Where do we draw the line between patriot and domestic terrorist?

How could I be this way, when I pray to God above
I must love what I destroy, and destroy the thing I love

Sting, Moon Over Bourbon Street

Would you believe there is no legal framework for what constitutes a “domestic terrorist”? I imagine this observation would surprise a lot of people, given domestic terrorism has become such a beloved catchphrase among the chattering class. It has also become a badge of honor among folks who fancy themselves nonconformists or keyboard revolutionaries.

“The FBI now considers parents who raise objections at school board meetings domestic terrorists!” Perhaps the FBI keeps dossiers on every minivan pilot who dares to speak out about critical race theory or whatever – and that would certainly be anti-democratic behavior on their part (not to mention a complete waste of taxpayer dollars) – but they could never be considered “domestic terrorists” from a legal perspective.

That’s because “domestic terrorism” is not a crime that exists in the United States. The only time it is mentioned in statute is within the (idiotic) Patriot Act, where it is intended to address people operating domestically on behalf of foreign adversaries. This is why there is so much pressure to expand the application of hate crime statutes. People think it’s a joke that everything under the sun is treated as a hate crime these days, but that’s only because charging someone with a hate crime is something that does exist in statute. Timothy McVeigh – who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City with a truck bomb, which killed 168 people and injured 680 others, as some twisted revenge for Janet Reno’s siege of the Branch Davidian cult complex in Waco – was not a domestic terrorist in the eyes of the law. He was convicted of killing federal agents, using a weapon of mass destruction, and other crimes.

In the United States, simply harassing the government is not something a person could be held legally accountable for. You have to graduate to committing acts of violence, plotting to commit them, or physically destroying government property. And that’s comme il faut, in my opinion.

The point of this rambling preamble is the term “domestic terrorist” is a political and not a legal label. Everyone has a different understanding of what makes an individual or group a homegrown threat to their country. For many partisans, a domestic terrorist is anyone they disagree with on cultural or ideological matters. There’s really no reward for fighting with these folks about how they perceive their fellow Americans.

But let’s attempt to take a more balanced approach here. What is the difference between someone who legitimately wants to defend their country or way of life and a person who is acting to destroy the interests of their country and other people’s way of life? How would you recognize a domestic terrorist if you cared about responsibility and accountability?

***

What follows will be a long, but hardly exhaustive, January 6th origin story, centered around a conservative/libertarian paramilitary group called the Oath Keepers. I am going to delve into the history of their organization, which predates the Trump era, and some of the key personalities involved.

As far as internet rabbit holes are concerned, I think this one is particularly interesting. It shows how complicated it can be to differentiate between a patriot and a domestic terrorist when you factor in someone’s psychology and the fact that most radicals cannot recognize that they have been radicalized. It is likewise true that many of the people who defend radicals cannot recognize they, too, have been radicalized. And then there are what I am going to call the “tag-alongs” – people who would not support a group if they knew what its leaders were truly about, but share a sort of blissfully ignorant fraternity.

This is not something you are likely to see from another politically conservative observer, let me tell you – especially one with my background. Reading about these people and the things that they have been accused of almost feels tragic to me. When I look at them, it is not difficult to imagine I could have been friends with some of them, at least superficially, over the years. I am from a family with many military veterans. I have friends who have served as law enforcement officers, and my parents and siblings have police friends. Heck, one of my dad’s good friends was a SWAT cop that was one of the first in during the massacre at Columbine High School. He was so devastated by seeing a bunch of dead kids that he had to retire from the police force.

These are generally well-intentioned people and I respect them a lot (so should you). But every good cop will tell you that bad cops also exist. In private, they’d probably even name a few that they think should not be trusted with a gun. And every good soldier has met soldiers that they can discern are not right in the head.

This is a real phenomenon for people who become obsessed with thoughts of combat and start to crave it as a lifestyle. Like most Vietnam vets, my father rarely talked about his tour of duty. But I do remember him telling us about “tunnel rats” as a kid. For the uninitiated, a tunnel rat refers to the soldiers who would crawl into underground tunnels, which were dark and thoroughly boobytrapped, to take out enemy combatants or destroy military resources.

Now my father was a door-gunner on a helicopter gunship, which had a survival rate of about 30 seconds in battle, but even he thought the tunnel rats had the worst job in the Army. Most of the tunnel rats, he explained, became like wild animals over time, hard-wired for the quarry and approximately nothing else. They went into the tunnels because they lived for the kill, not because they were ordered to do so. It was a source of pleasure, thrills, identity, and purpose. If they were back home, some of them would probably be dangerous. But in the context of the Army they were on the side of the patriots. But these tended to be soldiers who had truly lost their sense of humanity.

Since I mentioned him earlier, it is worth noting that Timothy McVeigh was a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. The federal government he attacked had perversely also trained him to be an effective killer. That was also true for a lot of the people who attacked the Capitol.

If you wanted to find a way to describe the difference between a professional solider and a domestic terrorist, I would offer you two criteria: (1) what they think their target is, and (2) whether they still maintain a sense of humanity.

***

The Oath Keepers group was the brainchild of a man named Elmer Stewart Rhodes, who was recently indicted on seditious conspiracy charges related to the Capitol riots. Rhodes has been a MAGA mainstay for years, and the Trump campaign gave him VIP seats at Trump’s rallies.

While the folks on the left love to describe MAGA types as poor, uneducated rednecks, Rhodes is anything but. According to a 2020 profile in The Atlantic, Rhodes joined the Army straight out of high school, with the ambition of joining the Special Forces. He was discharged after a parachute accident broke his spine. He later lost an eye after he dropped a loaded handgun and took a bullet to the face. He decided to get his life together and went to community college, then to the University of Las Vegas (where he graduated summa cum laude), and then he went to Yale Law School.

That’s right – this is an Ivy League-educated militia man. Rhodes’s passionate libertarian ideology ironically made him a good match for the Ivy League at the time. He wrote papers criticizing the Bush administration’s positions on civil liberties that were very well received by Bush-hating elites. Rhodes even clerked for an Arizona Supreme Court Justice at one point in his legal career.

After university, he moved to the militia hotbed of Montana, married himself a good libertarian woman, and started a libertarian law practice. His clients included a militia leader who had been thrown in jail for manufacturing machine guns. He found himself immersed in what was called the Patriot Movement and, like McVeigh, got himself pretty worked up about Waco. (I wonder if anyone has ever tallied up the number of people Janet Reno radicalized….)

Rhodes left quite the online trail of manifestos on government overreach. Now everyone knows it’s kind of a generic trait of right-leaning libertarians to take Waco or Ruby Ridge personally. But for Rhodes, this is when he started fetishizing a civil war. He was so committed to the idea of a coming civil war that he decided to start assembling a secret army.

Welcome to Wonderland, kids.

That army was the Oath Keepers, an organization he founded in 2009. It was named after the oath military recruits are required to take to join the armed forces. You will note that 2009 was the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency. As far as I can tell, Rhodes was not bothered by Obama’s race (honestly). What he was bothered by was what he thought would be a socialist takeover of the United States, that included the wholesale loss of personal liberties. When the Oath Keepers took on Black Lives Matter, it was because they hated the group’s promotion of Marxism. The group has included Black members, who worked their way up into leadership positions. They even have anti-discrimination provisions in their by-laws. Just trying to keep the caricatures in check here.

Most mainstream conservatives would concur with the sentiment that the Obama – Biden administrations (which are staffed by substantially the same personalities, so they basically just run together) have been a slippery slope for civil liberties and have involved policies that trend toward bona fide socialism. As long as Rhodes kept his civil war fetish on the down-low, finding support was not going to be a problem.

The recruitment premise for his army was that it would be a fraternity of current and former military personnel and law enforcement, among others, who all agreed that they would defy any orders or mandates that they regarded as anti-American. But Rhodes was fixated on the idea of a civil war, so being a member of the Oath Keepers also explicitly entailed a pledge to fight (as in combat, not a vocal resistance) a corrupt or abusive government if necessary.

Members of the group agreed to a list of ten kinds of orders they would not agree to follow (this will become very important later in this tale):

Gun-control laws are first among them. Then come libertarian concerns such as subjecting American citizens to military tribunals and warrantless search and seizure. After those come more conspiratorial fears—blockades of cities, foreign troops on U.S. soil, putting Americans in detention camps. Here Rhodes was drawing from the “New World Order” theory, a worldview that is central to the Patriot movement—and that can be traced back to what the historian Richard Hofstadter, writing in the 1960s, called the paranoid style in American politics. It linked fears of globalism, a deep distrust of elites, and the idea that a ballooning federal government could become tyrannical.

After writing about this fraternity on his libertarian prepper blog, Rhodes found himself smothered with like-minded people who wanted to join. Being an attorney who had studied the legal vulnerabilities of the militia movement in depth, Rhodes decided to make the group as official as possible. He submitted an application for tax-exempt status to the IRS to become a nonprofit, and it would appear that some divisions of the group did succeed in obtaining that approval later under the Trump administration. (You could get a tax break for funding a militia dedicated to a civil war – no kidding! Even in my wildest dreams, I could not make this shit up.) They had a board of directors, adopted a set of by-laws, the whole nine yards. Crazy libertarians who built their own crazy little bureaucracy, got to love it.

Rhodes initially committed to keeping the group’s membership anonymous, but that did not last long. Eventually he (and his trusted friends) started creating a database to track the personal contact information, service histories, and combat talents of everyone who joined or, it seems, expressed even the slightest interest in joining. This database included the personal data for around 25,000 people before someone disgruntled with Rhodes’s ego and increasing radicalization was tempted to leak it to the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center and the media (we’ll get to that later). It’s kind of hard to believe an Ivy League-educated attorney wasn’t cynical enough to avoid this trap, but here we are.

So the FBI does not even need to make a naughty list of political extremists – they’ll do that themselves and then hand it to people who will hand it to the FBI with a big red bow. There’s a reason the FBI had no difficulty identifying the people involved in the Capitol riot. This is one of the many reasons why all the conspiracy theories about informants on right-wing websites are so freaking hilarious. Most extremists simply cannot resist the urge to make their presence known, which is why if you are normcore conservative, getting friendly with these groups is a mistake that can carry some pretty high personal costs.

I would also guess this list is a big part of why the Pentagon carries on so much about radicals in their ranks and the FBI talks about radicals in law enforcement. Before I started researching these militia groups, I would have assumed this was simply a matter of political bias (and that’s not entirely wrong). I was shocked when they started demanding background checks on National Guard members who were patrolling the inauguration festivities. But it does seem like a pretty big deal if you have tens of thousands of service members who are training for a civil war in their spare time. That’s some pretty third-world shit right there. And I totally get that some conservatives will still read this and think, meh, boys will be boys. But the existence of these groups creates some bizarre grey areas between not trampling on the constitutional right to free speech that all people in this country – including members of the military and law enforcement – enjoy and the practical matter of having sane and professional institutions to provide essential government services.

That said, it is unclear to me how many of these members actually knew what Rhodes & Co. were about. (In fact, I think there are a lot of conservatives now who still don’t.) Rhodes appears to have included many people who casually expressed an interest in the group only to be repelled by his true politics, but they were not removed from the database:

The first person I contacted, in January, was David Solomita, an Iraq War veteran in Florida whose entry said that a police officer had recruited him to the Oath Keepers while he was out to dinner with his wife. I didn’t mention civil war when I emailed, yet he replied, “I want to make this clear, I am a libertarian and was in Iraq when it became a civil war, I want no part of one.”

Later, Solomita said that he’d been an Oath Keeper for a year before leaving because Rhodes “wanted to be at the center of the circus when [civil war] kicked off.” America’s political breakdown, he added, reminded him too much of what he’d seen overseas.

Those comments, however, show you that civil war talk was definitely a prominent feature of this organization for over a decade. When they would meet up for some soldier cosplay on weekends, that’s what it was all about. Eventually they would be gratified.

Rhodes enjoyed his militia for a few years before getting into serious trouble that would end with him being disbarred:

In May of 2012, the Arizona Supreme Court fined Rhodes $600 for acting as the attorney for Roth and Jones when he wasn’t licensed to practice law in Arizona.

Rhodes continued to represent Roth and Jones in Arizona even after the reprimand, and continued to file federal lawsuits on their behalf.

On April 15, 2014, he failed to appear by telephone for a status conference for a case with Jones. At the time, Rhodes was at the Cliven Bundy standoff with the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Nevada. Oath Keepers were there supporting Bundy who had not been paying grazing fees on federal land.

On April 28, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona filed an ethics complaint against Rhodes for appearing in court without a license to do so. On May 12, 2014, Roth lodged a complaint against Rhodes, stating that he had provided incompetent representation and had abandoned Roth in his civil suit in federal court. Rhodes did not respond to either complaint.

On July 30, 2014, the Montana Commission on Practice (COP) told Rhodes to personally appear before the COP on October 16, 2014, in Kalispell to address the complaints. He did not show up to the meeting.

The matter was then raised before the Montana Adjudicatory Panel of the Commission on Practice. On October 8, 2015, a hearing was held in Butte to address the complaint. Rhodes was told to appear before the commission to answer the grievances in person, but he again did not show up.

On Dec. 8, 2015, the Montana Supreme Court officially disbarred Rhodes from practicing law for conduct violating the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct.

Not long after that, Rhodes’s wife divorced him and he moved to Texas. Over these same years, Rhodes went into a full meltdown and the Oath Keepers started to purify their ranks ideologically (back to the Atlantic piece):

Behind the scenes, Karriman and others who were close to Rhodes told me, the Oath Keepers were plagued by dysfunction. Rhodes would disappear for long stretches and stall on initiatives—such as a national program to offer community training in firearm safety, first aid, and disaster relief—that would have been a boon to recruiting. Wealthy donors offered money, Karriman said, but when they asked to see the group’s books, Rhodes declined. In 2017, a blogger published allegations of embezzlement by the group’s IT administrator and accused Rhodes of covering it up, citing documents and recordings. Karriman demanded reforms but was ultimately pushed out. Other board members resigned, chapters dissolved, and the membership files were leaked to the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Rhodes denies these accusations and attributes them to a “coup attempt” by people with whom he has ideological differences.)

Several former deputies to Rhodes told me his behavior had grown erratic. At the Bundy-ranch standoff in 2014, he’d claimed to have intelligence that the Obama administration was planning a drone strike on the Patriot encampment. The Oath Keepers pulled back as militiamen from other groups accused them of desertion. The next year, he said in a speech that John McCain should be tried and hanged for treason because he supported the indefinite detention of American citizens suspected of terrorism. Afterward, he told me, he began facing heightened scrutiny at airports…

He was also pushing the Oath Keepers in a direction that clashed with the quieter mode some of his members favored. In the files, I found a note appended to the entry of an Air Force officer asking that his name be stricken from the rolls. The officer “will still be with us,” the note read, but he wanted to protect his 15-year career in the military. The note was from Steve Homan, a Vietnam veteran from Nebraska and a former vice president of the Oath Keepers. When I called him, he recounted how he’d focused on recruiting people with military skills while trying not to draw too much attention. He weeded out the “wild hats.” He wanted people willing and able to “slug back” against the government if necessary but levelheaded enough not to start the fight. He referred to them as “quiet patriots,” his version of the militant right’s Gray Man trope, a silent majority that will come to his side in a conflict.

This description fit a Special Operations soldier I found in the files who told me he’d never appeared at an event but was ready to step in if needed. He has an Oath Keepers bumper sticker on his vehicle at the base, so that other soldiers will ask him about it. The question of violence, he said, “definitely comes up, and my response is that it absolutely could include armed conflict. I like to use the Revolutionary War as an example. The militias were there, well armed and organized, not looking to pick a fight but ready when it happened.”

In Trump, the Oath Keepers found a president whom they thought fit their worldview, and he certainly spoke to Rhodes’s skepticism of government. But Trump’s presidency also supplied something else for the group – confirmation that the United States was headed toward a civil war and that their preparations were both sensible and virtuous. With Trump, conservative commentary stopped being about boring stuff like the national debt and started being about interesting stuff like a national divorce.

***

Let’s return to the orders the Oath Keepers pledged not to consent to and situate them in the context of both the 2020 presidential election and the global response to the coronavirus. Put yourself in the mindset of someone who thinks like Rhodes and his merry band of patriots. Does it seem like the civil war that Rhodes has been waiting for since the Bush administration has finally arrived?

Dozens of race riots with billions of dollars of public and private property destroyed? Check.

People murdered for their political opinions at these riots? Check.

Fire-bombings of GOP political offices? Christian churches and synagogues vandalized? Check.

A movement to abolish the police and targeted assaults on law enforcement? Check.

Anarchists seizing parts of major US cities and the government doing nothing? Check.

Citizens being told they cannot leave their homes, even if means a personal financial catastrophe or losing their ability to earn a living / feed their families altogether? Check.

Venezuela-esque food shortages? Check.

Rationing of goods and services across populations, and not necessarily fairly? Check.

The government telling citizens what they must or cannot do with their own bodies? Check.

Talk of putting “unclean” people in camps? Check.

Their beloved president droning on about election fraud and conspiracies within the ranks of the government to push him out of power illegitimately? Talks of a coup? Check.

I mean, you look at this list and it makes Bundy’s fight over grazing fees look like child’s play, no? This was the moment these guys were made for.

Just listing these events, you have to stop and think, are these things worth dropping your basket over if you value living in a free, democratic society? Absolutely, they are. Did watching these events unfold make many totally rational people fear for the future? Absolutely, they did. But does a rational person automatically think they are worth killing other Americans over? That’s the question that separates a patriot from a domestic terrorist in my mind. Again, the lack of humanity.

Why did they focus their violent contempt on Pelosi instead of asking why Trump (or Abbott, as many of these guys were ultimately from Texas) did not grow a pair and behave more like DeSantis? Or why not move to Florida, where nothing on that list would apply to you? I mean, if you can drop twenty grand on weapons, you can also drop twenty grand on a moving van.

***

So what does all this have to do with Trump personally? If this group is batshit crazy and we know they’re about to do batshit stuff at the US Capitol, how is Trump himself involved? Why do I have the impression that folks from Trump’s inner circle had at least some knowledge that the Oath Keepers and Q Anon groups had chaos and destruction planned for January 6th, when Trump finally got his “Stop the Steal” extravaganza?

Because these folks are not simply anonymous faces in the crowds at his rallies – and boy, did they go to his rallies. They had VIP access to Trump at events, because a group with tens of thousands of aggressively online members was a key part of his campaign networking and fundraising. These people did not just organize themselves within one group, but they were part of a massive ideological ecosystem that cross-pollinizes other groups, motivates them to turn out, and gets them to fork over money for campaigns, legal defenses, etc.

Even now, after the Oath Keepers leadership has been indicted, Trump brought Oath Keepers and Q Anon die-hards up on stage in Arizona. Not only did Trump maintain a close relationship with these people before January 6th, he’s keeping it going, because Trump has clearly never been one to seek good legal advice.

At his Arizona rally, Trump featured state representative Mark Finchem, who is big in both fringe militia groups (including the Oath Keepers) and Q Anon circles. Finchem was at the Capitol on January 6th himself and has enthusiastically advocated for Trump in Arizona. He is now running for Secretary of State, and if he is victorious, he would be in charge of managing the state’s elections.

Anyone who thinks Trump and his relations are not intimately connected to these people and communicating with them on a regular basis is unbelievably deluded. If this guy wins as Secretary of State in a swing state during the midterm election this year, you better believe Trump wants him in his pocket in 2024.

This is why I keep saying that it is not far-fetched to think Trump will ultimately be indicted and that his and his proxies’ communications will be thrown to the wind in all their glory. There isn’t a single DC policymaker or personality from his administration that Trump has been incredibly loyal to, but these people… These are his minions and he loves them unconditionally. Without them, he’s not king. They will believe absolutely anything he says, and that’s what he needs to think he still has a shot at power. And he 100% will humiliate the GOP by playing to their paranoia because he knows that is what they enjoy.

***

So what do the indictments for these Oath Keepers look like? We are talking about some hardcore psychopaths here, folks. Read this and understand that Trump is well aware of these charges and still wants to make these people central to his political resurrection, okay?

Also note that they are not basing these charges on circumstantial evidence, which is generally what makes it difficult for seditious conspiracy charges to survive in court. They have extensive video recordings, unsecure and secure chat conversations, records of stockpiling weapons and ammunition, evidence of them scoping out the Capitol and surrounding areas ahead of the event. I’ve already covered the fact that these guys aren’t the brightest criminal masterminds on the planet, but I’d guess the government has some serious cooperating witnesses (one has already been named and seems to be headed into witness protection).

For readers (like me) who prefer to slug through primary sources, here is the indictment itself from the Department of Justice. And here is a motion arguing that another member of the militia should be detained until he can stand trial because he is a clear threat to society.

Here is a still-TLDR summary:

On Nov. 9, 2020, Rhodes instructed his followers during a GoToMeeting call to go to Washington to let Trump know “that the people are behind him,” and he expressed hope that Trump would call up the militia to help stay in power, authorities say.

“It will be a bloody and desperate fight,” Rhodes warned. “We are going to have a fight. That can’t be avoided.”

The Oath Keepers worked as if they were going to war, discussing weapons and training. Days before the attack on the Capitol, one defendant suggested in a text message getting a boat to ferry weapons across the Potomac River to their “waiting arms,” prosecutors say.

On Dec. 14, 2020, as the electors in the states cast their votes, Rhodes published a letter on the Oath Keepers’ website “advocating for the use of force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power,” according to the documents.

As that transition in Washington drew close, Oath Keepers spoke of an arsenal they would keep just a few minutes away and grab if needed. Rhodes is accused of spending $15,500 on firearms and related equipment including a shotgun, AR-15, mounts, triggers, scopes and magazines, prosecutors said.

Others came prepared, too.

“Everyone coming has their own technical equipment and knows how to use it,” wrote Edward Vallejo, who also was charged in the conspiracy.

Oath Keepers staged the guns in hotels just outside of the District of Columbia. Rhodes said they were “QRFs” —military-speak for quick reaction force, according to court papers.

On the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, Vallejo and others were on a podcast discussing the possibility of armed conflict. Members turned up wearing camouflaged combat attire and in helmets. They entered the Capitol with the large crowds of rioters who stormed past police barriers and smashed windows, injuring dozens of officers and sending lawmakers running.

The indictment against Rhodes alleges Oath Keepers formed two teams, or “stacks,” a military term. The first stack split up inside the building to separately go after the House and Senate. The second stack confronted officers inside the Capitol Rotunda, the indictment said.

Other Trump supporters were getting in the fray, too.

The building was breached. The congressional certification had stopped. Rumors circulated that the left-wing antifa had breached the seat of American democracy. “Nope. I’m right here, these are Patriots,” Rhodes wrote to his leadership group in a secure chat….

One of the stacks hunted for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., but could not find her. Members of Congress were cowering in fear and Pelosi had been sent to a secure location. The siege continued for hours, until law enforcement finally gained control.

“We are acting like the founding fathers” one wrote in the throes of the melee. “Can’t stand down.”

An Oath Keeper was the first defendant to plead guilty in the Jan. 6 melee. Jon Ryan Schaffer also agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation and the Justice Department has promised to consider putting him in the witness security program, suggesting it saw him as a valuable cooperator in the probe.

Other cracks in the group are showing. Before his arrest, Rhodes sought to distance himself from those who have been arrested, insisting the members went rogue and there was never a plan to enter the Capitol.

Court documents show discord among the group as early as the night of the attack. Someone identified in the records only as “Person Eleven” blasted the group “a huge f—n joke” and called Rhodes “the dumba— I heard you were,” court documents say.

After the riot, the North Carolina Oath Keepers branch said it was splitting from Rhodes’ group. Its president told The News Reporter newspaper it wouldn’t be “a part of anything that terrorizes anybody or goes against law enforcement.”

There is an appropriately high bar for meeting seditious conspiracy charges, but prosecutors clearly have more than enough to go on here. These charges are rarely used, but then again, so was FARA, and we all know how that turned out.

From the Vallejo filing (second document) we learn that plans to attack the Capitol on January 6th were weeks in the making, and that members thought they were in for a protracted battle:

The organization had amassed all of this gear and stored it in a Virginia hotel as part of a “quick reaction force” should its members need backup as they stormed the Capitol.

The Wednesday filing shows the extent to which the group was prepared for a lengthy fight surrounding the certification of President Biden’s electoral victory.

The memo from the government shows Oath Keeper members “wheel[ing] in bags and large bins of weapons, ammunition, and essential supplies to last 30 days,” staging their efforts from a Comfort Inn.

The Oath Keepers who entered the Capitol last year never needed to call Vallejo for backup, but the memo notes that he attempted to launch a drone for surveillance and “recon use.”

“That Vallejo’s co-conspirators did not activate him on January 6 does not mitigate his dangerousness. Vallejo traveled across the country and staged himself near the congressional proceedings ready to transport firearms and equipment into the nation’s capital. That is what makes him a danger,” lawyers for the government wrote in the filing.

“And there is no evidence that he has renounced violence or that he no longer believes in the necessity of guerrilla warfare after January 6.”

I don’t know, perhaps one of the reasons the group was not too worried about covering their tracks was they were very confident they’d be successful at overthrowing the government so it wouldn’t matter.

***

One of the things that makes it damn near impossible to talk to non-moderate conservatives about these events is the extent to which they rely on incestuous social media networks for information and, for the most part, don’t consume a lot of mainstream news sources. Most of the conservatives I talk to don’t know anything about these indictments. “Come on, it was just a few broken windows.” Many of them are marinating in objectively false information and fabricated stories, and self-select for sources that they are confident will confirm their own way of thinking. In the absence of an unbiased media, they are getting their “news” from people who are embedded in these very organizations and conspiracy groups. Or this stuff is being laundered by partisan websites with large followings, so it seems very consensus-like when it certainly is not.

I saw a thread on Twitter yesterday, for example, by a “self-proclaimed journalist” (that’s in his bio) with 50,000 followers who was inside the Capitol on January 6th and was posting a feed of Ashli Babbitt before she and a group of rioters used poles to bust through the windowed doors of the House Speaker’s Office. There is clear video of this event in media res, which makes it obvious the party saw a police officer standing a few feet away from them on the other side of the door with his gun aimed at them and ready to fire. Anyway, this “journalist” shows a video of Babbitt & Co. trying to engage police officers, who have their faces covered in munitions powder, in conversation before they took to trying to breach the office. It’s unclear how much time was in-between the two events.

All the comments under it are about how the windows are still intact in that video. The folks speculate that it was the cops who broke the windows themselves, to frame the protesters, and then one suggests (unironically) that the staff broke the windows when they tossed furniture up against the doors. And why would they even want to do that when all these protestors were so peaceful? The level of denial is definitely in mental illness territory.

The way some conservatives talk about January 6th is indistinguishable from listening to folks like Rachel Maddow talk about the Russia hoax back in the day. (“The Russians, they are under my bed, listening to my phone calls!” Trust me, Putin’s just not that into you.) They know there weren’t any True Patriots there, it was all an FBI false flag, or an Antifa false flag, or a Black Lives Matter false flag, just look at that Epps guy walking down the street talking to people, it will tell you everything you need to know about how this was all organized in the J. Edgar Hoover Building and didn’t involve any Real Trump Supporters. Radicals cannot discern that they have been radicalized, and no amount of objective evidence can penetrate that fog.

I feel like what we are seeing in this behavior, apart from the (very real) mass hysteria they love to mock others for, is that the collapse of authority under the gerontocracy has had serious consequences. The fact that people like James Comey crawled into the political gutter, and numerous news agencies did too, makes these people think they have a get-out-of-jail-free card on accepting the true nature of the people they run with and what their motives are. You could sit them down and show them a video of the Oath Keepers organizing a mob of battle-hungry people from all over the country via teleconference, and they’d be like, well, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one. And the longer you allow these beliefs to metastasize within the party, the worse things are going to get.

Beyond this, however, I see a retaliatory collapse in moral reasoning. Just to go ahead and say the silent part out loud, these folks have watched people like Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Anthony Fauci, etc. make it for decades in government doing things that seriously hurt the country and ordinary people, with laughably non-existent accountability. So even if they know in their heart of hearts that Trump, the Oath Keepers, inter alia were psychopaths and none of this should have ever happened, they are simply beyond caring. It is “fair” that nothing happens to the corrupted parts of the right when nothing happens to the corrupted parts of the left. These were our fiery, but mostly peaceful protests.

As I am fond of saying these days, it’s an unbearably stupid time to be alive.

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