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The Making of a Libertarian Terror

“We were expecting this. We were expecting the government to raid our house.”

That’s what Adam Kokesh’s roommate gravely told a local news channel shortly after the gun-rights activist and general rabble-rouser was arrested at his Herndon home last night.

And, well, yes. Recording a video of yourself loading a shotgun in a public park on the 4th of July, in D.C., (as Kokesh did), where carrying a loaded weapon is illegal, and posting it on YouTube for your 75,000 some-odd subscribers, then insisting to news outlets that the gun was real as police are investigating the video—that’s a pretty sure way to draw the U.S. Park Police to your house and wind up arrested, particularly if you’re holding onto a controlled substance (hallucinogenic mushrooms) while in possession of a firearm.

It might be even more accurate to say that Kokesh hoped the government would raid his house. For the unfamiliar, Kokesh, a former Marine and activist of about six years, is like a one-man libertarian Code Pink. After returning from a tour of Fallujah with the Marine reserve, in 2007, he joined a dozen other veterans in staging a mock patrol of the Capitol area to protest the Iraq War—performing heady “arrests” in camo gear. He got booked at a silent dance protest at the Jefferson Memorial two years ago, responding to an asking-for-it court ruling that banned dancing at the memorial. This May, he promised to spend Independence Day leading 1,000 people with loaded weapons across the Arlington Memorial Bridge in a Ghandi-inspired peaceful protest. He was arrested later that month in Philadelphia for allegedly lighting up at a pot rally to protest the city’s marijuana ban—and the handlers of his Facebook page made sure his acolytes knew about it: “ADAM IS IN CUSTODY OF THE CRIMINAL GANG KNOWN AS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!!!” His closest flirtations with the establishment were his Ron Paul-sponsored run for Congress in 2010, a tape of interviews with Occupy D.C. that he edited for maximum idiocy, and a brief-lived show with the Russian-American network RT.

But to his once-collaborator Medea Benjamin, a Code Pink founder who co-organized the dance protest with Kokesh, introducing loaded firearms into to his prop arsenal is taking things too far. Benjamin told the Washington Post shortly after Kokesh announced his gun march that he was courting disaster. The same profile of Kokesh closed with an explanation of how he had fallen out of favor with Paulites—in part, by shoving his way onstage as Ron Paul was preparing to give a speech, alarming Paul’s security detail.

But Kokesh growing fringier—that’s not the true through-line of his six years of come-and-get-me political antics. The bigger change in Kokesh—once one of 13 soldiers play-acting near the Capitol complex, now the star of his own breathless arrest-watch—is how much more he's desired to hog the spotlight, and how much better he's gotten at fixing it on himself. With so many other nuts out there, pantomiming an armed revolt against the federal government happens to be a pretty good way of standing center stage. Thankfully, it's not a consequence-free publicity stunt. In the telling of a press release on Kokesh's website, last night, police used a battering ram to knock down his door and trained assault rifles on him as he was led out of his house in handcuffs. He could spend up to a year in prison. To Kokesh, it must feel like Christmas.

Molly Redden is a staff writer at The New Republic. Follow her on Twitter @mtredden.