Oath Keepers Are Better Trained Militarily Than Other Extremists

This text is a part of TPM Cafe, TPM’s house for opinion and information evaluation. It first appeared at The Conversation.

The chief of the Oath Keepers militia, Stewart Rhodes, should keep behind bars pending trial for his alleged function within the storming of the Capitol, a judge ruled on Jan. 26, 2022. Whereas this implies authorities can preserve tabs on the whereabouts of Rhodes – and presumably restrict any perceived risk from him – the identical might not be mentioned for all members of the group.

Rhodes and different defendants who’ve pleaded not responsible to prices of seditious conspiracy over the tried rebellion on Jan. 6, 2021, current only a fraction of the overall membership of the Oath Keepers – the scale of which raises uncomfortable questions on the opportunity of violent radicalization within the U.S. army.

As specialists on violent extremism, we imagine it isn’t solely the variety of Oath Keepers that may be a drawback, it’s their make-up. A big variety of their members are veterans – each feminine and male – who carry army abilities to the group and likewise function recruiters for different energetic and former armed service personnel.


Difficult the commander in chief

The Oath Keepers have been based by Rhodes in 2009 as an anti-government group in response to the Obama presidency.

The group’s identify implies a mandate to honor their oath to the U.S. Structure, and in particular to “defend the Structure in opposition to all enemies, overseas and home.”

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However its founding inspiration was exactly the other: difficult a professional president and commander in chief out of animosity toward what Barack Obama stood for. Since then, the Oath Keepers have armed and broadcast plans to mobilize.

The Oath Keepers could number in the thousands, but we imagine they current a higher risk than their membership suggests. That is partly as a result of the Oath Keepers actively recruit current and retired members of the armed forces.

As UMass Lowell terrorism skilled and our analysis collaborator, Arie Perliger, has proven in his work, Oath Keepers members are seemingly better trained militarily than different extremist teams due to the group’s composition.


About 10% of the Oath Keepers are active-duty army, and round two-thirds are retired army or regulation enforcement, in response to analysis of the group’s membership by the Heart for Strategic and Worldwide Research. A number of Oath Keepers current on the Jan. 6 assault have been veterans, equivalent to Larry Brock, the so-called “zip-tie man” because of his being photographed with the makeshift handcuffs.

In response to an analysis of court and Pentagon records by CNN, as many as 14% of these charged with crimes associated to storming the Capitol served within the army. That is double the proportion of veterans within the basic American grownup inhabitants.

Navy members are fascinating to extremist teams as a result of they convey particular abilities equivalent to expertise with weapons, focusing on and fight expertise. In response to the indictment, the Oath Keepers used a “stack,” or staggered military formation, to breach the Capitol.

As our previous research demonstrated, the processes of radicalization in an extremist group motion is in some ways much like army coaching. These with army backgrounds possess not solely the talents that radical teams search, but additionally the psychological readiness for violent battle that’s uncommon amongst civilians.

The rise in radicalization throughout the ranks of the army may be noticed within the increasing proportion of domestic terrorism acts in the U.S. involving active-duty and reserve personel, from 0% in 2018 to 1.5% in 2019 and 6.4% in 2020, in response to the Heart for Strategic and Worldwide Research.

The variety of People with army ties labeled as extremists quadrupled lately, in response to Michael Jensen and different researchers on the College of Maryland’s Examine of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism middle.

Recruiting floor

A rise in radical ideology amongst members of the U.S. army makes it a fertile floor for recruiting by teams such because the Oath Keepers.

A 2019 poll of active-duty troops discovered that round 1 in 3 (36%) reported personally witnessing “White nationalism and ideologically-driven racism” amongst their friends. This included using racist language, but additionally swastikas drawn on service members’ vehicles and stickers supporting the Ku Klux Klan.

This excessive proportion displays a big improve from the earlier yr: In a 2018 poll, 1 in 5 (22%) energetic army troops had reported witnessing such conduct.

Why it issues

In addition to posing a danger because of their weapons coaching, energetic and former army personnel pose a higher risk as members of right-wing militia teams. In contrast to civilians, military people must take an oath, pledging allegiance to their nation and the establishments of democracy enshrined within the Structure.

After they align with teams just like the Oath Keepers and plan an assault on the U.S. authorities, these army personnel betray their oath. This sort of hypocrisy is thought in psychology as cognitive dissonance – an uncomfortable psychological state that arises when one’s actions contradict one’s self-image, inflicting a motivation to “double-down” to justify one’s actions. It’s the purpose that painful, embarrassing or humiliating initiation rites are often effective in radicalizing new members. The extra psychological value of cognitive dissonance could imply army members of the Oath Keepers are extra dedicated to their new allegiance after they flip away from their outdated one.

Whereas the Oath Keepers want to current themselves as the last word masculine alphas, a number of the actual energy lies with the ladies supporting their efforts.

The variety of males arrested over the Jan. 6 riot outnumber that of ladies. Of the 11 charged with seditious conspiracy, just one – Jessica Watkins, a former military ranger who on the time of the assault recognized as an Oath Keeper – is a lady.

Nevertheless, ladies play key assist roles from behind the scenes, elevating cash, disseminating propaganda and even recruiting new members.

After Rhodes was arrested, Kellye SoRelle, a former legal professional, was named as “acting president” of the Oath Keepers.

The hidden face of extremism is usually feminine, as our previous research on the topic has proven. In Jihadi teams, ladies have been essential for fundraising, disseminating propaganda and recruiting males for the trigger. Girls in Jihadi organizations, like al-Qaeda recruiter Malika el Aroud, have been capable of shame men into collaborating within the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On her web site, minbar.sos, Aroud exhorted males to step up to show that they have been actual males.

We see comparable dynamics in American right-wing extremist teams and the methods by which ladies weaponize poisonous masculinity.

Some analysts have predicted that membership within the Oath Keepers will decline because of the indictments.

However these indicted quantity a just a few; the actual concern is that the women and men who make up the Oath Keepers’ rank and file may proceed to recruit whereas the leaders stay behind bars.

Mia Bloom is a professor and fellow on the Proof Primarily based Cyber Safety Program at Georgia State University.

Sophia Moskalenko is a analysis fellow in social psychology at Georgia State University.

This text is republished from The Conversation beneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the original article.

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