Home Is Where the Bunker Is

June 13, 2013

Read the entire report, Home Is Where the Bunker Is: Extremist, Survivalist, and Fringe Housing Developments (PDF).

Right-wing survivalists in the Pacific Northwest caused a stir recently when they announced plans for The Citadel, a proposed survivalist community to be built in a remote area of Idaho. According to The Citadel’s Web site, the community will be “liberty-driven” and consist of residents “who have sworn their Lives, their Fortunes and their Sacred Honor to defend one another and Liberty.” Non-right-wingers need not apply. According to The Citadel, “Marxists, Liberals and Establishment Republicans will likely find that life in our community is incompatible with their existing ideology and preferred lifestyles.”

The Citadel allegedly plans to buy between 2,000 and 3,000 acres, part of which will be walled in order to create a fortified community. The Citadel may be the brain child of Christian Kerodin, who filed papers in Idaho in November to create a company called Citadel Land Development. Kerodin is a felon who spent time in federal prison after being convicted in 2004 of extortion charges and illegal possession of a firearm. Once a heating and air conditioning repairman in northern Virginia, Kerodin had started a “consulting firm” after 9/11 that issued reports criticizing security at local malls. His scheme was to extort money from mall owners by threatening to expose their “vulnerabilities” to terrorism if they did not hire him as a consultant. After his arrest, federal agents also found an illegal sawed-off shotgun in his apartment.

The plans for The Citadel, though certainly grandiose, are actually not really new. There is a long tradition in the United States of fringe religious and ideological groups creating their own planned or intentional communities.

The advantages of such arrangements are obvious: adherents can live among fellow believers, away from prying eyes (of neighbors or the government), and can raise their children under conditions that they control. Since many such religious or extremist groups may have views that are unpopular, such intentional communities also offer a modicum of protection for members. However, they also sometimes allow the leaders of such groups to exercise a tremendous amount of control over the daily and even private lives of the residents.

Recent decades have seen many attempted fringe communities come and go, despite the  promotional efforts of their organizers. Survival-oriented entrepreneurs have tried to start communities centered on particular ideologies (such as white supremacy or antigovernment extremism), particular religious beliefs, and specific causes or interests (such as gun-owning). They also have started communities aimed more generically at would be survivalists, pitching the community broadly on the basis of survivalism rather than more narrowly linking it to a cause or belief system.

This report talks about planned communities like The Citadel, explores some of the dynamics behind them, and traces the recent history of such communities (usually marked by failure) in the United States.

There is a long tradition in the United States of fringe religious and ideological groups creating their own planned or intentional communities.