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John Krull commentary: Maybe it’s an oath they don’t understand

Talk about a revelation that isn’t much of a surprise.

The Anti-Defamation League recently released a report revealing that an alarming number of elected officials, law-enforcement officers and first responders are or have been members or supporters of the radical-right conspiracy theory group, Oath Keepers.

The ADL combed through an Oath Keepers membership list leaked a year ago by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets to determine who on the list also was on a public payroll.

The ADL found that more than 3,000 Oath Keepers nationally draw government paychecks.

And, shock of shocks, of those 3,000-plus Oath Keepers feeding at the public trough, 696—a little more than 20%—are Hoosiers.

The ADL also discovered that 81 elected officials nationwide were on the Oath Keepers membership rolls.

Six are Hoosiers. The most prominent is Indiana Rep. Christopher Judy, R-Fort Wayne, who spends most of his time in the legislature trying to figure out ways to make guns as omnipresent in Hoosier lives as molecules of air are and to deny women any control over their own bodies.

Isn’t it curious how many of these self-proclaimed “freedom fighters” devote themselves to making sure no one tells them what to do with their firearms while asserting they should have the authority to tell others how to plan their families and live their lives?

Some background is helpful.

The Oath Keepers were formed in 2009 by a guy named Stewart Rhodes, a follower of former Libertarian Party presidential candidate Ron Paul, the father of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky. The elder Paul’s presidential ambitions were undercut by charges that his newsletter served as a welcoming forum for racist and other bigoted fulminations, some of which appeared under Paul’s byline.

Paul claimed that he never wrote or even saw any of the scurrilous stuff, which—again—appeared in a newsletter bearing his name and often under his own byline.

That denial calls to mind basketball star Charles Barkley’s wounded assertion that he had been “misquoted” in his own autobiography.

Rhodes emerged as a public figure by writing that Paul was being persecuted and that holding a presidential candidate accountable for things to which he’d signed his name wasn’t fair. That became Rhodes’ schtick, contending that anything that made an aggrieved arch-conservative look bad was a rank injustice.

Rhodes, who soon will go to court on seditious conspiracy charges in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, is not a rube. He graduated from the Yale University Law School.

Another curiosity: Isn’t it interesting that so many graduates of elite Ivy-League law schools—Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, etc.—come to believe that the world just hasn’t been kind enough to guys such as them?

Rhodes’ particular insight in forming Oath Keepers was that former military personnel and those working in law enforcement and as first responders would provide a fertile field for recruiting.

He was right.

The Oath Keepers grew rapidly, its membership stoked by feverish fantasies of government run amuck and poor, defenseless white men always being on the verge of annihilation. They vowed to protect the U.S. Constitution—which, of course, established government in this country—and resist tyranny.

The irony of opposing the very thing that provides so many of them with their livelihoods never seemed to occur to them.

The same goes for seeking to undermine the very principles of self-government they, in theory anyway, took oaths to defend.

That so many Hoosiers have swallowed such a half-cooked stew of reality-denying conspiracy theories and responsibility-evading fantasies isn’t exactly a thunderbolt.

If anything, the shock is that only one member of the Indiana General Assembly showed up on the ADL list.

A majority of the members of our legislature, after all, recently argued that the COVID pandemic was nothing but a fraud cooked up by trained medical professionals just to make good old boys like our lawmakers wear masks in public.

These guys would buy farmland on the moon if someone like Rhodes was doing the selling.

The truly great thing about all this is that so many of them buy their groceries and cover the rent with money the rest of us provide.

Your tax dollars at work.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The opinions expressed by the author do not represent the views of Franklin College.