One of America's Most Notorious Militias

Uploaded by vice on 02.11.2012



THOMAS MORTON: If there's anybody more excited about the
impending '90s revival than us and Mudhoney frontman Mark
Arm, it is the militia movement.
Born out of the baby-ridden ashes of Waco and Ruby Ridge,
groups of armed citizens, like the Tri-States Militia of
South Dakota and Norm Olson's Michigan Militia, coalesced to
the delight of hack TV reporters and editorial
cartoonists worldwide.
Though their depiction in the media typically ranged from
hey, look at these kooky anti-government gun nuts to
hey, look at these kooky anti-government racists, the
movement's numbers grew and grew.
They were even making inroads into mainstream politics until
Tim McVeigh pulled off the ultimate PR coup by blowing up
149 people and 19 children in Oklahoma City.

Plagued by its association with the attack, the militia
movement foundered, and as one of its most visible groups,
the Michigan Militia bore the brunt of the shit storm.
There were allegations that the Nichols brothers and
McVeigh were members, brow-beatings at the hands of
congressional pantywaists like Arlen Specter, and lively
infighting by militia members upset over the leadership's
alternative hypothesis for the bombing.
The militia disbanded in the early '00s, and founders Norm
Olson and Ray Southwell left Michigan for Alaska.
While this seemed like the sad but likely end to their
endeavor, according to a Homeland Security report
earlier this year, militia activity, like ketamine and
Docs with shorts, is once again on the hot list.
And Norm and Ray are gearing up to hit the reunion circuit.
RAY SOUTHWELL: How're you doing?
THOMAS MORTON: How are you doing?
RAY SOUTHWELL: Fine, fine.
You're from the VBS TV, huh?
RAY SOUTHWELL: Well, come on in.
We've got a lot to talk about here.
THOMAS MORTON: Hi, I'm in Nikiski, Alaska, on the Kenai
Peninsula with Norman Olson and Ray Southwell, formally of
the Michigan Militia.
Currently of the Alaska Militia.
NORMAN OLSON: Hi, I'm Norman Olson, and a longtime
proponent of the Constitution.
20-year-plus military veteran.
Standing by the red, white, and blue,
no matter what happens.
And telling it like it is.
Michigan Militia from the very beginning.
This goes back to, let's see.
oh, 1994.
Started the little militia in--
in fact, this one goes back even earlier than that.
"Patriots gather to rail against the 'New World
Order.'" My, were we young then, huh?
Year number one was what was called Operation Visibility.
We knew that we had to become visible.
If we didn't maintain our visibility, we couldn't
maintain our legitimacy.
It's so important that if you believe in what you're doing
is right, you've got to stand up and make yourself visible.
Look at that mean look on that man's face.
Oh, boy.
But we were just regulars, trying to point out that we're
not the terrorists.
We're counter-terrorists.
We're going to stop those people that
are destroying America.
RAY SOUTHWELL: What we've always done with our militia--
and this is what people don't understand, again--
militias command information.
So I may be a commander.
My job is not to give you orders.
My job as a commander is to give you information so that
you sort that out in your own conscience and decide what
action you should take.
The army is command control.
You're my soldier, I'm going to give you an order, and you
better carry it out.
An example, when you go back to the Revolutionary War,
Washington had a heck of a time when the
militia would show up.
The militia was not command control.
If these guys got there and they looked at that
battlefield and they decided, this is not a battle worth
fighting, they left.
That's the way it is today, too.
NORMAN OLSON: So we went fast all over the country, starting
up militias in every state.
Some of our militia training exercises brought in folks
from all over the country.
But we'd put on these training sessions, dog-and-pony shows,
and the media loved that too.
They came in from all over the world to see what we were
doing, because it never happened before, since 1776,
you know, of course.
Or 1775, I should say, Lexington and Concord.
And we were growing and getting
more national exposure.
RAY SOUTHWELL: Our goal was to unite these militias.
And understand, there's militias all over the country,
all over the peninsula, but they're small groups-- five
people, ten people.
So we networked with each other so we can be a unified
force, a protective force, so we don't have to call upon the
federal troops or Blackwater.
THOMAS MORTON: It's important, it would seem to me, that it'd
be as important in times of crisis or impending crisis as
it is in times of well-being to have what the Second
Amendment describes, which you're talking about-- an
unorganized citizens' militia.

How do you go about that in times when--
NORMAN OLSON: In times of peace?
Of fatness, good--
NORMAN OLSON: Here's the thing.
When you put a life preserver on your child and you're going
out on a lake, do you do it after?
Or do you do it with the perception that something
could happen out on the lake?
Of course you do.
You don't wait for your child to drown.
You think ahead.
You're frightened of the possible situation.
That fear motivates you to do something good.
So is the--
RAY SOUTHWELL: Who would you rather trust?
Your neighbor, or a stranger?
RAY SOUTHWELL: You know, that's--
NORMAN OLSON: And when somebody comes rolling up your
driveway, when the lights go out, would you be comforted if
you knew it was your neighbors in it, bringing over a
generator or bringing over foodstuffs, rather than a big,
black SUV coming to take your guns away?
Again, to keep the control.
So the question is, who will come in to aid us?
If we are well-disciplined and well-trained and
well-equipped, then we can take care of
ourselves, thank you.
But you see, the media won't allow that to happen.
The media has to spin it so that we are always demonized
with misinformation and looked at as the bogeyman running
around the woods with our cammies on, rather than people
who can help and organize each other.
It looks like Mark Farner.
You know Mark Farner?
THOMAS MORTON: Um, Grand Funk, right?
NORMAN OLSON: Yeah, yeah.
He's a personal friend of ours.
NORMAN OLSON: Yeah, he's a good boy.
THOMAS MORTON: Are you guys buddies with the Nuge?
NORMAN OLSON: Oh yeah, you betcha.
We did a program on the steps of the Capitol with Ted.
Ray and I went out to Montana there, we went up to the FBI
lines, and I was carrying a teddy bear, and Ray was
carrying a Red Cross pack.
What we want to do is humanize it, put a human face on it, so
that those people wouldn't be bulldozed.
Western New York that I helped, they were going to
bulldoze his house trailer because it didn't comply with
building codes.
We went to help this old gentleman, bless his heart.
Here's an old fellow that was--
he was a construction worker in Northern Michigan, 87 years
old, he and his wife.
And they had all this old machinery on their property.
Well, the county came out and said it was a blight and they
had to remove it all.
And so we went out there and faced down the sheriff and
fought for him for a long time.
The Stitt family.
And they lived down a little island in northern Lake Huron,
and they were being pushed off the island because they were
preparing for Y2K.
And they were raising chickens and emus and
all sorts of stuff.
THOMAS MORTON: Were they trying to grow hemp?
NORMAN OLSON: I think so.
Now I don't have anything bad to say about marijuana.
To me, it's just like alcohol.
All things in moderation.
I'm a libertarian when it comes to that.
Again, it's a human right.
If it's a measure of relaxation and enjoyment, then
what's the difference between smoking a joint or popping a
Quaalude, you know?
We went out there to support them.
We're always trying to support the little guy, you know?

THOMAS MORTON: One thing that's marked a lot of the
coverage and, I think, has muddied the waters is trying
to overlay many of these issues with
kind of racial politics.
He was a Hawaiian.
NORMAN OLSON: Yeah, yeah.
So from the very beginning, we had racial diversity.
THOMAS MORTON: Now you guys have referred to the Black
Panthers and stuff as a militia--
not necessarily exactly the same as you, but in the same
spirit, in its early days.

NORMAN OLSON: Whether you sit down with the Black Panthers
or you sit down with the Native Americans, I'm sure
that we all want the very same thing.
RAY SOUTHWELL: So it's not the black community that sees us
as racists.
It's the ignorant white community, who are so quickly
misled by the media.
NORMAN OLSON: Who keeps us divided?
Remember we were talking about control and power and central
Of course.
It's to the benefit of a central government to keep us
divided, to set up these little target groups,
marginalizing so that people cannot come together, so that
the power cannot be given back to the people.
As long as we're squabbling among ourselves, we'll never
be able to stand up against tyranny and oppression.
We'll be arguing with ourselves while they march us
into a trench to machine-gun us.

It just doesn't make any sense.
Then it happened.

Boy, it all hit the fan.
I'll tell you what.
When Oklahoma City, that event happened,
it surprised everyone.
I had heard rumors along the Missouri border that there was
going to be a bombing against the federal building, either
in Tulsa or in Oklahoma City.
It was common knowledge.
The Feds knew that.
They knew it was going to happen.
They didn't know where.
But when it happened, it surprised
everybody in the militia.
I remember Leslie Stahl was in the gun shop there when it all
happened, and they made the mention of Timothy McVeigh and
the brothers, what are their names?
Terry Nichols.
And they linked it with the Michigan Militia.
And then it all started to unravel it.
We deactivated after seven years and started to go home.
Some stayed.
Some stayed.
People got frightened then, because the media picked up on
it and ran with the militia connection, to the extent that
the militia, a third of the militia ran and hid.
A third of them went underground.
Didn't want to be seen, didn't want to be on a list, didn't
want to be photographed.
Another third just quit the militia altogether.
They realized this wasn't paintball in the
woods on the weekend.
This was life-and-death stuff.
And another third became more aggressive, more adamant about
standing up against the government, because we saw the
conspiracy against it, against what was happening.
THOMAS MORTON: Do you think there was ever a possibility
that what happened in Oklahoma and as a result of it could
have been fully averted?
Or was it just--
NORMAN OLSON: Actually, I believe it was the CIA.
It sounds crazy.
THOMAS MORTON: Well, the CIA's done a lot of crazy things.
NORMAN OLSON: Well, listen to me.
You know, when you talk about neo-Nazis and skinheads and
white supremacists, which McVeigh was
closely associated with--
who's funding all of that hatred?
And if they could get a stooge like Timothy McVeigh to do
that, and Terry Nichols collaborating?
But what about the unknown?
What about this fellow that went back to Germany?
I don't think it'll ever be known, the extra leg they
found in the rubble with the military boot on it, that they
couldn't match up to anybody.
Where did that come from?
You don't read about that, but it was there.
And so did they know beforehand?
Did somebody go in there and set charges?
I don't know.
But I'm welcome to hear any theory, because that's all I
have, is a theory.
There's something out there, but I guess
Fox Mulder was right.
The truth is out there, somewhere.

Did the federal government stage the Oklahoma City
bombing to bust up the militia because the militia was
growing too strong?
That could be argued.
And history may reveal it.
I don't know.
We think it did.
We think that they had to stop the militia because we were
growing so fast across the country that we were
threatening to take the power away from the federal
THOMAS MORTON: Did you personally
meet Tim McVeigh before--
NORMAN OLSON: No, not personally.
He was downstate.
I was up north.
I didn't get a chance to meet him.
Of course, the federal government did a fine job of
proving that Timothy McVeigh was working out
of an act of revenge.
So when I went up to Washington to testify before
the Senate and got into that pissing contest with Arlen
Specter, I pointed that out to him.
And he couldn't understand how I could understand what was
going on in Timothy McVeigh's mind.
Well, you don't understand the problem that we've had in
Northern Ireland.
You don't understand the problem that we've had in
South Africa.
You do not understand the hatred and retaliation, the
retribution and the revenge that has been going on around
this globe since time immortal.
Then you don't understand the dynamic, sir.
ARLEN SPECTER: Well, Mr. Olson, I may not understand.
And that's why we've had these hearings, so that you could
have a full opportunity to express yourself.
NORMAN OLSON: I said well, it'd be about as simple as I
slap you, you slap me in retaliation.
What don't we understand about that?
Of course, we tried to distance
ourself from all of that.
And we threw the meat in on the other side of the river,
claiming the Japanese did it, but what happened was is that
took all of the emphasis away from us and headed it in
another direction.
Kind of dispersed that whole feeling.
And fear is strong.
THOMAS MORTON: About the theory that the Japanese were
retaliating for the sarin gas thing?
NORMAN OLSON: No, we didn't have any strong connection.
We brought that out--
actually, what it did was it defused the
direction we were going.
Because we were going headlong into a big
confrontation with the Feds.
They thought we were all wacky and crazy.
But that actually freed us up to go in a different direction
at that time, which we needed.
And what may be thought of as bad actually worked out good.
Today, they laugh at us and make--
but it's a matter of strategic decisions that we made.
But things changed after Oklahoma City, changed
And a lot of people fell away.
And then Bush came onto the scene and everything got to be
nice and the government was seen to be a kind, friendly,
benevolent government, ready to help us.
But that was just a facade.
That was just a cover.
They're not there to help us at all.
They're there to eke out our substance and to rob us of
everything that we have.
And take away our power.
So power to the people, huh?

Our job in Michigan was pretty well done.
THOMAS MORTON: Why did you leave Michigan?
And why did you pick Alaska?
NORMAN OLSON: I often ask people that question.
Why did you come to Alaska?
I'm always interested where they come from
and the reason why.
And many people don't really know.
Something just drew them.
I know that sounds ethereal and all of that,
but here's the thing.
Alaska is a place, it's a new frontier.
I think socially, economically, culturally there
is much that appeals to us.
We were in Michigan.
Michigan, anybody who wants to look at the statistics knows
that Michigan is going bottom-up economically.
There was nothing there for us, no reason to stay.
And people had pretty well lost their desire to stand up.
I think the spirit of resistance, the spirit of
standing up against the encroaching IRS and federal
government intrusion into people's lives had pretty well
wasted away their spirit.
And so they feel like leaving.
We were on the tail-end of that, and seeing it all come
about, some of us came up here for new adventures, new
Others came up here to leave something behind.
RAY SOUTHWELL: And it's the last adventure state left in
the union, as far as I'm concerned.
So I think that was probably the big emphasis on
why we moved up.
NORMAN OLSON: This one was just from a couple weeks ago,
September 16.
We are free from individual income tax here.
Much of the state is free from sales tax.
So there are many, many benefits.
THOMAS MORTON: It seems very personal-liberty-oriented, and
yet there's some odd spots about it.
I think the lack of sheriffs in the entire state--
how do you feel about Alaskan state politics, in that sense?
RAY SOUTHWELL: We had an excellent working relationship
in Michigan with our sheriff.
I met with him on usually a monthly basis to let him know
when we were doing training, where we were training.
And officially, he could never support us, you know, the
politics involved with it.
But he publicly came out and told the community through the
media that we were doing nothing wrong.
So the sheriff, as an elected servant of the people, truly
understands how to build that relationship with the people.
So we trusted him.
NORMAN OLSON: You see, people say, well, we can trust the
Alaskan government.
Well, I don't know how far Alaska has sold out to the
federals for whatever payment is due for all that the
federal government has poured into Alaska.
There's too many strings attached to a lot of the
bailouts and all the rest of it.
So I'm always concerned about what liberties and what rights
are at risk when we give the promise of safety into the
hands of governmental authorities.
I like to keep this liberty and this freedom at the lowest
level possible--
among the citizens themselves.
RAY SOUTHWELL: I think the other part of this area, and
probably throughout Alaska, is our independence.
And I was talking to one of the local gun dealers.
The peninsula has 50,000 people.
And this particular one gun dealer is selling 1,000
military arms a month.
So in the last month, or last year, he has sold 12,000
firearms to 50,000 people.
So you can start seeing those numbers.
But what's happening--
NORMAN OLSON: They're upgrading.
RAY SOUTHWELL: There's two mindsets, I think, that are
out there, is Alaskans' independence.
I can take care of myself and my family.
I will arm myself and I will prepare for whatever may come,
and I'll be ready.
The other mindset is I am doing that same issue, but I
don't want anybody to know it.
It's a secret, because the feds might come and take my
guns, or just a tremendous amount of independence, but
there's also a tremendous amount of fear.
What my fear is is that if and when there's an economic
disintegration, there's going to be anarchy
all over the country.
THOMAS MORTON: Given the rate at which things are going,
does it concern you that militia may not be ready?
NORMAN OLSON: Too little, too late.
I foresee more anarchy.
NORMAN OLSON: We're very vulnerable.
RAY SOUTHWELL: Neighbor fighting neighbor for goods.
NORMAN OLSON: There's only two extremes--
anarchy and tyranny.
I'm concerned that we are not networked.
We are not prepared.
We are very vulnerable here in Alaska.
One road in, one road out.
The wise people will prepare for what may be coming, and
what we believe will come with economic collapse, with social
disruption, with more government intrusion.
So all we are doing is being prudent, long-viewed people
who are able to read the times, prepare for the worst.
It's as simple as that.
And we still have some pages to fill.
Isn't that optimistic?
If nothing else, you know, they say at the end of your
life, everything that you own is either going to be put out
by the side of the road, auctioned off,
or end up in a landfill.
The only thing you can leave your children is a legacy of
who you were, what you tried to do.
If it's a life well spent doing what you think is right,
then can't argue with that.
Just try and help the little guy, you know?
Help the little guy survive.
There's a lot of folks out there that are being chewed up
by the system and need help.
So we just keep on helping, you know?
Call us crazy, call us fanatics, call us loons, but
don't call us shortsighted.
Trying to look far enough ahead to
prepare for what's coming.