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The militia movement

By Dave Duffy

Dave Duffy

Issue #46 • July/August, 1997

In a recent issue of U.S. Newsand World Report—a news magazine I had thought was more objective than liberal-leaning magazines like Time and Newsweek—there appeared a major article titled "Mainstreaming the militia." Far from being the objective piece I had hoped for, it was yet another distorted mainstream media reporting about the goings on of America's mushrooming militia movement.

The article painted militia groups and other anti-government groups as being composed of unemployed, low-income, uneducated, paranoid, and easily-led misfits who are seeking to blame someone—the U.S. Government, the United Nations, the New World Order, or whatever—for their troubles. Backwoods Home Magazine was mentioned as one of the "magazines that have sprung up to compete for the antiestablishment audience."

The article has all kinds of references to the Oklahoma City bombing, potential violence by militia groups to revenge the Waco massacre or to mark the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, and the suspicion by federal agents that the militia groups are planning all sorts of violence just as an outlet for their hate and extremism.

The supposed "sources" for the information in the article comes from groups, publications, and Internet sites with explosively ominous names like Klanwatch, Center on Hate and Extremism, the Hate Directory, the Program for the Study of Violence and Conflict, Skinheads USA, the Ku Klux Klan Home Page, Library of a White Tribalist, and Aryan Nations. And, of course, the books and videos these outfits sell have titles like Hitman, How to Kill, and Ultimate Sniper to "help Americans preparing for a race war," among other dastardly things. And, of course, these dangerous nuts all hang out at the "notorious" Preparedness Shows that are popping up all over the country.

Now let me qualify my annoyance with this distorted and misleading U.S.News article by saying that neither I, my staff, nor Backwoods Home Magazine have membership in any militia group or other anti-government group. This is not intended as a statement to back away from these people in any way, but as an assertion that we are an independent publication that is interested in the fair treatment of all Americans, be they militia groups from America's political right or environmental groups from America's political left.

That said, I can tell you during the eight years of BHM's existence, I have met many militia members at the various Preparedness Shows I have attended and I have met many environmentalists at the various environmental and energy shows I have attended. The most prominent of these people, such as John Trochmann (pictured prominently and ominously in the U.S. News article as the head of the "notorious" Montana Militia), and John Schaeffer (always displayed favorably in the media as the environmentally-aware owner of Real Goods Corporation), are exceptionally smart businessmen and exceptionally good family men. As with other prominent people on both the left and the right, they have their hangers-on who are jerks.

What angers me, being libertarian and conservative, is that I have never, in eight years of attending these shows in cities from Boston to Denver to Los Angeles, read anything in the mainstream media that was negative about environmental shows, or that was positive about Preparedness Shows. Even though, in my observations, the environmental shows are full of environmental crackpots, many of whom would be willing to resort to violence to promote their agenda (Remember the Unabomber and tree spikers?), and the Preparedness Shows, though plagued by their own share of crackpots, by and large are attended by well-educated, well-informed, sensible people whose chief sin seems to be demanding the government behave in accordance with the Constitution.

So why the difference in press coverage? In a nutshell: The environmental shows are full of liberals who want to promote government intervention to save the world as they think it should be, and the Preparedness Shows are full of conservatives and libertarians who want to limit government intervention so as to save America the way they think it should be. If you are liberal, you get good press; if not, you get tagged as a racist, extremist, or nutcase. It just makes me so mad I could spit.

Well, at least the U.S. News article was partly right when it said the militia movement is becoming more mainstream, but it underestimates the appeal. Instead of the six Preparedness Expos it said are planned for this year, there are at least 19. They are in cities like Orlando, Portland, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Kansas City, San Francisco, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Nashville, Tulsa, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Buffalo, St. Louis, Columbus, San Diego, and Dallas. Some have already taken place.

You see, U.S. News, Americans aren't really influenced by how much you or the rest of the mainstream media distort the meaning of a legitimate American movement. They've been down this freedom road before. And what the militia movement is in America is a healthy exercise of freedom—what freedoms we have left—to oppose the excesses of our own government. If it has racists and extremists on its fringes, so does every other movement this country has ever had. You concentrate on the fringes to pull off your distortion, but big government zealots like you have never been able to stamp out the real truth with your high profile distortions.

The U.S. News article is right about one thing, and I'll quote it: "...the mainstreaming of the militia movement has just begun."

Read More by Dave Duffy

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