New York City activist

September 15, 2009

Ted Gunderson, fake whistleblowers, and the “Patriot movement”

In the TruthMove forum, Mark has called attention to the news story Secret camps and guillotines? Groups make birthers look sane by Steven Thomma, McClatchy Newspapers, Friday, August 28, 2009.

This story mentions Ted Gunderson, who, back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, was also a major proponent of the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare.

Fake whistleblowers?

According to the McClatchy story:

… Retired FBI agent Ted Gunderson says the government has prepared 1,000 camps for its own citizens. He also says the government has stored 30,000 guillotines to murder its critics, and has stashed 500,000 caskets in Georgia and Montana for the remains.

Why guillotines? “Because,” he wrote in a report obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, “beheading is the most efficient means of harvesting body parts.”

Unfortunately, this kind of nuttiness implies that not all FBI whistleblowers are credible. Ditto, all the more so, for CIA whistleblowers. Indeed, one has to wonder whether some alleged “whistleblowers” may in fact still be working for the agencies they allegedly left, spouting disinfo with the aim of discrediting real whistleblowers. Or perhaps some fake whistleblowers are genuinely off their rocker. Either way, they contribute to a climate that makes life much more difficult for real whistleblowers.

Still, it is vitally important to support protections for whistleblowers, and to ensure that their complaints are heard and investigated by some appropriate independent body.

The “Patriot movement” — what is it?

The McClatchy story also refers to an interesting article on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, SPLC Report: Return of the Militias, August 12, 2009. This article also discusses the recent revival of the larger Patriot movement. Page 3 contains the following brief mention of what I call grand conspiracy ideology:

Increasingly, Minutemen are giving credence to the sort of fringe conspiracy theories that have long typified militia and other so-called Patriot groups. …

At several eastern San Diego County vigilante camps in mid-May, there were serious discussions about the global banking system being controlled by an ancient secret society called the Illuminati. Another theory floated involved a cult devoted to the Egyptian god of the afterlife, Osiris, operating within the NASA space agency and perhaps arranging with extraterrestrials for a hostile takeover of Earth.

The “Patriot movement,” it should be noted, consists of a motley assortment of groups. The SPLC article describes it as being “made up of paramilitary militias, tax defiers and so-called ‘sovereign citizens.'” I would say that it includes other groups too. Not everyone in We Are Change, for example, is a militia member, a tax resister, or a so-called “sovereign citizen.” Most members of We Are Change probably aren’t any of these, as far as I can tell. Ditto, I would suspect, most members of Oathkeepers.

What, then, does define the “Patriot movement”? As far as I can tell, the two things nearly everyone in the “Patriot movement” has in common are (1) belief in conservative/libertarian economics, e.g. pure laissez-faire plus a desire to return to the gold standard, and (2) grand conspiracy ideology, e.g. belief in “the Illuminati” and fear of “the New World Order.”

I’ll have more to say about Oathkeepers later. In the meantime, here are (1) their main website, (2) their Ten Orders We Will Not Obey, and (3) Retired Sheriff Richard Mack’s response to the SPLC report.



  1. More on Morris Dees:

    Comment by patricksmcnally — September 15, 2009 @ 7:47 pm | Reply

  2. While I have some issues with SPLC too, Cockburn makes blatant straw-man arguments. For example: “He’s saying that the election of a black president proves his point. Hate is on the rise!” In fact, what SPLC is claiming, if I understand correctly, is that the election of Obama has SPARKED a racist backlash. This seems very likely, given all the “birther” nonsense, for example.

    Cockburn then refers to “minions of Chip Berlet, another salesman of the Christian menace.” Excuse me, but the Christian religious right wing IS a real menace, especially if you happen to be gay or a member of a minority religion. (Please see this review of a book by Frank Shaeffer.) The religious right wing also provides the more traditional pro-capitalist right wing with a pseudo-populist ally.

    Comment by Diane — September 16, 2009 @ 3:50 am | Reply

  3. > the Christian religious right wing IS a real menace

    This point requires some much better clarification if it’s going to be made. There are indeed cases such as attacks on abortion doctors and the like which are typically caried out by Christian Right-wingers and can prove fatal to individuals who should be concerned. As a matter of potential threats to individuals, the point is worth taking into account. Nevertheless, there are some very important differences from today from 50 or more years ago which Dees does very badly brush over in a very dishonest way.

    There was a time, say in the 1930s, when it could have seemed plausible to an honest person to imagine either the Ku Klux Klan or some offshoot of it or a similar party leading a political movement which might actually come to power at the head of a new government. What detremined that possibility was not just racial attitudes but moreso$ the extent to which an autonomous national economy existed or was possible. All of the nationalistic movements of the 1930s placed a heavy stress on the goal of achieving economic autarky. At that stage of economic development this was a plausible enough goal that even some of the wealthy sectors could endorse it and cooperate with a populist-based nationalistic movement to advance such an agenda of autarky. Had such a group as the KKK come to power in the 1930s it would have been over such demands of autarky. One reason why they did not was because, in terms of sheer resources, the USA of that time pretty much was already economically independent. The US economy suffered problems from being locked out of sectors of the world economy which colonial powers dominated. But economic autarky was not a primary problem for the USA back then.

    Since that time the whole world has been economically integrated on a global scale as business expansion has been simply too great to be contained within the national borders of any country. Today it is inconceivable that any substantive sector of wealth would ever contemplate a program of economic autarky. Every rich wealthy person who spends any time maintaining an investment portfolio is very much aware that modern wealth is irreversibly bound up with a global economy which defies nationalistic characterizations. For that reason, too, it is today inconceivable that any group with an agenda remotely similar to the old-fashioned KKK will ever come anywhere near the halls of power. This simple fact needs to be the cornerstone of any further analysis.

    Framing an issue wrongly usually does more harm than good. To the extent that there is something worth noting today about Right-wing cranks who attempt to rally what they call a “patriot movement” it is principally in the fact that numerous ideological confusions are passed off as valid information in ways which muddle many real issues that people are right to be concerned about. Framing the issue in a light which tries to suggest that we may be seeing the beginnings of a new movement which will take power one day and begin enacting an agenda to make the USA into a white Christian nation is just scare-mongering to raise money from suckers, and Cockburn is correct that Dees has repeatedly used such scare-mongering tactics.

    It isn’t merely that Dees tries to suggest some concern over the possibility that some angry white male might try to assassinate a black President for less than noble motives. That much is certainly possible, and deserves a few simple comments to the effect that an opposition to Obama’s Wall Street aganda needs to distinguish itself from Right-wing ideologies. If Dees had merely asserted that he would have a much more receptive audience. Dees goes much further and tries to cultivate fears by playing on memories of an earlier era when the global economy was a very different place. Of course the fact that fails to really give just recognition to the way that global economic integration has largely made the old nationalistic types of movements ineffective in the modern world makes it easy for someone to cast Dees as “a tool of the globalists.” But that’s fine, because both Dees and Gunderson are playing the same game from different ends of the rope. A bit of scare-mongering with a few facts sprinked on top, and we’re all in business ready to connect the donations from the suckers. Two peas in a pod is what they are.

    Comment by patricksmcnally — September 16, 2009 @ 11:50 am | Reply

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