A Militia of Phantom Patriots
Cambria, Wisconsin, population 767, has “no bank, no grocery store and no stoplight,” as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. For big city livin’ like that, you have to drive 25 minutes to Beaver Dam. Being Wisconsin, it does of course have a bar, which is called The Dump.
It’s out here on a property surrounded by cornfields that five domestic terrorists, militia members who called themselves the Wolverine Watchmen, met on July 10-12 to engage in “firearms training and other combat drills,” according to an affidavit by the FBI. They also attempted to built IEDs out of “black powder, balloons, a fuse, and BBs for shrapnel,” but they failed to detonate.
They property owner is a man named Michael H. Jung. His Twitter bio reads:
Belong to both Oath Keepers and III%ers. We are here to honor our countries [sic] Constitution and keep it the law of Our Country. What about you? MAGA Trump Patriot.
Both the groups Jung lists are militias. The Three Percenters get their name from the supposed fact that only 3% of America’s population fought against the British in the Revolutionary War. The Oath Keepers are named after the oath order to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Both groups view themselves as Revolutionaries fighting against a tyrannical government. They fly the “don’t tread on me” Gadsen flag, and the 13-star flag Betsy Ross flag.
The training session in Cambria was for a failed attempt to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who according to one of the Wolverine Watchmen, was a “tyrant bitch.” A couple of the members were identified in pictures from the massive pandemic protests at the Michigan Capitol building in April and May. Hundreds of armed people were there to protest COVID lockdown measures, which they said violated their freedom.
The FBI affidavit reveals that the Wolverine Watchmen had been forming a plan for months to kidnap Governor Whitmer and take her to “a secure location in Wisconsin for ‘trial.'” The location wasn’t identified, but perhaps it was to be Jung’s property in Cambria.
One of the militia’s ideas called for rallying “200 men” to storm the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing to take hostages, including the Governor. In another plan, they plotted to kidnap her from her vacation home and spent time staking it out twice in the last couple months. They planned to blow up a bridge to distract law enforcement and bomb police cars with Molotov cocktails. 13 men involved with the plot were arrested on federal and state charges.
The Wolverine Watchmen were all Trump fans and perceived him to be a fan of them– after all, as the lockdown protests were taking place Trump tweeted out “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” The assembled militias saw that as validation. Trump also often showed his disdain for Governor Whitmer, sometimes refusing to say her name and referring to her as “that woman from Michigan.” Trump tweeted out that in regards to the militias, the Governor should “talk to them, make a deal,” nevermind the fact that some of these protesters were calling for her to be lynched and beheaded.
Here’s another thing about the Wolverine Watchmen: they were conspiracy theorists. Reviewing the Twitter feed of Michael Jung, the property owner in Cambria, we find the full gamut of 2020 conspiracies between February and his last tweet in August 25– lots of posts sharing anti-vaxxer media, a few posts celebrating QAnon (including a video titled “We are Q. The Plan to Save the World.”) as well as posts about 5G (a “direct energy weapon system”), voter fraud, FEMA camps, the fake “plandemic,” and references to Democratic governors being “tyrants.”
Other Wolverine Watchmen posted conspiracy media as well. Eric Molitor posted conspiracy theories related to QAnon, Peter Musico, ranted on YouTube about the “Deep State,” and shared links to Owen Shroyer, an InfoWars host, while Joseph Morrison shared anti-vaxxer theories and also encouraged his Twitter followers to tune into InfoWars, run by conspiracy peddler extremist Alex Jones. And that’s just what we know so far.
Jones and InfoWars often pop up in conspiracy driven plots– in my book American Madness, I detail how the influence of Alex Jones led a man named Richard McCaslin to heavily arm himself and raid a private retreat of powerful men called the Bohemian Grove back in 2002. He believed he would find satanic sacrifices taking place there. McCaslin viewed himself much like the Wolverine Watchmen probably do, not as domestic terrorists, but as patriots (McCaslin even dubbed himself the “Phantom Patriot”), fighting in a Revolutionary War.
The story repeated again in 2016 when a man named Edgar Maddison Welch saw a video on InfoWars about the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which led to his raid on the Washington DC pizzeria Comet Ping Pong. A wave of violence inspired by QAnon beliefs has risen under the Trump administration.
Alex Jones, by the way, denounced McCaslin’s Bohemian Grove raid after it happened, saying that it sounded “crazy,” even though he was the inspiration. That’s a pattern of denial and disassociation he’s followed ever since, and sorry, Wolverine Watchmen, that includes you. On a recent show, Jones said the whole scheme was a “false flag” by the “Deep State.” In his words:
Well, we knew it was coming. I predicted over and over again, the last few months, it’s not a hard prediction, that they’d engage in a provocateur setup or a false flag against Democrat Party officials, to make them look like victims when they launch incredible tyranny.
Trump, the Conspiracy Theorist-in-Chief, is culpable in this. His presidency has normalized conspiracy belief about the pandemic, alleged voter fraud, and civil unrest. He knows the value of misinformation and fear-mongering– that’s his true Art of the Deal.
This has not been the first incident of armed conspiracy theorists on the march recently– last month I wrote a column where I reported on two armed men heading to Kenosha (to potentially shoot protesters) that were arrested at a hotel. They were part of the 417 Second Amendment Militia. An examination of one of their Facebook pages again turned up lots of posts about the “COVID hoax,” voter fraud, and conspiracies about Trump’s favorite enemies. A disturbing report from Minneapolis, meanwhile, has shown that a private security firm is hiring mercenaries to “make sure the Antifas don’t try to destroy the election sites,” though there’s no evidence such a plan exists.
Taking to Twitter to comment on the plot to kidnap Governor Whitmer, Trump once again chose not to condemn right wing extremists, but called out “Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs.”
The real threat to safety of people’s lives, as these cases show, are white supremacists and conspiracy-inspired militia groups like the Wolverine Watchmen. And no matter the results in November, expect to see more plots like this one. If Trump loses, they will consider themselves at war. If he wins, they will be emboldened.
Tea Krulos is the author of American Madness: The Story of the Phantom Patriot and How Conspiracy Theories Hijacked American Consciousness.
“Read the FBI affidavit in the militia plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer,” Detroit Free Press
“Residents shocked band of men trained in Cambria for governor kidnapping plot,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“The ‘Wolverine Watchmen’ Accused of Targeting Michigan Guv Spooked Their Neighbors,” Daily Beast
Michael H. Jung Twitter page: https://twitter.com/climer6699 [accessed Oct. 10, 2020]
“Plot to kidnap Michigan governor has ties to Wisconsin,” CBS 58
“Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: Alleged kidnapping plot against Gov. Whitmer a ‘false flag’ by the ‘deep state,'” Media Matters for America
“Tea’s Weird Week: Would-be Kenosha Shooters were into Conspiracy Theory; ‘Q revealed?‘” teakrulos.com
“Former Special Forces sought by business group to guard polling sites in Minnesota, company says,” Star Tribune