With all the paranoia he peddles to the conspiracy class, it’s hard to believe Stewart Rhodes once had a career shooting straight for the stratosphere.
But since retiring from the Army and in 2009 starting the Oath Keepers — a defiant “Patriot” organization of active military and police personnel who vow to uphold their oaths to the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, foreign, domestic and imagined — the Yale-educated lawyer has emerged as one of the primary intellectual fountainheads of the antigovernment right.
Under the defiant banner of “Not on our watch,” Rhodes has recruited thousands of politically disaffected men and women into the Oath Keepers. He has plied them with ideas of a tyrannical “New World Order” looming on the horizon, only to dismiss those worries as mere theoretical concerns when it is convenient to do so — typically, when trying to paint the group as mainstream in discussions with reporters. It’s doublespeak at its finest.
For example, he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that he wasn’t animated by conspiracy theories or fears.
But when speaking to radio conspiracist Alex Jones, Rhodes touted the benefits of his new organization by playing to one of Jones’ key worries. “We know that if the day should come where a full-blown dictatorship would come, or tyranny … it can happen [only] if those men, our brothers in arms, go along and comply with unconstitutional, unlawful orders. … Imagine if we focus on the police and military. Game over for the New World Order,” Rhodes said.
A practicing attorney in Nevada, Rhodes left his legal practice in 2010 to move to the Big Sky State. He wasted no time involving himself with the growing local Patriot movement, which has been drawn to Montana for what constitutionalist preacher Chuck Baldwin has called “the Alamo of the 21st Century” — a last stand against a perceived dismantling of American freedoms.
The core of the Oath Keepers is its 10 “Orders We Will Not Obey.” The orders relate directly to Patriot fears of a government conspiracy — alleged plans to impose martial law, shuttle Americans into concentration camps and so on. Rhodes has warned that the government is teetering on the brink and has encouraged residents in Flathead County, Mont., to begin forming citizen militias.
“It’s not that the iceberg is coming. … We already hit the iceberg,” Rhodes was quoted saying during a speech after arriving in Montana. And how does that play out in one of the Ivy League’s most conspiratorial minds? He put it quite simply: “The Titanic is going down.”
In 2012, the State Bar of Arizona admonished Rhodes for practicing without a license after he wrote letters threatening a lawsuit on behalf of two people who were removed from a Quartzite, Ariz., Town Council meeting the previous year. His action came after the Oath Keepers had become embroiled in a local political squabble in the town. Rhodes, who was not licensed to practice in Arizona, was fined $600.