The geriatric Georgia ricin beans gang affords us a look at Old Weird America. It's that dark place that has always been obsessed with self-protection and armaments and driven by paranoia and animosities toward government agency of any kind.
DD is intimately familiar with it.
I grew up in part of Old Weird America, Schuylkill County, PA. There, fear of fluoridation and the existence of the occasional barn burner, invariably an unsettled young man who set fire to the obvious target, marked it during my youth.
That signature demographic has many subcultures. My first publisher, American Eagle, belonged to one of them.
American Eagle was a book maker run out of a house in Tucson, AZ. It was the creation of a fellow with advanced degrees from CalTech and MIT. He was also a theocrat.
Most of American Eagle's books were devoted to publishing computer virus code. My book into the old computer virus underground, Virus Creation Labs, was part of this collection.
But American Eagle, like other small US publishers devoted to the Old Weird America demographic, published one book, its last, that pitched directly to the most dangerous part of it.
It was called Civil War II and swiftly became one of the publisher's best-sellers, catering as it did to the far right extremist's view that Mexico and US Latinos would reconquer the American southwest and that the middle class was being destroyed by affirmative action and the US government.
It was a terrible read. Nevertheless, it was popular in the reactionary and violent far right underground.
If you liked Civil War II you probably had it on the shelf next to a worn copy of The Turner Dairies, America's premier piece of raging bigot race war fiction, a novel in which "freedom fighters" bomb the FBI and Pentagon, eventual inspirations for Timothy McVeigh.
Around 2000, seemingly convinced the US government would collapse due to the Millenium Bug and other catastrophes, American Eagle's creator left the country for Belize.
Between the start of American Eagle and it's eventual end the publisher would occasionally write pieces on what life in a theocracy might be like, how one might start one's own micro-nation on an island, or the greatness of Spetznaz knives. In one pamphlet or book he mused about a computer virus that would substitute the word "Sodomite" for every instance of "homosexual" or "gay" found in text.
Can you guess my book didn't do well in this milieu? Wrong venue.
The point of this introductory is that this part of Old Weird America is always with us.
It had its own publishing arm with imprint names like Paladin Press and Loompanics, makers and distributors of generally always disgraceful and sometimes horrifyingly repugnant books. (I have one or two on my shelves, part of the research library on ricin and American samizdat lit on weaponry. These include the infamous Poisoner's Handbook and Silent Death by "Uncle Fester," aka the ex-con methamphetamine chemist, Steve Preisler.)
They all fed and feed to a dark undercurrent, present at gun shows in the hinterland, sometimes off in the corner, on the necessity of preparation for war and preemptively attacking your enemies -- always the federal government, its various agencies, or your neighbors if they got in the way or weren't the right color. And to be prepared for war meant having a library stocked with pamphlets and books on how to make improvised weapons -- bombs, incendiaries, jellied gasoline, fire bottles, zip guns, fortifications, homebrew toxins, camouflaged pits lined with stakes impregnated with excrement, booby traps, landmines, whatever you needed.
Old Weird America lives in its own world and is always paranoid.
People in it can't be approached with reason. In fact, it's often counter-productive and hazardous to do so. Nothing disturbs their cracked doomsday-is-coming world view.
They may be a crew of white guys who think no laws apply to them because they're "free men," far right Christians waiting for the second coming in which all unbelievers are to be sent to eternal damnation, gold bugs, neo-Nazis, survivalists, pro-lifers, census-resisters, people who think the income tax is unconstitutional and therefore illegal, or any combination of these.
They all share an apocalyptic dark vision of the future. And, invariably, they always think a civil war, or some manner of armed heavy combat between the government and the citizenry is imminent. And this is a battle for which they either plan to be well-prepared or intend to strike first.
They have also written plenty of non-fiction and romantic man's fiction about it.
The geriatric ricin beans gang nabbed in Georgia early this week come right from Old Weird America central casting.
It was June 9, and Frederick Thomas believed he was meeting with a dealer in black market weapons at a Lavonia restaurant, according to FBI affidavits.
"I ain't worried about dying," said the 73-year-old Thomas, the accused ringleader of a North Georgia militia group now at the center of domestic terrorism charges.
A story grew clearer Wednesday through federal affidavits, interviews and court statements accusing Thomas, Roberts and two other men -- Ray H. Adams, 65, and Samuel J. Crump, 68 -- of planning to unleash the toxic agent ricin across Atlanta and other major U.S. cities, bomb federal buildings and take innocent lives. Documents say the men intended to launch their plot within a year.
At that meeting in June, Thomas talked about buying explosives, silencers and mines, and killing officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Drug Enforcement Administration. It was a plan based on a novel by Mike Vanderboegh, a former militia leader and blogger, that detailed killing Justice Department attorneys, Thomas said, according to the FBI affidavits.
"Now, of course, that's just fiction, but that's a damn good idea," Thomas, a retired aerospace engineer, once told the others in the so-called "covert group ..."
The back of one of the most widely sold books of Old Weird America, one containing advice on ricin, The Poor Man's James Bond by Kurt Saxon, reads:
"It is bad to poison your fellow man, blow him up or even shoot him or otherwise disturb his tranquility. It is also uncouth to counterfeit your nation's currency and it is tacky to destroy property as instructed in [the chapter] Arson and Electronics ...
"But some people are just naturally crude ... It is your responsibility, then, to be aware of the many ways bad people can be harmful ...
"Also, in the event that our nation is invaded by Foreign Devils, it is up to you to destroy them with speed and vigor. Or -- and perish the thought -- if our Capitol should fall to the enemy within, I expect you to do your duty.
"It is right to share with your enemies, the knowledge in this wonderful book ..."
Succinctly, it sums up one of the many bleak philosophies of Old Weird America. And while I don't know if anyone in the Georgia ricin beans gang ever read it, they certainly appear steeped in it.
Full disclosure: Your host was a source on quote on ricin for the AJC piece:
But could the group have made ricin?
"No, what they would have wound up with is dried castor powder," said George Smith, a senior fellow for GlobalSecurity.org, a public information organization on terrorism and homeland security. "They would not be able to make that into a weapon of mass destruction, and it's not something even a lab technician can really do."
As mentioned, self-published man's romance fiction as tutelage for and on the destruction of your enemies and the tyrannical government has always been popular in Old Weird America. It's one of its drivers.
All of it is uniformly dreadful and it's no different with alleged inspiration for the Georgia ricin beans gang.
The authors and bloggers from Old Weird America are always pretty much the same -- crippled stereotypes of Kurt Saxon and William Pierce -- the latter being the author of The Turner Diaries, only dumber, but utterly convinced of their righteousness.
On his website, militia leader-turned-blogger Mike Vanderboegh writes about fed-up Americans responding to government violence with guns and grenades. It's an attempt to warn the government that people are armed and angry, he says, just like last year when he urged those upset with President Barack Obama's health care plan to toss bricks at Democratic Party offices ...
In the introduction to 'Absolved,' first posted in 2008, Vanderboegh writes: "If this book is to operate as a 'useful dire warning,' then both real sides in my imaginary civil war ... must be able to recognize the real threat to avoid it.
"In this, I am frankly writing as much a cautionary tale for the out-of-control gun cops of the ATF as anyone. For that warning to be credible, I must also present what amounts to a combination field manual, technical manual and call to arms for my beloved gunnies of the armed citizenry. They need to know how powerful they could truly be if they were pushed into a corner."
One imagined way of dispatching your enemies with ricin -- dreamt up in the Eighties by Old Weird America extremists and passed down through the years.
This post was originally published at Dick Destiny blog.