One day in late October, one of the organizers of a dreamed-up prepper community called The Citadel took a moment to share part of his vision on the project’s blog.
“Something that I can’t predict, but am hoping for, is a greater level of social interaction,” the organizer, who blogs under the names Vernon and VJ, wrote. “Neighborhood barbeques, musical jam sessions and plays at the amphitheater or the Citadel Society club house, interest groups, clubs, organized and spontaneous activities of all sorts. I enjoy board games, myself, and used to go to a game club every Friday night. We’ll have some great pubs with local brews, walking and bicycle paths, a firing range you don’t have to drive a half hour or more to get to. Maybe a hill with a rope tow for sliding down on inner tubes in the winter time. Militia training will also have a unifying social aspect to it.”
Vernon’s is just one post picked from many, but it’s a good example of the wholesome-until-they’re-extremist ideas behind The Citadel. The project improbably received national notice last week, thanks in large part to The Drudge Report, which prominently linked to a story about The Citadel, with the headline “GROUP TO BUILD ARMED NEIGHBORHOOD FORTRESS” below a close-up photograph of President Obama making Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” face. It was a classic Drudge move, calling attention to the fringe at the height of an intense policy debate — this time, about gun control.
The Drudge-fueled attention apparently overwhelmed the small group of people behind The Citadel. People associated with the project did not give interviews last week. (TPM’s emails to several were not returned.) Members of the media who visited the project’s blog and clicked on the “media” page were encouraged to use information from the blog and the project’s stand-alone website “for any background you may desire.” A spokesperson for the group, it advised, “will be prepared to answer questions in 4-6 weeks.”
Luckily, for those who are curious, The Citadel has existed, until now, mostly online, and its short history can be traced through the blog posts, websites, and comment threads where the idea has been nurtured, changed, and grown over the last several months.
“Imagine living in a community where you know that residing in every single home in the neighborhood are people who think much as do you, respect most of the values as do you, and will not try to force any of their values on you or your children,” another post from October on The Citadel’s blog, this one written by someone with the pseudonym Just a III Guy, reads. “Imagine living in a neighborhood where you know every single neighbor on your street, in your neighborhood, and in the entire town, has qualified Riflemen inside, ready to come to your aid at a moments notice, whether to help you change a tire, fix a problem, or cover your back in a firefight with an Enemy of Liberty.”
The Citadel, as envisioned and advertised by its creators, is to be a walled community of 3,500 to 7,000 “patriotic American families” who are ready for when The Shit Hits The Fan (TSHTF), i.e. the myriad potential society-collapsing disasters, either natural or man made, anticipated by preppers, survivalists, along with other fringe and breakaway strands of -ers and -ists. The Citadel is to be a place for people who want to be “removed and protected from peril in order to preserve ourselves, our posterity, and Liberty in the event of a national economic implosion.” And in whatever time is to be had before grid-down, economic collapse, The Citadel will provide a place to live “a free/freer life in Idaho (or elsewhere in the American Redoubt) amongst the current strong, self-reliant and Liberty-loving residents of the region.”
Artist rendering / Click to enlarge / Credit: iiicitadel.com
The location currently favored for the construction of The Citadel is Benewah County in northern Idaho. Though the project got rolling only last summer, project organizers claim to have already purchased 20 “mountaintop” acres of land in Idaho, and, if all goes well, they hope to purchase another 2,000 or 3,000, potentially nearby.
The writings associated with The Citadel project offer hints at some of the strands of thought that the organizers are taking up. In choosing Idaho, The Citadel project explicitly borrowed from the ideas of James Wesley, Rawles (yes, Rawles keeps a comma in his name), a survivalist author, religious separatist, and editor of survivalblog.com, who coined the term “American Redoubt” to describe a “conscious retrenchment into safe haven states.” Another idea central to The Citadel project is Rightful Liberty, a concept taken from the writings of Thomas Jefferson: “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” As such, the FAQ section of The Citadel’s website states, the community will have no racial or religious barriers.
Citadel members have also taken care to say they plan to follow all federal and state laws. Organizers hope that The Citadel will become a tourist attraction, and good PR is another big part of the project.
“Are you well versed in how it has come about? How about the requirements to live there? How about the WHY of it all? Can you honestly tell them, without sounding like a wacko?” Teresa Sue Hoke House, a.k.a. Miss Violet, a key Citadel organizer, wrote in a post in November. “It is going to take all of us, being ambassadors of the Citadel, to make sure we project the correct image. I don’t know about you, but, if I were to guess, I’m sure that you’re just like me, in that you don’t really want people whispering behind your back that you’re some militia separatist who wants to set up their own country up in Benewah county.”
However, as Just a III Guy’s above post suggests, not everyone will be welcome at The Citadel.
“Marxists, Socialists, Liberals and Establishment Republicans will likely find that life in our community is incompatible with their existing ideology and preferred lifestyles,” the project’s website states.
Per the project’s Patriot Agreement, which every would-be resident of the community must agree with in writing, an armed citizenry and a trained militia will also be important parts of life at The Citadel. All residents over 13 must be proficient with both rifle and pistol, and each household will have to provide one “able-bodied Patriot” for once-a-month militia training and support. (In its branding and literature, The Citadel refers often to the idea of the three percent or “the III,” an allusion to the idea that only three percent of the Colonial population participated in the Revolutionary War, a statistic the Anti-Defamation League has called “not particularly accurate.”) Every “able-bodied Patriot of age” within the Citadel will also be required to maintain one AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle, five magazines, and 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
Those who agree to abide by the Patriot Agreement, and want to move to The Citadel, won’t be buying property. Instead, The Citadel will lease property to its residents (the website features a handy Citadel Housing Cost Calculator), with a range of lot sizes and customizable home exteriors available, and the option of living inside or outside the city walls.
“The model will be similar in many ways to that of Disneyland,” reads one section of The Citadel’s FAQ. “It is walled, gated, private property with controlled access. People pay to enter and agree to the rules because they see value in doing so. It is all based on a voluntary agreement between the owners of the property and those who want to come inside. Millions of people visit Disneyland and interact peacefully. It’s exceptionally rare to hear of any serious problems. The key is that those people want to be there and understand what is expected of them. Surprisingly similar to what we are doing.”
Applications are currently being accepted at The Citadel’s website. The application fee is $208, which will be refunded (minus a $33 administrative fee) if an application is not accepted. In early December, the person blogging under the name Just a III Guy claimed that 225 individuals and families had already reserved space.
Finally, there is perhaps the most creative aspects of the endeavor. The project and community will grow around, and be supported by, III Arms, a start-up firearms company founded by Citadel project members to help finance the operation. According to the company, all proceeds from III Arms will go to The Citadel project. The company, which is being run by a West Virginia man named Jim Miller, began taking orders on Nov. 6, 2012 — Election Day — for both AR-15 type rifles and 1911 pistols, both starting at the base price of $1550. (A note on the company website states that delivery timelines are currently subject to “great uncertainty due to the current political climate and parts availability.”) The initial 20 acres bought for the Citadel Project are supposed to be the site of the initial factory location of III Arms, and the company did in fact register with Idaho’s Secretary of State in early August. The Citadel is not only a “Patriot” project. It is also a capitalist one.
So who are the real people behind The Citadel? While many project participants use pseudonyms online, a few individuals can be pointed out.
Miller is the most public face of the project. His LinkedIn page gives his current job as a construction control representative with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Past jobs listed include positions as a facilities engineer at Lockheed Martin and an electrician at the Department of Defense. In an interview with a website called Guerrillamerica, Miller was asked why he was chosen to lead III Arms.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com