BITTER HARVEST: Gordon Kahl and the Rise of the Posse Comitatus in the Heartland by James Corcoran

BITTER HARVEST: Gordon Kahl and the Rise of the Posse Comitatus in the Heartland

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The startling--although flatly told here--story of North Dakotan Gordon Kahl: farmer, tax resister, perceived martyr, and true believer in the antifederal, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of white-supremacist, separatist, radical right groups such as the Posse Comitatus. In the 1960's, Kahl, like many others failing farmers, was convinced that his economic woes were caused by a Zionist-controlled conspiracy to destroy white Christian America. Part of the plot was the ""illegal"" income tax (""the second plank of the Communist Manifesto""). In 1967, Corcoran explains, Kahl wrote to the IRS that ""he could no longer 'pay tithes to the Synagogue of Satan.' "" He was pursued in a desultory fashion until he appeared on TV preaching his beliefs, whereupon he was prosecuted and jailed. Paroled, he continued to withhold taxes and broke his parole; state marshals were asked to arrest him. In 1983, a shootout resulted when Kahl was cornered with his family and friends. Two lawmen were killed, Kahl escaped, and his cohorts were tried and convicted. Kahl found shelter among supporters for five months, and was finally killed, along with another lawman, when found. To many, Kahl's ""persecution"" and death became a symbol of the truth of far-right beliefs. Though his combination research, reportage, and true-crime/courtroom-drama format fails to gel smoothly, Corcoran (ex-reporter for a Fargo paper; Communications/Simmons College) offers some insight into the social and economic conditions that nurtured Kahl's beliefs and gave rise to groups on the new far right.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking