Book excerpt explores the rupturing of social bonds, despair and rage that come from being cast aside by the ruling elites and that define the deep animus of the radical right.
By Chris Hedges
I sat at a table in the barren dining room of the house, which was for sale, with the owner, Kat, who recently lost her job, and Scott Seddon, the founder of the militia group American Patriot the III%, or AP3. Its name was inspired by the belief that only 3 percent of the population actively fought the British during the American Revolution.
Seddon founded AP3 when Barack Obama took office in 2009. His initial focus was to connect survivalists for the coming collapse. But the militia soon took on a political coloring. It has expanded to multiple chapters nationwide, he said, each involved with organizing protests, training militia, and teaching survival skills to prepare for an imminent natural or man‐made calamity. He estimates AP3 currently has thirty thousand to fifty thousand members. It also provides security for right‐wing protests and rallies.
“I founded it out of fear, to be honest with you,” he said. “I saw a change starting to occur in this country that really made me scared. It started with Obama.”
He launched into an attack on the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s former pastor in Chicago who delivered fiery sermons on the evils of empire and white supremacy. He called Wright “anti‐American.”
“Black Lives Matter went to the freaking White House,” he said of a July 2016 meeting at the White House with Obama. “Everybody is a victim in America today.
“The majority of antifa have that victim mentality,” he went on, referring to self‐styled antifascists who advocate property destruction and violence. “There’s no excuse for them to be in rallies every other week insulting people and not holding a job. Most of these kids, 90 percent of antifa, don’t have jobs.”
Michael Mosher, a former marine who is in charge of AP3’s statewide security, joined us at the table. He had a tattoo of crossed rifles, another read “My Fight,” and a third was the 3 percenter symbol of the militia. He also had a tatoo of the head of a buck.
“They’re a bunch of immature kids,” Mosher said of antifa. “They’re disrespectful. If you don’t agree with them, they spit on people. They throw urine at people.”
“They throw bottles at people,” Seddon said.
“How do they throw urine?” I asked. “In little balloons,” Mosher said.
“Every event I’ve been to where there has been antifa, there’s always one heavyset ethnic chick that does nothing but scream the entire time,” he went on.
“They’re paid actually,” Kat, the owner of the house, said, joining the conversation. “They have paid organizers that come and recruit these kids online from Craigslist or what‐not. They do pay them like fifteen bucks an hour to come out.”
“When we were at the rally point this morning, there was a red Cadillac across the street,” Mosher said. “An older woman was sitting in the driver’s seat. A heavyset lady was outside of the car recording. They were filming the entire time.”
He said antifa was “funded by George Soros.”
“They’re socialists,” Seddon said. “They’re communists. They’re the troubled youth of America who don’t want to work. They think the upper one percent should hand them everything.
“The antifas are supposedly reaching out to the Muslim communities as well to get their backing,” he said, “which doesn’t make sense to me. Muslims are against homosexuality.”
“A lot of antifa members are ambiguous homosexuals,” Kat said. “They’re definitely not alpha men or alpha women.”
“They’re the misfits,” Mosher said.
“They’re misguided,” Seddon said. “The patriot community, thank God, has a growing number of homosexual men and women. I’m a straight male, 110 percent. But some of our best, most patriotic men and women in America are gay. There’s definitely no discrimination against gay people. But antifa supports a group—Muslims—that thinks gay people are an abomination.”
“And we don’t,” Kat said. “We’re trying to stick up for all these people who don’t understand what they’re bringing into the country, by bringing in all these Muslim refugees who are actually just migrants bringing in Sharia law and believe that homosexuality is an abomination. They’re going to kill all of us.”
“That’s what they do in the Middle East,” Seddon said.
“The rise in terrorism across Europe and England, we don’t want that to happen here,” Seddon said. “It’s not going to be accepted if it starts. That’s why we wanted to show up today. Just to let them know we’re here. We’re aware. We’re Americans. We love our country.”
“We’re not going to give up our country the way England and London has,” Mosher said.
“I’m quite sure Europe is going to be one big Islamic state, probably in the next twenty to thirty years,” Kat said.
“Yeah,” Seddon said, “except Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe is standing their ground.”
“France, U.K., Germany, I think Finland was having a problem,” Kat said. “Sweden, they’re all having problems. Poland is going to resist. Look up the rape capitals of the world. They’re all going to be where these large immigrant populations are. And also, missing people. Look it up. It’s going to be where all these refugees are. They’re the number one in the slave trade, the sex slave trade, too. I just want to protect my family. I don’t want that here.”
“I’ve spent six years in the Marine Corps,” Mosher said. “I’ve been overseas to Iraq, Afghanistan. I’ve fought them. I don’t want them here. I’ve met people who I guess you would call moderate Muslims. They were normal people. I never had any issues with them. When I went over there, it was a whole lot different—they hate us so bad.”
“Why?” I ask.
“To be honest with you, I think part of it comes from the United States getting involved in a lot of conflict overseas,” he said. “But it also is in the Koran, anybody that doesn’t follow them is supposed to be beheaded or whatever. I’ve seen their book. Their job is to kill us unless we convert to Islam.”
“They’re already inside our federal government,” Seddon said. “Homeland Security has some people who are deeply entrenched. What’s the name of the [Palestinian American] female speaker that [New York City] mayor [Bill] de Blasio loves? [Linda] Sarsour. She’s right there next to de Blasio when he makes speeches at events. She’s put up on a pedestal. Listen, in this country, Sharia law just ain’t happening. It violates our entire Constitution. We’re a free country. Anytime you start implementing a law that tells you, ‘You have to do this, you have to abide by this,’ you’re going against the Constitution of the United States.”
“Why are there so few African Americans in militias?” I asked.
“Because the left spins us as being racist bigots, when [actually] we allow anybody into the group,” Seddon said. “Like I said, we have homosexuals in the group. We have a lot of Mexicans, believe it or not. Veterans. The media spins us as racist KKK members. Listen, we accept almost anybody into AP [American Patrol]. The only people I’d scrutinize a little more, unfortunately, would be the Muslim community. And no felons.”
“Do you have any Muslims?” I asked.
“They have no interest in the group,” Seddon said.
“Our country is divided completely,” Mosher said. “Some people think it’s going to lead to a civil war or a revolutionary war. I hope it happens during my time and not my son’s.”
Mosher said about 85 percent of the militia’s members were vets. Mosher and Seddon left the house to join the other militia members standing around the bonfire in the backyard. The light was fading.
Kat, recently divorced, lost her job in February 2017 as the cheer coach at Ithaca College. She had been there only a year. She is the mother of three boys and a girl, ages twenty‐two, twenty‐one, fourteen, and twelve.
“This [losing her job] was for my views of being a Christian Trump supporter,” she said. “That’s all it was.”
“We went on break right after the election because the school shuts down from December to January after finals,” she said. “We came back after inauguration. A couple of my girls [on the cheer team] seemed to be upset all the time. One of them was a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. The other one was of Asian descent. I’m pretty sure she was a lesbian.”
A few of the girls she coached confronted her about the pro‐Trump opinions she had posted on Facebook, including a photo she had put up after the Women’s March in Washington of a veteran woman captioned, “The real women who marched for us.”
“They were fired up, started calling me a racist,” she explained. “I said listen, I understand you’re upset about the election. I understand these things. But it is what it is. This is how democracy works. This is your president now. You can’t keep missing practices and getting up and calling me names.
“They weren’t having it,” she said. “This went on for over an hour. I was so tired. I couldn’t even talk anymore.” The verbal altercation ended when two girls stormed out of the cheerleading practice. “‘We’re not coming back if you’re still here,’” she recalled one of the girls saying.
When she was fired the next day — she received a terse email saying her contract had been terminated — her world disintegrated. She was still trying to cope from a recently dissolved marriage.
“This was my life,” she said. “This was all I ever knew. I cheered for fourteen [years] myself. And I’ve been coaching for six [years]. I was so heartbroken. I guess my life is going to be different now. . . . I didn’t know what to do. . . . I have to figure it out.”
She was planning on moving to Ithaca after she sold the house she had shared with her ex‐husband. Now she had nowhere to go. She began spending more time on the Internet.
“I didn’t understand why these girls hated me so much. . . . I’ve been crying all week about what happened at school,” she said. “I started reaching out on Facebook. Told everyone what happened. I put out publicly what happened to me at Ithaca College in a long post. I was embarrassed. I just lost my job. My career is over. My career is over! All of a sudden I started getting all these shares, ‘I’m so sorry about what happened to you.’ I heard about . . . the refugee crisis in Europe. People started talking to me about Islam.”
Then it hit her. One of the cheerleaders who argued with her was Muslim.
The newfound fear and need to resist gave her a mission in life. She had to help save America from Muslims.
“At the time I was really not all that familiar with Islam,” she said. “I thought it was a real religion. I did not know why that Muslim girl didn’t like me . . . because on the news you don’t get correct information. You’re getting very one‐sided biases. On Facebook, we share real information with each other.
“A lot of us were afraid to say anything during the Obama administration because you’ll be called a racist,” she said. “Then all of a sudden, when we felt comfortable when Trump got in, I think everyone started waking up and started to be vocal, and learning more, and sharing information.”
She came to believe, after reading posts on Facebook, that Islam is “a death cult basically started by a Satan‐worshipper who came from a tribe that sacrificed children.” She was mortified. The newfound fear and need to resist gave her a mission in life. She had to help save America from Muslims.
“I feel a very big threat to our humanity now. . . . I had done so much research on Islam,” she said. “I basically made it my job. . . . I was as passionate about cheer as I am about this patriot movement,” she said. “There’s a lot of Muslim organizations that are behind the scenes putting people in offices, just like they did in Europe. You’ve got a Muslim mayor in London.
“Obama was the Manchurian candidate, wouldn’t you agree?” she asked. “He was a plant. He was in the Muslim Brotherhood’s back pocket. He was placed there on purpose. They’re going to kill all of us.
“I got very vocal on Facebook,” she said. “I’m sharing information. Next thing I know, I went from 1,200 followers to 5,000. They’re Friending me. Basically, people are listening. They’re waking up. I’m really, really excited about it. We’re all coming out and starting to fight back. We are the resistance.
“I want to keep people safe,” she said. “I want to fight for women. Not have their genitals cut off. Not be stoned to death. Or shamed or honor‐killed.”
These sentiments, revolving around a perceived assault by Muslims, African, Americans, Latinos, feminists, gays, liberals and intellectuals against national identities, dominate the ideology of right‐wing hate groups.
Stefan Meyer, twenty‐five, a four‐year Marine Corps veteran, sat in a bar in Parkville, Maryland. He was a member of the Maryland Chapter of Proud Boys. He joined the riots in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray. He wanted to fight Black Lives Matter and antifa.
“[Freddie Gray] rammed his head into the walls of the police van so that it would look like police brutality,” he said. “He hit himself against a bolt. So he killed himself trying to frame the cops. And people started destroying my city. I was furious.”
Meyer was a commercial driver who was going through a divorce. He went to work at 4:30 in the morning and got home at 4:30 in the afternoon.
“I break my back at work for $20 an hour,” he said. “Out of the $800 a week that I make, I see maybe almost $500 of it. Which for all intents and purposes isn’t bad. But most of it is going to rent. Rent is not cheap. Rent is $1,040 for one bed, one bath. And a tiny kitchen.
“These days, I just sit at home and sleep,” he said. “That’s about it. [Being a part of the Proud Boys,] it gets me out more. I got to see the White House. I’ve never seen it before.”
Meyer said he was bullied and excluded at school.
“I was tiny,” he said. “I barely broke a hundred in high school.” When he began dating a girl in high school, they agreed to keep their relationship secret so she wouldn’t be teased. He once tried to give her a bracelet in front of her friends at school.
“She had this horrified look on her face,” Meyer recalled. “So I said, ‘Hey, I forgot to give this back to you, I’m so sorry.’ I didn’t want to embarrass her.”
“Everyone will just say, ‘I just want to fucking kill someone.’ It’s not out of hate or rage. It’s just what was drilled into them for so long, for so many years.”— Stefan Meyer, Proud Boy
Meyer joined the Marines after high school.
“I would have liked to go when Afghanistan was still going on,” he said. “There were a lot of men out there that are a lot better than I am. It upsets me a lot of people died that I didn’t get to take that bullet for.
“Since day one,” he said of Marine Corps boot camp, “You’re just screaming, ‘Kill!’ There’s nothing behind it. There’s no ‘Kill this.’ There’s no ‘Kill that.’ It’s just, ‘Kill.’ Which is why we’re such an effective fighting force. That’s our job. To go in and win battles and win wars. At least it used to be. That’s how wars were won. Now [the battle] happens on the news. I’m not sure which is worse.”
Meyer described how he and other militia members, also veterans, casually spoke of killing people when they gathered at events such as the Freedom of Speech rally in Washington, D.C., in June 2017.
“Everyone will just say, ‘I just want to fucking kill someone,’” Meyer said.
“It’s not out of hate or rage,” he went on. “It’s just what was drilled into them for so long, for so many years.”
The Democratic Party blamed its 2016 election defeat on Russian interference in the election, the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, and FBI director James Comey’s decision, shortly before the vote, to send a letter to Congress related to Hillary Clinton’s private email server. It refused to acknowledge the root came of its defeat, the abandonment of workers, deindustrialization, the wars in the Middle East, and vast social inequality. The party’s rhetoric about watching out for the working and middle class worked for three decades. But it has lost credibility among those it had betrayed. The idea that tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of Clinton supporters read the Podesta emails and switched their votes to Trump, or were swayed by the Comey announcement to abandon Clinton, is absurd. The failure to confront reality is ominous, not only for the Democratic Party, but American democracy.
The failure to confront reality is ominous, not only for the Democratic Party, but American democracy.
The malaise that infects Americans is global. Hundreds of millions of people have been severed by modernity from traditions, beliefs, and rituals, as well as communal structures, which kept them rooted. They have been callously cast aside by global capitalism as superfluous. This has engendered an atavistic rage against the technocratic world that condemns them. This rage is expressed in many forms — Nativism, neofascism, jihadism, the Christian right, alt‐right militias, and the anarchic violence of antifa. The resentment spring from the same deep wells of despair. This despair exacerbates racism, bigotry, and xenophobia. It poisons civil discourse. It celebrates hypermasculinity, violence, and chauvinism. It promises the return to a mythical past.
Corporate elites, rather than accept their responsibility for the global anarchy, define the clash as one between Western civilization and racist thugs and medieval barbarians. They see in the extreme nationalists, anarchists, religious fundamentalists, and jihadists a baffling irrationality that can be quelled only with force. They have yet to grasp that the disenfranchised do not hate them for their values. They hate them because of their duplicity, greed, use of indiscriminate industrial violence, and hypocrisy.