In January 2009, the Strategic Analysis Group, Homeland Environment and Threat Analysis Division of the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on Left Wing Extremism. The purpose of the report was to “to facilitate a greater understanding of the emerging threats to the United States. The information is provided to federal, state, and local counterterrorism and law enforcement officials so they may effectively deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks against the United States.” It said that the primary concern over the next ten years would be non-violent cyber-terrorism targeting chiefly economic entities. The report clearly stated right at the beginning that it was one of a series of reports on threats to homeland security. Nobody appeared to pay it much attention. In fact, DHS had to remind people of its existence when they followed up three months later with a report on Right Wing Extremism. And in typical right wing fashion, Republicans and Conservatives went ape shit and bullied the DHS to retract the report (as if that would make the words in it go away.) Because that’s what bullies do – they scream and shout and stamp their feet and threaten violence if they don’t get their way. They mischaracterized the report’s recommendations in a number of ways. One was by taking the suggestion that disgruntled military veterans (note the word “disgruntled”) were prime recruiting targets for extremist groups looking to use violence. It did not in any way, shape or form say that ALL veterans were candidates for extremism, but that is how the right wing portrayed the report’s findings. They demanded an apology to veterans (which Secretary Napolitano eventually gave) even though she insulted none of them (except, perhaps, the extreme white nationalist, anti-immigration kind – IOW, people just like today’s Republican Party). And they demanded that the report, the one that said people just like them might resort to physical violence, go away because they said it wasn’t true. Except it was. And the fallout was that DHS eventually reduced to one person the number of people following left or right wing extremism in America. Way to keep us safe, Republicans.
The straw man argument is a tactic the right wing uses a lot in political discourse, especially when they’re wrong from the beginning. They made it seem as if the report was saying that every veteran returning from war was going to commit acts of terrorism. Nothing of the kind was true, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone with an IQ in the three-digit range. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, the right decided that the section which said Medicare would pay for your doctor’s time to sit down with you and discuss your end-of-life options really amounted to a “Death Panel.” This, BTW, was one of several things they referred to falsely as a Death Panel – you and your doctor discussing what happens if you get a terminal illness. Another was a board that would look for ways to spend taxpayer money more effectively and efficiently. That was also a Death Panel. That there is nothing even remotely describing a Death Panel in the PP/ACA never once deterred them from saying there were several. In his dissent in the recent Obergefell v. Hodges decision, Justice Thomas said, “It appears all but inevitable that [civil marriage and religious marriage] will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.” Again, this is a straw man argument. In the first place, marriage in the United States is a civil arrangement, not a religious one. You can be married without it having any connection to any religion. (As in the case of my marriage by a Justice of the Peace at the restaurant where we held the reception.) Second, no individual has to participate in any wedding if he or she doesn’t want to participate. And third, in every state where marriage equality was enacted by a state legislature, an exemption was written into the law stating that no religious entity could be forced to perform a same-sex marriage if it violated their religious beliefs. Not one state was going to force churches to perform same-sex weddings if they thought gay sex was icky. Yet here’s Justice Thomas (who, BTW, ought to be removed from the bench for voting on issues before the court where he had a clear conflict of interest, such as one side paying his wife to be their advocate) claiming that churches were now going to be forced to participate in same sex weddings even if they don’t want to do it. Totally untrue. Conservatives seem to have a hard time with options. They act as if the choice to do something is equivalent to it being a government mandate to do that something. They have a binary way of thinking that tells them everything is one way or the other, there’s no in-between. Except life is filled with in-betweens and there’s rarely that many black-or-white, yes-or-no options. As former President George H.W. Bush once said, “Either you’re for it or you’re against it.” I forget what the “it” was but it makes no difference because that’s how the right feels about everything.
So because the right was all butthurt over the Right Wing Extremism report, they demanded that it not only be retracted, but that no further discussion of the subject by the government could take place. And so insufficient resources were devoted to tracking the rise of right wing extremism, and more and more people died as a consequence. The same month the report was released, Joshua Cartwright (who was “severely disturbed” that Barack Obama was elected president) shot and killed two sheriff’s deputies. The next month Scott Roeder (an anti-abortion extremist connected to the sovereign citizens movement) shot and killed Dr. George Tiller in the entrance to a church. The very next month James von Brunn (a neo-Nazi and white supremacist) walked up to the Holocaust Museum and shot and killed a guard. And the violence by right wing extremists continued month after month. Since the criminal attacks of 9/11 (they were crimes, not acts of war), anti-government, racist and non-jihadist extremists have killed nearly twice as many people as those by Islamic jihadists, yet the right would have you believe ISIS is more of a danger to us than they are. It is simply untrue. As this last Thursday showed.
John Russell Houser, who Little Green Footballs’ Charles Johnson described as “an anti-government loon who admired Adolph Hitler, Timothy McVeigh, white power groups, the Westboro Baptist Church and the “scientific racism” of Charles Murray’s “The Bell Curve,”” opened fire inside a Lafayette, LA, movie theater using a hand gun he legally purchased from a pawn shop, killing two women and injuring nine others. It’s exactly the kind of violent act our own government warned us was likely to happen. But did we listen? No. Even worse, the right wing told us to shut up and act like it couldn’t happen. Except it did. If only we had listened to ourselves.
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the dangers of right wing extremism or any other topic you wish.