The Threat from the Patriot Movement

AMERICA'S PATRIOTS HAVE A TOUGH LIST OF DEMANDS: KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY LAND, MY WALLET -- AND MY GUNS

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Annamarie Miller is a dedicated schoolteacher with an obvious love of history and ideas, who dresses fastidiously in neatly pressed shirts and slacks and is inclined to exclaim "Gosh!" when she gets excited. Though hardly a menacing presence, Miller, 27, is a determined renegade who refuses to take any authority figure's word at face value. It all began, she says, during her student days at California State University at Chico. "I became disillusioned by the revisionism of history," she says. "A lot of stuff they were teaching me twisted the truth." Inspired by campaign literature, she began to question the "truths" of authorities far more powerful than her college professors. The Federal Reserve Board, for instance. Why had it never been audited? Had it perhaps already bankrupted the U.S.? Or the Social Security Administration. Was it going to collapse before Miller was old enough to collect? Through such questions, Miller gradually arrived at a hard "truth'' of her own. The constitutional rights of all Americans, she believes, are threatened by an overgrasping, irresponsible government.

She doesn't keep it to herself. Each Tuesday at 7 p.m., Miller broadcasts that unflinching message via public-access TV to an audience of 50,000 viewers in Northern California. Along with her husband Scott, a retail clerk, and his brother Randall, a chef, she uses their half-hour show, The Informed Citizen, to warn of threats to the American way of life. Among them: a conspiratorial U.S. government that is surrendering its sovereignty to the U.N.; efforts by police and gun-control advocates to disarm citizens; and a tax burden that is robbing Americans of their hard-earned income. Her aim, she insists, is simply to inform and motivate. "A lot of people," she says, "are willing to give up their rights and freedom out of fear."

Before the bombing in Oklahoma City, few Americans would have thought that either Miller or her show posed a serious threat to the civic order. Unlike many other American citizens who identify themselves as "patriots" -- an amorphous, far-right populist movement of both armed militias and unarmed groups that harbor a deep distrust of government -- Miller does not spend her weekends running around in camouflage, shooting at imagined enemies. Nor does she buy into every conspiracy theory that crackles along the patriot grapevine, like last week's alert that the Oklahoma catastrophe-which "patriots" suspect involved three bombs, not one-was a government plot to enable President Clinton to proclaim martial law and divert attention from forthcoming hearings on the Whitewater financial scandal. Indeed, Miller's attitude toward the Oklahoma City culprits -- "I say hang 'em" -- sounded much like the President's.

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