Fringe Religion & the Far-Right: Dangerous Behavior Patterns Among Christian Millennialists
IN THIS ARTICLE
Radical thinking among the far-right is a growing security problem for modern western society. Over the past several decades anti-government ideologies have been gaining legitimacy due to controversial interactions between Millennialist fringe religious groups and law enforcement agencies which have produced tragic outcomes and recruited new followers to far-right causes. Historically, interactions between Millennialist ‘New Religions’ or ‘Fringe Religious Groups’ and law enforcement have resulted in an escalation of conflict and a tragic loss of life. This paper will conduct a historical analysis of the rise of two prominent Millennialist individuals between 1983 and 1992 and deconstruct repercussions from government interactions with these individuals in the form of resulting conflicts with additional Millennialist groups and individuals in the following years. Focusing specifically on far-right Christian Identity theology, this paper will analyze confrontations involving the 1980s Aryan Nations group ‘The Order’ led by Robert Mathews, and the 1992 incident at Ruby Ridge involving the Christian Identity-practicing Weaver family in Idaho. This paper will seek to argue that certain Millennialist fringe groups share similar elements in their belief structures such as strong anti-government sentiment, a fear of ‘the other,’ a need to arm themselves, and sexual control – which may establish a baseline of ‘high risk’ elements among their behavior. It is the goal of this paper to establish a dialogue concerning the disastrous confrontations between far-right Millennialist groups and law enforcement in 20th Century America, in order to spur further research into how a greater understanding of religious doctrine and the belief structures of fringe groups could possibly assist law enforcement discussions in the future.
Millennialism & Christian Identity
Christian Identity is a religious school of thought which is strongly focused on the Old Testament of the Bible and is derived from an earlier practice called “British-Israelism.” British-Israelism refers to beliefs that the Britons are in fact the ten lost tribes of Israel, and are the chosen children of God instead of the Jews (Barkun 1997, 5). It first appeared in America in the late 1800s, where a Brooklyn preacher named Joseph Wilde concluded that Americans were the lost tribe of ‘Manasseh’ and began publishing literature on the subject (Barkun 1997, 18). His ideas began to garner interest and spread among other preachers. This included Charles Fox Parham who, after being acquainted with British-Israelism through two Bible school students, decided to follow its message and later went on to found the Pentecostal Church. The Pentecostal movement and its inherent evangelical and millennial message were central to spreading British-Israelism (Barkun 1997, 20-21). As scores of people migrated throughout the United States in the early 1900’s, Pentecostal revival meetings spread the British-Israelism message wherever Parham or like-minded evangelist J.H Allen went.Thus, due to Pentecostalism and its evangelical influence, British-Israelism flourished in three places: the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Far-west. As time went on, British-Israelism became Anglo-Israelism as the ‘British’ prefix seemed less necessary now that Americans were deemed one of the lost tribes of Israel. Anglo-Israelism rapidly spread throughout the USA and some parts of Canada throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s, garnering the attention of some prominent individuals such as Henry Ford (Barkun 1997, 47-55). After the Second World War, American Anglo-Israelism became decidedly more anti-Semitic as it morphed into the modern Christian Identity movement. A man named Gerald L.K. Smith had a large part to play in this transformation as he took a leading role in the movement. He assumed power over a more centralized Anglo-Israeli American organization in 1942 and immediately began making racially-charged decisions. By the 1940’s the organization had retained few if any ties with its foundations in England, and was fragmenting within America. Therefore, as controversial as he was, no one wanted to interfere with Smith’s decisions when he was the strong leader the movement needed. Smith was one of the most anti-Semitic figures in America, was extremely religious, hated people of color and believed himself to be a political figure fighting for the causes of the far-right. Thus, largely owing to Gerald L.K Smith (and later his successor Wesley Swift), Anglo-Israelism was rapidly shifting into what is now known as Christian Identity (Barkun 1997, 55). The shift would be complete with the emergence of Richard Butler in the late 1960’s and his creation of the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho in 1973. Richard Butler would raise a new generation of budding white supremacists and spread the Christian Identity message across America, his compound serving as a safe haven for multiple anti-Semitic, anti-government groups (Marlett 2002, 202).
Modern Identity belief is based on the millennial idea that humanity is currently in the apocalyptic ‘last days’ of human existence. This apocalyptic outlook on the world was inherited by Identity believers from their British-Israelism predecessors and the Pentecostal Church’s influence on the movement (Barkun 1997, 75). Millennialism refers to a symbolic period of one thousand years, but in religious terms is an ancient reference which extends far beyond the passage of the year 2000 or previous millennia (Wessinger 2000, 6). According to Millennialism expert Catherine Wessinger:
Identity practitioners believe they are living in a time dictated by Millennial thought, as is laid out in the Bible. Identity places a heavy importance on biblical prophecies and their fulfillment; thus, they closely examine the Old Testament and the book of Revelation. Identity practitioners in the ‘two seed-line’ stream believe that Jews are the product of a union between Eve and Satan, and are literal descendants of the devil. Cain is one of these children, who murdered Abel, the Aryan child of Eve and Adam (Anti-Defamation League 2017). According to two-seed theology, Abel’s living descendants went on to father the Aryan race. Identity practitioners believe that all other races are sub-humans called “mud people” because they predate Adam and Eve and are created from earth only, without the breath of God (Anti-Defamation League 2017).
Contrarily, Adam’s children with Eve are proven to be the chosen children of God through their dominant civilizations in history. Identity theology argues that the nations of Europe and North America prove that whites have found favor with God and therefore must be the lost tribes of Israel (Anti-Defamation League 2017). Hard-line Identity practitioners also believe that whites are the only race who have souls, as they believe that mud-peoples predated Adam and Eve who were the first ‘humans’ created. Identity teaches that the name ‘Adam’ means “to show blood” or “blood in the face” and, therefore, when Genesis states that God created Adam in his own image, the fact that Adam essentially means blush (according to Identity believers) points to the fact he was white and thus, the only race created in God’s image (Anti-Defamation League 2017).
Additionally, because of the prophecies in the book of Revelation, Identity believers are incredibly suspicious of the government which they believe is run by Jews and refer to as “The New World Order” or the “Zionist Occupied Government” (Anti-Defamation League 2017). Whilst many Protestants are also Millennial and believe that one day Jesus will return and save or ‘rapture’ the faithful before the millennium (pre-millennial) according to their interpretation of the Biblical prophesies in the book of Revelation, Identity believers are ‘post millennial’ and do not think that Jesus will come until after a time of ‘great tribulation’ where the earth is devastated by war, corrupt governments, domestic unrest, and terrible natural disasters (Anti-Defamation League 2017). Mainstream Protestants who believe in these prophesies often think Jesus will save them before these atrocities occur; however, Identity teaches that humanity is to suffer through these tribulations before being saved and that the apocalypse is to be fought along racial lines. Since they believe Jews are descendants of the devil and all other races are simply not human, the apocalypse will be a fight of white survival against the rest, in the midst of a highly corrupt government – and most Identity practitioners believe the Millennial ‘end times’ have already started (Anti-Defamation League 2017).
Robert Mathews & The Order
The Order was a white-supremacist organization which operated out of Hayden Lake, Idaho and Metaline Falls, Washington in the early 1980’s. It adopted its name from a 1978 apocalyptic novel The Turner Diaries which depicted the struggle of the white race against a corrupt Jewish government which used African Americans as their violent state enforcers (Marlett 2002, 201). Written by a former member of the American Nazi party who eventually became the co-founder and leader of the white supremacist National Alliance, William Luther Pierce published his book under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald. The book was a mass hit with the neo-Nazi, white-supremacist, and alt-right crowd, who would grow more and more disenfranchised and alienated from the American government over the next several decades (Berger 2016). The hero of The Turner Diaries was Earl Turner, a young man who joined a rag-tag resistance movement and fought to bring down the government through targeted assassinations, bombings, and mass violence. Perhaps most alarming about the book is the striking similarities it shares with later events in history: members of The Order blow up a Federal building with a fertilizer bomb hidden on a truck – like later events in Oklahoma City in 1995 – and Earl Turner himself carries out a suicide mission by flying a plane into the Pentagon, similar to the events of September 11, 2001 (Berger 2016). Though the book is not inherently religious, the protagonist Earl Turner does have religious motivations behind his involvement with The Order stating:
Additionally, upon completing the ritualistic initiation into the inner circle of The Order Earl Turner feels that “today I was, in a sense, born again” (Barkun 1997, 226), alluding to the Christian notion of spiritual rebirth upon the acceptance of Christ. However, the main argument of the novel is that in order to save the white race from the impending doom of extinction at the hands of ‘lesser’ races, proud white individuals have to stand up and fight for what was rightfully theirs, or face extinction. It is this apocalyptic, Millennialist message based on racial superiority which has made The Turner Diaries such a success in Christian Identity and Aryan Nations circles for decades, and thus how it landed in Robert Mathews’ hands (Barkun 1997, 225-28).
Robert or “Robbie” Mathews was born on January 16, 1953 to what was otherwise a ‘normal’ American family (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 35). His father Johnny and his Mother Uma were middle-class Americans with three sons and didn’t involve themselves in politics beyond Johnny’s one term as the Mayor of Robert’s childhood home town of Marfa, Texas (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 31). However, Robert was very different from his parents and, as a child he joined the John Birch Society – a hard-line organization raising young men to be active in American politics and to resist the spread of communism (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 40). As Robert entered his teen years he became very dedicated to physical fitness, refused to touch cigarettes, drugs or alcohol like many of his peers, and rejected the popular music of the day. This was heavily influenced by Robert’s decision to join the Church of Mormon in 1969. His local church in Mesa, Texas, preached a version of Mormonism heavily reliant on Millennialist proverbs and spoke of the coming ‘end of days.’ Thus, the Mormon teenagers Robert surrounded himself with placed a strong emphasis on physical fitness as their ‘bodies were temples,’ and remained in a constant state of readiness, watchful of the political climate (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 41-43).
This no doubt appealed to Robert who was still very active in the John Birch Society and weary of the growing tensions with the Soviet Union. Uma Mathews stated that at the time she was proud her son was not involved in the prominent hippie movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and instead cut his hair and stayed away from girls (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 40). However, as Robert reached his later teen years she became concerned when he began to proselytize beliefs that paying taxes were unconstitutional, sentiments which were prominent in certain Mormon and John Birch circles. He dropped out of his senior high school economics course because it taught Keynesian principles which he claimed were ‘Communist’ and then refused to apply for college because he claimed they were ‘communist hotbeds.’ (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 44). Young Robert Mathew would eventually commit tax fraud, and, after being held in prison before raising the money to make bail, he was eventually sentenced to six months’ probation in 1974. However, Robert’s interaction with law enforcement no doubt solidified the path the increasingly violent young man was heading down (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 55-56). Now hanging with a rough, lawbreaking, anti-government, and gun carrying crowd, the distaste Robert formerly had exclusively for communists would turn into a strong mistrust of his own government (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 44-50).
In 1975 Robert moved to Metaline Falls, Washington just west of the Idaho border. This move would bring him approximately 120 miles away from Richard Butler’s Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Mathews had not forsaken the strong love of reading which had first led him to John Birch Society magazines as a child. As an adult in the late 1970’s he read both: Which Way Western Man by William Gayley Simpson and William Luther Pierce’s The Turner Diaries. The concept that a corrupt government would become the ultimate undoing of America, and the extinction of the white race altogether, never seemed more pressing than it did at that moment (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 105). It was during a speech at Aryan Nations given by Gordon Mohr of the Christian Emergency Defense System on the dangers of communism in 1983 where Mathews is first noted as visiting the compound, although he had already joined William Luther Pierce’s National Alliance in 1980 (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 94). By 1983 Mathews had bought property up in the mountains near Metaline Falls, married Debbie McGarrity from Kansas in 1976, and worked several jobs in the area mines. Drawn to the compound by the prominent anti-communism speaker, Robert Mathews would become a repeat visitor (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 95-98).
Robert reportedly found that Richard Butler’s message of the impending end of the white race aligned well with the apocalyptic elements of his former Mormon beliefs. Additionally, the concepts of extreme American protectionism and communism as a Jewish creation had already been taught to Robert in the fundamentalist branches of the John Birch society. Thus, it was a further continuation of ideas already known to Mathews which allowed him to comfortably transition into Aryan Nations and white supremacist circles (Marlett 2002, 203). Robert did however have one problem: people like Richard Butler loved to talk about their willingness to fight for the white race from the protection of the pulpit; however, he was seeing little evidence of tangible progress in the face of white extinction. As Robert Mathews repeatedly told friends among Aryan Nations and the National Alliance, now was the time for action (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 121-123).
In 1983, Mathews started gathering young men who were willing to act for the white cause, and not just talk about it. He built a barracks on his mountain property and passed out copies of The Turner Diaries as required reading to all who wished to participate in his upcoming movement. This movement would eventually be named ‘The Order’ after the anti-government group in The Turner Diaries and was also known to its followers as the Brüder Schweigen – German for Silent Brotherhood. In September of 1983 Mathews gathered his key followers: Richie Kemp, Bill Soderquist, Ken Loff, David Lane, Dan Bauer, Denver Parameter, Randy Duey and Bruce Pierce (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 124). Together they swore an oath upon the graves of their fathers, upon the wombs of their wives, and the throne of God, to fight for the total victory of the Aryan race, to total secrecy of The Order, and to avenge the deaths of one another should any of them fall for their cause (Burkan 1997, 229). The goal was to create a unified white Aryan uprising in the United States against the Zionist Occupied Government or “ZOG” as it was often called by white supremacist groups and literature (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 124).
By mid-1984 The Order had begun to gain serious traction for their movement, having created a sophisticated currency counterfeiting operation and successfully robbed numerous armored banking vehicles. In July, 1984 The Order stole $3.8 million from a Brinks armored truck in Ukiah, California. Mathews was now contributing money to several white supremacist organizations across the country hoping to stoke the flames of the Aryan uprising he desperately wanted to occur (FBI 1984). However, robberies and counterfeiting were not the only items on the agenda for The Order’s goal of violent insurrection. Following The Turner Diaries model, the group soon escalated their tactics to targeted assassination. On June 18, 1984 members of The Order murdered a prominent Jewish radio host from Denver who had recently mocked Gordon Mohr or ‘Colonel Jack Mohr’ as he was known among white supremacists, the anti-communism speaker who had drawn Mathews to Aryan Nations back in 1983. This had incensed members of the radical right and made the Jewish radio host even more of a target than the controversial speaker was already (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 178-179).
Late that evening, members of The Order pulled up to Berg’s driveway as he got out of his car and shot him 12 times with a .45 calibre MAC 10 machine pistol (Singular 1985). Due to the nature of the murder – a clear assassination style hit – and the calibre of the weapon used, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) were called immediately. Experts didn’t believe that the damage on Berg’s body could have been caused by a regular .45 Calibre semi-automatic weapon, and thus believed the gun had been modified to make it fully-automatic (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 225). It wasn’t long before the task force assembled to investigate Berg’s murder started making progress. The Order member David Lane was quickly identified as voicing hatred towards Alan Berg and having associations with white supremacist organizations, steering the police towards other members of The Order. Gary Yarborough was found hiding during a surveillance operation directed towards his brother, and on October 18, 1984 engaged in a shoot-out with authorities before fleeing the scene. Inside the home where Yarborough was hiding, police found the MAC 10 which was forensically matched as the murder weapon used to kill Alan Berg. Yarborough was eventually apprehended by police on November 30, 1984 in a motel in Portland, Oregon; however, Robert Mathews escaped after a lengthy gun battle (Singular 1985).
On December 7th, 1984 the FBI finally tracked Robert Mathews down to a cabin where he had gone into hiding on Whidbey Island, Puget Sound. The altercation led to a 30 hour siege between Mathews and the FBI, when the FBI eventually decided to fire illumination flares into the cabin as the siege wore on and it began to get dark (Singular, 1985). The FBI knew there was a chance that the flares could be flammable in the wooden cabin; however they decided to take the chance, acknowledging that if the cabin caught fire it would smoke Mathews out (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 446). The flares briefly lit up the structure before the building caught fire, possibly from triggering an explosion of the many ordnances stockpiled inside. Mathews never surrendered or made any attempt to leave the cabin; shooting at the agents outside from his position upstairs as the flames climbed higher into the structure. As the entire cabin was engulfed in flames the shooting stopped, and Mathews’ remains were recovered by authorities the next day (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 446-447).
Throughout 1985 and 1986 the key members of The Order would be prosecuted or negotiated deals with federal authorities. No one would be directly charged with the murder of Alan Berg as prosecutors were unable to determine who pulled the trigger; however, Bruce Pierce and David Lane were the two members of The Order convicted as participants in the murder (Singular 1985). The Order as an organization died with Robert Mathews; however, Mathews is still hailed as a martyr by many white supremacist organizations today (December 8th is celebrated by some as a day of reverence). Additionally, The Turner Diaries are still widely circulated on the internet, and received great praise and legitimacy in the far-right community due to Robert Mathews’ actions (WAU 2014). It is important to note that in media productions intended to inform the general public, The Order is not analyzed in its entirety or afforded the proper context regarding the subsequent historical events its creation influenced. Rather, it is often left out of the narrative or given a cursory mention in relation to other events instead of a thorough analysis (Goodman 2017). Thus, an incomplete version of history is created in many media productions related to the subsequent historical events analyzed in this paper, and not a meticulously garnered examination of the facts (Spencer 2018).
Randy Weaver & Ruby Ridge
Randal ‘Randy’ Claude Weaver was born in Villisca, Iowa on January 3, 1948 to a strict Christian, farming family. His youth comprised diligent study of the Bible and hard farm work until he joined the army in 1968. Weaver became a Green Beret and was assigned a position training elite units bound for the war in Vietnam; however, Randy himself was never sent overseas (Sneath 2000, 58). Weaver received an honorable discharge from the United States army in 1971 and returned home to Iowa to be with his high school sweetheart Vicki Jordison (Weaver 2017). Randy and Vicki were married in 1971 and they soon moved to Cedar Falls where Randy worked several odd jobs and Vicki was employed by the Sears Company. The two had four children: Sara, Sammy, Rachel and Elisheba (born later in 1991). Randy and Vicki were both raised as fundamentalist millennial Christians and were frustrated with the ‘liberal’ public school curriculum in Iowa, and in 1983 made the decision to move to Ruby Ridge, Idaho in hopes of better lives for their children (Sneath 2000, 58). Former Bible study companions of the Weavers in Iowa stated that the Weavers relied heavily on the practice of Biblical prophecy, and during one meeting the Weavers received a sign from the book of Matthew that they were to leave the modern world and move to the mountains:
It is also noted by former Bible study members that the Weavers were well read in the evangelist Hal Lindsey’s work The Late Great Planet Earth, a number one best seller during the 1970’s which discussed current political developments through the lens of the Biblical book of Revelation (Sneath 2000, 65-66). Lindsey predicted the end of the world in accordance with Revelation prophecies based on the actions of the Soviet Union, China, and what he also called the development of a ‘New World Order’– populations turning from Christianity and believing in astrology, witchcraft, new age religion, and engaging in the use of drugs. Books like Lindsey’s further cemented the Weavers’ beliefs that the apocalyptic prophecies of the Bible were coming true and that the current government could no longer be trusted to carry out the interests of God-fearing Christians, but had become corrupted by evil. The Weavers believed in putting their beliefs into action and that the Church needed more than the “talk” of mainstream believers. Thus in 1983, after extensive religious studies on the impending apocalypse and a biblical message from God, Randy and Vicki moved their family to Ruby Ridge (Sneath 2000, 66).
In Idaho, the Weavers were able to homeschool their children in biblically-based curriculums from the comfort of the two-story plywood cabin they built on their 20 acre plot of mountain land. The family learned to live simply, planting gardens and hunting wild game with their numerous rifles – Randy having taught his wife and children to shoot – living a life strictly adhering to the teachings of the Bible (Weaver 2017). Randy was able to find some meagre work planting trees for the Forestry Department, but mostly did odd jobs where he could. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, in the remote area of the Idaho mountains in the 1980’s, Ruby Ridge was only 70 miles away from the Hayden Lake, Aryan Nations compound. The Weavers began to visit the compound in the mid 1980’s and attended three Aryan Nations Annual Congresses – massive events where numerous white supremacist organizations come to the compound and hold festivities together. These annual events resembled family fairs except for the racially charged material: games, prizes, and food for families – as well as speeches from white supremacist speakers, meetings between key white supremacist organizations, Nazi memorabilia for sale, and cross burning demonstrations (Morlin, 2017).
The family has since stated that they originally attended these events for social stimulation; however, they would later become heavily involved with the Christian Identity movement. In Christian Identity Randy and Vicki had found in a group of believers what had been so desperately lacking for them in Iowa – people who were willing to take action. Not only did Identity practitioners also believe in strict adherence to the Bible, but they were willing to seclude themselves from large segments of society to do so. Identity believers had a strong mistrust of the government, something both Randy and Vicki had shared since their time in Iowa, and something Randy had harbored since he had never been sent to Vietnam with his fellow Green Berets (Sneath 2000, 70). Also, Christian Identity relied heavily on the practice of Biblical prophecy and is based on apocalyptic millennial elements – the very reasons the Weaver family had uprooted their lives and moved to another state and built a home in the mountains. A family already on the fringes of fundamental Christian belief, the Weavers had found a place where they were accepted among Christian Identity belief.
Sara Weaver has stated that she remembers a time in her childhood where the television disappeared (Weaver, 2017), and indeed this was in accordance to strict Identity teachings following the Old Testament banning images of in the home (Sneath 2000, 67):
Both Sammy and Randy shaved their heads in accordance to a passage of ‘skinhead’ inspiration: “Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places,” (Jeremiah 7:29) Additionally, Vicki and Sara practiced the Old Testament ritual of female seclusion upon menstruation and kept themselves in an outbuilding on the property during their monthly cycle to keep the home “clean” (Sneath 2000, 68).
After the Weavers became involved with the Christian Identity movement neighbors reported being able to see the Weaver children march around their property: Sammy always with a gun and the family dog, proudly displaying a Swastika and shouting “N***er” at the top of his lungs (Sneath 2000, 68). Perhaps it is due to rumors around this activity that Randy found it increasingly difficult to find work, and could only find odd farming jobs. It was during this time in 1988 when money was in short supply, that Randy was approached by one of his Aryan Nations friends Gus Magisono to saw off the barrels of two shotguns for $400. Randy agreed (Sneath 2000, 62).
It is important to remember that in 1988 Aryan Nations was already being heavily monitored by the FBI due to the creation of The Order. 1987 was the last year in which an Order member received sentencing; thus, the Aryan Nations compound was a pressing concern for domestic terrorism. In fact, the creation of The Order would have been the environment the Weavers inserted themselves into when they moved to Idaho in 1983, the year Robert Mathews began his ‘white revolution’ (FBI 1984). Additionally, any weapons modification within Aryan Nations was of considerable interest and surveillance value to the FBI and the ATF due to the nature of the modified weapon utilized in the Alan Berg assassination. Therefore, it is of no surprise that Gus Magisono was actually named Kenneth Fadeley and was a government informant. Kenneth had been placed in Aryan Nations for surveillance purposes upon news received from local townspeople that the Weavers – Aryan Nations members – were stockpiling weapons up on their mountain property (Sneath 2000, 62).
Randy Weaver was arrested and charged with a Firearms violation in January 1991; however, the FBI were hoping to use Randy as an informant and offered him a deal. If he agreed to act as an informant with white supremacists, especially the highly suspect Aryan Nations organization, they would drop the charges against him (Sneath 2000, 62). The FBI made a fatal misstep in believing that Randy was capable of being ‘turned’ as his faith in the Identity movement was unshakable. He believed the Zionist Occupied Government was evil. Family photos with Vicki and the children featuring Randy smiling in a black and white t-shirt reading “Just Say ‘No’ to ZOG” have been made available in recent years (Goodman 2017). Consequently, Randy refused the FBI’s offer and used a $10,000 bond on his property for bail, fleeing back to the mountains with a court date set for February 1991. However, Randy never appeared for the court date and a warrant was quickly issued for his arrest (Sneath 2000, 62). Randy made a public vow to never surrender to the government or leave his property, and the Weavers spent the following summer, fall, and winter on the mountain without leaving (Weaver, 2017). During this time Vicki Weaver took up writing letters to the United States Attorney’s Office in Boise, Idaho and addressed them as “Servant of the Queen of Babylon,” a popular phrase among Identity practitioners. In her February 7, 1991 letter Vicki argues that “the stink of lawless government” had extended to “Yahweh” (the Hebrew name for God also adopted by Christian Identity) and “Whether we live or whether we die, we will not bow to your evil commandments” (Sneath 2000, 72). Then Vicki said something that directly contradicts those who argue that the Weavers were only involved with Aryan Nations or Identity for social reasons; she quotes Robert Mathews: “a long forgotten wind is starting to blow. Do you hear the approaching thunder? It is that of the awakened Saxon. War is upon the land. The tyrant’s blood will flow” (Sneath 2000, 72). The Weavers argument that they were only present at Aryan Nations for social reasons and shared none of the group’s ideological beliefs is a fallacy given the overwhelming abundance of facts. The Weavers were at Aryan Nations during the early 1980’s when The Order was actively operating and recruiting out of its walls, they continued attending and maintained connections with Aryan Nations members during the famous trials of David Lane and Bruce Pierce, and Vicki Weaver wrote to the government and threatened them with Robert Mathews’ words. On the contrary, the Weavers were very dedicated, zealous Identity believers; thus, the reason for the governments strict response to Randy’s failed cooperation (Sneath 2000, 65).
The original plan of the government included surveillance of Ruby Ridge by the U.S Marshal Service, due to multiple reports that the Weavers were heavily armed, and the knowledge that Randy possessed extensive elite military training, and therefore any attempts to apprehend Randy for trial would likely be difficult (Walter 2017). Motion sensor video and audio equipment were placed on ridges overlooking the cabin in order to determine how heavily armed the family was. It was soon determined that the family and their live-in friend Kevin Harris were rarely, if ever, without weapons.
On August 21, 1991 a U.S Marshal Special Operation’s team led by William Degan went up Ruby Ridge in order to place more surveillance equipment and train their officers about the mountain terrain. They had no intentions of being seen by or interacting with the family, but wanted to observe if the Weavers were keeping to their normal routines. By establishing Randy’s daily routines, the greater the chances were of finding peaceful ways of arresting him later. However, as the Marshal team split into two groups – one following a fork in the path down the ridge, while Degan’s team followed the other path – the Weaver’s dog tragically caught the scent of the latter team and began to chase them down the trail, barking loudly (Sneath 2000, 63). Randy and Sammy Weaver, along with Kevin Harris (all armed) quickly set out down the trail to see what their dog was barking at (Weaver, 2017). Inevitably the two sides met further up the trail, and within a few minutes the resulting confrontation would be over, leaving William Degan and Sammy Weaver dead, along with the Weavers’ dog. Both sides have different versions of events: the Weavers say that they met the Marshals on the trail where the agents shot the family dog in an attempt to silence it, and Sammy in a fit of rage shot at the officers who began to return fire and killed the boy. Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris also returned fire and the resulting firefight killed William Degan (Walter 2017). However, Federal Marshals claim that though they may have shot the dog in an attempt to silence it and protect themselves from the charging animal, when they did meet the Weavers and Harris on the trail they identified themselves and called out a surrender order. Kevin Harris then immediately sought cover and shot William Degan, initiating the firefight between the Weavers and the Marshals which killed Sammy Weaver (Sneath 2000, 63-64).
Immediately the FBI’s criminal division was called to take charge of the case, since a federal officer had been killed. Randy Weaver’s case entered an entirely different level of federal jurisdiction, he had already been considered an armed and dangerous member of Aryan Nations – an organization known to breed extremists – but now that his family had killed a federal law enforcement officer, a new level of force had been authorized. On August 22, 1992 eleven members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team were ordered to surround the Weaver cabin, with the snipers on the team armed with orders that “any armed adult man can and should be neutralized” (Sneath 2000, 63). That evening Randy left the cabin to visit the shed where the family had put Sammy’s body; and at this point the snipers opened fire and wounded Randy. As Randy ran back into the house, Vicki Weaver stood at the door holding their young baby Elisheba, with Kevin Harris standing in front of her. As Randy made it to the door Kevin pulled him inside when another two shots rang out, hitting Kevin Harris and wounding him gravely. Unknown to the authorities the bullets had also hit and killed Vicki Weaver instantly, who was standing behind Harris in the doorway. Vicki immediately fell to the ground but baby Elisheba was unharmed (Weaver 2017).
The resulting standoff between Randy and the authorities lasted a total of eleven days. With Vicki and Sammy now dead Randy had even less reason to trust the government and instead ‘resisted’ the “[No] New World Order” like the sign he prominently displayed on the front of the cabin (Goodman 2017). However, with the arrival of Lt. Col. Bo Gritz – former Green Beret, Identity member and hero to the radical right – to act as a negotiator, Randy eventually agreed to send out the injured Kevin Harris and the body of his wife, surrendering himself and his three daughters the next day. Bo Gritz’s involvement was essential to Randy’s surrender as he was not a member of ZOG, but a man very similar to Randy himself, both in background and beliefs, and promised to help Randy receive a fair trial if he surrendered (Sneath 2000, 60 & 64).
Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris were charged with attempting to provoke violent confrontation with law enforcement and the murder of Officer William Degan. Their trial began on April 14, 1993 in Boise, Idaho and ran concurrently to another national incident involving the FBI and the ATF– the siege and eventual fire at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. On the fifth day of the Weaver/Harris trial the judge specifically ordered the jury to ignore news relating to events unfolding in Waco (Sneath 2000, 80). A few days later the defense rested and the jury moved to deliberation, taking twenty days to make their decision. Kevin Harris was acquitted of all counts and Randy Weaver was found guilty of only one count, the original charge of failing to appear for court for his firearms infractions. Additionally, in 1995 he was awarded $3.1 million in damages for the deaths of his wife and son by a United States Senate subcommittee special hearing on the events at Ruby Ridge, which found that the FBI, ATF and the US Marshal Service exercised poor judgment during their interactions with the Weaver family and the resulting investigation (Sneath 2000, 80). Today Sara Weaver is a promotional evangelical Christian speaker and owns a horse ranch in Kalispell, Montana (Gerke 2017). Randy, Rachel and Elisheba live close nearby and Randy and Sara have co-authored books about their experience at Ruby Ridge, denying that they were involved with Aryan Nations and Christian Identity. The family still owns the Ruby Ridge property and Randy remains an inspirational figure for the radical right, though he has made few public appearances since his trial (Gerke 2017).
David Koresh &Waco
The ramifications of the creation of The Order and the resulting events at Ruby Ridge were wide-spread and far-reaching. The fact that both Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris’s trials ran concurrently to the tragedy in Waco, Texas, possibly affected the outcome of their verdicts and sentencing (Sneath 2000, 80). Additionally, it is highly unlikely that the residents of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas would have been unaware of the events at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and this knowledge very likely increased their mistrust of the government. The ATF mission which began with an attempt to arrest Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, and ended with the deaths of approximately 80 Branch Davidians, sparked a national outcry of government brutality.
The Branch Davidians were a millennial fringe sect of the Seven Day Adventist Church, led by David Koresh who they believed was the reincarnation of the son of God or the ‘messiah.’ David Koresh had reportedly received visions from God throughout his life confirming that he was the ‘lamb of God’ foretold in the book of Revelation. As the SDA Church and the Branch Davidian religious traditions heavily relied upon prophetic wisdom, David Koresh (formerly known as Vernon Howell) was anointed leader of the community after demonstrating considerable ability to interpret Biblical text (Spencer 2018). David soon began preaching that the end times prophesied in the Biblical book of Revelation were rapidly approaching and that the Branch Davidians needed to prepare for the impending battle that was to occur (Newport 2006).
Before the ATF raid in 1993, the Branch Davidians made extra money selling weapons, gun paraphernalia, ready-to-eat meals, boots, uniforms, and ammunition vests at gun shows every weekend across the country (Doyle 2012, 72-73). Given that the Branch Davidians were actively involved in gun shows even into 1993, they would have been well aware of the events at Ruby Ridge between 1991 and 1992 – information that was widely circulated among those crowds (Barkun 1997, 266-267). According to a recent Paramount production based on the written account of survivor David Thibadeau’s experiences during the Waco siege, David Koresh expressed concern upon hearing the news of government aggression at the Ruby Ridge standoff (Dowdle & Dowdle 2018). Survivor Clive Doyle reports that in 1992, David Koresh told the Davidians that they would not be able to follow one of their original plans to relocate to Israel. Instead they would have to prepare for the impending war which David foresaw in their near future. In mid to late 1992 David Koresh made a deal with a local licensed gun dealer named Henry MacHahon.
Henry had heard that there was a possibility that new gun legislation was going to ban assault rifles and believed now was the time to buy up stock. David believed they were a good investment; once the guns were off the market he would be able to receive triple the price and if Henry had informed him correctly, it would still be legal to sell the weapons once the law came into effect. Clive goes on to say that the weapons were in fact purchased but stored upstairs near David’s room in the women’s quarters where the rest of the men were not allowed to enter. Therefore, he did not see the guns, nor could he confirm nor deny their legality (Doyle 2012, 116-117). However, two former female Branch Davidians, Heather Burson and Kat Schroeder, confirm in documentary interviews that they had either seen or trained with the weapons themselves. Heather Burson (a child at the time) states:
Whereas Kat Schroeder states regarding the weapons the Branch Davidians sold at gun shows:
By the admission of former Branch Davidians, they did possess illegal firearms; however, only David’s most trusted advisors, and women who were under Koresh’s direct physical, sexual and spiritual control were allowed to know their whereabouts or enter where they were located. As David believed the apocalyptic future foretold in the Bible was rapidly approaching, he began to prepare in many ways – by stockpiling weapons and by reproducing children with the young women of Mount Carmel which he believed were prophesied in the Bible (Doyle 2012, 87-89). In 1988 David received a new word from God which he called “The New Light” which told him that the married couples at Mount Carmel were to have their unions annulled and that all the women in the world now belonged to him. Since David believed himself to be the Son of God, he was the only man on earth who could produce pure children and thus fulfill his next goal to prepare for the end times (Breault 2018). The book of Revelation says:
David believed that in the end times the children he had with his legal wife Rachel and the wives he began to take from other men after The New Light (Koresh began to demand that the Davidian men hand over their legal wives and their young daughters to him) would become the rulers prophesied to sit on the thrones spoke about in the book of Revelation (Doyle 2012, 87-89). It was this controversial practice of polygamy and child marriage (sometimes with girls as young as ten, eleven, twelve, and fourteen) which originally drew federal attention towards Waco. Former Davidian member Marc Breault had been close friends with David Koresh until The New Light revelation, when their relationship began to deteriorate. Marc fled the Davidian compound and returned to his home nation of Australia, where he alerted American authorities that Koresh was sleeping with underage women (Breault 2018). However, Texas Social Services were unable to substantiate the allegations at the time and the case was dropped. It wasn’t until 1992 when the Sheriff’s Office received reports from neighbors of Mount Carmel that they were hearing automatic gunfire coming from the Davidian compound, that authorities began investigating Koresh once again (Spencer 2018).
It was this second investigation started by the ATF in 1993 that precipitated the discovery of illegal weapons at Mount Carmel and resulted in the disastrous attempt to arrest David Koresh (Pressley 1993). On February 8, 1993 a large group of tactical ATF agents attempted to execute a search and seizure warrant at the Branch Davidian compound and were met with gunfire. After a lengthy shootout where agents attempted to breach the building to arrest Koresh and subdue the shooters inside, four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians were killed (Newport 2006). Eventually the ATF retreated and, once again another mission was handed over to the FBI. For 51 days hostage negotiators attempted to convince David Koresh to give himself and the other Davidians up and surrender to the police; however, he insisted that it was not his choice but the will of God whether or not they were to come out. After 51 days of failed negotiations it was decided by the FBI that the siege of Mount Carmel needed to end. On April 19, 1993 the FBI amassed an effort to launch teargas from tanks into the compound in an attempt to force the Branch Davidians out. The mission ended in tragedy when just after noon fires broke out in three separate locations and the compound was quickly engulfed in flames. Fire crews were kept from responding to the scene from reports of gunfire coming from the building. When the fire had burned itself out, approximately 80 Branch Davidians were dead, including 25 children and David Koresh himself; there were only nine survivors (Newport, 2006).
One must ask what it was back in 1992 that made David Koresh tell the Branch Davidians that they needed to dramatically shift their plans for the future? Why did he suddenly feel as if there was an imminent threat? There is a very real possibility that the Ruby Ridge assault (combined with mounting pressures from social services regarding complaints of child abuse from Marc Breault) had a profound effect on the charismatic leader whose financial earnings and lifestyle were dependent upon his second amendment rights and religious convictions – two elements that members of the religious right felt were jeopardized after Ruby Ridge, and were under direct attack after the Waco. Kat Schroeder states about the Branch Davidian mindset during the years leading up to the siege:
David Koresh and the Branch Davidians viewed themselves fated to challenge the government forces of evil described in the Biblical book of Revelations. David Koresh had told the Branch Davidians that many would not survive the tribulation and that they needed guns to protect each other and their families – then in 1992 the government infamously took away Randy Weaver’s guns and killed his family (Schroeder 2018). Perhaps David Koresh believed the Branch Davidians would be next.
Timothy McVeigh & Oklahoma City
Timothy McVeigh was a fervent gun-owner, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War disillusioned by his experiences, and a great fan of The Turner Diaries (Pruitt 2018). In 1992 McVeigh watched, incensed, as the events of Ruby Ridge unfolded, convinced of the corruption overtaking the American government. His anger was triggered once again as he watched the events of the Waco siege take place in 1993, resulting in the fire of April 19, 1993 which claimed approximately 80 Branch Davidian lives (Barkun 1997, 261-263). McVeigh visited the burned-out Davidian compound a few months after the fire, sifting through the rubble and ashes, his anger building (Barkun 1997, 261). By now he was absolutely convinced that the government of the United States was completely corrupt – it had become part of the New World Order, and was a powerful military machine meant to grind up and spit out its citizens (Barkun 1997, 258-259). McVeigh had several telephone calls with William Luther Pierce – author of The Turner Diaries and leader of The National Alliance – in the weeks leading up to the Oklahoma city bombing. It is also believed that he may have frequented the Elohim Christian Identity compound on the Idaho/Arkansas border in the years leading up to the attack. His telephone records displayed calls between the Elohim Identity compound and McVeigh, and he once received a traffic ticket on the only access road into the Elohim complex (Juergensmeyer 2017, 25). Additionally, McVeigh subscribed to The Patriot Report a Christian Identity newsletter based out of Arkansas (Juergensmeyer 2017, 25). None of this proves that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian Identity believer; however, it does demonstrate that he was very familiar with their belief systems, possessed the ability to navigate their subcultures and had an intricate knowledge of white supremacist literature.
Armed with a strong hatred for the government and a novel which had previously been used as an instruction manual for violent insurrection, McVeigh carefully planned to build a fertilizer bomb similar to the one described in The Turner Diaries:
McVeigh mixed 4,400 pounds fuel oil and ammonium nitrate fertilizer in large barrels in order to create a highly explosive device and loaded them onto a rented truck (Juergensmeyer 2017, 26). When he rented the truck, he signed the license date of issue as 4-19-93 the date of the Waco fire (Barkun 1997, 261). As McVeigh drove the fertilizer-bomb truck to the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City the date was April 19, 1995, two years to the day after the tragic Waco fire. This was no coincidence; McVeigh intended to make a statement. As he parked beside the federal building and began walking the other direction down the sidewalk, he was well aware that there was an ATF office inside; this was the reason he had selected this particular building (Pruitt 2018). When the bomb went off that morning killing 168 people, including 15 children in the daycare inside, McVeigh believed he was exacting revenge on a the government responsible for Ruby Ridge and Waco. McVeigh later stated that even as he felt the explosion shake the sidewalk as he fled, he felt no remorse – his victims were collateral damage in the war the government had already started (Barkun 1997, 256).
Ironically, it was McVeigh’s passion for guns – and not the bombing – which landed him in police custody days before the FBI knew he was responsible for the murder of 168 people. McVeigh was pulled over 60 miles outside of Oklahoma City on Interstate 35 attempting to flee the scene of his crime. Highway Patrol Officer Charlie Hanger noticed McVeigh’s vehicle was missing a license plate and was in the process of issuing a ticket when a bulge in McVeigh’s jacket concerned him (Branson-Potts 2015). Upon investigation, the bulge turned out to be an illegal Glock pistol – fully loaded. McVeigh was immediately arrested and was already waiting in a Noble County jail when the federal authorities discovered that he was responsible for the bombing in Oklahoma City. Had McVeigh not been carrying an illegal weapon on April 19, 1995 he might have been able to evade capture for a longer period of time. Thanks to Officer Hanger’s astute attention to detail, McVeigh was apprehended early in the investigation process and denied the opportunity to take more innocent lives (Branson-Potts 2015).
White Supremacy is Inherently Religious
The purpose of examining The Order, Ruby Ridge and the resulting events of the Waco siege and the Oklahoma City Bombing in such detail, is to provide clear evidence of how some far-right millennial groups are formed, how their thought processes and patterns of logic are developed, and what serves as motivation behind some of their actions. Evaluating the life decisions and religious convictions of individuals such as Robert Mathews, and Randy and Vicki Weaver, provides a greater opportunity to learn how dangerous armed movements like those of The Order and certain factions within Aryan Nations are able to grow. Additionally, it provides a frame of reference for how the Christian Identity movement has influenced white supremacy and far-right thinking over the past several decades. As Catherine Wessinger argues, millennial thought is common among Protestant Christendom; however, it is also a staple of white supremacist thinking, which is founded upon the principle that white survival is threatened by the existence of others. Jeffrey Marlett argues that many studies demonstrate that white supremacism is primarily a religious movement first and a political movement second. This counters arguments that some supremacist groups merely use religious rhetoric to attract followers, or that seemingly secular supremacist groups have nothing to do with religion (Marlett 2002, 202).
Most infamously embodied in the Nazi movement, white-supremacy can be both openly religious and also ostensibly secular in nature. Robert Ellwood argues that in Nazi contexts the imminent collective salvation to be achieved was the dominance of the German Aryan race over the world. This transformative Aryan paradise on earth created by the Third Reich would be the salvation of the German people, and though Hitler and the Nazis made passing references to God at one time or another, divinity was found in their own pure bloodline and not in an all-powerful deity (Ellwood 2000, 242-243). However, this does not exclude religion from the Nazi movement – which is very millennial in nature – but simply assumes the power of the divine and instead transfers it to the characteristics embodied within the Aryan race. Thus, the concept that ‘whites’ are inherently superior due to their Aryan characteristics is part of this assumed divinity, whether the supremacists in question are Identity members who believe they are literally the descendants of God or not (Ellwood 2000, 242-243). The belief that one’s own race is greater than all others based on physical characteristics assumes a quality of the divine, a superior power over other forms of life. This is no less accurate for modern far-right movements which have been ‘rebranded’ to appeal to mainstream members. ‘Western Chauvinists’(operating both in the USA and Canada) such as The Proud Boys founded in 2016 by former Vice journalist Gavin McInnes, claim not to be racist but also assert western superiority over all other societies. This assertion of superiority claims the same divinity for western civilization as white-supremacist groups assert for the Aryan race – they are simply ‘better.’ As Jeffrey Marlett argues, the distinction that western civilization is above all others assumes a divine quality that is religious in nature, whether the creators of The Proud Boys and other far-right organizations are aware of this or not (Marlett 2002, 202).
Additionally, the millennial aspect of white supremacist belief adds another layer of religiosity to supremacy ideologies. The conviction that an “immanent” and “collective salvation” is approaching for members of the ‘pure’ race draws once again from religious belief in a millennial kingdom (Wessinger 2000, 6-7). The concept that “collective salvation” will be found through the domination of ‘lesser’ races may be unpalatable, but is a religious notion nonetheless (Marlett 2002, 202). The idea that western civilization or the ‘superior’ white race is under attack is a millennial concept built upon religious foundations such as the tribulation written in the Biblical book of Revelation. White supremacists and members of the far-right may fall into the religious categories of post-millennial or pre-millennial, indicating that they either believe that their trial – the end days – via other races, feminists, and corrupt governments has already begun, or is rapidly approaching (Marlett 2002, 202). Again, this statement rings true for modern, mainstream far-right organizations who wish to distance themselves from religion, but hold similar millennial ideological beliefs to white supremacist organizations (Marlett 2002, 202).
High Risk Elements
Supremacy Millennialism: Fear the Other
This paper has discussed several individuals and groups among the far-right in order to understand the motivations for high risk behavior which may benefit from further research. With additional research, identifying these patterns of behaviors could provide useful information to recognize that a group is more likely to either precipitate violence, or escalate to violence or self-harm if they feel pressured.
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that the group be millennial and on the fringes of society. This means that they believe that there is a collective salvation to be gained – or lost – in the imminent future and are separate from mainstream Protestant or millennial practices (Wessinger 2000, 6-7). For the members of white supremacist groups this collective salvation is the dominance of the white race, and the impending threat comes in the form of the ‘other’ or ‘lesser’ races. Many white supremacists such as Timothy McVeigh, Robert Mathews, Aryan Nations members and Christian Identity believers view this threat as manifested through immigration, affirmative action measures and porous borders. Though modern groups such as The Proud Boys vehemently deny association with the alt-right, they too list “closed borders” as the fifth political priority in their manifesto, along with abolishing bilingualism and enforcing the use of the English language (McInnes 2017). For groups such as the millennial Branch Davidians fear of ‘the other’ manifested in contaminating oneself with excessive interaction with the outside world. Heather Burson states that after David Koresh received The New Light, her mother Kathy fled the compound one night because she was afraid that he would force her to have sexual intercourse with him next. When Heather asked to see her mother in the following weeks David refused and told her that she would be “tainted” if she saw her mother in the outside world. In fact, Koresh told her that even wanting to have contact with her mother who was now a part of the outside world made her a “traitor” (Burson 2018). This extreme fear of ‘the other’ among fringe millennial groups should be noted as high risk behavior, as not only does it often cross the line into paranoia but combined with other elements can escalate the potential for violence.
All of the individuals and groups analyzed in this paper were staunchly anti-government. Robert Mathews and The Order were suspicious of ZOG, and were heavily influenced by the corrupt government depicted in The Turner Diaries (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 124). Similarly, Timothy McVeigh was impassioned to fight against the evil government he felt was accurately portrayed in The Turner Diaries. McVeigh believed the American government was growing into what he read in its pages and needed to be punished for the events which occurred at Ruby Ridge and Waco; hence, his lack of remorse for killing 168 people in order to exact revenge (Barkun 1997, 256).
Randy and Vicki Weaver were also extremely anti-government; believing that they were witnessing the establishment of ‘The New World Order’ described in the book of Revelation and in Identity teachings (Sneath 2000, 66). Similarly, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians believed that the government were servants of Satan and referred to them as ‘Assyrians’ a civilization described in the Old Testament as ravaging the Holy Land and decimating Jerusalem. Clive Doyle states: “The Assyrian is going to be judged by God” (Doyle 2012, 93). Additionally, the Biblical depiction of the ‘New World Order’ government in Revelation is extremely important to the cases of millennial thinking discussed in this paper. Identity thought and the prophetic ideology of the Branch Davidians both focused on an apocalyptic understanding of a corrupt government as foretold in Revelation.
Strikingly similar to many other far-right movements, modern groups such as The Proud Boys also place blame on modern society and the government for making white males the victims of conspiracies to weaken them (Culkin 2017). Political item ten in the Proud Boy Manifesto is: “Shut Down the Government” and states: “We have no respect for the institutions that rob us of our hard-earned wages. We won’t let another man handle our freedom and determine our destiny” (McInnes 2017).
Statements such as these may seem less extreme in comparison to writings like The Turner Diaries; however, one must remember that society has changed dramatically since the 1970’s. Far right movements have always sought to gain more members – this has been accurate since the efforts of Robert Mathews; however, the tactics have shifted. Gavin McInnis is a journalist and is likely well-aware that modern writing requires careful language in order to reach a broader audience. By being selective in how they communicate similar ideals as groups that have come before them, organizations such as The Proud Boys no longer have to seclude themselves in the mountains of Idaho, but can state their ideas freely in public without being arrested (Caulking 2017). Again, anti-government sentiment is high risk behavior – especially with softer language – because it is pointing to risk factors which in 2018 may be hiding in plain sight. Several white-supremacists cloistered in Hayden Lake are a threat, but are easier to monitor when they shave their heads, wear skin-head paraphernalia and are openly racist. Conversely, an Information Technology Programmer from Toronto who has strong views but is articulate, appears subdued in his arguments and is always well-dressed, may be harder to establish as potentially dangerous.
Another commonality between the aforementioned groups is the pattern of sexual control of members, especially women. Among The Order women remained in the background and were not trusted with primary roles in heists, counterfeiting, or in assassinations. Women were kept as mothers and wives by the members and rarely were required to take positions outside the home. As with many white supremacist organizations, the main role of women is to reproduce and, therefore, secure the future of the race via their fertility. This was the case with The Order (Burkan 1997, 229). Similarly, the Weavers kept to strict Old Testament and Identity practices regarding sexuality, to the point where Vicki and Sara had to live in a shed during their menstrual period so as to keep the home ceremonially ‘clean’ (Sneath 2000, 68). Although Timothy McVeigh did not say a lot about his experiences with women, the fact he was a young man at the time of the bombing and was involved with white supremacists and Identity members may indicate that he did not have time in which to find a suitable Aryan wife before he was apprehended by police (Barkun 1997, 256). McVeigh is noted as being staunchly against feminist ideals, a commonality among Identity practitioners (Juergensmeyer 2017, 23). As stated above, Identity believers and the majority of white-supremacists believe the value of women is in their ability to bring forth children and carry out the duty of housewives; thus, the feminist movement is looked on with disdain for distracting women from what many view as their true purpose (Juergensmeyer 2017, 23).
David Koresh took multiple wives for himself from among the Branch Davidians, claiming that it was ‘God’s will’ and that if a Davidian man refused to allow Koresh to take his wife, he would admonish the man saying that the wife no longer ‘belonged’ to him, but now belonged to God and therefore Koresh. If the man still resisted, Koresh would accuse the couple of committing adultery, as they were no longer married according to Koresh (Wright 1995, 68-70). Modern groups such as The Proud Boys also display interesting traits of sexual control, including the restriction of masturbation among their members and also limiting the role of women to housewives. Women are prohibited from Proud Boy membership and are not to be in attendance or the close proximity of any Proud Boy meetings (McInnis 2017). The logic for this is – again – similar to that of many white-supremacists: that there needs to be more reproduction among members (and all of Western society) and, therefore, women should be housewives. Proud Boys are not to masturbate more than once a month and are encouraged to “knock her up” as much as possible due to the “need to make more Proud Boys” (McInnis 2017). Groups such as The Proud Boys and many other modern western chauvinists and white-supremacists lament the declining birth rate in the west (McInnis 2017). Combined with a fear of the other, white-supremacists groups view modern immigration efforts to maintain population growth a direct threat to their existence. High risk behaviors such as the sexual control of members and partner women are implemented in order to help solve this problem and in many cases ‘stave off’ the impending version of the apocalypse the group foresees.
Another pattern between the discussed groups is their extreme passion for gun/weapon ownership and the perceived threat they saw in any attempt to interfere with weapons issues. Additionally, all of the aforementioned groups demonstrated willingness to cross legal boundaries in order to operate, obtain or help others acquire firearms or explosives. Robert Mathews and members of The Order were in possession of altered and illegal weapons as well as numerous explosives, and engaged in murder and numerous police shootouts (Flynn and Gerhardt 1989, 225). The Ruby Ridge incident occurred because Randy Weaver sawed off two shotgun barrels, which is a federal offense (Sneath 2000, 62). The Branch Davidians operated a mill out of the Mount Carmel compound where they converted fully-automatic weapons and were creating hand grenades from the Anarchist’ cookbook (Pressley, 1993). Obviously, Timothy McVeigh created a bomb that murdered 168 people; however, he also had a great fondness for firearms and owned guns since his childhood (Barkun 1997, 256). Likewise, the Proud Boys advocate that every man should own a gun and argue that 90% of the western world’s gun laws are too strict. They believe the answer to preventing crime is gun ownership (McGinnes 2017).
Passion for weapons combined with the aforementioned high risk behaviors in fringe millennial groups is a clear and resounding cause for concern. A fringe millennial group may have weapons but possess no other alarming factors, or perhaps demonstrate one or two of the aforementioned traits but show no indications of an inclination towards arming themselves. However, if a group demonstrates these traits and wishes to arm themselves – as in all the cases examined above – it is another matter altogether, as the intention was to prepare for an impending apocalypse. This indicates that the groups or individual should be treated with extreme caution and not pressure. As demonstrated with the fringe millennial cases analyzed in this paper: those who were armed responded to pressure (police dynamic entry or siege tactics) by escalating their own use of force. As former Branch Davidian Heather Burson states about the circumstances the ATF found themselves in while attempting to secure the heavily armed Mount Carmel:
The aforementioned high risk behaviors combined with a passion for weapons possession within fringe millennial groups – especially among the far-right – should on no account be ignored. It can make for a potentially disastrous and fatal situation on all fronts, and should always be approached with caution.
This paper has sought to establish tentative indicators of high risk behavior among millennial white supremacist or far-right groups on the fringes of society, specifically focusing on organizations and individuals involved with the Christian Identity movement. It has analyzed the historical cases documenting the rise of two prominent Millennialist individuals between 1983 and 1992 and deconstructed repercussions involved with government interactions with Robert Mathews and Randy Weaver in the form of the resulting incidents in Waco, Texas and the Oklahoma City Bombing. All four of the aforementioned events analyzed in this paper are not separate, stand-alone occurrences, but take place as part of a greater narrative of escalation within the far-right and Christian Identity world. These events occurred in an environment of increased surveillance of weapons tampering by federal authorities which began after the creation of The Order in 1983. The subsequent events of Ruby Ridge, Waco, and the Oklahoma City Bombing cannot be detached from that narrative, though the connection is rarely made by the broader public.
It was the goal of this paper to analyze historical cases in order to establish patterns and highlight behavioral similarities that could indicate ‘high risk’ behavior within the millennial ideologies of white supremacist organizations which may indicate a predisposition for violence or destabilization when pressure is applied to the group. Additionally, contemporary cases such as The Proud Boys were added further into the paper’s analysis in order to argue that the high risk factors established among historical cases of far-right groups remain relevant today. The risk factors identified were: fringe millennialism, fear of ‘the other,’ anti-government sentiment, sexual control, and impassioned weapons possession with a willingness to subvert government authority. It was proposed that modern groups like The Proud Boys who wish to appear more palatable in their beliefs to the general public have adjusted the language of their documents to appeal to a broader audience, but in reality share the same beliefs as other white supremacist organizations. When examined alongside other cases in this paper, The Proud Boys also shared the identified high risk behavior.
It is important to note that often members of the far-right, the media, and even certain experts within academia try to ‘sanitize’ the groups analyzed in this paper – removing distasteful elements of their religious practice such as virulent racism, questionable sexual exploits, and proof of their illegal activities – in order to create a better narrative of victimhood. However, this does a disservice to the facts and does not assist in research which may lead to an understanding of how to prevent these events from reoccurring. Recognizing that these groups and individuals are potentially dangerous under certain circumstances, and how to best respond to their ideologies and beliefs in an appropriate and measured manner is pivotal to preventing further instances of violent confrontation and a loss of life.
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