Meet the 'Patriots'
In the last year and a half, militias and the larger antigovernment "Patriot" movement have exploded, accompanied by the rapid expansion of other sectors of the radical right. This spectacular growth (see timeline) is the result of several factors, including anger over major political, demographic and economic changes in America, along with the popularization of radical ideas and conspiracy theories by ostensibly mainstream politicians and media commentators.
Although the resurgence of the so-called Patriots — people who generally believe that the federal government is an evil entity that is engaged in a secret conspiracy to impose martial law, herd those who resist into concentration camps, and force the United States into a socialistic "New World Order" — also has been propelled by people who were key players in the first wave of the Patriot movement in the mid–1990s, there are also a large number of new players. What follows are profiles of 35 individuals at the heart of the resurgent movement:
Heaven Can Wait
Chuck Baldwin, 57
In his brand of Christian fundamentalism, Christians will someday be transported from the earth and taken directly to heaven. In the meantime, though, Chuck Baldwin wouldn't mind running things down here himself.
The founder and pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., is no fan of Washington, D.C. — in an essay on his website, he calls the nation's capital "that Putrid Province by the Potomac" — but he keeps trying to get there.
In 2000, after declaring the Bush-Cheney ticket too liberal, the former chairman of the Florida Moral Majority left the Republican Party and aligned himself with the staunchly antigovernment, anti-gay Constitution Party. Four years later, he appeared on the party's presidential ticket as the running mate of far-right lawyer Michael Peroutka. He rose to the top of the ticket in 2008.
Besides leading the flock at Crossroad Baptist for the past 30-plus years, Baldwin, who could not be reached for comment, hosts a daily one-hour radio program, "Chuck Baldwin Live." He is a prolific writer, penning regular columns that are archived on his website. His columns also are archived on VDARE.com, a racist website that regularly bashes immigrants.
In his writing, Baldwin condemns Islam as a "bloody, murderous religion"; refers to Martin Luther King Jr. as an apostate; sympathizes with Joe Stack, the tax protester who flew a plane into an IRS office building earlier this year; and states that he believes the South was right in the Civil War (although he quickly adds that he is no racist).
In one of his more sweeping and Patriot-like observations, Baldwin writes that "there is a conspiracy by elitists within government and big business to steal America's independence."
For Baldwin, heaven can wait.
The Repentant Taxman
Joe Banister, 47
Lots of people insist that the Internal Revenue Service has no authority to administer and enforce federal income tax laws. What makes Joe Banister unusual among them is that he was an IRS special agent for five years. He spreads his anti-IRS message on radio and television and hosts his own two-hour weekly radio show.
Soft-spoken, articulate and a devout Catholic, Banister was interviewed in "America: From Freedom to Fascism," a 2006 "documentary" by the late antigovernment conspiracy theorist Aaron Russo, which denies the legitimacy of income tax laws and the Federal Reserve.
Banister says that he investigated radical tax protesters' claims about the IRS for two years. He concluded they were right, and told his IRS supervisors so. He was placed on leave, then resigned in 1999 to "comply with my oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution."
The following year, he and Bob Schulz, founder of a leading antigovernment Patriot tax-protest group known as the We the People, hand delivered grievances signed by supporters to federal officials in Washington stating that the 16th Amendment that allowed a federal income tax was illegally ratified, and that no law or regulation requires most citizens to pay income taxes or have taxes withheld.
Banister was indicted in 2004 in California for preparing false income tax returns and conspiring to defraud the federal government stemming from his work on behalf of a businessman client. The client went to prison, but Banister was acquitted.
"There's definitely a propaganda campaign out there to make us look like a problem to law enforcement," he told his audience at a Patriot conference last year.
Bulldozer vs. Bulldozer
Martin "Red" Beckman, 80
In 1984, when Martin J. "Red" Beckman ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in New Hampshire's famously wide-open primary, he billed himself as "Montana's fighting redhead." By that time, he had been battling the IRS for 10 years.
Sometimes called the "Father of the Patriot Movement," Beckman gained a measure of fame within the anti-tax militia movement for refusing to pay more than $100,000 in income taxes and $34,000 in property taxes, contending that U.S. tax laws are illegal.
The IRS auctioned Beckman's property in 1979, but he refused to leave. In a 1992 ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also assessed $1,500 in sanctions against him, saying his arguments were "wholly without merit and frivolous."
Finally, his home was bulldozed in 1994. He attracted about 100 sympathizers to a rally in Billings to protest the foreclosure — an event he billed as "No More Wacos." At a press conference that year, he called the IRS "a total criminal organization" and vowed, "We will put it out of business at some point."
In addition to being a tax protester and conspiracy theorist who believes the Federal Reserve and International Monetary Fund are conspiring to dominate the world, Beckman is a notorious anti-Semite. He's the author of The Church Deceived, in which he claims the Holocaust was God's punishment of Jews for worshipping Satan.
Now in his dotage, the "fighting redhead" occasionally still speaks in public as the militias of the 1990s make a comeback. This past September, for instance, he spoke to the "Celebrating Conservatism" group in the town of Hamilton, Mont. Two days later, the group paraded through downtown brandishing weapons.
'Needle of Estrogen'
Catherine Bleish, 26
Catherine Bleish, one of the few female leaders in the resurgent Patriot movement, runs the Liberty Restoration Project and has become a popular speaker on the Patriot circuit.
"It's quite frightening the amount of power and authority that our government has assumed for themselves," Bleish told the Intelligence Report. "They say, 'We are the Supreme Being, we have the guns, we are going to do it our way.'"
Bleish, of St. Louis, Mo., speaks passionately about the anger that's fueling the movement. "It's so hard to start a small business, and once you start one, it's hard to keep it open. My parents are being audited for the past six years, while [Treasury Secretary] Tim Geithner, who doesn't pay his taxes, now gets to oversee the IRS," she said. "People are losing their homes. People are losing their jobs. People are frustrated and looking for answers."
Like many other Patriot leaders, Bleish charges that the government is behind these economic woes. "The dollar has been systematically destroyed. And that is not the American people's doing. That is the central bank. The central bankers, what they do is they go from country to country, and they destroy currency and bring themselves lots of power and lots of wealth."
Though Bleish said no one in the movement with whom she's worked wants violence, she added that people will be driven to defend themselves if the country continues on its current course. "The actions of our federal government [are] going to create violence. And my goal ... is to try and stop it peacefully before it gets to that point. I'm trying to follow the channels that are still afforded to me to talk to people face to face. But they're going to try and take away my ability to communicate with people of a like mind-set."
Bleish has taken part in key Patriot events, attending the seminal May 2009 Jekyll Island meeting that helped lay the groundwork for the resurgence of the movement. She also spoke at the Freedom 21 conference in Oklahoma City last August. And she was the main organizer for the Midwest Liberty Fest in Illinois last October.
But it's not all thankless work: A glam shot of Bleish was featured in the 2009-2010 Ladies of Liberty Alliance calendar. "Many women involved in the liberty movement have experienced the frustrating feeling of isolation when they look around and realize they are just a needle of estrogen in a haystack of testosterone," she wrote last August. "The Ladies of Liberty Alliance is a brand new organization working to end that feeling of isolation forever!"
Arguing at Gunpoint
Chris Broughton, 29
Chris Broughton loves his guns and hates President Obama — so much, in fact, that he believes the president belongs in hell. He's not too fond of George W. Bush, either.
Broughton made headlines in August 2009 when he showed up outside an Obama rally in Phoenix with an AR-15 assault rifle slung over his shoulder and a pistol holstered on his waist, becoming a hero to many in the "Patrtiot" movement in the process. He said he carries his guns habitually.
Broughton, apparently assuming that the Obama Administration planned gun control measures, said he wanted to make a point about the right to own guns. "The overwhelming statement I was trying to make was whether you like it or not, my guns aren't going away," said the Phoenix machinist. "They're going to be here until you kill me and take them away."
He claims that some news broadcasters edited video footage of the scene to hide his race (he's black) when reporting on the racist backlash to Obama's election. Presumably, he felt that was part of an effort to paint Obama's critics as racist.
Broughton is a member of We the People, a Patriot tax protest group that has played a central role in the resurgence of the militia movement. He also belongs to the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe. That's the church where pastor Steven Anderson told the congregation in August 2009 he would pray that Obama dies and goes to hell. Broughton said he believes there is a hell, and that it was made for evil people – folks like Obama, both former Bush presidents, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and leaders of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"Barack Obama is responsible for more death than my guns ever will be," Broughton said. "He could end so much suffering immediately, and instead he uses his power to force his agenda. I do hate him."
The Pricey 'Patriot'
Bob Campbell, 69
Bob Campbell and his American Grand Jury are on a mission to drive President Obama from office and put him on trial for treason. Obama "is a certified crook that has committed treason and fraud," Campbell wrote on his website late last year. "He is a fraud and a traitor."
Campbell, who did not respond to an E-mail to his website, formed American Grand Jury in March 2009 to examine "evidence" and hand down "presentments" that the group hopes will be used to indict the president. The use of faux "grand juries" and "common-law courts" are common to many in the Patriot movement, especially those who call themselves "sovereign citizens."
Campbell insists that Obama wasn't born in the United States and thus is constitutionally ineligible to serve as president. The group also seeks to indict Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her role in the purported conspiracy to defraud the American people by getting Obama elected.
Campbell plans to take supporters – at $649 a head – on the road in May 2010. He says they'll travel by bus to deliver their findings to federal judges in 20 states. "Serving our Grand Jury Presentments have [sic] always made the courts mad," Campbell wrote on his website. "With what I have in mind it should really burn the bark right off a few of these liberal Judges."
Campbell, who lives in Paragould, Ark., apparently isn't counting on judges to act on the presentments, but "no matter how the courts react it will be favorable for us and not good news for Barack Obama," he wrote.
Murder: The Fantasy
Robert "Lil Dog" Crooks, 59
Camping in the scrubby desert with a tiny band of Mountain Minutemen, Robert "Lil Dog" Crooks guards a hilly, 40-mile stretch of borderland east of San Diego against what he sees as the invading hordes from the south.
The Army veteran and retired commercial fisherman is armed. But is he dangerous? That's the question that arose in 2007, amid a furious debate on federal immigration reform legislation, when Crooks produced videos that appeared to show a Mexican immigrant being shot from a distance by vigilantes — men like himself — along the border.
The chilling footage, shot with night-vision equipment, was posted to YouTube, and Crooks E-mailed a link to several prominent nativist leaders. "This video shows how to keep a 'Home Depot' parking lot empty," Crooks wrote. He chided other nativists who, he suggested, could "talk the talk" but not "walk the walk."
At first, Crooks denied making the video. But when faced with an investigation, he acknowledged making it and said the shooting was nothing but a hoax. The reason he did it: "We're old men and we're bored."
Other Minuteman organizations cut ties with Crooks over the episode. But he remains in the public eye. Last year, he appeared on ABC's "20/20" and was the subject of a Penthousemagazine profile.
Crooks, who could not be reached for comment, recently turned his attention to enemies who are, for a change, U.S. citizens. He was among the 30 "freedom keepers" who gathered in Georgia in May 2009 to plot a revival of the Patriot movement. There, Crooks rubbed shoulders with, among others, tax protesters, anti-Obama "birthers," and an assortment of other conspiracy theorists. In this case, Crooks need not stand guard alone.
Unfair and Unbalanced
Joseph Farah, 55
Joseph Farah is the founder of the right-wing website WorldNetDaily (WND), which stokes fear with articles on topics like "Stocking Up on Guns and Ammo" and advertisements for survivalist-style solar and food products. WND, which boasts nearly 5 million monthly visitors and spices up its "news" reporting with "WorldNetDaily Exclusive" articles like this March's "Girl Scouts Hiding Secret Sex Agenda?", claims to be "fiercely independent." It certainly is unique.
Farah, who could not be reached for comment, has served as the opening act at Tea Party events headlined by Sarah Palin this year. He is a leading fomenter of the baseless claim that President Obama was not born in Hawaii, but in Africa, and so is not qualified to be president. Farah has repeatedly demanded that Obama release a full-form birth certificate. "It'll plague Obama throughout his presidency," he said. "It'll be a nagging issue and a sore on his administration."
Farah is a veteran practitioner of conspiracy "journalism," having repeatedly hawked the tale of the supposed cover-up of the death of Clinton aide Vince Foster – thought to be a murder, not a suicide, by anti-Clinton conspiracy-mongers like Farah and his ilk.
Like many publications of the far right, Farah's website, which he started with his wife in 1997, also carries countless product ads with scary headlines like "Will You Survive the Coming Dark Age?" ("Don't leave your family's safety in the hands of the government.")
Remarkably, Farah sprang from a California newspaper background. He was executive editor at the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner in the 1980s. In the early 1990s, he edited the dying Sacramento Union, where staffers have said he ordered them to favor conservative views in news coverage and even book reviews and give short shrift to liberals.
While at the Union, he gave a page-one column to a local radio host named Rush Limbaugh.
The FEMA Fabulist
Gary Franchi, 32
Gary Franchi is one of the leading promoters of a resurgent Patriot conspiracy theory that alleges the government is creating concentration camps for U.S. citizens. In 2009, he produced "Camp FEMA: American Lockdown," a video contending that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is behind the camps that could be used to house political dissenters.
The camps "are on existing military bases now," he said in a February webinar posted on his magazine's website. "It's not a big secret."
He claims that other structures could be converted into camps, including former airport hangars, vacant corporate office buildings, and closed-down prisons. "Your local church may have already signed a deal with the devil," he wrote.
Proponents of non-violence may find themselves at a disadvantage when the government shows up to ferry them to the camps, Franchi said. "If you believe in the 2nd amendment, if you believe in the right to self-defense, then perhaps you will have a different decision to make than the person that will let them kick your door in and drag you out."
Franchi also serves as national director of RestoreTheRepublic.com, whose preoccupations include eliminating the Federal Reserve and the IRS, making it illegal to implant microchips in people (another popular Patriot conspiracy theory that dates back to the 1990s), and ending globalization because it will supposedly lead to one-world government. Franchi asserts the site is attracting nearly 1,000 new members monthly.
He also runs the Patriot social networking site RestoreTheRepublic.net, hosts the weekly "Reality Report" on Freedom.TV, and serves as managing editor of Republic Magazine. In addition, he's now a regular speaker at Patriot conferences, offering a familiar diet of fears of globalist plotters. "There is a global elite structure of bankers and organizations that are pulling the strings of the parties, pulling the strings of the president, the speaker of the House," he said in the webinar.
Though such theories are often promoted by groups that defame Jews, Franchi told theIntelligence Report that his Restore The Republic does not advocate anti-Semitism or racism. "Restore The Republic is not antigovernment in any way, shape or form," he added. "We're pro-Constitution and anti-corruption."
Al Garza, 64
Al Garza is a fifth-generation Mexican American who's determined to preserve the American way of life – by keeping Mexicans out of his country.
Garza was born in Texas and raised in California. Over the past seven years, since retiring to Arizona, he has become a key leader in the nativist movement – first as national executive director of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps and now as president of the Patriots Coalition, an organization he launched in August 2009.
The Patriots Coalition scouts the Mexican border for signs of undocumented immigrants and reports "suspicious activity" to the U.S. Border Patrol. Garza claims the group has about 400 members.
The group reflects a recent trend of nativists increasingly adopting the antigovernment allegations and conspiracy theories of the Patriot movement. According to Garza's website, "Our country has two enemies: Those who want to destroy us from the outside and those who attempt it from within." The site is also thick with materials supporting "birther" conspiracy theories about President Obama's citizenship. When it first went up, it featured a digitally altered photograph of a bullet-riddled Air Force One and the caption, "Obama's first low pass over Texas." (The image has since disappeared.)
Garza claims that he also organizes search-and-rescue patrols along the border that have saved the lives of 345 immigrants. "Politicians don't care about them. I do," Garza said. "I'm not prejudiced. I'm as brown as chocolate."
Asked about the irony of a Mexican American leading efforts to prevent Mexicans from setting foot on American soil, Garza said it's a matter of law.
"Laws were different 120 years ago," he said. "They break the law when they come here, and they break the law every day they're here. They buy homes fraudulently and they send their children to school fraudulently. Everything they do here breaks the law."
"We have well over 50 million people here illegally," Garza added. Where he got that number from is anybody's guess. The Department of Homeland Security, in line with most other estimates, recently put the number at 10.8 million.