I am both concerned and dismayed by the growing threat posed by the group who have authored the “Questionnaire for Sheriffs and County Commissioners” (see “Patriot petition,” Jan. 21, 2010). This is no true questionnaire, but rather a proclamation of intent set forth by a disruptive, malevolent group whose purported goals and actions border on sedition. This body of malcontent agitators is a spin-off from the organization Celebrating Conservatism, which is in effect an incubator for extremism in the Bitterroot Valley. When discussing this extremist activity with a former Hamilton city councilman, I was taken aback to hear him assert that “militia groups are endemic” to the Bitterroot. Why is that, and is this something the rest of us care to invite or accept?
Frankly, I consider this group’s behavior uncivil, intimidating, and a clear display of what happens when the deliberately intellectually disenfranchised permit themselves to be misguided and misled. The militia movement is neither generic nor easily dismissed as a “comic” subject. Their tendency to extreme anti-government ideology, combined with their paranoid-delusional conspiracy theories and fascination with weaponry and paramilitary structure, predictably result in militia members acting out in ways that underscore and justify the concerns expressed by public officials, law enforcement, and the general public.
I thought it might prove informative to review some of the traits common to extremist groups: name calling and labeling; irresponsible sweeping generalizations (simple answers to complex issues); inadequate proof for assertions; advocacy of double standards; tendency to view opponents or critics as essentially evil; tendency toward argument by intimidation; use of slogans, buzzwords, and thought-stopping clichés; assumption of moral or other superiority over others; doomsday thinking; a belief that doing bad things in the service of a “good” cause is permissible; an emphasis on emotional responses, with less importance placed on reasoning and logical analysis; a tendency to believe in far-reaching conspiracy theories; inclination toward “groupthink;” and the use of supernatural rationale for their beliefs and actions, such as God is on their side.
Do these character traits sound like something this community would care to see proliferate, to grow to become the norm? Or do you find the notion distressing? Mona Docteur, the self-proclaimed leader of Celebrating Conservatism, appears to love her time in the limelight, strutting around the stage with a handgun strapped to her hip. As a veteran of two combat tours, as an individual who has personally zipped many more bodies into body bags than the number of people who signed this absurd “Questionnaire,” I’m here to tell you that it’s only a fool who thinks there is anything glorious about armed conflict.
Richard T. Landry