A Modest Challenge

Chip Berlet cberlet at igc.org
Wed Nov 17 10:09:45 PST 1999


Sorry about your daughter, take your time.

I suspect the idea that I have been "hysterical" about the militias comes from the lumping of my work together with the work of groups such as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, or Morris Dees at SPLC, or Ken Stern, or Leonard Zeskind. I have been critical of the penchant for hyperbole found in these sources. I am posing this challenge because I suspect you relied on third-hand characterisations of my actual work, rather than what I have actually written; or perhaps quotes taken out of the larger context that appeared in mainstream corporate media.

Just a guess.

I agree that actual interviews with patriots and militia members showed that they "defied much of the conventional wisdom about them, namely that the organizations were a.) mainly male (unilaterally untrue); b.) mainly white (not true in California or New Mexico); c.) not working class (unilaterally untrue); d. not critics of corporate power (untrue across the board)."

However their leadership is mainly male, their legal theories often stem from historic segregationist tracts defending White privilege, their anti-corporate stance is mostly the crude anti-elitism of right wing populism, with a habit of veering off toward Jewish banking conspiracy theories. They do appear to be largely working class or downsized middle class based on the few sociological studies that exist. That they are to are large degree blissfully unaware of the racist and antisemitic roots of their theories is hardly an endorsement. I recognize that they are not all neonazi terrorists, but they are vigilantes, because there is no legally recognized right to form a private miltia.

Yes, it is good that they realize they are being screwed by the system, but the history of right wing populism is that it turns to attack those below on the socio-economic ladder, which in the present moment is people of color.

I have never, not once, suggested the government be given more power to monitor them.


----- Original Message ----- From: Jeffrey St. Clair <sitka at home.com> To: Chip Berlet <cberlet at igc.org>; <lbo-talk at lists.panix.com> Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 1999 12:03 PM Subject: Re: A Modest Challenge

> Hello Chip,
> I didn't overlook your challenge. I've been away from my computer for the
> couple of days--our daughter had been hospitalized (cracked up her car).
If I
> get the time today or tomorrow, I'll try to excavate some of the material
> Ridgeway and I took with us on our tour of the Interior West in the wake
> Oklahoma City.
> As I recall, it wasn't so much your "writings" per se that I found
> (I don't mean to suggest that Jim shared my opinion, I assume he didn't),
but a
> list of groups that ought to be watched and the way that list had
percolated up
> the food chain of liberal groups, mutating in ever-increasing levels of
> toxicity and hysteria along the way. What I found in interviewing dozens
> members (not necessarily leaders, who seem more like Meville's Confidence
> defied much of the conventional wisdom about them, namely that the
> organizations were a.) mainly male (unilaterally untrue); b.) mainly white
> true in California or New Mexico); c.) not working class (unilaterally
> d. not critics of corporate power (untrue across the board).
> I was thinking this morning as I listened to my favorite American band,
> Skynyrd, sing my favorite American rock song, Am I Right or Am I Wrong,
> much of the chest-thumping about the neo-populists is reminiscent of the
> Coast hysteria about Skynyrd following the release of "Sweet Home
> "Oh, they must be racists, they're defending Wallace!" Of course, nothing
> be further from the truth, they were longhairs who grew up with blacks and
> the shit kicked out of them for their appearance and their radical
> views--including views on gun control that might even win the endorsement
> Katha. More later.
> PS--I don't really agree with much in your quoted paragraphs, I'm afraid.
> just don't think you can equate the pain, suffering and death caused by
> "antidemocratic neocapitalism" (what's "new" about it?) and the invasive
> of the police state (we are now trying and convicting 11-year old black
> for murder) to the facist and racist ideology of a few thousand boneheads.
> advise you to take a trip to northern New Mexico where the
> gatherings are populated by 1.) Hispanics; 2.) Catholics; 3.) people who
> 150 year old land tenure claims and legitimate grievances about racist
> treatment by the feds, the mining companies, and, now, welfare ranchers
> Ted Turner and Sam Donaldson. Moreover, I'm perhaps too much the follower
> Foucault not to be at least a little intrigued about the possibilities of
> turning off the "light" of the Enlightenment for at least a few
> for the helluva it.
> >

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