Gun-toting right takes to the hills

Libertarians are planning to set up self-sufficient communities to turn their backs on Barack Obama's America
  • @timwalker

For many on the right of the political spectrum, the re-election of President Barack Obama was cause for more rhetoric about loss of freedom and the decline of American values. For a few, however, it has become a reason to leave modern America behind altogether. Rather than try to reclaim the country electorally, certain like-minded libertarians have hatched plans to build their own self-sufficient communities, cut off from the rest of the US and organised according to what they see as the nation's founding ideology.

Last year, a group of gun-owning "patriotic Americans" purchased 20 acres in north-west Idaho's remote and mountainous Benewah County, on which to showcase their proposal for a medieval-style walled commune called the Citadel. And in January, the former Fox News host Glenn Beck announced his intention to found a new $2bn town called Independence, USA, which would represent "the rebirth of our nation through its own principles".

The Citadel is the more advanced. Its founders plan to construct a 3,000-acre community of up to 7,000 families, inspired by the writings of Thomas Jefferson. It will be, they claim, "a bastion of liberty in America". They aim to start developing their site later this year. The group began accepting applications in December, and claims to have received hundreds of requests for plots.

The project would be funded largely by an on-site firearms factory, which would also provide employment. Though the factory is not yet built, the group announced on its blog last week that it had received the necessary federal firearms licence. Guns would be ubiquitous: any resident aged 13 and over would be expected to carry an assault rifle, plus "at least five magazines and 1,000 rounds of ammunition". "Marxists, socialists, liberals and establishment Republicans will likely find life in our community is incompatible with their existing ideology and preferred lifestyles," the group suggests.

Prospective residents must sign a "Citadel patriot agreement", which demands they "annually demonstrate proficiency" with firearms, maintain a year's emergency supply of food and water, and carry a loaded weapon whenever they venture into town. The organisers say they are "a law-abiding group of people minding our own business".

This is not a novel phenomenon, according to Dr Larry Rosenthal, the director of the Centre for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. "It has a 1960s counter-culture quality to it," he says. "There's just as much of a tradition of dropping out on the right as there is on the left."

Following Mr Obama's re-election, disgruntled Americans published petitions on the White House website demanding to be allowed to secede. "From their point of view it is akin to the experience of occupation," says Dr Rosenthal. "There is a sense that something foreign, something other, something enemy is now in power."

Independence, USA "currently exists only in Glenn's vision", yet it is one he enthusiastically outlined in a recent video. Independence would encompass, he said, a ranch, a multi-denominational house of worship, and a marketplace "where craftsmen could open and run real small businesses", and a media centre to produce movies that, unlike Hollywood, would refrain from "assaulting all the things that we all stand for".

Both Beck and the Citadel's founders cite Walt Disney as an inspiration. Disney originally intended the Epcot theme park in Florida to be a utopian community: an "experimental prototype community of tomorrow".

Meanwhile, Sylvester Stallone, aka Rambo, says he backs gun control. He supported the now-expired ban on assault weapons, and wants it reinstated. He said: "Who needs an assault weapon? Who's going to attack your house, an army?"

Sylvester Stallone, aka Rambo, says he backs gun control. He supported the now-expired ban on assault weapons, and wants it reinstated. He said: "Who needs an assault weapon? Like really, unless you're carrying out an assault. Who's going to attack your house, an army?"