In Communiqués, Leader of Breakaway US Republic Signals Openness to Peace

Scott Thomson of the Constitutional Republic City of Oroville denied calling Motherboard fools, but apologized if he did.
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North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, Oroville, California. Photo via Getty.

UNITED STATES—In a series of communiqués yesterday, Scott Thomson—a leader of the separatist faction that put the Constitutional Republic City of Oroville at the center of an international crisis and on the precipice of war with the United States—made outlandish claims; apologized to Motherboard after being quoted insulting the website; and backed away from a previous, widely-publicized warning of “bloodshed,” signaling that he may be prepared to walk the path of peace.

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What this sequence of events will mean for the restive region is unclear; the U.S. State Department did not respond to requests for comment. Thomson’s conciliatory tone, though, suggests that even the most radical elements of a group that has seized control of what was formerly a sleepy Northern California town may seek to find peace with the U.S.

Are you a citizen of the Constitutional Republic City of Oroville? Do you have information on the radical faction that has put the republic on the verge of conflict? Contact the reporter at tim.marchman@vice.com.

On Thursday, reporter Eric Ting of SFGate.com—a news outlet from San Francisco, a city near the Oroville republic—published an interview with Thomson in which he detailed his political philosophy and expressed his belief that his anti-vaccination stance, which precipitated the city declaring itself a “constitutional republic city” bound to neither provincial nor federal law, does not make his family “anti-vaxxer.” In the interview, Thomson—who claimed that Oroville declaring itself a republic and asserting that it will not respect provincial or federal authority does not mean it is seceding from California or the U.S.—was quoted attacking Motherboard’s coverage of the crisis, saying, “The way Vice has written about us has been immature and they look like fools.”

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(Motherboard has accurately reported that U.S. leaders have refused to rule out military action in the crisis and that living conditions are rapidly deteriorating in Oroville, even as elements of the government make clear that they consider California law to still be controlling.)

After Motherboard contacted Thomson to request an interview, he accused Ting of deception and subterfuge. 

“Calling you a fool was his words, not mine,” he wrote in a communiqué, noting that the SFGate.com interview had, according to a disclaimer, been “condensed and edited,” as is standard. “I definitely said you didn’t do your research and it appeared that you didn’t even watch the full city council video, if you thought we were leaving the state or country.”

(Motherboard in fact accurately reported that members of the separatist faction Thomson leads “have asserted that they are not seceding from either the state of California or the United States, but simply refusing to recognize their legal and political authority.”)

Ting—a reputable reporter from a well-established, internationally-recognized news outlet—denied Thomson’s claims.

“Haha no, he did call you fools,” Ting wrote in an email. “The ‘separatist leader’s’ pointed rage was directed almost solely towards Vice. I am, quite frankly, surprised he’s softening his stance towards your foreign news media outlet.”

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When confronted with this evidence that he had said what he said, the radical leader—who was happy to issue comminiqués but repeatedly declined to be formally interviewed by Motherboard—apologized.

“You can write whatever you want, that’s your right and your job,” Thomson wrote. “However IF, in my interview with Eric, I did actually call you a fool, please accept my apology.  I honestly do not remember calling you a fool and that would be uncharacteristic of me, but everyone does make mistakes, myself included. I do think it’s ok to call one’s actions foolish but do not think it’s ok to label someone as a fool or any name calling for that matter.  I actually think labels like this are ‘in part’ what’s wrong with our society. I believe that once we label someone as anything, we inadvertently give ourselves permission to treat them with the hate we have for the title instead of as human beings. Both the left and right wing media does this a lot. It appeals to the base audience but adds to the divide in our country. Brene Brown writes a lot about this and the power of shame.  

“Anyways, have a Merry Christmas." 

Motherboard wished Thomson and his family a happy holiday season and expressed its hopes for peace in the region. More troubling than Thomson’s dissembling about whether he had or had not said what he in fact said about one foreign news outlet to another foreign news outlet, though, were claims he made about armed elements perhaps planning to descend on Oroville.

“Your article,” he wrote in a communiqué, “did stir up a radicalized racially motivated group to plan to come here to our city and ‘defend us’ with their weapons.”

“The chatter is out there on the web,” he added, “as told us by our staff.”

When repeatedly asked for evidence that would support this claim, Thomson failed to provide it. Motherboard has not been able to identify internet chatter suggesting that a radicalized, racially motivated group of any description is planning to descend on Oroville.