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Chapter Six:

Middle American Neighborhood Nationalism

Ammon’s Army: Inside the Far-Right People’s Rights Network

Chapter Six:

Middle American Neighborhood Nationalism

The Ideological Underpinnings of Ammon's Army

The ideological underpinnings of Ammon Bundy and People’s Rights have often been characterized as “anti-government,” but a deeper dive finds something more complex and troublesome. Like the Posse Comitatus before it, Bundy’s efforts do not seek to do away with government, but rather to re-make it in the image of, and favorable to, a particular brand of nationalism and the attendant “nation.”

Specifically, Bundy has expressed a particular version of middle American nationalism—the idea that a mythological group of “middle Americans” who constitute the nation are being squeezed from above by elites and from below by the multicultural hordes. Such an ideology was first described by sociologist Donald L. Warren and termed middle American radical, in his 1976 book The Radical Center. Warren found this framework linked to a significantly higher level of support for George C. Wallace’s 1968 segregationist presidential bid when compared to other constituencies.[63]

In Bundy’s formulation, righteous real middle Americans are being crushed by the “wicked,” from below by Black Lives Matter and antifa protestors on the streets and from above by people at the top demanding obedience. In other words, the “wicked” are trying to dispossess the “righteous” of their rightful place in Middle America.

In a refrain returned to often at People’s Rights meetings, Bundy expressed core elements of middle American nationalism,

“So the question I am constantly asking is, who is going to defend us? Who is going to defend us? We have this chaos and hate and murder and violence happening on the streets. And we have this corruption, and pressure, and, you know, buying people’s obedience and our legislatures and our governor’s obedience, from the top. And where are the people at? We’re stuck crushed in the middle.”[64]

At a recent People’s Rights meeting in Idaho, a speaker only identified as Don shared the stage with Bundy and echoed the middle American nationalist construction, calling COVID-19 restrictions “slavery.” He declared,

“Unfortunately, as Ammon pointed out, we are the people who are crushed in the middle. If we don’t like the system of government we’re enslaved under right now—and yes, I will use that term enslaved under right now—if we don’t like the system of government that we’re under, we can’t just change it—because they have a system that shields them from us, and we have no system that shields us from them. And so I echo again that the best revenge is to be unlike your enemy. If the government is trying to wreck this country. If the radicals and the liberals are trying to wreck this country, then we cannot change things by doing the same things that they do. We have to do something different.”[65]

Far from being “anti-government,” Bundy has repeatedly expressed a desire for governmental power to be used to protect the “righteous” against “wicked” liberals, antifa, Black Lives Matter, and others.  Absent that sort of intervention, Bundy proposed a type of armed enclave-style “neighborhood” nationalism, a separatism where “righteous” neighbors stand against the “wicked.”

While others, like Bundy comrade Matt Shea’s Liberty State effort, have pushed for splitting states through state secession, and others have advocated for regional secessionism (neo-Confederate plans to reclaim the South, neo-Nazi fantasies of a “Northwest Territorial Imperative”), Bundy has a different vision for People’s Rights.

As Bundy explained during that first gathering, “I think there’s no need for another American Revolution, and I’ll explain to you why: because I think there needs to be a separation, not a revolution, of righteous people—good people that understand their rights—coming together wherever they live and defending each other where they live.”[66]

In the People’s Rights Network, a far-right Constitutional interpretation is often used to construct a mythology of “the nation.” Commonly expressed strains of “Constitutionalism” in the People’s Rights Network draw upon the works of far-right figures like W. Cleon Skousen and KrisAnne Hall.

Skousen (1913-2006) was a far-right figure who worked closely with the John Birch Society, who became infamous for a racist revision of U.S. history. His book, The 5,000 Year Leap, which gained newfound popularity during the Tea Party era, deployed selective quotes to claim that the U.S. is a Christian nation. His book The Making of America casts American chattel slavery as humane, paints Abolitionists as villains, describes enslaved African people as “usually a cheerful lot” and heaps praise on Confederates for their treatment of the human beings they enslaved.[67]

For her part, Florida activist KrisAnne Hall picked up where Skousen left off. A popular speaker on the Tea Party and militia circuits, Hall gained notoriety inside Bundy circles when she played a role negotiating for the occupiers at the end of the Malheur standoff. Hall has promoted a radical assault on the Constitutional basis of federal civil rights and protections from race and sex-based discrimination in voting rights, referring to the 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments as “unlawful expansion[s] of federal power.”[68] [For more on KrisAnne Hall, check out this profile].

Hall plays an outsized role in the People’s Rights network. Her videos are heavily-circulated and discussed on the network’s social media channels. One southern Washington area even uses Hall’s videos for in-person training and discussions at weekly meetings.[69] Hall is scheduled to speak alongside Ammon Bundy and People’s Rights California state assistant Tony Pellegrino and Sara Walton Brady at We the People Idaho’s third annual event on October 10 in Nampa, Idaho.[70]

In addition to the phony “Constitutionalism,” the conspiracy theories promoted by the network further undergird the middle American nationalist ideological construction by fleshing out the threats from both above and below.

Bundy’s position seems to cobble together a W. Cleon Skousen and Bircher-style “Constitutionalism,” a Christian nationalist framing of the “righteous” as comprising the nation and the “wicked” cast out of the nation, and the “neighborhood nationalism” of far-right paleolibertarians.

The idea of “neighborhood nationalism” was created by paleolibertarian icon Murray Rothbard who fantasized about the “the decomposition and decentralization of the modern centralizing and coercive nation-state, deconstructing that state into constituent nationalities and neighborhoods.”[71] For Rothbard, this scheme was to change American political culture and reduce the “scope and importance of voting” and “democracy.”[72]

This position also fits with the People’s Rights emphasis on property rights and the “right to exclusive ownership and control of property.”[73] Such an extreme version of both federal authority and property rights would also eliminate virtually all of the advances of the New Deal.

Ammon Bundy, for instance, appears to believe that virtually all, if not all, taxation and the public spending based on it are “evil” and unjustified.[74] Likewise, People’s Rights Washington leader, Kelli Stewart, has advocated for a radical assault on the New Deal and the social safety net. Stewart called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme meant to steal our interest on our stolen funds,” and she has argued that because taxation is involved, programs such as public funding of schools, social security disability, VA checks, food stamps, publicly funded health care, and farm subsidies amount to “theft” and being forced to “give to socialism.”[75] Another significant network figure, Roger Roots, runs an online site called Lysander Spooner University which offers courses that refer to both the minimum wage and Social Security as “evil.”[76]

This radical vision of curtailing federal power and social welfare policies is the national adjunct to localized seizures of territory and armed opposition to law enforcement and government regulation of private property. Bundy is describing a world where any group could forcibly, even violently, resist any local, state, or federal law the group doesn’t like. In other words, Malheur-style takeovers and Bunkerville-style standoffs from sea to shining sea would become the new normal in Bundy’s world. In the end, Bundy’s vision looks more like clannish “neighborhood” warlords enforcing their will over their “wicked” (or less heavily-armed) neighbors.

As Montana People’s Rights figure Nick Ramlow described, he and Ammon Bundy hope to establish an “Uber-like” militia response system that can be mobilized whenever people feel their rights are under attack.[77]

While Ammon Bundy was not preaching outright revolution, others have been insistent about their desire for revolution. Sharing the stage with Bundy at a recent People’s Rights meeting in Idaho, Don declared,

“You wanna talk about a revolution in the United States of America, you wanna see politicians stand up and take notice, you wanna see politicians start to pay attention to what we have to say as a nation, as an American people? If you wanna bring about change in this country, there’s only one way to start a revolution tonight, and that’s by every neighbor in this country who has ideals, and still has morals, and still has a compass to look to God in this nation, we’re going to have to join together to tell the government we’re not going to listen to you, you’re going to listen to us, because the resistance to tyranny is the acceptance of liberty. In case you didn’t hear that last part, the resistance to tyranny is the acceptance of liberty, and the definition of liberty, ladies and gentlemen, liberty is accepting faith in God.”[78]

Don’s nationalist construction is even more explicit than Bundy’s. To Don, the “American people” who comprise the American nation are limited to the righteous neighbors with “ideals” who believe that “liberty is accepting faith in God.” Everyone else is “wicked,” defined outside of the American nation.

Neighborhood racial and economic segregation is still a vexing problem in the United States, reinforced by policing policies that play a racialized role in restricting mobility and limiting where people live.[79] Layering the Bundy vision of armed neighborhood separatism atop these existing challenges would further exacerbate racial and class divisions, creating innumerable potential powder kegs. Unlike white nationalist fantasies of explicit division and segregation, Bundy’s vision for People’s Rights is both an implicit call to maintain existing implicit segregation and an assault against federal and state efforts to decrease segregation and foster equality.


Five: The Posse Rides Again


Seven: Conspiracies and Antisemitism Unbounded


[63] Warren, Donald I. The Radical Center: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 1976.

[64] “People’s Rights Meeting – Emmett, Idaho 09-03-2020.” Video. Facebook. September 3, 2020.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Marr, Lori. Facebook. Video. April 2, 2020.

[67] Burghart, Devin. “Third Controversial Speaker Scheduled to Speak at South Carolina Tea Party Convention. Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. January 16, 2015.

[68] Tanner, Chuck. “Krisanne Hall Touts Her Anti-Racism, Calls for Gutting the 15th Amendment.” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. August 24, 2019.

[69] Tanner, Chuck and Burghart, Devin. “Far Right, Militia to Press Clark County Sheriff to Join Reopen Cause.” Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. June 22, 2020.

[70] Peterson, Alicia. Facebook. October 2, 2020.

[71] Rothbard, Murray N. “Nations by Consent.” The Journal of Libertarian Studies. Fall 1994. Published on Mises Institute Website. December 9, 2017. Rothbard (1926-1995) was an Austrian School economist who joined with Lew Rockwell to form the Mises Institute, the leading voice of paleolibertarianism. Rothbard once called for an alliance with national socialist David Duke as a “right wing populist” and declared that “there was nothing in Duke’s current program or campaign that could not also be embraced by paleoconservatives or paleolibertarians: lower taxes, dismantling the bureaucracy, slashing the welfare system, attacking affirmative action and racial set-asides, calling for equal rights for all Americans, including whites: what’s wrong with any of that?” Rothbard, Murray N. Right-Wing Populism. The Rothbard-Rockwell Report. January 1992.

[72] As Zeskind noted in Blood and Politics, the concept appealing to a middle American radical constituency was put forward by the late Sam Francis, the “philosopher general” of the white nationalist movement. The concept animates the mainstreamer wing of the movement.

[73] Lysander Spooner University. Free market writings increasingly censored as ‘hate speech’ by internet filters.; Rothbard, Murray N. Right-Wing Populism. The Rothbard-Rockwell Report. January 1992.

[74] Bundy, Ammon. Facebook. March 10, 2020.;

[75] See Stewart’s responses in the thread at Bundy, Ammon. Facebook. March 9, 2020.

[76] Lysander Spooner University. Courses. Aug. 20: New Course at MSU Catapalooza 2015: The Evils of Social Security.; Lysander Spooner University. Courses. Aug. 20: New Course at MSU Catapalooza 2015: The Evils of Social Security.; Stewart, Kelli. Facebook. July 27, 2020.

[77] Northwest Liberty News. “EIV Radio Episode 128 – Nick Ramlow – Candidate, Montana HD 7.” June 22, 2020.

[78] “People’s Rights Meeting – Emmett, Idaho 09-03-2020.” Video. Facebook. September 3, 2020.

[79] Lalwani, Nikita and Johnston, Mitchell. “Think racial segregation is over? Here’s how the police still enforce it.” The Washington Post. July 1, 2020.