TeeJaw Blog

Hutaree Militia

Posted in Culture, Government and Politics by TeeJaw on Thursday, May 6, 2010, 11: 48 AM

The South Michigan Militia, also called the Hutaree, and not to be confused with the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, were charged by Federal Prosecutors with a conspiracy to mass murder police officers and have been held in Federal lock up pending trial. They were ordered to be released prior to trial by Federal Judge Victoria Roberts on Monday, but the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary stay on that order. The defendants have until 5:00 PM today to respond or presumably the order will become permanent and they will remain jailed until their trial.

Judge Roberts has questioned whether the Government has any evidence with which to convict the Hutaree of any crime. The evidence the Government has revealed so far shows a lot of hate-filled rhetoric but not a specific plot to overthrow the Government or murder police officers. No explosives nor materials for making explosives were found when they were arrested or at any other time. A large cache of legally owned firearms and ammunition was found but that alone does not prove a conspiracy.

Everything about the Hutaree fits the media narrative of “rising right-wing violence.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has released a report on an alarming number of new “patriot” groups being formed. Apparently, anyone shooting off their mouth about patriotism should be considered dangerous and presumed to be plotting violence. While such rhetoric may be tiresome and annoying, at least after a time, courts require hard evidence of a specific plot or conspiracy before loose talk can form the basis of a criminal charge.

The Hutaree are an isolated and despised group of losers and conspiracy theorists, and not in the least representative of any right-wing revolution. Most of the so-called patriot groups on SPLC’s list want nothing to do with the Hutaree.

The recent book, To Shake Their Guns in the Tyrant’s Faceidentifies two distinct types of groups that make up the current militia movement. The “constitutionalists” organize in public, emphasize civil liberty and advocate disobedience to government orders they consider unconstitutional. The “millenarians” are paranoid, given to end-of-the-world rhetoric, form secret cells and may advocate violence. The Hutaree are on the far end of the millenarian wing.

The other Michigan militia, the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia (SMVM) are an example of the constitutionalist type. They do not advocate violence, only non-violent resistance to authority they consider illegitimate. This could get them into trouble because anyone taking such a stance acts at the peril of being wrong. But Except for their guns they are philosophically no different than Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. If they were to use their guns in illegal activity that would make them something different but so far they have neither engaged in nor threatened violence against anyone. During the civil rights era many Southern Blacks and white civil rights workers armed themselves for self defense, a practice which alarmed only the KKK.

In The Myth of the Menacing Militias writer Jesse Walker calls the alarmist reaction to both types of militia groups The New Brown Scare:

The New Brown Scare

Some writers have suggested that the Hutaree arrests should rehabilitate the reputation of the Department of Homeland Security’s infamous report on right-wing extremism. But if anything, these splits on the right highlight the central problem with the paper. In the words of Michael German, a former FBI agent who now works for the American Civil Liberties Union, the DHS document focuses “on ideas rather than crime”; it was concerned with extremism itself, not with violence, and it gave no sign that you must be violent to meet its definition of “extremist.” That approach doesn’t just have ominous implications for civil liberties. To the extent that it catches on, it makes it less likely that the members of a group like the SMVM—a militia that felt the need to “keep an eye on” the Hutaree—will be able to cooperate in the fight against bona fide terrorism.

And that leads us to the biggest trouble with the dominant media narrative: It misdirects our attention. The historian Leo Ribuffo coined the term Brown Scare to describe a wave of countersubversive activity in the 1930s and ’40s, when an understandable fear of Nazis unleashed some much less defensible calls for, in Ribuffo’s words, “restrictions on the right of native ‘fascist’ agitators to speak, publish, and assemble.” In the process the authorities conflated some very different people together, leading to surveillance not just of German sympathizers but of reputable conservatives. Other historians have identified two subsequent Brown Scares, one in the early ’60s and one in the 1990s. Like the better-known Red Scares, but pointing rightwards rather than leftwards, a Brown Scare both exaggerates the threats at hand and obscures the distinctions between genuinely violent plotters, radical but peaceful activists, and members of the mainstream.

You can see such a mindset at work in the SPLC’s watch list. You can see it in press accounts that blur still more boundaries, so that there seems to be little difference between a terror cell and a Tea Party. You can see it in documents like the Department of Homeland Security’s report. You’re even beginning to see it in legislation. Late last month the Oklahoma House voted 98-1 to amend a bill that, among other provisions, increased the penalties for recruiting new gang members. Under the revised legislation, the same penalties would befall recruiters for unauthorized militias.

That is where we stand today. We can reenact the Brown and Red Scares of the past, or we can pull back from a mentality that has never been good for either liberty or security; we can plunge further into madness like the Oklahoma bill, or we can adopt the measured skepticism displayed this week by Judge Roberts. Choose wisely.

Meanwhile, in Arizona police actually are being killed. Two Phoenix cops were killed in one year recently by illegal aliens. Maybe the Feds ought to focus their attention in the right place. Here is a photo from a recent pro-illegal immigration rally:

I guess the media would consider the message on this protestor’s sign to be merely “loose talk,” and nothing to worry about. That illegal aliens have in fact shot police officers, creating widows and orphans, is just an inconvenient fact to be ignored. It’s the media narrative that must be expounded and protected.

Jesse Walker is a managing editor of Reason Magazine and also the author of Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America

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