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(51,881 posts)
Sun Oct 17, 2021, 11:09 PM Oct 2021

A short explainer of what the Oath Keepers are and why they matter. [View all]


Several of you responded to my open call for newsletter ideas asking to learn more about theOath Keepers. Given how much they’ve been in the news this year it’s an understandable curiosity. It’s also a good time to write about the Oath Keepers because thanks to a massive leak of member emails last month reporters and researchers have learned a lot about how the group operates, and who its members are.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Oath Keepers are “one of the largest far-right anti-government groups in the U.S. today.” The group also claims “tens of thousands of present and former law enforcement officials and military veterans as members.” Leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes founded the group in 2009, reacting to the election of Barack Obama, America’s first Black President.

The name comes from members being asked to continue to uphold the oath they took in the military or law enforcement. The Oath Keepers recruit heavily from both of those institutions. (more on that in a moment.) The irony of an anti-government group recruiting from two government entities is apparently lost on them.

But there’s a limit to following the oath. The Oath Keepers have a list of 10 orders that members are never supposed to obey from authority figures, even their own superiors. Read the American Military’s oath of enlistment, and the conflicts are obvious. I guess you’re supposed to follow the oath until you aren’t? Follow the oath but in these 10 circumstances, you have an out? Follow the oath ish? It’s all very confusing.


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