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Rage Grows in America: Anti‑Government Conspiracies

The Oath Keepers

One manifestation of the ideology of resistance to the government was the creation of the Oath Keepers group in March 2009. Formed by Stewart Rhodes, a Nevada lawyer and sculptor and former staffer for Representative Ron Paul, the Oath Keepers is a group that deliberately targets police officers and military personnel for recruitment into the anti-government movement. Its basic pitch is to remind such people that they swore an oath to defend the Constitution “from all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and to suggest that now is the time to live up to that oath by resisting an allegedly tyrannical government. “Such a time is near at hand again,” declares the Web page of the Oath Keepers. “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of the military and police.” The Oath Keepers refuse to cooperate with the “tyrannical government” by making a declaration that there are certain “orders” from superiors that they will refuse to obey.

Oath Keepers logo tattooed on man's arm

The “orders” the Oath Keepers refuse reveal their extreme conspiratorial mindset, because the “orders” are not instructions ever likely to be actually handed down by Obama or his officials; instead, they are reflective of the anti-government conspiracy theories embraced by the extreme right. The first “order,” for example, that they refuse to follow is any order “to disarm the American people.” They also pledge to disobey any order to impose martial law or to support foreign troops on American soil. The other “orders” they refuse to follow are of a similar sort.

The Oath Keepers are essentially a new version of a similar 1990s group, Police Against the New World Order, started by retired police officer Jack McLamb (who endorsed the Oath Keepers in March 2009 on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ radio show). Indeed, in a message posted to the Oath Keepers’ Web site and “recommended” by Stewart Rhodes, one member using the pseudonym Elias Alias claimed that the United States was currently ruled by an “imposter government” and warned against the encroachment of a “New World Order.”

For many members and supporters of the Oath Keepers, some sort of confrontation with that “New World Order” is inevitable. One Oath Keepers adherent, “Radar,” posted to an Oath Keepers blog in April 2009 that now was the time for action: “First through the courts (if possible), then the ballot box (if this administration doesn’t preclude this option by fraudulent means) and finally from the streets! (as the LAST resort).” In June 2009, another supporter, “Oxi,” posted to an on-line forum that the Oath Keepers should consider forming a “military structure,” because, although not presently “at war,” the group “must prepare for one.” After Oath Keepers first formed, so many posts about resistance and guerrilla war were posted to the official Oath Keepers blog that Rhodes had to step in and rein them in, saying that “we want active duty to visit this site and if you transform it into a hard-core ‘how to wage 4th [generation] guerrilla war’ or ‘how to fragg’ site, many of them will be wary of participating.” However, Rhodes did not oppose such discussions; he merely asked that they be carried on somewhere else, so that they would not tar the Oath Keepers’ blog.

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