim. It all depended on what you meant by castle, and to John, it meant a great deal.

See Jane Kramer, Lone Patriot: The Short Career of an American Militiaman (New York: Pantheon Books, 2002), page 136.

My Favorite Piece of Fan Mail So Far

This is the best note I’ve received in the past few days. Apparently I am – simultaneously – a liberal, a Marxist, and a crypto-jihadist.

Perhaps this fellow should read about how Islamists treated marxists in Afghanistan and Indonesia – or how marxists treated liberals in the Soviet Union and China.

Spencer you are obviously a croney for the liberal leftist movement which has so pervasively overrun our places of higher learning, and corrupted the very fabric of the Constitution wilst pretending, in your newly evolve form as Homo-utopius Aquarianus, that it is a living document, and can be manipulated as only the liberal socialist left sees fit. Damn the lesser educated patriots who actually work for a living and believe in the literal definitions of the specific context of the document. It is a clear and simple fact that the federal government, as well as the state and local governments are employing every dirty underhanded scheme that they can to strip people who may be independent enough to pose the slightest threat to their agenda for implementation of the new world order, and rules such as the codex alimentarius, of their land, all of their assets, and their constitutional rights. I feel so sorry for such intelligent and highly educated morons like you and the minions that believe the Marxist crap that you have bought into, and not only support, but actually promote. It is no wonder that you promote this and write your articles in defense of the government because for you government is God. You have no other, and everybody must believe in something, so you’ve adopted the most powerful thing in your life as God. You are just a tool in the subversive jihad that is being played out by this corrupted system and the leftist thugs under orders from above they’re trying real hard to take our guns. If they succeed before I’m dead I will gladly use mine to protect your people from this tyrannical machine blindly raping the citizenry and pillaging our livelihood right out from under us.

Oregon Patriot Movement Articles

Below are the articles I’ve written about the Patriot movement in Oregon, including the Malheur occupation:

Peas in an Oregon Pod: Right-Wing Paramilitaries & The GOP,Political Research Associates, July 7, 2017

Spencer Sunshine, with Jessica Campbell & Rural Organizing Project, Political Research Associates, Daniel HoSang, Steven Besa, and Chip Berlet, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement (Somerville, MA: Political Research Associates & Rural Organizing Project, October 2016)

Is Your Local Candidate in Bed with the Patriot Movement?,” spencersunshine.com, April 22, 2016.

Gunning for Office: Oregon’s Patriot Movement and the May 2016 Primary,” Political Research Associates, April 19, 2016.

Will the History Books Record How Neo-Nazis Made Eyes at the Bundy Militia?,” Truthout, January 27, 2016.

Dispatch from Oregon: Armed White Occupiers Are Enjoying Warm Food, Wi-Fi—and No Violence From Feds,” Colorlines, January 21, 2016.

What the Oregon Standoff Is Really About,” Yes! Magazine, January 15, 2016.

Interview with Spencer Sunshine on the Oregon Militia Occupation,” Its Going Down, January 11, 2016.

Where the Oregon Militias Came From,” The Progressive, January 7, 2016.

Profiles on the Right: Three Percenters,” Political Research Associates, January 5, 2016.

I Studied Oregon’s Militia Movement. Here’s 5 Things You Need to Know,” U.S. Uncut, January 3, 2016.

Patriot Movement Paramilitaries in Oregon,” Rural Organizing Project, July 15, 2015.