Opinion » Bill Cope

Portrait of a 'Patriot'

The road from malcontent to malicious lout


If you haven't already, I recommend you read Harrison Berry's fine, even-handed feature "Paradise Lost" (Boise Weekly, Oct. 7, 2015) on that collection of delusional attention-grabbing bums, collectively calling themselves the Patriot Movement. We have seen more and more of these DAGBs (delusional, attention-grabbing bums) in recent years, largely because they have grown more and more successful at grabbing attention. Two DAGB organizations discussed in Berry's piece is one calling itself "III Percent Idaho"—invoking the memory of the 3 percent of colonials said to have actually fought in the American Revolution—and the Oath Keepers, claiming to be comprised of ex-cops and military veterans who stand by the oath they took to defend the United States Constitution.

In public discussion, as reflected in Berry's reporting, they like to portray themselves as nonpartisan, knights errant whose only motive is to protect besieged private citizens from the ravages of liberty-snatching government.

In reality, they are thuggish goons whose only gravitas comes from the hovering stink of imminent violence. They are antagonizers, not arbitrators; instigators, not intermediaries. When they show up in troubled circumstance like Ferguson, Mo., or Cliven Bundy's squat in Nevada, they are not there to negotiate. They are there to intimidate. They don't bring arguments to a confrontation. They bring guns.

Guns are what they want us to remember them by. Guns are central to their consciousness, the organizing principle of their fevered hysteria. Without their guns, they would be no more significant than Internet trolls or angry drunken assholes who slam walls with their fists. They might as well engrave it into the barrels—You don't want to know what's going to happen if you don't do it our way.

(During Berry's interview with the Chris McIntyre, "public information officer" of III Percent Idaho, McIntyre threatened, "You can write whatever you want, but I guarantee you this: If it is not in line with the truth, if it is not in line with what we represent, you can expect 2,000 people to crowd these streets to block traffic," referring to the streets outside BW offices.)

Even as dissatisfied with so many aspects of modern America as I am (made clear in 20 years of this column), it is alien to me that men of any intelligence or historical awareness whatsoever could turn into such swaggering, noxious, AR-swinging golems as we see over and over again, congregating in venomous clots around private citizen/government official disputes like flies on shit.

Allow me to speculate on how a DAGB might develop:

From early on, he pictured himself the lone wolf—was always right when everyone else was wrong, claimed to know things no one else knew, was confident in his conviction that he was the smartest kid in the crowd—no matter how slow, slothful, backwards or weak he really was. In time, he came to be increasingly alone, largely because of his obsessive behavior.

As he grew—physically, if not intellectually or emotionally—he became evermore disdainful of all those sell-outs and compromisers who turned their backs on childish pretensions as they became better educated than him, better adapted than him, better citizens than him, better husbands and fathers than him. He came to despise them, those grown-up, reasonable phonies who no longer thought machine guns and manic paranoia were cool—although on his own, he couldn't quite voice a coherent vision of why he was so disturbed. Not without outside help.

And that's where the recruiters came in, the Limbaughs and Becks, the Fox News liars and Tea Party loons—screeching the same doctrine of discontent and disruption that now defined him. They drew him ever deeper into bitterness, and directed it toward the goal of bringing down any authority wasn't them. He'd found his crowd. He became one with the militiamen, the gunmen, for a full-out assault on the peaceful democratic process with which he had grown so impatient. He and his guns had found a mission. Now he'd show those adults who's the boss.

So, if I'm anywhere near to being right, we're not really talking about men of any intelligence or historical awareness, are we? That is the mistake we make when we listen to their self-righteous justifications of why they should be allowed to inject their firearm-centric, infantile crudity into public matters that concern every citizen in this country. That is the mistake we make in taking them any more seriously as thinkers than we would take a rattlesnake into our house as a pet.

Incidentally, I have not wondered how women come to be that way, because few women come to be that way. And those who do, do so almost certainly because that's where their mates led them. I would love to ask Amanda Miller, for instance, if she would have ever in her short life imagined she would put a bullet through her own head—Las Vegas, last year, look it up—after she and her husband Jerad killed two cops and a third innocent victim, had not she hooked up with such a psycho, anti-government "patriot" as Jerad.