April 12, 2010

Prosecutors late last week, at a bail hearing for members of the Hutaree militia, played tape recordings of the kinds of things the Hutaree leaders were telling their followers. As I suggested back when the busts occurred, the evidence makes clear that these "Patriots" were telling the public one thing to present a "good citizen" face, while they were telling their followers quite another.

CNN has the audio, and it also presents a portrait of an apocalyptic religious cult that believes it's up against the forces of Satan, embodied in government workers, law enforcement officers, and United Nations soldiers:

"In this nation, we think we are free, but you need a certificate to be born, a license to drive, a permit to build, a number to get a job and even a paper after you die," says David Bryan Stone Sr., 45, the alleged head of the Hutaree militia, accused of conspiring to overthrow the government and plotting to kill police officers.

"These are permission slips from the terrorists organization called the new world order," Stone says in the tape, which was recorded clandestinely by an FBI agent who infiltrated the militia and obtained exclusively by CNN.

... "People in this nation as well as some around this world are waiting for those individuals like you see sitting in this room to actually make the decision to go to war against this evil, greedy new world order," Stone says on the tape.

"They need leaders who are not afraid to stand up and actually mean, 'No more.' We are free and we should not be afraid or ashamed to admit that we are the American militia. We outnumber them. As long as we let them terrorize any American through fear and intimidation, then they are winning this battle and we should step up to the fight that they have started and finish it."

... "Every day, we watch ever so close for those evil blue helmets to appear on our streets -- but as long as through Interpol, law enforcement mercenaries called the brotherhood working for the new world order are doing such a great job, then we don't need to watch for these foreign armies to come to our shores. They are already here," Stone says.

The striking aspect of the audio is the way Stone's rhetoric is essentially a logical outcome of basic Patriot-movement rhetoric about the "new world order" and "sovereignty" -- rhetoric that is nowadays gaining wide currency at Tea Party rallies and on their websites. Indeed, as we've been reporting for some time, the Tea Parties are fundamentally a revival of the '90s Patriot movement, this time with the blessing of official conservative-dom.

We've frequently discussed the political dimensions of this trend, but there's also an important religious component to it as well, an apocalyptic one brought into stark relief by the Hutaree folks. Frederick Clarkson at Religion Dispatches has a good piece examining this dimension in detail:

In the 90s other terms were used to describe what we might now call Christian militias. The most famous militia group at the time, The Michigan Militia, had views similar to those of the Hutaree. It was founded and led by a Baptist minister named Norm Olsen and a deacon of his church and they’d made an indoctrination video of its chaplain addressing new recruits explaining that abortion necessitated the founding of the militia. Nevertheless, it was typically described as “anti-government.” And while that was certainly fair, (as it would be to describe the Hutaree militia as anti-government), it also tended to obscure the indisputable religious motivations of this and many other militia groups large and small. Reporting on these groups at the time also tended to downplay their religious eschatology.

... RD contributor Chip Berlet, correctly I believe, wrote that the ideas of the Hutaree are analogous to those of such Christian Right leaders as Tim LaHaye and Pat Robertson. But if we follow Robinson, shall we say that LaHaye and Robertson are not followers of Christ? Or do people stop being Christians only when they commit or are alleged to have planned to commit violent crimes? If so, having appointed ourselves as the arbiters of apostasy, we then cannot describe such people as Christian terrorists or Christian militias because by definition they have auto-excommunicated themselves.

Meanwhile, as David S. Bernstein in the Boston Phoenix observes, the Hutaree are almost certainly on the tip of the domestic-terrorism iceberg:

Now, a year later, as we approach the same dangerous date, things have only grown worse. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented a rise in militia and “patriot” groups. Mother Jones and the Progressive have described well-armed, conspiracy-soaked extremist groups like the Oath Keepers, which exist on the edges of the conservative movement. The FBI last month arrested nine members of the religious Hutaree militia in Michigan, accused of plotting mass murder of law-enforcement personnel. And passage last month of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act triggered people to throw bricks through Democratic office windows and send death threats to elected officials, prompting extra security measures for not only members of Congress, but even the nonpartisan Senate Parliamentarian.

The April 15 Tax Day Tea Parties will undoubtedly ratchet the anti-government rhetoric even higher — followed, incredibly, by large pro-gun demonstrations on the hyper-charged 19th itself. (Organizers say they are commemorating the Battle of Lexington.) One of those events, near the nation’s capital, features among its speakers an Alabama militia member who called for the brick-throwing, and who later explained it as a warning to Democrats about the likelihood of greater violent resistance — “a thousand little Wacos,” as he put it.

Given all this, it would almost be surprising if there are not any “lone wolves” or “small terrorist cells” preparing to strike.

The fact is, there are millions of Americans who genuinely believe — based on information they receive every day from television and radio, and from elected officials and “respectable” organizations — that we have an illegitimate (by virtue of his foreign birth) presidential usurper, installed to power through a fraudulent election, who, with his Marxist allies in Congress, are running an unconstitutional government and pushing our nation irreversibly on a path to a secular, despotic regime.

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