Just over fifteen years ago, not long before the bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, this writer experienced what he thought to be unusual happenings in and around Ponca City. Of course, nobody would expect anything not purely American to be transpiring in this broad geographic zone of peace and patriotism across north central Oklahoma. But, nevertheless, there were some peculiar happenings.
Ponca City was the home of an active low power television station at that time. It was available on cable and off the air. Mostly it ran old programming, and they had regular on-air auctions with some good and some poor merchandise selling cheap. These auctions were popular all around the Kay County area.
Then they began to try news and public affairs programming. The news effort was admirable, although weak. The public affairs programs were something weird.
Running the channels during the earlier of late-night hours, one might run into a panel, a guest interview, or maybe a call-in and call-up show. The host was a scraggly-looking young man gifted in neither looks nor wit. The topics of conversation were downright weird.
A frequent guest was a talkative, apparently well-informed, erudite man that one took to be an obscure local attorney. He talked a lot of about the law, going into great detail. Listening closely, one found to his dismay that this man was explaining why citizens did not have to pay taxes.
He found income taxes to be totally at odds with the law. Further, he did not believe in paying property taxes. He refused to pay either, he outlined his reasons clearly, and he recommended everyone join with him. He offered them legal advice and legal grounds for not paying taxes. Callers questioned the man, and many offered their support for his position.
Then, the call-up portions of programs involved calls to militia officers from around the country. There were calls to the head of the Texas militia, and even calls to the head of the well-known Michigan militia. And, yes, there were calls to the head of the Oklahoma militia, the existence of which was a new revelation to the casual, ordinary viewer.
Then there were topics related to common conspiracy threats seen by these folk. They were really upset by the Waco compound disaster, and they seemed to have an obsession against the federal ATF enforcement agency. The young host would often take calls and share information with militia chiefs about sightings and locations of black helicopters flying over or on trucks being moved or flown about in Oklahoma. One gathered this was in fear of the ATF, or some other federal agency.
This one listener became disturbed enough by all this that he wrote letters to various authorities, local, state, and national, calling their attention to what was transpiring – in case they did not know. Probably they did, and probably others reported in as well.
Shortly after, their little world fell apart. The man who posed as a lawyer was arrested for not paying property taxes and his property was seized. After trials, he ended up in jail. The young man disappeared. The little TV station was closed down for a while, to open later under new management.
Interestingly enough, this little scenario played only a short time before the domestic terrorist, anti-government actions of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building and killing 168 innocent people. On tapes McVeigh said he was not sorry and it had to be done – sounding similar to the Wichita abortion doctor murderer.
These people were all a part of a loose anti-government, anti-tax movement of the early 1990’s. Militias were forming all around the country, exercising their second amendment rights to arm themselves with military weapons. They conducted training exercises. There were anti-government threats and armed standoffs in Idaho as well as Texas. Nichols learned bomb-making from the Michigan militia folk. McVeigh and Nichols were associated at that time with an anti-government group in a compound in the hills of eastern Oklahoma.
These anti-government and militia groups were obvious threats then to the peace and lives of ordinary Americans. Their conspiracy plots developed and exploded into tragic instances of domestic violence and terrorism.
Since the Viet-Nam era, militia and anti-government groups flourish only when a democrat has been elected to the Whitehouse, never in republican administrations – even when there are plausible claims of a fraudulent election and constitutional violations. Coincidence?
Today, there are inflammatory signs and rhetoric brandished openly, with apparent protection as political expression or discourse. In the state Capitol there is talk by republicans, including one candidate for governor, of an Oklahoma militia to “resist the federal government.” What kind of nutty people do we have running the state now? To Oklahoma’s embarrassment, this has made the national news networks.
America is quite vulnerable to the enemies of democracy who lurk within our midst and pass themselves off as patriots. They love patriotic-sounding names. Democratic governments have that weakness as a part of their nature. So America must be cautious in allowing privileges of seditious speech, revolutionary conspiracy, and the brandishing of arms of rebellion. Good citizens should condemn such talk.
As Churchill once said, “Those who fail to heed the lessons of history are doomed to relive them.” So, during this time of intensifying anti-government political activities, and of revival of the militia movement, Americans should be fully aware of the potential consequences of the current traffic down that primrose path.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate