SPLINTERS: Oath Keepers and Proud Boys convictions could increase violent extremism

Oath Keepers and Proud Boys convictions could increase violent extremism

Leaders from two of the nation’s far-right extremist groups have been convicted for conspiring to overturn the election. And, while the convictions crippled one group, the other remains strong and experts fear that smaller splintered units present an even greater danger.

Stewart Rhodes and other leaders of the “Oath Keepers” were convicted of seditious conspiracy in November 2022, while Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and three others were found guilty of a laundry list of felonies which included seditious conspiracy and obstruction of the electoral college.

And yet, while the two groups met similar ends, the fallout from the convictions has differed dramatically between the two, leaving the country even more vulnerable.

The Oath Keepers organization spit out from the minds of people who wanted to be “opposition leaders” and to be seen as militant, edgy, and potentially dangerous, while at the same time, maintaining some semblance of respectability.

They did so by recruiting ex-military, police, and government officials, people who had once sworn an oath to defend the country.

They also adhered to a fairly rigid hierarchy.

According to a report in The Guardian, Rhodes’s conviction (along with the others) “cut the head off the dragon.

And, despite the fact that the average Oath Keeper intended to “live on the edge,” the report states that most did not envision engaging in criminal behavior.

The average Oath Keeper in Omaha (as an example) still shares the same beliefs as the others but no longer participates in a group that crossed into the most serious type of criminality.

The Oath Keepers, as an ongoing concern, is crumbling as fast as its felonious cousin, the Trump Organization.

The Proud Boys, however, are another story.

Unlike the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys decentralized leadership with each local chapter keeping a more local focus from the beginning.

Thus, the organization is more nimble, able to turn on a dime, wasn’t strongly tied to one cause or any one leader, and has strengthened itself by maintaining a new focus — intimidating and threatening LGBTQ+ events, especially drag shows.

Proud Boys chapters throughout the country are active and largely unimpacted by the convictions of their leadership.

But law enforcement and experts in extremism maintain that the splinter groups — the smaller “units” that haven’t announced their presence — represent the most extreme danger.

Warren Siegel, vice-president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism said to The Guardian:

“Today, extremists ‘can choose their own adventure’, pulling bits of ideology from white supremacy and anti-government groups. As a result, Siegel said: ‘There is a lot more opportunity to create strains of anti-government theory that will animate people into action and it’s much harder to track.’”

Tragically, it was all too easy to track the centralized plans in the run-up to January 6th, an intelligence failure almost as massive as 9-11 — and one yet to be sufficiently explained.

The fact that it is now difficult even though intelligence analysts remain vigilant is – obviously, terrifying.

The report contains a key insight that takes one’s breath away.

Mainstream MAGA political commentary has become so violent and extreme in its rhetoric that it has become hard for law enforcement to discern between “normal right-wing political commentary” and true violent threats to the public.


The report ends with a compelling quote from Siegal of the ADL — “America is not the healthiest democracy right now. How do you win hearts and minds in this country? There is no fairytale ending to an insurrection.”

True. But real Americans, those of us that want to maintain a functioning democracy with ever-expanding rights for all, especially marginalized groups, don’t want a fairytale.

Most of us would be satisfied with an end to militant, democracy-draining Trumpism, “America First-ism,” and MAGA.

Whoever thought that we would see fights with the Bushes, John McCain, and Lindsey Graham about tax policy and regulations as the “good old days”?

Jason Miciak

Jason Miciak is an associate editor and opinion writer for Occupy Democrats. He's a Canadian-American who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is a trained attorney, but for the last five years, he's devoted his time to writing political news and analysis. He enjoys life on the Gulf Coast as a single dad to a 15-year-old daughter. Hobbies include flower pots, cooking, and doing what his daughter tells him they're doing.