Putting the Far Right into Perspective

Paul de Armond
Research director
Public Good Project

©1997 by Public Good.

Comparative diagram of right-wing

Political Behaviors

  • Electoral behavior is constrained by election and financial disclosure laws. Theoretically, elections where gross violations have occurred can be overturned in court. In practice, the laws are widely flouted and unenforced.
  • Protest behavior is constrained by public opinion, civil rights laws and tort actions. The most extreme form of protest includes civil disobedience, but does not challenge the legitimacy of legal authority.
  • Resistance behavior is constrained by criminal law. Resistance challenges the legitimacy of legal authority. The extremes of resistance behavior extend to harassment, defamation, property crimes, fraud, and barratry.
  • Terrorist behavior is constrained by criminal law. Terrorism begins where crimes of violence are involved.

Rationalizations for Misbehavior

The actor knows that the behavior is wrong and can feel guilt and remorse before being caught. 

The actor proclaims a moral imperative for misconduct, but stops short of serious felonies or violent resistance to legal authority. 

The actions are committed covertly, evidence is concealed or destroyed and legal authority may be violently resisted. 

The actor seeks to destroy all authority that thwarts attaining goals.

Right Wing Strategies

Leaderless Resistance is a terrorist strategy. The movement splits itself into two components: an aboveground leadership of propagandists and an underground network of terrorist action cells. Individual cells may be prosecuted, but Leaderless Resistance networks are virtually immune from law enforcement activities.

Paper terrorism” is a resistance/terrorist strategy. The name is misleading, but widely used. Properly speaking, the activity is barratry, the fraudulent simulation of a legal process. Most barratry consists of harassing lawsuits, filing frivolous documents in support of tax resistance and phony liens against public officials. Widely tolerated by prosecutors and county clerks. No significant enforcement activity has occurred, though many states’ Attorneys General have drafted numerous opinions on right-wing barratry for the last two decades.

Tax Resistance is another name for tax fraud. Fraud is the most common form of Christian Patriot criminal activity. Cheating on taxes is widespread, but right-wingers have raised it to an elaborate art form similar to drug money-laundering operations. Rarely prosecuted.

Common law is a protest/resistance/terrorist strategy. In the milder variant, it takes the form of frivolous pro se legal actions. In its most dangerous form, it consists of kangaroo “common law” courts which use militia cells to enforce their rulings.

Right Wing Groups and Movements

Neo-nazis and the Klan merged into a single movement in the early 1970’s through the agency of Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations organization. Strongly influenced by “one-seed” Identity. Neo-nazi and Klan racism is very similar to the volk theories of Hitler’s Nazis.

Identity, or more properly Christian Identity, is a Bible-based but non-Christian sect. Intensely racist, Identity believes that only Anglo-Saxons (Aryans) are true “Christians” and that all other people are subhuman mongrels.

Virulently anti-Semitic, Identity has split into two factions over the nature of Jewish peoples. The larger faction (one-seedline Identity) believes that Jews worship Satan. A smaller faction (two-seedline Identity) believes that Jews are the children of Cain, whose father was Satan not Adam. Two-seed Identity believers are far more violent and apt to view Adolph Hitler as a “Christian” prophet.

Militias are overt or covert right-wing paramilitary organizations. John Trochmann, the leading militia figure today, preaches the Leaderless Resistance strategy of “public meetings and private cells.” Most of the so-called “militia movement” is the armed wing of the Christian Patriot movement.

Christian Patriots (or often just Patriots) are a broad movement on the far right which extends from the John Birch Society to the Freemen. On the left, it stops short of the National Rifle Association and on the right, it does not include neo-nazis. When the movement began in the early 1960s, it was dominated by Identity and a few right-wing Mormons.

Its historical predecessors include the Ku Klux Klan, Father Coughlin’s Christian Action paramilitary organization, the Silver Shirts, and the Black Legion, all American fascist organizations. The name comes from two small Identity-led paramilitary organizations which flourished in the 1960s: the Christian Defense League and the Christian-Patriot Defense league. Other early Christian Patriot groups included the Posse Comitatus, the Minutemen, the California Rangers, the Arizona Patriots, the Committee of the States, New Nation USA (NNUSA), Committee to Restore the Constitution and Willis Carto’s Populist Party.

Originally part of the alliance of racist groups who participated in the Aryan Nations conferences in the early 1970s, by the 1980’s the early Christian Patriot movement began to split into two distinct factions: the revolutionary neo-nazi/Klan movement and the reactionary Christian Patriot movement. Previous to the split, both factions used the name Christian Patriot.

By the late 1980’s, after the exposure of the Posse Comitatus following Gordon Kahl’s murder of several law enforcement officers and his subsequent death in a shoot-out, and the exposure of Aryan Nations involvement in Robert Mathews’ murder-robbery gang, The Order, the Christian Patriots began denouncing the Klan, neo-nazis and two-seed Identity as “costumed kooks” and “Hitler-worshipers.” This was also reflected in the collapse of the Populist Party after Bo Gritz’s 1992 presidential campaign, as the Christian Patriot and Klan/neo-nazi wings battled openly.

In the early 1990’s, the Christian Patriot movement sought and found allies to its left — but still well off-center — in the militant wing of the Christian Right, particularly among violent anti-abortion activists and in the Wise Use Movement, a loose collection of anti-environmentalist organizations originally started by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Alan Gottlieb, a Washington State ultra-libertarian. The convergence of these groups, along with anti-gun control militants, led to the militia organizing drive of 1994.

Christian Patriot leadership continues to be dominated by “one-seed” Identity (notably John Trochmann and his Militia of Montana) and their affiliates such as Bo Gritz, Jack McLamb, Red Beckman and others. Christian Patriot racism is cultural, rather than bloodline, and sometimes described as nativism, “Afrikaaner” or “Old Settler” racism in contrast to the Nazi-style racism of the Klan. “Freemen” are mostly “two-seed” Identity and radical Mormon participants on the extreme right of the Christian Patriot movement.

According to most Christian Patriots, only white, “Christian,” property-owning males can possess “first-class” citizenship. Christian Patriot anti-Semitism is mostly coded in language about the fictional “Illuminatti,” “International bankers,” and the New World Order. Most Christian Patriots will simultaneously deny the Holocaust and their anti-Semitism. By Patriot lights, only neo-nazis and Klan are anti-Semites and racists — since Patriots aren’t neo-nazis, they can’t be anti-Semites or racists. Their theories about property ownership, federal jurisdiction, taxation, monetary systems, and the United Nations are equally baroque and self-contradictory.

Constitutionalists reject most conventional legal theory. Instead, they substitute a simplified notion a divinely inspired “organic” Constitution — the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights — combined with their interpretation of the Bible as the only “true law.” Basically, most Constitutionalists don’t want to pay taxes or recognize government authority.

Much of modern Constitutionalism comes from the writings and prophesies of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons.) The origin of the Christian Patriot term “Freemen” and the key to Constitutionalism can be found in The Book of Mormon, Alma 51: 5-6.

The foundation to Constitutionalist theory is that any alteration to the divinely inspired “organic” Constitution is contrary to God’s will. This makes most American jurisprudence and case law, the abolition of slavery, income tax and votes for women, to name just a few of the things that Constitutionalists object to, not only “unconstitutional,” but downright blasphemous.

Wise Use is a right-wing business lobby. It creates and uses local “property rights” groups as political fronts. Originally started as a partnership between Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Washington ultra-libertarian Alan Gottlieb, Wise Use employs writer Ron Arnold and organizer Chuck Cushman as their main propagandists. In Washington State, the two main industry supporters of Wise Use are the Washington Contract Loggers Association and the Building Industry Association. At the local level, most Wise Use support comes from extractive resource industries and real estate developers. County secession groups were started by a handful of key Wise Use operators and recruited heavily among Christian Patriot groups. Likewise, most militias in Western Washington drew heavily on Wise Use support.

Christian Right is a loose alliance of politicized religious groups with a reactionary agenda. it is mostly separate and distinct from the Patriot movement. The main Christian Right issues are opposition to progressive social programs: public education, civil liberties, reproductive choice, and women’s equality. Some extreme Christian Right groups are behaviorally indistinguishable from Christian Patriot groups. The difference is that the ideological roots of Christian Right protest, resistance and terrorist activities are based on economic and social determinisms, while the Christian Patriots draw mainly on biological (racial) determinism.

Those extreme Christian Right groups which overlap the Patriots share a set of beliefs with Identity that are called “Dominion theology” — a program of religious supremacy which places religious authority above and beyond the law. Most of the leadership for Dominion theology comes from a sect known as Reconstructionists led by R.J. Rushdooney and Gary North. These groups practice common law, tax resistance, “paper terrorism,” militia organizing and Leaderless Resistance. The best known examples of the Christian Right/Patriot convergence are Identity minister Pete Peter’s 1992 conference in Estes Park to organize Leaderless Resistance militias and the April 1994 convention of the Wisconsin US. Taxpayers Party.

The national example of Christian Right/Patriot overlap is Larry Pratt, one of Pat Buchanan’s national campaign managers. In western Washington State, Sen. Val Stevens is the leading example. She has participated in tax resistance, and draws significant support from Wise Users and Christian Patriots in Snohomish County. US. Rep. Jack Metcalf is a Christian Patriot who has garnered most of his support from the Christian Right.

Leading Washington State Christian Right groups include the Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, and the Evergreen Freedom Foundation. The Washington Republican Party is dominated by Christian Right forces.



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