One cold winter day in 2009, I happened upon a podcast and started listening to it out of sheer boredom. Tim Turner was describing how you could get out of paying your mortgage or having your house repossessed and end up owning it free and clear.
Since we already own our little farm outright and were in no danger of losing it, I don’t know why the whole thing intrigued me, but it did. I suppose it was because the guy was so obviously bananas.
This was back when lots of folks were in serious trouble with home foreclosures and job losses and people were pretty nervous about the economy. And this guy was doing a seminar on how to beat the system.
He threw around a lot of legal-sounding phrases and big words, like his listeners would understand what the hell he was talking about, and sounded astonishingly similar to Joe Naugler, as a matter of fact. Lots of talking but not much communicating.
In one of his weekly calls, in another example, a follower asked Turner to explain what really happened when an alien spacecraft supposedly crashed in 1947 near Roswell, N.M. His reply was reminiscent of a tabloid headline in a supermarket checkout line: “I’m not going to tell you they [aliens] exist or don’t exist. What I’m going to say is every nation on Earth, or every industrialized nation on Earth at least, has a treaty with them.”
That was my introduction to the weird, wacky world of the sovereign citizen.
This article is probably the best overall explanation of the movement and their basic beliefs. The most interesting part to me of all this is that the sovereign citizens movement is basically racist and originated mostly in the white supremacy community. And this PDF is a longer, more comprehensive history and explanation of the movement.
The name thing is also bizarre and sort of fascinating. They believe that their name spelled in all capitals is not really their name at all and that they can get out of legal obligations just because they sign their name as Sally Davis, instead of SALLY DAVIS.
I laughed some more when these madmen sent letters to all fifty governors of the various states demanding that they step down from office “or else.” It was all just so funny.
But then along came Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son, Joe.
Here they are. An overweight pompous asshole of a father, and his innocent-looking, just-on-the-cusp-of-manhood son. Jerry, in this video, was doing a seminar. You can listen to some of it if you like. There is a whole series of these videos. The seminar was all day.
Jerry and his son were in Arkansas about a year after the video above was filmed and got pulled over by a couple of policeman on a routine traffic stop. While the policemen were occupied talking with the father, the son, this 16-year-old boy, produced a rifle and fatally shot both of the policemen. Jerry and Joe then fled, only to be surrounded a while later in a parking lot and killed by the police.
It was a terrible tragedy that didn’t have to happen.
It happened because Jerry Kane indoctrinated his son in a bunch of bullshit that included an over-inflated sense of their own importance, a complete disdain for the duly-authorized legal system from the courts on down to the local police, and extreme paranoia.
Jerry Kane, that jackass in the white suit, got both himself and his boy killed.
For me, the incident made the whole sovereign citizen thing not nearly so funny. I hadn’t realized how close they were to violence. Obviously, those cops hadn’t realized it either. After the Kane tragedy, police officers started receiving training in how to recognize sovereigns and how to handle them so that further incidents like that would not occur.
I bring all this up because Joe and Nicole Naugler, while describing themselves as voluntaryists, use language and seem to embrace concepts that originate in the movement. Pinning an ideology on the Nauglers is difficult if not impossible, as they are basically opportunists.
Nicole has said that she is a “voluntaryist.” Before venturing down the Blessed Little Rabbit Hole, I had no idea what that was.
Think of it this way. The big category is “Christian.” Under that, we have “Protestants” and “Catholics.”
The various sub-sects of “Protestant” include those on in the mainstream, like Episcopalians or Lutherans, and those on the right, like Southern Baptists, and then the really extreme bunch, like independent fundamentalist snake-handling Baptists.
And that’s very much the way libertarians are. Like Baptists, there are all sorts of sub-groups. There are the basic mainstream libertarians, who are bonkers but pose no threat to anyone about anything. And there are all the spawns, the off-shoots, many of whom are lumped together as “patriots.”
Sovereign citizens and voluntaryists and anarcho-capitalists all fall into that latter category. Sorting out the differences between them is a bit like trying to figure out what the difference is between Southern Baptists and Free Will Baptists and Primitive Baptists. They fuss and fight over definitions between themselves, but nobody else cares. They are all Baptists.
And like Baptists, these sub-groups have core ideas they share, things like “government is bad,” “laws restrict freedom,” “taxation is theft,” “the police suck dirt,” “courts are all corrupt,” “government is all corrupt,” “to be free, nobody can tell me what to do.” That sort of thing.
I have dozens of screen shots like this, where Nicole shares some post of Larken Rose’s.
I’ve talked a bit about Larken Rose here and in another post about voting. But what I didn’t mention is that Larken Rose is one of those voluntaryist-anarchocapitalist sorts. (If they combine any more words, we’ll have a hyphenated jungle.) And that’s a close, close sibling to a sovereign citizen.
Nicole loves Larken Rose. She hangs on his every word and shares many of them. She even steals them outright without attribution.
She doesn’t like laws pertaining to her business. She doesn’t like it that the state wants to insure that if I walk in there, the building will be safe and not collapse, the workers will be paid appropriately (unless they are her own children, in which case slave labor is acceptable), there is a recognizable entity for me to sue if I am cheated, and that she is not permitted to skip out on paying her fair share of taxes.
Oh, yeah. I forgot. Taxes are theft in Nauglerville.
Notice the threat here? You’re a slave. You need to figure out when you are going to rise up and revolt. At what point will you do that? You need to think about it.
No, I’m not, Larken, and no, I don’t.
Thankfully, Nicole does not hold any elected office. There are good things in the world and having her washing dog butts is one of those good things.
Apart from the fact that the little graphic above is inaccurate (being a socialist does not mean that you think government should control all your food sources or clothing sources or even housing except for the needy, and the differences between a classic conservative and a classic liberal are way more numerous and varied than universal healthcare), the point Nicole is offering up here is that she doesn’t believe in government of any kind at all. Zip. Nada. Zilch.
So, see, even Nicole lumps the various sects of this so-called “Patriot” movement together. And she knows that there is a violent, dangerous streak in there. She knows perfectly well who Jerry Kane was, and I bet she could name many of the other sovereign citizens or similar types who have clashed with law enforcement and ended up either in prison or dead.
Two options. Just two. Black and white. Either, or.
What about option C? Authority is given with the consent of the governed (it is – Nicole just won’t vote because her guy generally doesn’t win, so she took her rubber duck and left), so we honor that even if we don’t agree with it.
For her, there is no option C.
And she’s not condoning violence (yet), but she understands it. Yeah, we all heard her screeching at Sheriff Pate to shoot her, and screaming at her boys that the police would shoot them. I remember that.
And this is what her unschooled kids are being fed. Violent uprising might be the only answer. The state has no authority. The police are the enemy, and violence against them is “understandable.” Law about things like sanitation and business licenses are evil and have no validity. It’s courageous and commendable to scream bloody murder at a sheriff.
Even the family jokes involve how dumb and useless and stupid and incompetent the government is.
I think that is exactly what Jerry Kane fed his son, Joseph. And I really believe that when Jerry Kane heard those shots and saw those police officers fall and realized that his son, who I’m sure he loved, had just killed two officers, he was the most shocked person on earth.
When I listen to Jerry Kane on those videos, I am reminded of men like Ted Haggard (the fundamentalist preacher who ranted about the evils of homosexuality while having a gay affair). They say stuff from the pulpit all the time that they really don’t believe or do. Jerry Kane wasn’t going to actually do enough law-breaking to get put in actual jail. He was just going skate close so he could trot around the country and give seminars in his white suit and get paid for it.
We all do this to some extent. “I will not do that,” we say vehemently, until we calm down a little and realize why we are going to have to do exactly that, or a somewhat altered version of that. It’s called adulting.
Joseph Kane was not an adult, though. He, like all adolescents, was just starting to learn about how idealism and reality sometimes (often?) clash, and how you have to figure out how some sort of compromise.
And he was listening to his father ‘preach’ from the pulpit of governmental hatred, childish narcissism, and paranoia. He absorbed the lessons. He believed them.
The result was catastrophe.
I’ve wondered what was running through Jerry Kane’s mind as he madly drove away from that scene. He had to know that if the police found them (and he had to know that they would), he and Joseph would very likely be killed in the ensuing situation. He was a dead man driving, and in the vehicle with him was his son, also as good as dead.
Did he frantically try to figure out a way for his son to survive even if he didn’t? Did he want to give up? Did they argue about it?
We’ll never know.