In news that is all the more relevant given recent revelations about Border Patrol agents operating a secret Facebook group where thousands of officers shared offensive, racist posts, comes a troubling report from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting about the way militia groups are recruiting and using law enforcement officers to spread their ideology.
One of the officers highlighted in the story is a deputy from Ravalli County, a part of Montana so steeped in anti-government militia attitudes that it has thrice elected Theresa Manzella, who has openly praised groups that call for armed action against the government. From Reveal News:
For example, Greg McWhirter, a sheriff’s deputy at the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office in Montana and a member of at least 15 militia-connected Facebook groups, posted a video of Rhodes in the Facebook group “Idaho Oath Keepers” earlier this year. The clip touts a conspiracy theory that the left is trying to flood America with immigrants who will vote for Democrats and upset the balance of power.
McWhirter also has appeared in one of Rhodes’ official Oath Keepers videos, giving fellow militia members advice on how to patrol voting stations after then-presidential candidate Donald Trump warned, without evidence, that the 2016 election would be rigged. Without revealing where McWhirter works, Rhodes introduced him as a member of the group’s national board of directors and a “peace officer liaison.”
In another interview, McWhirter spoke to a militia news outlet in an interview with Stewart Rhodeson the subject “when the next riot comes,” agreeing with the premise that the “American warrior class” should step up and defend the Constitution.
Further research shows that McWhirter iss part of the Board of Directors for Oath Keepers and served as its public information officer in Indiana.
It’s incredibly troubling that an active law enforcement officer would be so deeply connected to the Oath Keepers and Rhodes, given a conspiracy-addled ideology that posits we are at risk of a tyrannical government at every turn and should prepare ourselves for armed insurrection. Of particular potential concern is that the Oath Keepers have attempted to rebrand their militias as opportunities for citizens to prepare themselves:
In 2013, four years after its formation, the Oath Keepers announced the planned formation of “Citizen Preservation” militias, which are meant to defend Americans against the New World Order. The real goal of these militias, which have since been renamed Civilian Preparedness Teams, is to prey upon the fears and concerns of local communities and revitalize the American militia movement, all under the guise of neighborhood watch and self-sufficiency.
When he’s not working in Montana law enforcement and for the Oath Keepers, what does McWhirter do? He operates something called the Western Montana Tactical Training Center, which blends right-wing memes with advertisements for “ladies only” gun training on its Facebook site.
One of the most underreported stories in Montana over the past few years has been the growing reach of anti-government groups like the Oath Keepers in Montana, which enjoy both fringe and mainstream Republicans given tacit, overt support to those whose apocalyptic visions and misguided “constitutional” extremism threaten violence and the very rule of law.