The patriot movement is a collection of various conservative, independent, largely rural, small government, social movements in the United States that include organized militia members, tax protesters, sovereign or state citizens, quasi-Christian apocalypticists/survivalists, and combinations thereof. Adherents describe the movement as centered on a belief that individual liberties are in jeopardy due to unconstitutional actions taken by elected government officials, appointed bureaucrats, and some special interest groups outside of government, to illegally accumulate power. Journalists and researchers have associated the patriot movement with the right-wing militia movement and some in the movement with illegal acts of violence. United States law enforcement groups "call them dangerous, delusional and sometimes violent."
Major events in America which alarm or inspire the patriot movement include the 1992 Ruby Ridge siege, the 1993 Waco siege and the 1996 Summer Olympics. After declining from 1996 to 2008, the number of patriot groups has increased dramatically following the election of Barack Obama to the presidency. Other factors leading to the increase in groups include the rise of social media, the rise of globalism, the Great Recession and its aftermath, and, to the small White Supremacist branch of the patriot movement, increasing ethnic diversity in the United States. The movement's iconography centers on themes relating to the American Revolution, such as the colonial Minuteman, the 13-star Betsy Ross flag, Uncle Sam, and the Archibald Willard painting "The Spirit of '76".
Some date the movement back to the 1950s. The reformist wing of the patriot movement is considered to have begun in 1958 with the formation of the John Birch Society and opposition to communism, the United Nations and the civil rights movement. An insurgent wing has been traced in origins to the Liberty Lobby active in the 1950s with promotion of themes of White supremacy and antisemitism.
In the early 1990s, the patriot movement saw a surge of growth spurred by the confrontations at Ruby Ridge and Waco. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was carried out by two patriot movement members, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. During the 1990s the movement organized using "gun shows and the Internet". The movement was highly active in the mid-1990s, and at a peak in 1996 contained around 800 separate groups. It saw decline in the late 1990s.
In 2009, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) expressed concern about a resurgent patriot movement, and the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a report warning of heightened "Rightwing Extremism". The SPLC attributed this growth to "an angry backlash against non-white immigration and ... the economic meltdown and the climb to power of an African American president." It reported that the number of patriot groups grew from 149 in 2008, to 824 in 2010, to 1,274 in 2011 and 1,360 in 2012. According to the SPLC, "That explosive growth seems to have been driven by the election of our first black president and the approaching loss of a white majority in the U.S. that he represents. Another driver is the crash of the economy, which coincided neatly with the rise to national power of President Obama."
The SPLC found that while "there are many people" in the patriot movement "that aren't engaged in illegal activity,” the "normalizing of conspiracy theories"—such as the belief that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is building concentration camps; rumors of covert plans by Mexico to repatriate parts of the Southwest; and concerns about Muslim Sharia law becoming part of the US court system—has played into the growth of the groups.
An extremist member of the patriot movement carried out the 2009 anti-abortion murder of George Tiller, and some extremists within the movement also have expressed support for Joseph Stack's 2010 plane crash into an Internal Revenue Service office.
The movement was connected to, and received a boost in profile from, the 2014 Bundy standoff and 2016 Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Two members of the movement, Jerad Miller and Amanda Miller, killed two police officers and a civilian during a violent shooting rampage in Las Vegas after leaving the Bundy standoff; they pinned a note to one of their victims saying "This is the beginning of the revolution."
Various patriot movement aligned groups have frequently been described as racist, extremist, anti-semitic, and violent by groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, Anti-Defamation League, and the FBI.
Descriptions of the patriot movement include:
- A diverse movement with as its common thread a growing dissatisfaction with and alienation from government, the willingness to use military force to defend their rights, and a conspiratorial eschatology;
- A brand of politics historically associated with paleoconservatives, paleolibertarians, militia groups, anti-immigration advocates, and those who argue for the abolition of the Federal Reserve;
- A movement outspoken regarding the U.S. Constitution, particularly the Second and Fourteenth Amendments; as a result, some members refuse to pay their income taxes, and some groups operate their own common-law legal system.
In addition, the patriot movement has been associated with the following views:
- Support of the paramilitary militia movement, such as the Michigan Militia
- Religious views focused on finding "signs of the end of times"
- Suspicion regarding surveillance
Elements of the patriot movement have expressed support for various conspiracy theories:
- Federal government involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing (Convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh was "heavily involved in the patriot movement" and the bombing was modeled after one of the missions in a white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries, "one of McVeigh's favorite books".)
- Federal government involvement in the John F. Kennedy assassination
- 9/11 conspiracy theories
- Numerous Sandy Hook conspiracy theories
- A New World Order, possibly in the form of a United Nations takeover.
In addition to the militia movement, which is said to have come out of the patriot movement, the patriot movement is often associated with the sovereign citizen movement, whose adherents believe that "most US law doesn't apply to them."
Groups that have been mentioned in association with the patriot movement include
- John Birch Society
- League of the South
- Militia of Montana
- Michigan Militia
- "The Oath Keepers" was founded in March 2009 by Stewart Rhodes in Lexington, Massachusetts. The organization consists of current and former U.S. military personnel and law enforcement officials who have taken an oath to refuse to obey and/or enforce orders and/or federal laws which they deem unconstitutional. The Oath Keepers as a group have grown to include chapters in many states across America.
- The 3% United Patriots was founded in 2014 by Mike Morris and Mitch Nerem in Colorado. The group, commonly referred to as "3Up" defines itself as a national network of Patriots, instead of the centralized command structure most Patriot groups have adopted. The group gained notoriety when it was featured by the Vice television series during its "We the People" episode, which featured the growth of militia groups in America.
- Christian Patriot movement
- Constitutional militia movement
- Domestic terrorism in the United States
- List of organizations designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups
- Militia organizations in the United States
- Oath Keepers
- Radical right
- Second American Revolution
- Sovereign citizen movement
- Tea Party movement
- Right-wing Counterculture Uses Waco as Rallying Cry| Herald-Journal 24 April 1995
- AMERICAN MILITIAS: Rebellion, Racism & Religion by Richard Abanes, review by Dennis L. Feucht in American Scientific Affiliation.
- John Wallace, American Patriot Movement
- The age of anxiety: conspiracy theory and the human sciences By Jane Parish
- Salon.com Books | America's homegrown terrorists
- Winerip, Michael (June 23, 1996). "Ohio Case Typifies the Tensions Between Militia Groups and Law". The New York Times.
- Sullivan, Kevin. "Primed to Fight The Government". Washington Post.
- Report: 'Explosive' Growth Of 'Patriot Movement' And Militias Continues by Mark Memmott npr.org 13 March 2012
- Wright, Stuart T. (2007). Patriots, politics, and the Oklahoma City bombing. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 54–55. ISBN 0-521-87264-2.
...marking the genesis of a Patriot narrative. The Birch Society was founded in 1958 by Robert Welch,...
- Michael, George C. (2003). Confronting right-wing extremism and terrorism in the USA. New York: Routledge. pp. 44–47. ISBN 0-415-31500-X.
- Matthew Lyons, Chip Berlet (2000). Right-wing populism in America: too close for comfort. New York: Guilford Press. pp. 288–289. ISBN 1-57230-562-2.
The Patriot movement was bracketed on the reformist side by the Birch Society and the conspiracist segment of the Christian Right and on the insurgent side by the Liberty Lobby and groups promoting themes historically associated with White supremacy and antisemitism.
- Janofsky, Michael (April 11, 1996). "Closer Watch of Paramilitary Groups Is Urged". The New York Times.
- Michel, Lou. "American Terrorist", 2001.
- Online NewsHour:Militia Movement - April 3, 1997
- "Militias 'in retreat'". BBC News. May 11, 2001.
- "Patriots No More". CBS News. April 19, 2001.
- Militia movement on the rise - 22 August 2009 - MiamiHerald.com
- Report: militia activity on the rise in US / The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com
- Carty, Daniel (April 16, 2009). "Homeland Security Chief Defends Report On Right Wing Extremists". CBS News.
- Gaynor, Tim (March 4, 2010). "U.S. right-wing groups, militias surge: study". Reuters.
- Right-wing 'patriot' groups girding for actual class warfare, report says By Patrik Jonsson | csmonitor.com | 8 March 2012
- Potok, Mark (November 2, 2013). "Hatewatch Exclusive: Alleged LAX Shooter Referenced 'Patriot' Conspiracy Theories". Southern Poverty Law Center.
- Berlet, Chip (June 3, 2009). "Anti-Abortion Violence and the Right-Wing Patriot Movement". Huffington Post.
- Seeking Clues on Suspect in Shooting of Doctor - NYT.com
- Patriot Movement Calling Joe Stack a Hero - ABC News
- "Key Events and Crimes of the Patriot Movement". SPLCenter.org. April 15, 2015. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
- "THE 'PATRIOT' MOVEMENT TIMELINE". SPLCenter.org. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
- "The Oath Keepers: Anti-Government Extremists Recruiting Military and Police". ADL.org. September 16, 2015. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
- "Terrorism in the United States 1996" (PDF). FBi.gov. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
- Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right By DAVID BARSTOW| nyt.com 15 February 2010
- Patriot Movement is Alive and Well in the US Los Angeles Daily News 26 December 1994 |(Wilmington NC, Star-News Google News Archive Search
- Janofsky, Michael (May 31, 1995). "Demons and Conspiracies Haunt a 'Patriot' World". The New York Times.
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Google News Archive Search
- Zaitchik, Alexander (2010). "'Patriot' Paranoia: A Look at the Top Ten Conspiracy Theories". Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center. Fall 2010 (139). Retrieved May 27, 2014.
- Lampart, Andrew (July 4, 2013). "Sandy Hook Massacre: Did It Really Happen? A Look at the Conspiracies". Patriot News Organization (PNO). Retrieved May 27, 2014.
- Nugent, Karen (October 23, 2009). "Ready to Protect: Former Bolton Chief Focuses On Constitution". Telegram & Gazette. Retrieved October 24, 2009.
- HBO Vice Series, Episode "We the People" 2014
- Mason, Lorna L. (July 31, 2008). The New World Order: The American Patriot Movement, Globalization and Resistance. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Sheraton Boston and the Boston Marriott Copley Place, Boston, Massachusetts.
- Active groups listed by Southern Poverty Law Center
- Patriot Movement page on the Southern Poverty Law Center website.