Analysis / Right-Wing Militia Fanatic

Technically, the Ruby Ridge, Waco and Oklahoma City incidents did not involve actual militias per se, though the movement's rallying around these events, as well as the political views of some of the people involved, created a lot of confusion in the matter. This page is to clear up the misconceptions about what had happened.

The main people involved in Ruby Ridge were a family of survivalists led by one Randy Weaver, a former Green Beret and factory worker who, in 1983, moved with his family to a cabin in isolated Boundary County in northern Idaho in order to escape from what they saw as the corruption of the modern world. Here, he got involved in an assortment of far-right causes, including the "sovereign citizen"note  and tax protest movements, and started refusing to pay his taxes. His wife Vicki, meanwhile, sent threatening letters to then-President Ronald Reagan and the IRS, addressed to the "Queen of Babylon". After he sold a pair of illegal sawed off shotguns to an undercover ATFnote  agent, a clerical error in the letter telling him when he was to arrive in court (the letter said his trial was to begin on March 20, 1991, but actually, it was to begin on February 20) led to him becoming a wanted fugitive by accident. Mistaking government incompetence for proof that they were out to get him, he hunkered down with his family for over a year, leading to a siege that lasted from August 21-30, 1992 and resulted in the death of Weaver's wife Vicki, his son Samuel, and a US Marshal. More info can be found here.

The Waco compound, meanwhile, was run by the Branch Davidians, a cultish, apocalyptic-minded splinter of the Seventh-Day Adventists. They were led by one David Koresh (born Vernon Wayne Howell), a heretical Christian who proclaimed himself a Messiah Figure and amassed large collections of women (some of them underage) and automatic weapons at his compound, the Mount Carmel Center outside Waco, Texas. It was the guns that got the attention of the ATF, who tried to conduct a raid on the compound, but after the Branch Davidians were tipped off to the raid by the media, they took up defensive positions and, when the ATF tried to serve their warrant, opened fire. With six dead armed suspects and four dead ATF agents on their hands, the FBI put the Branch Davidian compound under siege for fifty-one days starting February 28, 1993, before finally trying to storm the compound on April 19 with tear gas and a tank-mounted battering ram. Unfortunately for the ATF, the Branch Davidians interpreted the siege of their compound not as a law enforcement action, but rather as the beginning of the end times, and thus fought tooth and claw against them and booby-trapped their compound, spreading gasoline and other flammable materials around. When the Branch Davidians set fires to hold off the ATF agents (and possibly deliberately kill themselves; their motives in doing so will never be known for certain, as everyone involved died), Koresh and seventy-five of the compound's other inhabitants died, of which nineteen were children. As before, more info can be found here.

Lastly, Oklahoma City perpetrator Timothy McVeigh did have connections to militia members (particularly to the Michigan Militia, one of the more active ones) and subscribed to extreme right-wing causes, but was never part of a militia himself, and worked with only a couple of other people, though there is some speculation that he received additional help beyond his co-conspirators. He also had some beliefs more in line with the left, such as claiming that the U.S. government was "fascist" and its foreign policy was "imperialist." He was a Gulf War veteran who wanted to join the Green Berets, but was rejected when his psych profile declared him unsuitable, and he left the military not long after. He viewed the government as a bully, particularly in the wake of the aforementioned Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents, and timed his bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to coincide with the two-year anniversary of the end of the Waco siege.

The militia movement claimed these events, as well as such things as the Assault Weapons Ban and the Brady Bill, as supposed proof that the government (specifically, the center-"left" government of Bill Clinton) was an Always Chaotic Evil force that wanted to destroy their way of life. Militia membership reached its peak in 1996, three years after Waco, though it declined after that due to a confluence of reasons. The big one was perceived violence within the movement scaring away the more moderate members — in addition to Oklahoma City, groups like the Montana Freemen and the Republic of Texas (a secessionist group claiming that the United States had never legally annexed Texas) gave the movement plenty of bad press through their confrontations with law enforcement. "Lone nuts" like Eric Robert Rudolph (who bombed two abortion clinics, a gay bar, and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics) and the "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski (mistakenly believed to be a right-wing militant until he published his anti-technology manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future) also painted the movement with a poison brush. Recent years have seen a significant increase in such "lone-wolf attacks", and right-wing actors have committed the majority of such attacks in the United States since September 2001. Though organized militia groups have rarely been involved and the media have been reluctant to call these attacks terrorism, such extremism has served to attract more extremists even as it drives off moderates.

Militias died down after the surge in patriotism that accompanied 9/11 (although some of the more radical groups contended that the whole thing was an inside job), as well as Clinton's replacement with a supposedly right-wing president, but since the late 2000s militia membership has surged to levels not seen since The '90s. Most of this has been attributed to a bad economy, increased "security" measures such as the Patriot Act, racist objections to the election of an African-American Democratic President and right-wing anger over his proposals for health care reform, gun control, foreign policy and a perceived surge in unchecked illegal immigration, government corruption and uncontrolled government spending. Different Americans see them in many different lights: some think they're right, others that they're evil. Disagreements even rage within their own number: a great many follow libertarian or traditionalist ideals, opposing the unnecessary violence and edgy attitude of the neo-Nazis, while many others embrace them. The majority of the militiamen do not actively engage in terrorist activity (though they do occasionally make displays of force, such as showing up to protest things while openly carrying firearms), but rather believe that they are preparing themselves for if and when the government turns on them. The militant occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that resulted in a police standoff that result in a death of one of the leaders has raised a lot of concerns about the threat of right-wing militant groups in America, though that event also showed their form of extremism had a limited appeal. Few took the group seriously, and their call for "true patriots" to send them supplies resulted in their receiving hate mail and sex paraphernalia.

However, the election of Donald Trump has brought a massive resurgence of right-wing militia groups into mainstream American politics. The new brand of right-wing groups are referred as the "alt-right," which differs from any other traditional far-right militia groups since the prevalence of social media has allowed right-wing militia groups to mobilize more easily. The prevalence of the alt-right have caused massive discord in the American political system, as the use of Internet and social media has made a spread of massive rumors and disinformation that has led to Donald Trump being elected as president. Many of the "alt-right" militia groups have strong white supremacist and neo-Nazi leanings like many of the far-right militia groups, and some of them have resorted to violence (such as the 2017 "Unite the Right" Charlottesville rally).

They are frequently associated with the Sovereign Citizen movement noted above, and there is considerable overlap between the groups, with many so-called Sovereign Citizens having ties to militia groups and vice versa. Many Crazy Survivalists are also sympathetic towards the militia movement, and many Conspiracy Theorists have links to the militia movement.

Keep in note that while this trope is often associated with American politics, other regions also have a fair share of right-wing militant groups. The uyoku dantai (右翼団体 literally meaning "right-wing groups") are prevalent in Japan with xenophobic rhetoric (mainly aimed towards the Chinese and Koreans) and promoting historical revisionism downplaying Imperial Japan war crimes during World War II. In Europe, there have been increased support of right-wing nationalist groups such as Alternative for Germany, French National Front, Dutch Party for Freedom, the Northern League in Italy, the Golden Dawn in Greece with anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, and anti-EU stance. While many of these right-wing groups either have ties to criminal gangs (such as the uyoku dantai with the yakuza) or strong ties to neo-fascist or neo-Nazi groups (like the Golden Dawn) and some of them resorted to violent rhetoric, they do not reach the same level of violence when compared to the right-wing groups in America due to many of the countries' strict gun control laws.