Wing-nuts with guns & dreams of a race war: Inside the dangerous obsessions of right-wing extremists

Oath Keepers in Ferguson and Confederate flag supporters elsewhere all seem hellbent on armed conflict

By Bob Cesca

Published August 19, 2015 11:57AM (EDT)

  (Lucas Jackson Reuters /Landov)
(Lucas Jackson Reuters /Landov)

Even as we round the corner into the final year of the Obama administration, organized and semi-organized racists continue to rage against the election of the first African-American president. This Summer, their specified target is the Black Lives Matter movement, and the racist groups in question happen to be gun-toting Oath Keepers and Confederate flag fetishists.

Let's start with the Confederate flag crackpots. This past weekend, Confederate flag supporters, who insisted they totally aren't racists, trolled African-Americans in Sunrise, Florida. A group called the South Florida Rednecks launched a motorcycle convoy with their bikes and pickup trucks festooned in the Confederate flag, which is totally not inflammatory at all. But when Black Lives Matter protesters appeared, Raw Story reported that some of the Southern Florida Rednecks brandished knives and firearms, clearly to intimidate the protesters.

What makes the flag people particular volatile is the self-evident fact that they're an embattled and rapidly dying sub-faction of hate-mongers in deep denial about their archaic symbol of "heritage." (Heritage meaning slavery, treason, Jim Crow and southern racism.) And the louder they become, the tighter the walls close in around them -- which could further provoke them into snapping. Given how the most recent assault on the flag began with a mass shooting, it's reasonable to worry that it might not be the only time a Lost Cause-obsessed rebel lashes out at people of color, and given how the Black Lives Matter protesters are extremely visible now, it might benefit the flag rednecks gathered in organized rallies to set a few ground rules about protecting their dastardly heritage without the use of weapons.

Speaking of which, news broke during last week's anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown that Oath Keepers appeared in Ferguson -- fully armed. By way of review, the Oath Keepers are considered a militia group affiliated with the patriot movement and composed of former military and law enforcement officials who've each pledged an oath to disobey any laws they deem to be in violation of their constitutional rights. (They sound hilarious at parties.) Who knows what the hell would've happened if a non-white group showed up armed with AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, given that Ferguson has seen more than its fair share of unarmed, peaceful protesters pepper-sprayed and incarcerated.

Late last week, Ferguson law enforcement ordered the Oath Keepers to stow their rifles while inside Ferguson city limits. However, on Monday, the head of St. Louis County's Oath Keepers chapter, Sam Andrews, announced that the group wants to arm 50 Black protesters as part of a political demonstration later this month, and announced their intention to deliberately provoke police officers.

Do we really need to outline what's going on here?

Throughout the history of the United States, there's always been talk about a forthcoming race war. In recent years, however, the existence of social media and the amplified shrieking of the conservative entertainment complex have combined to open a gaping window of legitimacy for both race wars and wars against the U.S. government, which is currently and not-insignificantly run by an African-American president.

By the way, I'm old enough to remember how there wasn't a peep from any of these maniacs during the Bush years. In fact, any anti-government rhetoric was vocally shouted down by Dixie Chicks-haters and Bush-supporters, who insisted that we should never criticize the commander-in-chief while troops were in harm's way. Hell, personalities like Bill Maher were summarily fired for daring to utter an off-handed criticism of our military leaders. Now, today, the same weirdos who were accusing Michael Moore or Nancy Pelosi of being unpatriotic for not supporting the Iraq War are rending garments over the Jade Helm "conspiracy" and a military takeover of Texas.

Worse yet, an incendiary Venn diagram of Confederate flag suppoerters, armed Oath Keepers, and members of the Alex Jones conspiracy theory goon squad appear to be forming a perfect storm that's hastily moving closer to African-American activists, chiefly Black Lives Matter protesters. It's becoming increasingly evident that right-wing extremists and militia radicals are determined to touch off some sort of violent conflict involving black activists and law enforcement, with Black protesters as either targets or as convenient patsies.

With the radicalization of the far-right, especially during the last six years, the eliminationist rhetoric that jet-blasts around the clock from Fox News Channel, AM talk radio and various social media groups has begun to turn a corner. Now they are actively trying to foment mass armed confrontations.

Now, it’s entirely possible the Oath Keepers will either be prevented by law enforcement from handing out firearms to protesters, or it could be that it’s all a big bluff, that none of the Ferguson protesters have even the remotest of interest in participating in this Oath Keeper protest. But what matters here is the intention. And the intention is to incite violence, in an already tense atmosphere, by a right-wing hate group that has zero interest in the future of civil rights -- or black lives, for that matter.

Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Confederate Flag Ferguson Oath Keepers Racism