This will all end in a shootout with the feds

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, April 2, 2009 15:08 EDT
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I’m certainly not the expert on Outer Wingnutteria (hat tip to David for the phrase) like David Neiwert is, but I know enough to start really beginning to worry that the hardest of the hard right are going to go on a self-immolation and violence-causing spree like they did in the 90s, except this time it may be worse, because the President whose authority they’re symbolically rejecting is a black man with a funny name. If Outer Wingnutteria—who escalated abortion clinic violence, who bombed Oklahoma City, who racked up shootouts with the Feds (such as Waco, Ruby Ridge, and the Republic of Texas)—rejected Bill Clinton, then what on earth are they going to do with Barack Obama in office? Clinton had a number of things about him that probably cooled some hysteria, perhaps limiting the number of wingnut fence-sitters who were attracted to the militia movements but decided it wasn’t worth it to actually start shit, and preferred just to sit at home grumbling. Or, at worst, they’d join a local militia and play soldier on the weekends, but never take it too seriously. Clinton was a bubba, a white guy who had Astroturf in the back of his truck, a burger chomper with a “I just want to be loved” attitude. He had a normal name. Obama is more of a smartass, an urbanite, a health food nut, and of course, he’s a black man with a funny name. I fear that these elements are going to make it easier for Outer Wingnutteria to recruit some people who sat it out last round.

Reading this post on the latest machinations of the Birther movement is educational, because it frames their paranoia in the larger schemes, paranoias, and ridiculous folk beliefs held by the black helicopter set. One of the overriding themes in the black helicopter world is that it should be easy to reject federal and state authority. In their mind, it’s just a matter of finding exactly the right legalese to exploit, and voila! They’ve created an airtight argument for why they get to quit the U.S. and form their own governments, where they get to be minor kings over their faux manors, instead of Bob the Nobody Middle Manager.* If you read Orcinus regularly, and especially if you read David’s books, you get a pretty good idea of how many cranks are out there, and how inventive their schemes get. But they all go back to this common idea that they could find the right legalese that would justify separation, and if they do that, they can feel good about themselves when their criminal behavior leads to a shootout with the feds. And by criminal behavior, I don’t mean setting up in your house and declaring yourself separate from the government. Usually they back up their sudden belief in independence by breaking the law, the favorites being counterfeiting or building up a stash of largely illegal weapons. The justifications vary wildly—you have the basic religious cranks, the guys who concoct schemes to declare themselves Native Americans so they can have reservation rights, and the idiots who dwell on the belief that states, especially Texas, have a right to secede. (Never mind that the people who “seceded” to create the Republic of Texas didn’t consult the rest of Texans about their scheme.) The schemes are stupid, but inventive, an interesting combo that would be delightful if it weren’t for the potential for violence.

That’s why I’m alarmed to see the Birthers put together a fake grand jury to issue a fake indictment to Barack Obama. Alarmed for a couple reasons, at least. First of all, while I’m sure they broke some sort of law to do this grand jury thing, odds are that they’re going to get nothing but radio silence about this faux indictment. This will convince them that what they did was legitimate, and that they’re being victimized by the government. This is the critical “they struck first” justification necessary for anyone who moves on to start provoking violence. We all know from history what comes next—building gun caches, buying property, declaring themselves separate, breaking some major law that the government can’t ignore, getting into a shootout, becoming martyrs in the right wing press, and potentially being used as “remember the Alamo” moments for domestic terrorists. That said, I’m not overly concerned, because I’m sure the Obama administration is well aware of the dangers and they have plenty of agents working to prevent domestic terrorism.

What does worry me is how the black helicopter set is finding more of a home in the mainstream media this time than they did under Clinton. Check out this Sean Hannity video that David wrote about—stuff that used to be consigned to hysterical photocopied newsletters sent out by mail order organizations and never even seen by the more level-headed members of society is now being put right out there on TV. This is stuff that belongs in the mouths of badly dressed ranters on access cable, and even though Fox News is considered the same thing by most liberals, alas, it has a basic authority because of its production values and the fact that they do, in fact, report hard news.

*Funny story about this. The Republic of Texas stand-off happened right outside of Ft. Davis, which is less than 30 miles from Alpine, where I grew up. After everyone was captured, they had to put them through some routine medical check-ups, and since my mom’s then-husband was the dentist for the entire area, he had the job of doing their dental work. So, the office gave them the routine paperwork to fill out, but all these dudes put the high-falutin’ titles they’d concocted for themselves on the “occupation” line. Like, “Alias Pseudonym, General, Republic Of Texas”. Alas, we all were more amused than alarmed by this level of self-delusion, because we all know a ton of guys who could totally slip from being Dale Dribble on “King of the Hill” into a shootout with the feds, if pushed. One of the subtly funny jokes on “King of the Hill” is the way that Dale’s friends all collude to hide his wife’s infidelities from him, because if you know guys like that, you know that something like discovering your wife’s infidelity could push you from harmless crank to shootout with the feds.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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