Those who thought that the 2002 Holiday season would be the right time to start a local arm of the self-styled “Patriot” movement might want to reconsider, if a November 12th article in the Spokane SPOKESMAN-REVIEW is any indication of current trends. “Militia Pamphlets Spur Review” addresses texts distributed at a local gun show by the Militia of Montana. Ronald Springel, who brought these documents to the attention of Spokane County commissioners, “attended the show with his 17-year-old son” and “found the literature offensive.” According to the concerned citizen, MOM’s tracts were “blatantly racist. . . Anti-government, anti-Semitic, anti-everything.”
What a nihilistic group! The newspaper account demurred from providing examples of this opposition to government and Semites and “everything”. Instead, the SPOKESMAN-REVIEW staff writer opted to buttress Springel’s claim merely by stating that the Militia’s monthly newsletter was running a three-part series called “Israel Lie”. The highlights of this series include a picture of President Bush standing next to the Israeli flag, and the subheadline “Synagogue of Satan” to introduce a section of the three-part work.
Admittedly, the phrase “Synagogue of Satan” lacks a certain temperance, though it’s nothing that hasn’t been used by hundreds of radio preachers over the years. I myself heard the phrase somewhere on the AM dial while driving through the Carolinas a couple of years back. A metallic-voiced orator then and there referred to the Israeli government as the “Synagogue of Satan”, following that rhetorical flourish with a reference to the Christian Coalition as “corporate Christians”; as the signal flickered and died, I was amazed that I’d heard such heresy on the radio.
Perhaps it is heresy itself that makes the militia movement so threatening to the Ronald Springels of the world. A review of MOM’s website showed that it was disappointingly bereft of so-called hate speech. The intro page of the “Militia of Montana’s Online Information Center” was full of such uncontroversial fare as a picture of an American flag ribbon and an assortment of methods by which one can give Militia personality John Trochmann money and attention. MOM’s website also features an issue of “Taking Aim”, the newsletter that vexed Ron Springel so much.
What in the website version of “Taking Aim” was racist, one might ask? Springel’s charge of anti-Semitism was unfounded, at least if the issue on the website is any guide; the only reference to Jews that I found was in an essay that argued that gun registration was no benefit to Jews in Germany, and that Americans might want to consider that example when forfeiting their own arms. The charge of being “anti-government” is considerably more applicable to the text on the site, however, and deserves a fair hearing here.
It is perhaps a self-evident truth that a citizen militia would be opposed to some of the more flagrant expressions of government’s power over its people. MOM doesn’t disappoint in this regard; its literature represents the federal government as a force of unprecedented rapacity. Whether describing “fascist dictators masquerading as elected representatives”, or referring to “treasonous bastards that ask for our vote. . . then do a job on us instead of for us”, it is clear that no Republican Party big tent would be big enough to accommodate the Militia of Montana.
It is also clear that the SPOKESMAN-REVIEW account of MOM’s brief courtship of Springel proceeds on the assumption that Springel was justified in attempting to get government to do the dirty work of protecting him from offensive literature. So confident was the paper in Springel’s veracity that it expected its readers to accept the stated charges without providing verification within the article itself. In a town with one daily paper, after all, who will take issue with that paper’s account?
ANTHONY GANCARSKI, a Spokane resident and frequent contributor to CounterPunch, recently had his work recognized by Utne Reader’s “Web Watch”. He welcomes comments at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com.