Mike Vanderboegh, the Alabama-based blogger and former militia leader whose novel Absolved allegedly inspired four Georgia men arrested yesterday over an alleged plot to kill numerous government officials, is denying any responsibility and lashing out at Media Matters and other outlets who reported on that story.
Vanderboegh also reports that he suspects that one of the alleged plotters, Frederick Thomas, had posted comments on Vanderboegh's blog.
In one post, Vanderboegh wrote:
My as-yet-unpublished novel Absolved, for the uninitiated, begins with the premise that the ATF, for political agenda reasons of their own, has staged a deadly raid on the wrong Alabama good old boy from Winston County and what happens in the unintended consequences of that stupidity. There is nothing in there about ricin, or terrorist attacks on civilians (unless you count the forces of the federal government) or deliberate targeting of innocents. And did I mention that it is FICTION? [...]
Absolved is fiction. I hope it is a "useful dire warning." However, I am as much to blame for the Georgia Geriatric Terrorist Gang as Tom Clancy is for Nine Eleven.
Vanderboegh has also stated that the reaction to the story has motivated him to get Absolved printed and thanked Media Matters for "writing my dust jacket ad copy" by referring to the book as "Blood-Soaked."
In several conversations recorded by a confidential government source, Thomas allegedly said that he intended to model the actions of the group on Vanderboegh's novel. His self-proclaimed Toccoa, Georgia-based "covert group" was allegedly plotting to obtain explosives and silencers, to manufacture the biological agent ricin, and to target for assassination numerous government officials, including judges and employees of the Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service.
Vanderboegh has been promoted by Fox News as an "authority" on the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious on several occasions. While the network has repeatedly reported on the alleged Georgia plot, they have yet to address their hosting of Vanderboegh, the alleged inspiration for it.
Fox News is now actively concealing a link between an Alabama-based blogger repeatedly featured on the network as an expert and allegations of a domestic terrorist plot.
This morning on America's Newsroom, Fox News ran an extensive report on yesterday's arrest of four Georgia men accused of plotting an attack on federal employees and U.S. citizens using explosives, guns, and the biological toxin ricin. At the end of the segment, correspondent Jonathan Serrie pointed out that one of the defendants "allegedly cited the online novel Absolved, which discusses small groups of citizens attacking U.S. officials," with the defendant allegedly "saying that the attacks would be based on events in that novel."
Charging documents indeed state that accused plotter Frederick Thomas repeatedly cited as an inspiration the novel Absolved, in which underground militia fighters declare war on the federal government over gun control laws and same-sex marriage, leading to a second American revolution. But Fox's report neglected to mention the allegedly inspirational novel's author, who is no stranger to Fox viewers.
Indeed, the author, Mike Vanderboegh, has been mainstreamed by the network, which has repeatedly featured him as an expert on the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious. Fox has identified Vanderboegh as an "online journalist" and an "authority on the Fast and Furious investigation," and has consistently failed to acknowledge his extremist views, actions, and affiliations.
Vanderboegh, a former member of the militia and Minuteman movements and now a leader of the "anti-government extremist group" the Three Percenters, which claims to represent the three percent of gun owners who "who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act" but will instead, "if forced by any would-be oppressor, ... kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution."
The complaint against Thomas details a similar scenario:
THOMAS described a scenario in which he felt would be the "line in the sand" that would result in the activation of militias. THOMAS believed that soon, during a protest action, a protestor would be shot. It is his opinion the militias would act and respond by openly attacking the police. He then openly discussed having complied what he called the "Bucket List" which is a list of government employees, politicians, corporate leaders and members of the media he feels needed to be "taken out" to make the country right again."
Vanderboegh has stated that "another civil war in this country is the last thing I want,"writing in the introduction to Absolved that the novel is "a cautionary tale for the out-of-control gun cops of the ATF," who "need to know how powerful" the "armed citizenry" "could truly be if they were pushed into a corner."
Fox News has repeatedly presented Vanderboegh as a credible source. Their failure to mention his authorship of a novel that allegedly inspired a terrorist plot is telling.
UPDATE: In a subsequent report, Fox's Serrie said that Absolved was written by "the former leader of an Alabama militia," and briefly flashed an image of the book's cover that showed Vanderboegh's name. Serrie did not note Vanderboegh's connection to Fox News.
Several earlier reports on Fox & Friends also did not reference Vanderboegh.
Four alleged members of a Georgia militia group were arrested yesterday relating to their alleged plot to kill numerous government officials. According to the complaint, one of the arrested repeatedly cited as the source of their plan the novel Absolved, authored by Fox News expert Mike Vanderboegh, the former militia member famous for urging his blog readers to hurl bricks through the windows of Democratic offices.
In Vanderboegh's novel, which was self-published online, underground militia fighters declare war on the federal government over gun control laws and same-sex marriage, leading to a second American revolution. In the introduction to Absolved, Vanderboegh calls the book "a cautionary tale for the out-of-control gun cops of the ATF" and "a combination field manual, technical manual and call to arms for my beloved gunnies of the armed citizenry."
The Alabama-based blogger was one of the first to report on the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious. He has since promoted a variety of absurd conspiracy theories about the story.
In recent months, Fox News has mainstreamed Vanderboegh, treating him as an expert on the ATF's Operation Fast and Furious, featuring him in cable and online reports and identifying him as an "online journalist" and an "authority on the Fast and Furious investigation." Fox has not acknowledged Vanderboegh's extremist views, actions, and affiliations.
The self-proclaimed Toccoa, Georgia-based "covert group" was allegedly plotting to obtain explosives and silencers and to manufacture ricin, a biological agent. According to the complaint, the group planned to target for assassination numerous government officials, including judges and employees of the Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service.
The complaint alleges that at an April meeting one of the accused, Frederick Thomas, said he "intended to model their actions on the plot of an online novel called Absolved":
THOMAS also explained to the others present that he intended to model their actions on the plot of an online novel called Absolved. The plot of Absolved involves small groups of citizens attacking United States federal law enforcement representatives and federal judges. THOMAS expressed his belief that they should consider a number of assassinations on various government officials, and he particularly expressed a desire to kill Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees.
The complaint also alleges that at a prior meeting, Thomas "mentioned a fictional novel he had read on-line in which an anti-government group killed a large number of federal Department of Justice attorneys, and then he stated, 'Now of course, that's just fiction, but that's a damn good idea.' " Thomas also allegedly linked his plan to Absolved during a June 9 meeting.
According to the complaint, in May, Thomas and a confidential government source traveled to Atlanta and "conducted surveillance" on ATF and IRS offices "to plan and assess for possible attacks," with Thomas discussing obtaining explosives and the best way to blow up the buildings. The complaints allege that from June through November, Thomas and defendant Dan Roberts negotiated the purchase of explosives from an undercover agent. The government also alleged that in October, the other two members of the group described to the confidential source plans to manufacture ricin and disburse it in U.S. cities.
Roberts' complaint describes the defendents as "members of a fringe group of a known militia organization, with the fringe group calling itself the 'covert group.' " According to FBI sources, the "known militia organization" is the Georgia Militia, a statewide militia with at least a dozen active chapters, or "battalions" according to its website. The Georgia Militia website identifies Toccoa resident Dan Roberts as both a "Captain" and the commanding officer of the Toccoa-based 440th Squad. Emails to address listed for Roberts were not immediately returned.
In a post to his blog yesterday evening, Vanderboegh linked to an article about the arrests, commenting, "Pretty geriatric 'militia.' What does ricin have to do with 'saving the Constitution'? The only idiots I ever heard interested in ricin were neoNazis."
Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse falsely suggested that the ATF's Operation Wide Receiver occurred at "about the same time" as Operation Fast and Furious, in which ATF agents allowed guns to "walk" to Mexico in an attempt to build a case against a Mexican cartel. In so doing, La Jeunesse left out the fact that Wide Receiver, which used similar tactics, occurred during the Bush administration.
On October 11th Media Matters noted that right-wing blogger Mike Vanderboegh repeatedly posted an image of Attorney General Eric Holder transposed to a appear as a Nazi officer. The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) denounced the image and called on Fox News (who has repeatedly featured Vanderboegh) and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (who recently granted him an award) to do so as well:
As we have consistently said before, invoking the Holocaust to make political points is never acceptable. We strongly encourage others to condemn this type of behavior when they see it.
Unfortunately, after allowing individuals such as Glenn Beck and Hank Williams, Jr. to use Holocaust rhetoric during their appearances on the air, it is unlikely that Fox News will do the right thing and repudiate Vanderboegh. Indeed, Fox News' own chief executive compared NPR executives to the Nazis and lashed out at those criticizing the network for allowing such behavior to take place.
That leaves JPFO--a Jewish group that recently awarded Vanderboegh--to act responsibly and make it clear that his behavior is unacceptable.
Yesterday, Vanderboegh writing partner David Codrea outed himself as the creator of the image.
The Five has never featured the sharpest analysis, but watching yesterday's segment discussing several gun-related stories it was hard to tell if the hosts had a firm grasp of the clips they themselves were playing for their audience.
Kicking off the show, Eric Bolling showed a clip of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano testifying during Wednesday's House Judiciary committee hearing. Bolling showed a clip of Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) questioning Napolitano, then clearly suggested her answer shows she couldn't answer questions about Fast and Furious.
BOLLING: You look at that and there she is, the Secretary of Homeland. We didn't time lag, we didn't draw that out, that was her trying to figure out if she ever heard of it, ever talked about it, ever signed anything about it. I'm not sure what I'm more worried about, that she knew about or that she didn't know about it.
In fact Gowdy's question wasn't about Fast and Furious at all. As the clip Bolling aired indicated, Gowdy asked about whether she had ever approved "walking" guns generally in her time as a state and federal prosecutor, and then asked about the reasons prosecutors shouldn't approve of walking guns, drugs, money or any contraband items. Napolitano was understandably reluctant to make sweeping statements in response to the extremely broad questioning. Gowdy's question would potentially touch on decisions Napolitano made 22 years ago and basically a limitless universe of decisions made by prosecutors in numerous types of cases. This isn't at all the same as not being able to answer questions about Fast and Furious.
The error by Bolling was pointed out later in the segment by Bob Beckel, who accused Bolling of participating in a "witch hunt." Bolling then suggested he was talking about earlier testimony by Napolitano where she said she did not know about Fast and Furious when it was in operation. This doesn't get Bolling off the hook at all. If Bolling wanted to show a different section of her testimony he should have done that. Bolling clearly suggested the clip showed her unable to quickly and clearly answer questions about Fast and Furious when it didn't.
At no point did Bolling explain if he had any reason to believe that Napolitano would have been aware of Fast and Furious. DHS has over 200,000 employees, only one of whom is currently known to have been involved in the operation.
Now CBS is getting into the game, pushing NRA-friendly talking points based on flawed readings of polling data. This morning on The Early Show, anchor Chris Wragge opened a segment on the polling by declaring that "according to a new poll, most Americans are against" gun control. Wragge claimed that this information "may surprise you." It does, mainly because it isn't true.
As we've noted, Gallup didn't find a majority of Americans opposed gun control. Indeed, according to the poll, 77 percent of respondents want the laws covering the sales of firearms either kept as they are now or made more strict. By this measure, Americans overwhelmingly support gun control.
CBS' bogus report comes as Congress is debating the National-Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, an NRA-backed measure which requires states to honor concealed carry permits issued by every other state, even when the holder would not qualify for a permit under local law. According to polling conducted by a bipartisan team of polling firms, 74 percent of likely voters oppose the legislation.
That doesn't sound like a populace dead set against gun violence prevention measures, but I'm sure the NRA appreciates CBS' efforts to push out their message to the contrary.
Daily Caller hack Matthew Boyle spent yesterday calling around to the spokespeople for Republican members of Congress and asking them if their bosses think Attorney General Eric Holder should resign over Operation Fast and Furious, and wouldn't you know it, he found a few willing to grandstand in the press. According to Boyle, "Republican Reps. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, John Mica of Florida, Quico Canseco of Texas and Gus Bilirakis of Florida each told The Daily Caller on Thursday that they believe Holder should step down now."
If you think that seems like an odd group of members of Congress that have nothing in common, you're right. If you think that almost definitely indicates that he reached out to some Republican congressional offices who either refused comment or wouldn't say Holder should step down, you're probably right. And if you think that it sounds like Boyle created a story rather than reporting one, you're definitely right.
But because Boyle is a hack, this is an indication that Holder's "tenure in the Obama administration may be coming to an end," because the number of members of Congress calling for his resignation "has doubled in one day." How the fact that relatively low-level Republican members of Congress don't support him would lead to him leaving the administration is left unsaid.
Because the Daily Caller is a hack publication, they are currently running this banner headline:
And of course, they have help from their friends at Fox News:
As we previously noted, Fox devoted nearly four times more evening coverage to a Republican congressman's call for a special counsel to investigate Holder than they gave to Senate Democrats who called for one to investigate Bush AG Alberto Gonzales. It will be interesting to see how much time they decide to give to Boyle's non-story.
From the October 27 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Politico reports this morning that according to a newly-released Gallup poll, "support for gun control is at its lowest level in 50 years." Likewise, CNN's Jack Cafferty is using the poll to claim that "more Americans are against gun control than ever before." In fact, the Gallup poll points to robust public support for either maintaining or strengthening current gun violence prevention laws.
Cafferty and Politico are focusing on the results Gallup received by asking respondents whether they support a ban on civilian possession of handguns. While a national ban on handguns may have been a topic of political debate when Gallup first asked the question in 1959, there has been no large-scale push in favor of such a ban in recent decades. Indeed, the Supreme Court has found that local bans on handgun ownership are unconstitutional.
Indeed, another question included in Gallup's poll demonstrates robust support for gun violence prevention legislation. 77 percent of respondents feel that the laws covering the sales of firearms should either be stricter or kept as they are now, with only 11 percent calling for them to be weakened.
In other words, the vast majority of Americans support reasonable gun control measures; only a small fraction is actually opposed to gun control.
This finding is confirmed by other recent polling that shows that Americans support measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals. According to one poll, 89 percent of respondents support requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check at gun shows, 94 percent support requiring gun owners to alert police if their guns are lost or stolen, and 69 percent support requiring those buying ammunition to pass a criminal background check. Another poll showed 86 percent of respondents supported background checks for every gun buyer
Since there's no anniversary of a national tragedy to exploit this week, the NRA had to resorted to more classic gun lobby tactics in their most recent fundraising e-mail. This time, they suggest that by supposedly criticizing the NRA's extremist policies, the media is "raining down a message of hate on gun owners to boost Obama's re-election campaign."
NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox tells NRA members these media attacks against gun owners are "getting worse by the day":
That's why the freedom-hating media elites see you as a THREAT. That's why they're dramatically stepping up their attacks on gun owners--labeling us as lunatics and nuts in a deceitful effort to help win the election for Obama.
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune saying that "Castle Doctrine" laws give gun owners a "chilling license to kill" to the Philadelphia Magazine accusing NRA members of hating children, the media is raining down a message of hate on gun owners to boost Obama's re-election campaign.
I can go on... the Washington Post, New York Times, Newsweek, Time, ABC, MSNBC and CBS News, Associated Press, Chicago Sun Times, Miami Herald and too many more to list have all joined with Obama and the gun-ban lobby to destroy your gun rights.
Last month, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre claimed the existence of a "massive Obama conspiracy" to get the president re-elected by taking no action on guns, then use his second term to repeal the Second Amendment. The NRA now appears to be claiming that the media are in on the scheme.
The only two articles Cox bothers to specify as examples of the increasing attacks against gun owners were both written in May. Beyond not being especially timely, the articles are ridiculous examples to present as attacks on gun owners by "media elites" in defense of President Obama. Both concern state laws without any particular connection to President Obama.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune article referring to the Castle Doctrine as a "chilling license to kill" wasn't even authored by a media figure, but in fact was written by a Minnesota police chief.
The Philadelphia Magazine article referred to was written by columnist Sally Hingston. Hingston wrote a column savaging the NRA's lobbyists - not its members - for their Florida effort to keep pediatricians from asking their patients and their parents about guns and gun safety in the home.
Florida's NRA-backed law has already been blocked by a federal judge for violating freedom of speech. The initial version of the NRA-backed bill would have potentially led to 5 million dollar fines or 5 year prison sentences. It's hard to believe that gun owners that aren't paid NRA lobbyists looking to gin up controversy are eager to start jailing doctors. Using the same contrived logic that Cox applies to Hingston, you could say that pro-gun bloggers that called the Florida legislation "dumb" and "stupid" are calling NRA members stupid and dumb.
The subject line of the latest fundraising effort asserts that attacks against the NRA are attacks against gun owners saying, "Anti-gun media now attacking you and me". In reality NRA members and gun owners don't always agree with the extremist positions of the NRA.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) finally found a gun related conspiracy theory they don't want circulating around the internet; one targeting the NRA and their legislative efforts. According to the NRA, other pro-gun groups are trying to get noticed and raise money by spreading "ridiculous" "mischaracterizations" about NRA-backed H.R. 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act.
If these gun groups are advancing conspiratorial misinformation to raise money, then it's not hard to figure out where they could have gotten the idea. In recent months the NRA has continued to put out e-mails warning of black helicopter style schemes by the United Nations to go after guns in America, accused President Obama of plotting to "destroy the Second Amendment" by not pursuing gun control, and used the memory of 9-11 terrorist attacks to raise money.
H.R. 822 would force states to accept out of state concealed carry permits no matter how dangerously weak the standards are in those states. The legislation is opposed by law enforcement and anti-domestic violence groups, but it appears the NRA is more concerned with even more extreme pro-gun groups like the National Association For Gun Rights (NAGR). From the NRA lobby shop's most recent effort to get the "truth" out about H.R. 822:
But more and more, a small cadre of self-described "pro-gun" groups continually sound false alarms and "stir the pot" in an effort to be noticed. (And to raise money, of course.) These repeat offenders peddle mischaracterizations as the gospel, and dilute the good work being done to protect the Second Amendment by legitimate groups.
Of course, NAGR's attack mirrors the NRA's own paranoid narratives. NAGR suggests H.R. 822 is a "trojan horse" that, through a hazy slippery slope process, would lead to advancing gun control:
Even worse, once this bill starts moving, anyone can amend the bill with anything ... and no legislation can bind a future Congress in any way. And that doesn't count what Obamacrats in the Department of Justice might dream up as the "regulations" to carry out the legislative "intent."
But mark my words, H.R. 822, the National CCW Registration Act, will become nothing more than a Trojan Horse for even more federal gun control.
They will use this bill as the foundation to create a federal database of CCW permit holders.
Paranoid slippery slope arguments are the bread and butter of NRA rhetoric, as are flagrant mischaracterizations of gun-related policy proposals. NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre has spent the last several months falsely calling an Obama executive order requiring gun dealers to report multiple sales of Mexican cartel favored rifles "gun owner registration". The NRA constantly asserts that efforts to require backgrounds checks for all gun sales constitutes a "ban" on "private sales", even through it wouldn't actually keep private citizens from selling a gun.
1980s NRA chief Ray Arnet famously said, "You keep any special interest group alive by nurturing the crisis atmosphere". Other extremist gun groups appear to have learned that lesson well.
On Tuesday, the coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) released a video testimonial from Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker criticizing H.R. 822, a bill currently before Congress that would force states to recognize the concealed carry permits of all other states -- even those with dangerously lax standards.
Booker called the bill "insane" and said that it would put civilians and law enforcement "at risk." Indeed, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, and the Police Foundation all oppose the bill, citing the potential danger to their members.
The video did not go unnoticed by the bill's main supporter, the National Rifle Association. Last night, NRA Radio's Cam Edwards responded, pushing the same flawed arguments his organization has been using to push the legislation:
Edwards defends H.R. 822 by comparing concealed carry licenses to driver's licenses:
EDWARDS: Is it "insane" for driver's licenses to be recognized across state lines? Because I'm pretty sure there are different qualifications to get your driver's license, depending on what state you live in.
MAIG's Cliff Schecter previously addressed this talking point in an op-ed challenging similar arguments from NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox:
Is the NRA now comparing a concealed carry permit to owning and driving a car, where each individual is required to possess a license and register their vehicle? So is Mr. Cox's position that we should create a registry of each person who carries loaded, concealed firearms, so gun regulations will work similarly to the laws governing the owning and driving of automobiles?
To the substance of his point, the police are able to verify the status of one's driver's license through a national database. With concealed carry permits, there is no such licensing database -- and Mr. Cox assures us there are no plans to create one. Some states don't even keep accurate records of who's allowed to carry a concealed weapon -- much less feed them into a national database -- and others destroy these documents. Perhaps this is why virtually all law enforcement organizations oppose this.
National Rifle Association chief lobbyist Chris Cox claims in Guns & Ammo magazine that a proposed United Nations Arms Trade Treaty is "completely unnecessary" because the United States "operates what even Hillary Clinton admits is the 'gold standard' of export controls for arms transfers.'" But Clinton made that comment while expressing U.S. support for a treaty that would "promote the same high standards for the entire international community."
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre was mocked by progressives last month for claiming that there is a "massive Obama conspiracy" to "lull gun owners to sleep" by not taking any action on reducing gun violence in order to win re-election and then carry out his plot to eliminate the Second Amendment.
LaPierre explained to Ashley Martella that gun owners need "to do everything they can to make sure that President Obama does not get a second term so that he can destroy the Second Amendment":
LaPIERRE: Our job is to protect the Second Amendment and that means that every gun owner, every Second Amendment supporter needs to do everything they can to make sure that President Obama does not get a second term so that he can destroy the Second Amendment. And that's what's going to happen if he gets a second term.
And I want to leave no doubt about that. This is the most dangerous election in our lifetime for the Second Amendment freedom that American citizens have. A second term by President Obama will break the back of that freedom in this country.
When he last offered up this bizarre conspiracy theory, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pointed out that, far from working to "destroy the Second Amendment," Obama has actually been "saying very little and doing even less on gun laws," with his most notable action on the issue being signing a bill that allows guns in national parks.
But LaPierre and the NRA aren't about to let reality get in the way of their conspiracies.