The Malheur occupiers were belittled on late night talk shows and social media as “y’all-Qaeda” and “yee-haw-dists,” but what was unfolding in Oregon wasn’t funny—it was frightening. These people speak of martyrdom, bloodbaths and killings, sentiments that can be heard on any Islamist recruitment video. And when law enforcement finally took action on January 26 in a mass arrest, one of the militia members, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum—who had proclaimed he would rather die than go to jail—was shot dead.
And while those right-wing militia members were occupying federal land, other extremists around the country were hard at work. Fliers seeking recruits for the KKK appeared on lawns and doors in Alabama, California, Georgia, New Jersey and Oklahoma. In Johannesburg, California, police discovered bombs and booby traps in the home of a man who threatened to blow up the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal buildings. In Colorado Springs, a white supremacist suspected of being connected to the 2013 murder of Colorado’s prison chief was shot and wounded in a firefight with police. In Lafayette, Louisiana, officials released the diary of the man who killed two people at a movie theater this past summer—it was filled with rage against the federal government and praise for a racist killer. In Oakdale, California, two honey farmers were charged with fraud involving a scheme by extremists who declare they are not bound by the laws of any government. And the day after the first arrests of the Malheur occupiers, a New Hampshire man who told an FBI informant he was part of a group that wanted to bring back “the original Constitution,” and had as much as $200,000 on hand for explosives and rockets, was taken into custody after he illegally purchased hand grenades.
Who are these right-wing militants? And what makes them believe Americans have to engage in armed combat with their own government rather than vote, kill their fellow citizens rather than tolerate differences, blow up buildings rather than just get a job? Billions of words have been written and spoken on violent Islamic extremists. The time has come to do the same for the good old-fashioned Americans who may pose the greatest threat to us all.