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Poisoning the Web: Hatred Online
Internet Bigotry, Extremism and Violence
Table of Contents

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Responding to Extremist
Speech Online:

10 Frequently Asked Questions
Militias and 'Common Law Courts':
'Patriots' of the Web

In mid-1994, bands of armed right-wing militants calling themselves "militias" began to appear in several states. Often spouting mistaken interpretations of early American history to justify their actions, Militia members are united in their obsession with "protecting" Americans' Constitutional rights, which they claim the Federal government has trampled. A variety of activists make up the militia movement. There are those militia adherents who merely discuss the Constitution and perceived Federal intrusions. Others trade conspiracy theories at gun shows. At the extreme are members of heavily armed paramilitary units.

"Common law court" adherents declare themselves exempt from the laws of the United States. Using pseudo-legal theories based on selective and often bizarre interpretations of the Bible, the Magna Carta, state and Federal court decisions, and the U.S. and state constitutions, these activists present a serious threat to the rule of law by using phony liens, money orders and documents in an attempt to defy the authority of legitimate courts.

Militia activists and common law court adherents refer to themselves as "patriots." Like anti-Semites and racists, these "patriots" have a fondness for historical distortions and conspiracy theories (such as the contention that the Federal Reserve runs the United States). Elements of overt anti-Semitism and racism have frequently surfaced in the "patriot" movement, which has been inspired by the activities of the Identity group Posse Comitatus.

Though many "patriots" deny the movement's racial and religious bigotry, its intolerance is apparent on the Web. For instance, though the Patriot Knowledge Base Web site states that "the enemy" is "not the Jewish masses," it posts the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, one of the world's most widely circulated anti-Semitic works. Similarly, the U.S.A. The Republic page links to the vicious Identity site God's Order Affirmed in Love while claiming "We Are Not Anti-Semitic."

Even though militia membership dwindled following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, militia members continue to plan bombings and robberies. Meanwhile, new militia-oriented Web sites continue to appear. Likewise, despite the fact that legitimate authorities have cracked down on unlawful common law court activities, common law court advocates persist in threatening violence and common law Web sites are still active. Currently, there are more than a hundred "patriot" sites on the Web.

Common law Web sites often post legal jargon out of context and link to reputable law sources, leading readers to misinterpret actual law. For instance, Dr. Tavel's Self-Help Legal Clinic, called "The Disneyland of the web for patriots and freedom fighters!" by the extremist publication Spotlight, links to online records of state and Federal rules, procedures, and laws. Visitors are encouraged to interpret this information based on fallacious common law principles and then use it in a court of law, even when under oath as part of a jury. The Legal Clinic posts a document entitled "The Citizens Rule Book - Jury Handbook," which encourages jurors to judge cases based on their own understanding of "natural, God-given, Common or Constitutional Law" :

You as a juror armed merely with the knowledge of what a COMMON LAW JURY really is and what your common law rights, powers and duties really are, can do more to re-establish "liberty and justice for all" in this State and ultimately throughout all of the United States than all our Senators and Representatives put together. WHY? Because even without the concurrence of all of your fellow jurors, in a criminal trial, you, with your single vote of "NOT GUILTY" can nullify every rule of "law" that is not in accordance with the principles of natural, God-given, Common or Constitutional Law.73

Numerous common law sites also promote anti-government activists as "sovereign citizens" answerable only to God and thus immune from state or Federal jurisdiction. Some offer a racist twist to this formulation, arguing that there are two classes of citizens: "Sovereign" white citizens,
Though many 'patriots' deny the movement's racial and religious bigotry, its intolerance is apparent on the Web.
whose rights are God-given, and "Fourteenth Amendment" citizens, non-whites whose citizenship is granted only by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Militia Web sites express paranoid fantasies about a power-hungry government trying to impose tyranny on its citizens, a government often portrayed as a pawn of the United Nations or the vaguely defined "New World Order." False depictions of militia members as the true defenders of liberty and democracy abound.

For instance, one Militia of Montana Web site declares that group "an educational organization dedicated to the preservation of the freedoms of ALL Citizens of the State of Montana and of the United States of America." Yet the militia held "the tyranny of a run-away, out of control government" responsible for usurping those freedoms.

The "Articles of the Alliance Of the Southeastern States Militia" claim that group's members "stand against all enemies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, both foreign and domestic."74 The group appears to consider the government one of these "enemies": it pledges to actively resist whatever it feels constitutes "unconstitutional use of our armed forces...against the America people" and promises to "fight the New World Order, and any of its proponents, to the bitter end."

Many militia Web sites provide resources to help their readers become more active. For example, the Citizen Soldier Web site contains a "Militia/Survivalist" post exchange page, which links to the Web sites of weapons suppliers, as well as military manuals that cover topics including "combat training." The Minnesota Minutemen Militia site allows supporters to "enlist" online by filling out a simple form. The American Patriot Network and California Militia Web sites, among others, feature real-time chat rooms in which
Militia and common law court propagandists on the Internet have openly expressed sympathy for 'patriot' activists on trial for committing, or planning to commit, acts of violence.
"patriots" can communicate with each other, and the United States Theatre Command Web site maintains the "Eagleflight" electronic mailing list, which often contains messages urging violent action from various militia members across the nation.

Militia and common law court propagandists on the Internet have openly expressed sympathy for "patriot" activists on trial for committing, or planning to commit, acts of violence. These sites lend credence to the anti-government movement by focusing on those who have actually come face to face with the government. Militia and common law Web sites have provided biased accounts of trial proceedings involving North American Militia of Southwest Michigan member Bradford Metcalf and the Montana Freemen, among others.

On November 18, 1998, members of the Montana Freemen, a group of common law court adherents notorious for their 81-day standoff with the FBI in 1996, were convicted on criminal charges including bank and mail fraud and armed robbery.75 During the trials that led to these convictions, the Fully Informed Grand Jurors Alliance (FIGJA) Web site, maintained by Georgia common law guru Elder Burk Hale and former Militia of Montana member Kamala Susan, kept Web users abreast of the latest happenings "at the request of family and friends of the 'Freemen' prisoners." Erroneously citing laws in support of the Freemen's cause, Hale posted photos of Freeman Ralph Clark, who he alleges was "tortured" by his jailers, as well as "Common Law Affidavits" written by other incarcerated Freemen.

On the same day as the Freemen decision, Bradford Metcalf was convicted of conspiring to possess machine guns; threatening to assault and murder Federal employees, and plotting to damage and destroy Federal buildings using explosives. As with the Freemen case, anti-government Web sites, such as Patriots Under Siege and Caged Patriots: An American Disgrace, kept militia sympathizers updated on the trial's progress and voiced support for its defendant.

In April 1996, Oklahoma Constitutional Militia leader Ray Lampley, his wife, Cecilia, and their friend John Baird were convicted of plotting to bomb ADL's Houston office, the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, welfare offices, abortion clinics and gay bars. Also the leader of the Universal Church of God in Hanna, Oklahoma, Ray Lampley has expressed intensely anti-Semitic and anti-government views and visited Elohim City, an encampment on the Oklahoma-Arkansas border associated with the Identity movement.

Writing on the Web about the Lampley trial, Indiana-based militia figure Linda Thompson declared that the trials of Lampley and other militia figures were fixed by what she sees as a corrupt Federal government that pays informants to help convict anti-government activists:

At the defense table, the jury will see the "nut" or target and his "co-conspirators" and the jury will hear the babbling and crazy "confidential" tapes played, as they look at the "nut" and his "friends" while the "good-guy informant" tells them how all these folks were planning to do nasty terrible things. The "good-guy informant" of course will be backed up by "good-guy law enforcement" who will parade a lot of evidence, whether it is relevant or not, to support this public bastion of integrity, their informant, emphasizing how good his work was. The Ray Lampley case is a good example of this that most are familiar with.

Two weeks prior to his arrest, Ray Lampley told a group in Tulsa, "If you want to have freedom in this country, you are going to have to shed somebody's blood for it." He also suggested that he had been attempting to acquire bomb-making materials. "I only wanted one bag [of ammonium nitrate fertilizer,]" he said, "because I realized that one bag is enough to blow up several Federal buildings if you know the right thing."

Where did Lampley learn the "right thing" that told him "one bag is enough" to blow up several buildings? According to law enforcement authorities, he likely retrieved this information from bomb-making manuals. Several of these are available on the Internet.

Next: Bomb-Making Manuals


73 "The Citizens Rule Book - Jury Handbook," from the Wizard Killer's Home in Cyberspace Web site, retrieved December 1998

74 "Articles of the Alliance Of the Southeastern States Militia" from the Southeastern States Alliance Militia Headquarters Web site, retrieved December 1998

75 "9 Militants Are Convicted In A Retrial," The New York Times, November 19, 1998


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