Paradise Lost 

Parsing the Patriot Movement

As public information officer for III Percent Idaho, it's Chris McIntire's job to mold media depictions of his organization—and he's not afraid to put muscle behind his words.

"You can write whatever you want, but I guarantee you this: If it is not in line with the truth, if it is not in line with what we represent, you can expect 2,000 people to crowd these streets to block traffic," he said in a recent interview.

III Percent Idaho and other constitutionalist groups in the so-called Patriot Movement have been front-and-center in media around the country since 2014, when their members traveled long distances to participate in an armed standoff between federal officers and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. In July, following a shooting at a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tenn., groups such as the Oath Keepers and III Percenters stationed themselves at similar recruitment sites throughout the nation in order to provide security for soldiers. In August, an armed contingent of Oath Keepers showed up in Ferguson, Mo., to protect local businesses against looters and property damage amid unrest between residents and police. The same month, Oath Keepers and III Percent Idaho were in Montana guarding a mine against Forest Service officials seeking to force its closure over non-compliance.

Media reports on what patriot groups call their "operations" have centered on the citizen soldiers' military posturing and rhetoric, with groups like III Percent—which takes its name from the percentage of colonists who participated in the American Revolutionary War—and Oath Keepers finding themselves targets of criticism that their tactics could potentially lead to violence.

For McIntire and other patriots who see their activities as apolitical, professional and service oriented, their public image doesn't reflect who they are. Rather, it reflects broader struggles for the heart of their movement being waged both from within and without.

While the news media has portrayed these groups as potentially dangerous, members have said they receive little attention for their service activities.

"They want to paint us as white supremacists, they want to paint us as racists, they want to paint us as these bitter clingers to an archaic document that don't want to move forward, that are culturally closed off, that are intellectually limited. And that's not true," McIntire said.

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