Secret society leaders almost always have a vision of their group’s past and its future. Let’s take a closer look at the founders of two secret societies called The Order and FEAR, which were both short-lived and violent, but show the power that leaders can wield in secret societies.
The Early Life of Robert Mathews
The founding leader of The Order was Robert Jay Mathews. Like other leaders, Mathews wasn’t only inspiring but inspired. Mathews moved from Texas to Arizona as a boy. The first hint of something out of the ordinary came in 1964, when 11-year-old Robert joined the rigorously conservative and fiercely anti-communist John Birch Society. It was an odd thing for an 11-year-old kid to dedicate himself to.
In high school, Mathews joined the Mormon Church. It was also during high school that he formed his own secret society, the Sons of Liberty. Mathews borrowed the name of a patriotic secret order from the American Revolution. That’s another pattern: new secret societies cannibalizing or copying old ones. Mathews’ Sons of Liberty attracted 50 members before it fell apart.
This is a transcript from the video series The Real History of Secret Societies. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.
The Books that Influenced Robert Mathews
One book that grabbed his attention was Which Way Western Man? by William G. Simpson. Simpson started as a devout Christian, and director of what became the liberal American Civil Liberties Union. But in the 1930s, Simpson repudiated Christianity and liberalism. He came to believe that race was the dominant factor in human affairs. Simpson restyled himself a white nationalist and argued that violence in defense of the white race was justified.
But the book that really lit a fire under Mathews was The Turner Diaries, published in 1978. Its author, William Luther Pierce, ran a white nationalist society called the National Alliance. The Turner Diaries, a novel, was set in a future dystopian America in which the government had collapsed, and race war raged. In The Turner Diaries, Robert Mathews found his vision. He joined the National Alliance.
The Order: The Secret Society of the Eighties
By 1983, Mathews was living in Metaline, Washington. In September of that year, he invited eight other like-minded young men to his home. They pledged to form a new order to fight for the white race. In homage to the Nazis, Mathews and his comrades officially dubbed their group the Brüder Schweigen, or “Silent Brotherhood.” Outwardly, it was known as The Order.
Over the course of just one year, The Order allegedly committed a string of violent crimes— beginning with a robbery at a Spokane, Washington porn shop, and graduating to a $3.6 million armored-car robbery. The Order was also supposedly responsible for the assassination of late-night radio talk-host Alan Berg, who was an outspoken critic of anti- Semites, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis.
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The Fall of The Order
The Order also dabbled at counterfeiting, which proved to be the organization’s downfall. A member was caught passing phony fifties, and the Feds turned him into an informant. By December 1984, the FBI had rounded-up most of the group, and cornered Robert Mathews, in his Whidbey Island, Washington, farmhouse. Mathews refused to surrender, and died in a fiery shoot-out with 75 federal agents.
More than 70 Order members and associates were convicted of crimes, though none for Alan Berg’s murder. The best the feds could do was convict two Order brothers, David Lane and Bruce Pierce, for violating Berg’s civil rights.
Robert Mathews’ career as a secret-society leader was brief and bloody, but it didn’t really end with his death. In the white supremacist universe, he became a martyr and source of new inspiration.
The Case of FEAR: The Modern Secret Society
FEAR is a more recent organization. This emerged in 2011, in the American South. Georgia police found the bodies of two young people, 19-year-old Michael Roark and 17-year-old Tiffany York, dumped along a road. Both had been shot execution-style. Investigation led to the arrests of four young men. All turned out to be members of a secret militant group called Forever Enduring, Always Ready; FEAR for short.
Interestingly, the four young men, along with the murdered Roark and most of their other associates, were current or past members of the US Army. The ringleader was an Army private named Isaac Aguigui.
Aguigui and his associates killed Roark and York because they feared that the couple would betray the group. FEAR took their oaths of secrecy very seriously. Among other things, they were planning to blow up dams, assassinate the President, and overthrow the US government.
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The Criminal Career of FEAR
The most glaring example involved the sudden death in July 2011 of Isaac Aguigui’s pregnant wife, an Army sergeant. She supposedly died from a blood clot. In fact, Aguigui murdered her and his unborn son to collect $500,000 in insurance. FEAR was planning similar murders while also engaged in theft, weapons smuggling, and probably drug dealing. They needed money to buy land in Washington State. Aguigui and his comrades planned to build a secret army that would take over the country. They even had a target date: 2031.
In true secret-society tradition, FEAR members took oaths, got matching tattoos, and adopted code names. Aguigui’s was Loki. It all started with bored young men playing a video game that featured a heroic militia group, the Patriots, who battle forces of oppression. But Aguigui and pals weren’t just ordinary bored young men. They were soldiers.
They had access to weapons, and they knew how to use them. Most of them were disgruntled soldiers with troubled pasts. Aguigui’s military experience hadn’t lived up to his expectations. A history of disciplinary infractions was common among FEAR members. These were young men with chips on their shoulders. In some countries, they might have plotted a coup d’état. In the United States, they created a terrorist-criminal secret society.
The Order and FEAR were secret societies with leaders who were willing to take quite violent action to achieve their ends.
Common Questions about The Order and FEAR
Robert Jay Mathews was the founding leader of The Order, a secret society.
Robert Mathews was first influenced by Which Way Western Man? by William G. Simpson. He was also influenced by The Turner Diaries, written by William Luther Pierce.
The Order, a secret society, allegedly committed a robbery at a Spokane, Washington porn shop, and carried out a $3.6 million armored-car robbery. The Order was also supposedly responsible for the assassination of late-night radio talk-host Alan Berg.
The ringleader of FEAR, a secret militant society, was a US Army private named Isaac Aguigui.