[Bo Gritz's Idaho survivalist community, 'Almost Heaven,' in 2004]
Now that they've lost their election and are seeing their political future circling down the drain, a lot of folks on the political right are drowning in despair and retreating even further into the cocoon of non-reality they've created for themselves. And that response is especially acute on farthest fringes of the Right, where the militiamen are stocking up for the Obamacalypse.
Even among the larger population of mainstream conservatives, they're not handling the election results well. Fully 49 percent of them think Obama won with the help of ACORN-induced vote fraud -- apparently oblivious to the fact that ACORN has been defunct for the better part of two years. Then again, those same polls show their numbers overall are shrinking in a downward spiral.
The most hard-core of these among the "mainstream" Republicans just had their most recent moment of glory -- protecting America from the "threat" of a loss of sovereignty under the guise of a basic act of decency such as recognizing the rights of the disabled. As Dan Drezner observes, it's hard to tell just what these "sovereignists" are on about.
Though actually, if you've been observing the American Right for a long time, it's not hard at all to see what these folks are on about: They're succumbing to their inner John Birchers, retreating to a paranoid fantasyland in which President Obama and the Democrats are about to destroy every last vestige of freedom in America on behalf of the ever-conspiring Communists who lurk inside the New World Order.
The Right has been warming up to this for a long time, including their insane hysteria in the run-up to the election. And whenever they suffer a bad election, they go through paroxysms of discontent in which large chunks of them opt for total withdrawal from American society as preparation for the End of the World As We Know It. And some of them fantasize about how they can take on evil oppressive liberal dictatorship.
You can actually find a whole genre of books dedicated to this worldview. I call it "Patriot Porn" -- fictional books that tell the tales of brave bands of patriotic survivors who take on the powers of the evil liberal/commie/Mooslim overlords and carve out their pocket of resistance and survival. They have titles like By Force of Patriots and Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse, and Firebase Freedom (whose author, the late William W. Johnstone, appears to have been dead since 2004 but somehow seems to keep producing, zombie-like, these awful paranoid Patriot fantasy titles such as The Blood of Patriots and Phoenix Rising; Firebase Freedom is coming out this month). And yes, you can actually pick up the Johnstone books off the grocery-store paperback shelf.
Patriots understand that an epic storm is coming to America.
Economic collapse is imminent. Disruptions of Just-in-Time supply lines will lead America into chaos. Violence along racial, ethnic, religious and economic class lines will bring forth famine, disease and a fundamental reset of life in America.
A group of Patriots have decided to build a community off the most likely lines of peril, a bastion of Jefferson's Rightful Liberty where we may remain safe, warm, healthy and comfortable while American society suffers the inevitable destruction that must accompany the decades of degenerating morality of our Countrymen.
The location of this compound of right-wing extremists is the deep woods of northern Idaho -- in fact, in one of my favorite, oft-visited fly-fishing areas (the St. Joe River is a balm for the soul), Benewah County. It is deeply wooded and mountainous terrain with few roads. This fourth-generation Idahoan has seen the likes of these folks before. It has pretty much never turned out well.
Right off the bat is the fact that, as the announcement explains, this "community" is going to revolve around the manufacture of weapons:
The cornerstone of the Citadel is III Arms Company, an industry to support the first wave of Patriots who will become modern American Pioneers. We will build Fighting Arms and ammunition for Patriots and around us a town will begin to grow. Other revenue streams are already in the works. Our intent is to purchase at least one thousand acres, and construct a walled town of at least one square mile to withstand any potential violence from hungry, diseased Souls. Obviously the Citadel is not being built to defy any laws of the United States or the State of Idaho, or to withstand any .gov or .mil attack. Our fortifications are merely defensive for a SHTF world.
Sure, that's what all of these right-wing extremists who set up compounds in the woods start out saying: They're just creating a retreat away from everyone else and will never bother anyone, because their position is purely defensive. That's what they said at the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake in the 1970s. And at the Freemen compound in Montana, and at Almost Heaven in Kamiah, both in the 1990s. Then it turned out that they were magnets for violent terrorist criminals and con artists who committed strings of crimes and, in the case of the Freemen and Aryan Nations, produced armed standoffs with federal authorities.
They're planning to have "up to 5,000 households" within the compound, which should create some interesting problems in terms of sanitation and sewage. But these are hardy Patriots, no doubt.
They seem, on the other hand, to have a kind of cognitive dissonance problem. They declare themselves an "open society" with one breath and then declare that all liberals will be banned from living within their walls with the other:
The Citadel is not to be a closed society, instead a refuge for genuine Patriots who wish to live without neighbors who are Liberals and Establishment political ideologues, open for tourists who will be welcomed into our town to visit our planned Firearms Museum, shop in our Town Center, stay in a B&B or hotel while vacationing and exploring the wonderful skiing, hunting and fishing opportunities in the area, and many other attractions we will offer.
If you are a patriotic American who believes in Jefferson's Rightful Liberty, who believes in the Constitution as written, who believes in the Declaration of Independence, and who wishes to live in a beautiful, secure mountain town that bans Liberals from living among us, consider exploring the Citadel as we evolve and build.
Well, logic has never been their strong suit. And so far, it appears that all this is only a fantasy. It doesn't appear that the promoters of this scheme have yet even purchased any Benewah County property. And so far, the promoter of the scheme has not even identified himself publicly.
If you're wonder what all the "III" references are about -- besides the "III Citadel" and "III Arms", these folks identify themselves as "III Patriots" -- here's the explanation: One of the favorite statistics bandied about by the folks on the far right is the claim that only three percent of the American colonial population at the time of the Revolutionary War actually participated as soldiers in the fighting; the reasoning that follows from this is that it really only takes a dedicated band of people to bring about revolutionary change in America. This is their way of rationalizing themselves out of their extreme minorityhood.
So they call themselves "Three Percenters" or "Threepers", and they organize their militia activities accordingly. One of the leading Threepers is none other than the execrable Mike Vanderboegh, who you may remember as the charming man who fomented a spate of anti-Democratic violence after the passage of health-care reform.
However, it appears that this particular band of Threepers is a spinoff group created by some Patriots who fell out with Vanderboegh. Indeed, that's pretty much the story arc of every Patriot group that's ever existed: The come together in fear and paranoia, and pretty soon they break apart under the same forces -- with large dashes of anger issues and ego thrown into the mix. But along the way, the chemistry that results can often be lethal, usually for people who have the misfortune to cross their paths at the wrong moment.
This particular plan reminds me a great deal of another Patriot "community" that was attempted in the 1990s a few miles to the south of Benewah County, down in the Kamiah area, called "Almost Heaven." It was organized by far-right hero James "Bo" Gritz, who similarly sought out a place where Patriots could retreat and have each others' backs when the End of the World came.
However, it all came to naught. First, some of Gritz's fellow Patriots decided they needed to get involved with the Freemen standoff over in Montana, and created a stir by attempting to create a similar situation in Kamiah. Then Gritz attempted suicide when his fed-up wife up and left him. By 2004, it was pretty much over. The best thing you could say about it was that it didn't end up being a magnet for criminals and terrorists, as the Aryan Nations joint was, and that no one got into an 81-day armed standoff with the FBI, as they had in Jordan.
We'll be watching to see if the "III Citadel" moves from the fantasy stage to reality. Increasingly, these Patriots and their "Prepper" contingent -- the folks storing away canned foods in their basements and guns in their attics -- are being treated as sorta mainstream by the mainstream press, who are readily gulled by the protestations of non-extremism by these extremists. And you never know how fundraising schemes like the gun sales will succeed.
Sure, they may be making things better in the short run by just going away. But these paranoid fantasies about Obama are going to be festering for a good long while, and that never produces anything but tragic misery.