The Real U.S. Militia Problem
By Staff News & Analysis - April 01, 2010

Michigan, the home base of the Hutaree militia, has one of the highest concentrations in the United States of militias and other extremist groups that see the federal government as the enemy. Only Texas, with 57 so-called "patriot" groups, outstrips Michigan's 47, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit civil rights organization in Montgomery, Ala., that tracks hate group activity. Nationwide, the patriot movement has grown dramatically since the election of President Obama. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of such groups increased from 149 to 512, SPLC numbers suggest. The Hutaree was part of this movement. Nine members of its members were arrested by federal authorities last weekend and charged with conspiring to "levy war" on the United States. The arrests point to how the Midwest in particular has become a hotbed for patriot activity. "There are a number of regional factors that, over time and at various moments, helped the militia movement take hold in different parts of the country," says Chip Berlet, an analyst at Political Research Associates, a think tank in Somerville, Mass. "It certainly has emerged strongly in the upper Midwest." – Yahoo News

Dominant Social Theme: They came from nowhere?

Free-Market Analysis: Countries have cultures, and the American culture – once you get outside of the big cities – is fairly small-r republican and entrepreneurial. Even in cities, there's an entrepreneurial streak in America, so it could be said, as it has been about America, that the business of the United States is … business.

Now one might venture that the American independent culture has been vitiated after all these years and so many laws and so much central government. But in fact the Internet has been responsible for a remarkable resurgence of free-market thinking in the United States. While the Internet's laissez faire orientation didn't bite quite so hard during the good times, the financial crisis of the past years has sent many on to the Internet both in America and Europe. And while we cannot speak yet, not definitively, to the effects the Internet is having on Europe (we think it's substantial) the Internet's effect on America is obvious and powerful.

For this reason, we find the spate of articles in the mainstream American press, especially, expressing puzzlement at what's going on to be either disingenuous or the result of too much white space (to fill) and too little thinking. Many publications have weighed in on the most recent example of militia violence – or potential violence – in the US Midwest but most seem to warn about the dangers of increased radicalism and group think.

From our point of view, this is a kind of mainstream media meme, a dominant social theme, if you will. In fact, we believe up to half of all Americans or more hold a set of beliefs that is similar in some aspects to those who form militias. The difference is that the vast majority of Americans have no intention of running around in the woods dressed in combat fatigues.

But this is a distinction, not a schism. Many in militias hold a set of beliefs that the US federal government is radical leveling device at this point in time, and one that is rapidly turning America from a republic (what's left of a republic) into a democratic socialist state. Additionally, there are fears that those running the country – or standing in the shadows of power – have in mind merging America with Canada and Mexico to form an Americas version of a European Union. While such thinking may characterized as paranoid, the Internet has revealed plenty of treaties, especially those pursued by former President George Bush with his counterparts in Canada and Mexico that confirm what might already be characterized as a "special relationship."

If one grants the existence of a power elite and an intention to try to further tear down national boundaries to build a more globalized world with a more concentrated power nexus, then America, and its republican culture, are standing in the way – and that is the perception of many militia members we think. That is, in fact, an active fount of the paranoia.

America was birthed during the last great communications revolution created by the Gutenberg press. The world was in flux and the power elite was, at least to a degree, in retreat. Ideas about freedom were in full flower and free-market thinkers were writing powerful statements of sociopolitical philosophy. A cursory reading of great republican founders such as Thomas Jefferson reveal a profound distrust of the kind of rule that America now labors under.

But the Jeffersonian agrarian-republican form of governance was virtually wiped out when the South lost the war against the North. America embarked on a 150-year long centralizing spree of power and political and military authority. However, the idea of America as a republic, along with state's rights and the ability of the individual to live a life free of ongoing, overweening government interference remained a strong subterranean current.

The current US environment, which features high taxes, a well-developed and muscular federal rule, central-bank fiat money and a military-industrial oriented foreign policy supported by a powerful corporate state is far from certain of the founding fathers' vision. However, the Jeffersonian vision has been reawakened. The Internet itself has acted as an alarm clock, dispersing a free-market vision to Americans and finding a receptive audience of waking millions in the process. The culture of the country itself predisposes it to be sympathetic to such rhetoric and such a vision.

Combine a cultural predisposition toward agrarian republicanism with a vast and detailed disseminator of freedom-oriented information (the Internet) and the motivator of a disastrous economy and you have a recipe for increased free-market thinking. This does not necessarily need to translate into violence – indeed free-market thinking is averse to violence – but if the powers-that-be or those who do their bidding believe that the militia movement is an entirely aberrant American strain of thought they are probably mistaken.

The belief-structure of militia groups, in our opinion, is at least somewhat in-line with what tens of millions of Americans likely think about their society – that it has gone off the tracks, hijacked by big government and all the regulatory and financial accoutrements thereof. The difference between these millions and SOME militia groups likely has do with the chosen means of expression as well, perhaps, as the sincerity and enthusiasm of individual perceptions and a willingness to act on them in ways that society and especially federal agents may disapprove.

What we have tried to point out here is that the modern-day militia movement (maybe with the exception of the Hutaree and similar extremism) partakes of a strain of American thought that is not "paranoid" but agrarian-republican. Jefferson's provenance actually extended all the way back to the Greeks, so you could say that the modern-day mood of America incorporates the thinking of 2000 years'-worth of sociopolitical history. Seen from this perspective even America's homegrown militias are not necessarily nuts playing with guns. They are part of a country-wide epiphany about freedom which has also found expression in the Tea Party movement, and Libertarian Congressman Ron Paul's liberty movement as well.

America has arrived at an interesting point in time. American citizens are starting to wake up and to compare what the country once was with what the country is now. Both Democratic and Republican parties have proven to be terrible disappointments to free-marketing thinkers in the past two decades and patience may be running out. That Obama and his coterie have now resorted to ramming through authoritarian legislation of doubtful constitutionality is only aggravating the growing rift between many Americans and their government.

It is dangerous for a modern Western country like America when the middle class becomes disenchanted and does not believe in the national themes proposed by the elite. The growing schism does not necessarily promise violence – in fact any thinking person would abhor violence in this context. But we would also state what is increasingly obvious, that America's private militias are no longer outside the mainstream of the aggregate American perception of what's gone wrong with the country. Yes … the concerns that the militias are expressing in a muscular way (as we understand them) are shared, in our opinion, at least in part by tens of millions of Americans.

What can the powers-that-be accomplish by marginalizing and radicalizing the conversation about such private militias? Probably this time around, if they are not careful, they will stimulate sympathy for such groups and create what they may fear most – not a violent uprising but a peaceful mass movement that will become increasingly insistent about the direction the country is going and create extra-curricular alternatives. These, then, may eventually find their way into the mainstream conversation and change the context and sociopolitical texture of the US more than the militia – or their opponents – ever imagined.

After Thoughts

The Daily Bell would be all in favor of PEACEFUL citizen participation in a PEACEFUL agrarian-republican mass movement emphasizing Jeffersonian principals of modest and even minimalist government. We think that such a movement might arrive sooner or later and have a significant impact – in fact the Tea Party movement may be the beginning of it. We've often pointed out that what's taking place today is part of a process (thanks to the Internet), and not one amenable to reactive power elite strategies aimed at containing certain "emergency situations." Those in the Federal government who are spending billions penetrating American militias may be looking in the wrong places and, generally, facing in the wrong direction.

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