Late last week, reporters discovered a video of racist anti-government rantings by a St. Louis County police officer working the streets of Ferguson. Media scrutiny quickly focused on the officer's incendiary language and policing methods, but few paused to scrutinize the group to whom he was addressing his comments.
The now-suspended cop in that hourlong video, Dan Page, was speaking to the St. Louis-area Oath Keepers, a national group of military and police veterans who claim to stand for Constitutional rights against tyranny. News reports understandably zeroed in on his unhinged remarks about blacks, Muslims, women, and the new world order. More audio emerged over the weekend of Page explaining to a right-wing radio host his beliefs "that the US is in danger of being folded into a one-world government after a series of orchestrated events, and that '99.9 percent' of sexual assault in the military is 'bogus.'"
But not enough is being written about the inherent contradiction in Page's affiliations. Here was a police officer, shutting down media and largely peaceful demonstrators, participating in a heavy-handed, "militarized" law enforcement response on the streets of Ferguson... at the same time that he claimed kinship with a "patriot" group whose very stated mission is to prevent and resist militarized tyranny in the United States.
The Oath Keepers are a slippery organization, often as difficult to get a handle on as the many-headed tea party hydra. Formed during the 2008 election cycle out of anti-Hillary fears that the federal government would use its counterterrorism powers to declare war on its citizens, set up concentration camps, and institute a military state, the Oath Keepers have been a central hub for "patriotic" paranoiacs and preppers, drawn from military and law enforcement ranks.
They turned out in droves to defend racist old rancher Cliven Bundy in his land dispute. They left Bundy's side after taking seriously an unfounded rumor that Barack Obama and Eric Holder were going to hit their Nevada compound with drone strikes. They talk about disobeying tyrannical orders from socialist presidents and governors. They love Alex Jones' Infowars and conspiracy theories du jour.
And yet. For all their delusions, the Oath Keepers seem tailor-made to counter the surreal overarmed police state that may have played a role in Michael Brown's death by cop in Ferguson, and that has ebbed and flowed through the streets there ever since. The oath that Oath Keepers keep is to disobey a set of orders they believe may be given by government authorities. Hence they swear, in part:
- We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
- We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.
- We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.
In other words—minus the incendiary and frankly dumb "concentration camp" rhetoric—the Oath Keepers should be as hopping mad about the police response in St. Louis County as anyone. If they have members and sympathizers on the police forces involved, you'd think those members would be marching off the job, joining the protests, organizing as many cross-country treks to Ferguson by their far-off counterparts as they did to protect a land-grabbing peckerwood in Bunkerville, Nevada.
It hasn't worked out that way. Look at Dan Page.
In fairness to the St. Louis area Oath Keepers, some of them have gone out to the tamest demonstrations in Ferguson. They have sent an angry open letter to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon saying, "The militarized police response we saw in Ferguson did not work"—though they haven't said how many of their members are part of that militarized police response. They have denounced Page's acts and said he was merely one of many speakers at their group, not a member. "In my opinion, his actions in Ferguson show that he is an oath breaker," one representative of the group wrote on Facebook, adding, "what he said in his presentation was cowardly and hateful."
Apparently, some of that Oath Keeper's colleagues disagree, because Page's rant is still on the St. Louis Oath Keepers home page, alongside videos on "Prepping Basics," "Drip Irrigation for Your Home Garden," shooting instructions, climate change lies, and "Colloidal or Ionic Silver: It's [sic] medical uses and how to make it at home."
Why is it that the liberty-loving, government-loathing patriots who have for so long warned of a tank-driving, brutal police state were so willing to put their lives on the line for a Cliven Bundy, but not a Ferguson, Missouri? What is the critical difference between the Ferguson protesters, and these resisters of government power:
And what of the Oath Keepers, and other "patriots" on the police forces in St. Louis County? Who, if anybody, keeps count of them? Judging from how few cops have walked off the job, it seems that either there aren't as many Oath Keeper types in the ranks as these groups would have you believe... or else, like Dan Page, they really have no problem with aggressive policing when they're the police.