The Turner Diaries
Warriors Dreams: Violence and Manhood in Post-Vietnam America
The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation
Guns, Crime, and Freedom
Report from Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace
The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism
In the Shadow of War: The United States Since the 1930s
This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy
Why Waco? Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America
The search for those who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City has taken us into a nether world of militants who believe that the federal government is all one plot against their liberty. Theirs is a world haunted by “black helicopters,” harbingers of a UN takeover. We learn from them that federal officers belong to ZOG, the Zionist Occupation Government. We are told that the government building in Oklahoma was destroyed by the government itself, in order to get rid of Secret Service agents who knew too much about Bill and Hillary Clinton. Or that adopting the metric system would be a step on the path to slavery.
We are reminded that talk-show host Alan Berg was murdered in 1984 by a disciple of William L. Pierce, whose 1978 novel, The Turner Diaries, prescribed such acts of terror as the way to begin “taking back” government from oppressive federal usurpers. The novel was favorite reading for Timothy McVeigh, now charged with the bombing in Oklahoma City. In fact, that bombing seems modeled on one in The Turner Diaries, where the FBI headquarters is destroyed by a fertilizer bomb at 9:15 AM, when the building is full.1
It is hard to know how seriously the fantasts should be taken. Paranoia about the paranoids is itself dangerous. Extreme reaction to extremists led to shootouts between federal agents and religious gun collectors—at Ruby Ridge. Idaho, in 1992, and at Waco, Texas, in 1993—that have themselves become the cause of militant fears and mobilization.
Even the number of armed extremists is elusive. A swirl of organizations can be named. But some may be little more than letterheads. A sober researcher’s investigation of religious extremists could turn up hard evidence of only 520 “Christian patriots” in Idaho—hardly a mass movement.2 Besides, how new is this phenomenon? We have had conspiracy-mongers all through our history, enough to make Richard Hofstadter call paranoia a national style. At one time or another, Masons, Catholics, Jews, railroads, banks were seen as the underminers of American freedom. We have also had private armies organized in our midst—the Klan, Cosa Nostra, the Molly Maguires, Pinkerton forces in their strikebreaking days.
But there is something new about the groups coming to light after Oklahoma City. However those groups differ among themselves—some espousing violence, some not; some religious, some secular; some millennial, some pragmatic—they all agree in their intense fear of the government, and they have framed a complex analysis of the machinery of governmental repression, one that even non-extremists share on this point or that. In fact, it is hard to trace the exact line where extremism spills over into “mainstream” concerns about liberty.
The suspicion that government has become the enemy of freedom, not its protector, crosses ideological lines. Liberals point to FBI plots against American citizens like Dr. King, to CIA experiments with LSD on American citizens, to the Defense Department’s use of Americans as guinea pigs in nuclear testing. The right sees…
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