Ever hear the term “Three Percenter” or see a “Three Percenter” tattoo and wonder what it means? The concept was created in 2008 after a disputed claim that only three percent of American colonists fought in the Revolutionary War against the British. Many Americans who are part of this movement today see the government as tyrannical and are typically pro-small government. The Three Percenters are described as an anti-government militia group that believes a small collection of “modern patriots” could rid the United States of today’s alleged tyranny.
The Three Percenter concept is understood as leveraging the ideology and beliefs of the militia movement, an anti-government extremist movement that was established in the early 1990’s. Its beliefs center around a mistrust in the federal government and their alleged socialist conspiracy that would rid Americans of their fundamental rights.
Though the militia movement has been around for a while, the Three Percenter concept arose in 2008 when it was introduced in a blog called the Sipsey Street Irregulars, run by Mike Vanderboegh, an Alabama-based anti-government extremist who had been involved in the militia movement for years. When the militia movement began to die down in the early 2000’s, Vanderboegh became involved in an anti-immigrant border vigilante group called the Minutemen. He later introduced the Three Percenter concept when he created the Sipsey Street Irregulars blog to promote his novel.
The Three Percenter concept began to take off as other anti-government extremists started reading the blog and were exposed to the meaning of the concept. The Three Percenter concept gained even more momentum as the militia movement began to re-popularize during the recession and mortgage crisis, which incited more anger and anxiety that spiraled once Barack Obama was elected as President. Three Percenter members believed that Obama's presidency would lead to increased government interference and stricter gun-control laws, which they consider a violation of First Amendment rights.
The rise of social media and its ability to reach people all over the nation, and world, led to an increase in both the general militia movement and the Three Percenter concept. A big part of the rise of the Three Percenter concept was its low barrier to entry. Most other militia groups required people to partake in paramilitary activities or trainings, while the Three Percenters could just claim and identify themselves as Three Percenters to be a part of the movement.
Three Percenters use a roman numeral III as their logo, which quickly commoditized in the form of clothing, accessories, stickers, and more. It has even gained popularity in the form of Three Percenter tattoos, which has led to controversy in sports leagues like the NFL, where Justin Rohrwasser, a player for the New England Patriots, gained attention for sporting a Three Percenter tattoo, which he claimed he thought was a military support emblem.
The Three Percenter concept is certainly polarizing, as some people link it to violent, extremist right-wing groups, while others interpret it as a patriotic symbol and movement that demonstrates appreciation for the American military.