A LITTLE OVER 40 YEARS AGO, Kerry Noble gradually became one of those few. In 1977, Noble joined a communal group in the Ozarks as a Bible study teacher. He and his wife hoped for an intense, early-church-style community in which they could raise their children. But the group devolved into something increasingly violent and apocalyptic that embraced white supremacy: the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA). He eventually rose to be one of the group’s leaders and plotted violence against black and gay people. He says now that “anyone can be deceived” into joining extremist groups.
“It’s one thing to have the mob mentality,” he told me. “It’s a whole other thing to go by yourself like Timothy McVeigh and do something.”
Richard Snell, a member of the group, killed a black state trooper and a pawn shop owner who he thought was Jewish. CSA members were involved in the bombing of a natural gas pipeline and the burnings of a synagogue in Indiana and a church in Missouri that approves of homosexuality. Leaders of the group originally hatched the plan for bombing the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla., Noble said, which McVeigh carried out a decade later in 1995.
Noble has examined fringe theories now circulating the internet and thinks they all amount to the same thing: lies people believe because they are unhappy with something in their life.
He and other CSA recruiters looked for someone with IRS problems or who had lost a job to a racial minority: “Then they’ve got something that we called a hot button,” he said. “It’s something we could push to make them more and more upset. They didn’t research the stuff we threw at them, they just sort of accepted it. It just gives them someone to blame.”