The threat of the oath keepers is a talking point

04/04/2022

Local extremist and anti-government militias like the Oath Keepers have been active in the United States for decades.

Increasingly, however, their rhetoric has resulted in violence targeting the structures of the federal government that help shape the American way of life.

“The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 caught many Americans off guard,” said Sam Jackson, assistant professor at the University of Albany’s College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity.

“Admittedly, the sight of large, angry mobs kicking down the doors of government buildings is not what we are used to seeing,” said Jackson, a frequent media panelist, public speaker and conference presenter on topics of political extremism. “But maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised.”

Jackson will discuss this trend on Wednesday, April 6 at SUNY Cortland in a presentation titled “From Extreme Beliefs to Extreme Actions: Oath Keepers.”

Her seminar, which will take place at 4:30 p.m. at the Moffett Center, Room 115, concludes the 2021-22 Rozanne M. Brooks Lecture Series at SUNY Cortland, which this academic year focuses on the theme “The Culture of Extremes.”

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The series discusses how over the past two years America and the rest of the world have been ravaged by extremes that include tightrope politics, apocalyptic weather events, a deadly pandemic, economic collapse, and social upheaval. .

Lectures and receptions at the Brooks Museum are free. Due to ongoing health and safety concerns surrounding the pandemic, members of the public are not invited. Places will be limited and cannot be exceeded. In light of recent guidelines from the New York State Department of Health, SUNY Cortland strongly recommends attendees wear a face covering.

A reception to welcome Jackson will precede the conference at 4 p.m. at the Brooks Museum located across from the conference room.

Jackson, who has developed tools and processes to better study this topic using online data, examines political conflict, broadly defined, along two main lines. The first focuses on anti-government extremism in the United States, particularly when activists anticipate or prepare for violence. The second focuses on the study of online politics and culture that make conflict more likely.

According to him, in recent years, a notable number of Americans have engaged in conspiracy theories, become more open to defending white supremacy or more clearly portray those with whom they disagree as existential threats to their way of life.

Some of these Americans have also become more explicit in preparing for violent conflict to prevent what they see as a threat from criminals, terrorists and the federal government.

“A group called Oath Keepers exemplifies this tendency: to perceive government threats, prepare for conflict with the government, and leave the door open for Americans to act on their own,” Jackson said.

“By examining this group, we can begin to understand how Americans who believe themselves to be patriotic might storm the Capitol and attempt to disrupt American democracy.”

He is the author of a 2020 book, Keepers of the Oath: Patriotism and the Verge of Violence in a Right-Wing Anti-Government Group, Columbia University Press. He has authored or co-authored peer-reviewed journal articles, including “From National Identity to State Legitimacy: Mobilizing Digitally Networked Publics in Eastern Ukraine”.

Jackson joined the University at Albany in 2018. He previously served as a Research Fellow with the VOX-Pol Network of Excellence at Dublin City University.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from the University of Tennessee. Jackson holds two master’s degrees, one in political science from Syracuse University and the other in religion and politics from the University of Manchester, England. Jackson was honored by Syracuse University in 2016 as an outstanding teaching assistant while working on his doctorate. dissertation on extremist groups.

The 2021-22 Brooks Lecture Series is sponsored by a grant from the Cortland College Foundation, Department of Sociology/Anthropology, and Office of the President. For more information, contact Brooks Museum Director and SUNY Distinguished Professor Sharon Steadman at 607-753-2308.


Jessica C. Bell