Part One: Extremism in America – Son of an Oath Keepers explains why he left ‘Daddy Trump’ and the far-right cult

Unfortunately, I’m the son of Oathkeeper Stewart Rhodes. And unfortunately for both of us, I may be relevant to you.

It is now undeniable that radicalization and the appeal of right-wing extremist thought is a significant problem facing the nation, perhaps a fatal crisis, and in this context the stories of people who have returned from the right elicit a lot of interest. wing fringe. I only have my niche experience to offer from a very strange life. But I’ve been told it might be useful to those interested in how I went from a teenage militiaman who believed in Pizzagate to rejecting my birth name of Dakota Stewart Rhodes and joining the BLM and the pro-choice protests.

If tracing the stumbling and groping path to independent thought taken by the son of an insurgent militia leader holds any valuable lesson, I have a responsibility to show you all. If there is any chance that my story will be helpful to the millions of people who have lost family and friends to right-wing cult behavior, then I have an obligation to tell it.

For starters, I wasn’t always what most people think of when they picture the current crop of angry Alt Rite fraternity brethren and bitter Incels (I’ve never been so bitter). My political life began in the explosion of the libertarian right that was the Ron Paul campaign in 2008, caught in the wake of my father’s ambition, even before Oath Keepers, when he had made a name as campaign organizer. Stewart asserted his authority by leveraging his law degree, military background, and former position as a clerk in Paul’s own office.

Enter the strangers

I gained political awareness by attending sign-making parties with all the weirdos and misfits who felt out of place in the mainstream GOP, even some crossover Democrats from the Occupy Wall Street crowd, but still undeniably steeped in right-wing ideology. There was something that would resonate later in a much worse year, the belief that only bringing in a foreign candidate, even a madman, could fix the system.

Implicit throughout was the sense that even the GOP, with its authoritarian tendencies and bloodthirsty enthusiasm for the global war on terror, was inherently more closely aligned with “us” enlightened souls than anyone on the left. According to our ideology, even left-wing libertarians would inevitably bring about socialism by introducing clear tools of statism like progressive taxation, environmental protection, and the dreaded death-panel socialized health care, triggering the brief half-life. life of all socialist governmental systems as they actively decayed into communism. . Left anarchists would simply skip the middleman and go immediately to full communism, ironically instituting the most governmental of all governments. Socialism, after all, is when government does things, the more things the more socialist, with communism as the natural end point.




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The GOP, being staunchly opposed to socialism, must therefore be on the lighter end of the spectrum of governmental authority, despite its decades-long love affair with militarized police and the surveillance state. In events, connections, strategy, and politics, the libertarian right would continue to align itself with the big conservatives in government as a holding action against the Democrats. More charitably, it could have been seen as an attempt to convert the GOP from within.

Of course, Ron Paul would lose. In the ensuing panic and disbandment of the nascent Liberty Movement, my father would seize the time and place to found Oath Keepers and redirect the considerable grassroots energy that was now aimless and directionless, playing its way particular to secure a niche. Oath Keepers would spread a message of hope, at least in the early years, and retain something of the emotional core of the outsider activist politics that had given Ron Paul his animosity following. Beneath the surface, Stewart Rhodes was already playing on conservative fears about the incoming Obama administration, particularly over guns, alluding to Camp FEMA conspiracy theories and overlapping the bleak prospects of preppers and doomsdays toward Success.

The sense that the Ron Paul campaign was the last best hope of averting the economic collapse and New World Order takeover prophesied by survivalists nationwide for decades was widespread. Now that the last hope was shattered, the dice were irreversibly cast.

This too would reverberate later.

MAGA Memes

The politics of my own childhood of course became tougher and more marginal in my survivalist adolescence, as the oath keepers morphed into a roving private army and revenue machine behind the facade of veteran organization, but the drifting into an anti-government belief wasn’t quite what would do. prepare me to fall in love with number 45 cult later. Anonymous internet forums filled with outcasts and outcasts, effectively compromised by white supremacist recruiters, weren’t the strongest influence either, though the endless MAGA memes pouring through this vector certainly had an impact. . I had been carrying on the militant spirit of sign parties for a while, evangelizing the “true” message of Ron Paul, the one the media kept you from hearing, and the good words of Bo Gritz and Ayn Rand to the masses online ( that last with some caveats, even then).

Over time, the weight of depression and stress of the civil war and the constantly looming downfall of society has shattered me, and Bernie Bros’ survival in online disputes has lost its luster with everything the rest. I spent my remaining teenage years with one foot in apocalypse training and one foot in basement NEET-dom, burying myself in the internet to avoid having to think about The Coming End and taking refuge in web novels and anime when life got unbearable.

The Coming End has ruled my life, variously called The Collapse, The Crash, the End of Days (for the religious), and sometimes in our family ironically referred to as “a-Cop-alypse.” It was an economic crash, a nuclear war, a mass terrorist attack, a natural disaster, any event that would end civil society and reduce the United States to a war of all against all as the starving masses turned against each other, local warlords with looted military hardware rising to fill the power vacuum. All of this, of course, had to be orchestrated by nefarious forces in government, taking advantage of a natural crisis directly causing a situation so bad that most people would crave a totalitarian regime that would restore order to the chaos.

false flags

The government simulating a biological terrorist attack by a hostile nation like Iran, a “false flag” attack, to create domestic chaos and simultaneously start a convenient war was a popular scenario. The cause varied in headlines and times, the fallout from Fukushima or a North Korean EMP attack as examples, but the belief remained concrete and it was still at most 18 consecutive months.

Some welcomed the collapse as a chance to start society anew, others harbored youthful fantasies of their survivalism paying off in terms of social status and sexual conquest when the fall of civilization made them superior to starving “naked males”. , others believed in it simply as a fatality to be overcome, or as the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy. Some, like me, lived in endless fear.

I knew my family was not prepared to survive a collapse, not under Stewart’s leadership.

By the time Trump became the undisputed leader of the Republican primary, the end-of-day stress cycle I lived in had worn me down, leaving me primed for cult recruitment. I was beginning to lose my overall fear of the end after it repeatedly failed to materialize, just enough to leave me cognitive space for deep bitter anger. All my life, the perceived actions of political elites and decision-makers had been the cause of household panic, from national events to international events that were nonetheless proof of the New World Order at work.

dark powers

The Muslim Brotherhood in 2012s in Egypt involved in a rocket attack on Israel were somehow blamed on dark NWO power brokers, working to promote war, and obviously a domino that would cause us to struggle to survive violent American balkanization through fuzzy logic I don’t remember. Every political movement, large or small, of the establishment was a source of terror and despair when filtered through the paranoid lens I had been raised with, and I had had enough.

My belief in end times and sinister conspiracies had faded, but not the emotional mark. It was a weak point that made me vulnerable to exploitation.

I had missed many online pipelines to well-known brands of right-wing extremism by this point, largely because I was thoroughly a child of the constitutionalist militia movement and indoctrinated against competing right-wing ideologies.

I had been trained to see conspiracies and psychological warfare in every shadow, and so I timed Nazi recruitment on message boards instantaneously for the manipulation it was. I had been raised in a fanatical cult of American exceptionalism and sincerely believed that the Constitutional Militia movement was an anti-racist force unjustly maligned by the liberal media (until, years later, I did not). don’t do). The general racism from the unmoderated dark corners of the internet overwhelmed me with no effect other than to distort my sense of humor.

I ended up avoiding misogyny despite the best efforts of my father and those around him. So when early GamerGate turned away from YouTubers like TotalBiscuit who actually talked about ethical gaming journalism to a sexually frustrated hate storm, I jumped off the bandwagon.

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