They used to be known as the political fringe. But, thanks to crackpot radio hosts, Internet conspiracy theories and a general mistrust of government, the vigilantes who call themselves “militias” have gone mainstream and are headed south to Twin Falls.
The Idaho Lightfoot Militia is looking to recruit a “battalion” in Twin Falls and has made a call for members. The organization, made up largely of former members of the military and retired police, see themselves as the last defense against federal incursion. It’s all hogwash.
It’s not as if they have any real authority.
The Idaho Constitution lists three types of “militia” under the purview of the governor and the Legislature — the National Guard, the organized militia and the unorganized militia. But that same constitutional section requires appointment of officers by the governor. State officials recently told the Idaho Statesman that only two states — Washington and Louisiana — even have recognized organized militias.
None of the leadership of any of these groups in Idaho were appointed by the governor or vetted by the Legislature. They’re just angry dudes. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter should step up and say as much.
The men looking to expand their paramilitary ranks are nothing more than a right-wing political fringe fiending to point a weapon at a federal bureaucrat. They are anarchists posing as protectors of freedom. They’re people who believe the social contract is only worth defending if it works for them. Multiple national news stories about Idaho’s militia groups note that many of the members are out of work. But blaming a federal analyst for the decline of rural America makes absolutely no sense.
That was the case earlier this month when gangs like this circled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy — who had leached off the federal government for decades — and took aim from elevated positions. It wasn’t an act of protecting states’ rights. It was an excuse to act tough, and maybe vent a little pent-up rage.
These are groups that consider the local sheriff the ultimate arm of law enforcement, claim a monopoly on constitutional understanding and refuse to acknowledge federal authority — all while prancing about under an American flag, oddly enough.
It’s this kind of mindset that gave us Timothy McVeigh, the bomber who murdered 168 people in 1995, including 19 children, at a federal building in Oklahoma City.
These so-called “militias” — a misnomer since they’re actually not recognized by any real government — are nothing more than anarchy groups, the kind that 15 years ago would have been ignored until considered dangerous.
But American political winds have shifted, and the right-wing fringe are consuming a constant stream of half-truths to feed their paranoia.
If things continue on this path, there will be another tragedy. The question that will have to be answered when it happens will be, “Who were the bad guys?” Was it the federal officials acting under the rule of law or the vigilantes who decided to get in the way?