Barbados Times

Barbados, Caribbean & World News
Wednesday, Apr 24, 2024

The Oath Keepers promised to defend liberty — and ended up trying to overthrow American democracy

The Oath Keepers promised to defend liberty — and ended up trying to overthrow American democracy

The Oath Keepers branded themselves as defenders of liberty. In the end, they tried to keep the loser of an election in power.
It's always a question when someone or something — a friend, lover, or anti-government paramilitary organization — turns out to be rather quite bad: Were they always this bad, and we just ignored the signs, or did they actually change along the way, from good and decent (or not so obviously terrible) to out-and-out toxic?

The Oath Keepers, to be sure, are not to be confused with a charming but a little bit problematic ex. Founded in 2009, it is a far-right militia that recruited among the ranks of law enforcement.

A dozen years ago, before Oath Keepers founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes was convicted of seditious conspiracy along with another member of the Oath Keepers, Kelly Meggs for helping organize an invasion of the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection (three other members of the group were found guilty of related felonies, but found not guilty on the count of seditious conspiracy), it was at least possible, if not advisable, to believe this was merely a group of middle-aged, weekend cosplayers. President Barack Obama had just been sworn in as the first Black president and liberalism appeared ascendant, with the reaction to that predictable, often racist, but ultimately memes on Facebook and the Tea Party movement.

Rhodes also tailored his message, sometimes obscuring his far-right pedigree. In a 2011 interview with Reason, a libertarian magazine, he talked about his opposition to police militarization, "unconstitutional wars," and even white supremacy ("I'm part Apache Indian").

Radley Balko, the journalist who conducted that interview — and one of the country's best criminal justice reporters — has admitted to being a bit fooled, recently penning a "big honking mea culpa" in which he expressed regret for being "fairly credulous," a product, in part, of believing liberals were being hysterical about the threat posed by the far right.

"It's at least possible that Rhodes wasn't completely bullshitting me, and only became radicalized at some point after our interview," Balko wrote, noting his claimed opposition to police brutality against people of color.

But there were also plenty of red flags.

A look at the list of 10 orders the Oath Keepers insisted its members — cops and soldiers — would not carry out reveals as much. It includes the unsurprising, such as a declared refusal to enforce any attempt to "disarm" the populace — a right-wing bugaboo whenever a Democrat occupies the White House. To be sure, there are also a few items that, while standard-issue for any anti-government type, were at odds with post-9/11 conservatism, such as opposition to warrantless searches or the designation of any US citizen as an "enemy combatant" subject to military justice.

Then, again, there are the wacky red flags: "We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps," the group asserted right out the gate; "We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law," it continued (though it allied with those calling for just that after the 2020 election); and, "We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext."

These principles, as it were, could apply to any administration and that is indeed what the group insisted. Thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive, however, we can see just how they were received on the Oath Keepers' website at the time.

Roll the comments:

"I sincerely believe that Obama is a Marxist Dictator-in-Waiting. God help us all," one user wrote. "I believe that you (Mr. Barak Hussein Obama [sic]) are not an American," another user commented. "You were raised in other cultures, and do not have the same traditions, history, and values we do." Several also insisted that the federal government, under its new president, was intending to infect the public with swine flu to manufacture a pandemic, the end goal, one insisted, being to "implement a forced mass vaccination program which would be the means of administering a toxic biological agent."

The irony was not lost on all commenters. One user wondered where the spirited defense of civil liberties — putting aside birth certificates and vaccines — was under George W. Bush. "I am most upset that Obama has not pushed back as hard as I would like," the person wrote, "but this web page would never have been put up 8 years ago and many who are now wildly in favor of it would be the ones enforcing exactly the points you speak against."

We now have enough evidence to assess that claim: yeah, pretty much. Those who feared federal emergency management would lock up citizens, under a Democrat, pivoted to getting mad about "antifa" and Black Lives Matter during the Trump years; some even boasted of their supposed collaboration with the federal government, fearing socialists and anarchists much more than the state they feared so much under Obama. Now, under another Democrat, the federal government and its three-letter agencies are once again the enemy du jour.

Rachel Carroll Rivas, a long-time watcher of the far right and a researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, believes the Oath Keepers started out where they ended up, the riot at the US Capitol the apex of a conspiratorial movement steeped in racialized fears. She's hopeful the lesson has been learned.

"I think the public and the media have gotten better at understanding the pitch of the anti-government militia movement," she said in an interview. "The pitch is wrapped in a flag — it's false patriotism — and there's a lot of libertarian, constitutionalist talking points. But there is, in my take, nothing different about the underlying threat that Oath Keepers posed from day one."

Of the riot on January 6, Carrol Rivas added: "I think Stewart was saying, and the members were saying, that this was what they were going to do in 2009. And then they did it."
Newsletter

Related Articles

Barbados Times
0:00
0:00
Close
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Italian Court's Controversial Ruling on Sexual Harassment Ignites Uproar
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
BBC Personalities Rebuke Accusations Amidst Scandal Involving Teen Exploitation
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner
×