During Tuesday’s House Select Committee hearing, former high-ranking Oath Keeper Jason Van Tatenhove testified to his experience with the extremist group. Headed by Elmer Rhodes, the Oath Keepers got their hooks into Tatenhove back when he was working as a freelance independent “journalist,” and met the group as he covered other extremist federal land occupiers, the Cliven Bundy clan.
The Oath Keepers have been tied to Donald Trump’s campaign to overturn the results of the 2020 election as a sort of satellite mercenary group, willing to do some military work on the cheap if needed, and to hopefully take advantage of the riots being created by Trump-world rhetoric. Tatenhove was brought out to testify to the true nature of the Oath Keepers, their use of misinformation to organize and incite, and the underpinnings of militia violence and authoritarianism that Rhodes relied on.
Tatenhove became the Oath Keeper’s spokesman and media propagandist shortly after he began working with them in 2014. He told the Denver Post that “I had these grand intentions that I was going to write my break-out novel, but what wound up happening is I just became a propagandist for them. I failed that internal mission pretty fantastically.” Tatenhove worked for the group for a year-and-a-half between 2015 and 2016—and during that time he watched the group become more and more extreme.
Tatenhove has said, as hard as it is to believe, that he thought that Rhodes’ public rhetoric that the Oath Keepers weren’t racist or homophobic was true. But he watched as it became more and more clear to him that it didn’t really matter what Rhodes said he believed: “The man is really just driven by money and a sense of power at this point.”
On Tuesday, when asked by the Jan. 6 committee what led to his leaving the group, Tatenhove told the world that ”there were many red flags,” and he should have clearly left earlier than he did:
But the straw that broke the camel's back really came when I walked into a grocery store and we were living up in the very remote town of Eureka, Montana, and there was a group of core members of the group, the Oath Keepers and some associates and they were having a conversation at that public area where they were talking about how the Holocaust was not real.
It worked for the Nazis, and it has been working on disenfranchised Americans for decades. One important thing to remember here is that Nazism and antisemitism has also been working on many of the wealthiest Americans for decades as well, which is why they continue to fund it.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.
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