Many Americans in recent years have felt the need to consider the power and appeal of organized, far-right extremism. Perhaps most notorious among the groups that have made headlines for coordinated hate is Atomwaffen Division, a far-right group that, as the New York Times reported, has been linked to at least five killings in the United States, including that of a Jewish student, Blaze Bernstein.
During late 2018, I wanted to better understand the broader spectrum of patriot-style organizing in the US. So, leaning in part on a list of “anti-government” groups compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), I proceeded to make contact with a number of lessconspicuous
outfits who take on the aura of armed forces. According to the SPLC, such groups may tend to “engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines.” But the SPLC also notes that listing them “does not imply that the groups themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities, or are racist.”
In my travels across America, I learned the Patriot movement is diverse and that there are three subcategories of militia-style groups. Those that a) are extremists and resort to acts such as volunteer border patrol and hate crimes b) activists, who attend rallies, often in support of gun
rights AND c) citizens who train as per the national guard or marine corps with the hopes of having skills to survive during a “shit hits fan” scenario. Many patriot groups rejected my requests to photograph their activities. But I eventually found a few who felt they had little to hide, even allowing me into their closed Field Training Exercises (FTXs) where members drill survival techniques. While there is always the possibility such groups might be putting on a show for an outside photographer, many members from these groups claim they are normal, hard-working members of society who just want to be prepared to protect their communities in the event of a government breakdown or natural disaster.
What follows is a selection of my photographs from various patriot (militia) lead FTXs.
This work explores whether the apparent paranoia —an integral part of the Patriot movement as I experienced it—is more or less of a threat to the social fabric of society than the “shit hits the fan” scenario so many Americans are worried about.