I finally got around to reading David Neiwert’s book on the Patriot Movement, In God’s Country. I’d expected it to be scholarly, given the publisher, but it turned out to be a pretty journalistic work. I suppose that’s not surprising, given that Neiwert’s a journalist.
Anyhow, it makes for a really accessible read. The bulk of the book is comprised of stories about Patriot Movement members of various stripes in the Pacific Northwest, from Oregon to Idaho. Neiwert is from the area, which makes a big difference. It’s never a book by some outsider telling stories about the rural whackos. Rather, it’s a book by a guy who knows what the area is like, and knows what independent-minded people are like, and can explain what’s different about the extremists who’ve come to infest the area. He speaks with an authority that (say) an East Coast journalist would lack.
The book also covers the history of the movement in the Northwest, going back to the Silver Shirts and beyond. Plenty of good context for what’s happened more recently. He talks about Ruby Ridge, Bo Gritz, and plenty of lesser-known incidents and people. There are no grand conclusions or predictions; there’s just a picture of what’s going on, some reasons why, and some questions that can’t yet be answered.
What’s missing: I’d have liked to have seen more about the links between the Patriots and the Christian Identity movement. He notes that many Patriots are Christian Identity believers, but I’d like to have seen more on financial connections and so forth. (Bonus points for linking in Scaife and Coors.) Admittedly, it might have diluted the focus of the book, but I’m still curious. I know a lot more than I did about specific instances of the Patriot Movement but I don’t know enough about the structure behind the structure. Maybe that’s another book.
Still, it’s very readable and very informative, and I’ll probably give away a few copies for Christmas this year. If you don’t really know what the Patriot Movement is beyond “those militia weirdos,” this is a book you ought to read.