chapter  9
Researching repellent groups: Some methodological considerations on how to represent militants, radicals, and other belligerents
Pages 20

In the summer of 1996 I settled on a dissertation topic – the militia movement in the US. I did so with equal parts excitement and fear. I was excited because I felt I could make a mark with my study. At the time, most studies of social movements were focused on left-oriented, progressive movements. My study could contribute to the then small, but burgeoning scholarship on right wing movements.1 I also came to my project with some trepidation. In 1995 the movement’s most infamous adherent, Timothy McVeigh, had parked a rental truck packed with a ton of explosives in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The bomb blast ripped the face off the building, killing 169 persons inside. Like others in the movement, McVeigh believed a ‘new world order’, spearheaded by the United Nations (UN), and assisted by Jewish ‘sympathizers’ in the US government, was emerging. It was, they argued, poised to install a one-world, communist government. Militias saw themselves as the last line of defence against the new world order, and many believed a war against the federal government was imminent. As I was in the process of discovering, the movement’s ideas were a repellent mix of antiSemitic conspiracy theories2 and apocalyptic thinking.3