White Supremacy and Sedition

I’ve learned a lot about “seditious conspiracy” over the past several hours. It’s a very rare charge, and it’s an even rarer conviction. Looking at the handful of trials over the past century or so, it appears Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Muslims are convicted, but Whites are not. No big surprise.

In an article published in Mother Jones a few days before yesterday’s indictments were announced, Anthony Conwright wrote that American tradition casts violent white nationalism as “well-meaning patriotism gone awry, instead of as an ideology antithetical to our best aspirations.” The last couple of times right-wing whites were charged with seditious conspiracy were in 1988 (white supremacists) and 2010 (Christian “patriot” millitia members). All acquitted.

The 1988 trial was in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and the defendants were affilliated with the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nation, and the like. They had elaborate plans to overthrow the U.S. government, or at least break off the northwest part of it to establish a whites-only nation. The plans included the murders of a judge, FBI agents, and a founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. At least one of the defendants had separate murder convictions, so it’s not unreasonable to think they would have tried it. Anthony Conwrite said,

The prosecution had 113 witnesses and FBI wiretap transcripts capturing the accused coordinating about stockpiling weapons and conducting armored car robberies, assassinations, and municipal sabotage. Before the verdict, the judge told the jury, “The fact that you may think it was impossible for the defendants to overthrow the government is not a defense to the charge.”

Despite that instruction and mountains of evidence, the 14 white supremacists were acquitted by an all-white jury. One juror went on to marry a defendant; another told a reporter he agreed with many of the white supremacists’ ideas. But what may have sealed the acquittal was that the jury did not find the argument that the defendants were dangerous credible. In other words, they did not believe white supremacy was a coherent pathway to topple the American government—or they did not care if it was.

One of the defendants was Richard Snell, who had previously been convicted of murdering a pawn shop owner (Snell suspected he was Jewish) and a state trooper.

Snell was executed for his earlier charges on April 19, 1995, the same day Timothy McVeigh blew up Oklahoma City’s federal building, which Snell had previously plotted to bomb himself.

Oh, and another Fort Smith defendant went on to kill three people outside a Jewish Center. He died in prison.

See also this Twitter thread by Kathleen Belew. A lot of screwy things went on in the Fort Smith trial. The prosecutors didn’t seem to want to prosecute all that much.

Belew is the author of a book titled Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (Harvard University Press, 2018). In 2018 she wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which she argues that the White Power movement is far more integrated and organized than most people realize, and they are capable of doing a lot of damage. But the FBI persists in treating White Power types as individuals, or “lone wolves,” not part of a movement. She wrote,

Indeed, the F.B.I. established a policy to pursue only individuals in white-power violence, with, according to F.B.I. internal documents, “no attempts to tie individual crimes to a broader movement.” This strategy not only obscured the Oklahoma City bombing as part of a social movement but, in the years after McVeigh’s execution, also effectively erased the movement itself from public awareness.

See also Lone Wolves Connected Online: A History of Modern White Supremacy in the New York Times, January 2021, by Laura Smith.  She also writes that McVeigh was not any sort of lone wolf but was well connected into a larger movement that, for some reason, the public never heard about.

The Murrah building had long been a potential target for white supremacists. Kerry Noble had cased the premises with other C.S.A. members as early as 1983. They had even begun building bombs, but one of them exploded in a C.S.A. member’s hand, which the group considered a sign from God to wait. When McVeigh did carry out the bombing, Mr. Noble was working as a vacuum cleaner salesman in Texas. He saw the news on television and recognized the plot instantly. “They did it,” he remembered thinking. “They finally have done it.”

In a legal irony, McVeigh’s defense team essentially argued what the prosecution in the Fort Smith trial had argued: that the bombing was orchestrated by a complex network of white supremacists and far-right militia members. According to Mr. Jones, three weeks before the bombing, McVeigh called someone living in Elohim City, a far-right compound in Eastern Oklahoma with connections to the C.S.A., the Aryan Nations and the Order. “His supply chain plus his travels indicated a fairly sophisticated group of people,” Mr. Jones said. “It was our opinion that most of the ones that he associated with were either the Midwest bank robbers or people at Elohim City.”

He added: “I was convinced after talking to him, analyzing carefully what he said through numerous interviews, that he was trying to protect others, and assuming all the responsibility himself.”

But only McVeigh and one immediate accomplice, Terry Nichols, were convicted in the bombing. The government’s case, Mr. Jones argued, missed a big part of the story.

“They never referred to Tim McVeigh as a terrorist,” Mr. Jones said. “It was a murder case. And so they avoided the political connotation.”

This is the first time I have heard most of that.

Fast forward to January 6, 2021. The insurrection has not been packaged as a White Supremacist undertaking, but there’s a lot of evidence that it largely was. Kathleen Belew recently wrote for the Washington Post, Militia groups were hiding in plain sight on Jan. 6. They’re still dangerous.

The invasion of the Capitol is best understood as the collision of three streams of right-wing activity: the Trump base (itself containing a range of extremism), the QAnon movement, and white power and militant right groups. This third segment — although probably smaller than the others involved that day — was highly organized, connected, outfitted with tactical gear and weapons and well-trained. These activists often led the charge, and they were the first to breach the Capitol. Their own ideology, which descends from decades of violent white-power organizing, reveals them to be dangerous, intent on the destruction of democracy and the propagation of race war.

Why was Washington so unprepared? Why was the FBI, the Capitol police, and others, so unprepared? One does suspect that the mindset that simply doesn’t take white nationalist activists/terrorists seriously is part of it. That has to stop.

I’d like to believe that if the three meatballs who murdered Ahmaud Arbery could be so righteously convicted and sentenced in Georgia, it’s possible some of the January 6 perps could be convicted of sedition and get serious jail time. Which would be a good thing for all of us.

9 thoughts on “White Supremacy and Sedition

  1. Some experts have said that in some respects, the nit/half/dim/fuck-wit Q-quirious ( 😉 ) zombies and MAGAts got in the way of Emperor Dumfoch a l'Orange's Albino Stormtroopers' quasi-military KKKoo attempt.

    So by that logic, I guess we owe the Q-Anon Shaman and his motley crew a huge "Thank You?"


    Foch U!

    I've been keenly aware of White supremacists my entire life.

    My first 11 years in this plane of existance were spent in Queens, NYC.  My Grandmother lived in a ghetto area of Brooklyn.  Russians and Ukrainians aren't exactly known as being tolerant of diversity.

    My teen years and early 20's were spent in the Mid-Hudson Valley of NY.  In an almost entirely White suburb.  Almost directly across the river from the town I grew up in, was a well-known Klan town – in a Klan friendly area.

    Since we met in 7th grade, one of a handful of best friends I still have, is Black.  So if me, him, and some other buds wanted to go to bars in a college town across the river, we had to come-up with alternate ways of getting to those bars, since we wanted to avoid the MOST Klanish parts of the roads across over there.

    I've had my antennae tuned to White supremacy my whole life.

    I've written about this before, but in early '08 I was driving to a civil rights march in Raleigh, the capital of NC.  And as I was heading over there, I'm thinking, "It's the first decade of the 21st Century.  Why the hell, after '64 & '65, do I, DO WE, still need to march for civil rights?!?"

    Reality.  That's why.  Cold, cruel, reality.

    And now, still, voting rights again too!

    What's old is new again, I guess.

    If you want to bring something old back, how about 60's & 70's style cars?!?


  2. OT, some good news. DirecTV to Drop OAN

    …OAN depends heavily on DirecTV, its largest distributor, to reach its audience. The channel is still carried on Verizon FiOS and smaller pay-TV providers, according to its website. The broadcast can also be streamed via an online-TV service called KlowdTV. OAN has never been carried by Comcast Corp., Charter Communications Inc. or Dish Network Corp., three other major providers.

  3. Also too: 

    Speaking of the White Supreme-cysts, my favorite tidbit about the Oath Keepers' leader, Stewart Rhodes, is that he's got a Yale law degree.

    A Yale law degree. 

    Let that sink in.

    Kinda makes ya wonder, is it something they put in the food and drinks there, or does the Yale Law School attract socio/psycho-paths!  Both, is not out of the realm of possibility.

    Also Three:

    Stewart Rhodes can no longer be nicknamed "Dusty," if he is.  Unlike roads in many areas, prison cells don't have a lot of dust. And not even ironically! It”s been well established that Reich-Wingers have a supreme irony deficiency. I believe they’re immune to irony. They’ll never rust, that’s for sure.

    Maybe a new nickname is in order?

    May I suggest, "Dead End?" 

    As in, "Stewart "Dead End" Rhodes.

    • An additional fun fact about Mr. Rhodes:

      That eye patch he wears isn't from some cool or heroic war injury. He mishandled (i.e., dropped) a loaded pistol and shot himself in the face.

    • Maybe a new nickname is in order?

      How about Elmer Fudd?     That might fit. From what I can gather Elmer Rhodes and Elmer Fudd seem to be on par intellectually. 

      The puzzle for me is the idea that you can't dismiss these Oath Keeper assholes as a total joke but, on the other hand, what they hope to accomplish by military means makes them a total joke. Their patriotic fantasy has gone awry and I hope they get to spend the next 20 years in a prison cell trying to reimagine a workable fantasy more aligned with reality.

    • A good education has zip to do with morals. I give you Ron DeathSantis, governor of Florida. He has degrees from both Yale and Harvard.

  4. "The 1988 trial was in Fort Smith, Arkansas…"

    Where's the trial for these guys going to be? It's my understanding it will be in my courthouse in DC, the Prettyman Courthouse in Washington DC, a stone's throw from the US Capitol Building in DC with a jury pool drawn from the District of Columbia.

    Ooops! 45% African-American and 37%  Non-Hispanic White.  Politically 76% Democrats 6% Republicans… 

    In the previous Arkansas case, the trial was done based on the plans to commit murder and the intent to overthrow the government. On J6, members of Congress fled for their lives – a gallows had been erected outside. The video of violence and the accounts by members of Congress, (depending on what the judge allows) should take away the argument that this was entirely beer-fueled hypothetical venting online. Some of the communications were encrypted! 

    I'm not predicting the verdict of the jury, but these guys ought to be worried. 

    Some of the communications tend to exonerate Trump in the planning. I  don't have the quote at my fingertips but they were telling each other that they hoped what they were doing would give Trump a spine to do what needed to be done. I note that they were chummy with Roger Stone, so was it Stone's message that Trump would only go full-blown racist if Trump knew the militias would do his dirty work?

    I'd love to know the timing of this in terms of trial date(s). The defendants are in jail, I suspect and won't be released. So they want the defense ready (which takes time) but if they hope to be cleared on all charges, they won't have a beer until AFTER the trial. (And waiting in jail is NOT fun – I know.)  My question – before midterms?

  5. With respect to how white supremacists are officially treated as "lone wolves" by the Feds, there is the fact that if the Feds were to put these people on the watch lists that would be an OpSec failure on their part: local law enforcement can see those lists, and warn their friends when the Feds take notice of them 

  6. We have human beings in prison for sedition who will not set foot on any United States soil, have been tortured, will never have anything close to a fair trial or probably any chance to ever get out of incarceration.  They have been this way for a score of years through rule under both political parties with little difference.  Their leader is dead, killed in a special operation raid some years ago.  They are not included as political prisoners or prisoners of war as they had an affiliation with an organization which used tactics that were generally considered to fit the somewhat arbitrary definition of terrorist tactics.  The organization they had membership in voiced and participated in violent activates intended to harm, disrupt, and possibly overthrow the United States.    

    There appears to be a lot of similarities between the organizations that gave us 9/11 and 1/6 in intent, tactics, and organizational structure.  After a year of trials, pleas, testimony, and hearings some justice officials see adequate evidence that actions around 1/6 fit the definition of sedition to the extent that charges to that effect need to be filed.  

    Let me conclude by saying I used the word sedition in my lead sentence.  I doubt if any reader thought it unjustified.  We would also probably ascribe guilt to anyone who aided, abetted, or sympathized with the actions on 9/11.  That is how strongly the charge of sedition is generally taken.  I am sure the justice officials involved with this investigation are well aware this is so, and so is the extent and strength of their evidence.  Many more reveals are yet to come it seems.



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