When good tax-evaders go bad

  • Cover of Lone Patriot

 


Back in the halcyon days of the Northwest militia movement in the mid-'90s, a curious breed of man emerged from the moist backwoods and unemployment lines of the disenfranchised West: the wannabe Patriot.


In Whatcom County, Wash., the commander in chief of the Washington State Militia, John Pitner, was experiencing New World Order visions. The small militia group he formed lasted roughly three years, until 1996, when the FBI crashed the party and hauled Pitner off in handcuffs for "conspiracy to make and possess destructive devices." By the time the agents came a-knocking, Pitner's short-lived power had vanished among his own group, which had grown impatient with his promise of a big battle that never materialized.


Jane Kramer, a writer for The New Yorker and a National Magazine Award winner, writes in Lone Patriot that the unemployed Pitner desperately wanted to be a bigshot in the hate hierarchy. She deftly constructs a study of Pitner that reflects the motley, dangerous contingent of Freemen, militias, con men, county secessionists, skinheads, tax evaders and neo-Nazis (and the women who loved them) that still populates the West.


The conspiracy visions of Pitner's well-oiled imagination included a (now cliche) image of black helicopters circling his yard, the notion that an evil band of Jewish bankers took over the Federal Reserve, and the theory that western Washington's incessant rain was created by David Rockefeller to "demoralize them so that they'd lose the will to resist the New World Order."


Perhaps the most surprising indictment in Kramer's book, however, is the one leveled at mainstream folks in Whatcom County who ignored the militia because of a hybrid mix of old Western Cowboy fence-respecting culture, and an easy, nonconfrontational NPR-brand of "liberalness" that tolerates aberrant behavior. Whatcom County is the home of Bellingham and Western Washington State University, places that take pride in what Kramer calls "the long view, assuming that John's moment would eventually pass, the way troubling moments always passed in Whatcom County."


This clash of cultures should be read as a cautionary note for the entire West. For "those people" are still out there and they have no plans to leave. We'd better keep an eye on them.

Stephen J. Lyons writes from the Midwest.




Copyright &2002 HCN and Stephen J. Lyons







High Country News Classifieds
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • VERDE RIVER PROJECTS TECHNICIAN
    The Verde River Projects Technician (VRPT) provides technical assistance to Verde River Program staff in implementation of the Verde River Streamflow Monitoring Protocol. This consist...
  • 8 FIELD PROJECT SPECIALISTS (POSITION FORMERLY TITLED TRAIL CREW TECHNICAL ADVISOR)
    Are you passionate about environmental conservation and connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with outdoor leadership...
  • SOUTHWEST REWILDING ADVOCATE
    WildEarth Guardians is seeking a full-time advocate in our Wild Places Program to advance a new paradigm of forest management and protection based on the...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org