The Consequences of Right-Wing Extremism on the Internet
Coordinating Extremist Events: "Patriot Confrontations"
"Patriot" confrontations prove the
impact of online requests for an immediate, rapid response to a particular
crisis. These confrontations are spontaneous happenings created when
anti-government extremists attempt to "rescue" fellow extremists
who are resisting law enforcement authorities,
The Indianapolis Baptist Temple
Indianapolis Baptist Temple (IBT), a church run by
Pastor Greg J. Dixon and his son, Pastor Greg A. Dixon. was involved in a
long dispute with the IRS.
The Dixons are the leaders of the "unregistered
churches" movement which believes that churches should obey no laws
or regulations whatsoever. In 1984, IBT stopped withholding employee
income taxes and paying Social Security and Medicare taxes in an attempt
to sever all ties to the federal government. In September 2000, a
Federal District Court ordered law enforcement to seize IBT for failure to
pay its taxes.
Following the announcement of this court order, a
flood of online propaganda, in conjunction with printed newsletters and
shortwave radio broadcasts, helped rally anti-government extremists to
defend IBT. Many extremists wrote online articles in support of IBT, and
some posted personal accounts of their visits to the church.
The official IBT site featured frequent updates on
the state of the church, which supporters could choose to receive via
E-mail, and extremist mailing lists often republished these messages. In
one message, the Dixons pleaded, "We must have your help immediately.
Please come and stand with us no matter how long you can stay. We can
provide food and an area to sleep while you are at the church."
Greg A. Dixon claimed that hundreds of supporters
called or E-mailed him to offer help. "I tell them to come, bring all
the friends you can," he explained.
The November 14 date set for the seizure of IBT came
and went, and church supporters, among them many anti-government
extremists, continued to arrive. Ultimately, after 92 days, the standoff
ended peacefully when the government repossessed the church.
Two Year Stand-off in Tennessee
In 1987, when the Memphis and Shelby County,
Tennessee Airport Authority instituted a noise abatement program that
involved purchasing and demolishing homes in an area near the Memphis
airport, the family of Bill and Carolyn Cockrell refused to sell their
house, despite the fact that the government offered to pay them more than
the market rate for it. By 1994, the Cockrell house was the last one
standing in the neighborhood. Finally, a county court issued a warrant to
remove the family on January 17, 1997.
Bill Cockrell looked for help from Drew Rayner, head
of the Mississippi Militia. Rayner penned a message that
"patriots" distributed widely on the Internet. "Billy has
requested militia support regarding the illegal and unconstitutional
seizure of his house and property," Rayner wrote. After attorneys
notified the Cockrells that a demolition notice had been posted, more
calls for assistance appeared online. "You are cordially invited to a
campout…on the grounds of the Cockrell home," read one. "The
purpose of this little get together will be to witness that the Cockrell’s
home will not be unlawfully demolished." On January 30, 1997, when
the house was due to be bulldozed, more than a dozen militia members stood
watch there. Not until March 1999 did law enforcement successfully seize
the Cockrell home.
Confrontation in Massachusetts
Another confrontation took place in Hamilton,
Massachusetts, where John and Rhetta Sweeney resisted Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation (FDIC) attempts to repossess their estate. The
Sweeneys argued that the bank loaning them money had reneged on a promise
to provide them the funds needed to develop profitable housing lots on
their land. In June 1997, the Sweeneys blocked all roads leading to their
property. They proceeded to set up a Web site publicizing their plight,
and the standoff became a topic of discussion among anti-government
extremists online. Militia members traveled to the Sweeney home, stood
guard, and used the Internet to communicate with their compatriots. In
February 1998, the authorities finally ended the standoff, removing John
Sweeney from the property when his militia supporters were temporarily