As Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in prison yesterday – the longest term ever for a defendant involved in the January 6 insurrection – he explained that the leader of the far-right group The Oath Keepers should be serving a long sentence. Why was there a need to stay behind bars. “You pose a menace and a threat to our democracy and the fabric of this country,” Mehta told Rhodes,
Mehta was right about that. At the time of his conviction, Rhodes was unrepentant. In a 20-minute speech before the court, he painted In turn as a character in Kafka testing, as an “American Solzhenitsyn”, after the Soviet dissident writer who was sent to the Gulag; and as a false advocate for peace. The monologue was standard fare for Rhodes, a graduate of Yale Law School who likes to align himself with literary giants and historical leaders.
And yet Rhodes inadvertently revealed deep cracks in the far-right movement, which two years ago resorted to violence to keep Donald Trump in the White House. The accused utilized some of his time to distance myself from the proud boys, another extremist organization with whom he had met in the days before the insurgency. “Unlike other groups like the Pride Boys, who seek conflict and seek street-fights,” Rhodes explained“We stop.” I have been misunderstoodHe was telling the court; proud boys are the ones you want,
It seems that Rhodes didn’t quite get along with his archbishop brothers. A united extremist front is a threat to our democracy; But the story is different when extremists start pointing fingers at each other in the criminal-justice system.
Crack The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have been simmering for years, and that hasn’t stopped them from collaborating in the past. In 2019, both groups arrived in Portland, Oregon, to support the far-right protest. Rhodes pulled his group, he later claimed, after learning that whites were involved in nationalist demonstrations. Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, was furious. Tarrio—who has also been found guilty of conspiracy to commit treason for January 6—and Rhodes remain at odds, even though they coordinated effort to insurgencyIncluding a secret meeting at night in a parking garage.
Both testified before the Congressional Committee investigating it on January 6 and spoke at length of the rift between them. “I didn’t like Stewart Rhodes. I still don’t like Stewart Rhodes,” Tarrio told the panel. Oath-keeper, Rhodes insisted, “calm professionalJoe believes Trump won a second term. The Proud Boys believe the same about Trump, Rhodes said, but are “sloppy” and infiltrated by racists.
Whether such distinctions are real matters less than the fact that the rift is deepening. On 6 January the various groups set aside their differences, but solidarity is difficult to maintain. As indictments continue and participants in the rebellion try to defend themselves, divisions within the far-right over ideology and strategy—as well as conflicts driven by pure ego—are reset yourself,
Over time, mismanagement and general frivolity cause many extremist groups to deviate from their cause. Al-Qaeda and ISIS This is how catfight evolved into As they were defeated on the battlefield. Rhodes, who considers himself an intellectual, feels tainted by association with mere racists. that he would defend himself in court by complaining about the Proud Boys’ signals to would-be followers that he is self-absorbed, not that he is sacrificing himself for the noble cause. An effective way to deal with right-wing extremism is to expose the selfishness of its leaders.
Of course, violence clearly remains a threat to our democracy. The day before Rhodes was to be sentenced, the Department of Homeland Security issued a “heightened threat environmentfor the 2024 presidential election. This week, A Man Carrying a Nazi flag and praising Hitler, he drove his U-Hall into the security barrier protecting the White House.
Violent, harmful ideologies don’t just end with a harsh sentence. Success against them cannot be measured by whether the bad guys see the light, but by whether they are able to expand their ranks. Raising funds and organizing mass collective action becomes more difficult if seemingly like-minded groups are at war with each other. Far-right groups raise hue and cry about leftist conspiracies, but they come under attack for their own cause.
Rhodes would have 18 years to reflect on the violence and vent his resentment of the Proud Boys. In the meantime, let the internecine fighting continue.