Video emerged yesterday of Alabama blogger Michael Vanderboegh calling for “civil war on a vast scale” at a rally on Cliven Bundy’s ranch. So-called ‘Patriot’ militias and ‘sovereign citizens’ have flocked to the scene in recent weeks to support the freeloading cattleman’s bid to keep his cows grazing on public lands without paying the requisite fees. Vanderboegh has been calling for violent insurrection against the tyrannical government of his imagination for years, but he approves of his fellow ‘patriots’ setting up checkpoints around Bunkerville, Nevada to stop drivers and demand to see their papers. Apparently, actual tyranny is totally patriotic as long as it is carried out by an armed mob.
Cognitive dissonance is nothing new with Vanderboegh. Although he is personally dependent on Social Security disability payments, for example, Vanderboegh has become one of America’s most consequential anti-government cranks. He seems to have joined the militia movement after the Branch Davidian disaster in 1993, but he did not achieve prominence until 2010, when readers answered his call to revolt against the impending passage of health care reform by breaking the windows of Democratic Party offices around the country. To Vanderboegh, laws that prevent insurance companies from canceling your policy when you get sick are ‘tyranny,’ while brick-throwing mobs ranting about crackpot conspiracy theories are ‘patriots.’
After the ACA passed, Vanderboegh spent the ensuing two years concocting a scandal called ‘Fast and Furious’ from the self-serving fabrications of a disgruntled ATF agent. (In fact, Vanderboegh’s source was the only federal official who actually allowed any guns to ‘walk.’) But just as Cliven Bundy managed to attract the support of Republican politicians and conservative media prior to his disastrous remarks about slavery, Vanderboegh was able to convince Republican members of Congress to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over his lunatic conspiracy theory, and was presented by Fox News as an authority on the scandal he had contrived.
While Vanderboegh and his “Three Percenters” movement have become very popular on the fringe right, especially at Breitbart.com, will his clarion call to mass violence have the same scattering effect as Bundy’s remarks about slavery? That remains to be seen, and rest assured we will stay on top of the story.