I’ve been working in the media for 34 years. (I don’t look a day over 83, I swear.) In that time, I’ve seen the Internet tear the gatekeepers’ playhouse down. ‘Bout ‘effing time, too. I’m not saying that the American mainstream media is overwhelmingly white, upper middle class and so biased towards the left that it makes the Leaning Tower of Pisa look like a T square. Oh wait. I am. As we wait for these dinosaurs to die off in favor of a new generation of net-savvy citizen journalists, we have to put up with the same old shit, with a different wrapper. This time out it’s Reutersaurus Rex that’s responsible for a reprehensible piece of reportorial rubbish, cobbled together from a single interview and a lazy ass pastiche of Google search results. Special Report: Rapid growth of militias feeds off politics by James B. Kelleher and Ed Stoddard starts as it means to finish: with an anecdotal “evidence” that illustrates nothing so much as the reporters’ prejudice and inability to gather anything remotely resembling facts.

But there is one small item that never leaves [Mike Lackomar’s] truck: a green nylon satchel Lackomar jokingly calls “the football,” a reference to the briefcase with codes for a nuclear strike kept close to the U.S. president. Inside, along with a pocket knife and a small first aid kit, is a sealed envelope containing codes, rallying points and detailed plans that Lackomar would use to mobilize his squad of armed citizen-soldiers in an emergency.

Lackomar is a team leader in the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia (SMVM), the largest and most visible of this state’s many small private armies. He is a husband, a father and a musician. But his favorite picture on his Facebook page shows him standing in front of a snowmobile trailer packed with rifles, clips and ammunition boxes, a picture he laughingly admits looks “like an evidence photo from the 6 O’clock News.”

The SMVM is one of 200 armed militias in the United States, a number that has quadrupled since 2008, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights watchdog, which says they may have 6,000 members and many other adherents.

OK, stop right there. The Anti-Defamation League is not an independent civil rights watchdog. It’s a Jewish organization founded to protect Jews from anti-semitism—that’s morphed into a group to secure “justice and fair treatment for all.” As a Jew, I feel free to say that there’s nothing wrong with the original concept, and everything wrong with citing the ADL as a source without mentioning its highly charged political agenda.

A good journalist, a journalist interested in exploring the facts of the matter, would either declare the ADL’s agenda or seek an independent source for data about the [supposed] growth in size and power of American militias. I’m thinking the FBI or some such law enforcement group.

I would also suggest that authors should have begun by defining terms. Just what IS a militia, anyway? Is it possible that there’s such a thing as a “good” private militia? I honestly don’t know. But the authors answered that question before they even began their article, and didn’t give us, the reader, a look in. For reference, check this from wellregulatedamericanmilitias.com:

WHAT WE ARE

A deterrent, defensive force. A first response mechanism to assist in times of disaster (i.e. hurricane, floods, etc). A chain of command (within each group) which we can use to offer leadership and assistance to our fellow citizens, community, and families. To defend against all enemies foreign and domestic!

WE ARE NOT

An offensive force. A racist or subversive group. A private army subject to the dictates of any individual, corporation, or other private group. An organization formed for sustained combat operations (a ‘standing army’). To be used as a forum or launching point to any particular or religious agenda.

We would like to clearly state that we are committed to a posture of defense, and do not advocate the unlawful targeting or overthrow of our form of government by any person or persons. This site is a place for the independent militia groups to come together to share training techniques and teach the correct unvarnished history of our Republic, our States, the formation of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and to teach & promote participatory citizenship.

I am entirely open to the possibility that this rhetoric is nothing but a smokescreen for domestic terrorists. But I am also open to the possibility that the people running this site, and members of America’s private militia, are genuine in their desire to protect the U.S. constitution through non-violent means. Give me a couple of days (and a nice fat Reuters salary), and I’ll give us both more information upon which an intelligent assessment could be made.

Too bad the liberal agenda on militias has been set in concrete: they’re all terrorists, with direct links to the Tea Party movement, who are also proto-terrorists, inspired by . . . Republicans. And the NRA. TTAG has documented this wonky analysis at some length. Too bad Reuters and NPR saw fit to pick up the politically biased ball and run with it.

Suffice it to say here, Kelleher and Stoddard are ready, willing and able to pronounce Lackomar guilty until proven innocent. This is as close as they get to presenting something in the fair and balanced department, under the sub-head “MILITIAS: HARMLESS UNTIL THEY ARE NOT.”

The United States is one of the few Western democratic countries that permit independent militias.

Their rapid growth coincides with a sharp rise in partisan rhetoric as the November U.S. congressional elections draw nearer. Depending on your perspective, they are either patriots or paranoid. Experts in law enforcement and academia are divided as to how big an actual threat they may pose. But they all agree on one thing: the groups are very well armed.

“Most (militia groups) are merely in the rhetorical and defensive stage,” said Brian Levin, professor of criminal justice at California State University and an expert on militias and domestic terrorism. “But we don’t know which groups are going to be benign and which are going to be small incubators for radicalism.”

Interesting that there are other Western democracies that permit (encourage?) independent militias. And those would be . . . ? Never mind.

Again with the misleading citations. Mr. Levin isn’t just some random egghead. He’s the Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, California State University.

I reckon the quote was taken out of context, as the Center’s missions statement asserts “Our Center only becomes concerned when people use these legitimate debates to promote violence, tactical falsehoods, and an attack on the pluralistic institutions of our democracy.”

Can you buy tactical falsehood body armor? Seriously folks, Lackomar’s SMVM seems well in-line with Levin’s criteria for WDFWTG (We Don’t F With Those Guys).

One Hutaree member who evaded the police dragnet asked a member of Lackomar’s group for help retrieving weapons and other supplies he had hidden at the group’s safe house.

Instead, he got some unexpected advice: Turn yourself in. The suspect ignored the SMVM member, who went to the police.

Far from joining a rebellion, Lackomar’s group and other militia members denounced the alleged plot and applauded the way the FBI and state police handled the raids.

“Nobody got hurt,” Lackomar said. “There weren’t any shots fired. They got everyone needed. They stopped the plan.”

Hang on. Doesn’t that kind of screw-up Keelher and Stoddard’s entire thesis that American militias are the enemy within? Don’t worry. The ace scribes know to avoid self-inflicted tactical falsehoods.

For that stance, Lackomar and other group members took some heat from what he calls “ultra-right ideologues” who consider the Hutaree victims of political persecution.

How vague is that? This would be the perfect place (a little late actually) to leave the laid-back Mr. Lackomar and get jiggy with the real bad guys. No such luck. But FINALLY we get to the good [gun] bits:

All self-respecting militias pack what they call “toys” and the SMVM is no exception. Lackomar, who never served in the armed forces, favors an AK-74 assault rifle, an updated version of the iconic Soviet AK-47. Others in the group with army or marine experience prefer the AR-15, a copy of the M16 they used in their military days.

One member, a vice president of a financial services firm who prefers to be identified only by his radio call name, uses a Spanish version of the Heckler & Koch G3, a gun with a terrific report that Lackomar says “will rattle your fillings.” Hence the man’s call name: Thumper.
“When he’s laying on the ground firing, the muzzle blast will dig trenches in front of him,” Lackomar says with a hint of envy.

Just a hint? Now that the writers have trotted-out the big guns, they seek the coupe de grace: proof that the SMVM are dangerous.

“The longtime discussion between militias has always been, ‘What is the final straw?'” Lackomar said. “Freedom of speech has to be the final line. If we find ourselves in a situation … where our freedom of assembly is suspended, demonstrations are outlawed or restricted, that’s going to be the tripwire that sets everything off.”

An assault on another militia group, like the Hutaree, could be a tripwire, too, Lackomar and others say. All it would have taken were for a few facts to be different.

“If what happened … was a true crackdown on militias by a government run amok,” he said, “not only would you have had the other units in Michigan say, ‘Stop,’ but it would have gone on all over the nation.”

When you see a vague supporting reference like “and others,” that’s what we in the parsing business call bullshit. What’s the bet Lackomar said NOTHING about the Hutaree being a tripwire.

OK, time to wrap up this bad boy. Time to connect the militia with the Tea Party.

The militia movement has no single national leader and it contains wildly divergent strains of thought, according to [a sample of one count him one] militia members and [a smattering of highly biased] experts. These include white supremacists and neo-Nazis; “Millenarians,” who say major social transformation is imminent; and believers in “Christian Identity,” a pro-white version of Christianity.

But the vast majority seem to be “constitutional” militias, fans of low taxes and small government — values similar to those of many conservatives and the Tea Party movement.

“Seem to be.” Don’t you just love it? Neither do I. The article ends in chaos, with bits missing and pasted in the wrong place. How fitting.

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2 Responses to Militia Madness: That’s What I Hate About the Media

  1. What a wonderful break-down of the article. And (finding my facebook pic) some in-depth research.

    I find it refreshing that many folks are reading between the lines of mass media.

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