The All-American Mind of a Militia Member – The New Republic

On June 25, a man named Adam Fox, upset that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer had shuttered gyms across the state as part of a pandemic lockdown order, started a livestream on a private Facebook group. I dont know, boys, we gotta do something, he said. You guys link with me on our other location system, give me some ideas of what we can do. Those ideas of what we can do began to cohere in the weeks that followed. Snatch and grab, man. Grab the fuckin governor. Just grab the bitch, Fox told an informant in late July, according to an FBI affidavit released last Thursday. Because at that point, we do that, dudeits over.

Fox is now one of 13 men charged in a series of alleged plots against the state and law enforcement. Expressions of condemnation and horror, rightly, came swiftly. All of us in Michigan can disagree about politics, said Matthew Schneider, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. But those disagreements should never, ever amount to violence. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Professor Kathleen Belew, who has written important work on the history of the militia movement wrote, This is a movement expressly dedicated to the violent overthrow of the United States and the destruction of democracy and its institutions. In a rare moment of bipartisanship, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson issued a joint statement: This attempted act of domestic terrorism against a sitting governor has no place in a lawful and civil society and we condemn it in the strongest terms.

In each of these responses, the violence being threatened was not only contemptibleit was alien. Such a frame is seductive but misses the true danger of militia groups. They do not exist outside and in opposition to American democracy; they are its intimate products. Understanding that requires we abandon many of the superficial images and accounts coming out of Michiganof impoverished men deep in the woods holding meetings in underground roomswhich suggest a false sense of disconnection from mainstream America.

I have spent years trying to understand men like Fox by spending time with them in my research. In that time, I have been able to see their participation in the militia movement not as a single moment but as the outcome of a long process. At the collective level, that process involves the historical development of American democracy alongside racism enforced through a continuous relationship between state violence and private violence. At the individual level, it looks like militia members building, over the course of their lives, physical and mental capabilities for engaging in violence, as well as an understanding of their violence as legitimate, through their interactions withand the support given to them bya range of government and law enforcement agencies. In such ways, the stories of militia members teach us about the important and troubling connections between private and state violence that have marked American democracy from its founding to the present. We can see the biographies of these individual men as stories about American democracy.

I have known Mark Romano, which is the pseudonym I gave him in my research, for 15 years. Back when we first met, Mark was a member of the Minutemen, the right-wing militia that patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border looking for illegals. I spent months watching Mark as he prowled the border in camouflage, with an M-4 rifle, two handguns, and approximately 100 rounds of ammunition. I try to only use hollow points, he once told me about the bullets known for their capacity to expand and fragment in the body and commonly used by police officers,it causes the most damage.

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The All-American Mind of a Militia Member - The New Republic

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