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Unlikely Heroes:
America’s History of Valiant Outlaws

FBI sketch of D. B. Cooper

1,495 words

Most Americans’ lives, from cradle to grave, are spent immersed in clichés about “American values.” We are force-fed egalitarian propaganda and glutted with hyperbolic mythologies about historical people, places, and events. Few ever question the All-American operating system that their hard drives are programmed with, and fewer still find the courage to “buck the system.” Yet there are notorious instances of the “outlaw” who navigates life on the fringes, who makes waves that ripple throughout his contemporary culture, and who very often becomes a folk hero to the rest of us who have rejected the sanctity of the ‘murkan brand.

The Anglosphere has a storied tradition of elevating such men to reverential status – the “Robin Hood” archetype, if you will. The collective psychological framework behind our desire to sanctify these people is that they have the courage to do the things we all wish we could do, such as “fighting the good fight,” knocking our unscrupulous overlords off their pedestals, and to ultimately create justice where otherwise there would be none.

Sometimes their crusades are unambiguously political. Sometimes their deeds are selfless and apolitical. Sometimes their actions are purely criminal and motivated by greed, but in their own way appear virtuous because they serve to thwart the more heinous crimes of the wealthy, powerful elites. While the liberal Left has made great strides in cloaking itself in these individuals’ righteousness, the truth is that the Left does not possess a monopoly on the non-conformist narrative. Even a superficial investigation into the folklore of the American outlaw or rebel demonstrates this.

For example, the guerrilla tactics of Frank and Jesse James and other Confederate “bushwhackers” in the post-war era were aimed at Northern industrialists and banking interests. They were clearly not “Enlightenment thinkers,” but enforcers of vigilante justice against Reconstructionist Yanks. Then, in the early twentieth century, bootleggers and bank robbers such as Al Capone, John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and the Barker-Karpis Gang were glorified by Hollywood filmmakers for their exploits while the greed of Wall Street took its toll in the Great Depression. In more recent decades, men such as Theodore Kaczynski, Randy Weaver, and Timothy McVeigh became associated with far-Right political dissent, and while reviled by the mainstream establishment, their status as folk heroes is no less prevalent among the working class or the “common man.”

Without getting bogged down in details about the aforementioned outlaws, we must note the paradigm shift in mainstream narratives (i.e. in the media, academia, and institutions) where these more recent characters are concerned. While Right- wing dissidents and many conservative “normies” arenʼt so quick to dismiss the actions of Randy Weaver, for example, people are often hesitant to associate themselves with Timothy McVeigh or Ted Kaczynski (even if in some cases they agree with their motives). Indeed, the difference lies in the fact that Weaver never harmed an innocent person, whereas civilians died in the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing and in the “Unabomber”’s attacks. (Please note that both me and Counter-Currents explicitly rebuke political violence.)

When one stops to examine the wealth of historical examples and the context from which their stories emerge, the unquestionable glory of the American empire to which weʼve all been trained to pledge allegiance falls apart. Why do so many people find themselves in the position of fighting this supposedly “just” system, and why do so many ordinary people canonize the folks with the will to do it?

This leads me to a personal folk hero of mine, and the main figure I wish to examine. It is my opinion that the events surrounding this manʼs infamous actions on one Thanksgiving Eve in 1971 set the tone for the following five decades by giving the United States government carte blanche to suppress its citizenryʼs freedom to travel in the name of fighting terrorism. His real name is unknown, because he succeeded in hijacking an airplane and extorting an airline out of $200,000 without getting caught. Unless new evidence is ever uncovered, he will forever be known by his alias, D. B. Cooper.

Like his predecessors who robbed Wells Fargo stagecoaches and trains in the nineteenth century, and whose ilk later committed bank heists during the Depression era, D. B. (or Dan) Cooper boarded a plane in Portland, Oregon, paying $20 in cash for a one-way flight to Seattle. He was neatly groomed, wearing a suit and tie with sunglasses and a raincoat, and carried a black attaché case containing what appeared to be, according to the stewardess’ account, a bomb made of dynamite, a battery, and some sort of detonation mechanism.

Once the thirty-minute flight was underway, Cooper passed a note to a stewardess outlining his demands. The pilots contacted the FAA authorities and federal agents scrambled to acquire several parachutes and $200 grand in $20-denominated bills from local banks. The serial numbers were recorded so that the money could be traced later.

In Seattle, passengers were allowed to deplane and, after refueling, the plane took off on its way to Reno, Nevada for a second refueling before continuing on to Mexico City per Cooper’s demands. Somewhere over the wilderness of Washington State, in the pouring cold November rain, Cooper lowered the plane’s back stairway and parachuted out with his loot, never to be seen again. Only a small bundle of bills that washed up on a riverbank, and a placard from the planeʼs stairwell, were ever discovered in subsequent years. Cooper seems to have vanished into thin air.

How does this extraordinary hijacking warrant the attention of Right-wing dissidents, or even admiration? For starters, it was the first of its kind in history, leading to several copycats in later years. Because of Cooperʼs deeds, a great number of modern “police and surveillance state” countermeasures were instituted to prevent it from happening again: X-ray scans, baggage checks, and increased camera surveillance are just a few examples. Consider the fact that prior to Cooperʼs hijacking, you didn’t even have to give proof of identity before boarding a plane – and other security measures were non-existent. The Cooper case was thus undoubtedly a watershed event in the transition America has made from a “high-trust society” to an increasingly militarized police state.

For all I know, D. B. Cooper made off with his treasure and later invested it in George Soros-backed shitlib endeavors. There is no reason to consider him a Right-wing folk hero. But implicitly, he represents the “little guy” – the working or middle class white man – in an era in which he is increasingly alienated. Cooper did no harm to anyone, and much like Robin Hood of yore, he stole from people who would scarcely miss the money, anyway, and who were undoubtedly bonded against theft. Iʼm not advocating thievery, but what common man doesnʼt harbor fantasies that he could get away with such a feat?

Cooper’s act had other consequences that have echoed into the twenty-first century and the “war on terror.” While most people will talk of Cooper (and others of his caliber who preceded him) in a hesitantly admiring way, few will extend the same admiration to more recent rebels and outlaws. As the power of the American police state has grown, so has the fear of being a dissident or a pariah grown proportionately.

People who consider themselves “conservatives” will typically strongly “disavow” anyone who exhibits even a hint of criminality. It isnʼt just modern conservatives who play by the rules. Leftists are the ones who write all the rules! The only difference is that they know all the loopholes and know how to use them to their advantage. In fact, it is the state itself, along with their accomplices in academia and the corporate world, that runs cover for Leftist “fake outlaws” who are actually cultivated and groomed for the job.

A good recent example is Juli Briskman, the woman who “famously” flipped Donald Trumpʼs motorcade the finger as they passed her on her bicycle. She was quickly turned into a rising political star in Clown World by being elected to her local Virginia Board of Supervisors. How Stunning and Brave (and undoubtedly groomed for the job)! Only five years ago, flipping off a Presidential motorcade might very well have gotten you a visit from Secret Service agents, not international media accolades.

In conclusion, it must be reiterated that political violence will get us nowhere. The state and corporate mechanisms are far too strong and sympathies for our cause will only be further diluted. The mainstream media will not evangelize our deeds the way they did these notable historic figures, because the media apparatus itself is fully controlled by the elites we oppose. Mass shootings and terrorism will only further marginalize our already precarious position.

Nonetheless, take lessons from the courage, wit, craftiness, and creativeness of our outlaw folk heroes. If we draw upon their stories and adapt them to our current epoch, we can successfully carry on their legacies as dissidents and win this fight.

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  1. Peter Quint
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Did you manage to find out why the nom de plume of D. B. Cooper was slapped on to this nondescript individual? You forgot to mention my favorite Robert Jay Matthews.

    • John Wilkinson
      Posted November 12, 2019 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      I know that the initial reporting by Walter Cronkite had his alias as “DA Cooper”. Other outlets got it wrong too. But the flight records show “Dan Cooper”.

    • John Wilkinson
      Posted November 12, 2019 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      Re: Robert Jay Mathews

      Get a load of this entry in his Wikipedia bio…

      “The family moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Though he was an average student in grade school, history and politics interested him. At age 11, he joined the John Birch Society, a radical right-wing advocacy group supporting anti-communism and limited government. ”

      >supporting anti-communism and limited government

      I don’t know if I should laugh or cry

  2. John Wilkinson
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Another outlaw gang of note was the Newton Brothers Gang.

    Quite a colorful bunch, and they enjoyed quasi-celebrity status later in life.

    Clearly their mother raised them with a touch of libertarian spirit.

  3. James J. O'Meara
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    For you kids, here’s what boarding an airplane was like in 1971:

  4. Travis LeBlanc
    Posted November 12, 2019 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I like George C. Parker, the con man famous for having successfully sold the Brooklyn Bridge multiple times.

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted November 12, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Want to know what “sang froid” means? This is what it means:

      “Parker was convicted of fraud three times. After one arrest, around 1908, he escaped the courthouse by calmly walking out after donning a sheriff’s hat and coat that had been set down by a sheriff who had walked in from the cold outdoors.”

    • John Wilkinson
      Posted November 12, 2019 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      A friend of mine reminded me of Frank Abagnale, Jr…. the con man who Leo DiCaprio played in “Catch Me If You Can”.

      He got caught, but what a wild ride he took law enforcement on.

  5. nineofclubs
    Posted November 13, 2019 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    ‘When the white man is driven to desperation, there will be desperate times’

    – Ned Kelly – letter to Sir Henry Parkes, 1879.

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