Sep 8, 2022

New Report On Extremist Group Shows Alarming Penetration Of Civic Institutions Transcript

New Report On Extremist Group Shows Alarming Penetration Of Civic Institutions Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsADLNew Report On Extremist Group Shows Alarming Penetration Of Civic Institutions Transcript

A new report on the leaked Oath Keepers database shows an alarming portion of the extremist group’s membership working as police, members of the military, and other civil service positions. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1: (00:00)
… leading the charge to the Capitol building to keep Trump in power. There were two violent, racist extremist groups, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. Like Donald Trump, the Oath Keepers were spurred into action after Barack Obama was elected president. The group launched in the year 2009, in April. They recruited members throughout Obama’s first term in office. Their tactics became more aggressive and more violent in 2014 after Obama’s reelection, and that notorious standoff against the federal government at Bundy Ranch. Since then, the Oath Keepers have evolved from an obscure group to a household name, a primary example of anti-government extremism. A group that literally stormed the seat of democracy in an effort to keep its chosen candidate in power against the will of the American people.

Speaker 1: (00:51)
Today, a judge declined to delay the trial of the leader of the Oath Keepers for seditious conspiracy. That first trial will now go ahead three weeks from now as planned. Also today, the ADL Center on Extremism released this report, unmasking just who the Oath Keepers really are. The ADL combed through more than 38,000 names listed on leaked Oath Keeper membership lists, and what did they find? They found that more than 370 members who work in law enforcement, they found more than a hundred members who are actively in the military and more than 80 members who are either running for or serving in public office as of August of this year.

Speaker 1: (01:38)
And it’s more than just those demographics, the Oath Keepers membership lists included religious figures, teachers, civil engineers, firefighters, EMTs, people from all parts of American society, all of which raises fresh concerns about the ability of this kind of anti-government extremist group to seep into our in law enforcement, into our government, into our daily lives.

Speaker 1: (02:04)
Joining us now is Oren Segal, vice president of the Center on Extremism at the ADL, the Anti-Defamation League. Oren, thank you for being here tonight.

Oren Segal: (02:12)

Speaker 1: (02:12)
So I want to get to the report in a minute, but I want to contextualize this for everybody who’s trying to make sense of this moment when it feels like violent extremism is surging in a way that I think shocks a lot of Americans. And we played that sound of Obama at the White House for a reason. It’s in his first term in office that the origin story of the Oath Keepers begins, right? What can you tell us about how Obama was a kind of catalytic event for this kind of extremist group?

Oren Segal: (02:41)
So the Oath Keepers, in a sense, when they were created, benefited from three things that were very problematic for them. One, a Democrat took office, Obama specifically. The second, social media began to really take off, so they were able to spread their message, amplify it to a whole new set of people. But the third was the financial crisis, we were in the wake of that. What happens during a financial crisis? People feel lost, they’ve actually lost a lot of their livelihood and they’re looking to explain away the suffering that they may feel on other people. Enter extremists, enter the Oath Keepers, who are also, by the way, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, slinging these types of accusations against the new president at that time. And so those three things were tapping into people’s concerns, their grievances and their fears and offering what they thought was an alternative to the tyrannical government.

Speaker 1: (03:39)
And then boom, four years later, or eight years later, I guess, they get Donald Trump who gives voice to a lot of this grievance, right? What happens in the run up to the 2020 election? What do you see in terms of Oath Keeper membership, about the sort of planning activities in and around this group? I mean, how is that a surge moment for them?

Oren Segal: (03:58)
Yeah, so it seems like many years ago, but the pandemic wasn’t that long, and during 2020 in particular, they used that as an opportunity to go out and protest vaccines and masks and any effort that they claimed would take away their rights and the rights of the people. And so this is part of their ongoing sort of conspiracy theories. They point to new world order, concentration camps around the country, that people are taking away their guns or their rights to not get a vaccine or put on a mask. And so they were using that moment at the time where an election was coming up. And then when the election happened, [inaudible 00:04:37], there was another conspiracy that was being spread from the highest office, from social media and they did what extremists do, they never miss an opportunity to exploit a crisis and try to win hearts and minds.

Speaker 1: (04:49)
And they recruit.

Oren Segal: (04:50)
And they recruit.

Speaker 1: (04:51)
And we’re seeing that again, right? I don’t know if it’s necessarily from the Oath Keepers, but the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago has… I mean, we have reporting, I think it’s from… Facebook is having to crack down on groups like the Boogaloo Boys who are a violent extremist group on the fringes, they’re recruiting in the wake of the FBI search. Again, because that feeds into this paranoid conspiracy that the government, the jackbooted thugs, the black helicopters are coming from them. Is the same true for the Oath Keepers, have you seen Mar-a-Lago as an inflection point in terms of recruitment?

Oren Segal: (05:22)
So the Oath Keepers, it’s important to note, I mean, are a bit in disarray. In part, because an insurrection happened, and we saw some accountability. Over 800 people are arrested, including a lot of Oath Keepers, right? Some of them facing seditious conspiracy charges.

Speaker 1: (05:36)
Stewart Rhodes.

Oren Segal: (05:37)
Right, Stewart Rhodes, their leader, ostensible leader, is arrested. His lawyer is arrested. So right now they’re actually in a moment where they’re not exactly sure what they should be doing, their activity is well down than it’s ever been, but this is where our report comes in, efforts to undermine our democratic institutions remain. Efforts, to not only for extremists to be part of the public discourse, but part of our public institutions, that continues, and that’s what we’re trying to shed light on.

Speaker 1: (06:07)
Let’s get to the report now. So the idea that you have people who are in government working actively against government and who have paranoid conspiracies about the government but who are representatives of said government is very confusing, I think, to a lot of people. How does that work? And why does that work?

Oren Segal: (06:24)
So the Oath Keepers are looking to recruit primarily from the Holy Trinity, if you will, law enforcement, military, first responders. And what they’re appealing to is this idea of an oath to defend the constitution. So they’re saying, “You all need to be part of our group, because you said you would defend the constitution, but not our government.” They separate the two. And so that’s why they’re able to appeal to those specific audiences, but really they’re just selling a range of conspiracy theories and trying again, to appeal to people based on patriotism.

Speaker 1: (06:57)
Well, and I’m sure having another Democrat in office helps them promote this idea that that government is bad and that the real government, the pro-constitution government in exile, if you will, is the thing they need to defend and fight for.

Speaker 1: (07:09)
What is so shocking in this report is the degree to which it is a widespread swath of American society, right? I mean, the fact that you’re talking about civil servants, teachers. And I will say there is not… I mean, the numbers themselves are large, but I think a lot of people will say, “Oh, well, we’re talking about a hundred here, 370 there.” What is revealed in the report is the degree to which these people are in turn influencers in their respective fields, right? I’ll read this quote from the report, “In some cases, individuals offered to use their positions in the military to spread the Oath Keepers message to those around them. A member of the Marine Corp noted, ‘I currently coordinate ground movements, I have influence on nearly 46,000 Marines and sailors.'” These guys are emissaries for a poisonous message, are they not? I mean, how do they think it works?

Oren Segal: (08:04)
It’s not just emissaries for poisonous message, these people are there to protect our communities, all of us. And so when you subscribe potentially to a membership list that is essentially a known extremist movement, they were an extremist movement when they started, they’re an extremist movement now, you’re not only legitimizing those points of view, but it’s not unreasonable for people to ask, “Well, they have access to information that normal people may not. What are they going to do with that?” And so this is about infiltrating our democratic institutions, creating fear and anxiety, and what we’re trying to do is shed light on the fact that we need to hold people accountable in this country. And you do that by sharing the data, data drives policy, understanding where the threats are coming from will help us be in a better place so that we can respond.

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