Left Coast Right Watch

OATH KEEPERS THEATRE ACT I: HYPE, LIES AND COMMS FAILURES

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by MICHAEL BOORMAN

UPDATE 10 OCTOBER 2021 9:30PM: A timeline document of the J6 riot was previously reported as being created by the Oath Keepers' legal team. It was, in actuality, created by a Twitter user as crowd-sourced tool for identifying capitol rioters. The section about it has been removed.

In early October, journalistic nonprofit Distributed Denial of Secrets released a trove of data collected from the Oath Keepers website. LCRW has been studying the material since the release. It reveals an organization mired in dysfunction and distrust – its membership directionless and often paranoid, its administration slipshod and laughably insecure, and its leadership seemingly running away from the members. Most of all, it shows the grandiose claims of its founder, Stuart Rhodes, are little more than hype and lies.

THE TROUBLES IN JANUARY

Oath Keepers had ended 2020 in disarray. The organization’s never-stellar reputation had been badly tarnished by its links to fascist and white supremacist groups since the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Members were angry and fearful – outraged by COVID lockdowns and then appalled by the nationwide riots that erupted following the police murder of George Floyd and repression of peaceful demonstrations. Despite their military garb and morale patches being a common sight at right-wing demonstrations, Oath Keepers stayed on the sidelines – wary of the rush to violence by the Boogaloo movement and another accelerationist tendencies, and unwilling to become a political football in a bitter general election campaign. But when Donald Trump lost the election, frustrations boiled over.

In online chat messages first published by Unicorn Riot last November, Oath Keepers rank and file members expressed their fury and desire for action. “Antifa want to abolish our Constitution and replace it with a Marxist one. You better plan on taking some out, or they win,” said one. Another proclaimed that the time had come “to start killing the news media live on air.” That anger was quickly redirected though – into elaborating and promoting Trump’s standby plan to claim the election had been stolen. One post, worth quoting in full, sums it up:

"Isn't it amazing how even though we are all so angry that we're ready to load our shotguns and clean the swamp right now, today, we still don't rush out and do it. We know we have time on our side. We know the fraud is out in the open for everyone to see. We know the fake ballots will mostly be identified and discarded. We are extremely pissed off, yet we have the discipline to let the legal challenges run their course, and we know the states we need will be forced to show the real results of Trump's win. Because we are good people. We have morals. We have the law. We have the constitution, all of that on our side."

Just two months later, Oath Keepers were storming the Capitol in Washington DC.

There’s a lot we don’t know about January 6. Although hundreds of militant Trump supporters were arrested in the weeks and months afterward, and their conduct documented in a blizzard of legal filings, , the full picture remains elusive. Prosecutors and defense lawyers are tight lipped in public, though arguing furiously behind the scenes over plea bargains, admissibility of evidence, and the very nature of the crimes alleged. It seems unlikely that any of the major cases will be resolved this year.

But we do know that Oath Keepers were among the first to be arrested. Federal prosecutors allege that members Donovan Crowl, Kelly Meggs, and Jessica Watkins - among others - played a key tactical role in the storming of the capitol. Pictures of them in battledress, body armor, and wearing their Oath Keepers patches as they charge through the crowd have become iconic images of the day. But the charges they face are more serious than just pushing through police lines and entering the building. The government claims the group conspired at length, planning and recruiting the action weeks in advance; that their goal all along was not just to protest but to take over the Capitol; and that they stored a large cache of firearms, planning to use them to secure the perimeter once they had taken control.

Prosecutors have also asserted that Stewart Rhodes was an active participant in a Signal chat called “DC OP: Jan 6 21” along with many of those charged. Rhodes himself has not been charged with any crime at the time of writing.

two men shout at the front of a crod inside the capitol building, one on the right in a blue hoodie and oath keepers hat pointing
John Schaffer of Indiana, right, inside the Capitol building wearing his Oath Keepers Lifetime Member hat. Schaffer took a plea deal for his role on January 6th and is cooperating with the FBI. Photo from FBI charging documents.

The public backlash over J6 was swift and harsh. Calls flooded into FBI tiplines. News anchors delivered breathless explainers on the organizations and personalities that make up the far right. Liberal e-celebs who days before had been telling antifascist counter-protesters that they were part of the problem rebranded themselves overnight as ‘sedition hunters’, poring over footage one moment and counting the degrees of separation from Donald Trump the next.

Even before charges were announced, Oath Keepers were feeling the heat. While the Proud Boys had opted to dispense with their signature black and yellow outfits that day, the Oath Keepers who took part in J6 wore their t-shirts and morale patches with pride. After 12 years of carefully branding Oath Keepers as the most selective, most capable, and most committed network of hard core patriots, Stewart Rhodes suddenly found himself accused of organizing a coup against the United States.

The organization’s chat page abruptly went dark, depriving members of a vital communications channel. Email communications likewise shut down. While Rhodes and his lieutenants figured out their next move, rank and file members and donors found themselves condemned from all sides.

RIGHTING THE DIGITAL SHIP

It’s unclear whether Oath Keepers website service providers cut them off completely, or whether the leadership decided to dump as much of their digital history as possible and start over. The DDOSecrets dump contains a wide variety of data, but only a few very old spam and blank test emails prior to 2021.

But on January 12, the lights flickered back on. A mass email went out to the membership with the title ‘Oath Keepers ~ Taking Flak From Left Wing Assault.’ The text was short and to the point:

Oath Keepers and patriots, Oath Keepers has been attacked by the hostile radical left. Our server provider, LiquidWeb has shown its colors and caved to the Loony Left. We will recover and are working to rebuild a communications and membership website. Please use your training and adapt to the new environment. Keep your cool and know that we are all in this together. Use this time to tweak your local communications with one and other. The website and platforms are being rebuilt, stay the course. Stewart Rhodes, Founder of Oath Keepers will be making an announcement later today.

Behind the calm tone, Edward Durfee Jr. was sweating. A life member of Oath Keepers (# 2116), he also managed the membership database, customer support, and billing for the whole organization. Based in New Jersey, where he was also running for State Assembly, he was comfortable doing all the IT support – under normal circumstances.

An elderly caucasian man neatly dressed in a dark jacket and Oath Keepers ballcap stands in front of flags for the Marine Corp and USA at an outdoor event
Edward Durfee, the Oath Keepers' membership director and webmaster. Photo by Chris Pedota for northjersey.com.

But now their main website - oathkeepers.org – was offline after their hosting provider had unceremoniously dumped them. There was a backup website at oathkeepers.nyc maintained by another Oath Keeper called Brett Wynkoop, but it was old and barely functional, and few active members were familiar with it. Like many other right wing website operators who had suddenly lost their internet presence, Durfee reached out to domain registrar Epik, who quickly agreed to host the Oathkeepers – for a price.

An old and poorly-designed website featuring 'Don't tread on me' flags and bombastic appeals to patriotism with a half-loaded banner displaying the oath keepers yellow and black logos
Oathkeepers.nyc – the online online presence after J6. LCRW’s Editor in Chief lost patience waiting for the banner image to load, hence it appears incomplete in this screenshot.

But it would take several days to get the domain transferred, and Durfee had other problems – big problems. The most recent backup of the website was from July of 2020 and now it was January 2021. Restoring from an outdated backup is like trying to find a set of keys you lost last year. Durfee didn’t even have an up to date membership list: that information had disappeared with the website, and reconstructing it would take time he didn’t have.

Amateur internet sleuths were already identifying individuals in the Oath Keepers contingent on J6, and journalists from around the world were speculating on which of them were paid-up members. Durfee was in no position to answer them. To cap it all, many former supporters were shocked and angered by the events at the Capitol. If they couldn’t reach the website, they would assume the worst and the membership rolls that Durfee had patiently curated for years would wither away.

Durfee had to get word out to as many members as possible, but with no website and no working email, his options were limited. But he had a backup plan, of sorts. Since late 2020 he had been working with GetResponse, an email marketing company that made it easy to reach tens of thousands at short notice – an essential tool for a political organization like the Oath Keepers.

Durfee had had mixed results with the service so far, struggling to import mailing list data or resolve minor billing issues. But this was an emergency, and GetResponse was the only tool he had to reach most of the members at once. Adapt to the new environment. He hit send.

That solved one problem, but Durfee knew he needed help. He got it from Brett Wynkoop, a committed member of Oath Keepers since 2013 based in Brooklyn, NY who ran the NYC chapter site and several others for the organization. Wynkoop was an experienced Unix system administrator and understood the Oathkeepers digital infrastructure better than anyone. While Durfee negotiated a monthly hosting agreement with Epik, Wynkoop focused on getting the website and email systems back up and running.

on the left, A balding middle-aged caucasian man with a short beard grins for a portrait and on the right, a revolutionary war sea captain's portrait where he wears a fancy coat and big naval hat of the time
Brett Wynkoop (left), aka ‘John Paul Jones’, managed the Oath Keepers digital infrastructure. Pictured next to him is his namesake, John Paul Jones, a Revolutionary War naval commander who had a history of killing his crewmen during wage disputes.

But whereas Durfee was comfortable being known as an Oath Keeper and a public point of contact for the organization, Wynkoop was not. He decided to use an alias for all his Oath Keepers system work, and settled on ‘John Paul Jones’, one of the first American naval commanders during the revolutionary war era. Wynkoop stuck rigorously to his assumed identity, signing all messages with a terse ‘/JPJ’ and insisting on strict communications security. The nautical persona was not just a whim: Wynkoop had pursued a degree in nautical science before going into computing, had joined the Navy Reserve, and was licensed to pilot ships up to 100 tons.

One day after Durfee’s terse update, Stewart Rhodes delivered the address members had been waiting for. ‘Red Alert!! OATH KEEPERS WARNING ORDER PART I’ read the subject line, and it took off from there. From the outset, Rhodes launched into a furious tirade:

_As always, Oath Keepers stands in defense of the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. What is now being installed is not a constitutional government. It’s an illegitimate regime that has unjustly taken power through massive vote fraud, to install a ChiCom puppet who will do the bidding of a mortal enemy of this nation, as well as the bidding of international elites who are in allegiance and alliance with the CCP as they pursue a common goal of destroying our Republic and enslaving the American people._

The email went on at great length in the same paranoid vein. Oath Keepers were advised to prepare a total shutdown of the internet and to meet and network in person as urgently as possible – but also to beware of traps and not to trust anyone.

Rhodes promised to supply his members with a more detailed game plan in Part II of his email, but first he felt the need to address President Trump directly, urging him to use his extraordinary powers to stop the ‘theft’ of the election, and declassify all sorts of secret data which would supposedly expose the ‘Deep State’ once and for all. In case Trump was not motivated by higher principles, Rhodes warned that he might end up in the same position as the Russian royal family who were massacred by communists in 1917, and urging Trump to ‘embrace destiny.’

But a week on from J6, Rhodes had little confidence in Trump, and even admitted as much later in the email. Instead he urged his membership to prepare themselves for immediate action – moving their communications to radio, stocking up and food and fuel, being ready to leave home at a moment’s notice. Members were ordered to provide for their own family’s security, then immediately organize militias at the county level, and establish networked communication across every state.

If any members thought this was too paranoid or bombastic, Rhodes had an answer for that: that was what the Founders did when confronted with an illegitimate government, and it worked. “There is nothing new under the sun. Let us adapt their game plan to our current situation,” he concluded, adding “See Part II for more on that.”

But Part II never arrived. GetResponse, the email marketing company that had thrown the Oath Keepers a lifeline, now cut them off.

Durfee had made a lot of progress in just a few days. He had rallied the troops, got a basic email inbox functioning, and his fellow Oath Keeper Wynkoop had come onboard to help. Responses to Rhodes’ impassioned missive were trickling in and many seemed positive. But then GetResponse sent a curt email to inform Durfee that the Oath Keepers account had been deactivated for violating the terms of service. The emphasis on weapons and martial activity did not suit the owners of the marketing firm, and their legal department advised them to pull the plug. “The situation is unfortunate, however, your account activity has dictated this response,” it concluded.

Durfee responded within hours, appealing for them to reconsider. Although Wynkoop was busy setting up the new servers, the Oath Keepers were far from ready to communicate with the the public, and incoming emails were still asking where the website was. GetResponse was the Oath Keepers only way to reach the members in a hurry. Worse, they had the only current copy of the Oath Keepers mailing list. “Can I get back in to download my stuff? One time login?” Durfee begged the customer service representative. “No, you cannot.” the company replied.

Durfee persisted, pleading over and over to get his data out of the GetMessage system so he would at least have a list of email addresses to work with. Eventually the firm relented and allowed him to download it – though he required 3 attempts because he seemed unable to enter the password correctly.

Meanwhile, incoming emails were starting to pile up. New inquiries were coming in every day, but it was hard to tell which were sincere. Existing members wrote to ask what had happened to payments they had made a month earlier. And strangers wrote to lambast them as traitors or mock them as deluded cosplayers. But Durfee was distracted by a worrying new trend: credit card transactions were starting to fail.

Edward Durfee was in charge of revenue as well as membership, and during January made regular withdrawals from Rallypay, an online payment processor, into the Oath Keepers bank account, sometimes withdrawing as much as $3000 in a single day, and rarely under $1000.

But as January waned, a new problem manifested: frequent messages from Rallypay warning that recurring monthly donations were failing. And not just one or two, but in clusters of ten and twenty. Among thousands of donors, some of that is to be expected - a certain number of credit and debit cards expire each month, and their owners don’t always remember to or care to renew their payment information.

But among the many payment failures was a troubling number of cancellations, and ever more troubling chargebacks – where a cardholder cancels a transaction and the money is immediately withdrawn from the payees account, along with a painfully large fee. Designed to protect consumers against fraud or damaged goods, chargebacks are a headache for merchants and fundraisers. Money often disappears from accounts with no warning and the fees can pile up quickly.

This was now hitting Oath Keepers. Fundraising had been strong during the election season, but hundreds of dollars disappearing on a daily basis would soon add up to many thousands in lost revenue over the course of a month. Was the well running dry? Durfee swung into action, contacting unhappy members to ask why they used a chargeback and politely offering them a voluntary refund instead, to avoid the $30 fees. Durfee continued to withdraw money to the bank account, but by the end of January he was taking out sums like $500/day instead of $1-2000 per day he had been used to - a precipitous fall.

Meanwhile, Brett Wynkoop was busy. Starting work on January 17, he quickly rebuilt the digital plumbing for the website and established a more secure email server. He spent days testing, then recreating the mail boxes for state chapters and senior members, as well as restoring the website from the backup made the previous July.

As he worked, Wynkoop couldn’t ignore the massive national guard presence that flooded into DC and many state capitols as the date of Joe Biden’s inauguration approached. Disgusted by the growing media backlash against the Oath Keepers, he was also troubled by the lack of pushback. He had dedicated years of his life to building the New York state chapter of Oath Keepers and now, it seemed, tyranny had arrived in the nation’s capital – but the Oath Keepers were silent.

After discussing the matter with Rhodes, he drafted a stinging press release accusing the press of defaming the Oath Keepers, denying that they were a militia and that two high profile arrestees, Thomas Caldwell and Donovan Crowl, had ever been members. Others, like Jessica Watkins were members, he admitted - but they had acted on their own initiative. He closed by comparing the American media to Pravda and bewailing the state of the Republic.

On the evening of January 22nd, he sent the draft to Stewart Rhodes, following up with a reminder that Rhodes should rely on his official oathkeepers.org account instead of his personal gmail. Rhodes didn’t reply and there’s no indication that the press release ever went out. Nevertheless, LCRW has made it viewable here.

Wynkoop took a break for several days but returned in early February to help Durfee build an up to date membership database. Durfee had backed up the records of everyone who had ever been a member of or donor too Oath Keepers, but the information about current members was months out of date. Additionally, many members had canceled since January 6 and many of the emails in their database were no longer working.

Wynkoop saw a way around the problem: Rallypay sent detailed records of incoming payments, and there was enough information in there to figure out who was a dues-paying member or just a donor. Durfee appreciated his help but struggled to understand his advice; eventually Wynkoop grew frustrated and wrote the program himself.

In truth, both men were stressed. After Durfee had sent the two mass emails in January, 10 or 20 bounced back every day as undeliverable. That was normal when emailing tens of thousands of people at once. But at the beginning of February, the number jumped to over 2,000 a day. Nothing was getting through. Nevertheless, Durfee persisted. He even managed to spin his failure into one of the emails he tried to send out on February 12th.

a painting of bombers dropping bombs and exploding mid-air as the header image of an email
Oath Keepers try to spin their technical ineptitude and communications failures into a fundraising opportunity.

“You know you are over the target when you are getting such heavy flack [sic],' the email reads. But rather than the wave of donations he hoped for, many recipients responded with anger or contempt.

“Jesus Christ..!! EVERY SOB has their hands out wanting $$$. Give it a frigging rest, dudes..!! The govt is not going to fail or succeed if I don’t give you some of my $$$, ok?? Shit…!!,” an irate member of their mailing list responded.

“Unsub me you fascist fucks. What the fuck happened to you. Keep sucking Trump dick. I follow the constitution,” another wrote.

Because Durfee had sent two mass emails while the website was still dark, automated systems at Comcast, Verizon, and other internet infrastructure firms had decided that any email coming from oathkeepers.org was spam. Instead of delivering email from Oath Keepers, they were simply dumping it. Resolving the issue took miserable days of pleading with technical staffers.

The communications blackout was killing the organization. Though senior members were able to communicate via Signal or through their personal emails, they desperately needed a way to rally the members. Chat rooms had been one of the most popular features on the old website: members could log in every day and be in touch with thousands of other Oath Keepers in real time.

The chat rooms ran on software called RocketChat; although Wynkoop had no experience with it, he figured he could set it up himself on the new website, and the familiarity would help to bring people back. While Durfee struggled with the rising tide of credit card chargebacks and membership cancellations, Wynkoop worked round the clock to figure out the RocketChat software and get it functioning.

By the start of March he was ready. It was just in time: the balance in the Oath Keepers' RallyPay account had fallen to almost nothing, and there sometimes wasn’t enough to process refunds to departing members. On March 2nd, RallyPay barred Oath Keepers from any further fundraising or collection activity. Two days later, Durfee made the last withdrawal from their account: eighteen dollars and eighty two cents.

Wynkoop was pleased to have gotten the RocketChat software working, but it hadn’t all been smooth sailing. The documentation was patchy and incomplete and some things just didn’t seem to be working, like user avatars. But it was working well enough for Wynkoop to set up his own account - as ‘JPJ’ - and add Durfee and five other senior Oath Keepers to test the system. On March 9, satisfied that it worked, Wynkoop added approximately 4,500 users.

After a virtual communications blackout lasting two months, the Oath Keepers were networked again, now on their own, secure platform…or so they thought.

And they had plenty to say.

INTO THE CHATROOMS

2021-03-09 9:18:30 bambam

Good morning fellow Patriots from Wisconsin, Good to be back on line.

2021-03-09 09:21:55 kentucky-patriot

Hello from Kentucky!

2021-03-09 09:40:13 jasonk

New Jersey here!

2021-03-09 09:41:48 jasonk

The Communist FEAR the AMERICAN PATRIOT!

The first days were full of old friends catching up, swapping narratives about the stolen election, censorship, January 6, and how fast the country was going to hell. Although most members were delighted to be back in the loop after so long, some others expressed disquiet about security and organizational issues:

2021-03-10 03:31:35 Bravo-Golf \[...\] if it's anything like it was before I won't be hanging around for long. No vetting process and a lack of leadership direction and or comms. I waited 6 weeks to be vetted then the lead left the group with zero communication. I was vetted in 2 days by a new group replacing a disbanded group.

2021-03-10 03:34:24 greywolf
Comms are key! Without comms, you cannot organize! Leadership and Comms are needed at this time! We cannot let out country fail to tyranny!

Members had many questions about the chat app - Could they change username? Where were the state chats? Could they upload files yet? Was the server really secure? What time was it?

(Sharp-eyed LCRW readers may have noticed that chat timestamps suggest the Oath Keepers were holding many conversations in the middle of the night. For technical reasons we won’t bore you with, the server was running on London time, 6-8 hours ahead of US timezone. LCRW has opted to leave the timestamps alone for the sake of accuracy.)

Wynkoop (as JPJ, the system administrator) was kept busy trying to answer them all. The first day with everyone back had been exhausting for him. But he was excited - very excited - to announce that the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes (sometimes refrred to as SR in the chats), was dropping in to rally the troops.

2021-03-11 02:58:21 jpj For those that do not know I am 1/2 of the OK Tech Squad and I try to hold together the behind the lines operation in NYC which has precious few men.

2021-03-11 03:00:09 jpj
SR ON THE PHONE WITH ME NOW

2021-03-11 03:00:23 jpj
HE is getting on now.

Though Rhodes had been outside the Capitol on J6 and had not been arrested, the Oath Keepers were at the center of the growing legal investigations and Rhodes had kept a low profile since. The email blast he had sent out in January had never reached many of the members because it had been mistakenly designated as spam. After 2 months of radio silence, the Oath Keepers were eager for answers – and motivation.

Rhodes started with a bang, saying the stakes couldn’t be higher:

2021-03-11 03:08:42 stewart-rhodes HEADS UP! We are in a legal fight right now, against the deep state and their Marxist allies, who are repeating the exact same gameplay as the Gestapo and KGB. We are being subjected to a stalinistic purge/persecution campaign against patriots, and we are enemy number one. Just recognize that reality.

He then launched into an explanation of the organization’s legal and strategic position. LCRW offers an edited summary below for the sake of brevity. The full text of the Oath Keepers general chat room will be available on our site soon.

I am working with our Jan 50-6 DC Op leader, Whip, and our General Counsel, Texas lawyer Kellye SoRelle, on a timeline of our activities leading up to the Jan 5-6 DC Op, and on those two days. \[...\]

We will have our legal counsel and a third party create a legal defense fund for all our members who were arrested in relation to Jan 6 in DC. I WILL NOT handle that money. And this org will not handle any of that money. I want no question of “where did the money go.”

That’s how we have done it in the past, and it works. […]

Myself and our national team leaders, Mike “Whip” and Don Siekerman, will serve as witnesses for any of the defense teams that are already defending our members who have been arrested. Our General Counsel, Kellye SoRelle, was with us in DC and is also willing to serve as a witness.

A blonde woman in a casual outfit
Kellye SoRelle, general counsel for the Oath Keepers. Last month, the FBI interviewed her and seized her phone.

Rhodes resumed with a status update on the Oath Keepers who had been arrested.

Jessica Watkins is/was a member. Thomas Caldwell is NOT and never was. Donovan Crowl is NOT and never was. We will post details shortly. Still sorting it out Kelly Meggs and his wife Connie are members. The others arrested at that same time are not. \[...\] Josh James, who was arrested yesterday in Alabama, is a member. He was the team leader on the PSD for Roger Stone. Robert Manuta, who was also on that Roger Stone PSD, is also a member.

PSD' is Personal Security Detail - LCRW

Rhodes now opened up with his feelings about what had happened on J6 in surprisingly frank terms.

Look, I am NOT happy that some of our men went off mission that day and went into the Capitol. They made a tragic mistake that is now being used to persecute them, and also to demonize all of us. I didn't want them to do that, and didn't tell them to do that, but they did it, and we need to deal with it.

EVERYONE is innocent until proven guilty. Period. Which is exactly why I HAVE NOT and WILL NOT condemn any of them in public. Privately, here among members, I will tell you I think it was damn stupid to go into the capitol for ANY reason because it gave our enemies a great gift of being able to attack us over it. BUT, being dumb is not necessarily a crime.

[…] Our clearly stated mission was to provide volunteer security to events, VIPs, and to protect Trump supporters in general, as we have done on two prior DC ops (Nov and Dec), and at the Stop the Steal rally in Atlanta.

However, I will say this. It is disturbing and disgusting to see the extent to which the more mainstream “right” in this nation has run for cover and abandoned Trump’s own base who are now being persecuted.

it was a cluster fuck. And I admit I got caught off guard. I had no clue any of our men were going inside, and it didn’t even cross my mind that any might. My mistake. and it won’t happen again. We will be tightening up our command and control considerably. That being said, being dumb is still not a crime.

Rhodes' thoughts now turned to the future direction of the Oath Keepers.

Where do we go from here? 1. Realize that this isn't a sprint. Like Patrick Henry said, long ago 1. . Recognize reality. 2. Provide for it.

We were in a “sprint” after the Dems/Deep State stole the election. We had a rapidly closing window for Trump to man up and use his powers as Commander in Chief to do the mass declassification and data dump to expose all the traitors and compromised elites, as I had been urging him to do all year. […]
Sadly, he didn’t do it. […]

Our election system failed to stop the steal. then the politicians failed to stop the steal. Then the courts, including the Supreme Court, failed to stop it.

So now what? Now we walk the Founders' path. That’s what.

The audience was enthusiastic and Rhodes often had to bring them back to the topic at hand. Rhodes now began to lay out his vision of patriotic resistance.

Get strong. Get strong as an individual, as a family, in your neighborhood, town and county. Get strong at the local level. \[...\] What did the Founders do? A. They resisted locally. They got strong locally.

[after the Boston Tea Party] The patriots held town hall meetings in open defiance of General Gage OUT IN THE COUNTRY towns, where the patriots were strong, and Gage was weak[.]

in fact, they held town hall meetings right across the harbor from Boston, in Salem, MA. And Gage didn’t do jack shit about it. Now, why not? Why was he powerless to do anything about it?

Sometimes, Rhodes engaged in Q&A with the members, as in this highly revealing segment.

2021-03-11 04:28:06 stewart-rhodes Tell me.

2021-03-11 04:28:26 andyjack
Public opinion

2021-03-11 04:29:14 stewart-rhodes
That was part of it. But not the whole answer. What KIND of “public opinion”?

2021-03-11 04:29:35 WKNC
One man defending his home
Is more deadly than 10 trained soldiers

2021-03-11 04:30:45 stewart-rhodes
Nope. Gage had no fear of one man

2021-03-11 04:31:02 WKNC
All together tho

2021-03-11 04:31:17 stewart-rhodes
Aha! Getting warmer

2021-03-11 04:31:32 WKNC
One stick breaks

2021-03-11 04:31:40 stewart-rhodes
That’s right.

2021-03-11 04:31:45 WKNC
Whole bundle is strong

2021-03-11 04:31:57 stewart-rhodes
And what was that “bundle” called?

The bundle of sticks that is stronger together, a fasces in Latin.

This is, of course where the word ‘fascism’ originates.

But that may have been a little too literary for Rhodes' audience whose minds were anchored in the early days of the American revolution. One member mentioned ‘the Militia of the several states’ and Rhodes rolled with it – now embracing the concept after years of denying that Oath Keepers was a ‘milita’.

MILITIA

That’s why. At one such town hall meeting, there were 5,000 militia around Salem.
At another, after a false alarm went up, 15,000 militia responded from all the country towns. Nothing happened, but it sent a damn clear message. […]

Point is, we are in the same boat as they were, and the answer is the same. They got STRONG locally, and united and as a united force of patriots, they formed town militia and trained, organized, and stacked not just weapons and ammo, but also food.

Let’s continue this discussion in the morning gents. Thanks for participating. To be continued ….

Rhodes did return the following day, but only briefly, dipping out after a few minutes citing a ‘friendly media interview’. Although he dropped in semi-regularly after that through late April, he never again spoke at such length on the Oath Keepers' recent history or their future direction.

In May, federal agents seized Rhodes' phone and interviewed him for 3 hours, though he has not been arrested or charged. Rhodes has not appeared in the chat room since.

LCRW has more - much more - to bring you about the Oath Keepers, from their member vetting strategies to the hunt for Bigfoot. In the days to come we’ll be inviting readers to dig into the material with us. Stay tuned!

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