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“Rural rage: the roots of right-wing populism in the United States” (with Chip Berlet)

I have a new peer-reviewed journal article (my first!), which I co-authored with Chip Berlet: “Rural Rage: The Roots of Right-Wing Populism in the United States.” This analysis of the U.S. Patriot movement is part of the “Forum on Authoritarian Populism and the Rural World” published by the Journal of Peasant Studies. It includes 243 endnotes, if that’s your kinda thing, and there is free journal access to the entire forum for the rest of 2019.

 

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“The Growing Alliance Between Neo-Nazis, Right Wing Paramilitaries and Trumpist Republicans”

Two things set Independent Trumpism apart from usual right-wing politics. First, the group’s rallies are in support of the president, but are organized outside of the Republican Party structure. Second, mainstream Republicans are appearing alongside open White supremacists, especially at events billed as “Free Speech” marches.

Independent Trumpists will hit the streets tomorrow (June 10) for a national March Against Sharia, organized by the large anti-Islam group ACT America. Saturday’s events are expected to draw thousands of people in 28 cities, in 20 states. Here is a six-month chronology of major Independent Trumpist moments that led to this one:

January 20, 2017: Alt-Right Violence at the University of Washington in Seattle
A University of Washington talk by Milo Yiannopoulos—the notorious Twitter troll, ardent Trump supporter and former Breitbart editor credited with mainstreaming the alt-right—draws a large protest. A married couple, Marc and Elizabeth Hokoana, come to the event armed with pepper spray and a handgun to antagonize opponents. After protester Joshua Dukes confronts Marc about using the pepper spray, Elizabeth allegedly fires a single round into his stomach.”


Read the rest at Colorlines

“Oregon Congressman Pushes Bill Exempting Ranchers From Terrorism Law’s Reach”

“As the far right becomes more vocal around the country, the Trump administration is not the only arm of government serving its interests. Some members of Congress are closer to fringe right-wing groups than they might care to admit. In February, Oregon Representative Greg Walden introduced a new, vaguely titled bill, “Resource Management Practices Protection Act of 2017” (H.R.983). This bill might look benign at first glance, but in fact, it is a codification of structural racism, a political gift to right-wing paramilitaries, and a double standard in favor of the radical right.

The bill would exempt fires set in the course of agricultural work from a federal arson charge that can trigger enhanced sentences under a draconian terrorism act. It is the delivery of a promise that Walden first made on the floor of Congress just three days after the start of the armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in January 2016. With this bill, Walden is trying to make a “carve-out” for a group that is largely white and right wing from unfair mandatory minimums that affect many people, especially people of color and Muslims. The bill entrenches the notion that certain groups of people can be sentenced under a wide-ranging “terrorism” act that subjects them to brutal heightened sentences — while exempting others, who are white and firmly installed on the far right end of the political spectrum.”

Read the rest at Truthout

“Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement”

screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-12-13-36-pmI started working on this report two months before  the Malheur occupation – which threw quite a wrench in the thing. But now it’s finally finished. A joint project from Political Research Associates and the Rural Organizing Project, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement explains the Patriot movement’s national structure and goals; shows its decades-old history in Oregon; looks in-depth at six Oregon counties where Patriot movement organizing is strongest today; explains why the rural Oregon economy is in bad shape; and offers concrete suggestions—including numerous examples from the last year—of how Oregonians have counter-organized against this movement.

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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), 188 pages.

Available in PDF and HTML (free), and softcover ($15+postage).

“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

Patriot Movement Paramilitaries in Oregon

This is an expanded version of a talk given at the Rural Organizing Project’s Rural Caucus and Strategy Session in Woodburn, Oregon on June 13, 2015.

The Patriot Movement: From Posse Comitatus to the Oath Keepers

In April 2015, armed right-wing paramilitaries converged on a mining claim in the Galice Mining District near Grants Pass in Josephine County, Oregon. Organizationally, it was a combination of different parts of what is called the Patriot movement: militias, 3%ers, Sovereign Citizens, and the Oath Keepers.

The Patriot movement is a form of extreme right politics that exists between the Tea Party end of the Republican Party and the white supremacist movement.* Generally those in the Patriot movement view the current U.S. federal government as an illegitimate, totalitarian state. They see the militias that they are building—and allied county sheriffs—as political-military formations that will eventually replace the current federal government.

Many of their movement’s tactics originate in white supremacist politics, mixed with ideas derived from anti-Communist conspiracy theories of the John Birch Society. According to Daniel Levitas, the group that first espoused many of the basic Patriot concepts was Posse Comitatus, whose founder, William Potter Gale, was a member of the racist Christian Identity religion. In the 1960s, he started to advocate Posse Comitatus (power of the county), based on the idea that the county sheriff is the highest political authority of the land. Gale thought that, in the post-Civil Rights era, the federal government was a totalitarian state run by a cabal of Jews. “County power” would allow people to ignore Supreme Court decisions and federal laws about civil rights and income tax, and allow a return to white supremacy and unfettered capitalism, free from federal regulations. Posse Comitatus also advocated for armed citizens’ militias and crank legal filings, which set the foundation for the formation of militias and Sovereign Citizen ideas, respectively. In 1976, the FBI estimated there were 12,000­–50,000 Posse members.

Read the rest at the Rural Organizing Project’s website.

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