This is a blog, not a cable news channel, so I don’t want to turn this into all militia all the time, but when I was a teenager we had one of these sovereign citizen kooks in our home town, so I have a little perspective on this foolishness.
The ur-kook of the posse comitatus/sovereign citizen kookery is a guy named Gordon Kahl. Old Gordo believed that he could avoid paying taxes to the IRS, or as he called the agency, the “Synagogue of Satan under the 2nd plank of the Communist Manifesto.” Gordon killed two federal marshals in a shootout near Medina, ND, and then was killed in a shootout in Arkansas. Kahl became a bit of a folk hero for nut cases, and he was even the subject of a protest songs as part of his martyrdom. I remember one with the refrain “Calling Gordon Kahl”, but the only one I could find on YouTube was The Ballad of Gordon Kahl.
This was in the mid-80s, when large banks were pulling out of the agricultural loan business. In doing so, they’d call in notes of farmers, some of whom could not get financing from smaller, regional banks. There were a lot of auctions and foreclosures, and a lot of farmers lost everything. Gordon and his followers recruited from this group of (rightfully) angry farmers. One of their recruits lived in my home town, and I watched his downward trajectory.
It started with long letters to the editor of the local paper, filled with circular, strident nonsense about the natural rights of man to avoid taxes. I don’t remember the details of the manifestos this guy wrote, but they had the hallmarks of general kookery, including references to odd readings of the Constitution and the mis-use of legalisms like “posse comitatus”. Then the guy started attending every meeting that involved a politician, which included one I attended where he read, dead-eyed and monotonously, from a long mimeographed screed. Finally, when it was time for the sheriff to foreclose, it ended in an armed standoff at his farm. Luckily, this guy wasn’t as far-gone as Kahl, so the standoff ended peacefully, and he was carted off to jail and ultimately the state penitentiary.
The important point is that this kind of nuttery is not new. It’s essentially anarchism undergirded by flowery, circular, legalistic horseshit. The militant anarchism attracts people with more guns than sense. The legalistic horseshit attracts people who feel they’ve been screwed over by banks and government, and are attracted to a leader who they believe has found them a way to screw those institutions back. It’s an ugly mix, but it’s been around a long time.