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Context of 'June 14, 1997: New York Times Editorial Warns of Militia Threat'

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The Montana Militia calls newly elected Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID) the best friend militia groups have in Congress, according to a report by the New York Times. The Montana Militia’s fall 1994 catalogue sells, among other items, a bomb-making manual, tapes explaining the “one-world government” conspiracy, and a video of a speech made by Chenoweth in late 1993, in which, the catalogue claims, she told listeners over 50 percent of the United States is now under “the control of the New World Order” (see September 11, 1990). She does not use the actual term on the videotape. “We are in a day and age now when we are facing an unlawful government from time to time,” she told listeners. “We are in a battle today that is far more insidious and dangerous as far as conquering our people and our soul than we have ever faced before. Our land has been taken. It’s time we reclaim our land.” The tape is titled “America in Crisis” and is sold along with tapes like “En route to Global Occupation,” which states, “The anti-Christ is not coming—he’s here!” Chenoweth has also made claims of an impending “New World Order” takeover of the United States, and has cited as proof the UN’s designation of Yellowstone National Park as a world heritage site. (The Sierra Club will note: “In real life, the UN label means only that the site has ‘outstanding universal value.’ The regulations under which it was designated were drawn up by Ronald Reagan’s Interior Secretary, James Watt.”) Chenoweth is now under pressure to explain her contacts with militia groups, an issue that did not significantly arise during the 1994 election but was sparked by recent revelations that Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX) received faxes from militia groups in the hours after the Oklahoma City bombings (see 10:50 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 23-24, 1995). Ken Toole of the Montana Human Rights Network says, “Given what we know about the conspiratorial world view and violent tendencies that are at the core of militia beliefs, for elected officials to be supportive or even neutral does nothing but embolden these people.” In March 1995, Chenoweth issued a press release demanding that the federal government immediately stop sending “black helicopters” filled with armed federal agents to interfere with private citizens’ affairs in her state (see February 15, 1995). Chenoweth, Stockman, and other congressional members who have had militia members as campaign volunteers and have presented militia concerns to the House insist that they are doing nothing more than looking out for their constituents. [New York Times, 5/2/1995; Sierra Magazine, 5/1996]

Entity Tags: Steve Stockman, Helen P. Chenoweth, James Watt, Sierra Club, Ken Toole, New York Times, Montana Militia

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

New York Times columnist Frank Rich urges the nation to forego the idea that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s conviction (see June 2, 1997) brings “closure” to the possibility that domestic terrorism could be a problem in America. Rich writes that the national media seems more than ready to move to new subjects, and shows little interest in McVeigh’s connection to what Rich calls “a diverse, violent right-wing fringe, ranging from neo-Nazis to gun-absolutists to Christian Identity white supremacists (see 1960s and After), that most journalists ignored prior to April 19, 1995.” Rich notes that the Anti-Defamation League has documented a sharp spike in “militia-related crime[s]” over the past 18 months, most of which gain little or no national news coverage. Two serious bombing plots in Oklahoma and Michigan by militia cells have recently been foiled. Abortion clinics have been hammered by assaults, prompting Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt to say: “There seems to be an inability to recognize that this terrorism is terrorism. Isn’t bombing a women’s health center terrorism?” Most militia operations and abortion-clinic bombings are being ignored by the national media, even the above-ground operations such as a recent series of public “conclaves” held by the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Author Frederick Clarkson, an expert on far-right violence, writes that it is “an authentic crisis of democracy when people seek to blame the government” for all ills, and “solve” those ills through violence rather than by voting, civil demonstrations, and other means. Another expert on far-right violence, Chip Berlet, says that “perhaps as many as five million” Americans adhere to the most enraged varieties of right-wing populism and are part of “the recruitment pool” for “neo-Nazi demagogues” waiting “to exploit and channel unresolved anger toward bloodshed and terror.” America, Rich concludes, ignores this at the nation’s peril. [New York Times, 6/5/1997]

Entity Tags: Frederick Clarkson, Anti-Defamation League, Chip Berlet, Frank Rich, Timothy James McVeigh, Gloria Feldt, National Alliance

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A New York Times editorial warns that the conviction and death sentence of domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) has done nothing to stem what it calls “the violence of the militias that inspired him.” The editorial warns: “The militias are different from anything that preceded them because they gather not to take out their rage on Communists or minorities, but to wage war against a government they consider treasonous. In recent years militia groups have assaulted, harassed, and threatened scores of government officials. It is difficult for most Americans to take seriously a group of people whose targets include America’s county clerks and whose members hold that manufacturers’ labels on the backs of road signs actually point the way to the nearest concentration camp. But militia ideology has already provoked the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), the worst act of terrorism ever to take place on American soil. Since that act the militias have continued to grow, and the possibility of more terrorism is undimmed.” Some American communities, the editorial observes, “can no longer enforce their land, tax, and weapons laws, unwilling to risk that an employee might be attacked by militia members” (see January 1994 and April 1994). Firefighters fear taking helicopters over land owned by some militia members, because they worry they will be shot down. Militia officials have filed phony liens against local officials in at least 23 states (see 1993-1994). The editorial states: “The militias are a particularly insidious strain of the American viruses of paranoia and violence. They echo the white supremacy of the Ku Klux Klan and the conspiracy theories and gun obsessions of the John Birch Society. They draw on the American icon of the man who wants to be left alone to live by his creed, taking ideas and leaders from the rural Posse Comitatus movement that reached its peak during the farm crisis of the 1980s (see 1969).… [W]ith the end of the cold war, it may be that conspiracy theories once obsessed with Communism turned inward toward the American government. The militias, most of which operate in small, autonomous groups, now also have the Internet to propagate theories and plans.” The McVeigh case has invigorated many hardcore militia groups, many of whom insist the bombing was carried out by the government to discredit the militia movement and to justify its intention to implement martial law and tyranny. Many mainstream groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) welcome militia members and echo many militias’ ideologies and beliefs. And some lawmakers, such as Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), are openly sympathetic to the militias (see February 15, 1995 and May 2, 1995). The editorial concludes with praise for the federal government’s peaceful resolution of the Montana Freemen standoff (see June 13, 1996), stating: “The Freemen standoff also showed the importance of public condemnation of violence. The Freemen found little support in surrounding communities. While militia forces thrive on government attacks, they cannot withstand the disdain of their neighbors. The militias are so widespread because they ostensibly draw on ideas strongly rooted in American history. But even citizens with sympathy for those ideas need to distinguish between their peaceful and their violent expression.” [New York Times, 6/14/1997] The editorial echoes concerns recently expressed by Times columnist Frank Rich (see June 5, 1997).

Entity Tags: National Rifle Association, Frank Rich, Helen P. Chenoweth, Montana Freemen, Timothy James McVeigh, New York Times

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

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