The Paranoid Center

How the panic over right-wing violence is being used to marginalize peaceful dissent

(Page 4 of 4)

If the Oklahoma City bombing stands out, that is because it is unique in American history. Eliminationist rhetoric may flower in some of the fringes, but the violence that sometimes follows is usually petty stuff. The most formidable eliminationists have always been in the American center, not on the margins. They aim to preserve or extend the existing social order, not to subvert it. And they have the most guns. 

The eradication of the Indians would have been impossible without the support of the federal government. When the second Ku Klux Klan was at its most powerful, in the early 1920s, it controlled the governments of Colorado, Indiana, and Oregon. In the South, lynch mobs and night riders served as a sort of para-state: A man who wore a policeman's badge by day could don a Klansman's hood by night. In the 1960s it was possible for urban cops to engage in extralegal violence in one moment and to call for "law and order" in the next. You could view that as a contradiction. Or you could view it as an especially ugly idea of what law entails. 

It's comforting to imagine that violence and paranoia belong only to the far left and right, and that we can protect ourselves from their effects by quarantining the extremists and vigilantly expelling anyone who seems to be bringing their ideas into the mainstream. But the center has its own varieties of violence and paranoia. And it's far more dangerous than anyone on the fringe, even the armed fringe, will ever be.

Managing Editor Jesse Walker (jwalker@reason.com) is the author of Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America (NYU Press).

* The text originally described both Terry and James Nichols as McVeigh's accomplices. In fact, only Terry Nichols was charged with the crime.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • George Miller||

    I guess we're not alone then.

    http://pubphilosopher.blogs.com/pub_philosopher/2005/07/what_is_it_abou.html

  • ||

    Leftwing/rightwing violence is a myth created by leftwing/rightwing in order to blame the other team for someone's violence.

    It's government folks. Government is always interested in marginalizing protests against it.

    To blame the other team for violence is great 24 news channel drama.

  • ||

    Excuse me: WHAT right-wing violence? So far, most of the violence in this country from ANY specific GROUP comes from police officers, especially now that counties have given them a new pair, euphemistically called "tasers."

  • Tony||

    The second worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil was committed by a right-wing extremist. Strangely nobody felt the need to waterboard anyone.

  • ||

    There weren't anymore coming from where that one came from, so what would be the point?

  • stuartl||

    ...Churchill writes,"the public became well acquainted with the archetypal militiaman, usually portrayed as warped by racial hatred, obsessed with bizarre conspiracy theories, and hungry for violent retribution."

    During the 2002 beltway sniper murder spree, the profilers described a white Timothy McVeigh type who fit this mold. Besides being black, and not being a militiaman, John Allen Muhammad did fit the mold pretty well.

  • ||

    Why would McVeigh be "right-wing"?

    Just because he attacked a federal building due to his anti-government views reaching a peak after being a eyewitness to the Waco ordeal?

    Of course the right-wing loves to hold the anti-government patriot flag when they are not in power.

  • ||

    The only political violence I can recall from the past couple of decades came from the left. The Anti-Globalization, PeTA and Earth First! crowd use to be pretty violent. But I haven't heard much from that corner lately.

    From the right all I can think of are individual acts of fucknuttery. Abortion clinics and so forth.

  • ||

    Tony, is the vague reference an effort to engage someone in a conversation where you will domonstrate how right wingers are the biggest turrurists? Against better judgement, I'll bite. I assume you are referring to the first world trade center bombing in 1993. It is true we did not waterboard anyone. So what? And yes, I agree, them Islams are mouth breathing right wingers. So?

  • ||

    I get the odd feeling that I've read this before. Is this a reprint of work done for some other source?

  • ||

    How about the riots in Seattle during the WTO meetings? Not too many anti-globalists could be called "right wing." And many of them stated flat out that they wanted to shut the conferences down.

  • ||

    Hippies clashing with police is idiotic, but not terrorism. Was anyone killed? No. The only people attacked were protesters, by the police. Apparently a bunch of property destruction happened, but unlike in "typical" right-winger incidents, human beings were not coldly targeted for bodily harm.

  • ||

    Yeah, the fortunately confiscated firebombs were just to lights cigs from...

  • ||

    McVeigh was bothered by the slaughter of fleeing soldiers during the Iraq war, the government's cavalier dismissal of "collateral damage" deaths, and abuse of police power. Hardly right winger type concerns. That's why I assume Tony/Lefiti/whoever meant the failed WTC bombing. It was only second to 9/11 because it failed to cause the complete instant death of everyone in the building.

    But, by all means, let's not discuss the activities of those, like Tony, on the left/right continuum that like to stifle debate with the sort of ameteurish but apparently quite successful methods outlined in Jesse Walker's excellent piece. That is the actual intention of Tony's 1st post (of which there will be many more).

  • ||

    Why would McVeigh be "right-wing"?



    Probably the same reason he is frequently identified as a pro-life christian racist in spite of reports that he was pro-choice and an atheist and among the things that had upset him in the Gulf War were the racist attitudes officers and other personel had towards Arabs.

    I think it's fair to say that McVeigh was a confused (and confusing) man. And some people will always shape him to fit their own narrative, as they will with others when it suits them.

  • Jesse Walker||

    I get the odd feeling that I've read this before. Is this a reprint of work done for some other source?

    A much shorter version was published on the website over the summer. This is the expanded remix that ran in the October print edition of our magazine.

  • ||

    Shut your neck, Tony.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Why would McVeigh be "right-wing"?

    I agree that it's hard to fit a lot of the '90s "patriot" movement into the conventional left-right spectrum. Still, when a guy finds inspiration in The Turner Diaries, it's not unfair to associate him with the far right.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    What I find amusing is all the ginned up hysteria (stoked by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center) about all the "dangerous right wing groups" who are going to start a massive wave of violence any minute now. And any minute now keeps getting pushed back and the same predictions keep getting recycled over and over again. It similar to the environental doomsters who have predicticted 500 of the last zero mass famines due to the food running out.

    Meanwhile we have plenty of real gangs that commit lots of violence every day of the year and have been for decades and the folks squealing about right wing gangs never raise a peep about them. These gangs would be the Crips, Bloods, MS-13 and a whole bunch of other street gangs.

  • ||

    The Anti-Globalization, PeTA and Earth First! crowd use to be pretty violent. But I haven't heard much from that corner lately.

    Keep your eyes on Pittsburgh...

  • ||

    Try googling Alaska and pipeline bombings or California ALF or ELF with the word arson. Try reading something other than Huffington post or moveondot org

  • Mike M.||

    The second worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil was committed by a right-wing extremist. Strangely nobody felt the need to waterboard anyone.

    But hey, at least McVeigh was tried, convicted, and executed in six years.

    It's now been eight years since 9/11, and the last time I checked, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was still alive.

  • ||

    "Strangely nobody felt the need to waterboard anyone."

    But we did kill the perp.

  • ||

    "Is this a reprint of work done for some other source?"

    Can't be. It doesn't have Suderman's by-line.

  • ||

    If "liberals" want to reduce the threat of "right-wing" militia, Timothy McVeigh imitators, etc., they might want to consider cutting back on the statism. Just a thought, State-fellators.

  • ||

    "When mainstream commentators treat a small group of unconnected crimes as a grand, malevolent movement, they unwittingly echo the very conspiracy theories they denounce. Both brands of connect-the-dots fantasy reflect the tellers' anxieties much more than any order actually emerging in the world."

    That or they become the real conspiracy via projection. Most totalitarian ideologies come to power by fighting against imagined conspiracies... once in power, they do everything they accused the conspiracy of plotting.

  • ||

    do you really believe they do it "unwittingly" MSM is more like foot soldiers for the progressive movement following orders. They are very purposeful in their approach at choosing which news to report and how to report that news

  • ||

    If "liberals" want to reduce the threat of "right-wing" militia, Timothy McVeigh imitators, etc., they might want to consider cutting back on the statism. Just a thought, State-fellators.

    Is that what we would call "blowback?"

    Hey! Like the pun?

  • ||

    The modern Minutemen are "anti-immigrant"?

    I thought they were opposed to the free passage of illegals, immigrant or otherwise, across our borders. American law is, too; the aim of the Minutemen is hardly radical or extra-legal.

    Surely Reason doesn't equate immigrants and illegals?

  • Barack Obama||

    "Most totalitarian ideologies come to power by fighting against imagined conspiracies... once in power, they do everything they accused the conspiracy of plotting."

    Shhhhhhh....

  • Rich||

    But hey, at least McVeigh was tried, convicted, and executed in six years.

    It's now been eight years since 9/11, and the last time I checked, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was still alive.


    If Virginia prosecutors have their way, John Allen Muhammad will be executed November 9., seven years after. But he generally makes for good theatre.

  • Terror apologetics logic||

    If "liberals" want to reduce the threat of "right-wing" militia, Timothy McVeigh imitators, etc., they might want to consider cutting back on the statism. Just a thought, State-fellators.



    If you don't want me to rape your wife maybe she should consider showing a little less cleavage.

  • Barack Obama||

    "Terror apologetics logic"

    Boob men are stupid.

  • ||

    "If you don't want me to rape your wife maybe she should consider showing a little less cleavage."

    I'll go with things the state would say for $100, Wink.

  • ||

    -Oklahoma City
    -Abortion clinic bombings
    -Abortion doctor murders
    -Kooks that have run into liberal-leaning churches and opened fire, and shot up the holocaust museum

    Many more

  • ||

    And brain-addled guys that carry AK's to peaceful events are a disaster waiting to happen

  • ||

    Here's what pisses me off. When I was a kid, Beck meant guitarist Joe Beck.

    Then about twenty years ago, Beck meant the new guy who did "Where It's At". And I was okay with that because he too is a great musician.

    But now, Beck refers to that pudgy white closeted gay man who cries on TV.

    How fucked up is that???

  • dgc||

    Why is it that people who hold your views are so incapable of making a coherent argument with a point instead of cussing? You certainly don't belong on a website that is supposed to be defined by reason!

  • William of Purple||

    ask Sevo.

  • ||

    Oooops, guitarist JEFF Beck. Damn! My brain is melting!

  • Joel||

    If "liberals" want to reduce the threat of "right-wing" militia, Timothy McVeigh imitators, etc., they might want to consider cutting back on the statism.

    What? And give in to the terrorists? Never!

    Just a thought, State-fellators.

    Racist!

  • ||

    -Lee Harvey Oswald
    -Sirhan Sirhan
    -Squeeky From
    -Sara Jane (aka Kathlene Solia) Olsen
    -Mumia
    -The guy(s) who took down Malcolm X

    How about I squat and you gobble.

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    tom swift asks: Surely Reason doesn't equate immigrants and illegals?

    In Reason's wee mind, we could have OpenBorders, thereby allowing China and India to in effect colonize a large part of the U.S. Their position is quite patriotic, it's just not clear which exact country they're being patriotic towards.

    Say, here's a question that Reason might try getting an answer for: Does Jonah Goldberg now qualify as a "Birther"?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Because of MoneyedInterests™, of course!

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Caged Lion, you are a left-wing troll. Be honest, did you read the article?

  • ||

    And brain-addled guys that carry AK's to peaceful events are a disaster waiting to happen.

    I'm fine with a black guy having a gun. I guess that if he was white it would have been OK?

  • Joel||

    Please, no one mention the words "immigration," "illegal," "alien," "border" or "WorldEvilBrownPeopleConspiracy" on H&R ever again. They only summon YouKnowWho.

  • ||

    Joel, it won't work. No one summons a dog to shit in your yard, they do that all by themselves.

    (The rest of the analogy lies in the sites who bring crazies here to shit in our yard.)

  • PC||

    "TrickyVic | September 15, 2009, 12:54pm | #

    Why would McVeigh be "right-wing"?

    Just because he attacked a federal building due to his anti-government views reaching a peak after being a eyewitness to the Waco ordeal?

    Of course the right-wing loves to hold the anti-government patriot flag when they are not in power."

    The wierd thing about McVeigh is that probably more influential than Waco or Ruby Ridge, though they were the main reasons given, was dissillusionment from the Gulf War, not a typical "right wing" trait, where he won a bronze star for his "one shot one kill". Killing during war is what really pushed him over the edge if we are to believe his American Terrorist biography. According to that book, if he would have been able to keep his shit together after the war and finish his special ops training OKC would have probably never happened. Of course the ironic thing is that the same antigovernment types who would be most sympathetic to McVeigh are the ones perpetuating a conspiracy theory that he never dropped out of special ops training and that OKC was his biggest mission, that and a book written by one of his death row inmates where he states that McVeigh told him such.

  • Joel||

    The brain-addled guy was carrying an AR, not an AK.

    Also, since black people cannot possibly be brain-addled, you are a you-know-what.

  • PC||

    "The second worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil was committed by a right-wing extremist. Strangely nobody felt the need to waterboard anyone."

    I don't think anyone wanted to know all the information. With the rumored groups that McVeigh was running around with, who knows how many times the government dropped the ball at uncovering the plot. The silence around his contact with Elohim City Neo-Nazis is particularly what I pointing to, the level of LEO infiltration into those groups would probably expose some unflattering information. They probably were content with just McVeigh and Nichols, with Fortier acting as Curly or Shemp.

  • ||

    Umm... you are aware that Nazism, or "National Socialism" is an ideology of the LEFT? It's a form of radical socialism. It is not, and has never been, "right-wing". It may be to the right of communism, but it is still very much left of center.

    Read some history folks. Just because the media calls Nazis right-wing doesn't make it true.

    Charles.

  • Wargames83||

    It is a right-wing form of radical socialism.

  • WTF||

    It's a right wing form of leftist ideology?

    DERP

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    Whether the BrannnchDavissdians were rightwing or not is an open question. They certainly weren't ChristiannnIdntyty types.

    It's also worth noting that while the execution was carried out by the Dems, the plans were drawn up under GHWB.

    That might lead some "libertarian" types to oppose things that give the BeltwayEstablishment such power, but instead they support the opposite through their support for massive illegal activity.

  • Tony||

    Umm... you are aware that Nazism, or "National Socialism" is an ideology of the LEFT? It's a form of radical socialism. It is not, and has never been, "right-wing". It may be to the right of communism, but it is still very much left of center.



    This is a big fat lie. "Socialism" is incidental to Naziism--socialism just happened to be popular at the time and hadn't yet acquired the stigma applied to it by the Red Scare. Racial scapegoating and fervent nationalism are hallmarks of the extreme right.

  • ||

    just because howie zinn says it doesn't make it so. Lennin, Stalin and yes Hitler had among many thing in common ideologically one big thing in common...racial scapegoating as you put it. Read real history not leftist sanitized crap

  • ||

    Even if you're right...and you're not, what you're saying is your totalitarian ideology is better than mine? Dude...let's be clear the NAZI's were a hell on earth and the Commies..statistically were like two hells on earth. Both resulted in millions of deaths. Nazi's something less that 100 million and between Lennin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot the North Korean guy, Castro and every other despot that followed and follows Marx & Engels today in say Africa and Central and South America tally to over 100 million dead souls and the number grows. Oh sure I'd be proud to be a equivocator for the wonders of socialism....spare me the junior poly sci nonsense about the differences between Communism and socialism

  • tarran||

    Racial scapegoating and fervent nationalism are hallmarks of the extreme right.

    So Woodrow Wilson is right wing now?

    Noted!

  • BakedPenguin||

    Sure, like the right-wing government of Vietnam ethnically cleansing itself of all Chinese.

  • Hopfiend||

    This is absolute, nonsensical intellectual buggery. The traits you describe are hardly unique to one or the other "wing" of observed politics.

  • proud libitard||

    So, according to that definition, the Chinese and Russian Communist States were actually Nazi's? Is that what you're saying because I don't see a whole lot of difference between those two and Germany/Italy.

    - Fervent Nationalism? Check
    - Racial Scapegoating? Check (Especially, Mao)
    - Military Ramp up? Check
    - Central planning of the economy? Check

    See, you can call Nazi's right wing all you want but they are no different than the Coms.

  • proud libitard||

    To continue Charles's thoughts (sorry Charles!), he's dead on about the media definitions of right wing/left wing.

    On one side you have a statist dictatorship and on the other side you have a um, well, statist dictatorship.

    We really need to change that left/right thing. It's confusing and inaccurate.

  • proud libitard||

    and by we, I mean not me...someone else. I'm too lazy especially after a six pack

  • ||

    """ And some people will always shape him to fit their own narrative, as they will with others when it suits them."""

    Exactly. It's just left vs. right mechanics. I call bullshit on the whole left vs. right terrorism. When it's really terrorism. It's just terrorism. But you can't play that angle on the 24 hour news channel, it's just too boring.

    Trying to frame Naziism as left or right is silly.

    The one arguement you will not hear is if the type of terrorism that founded this counrty is left or right? I'll let them fight it out.

    I'm just using the FBI's defintion of terrorism when I imply terrorist founded this nation.

  • ||

    ""- Racial Scapegoating? Check (Especially, Mao)""

    The racial scapegoating served to divide the citizenry and start an us vs. them war.
    The name of the game here is cultural scapegoating using tactics like O'Reilly's cultural war.

  • ||

    Very interesting artcile, nicely done. But I mean, come on, trying to break the links that Robinson established between those crimes? That's just racist.

  • ||

    Umm... you are aware that Nazism, or "National Socialism" is an ideology of the LEFT.

    You are fucking stupid. That is all.

  • tankrunner1123||

    Excuse me: WHAT right-wing violence? So far, most of the violence in this country from ANY specific GROUP comes from police officers, especially now that counties have given them a new pair, euphemistically called "tasers."

    _______________________________________-

    Police are conservative, its pretty obvious, if you can find me a liberal cop ill find you a conservative in the public school system.



    _________________________________


    Please, no one mention the words "immigration," "illegal," "alien," "border" or "WorldEvilBrownPeopleConspiracy" on H&R ever again. They only summon YouKnowWho.

    _______________________________

    Please, you really dont have to mention any of those topics for LW to come into the thread and squawk Pat Buchanan talking points.

  • Chad||

    I agree with this article, with one caveat.

    I love informed, intelligent dissent. People who spew spiteful, misinformed lies, on the other hand, are deserving of every bit of scorn we can heap upon them. Piling on the scorn is absolutely meant to shame them into silence...and there is nothing wrong with that.

    Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem to grasp this, and when either is out of power, any sort of respect, courtesy, or common sense seems to flee from the mind of their wingers.

  • ||

    "After Oklahoma City, a few figures on the fringes of the militia milieu were nabbed for planning attacks. These plots-by the most generous definition of militia, there were about a dozen of them...."


    Bait, meet switch.
    Gee I wonder why this detail-free recounting of a dozen plots in the 90s is all we are offered in this assessment of whether the current warnings about far-right extremism are warranted.

    A hint might be in the "white supremacist dirty bomber". An incident I most frequently see referenced in listings of far more numerous right-wing plots from more relevant times. Listing we both know you are aware of.

  • ||

    "Excuse me: WHAT right-wing violence?"

    Name the dirty bomber mentioned.
    After years of hype about terrorism and WMDs, name the guy who actually was arrested for plotting that.

    No? So really you're saying "I haven't heard about the shit I ignore because who it involves is awkward". Fantastic.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Gee I wonder why this detail-free recounting of a dozen plots in the 90s is all we are offered in this assessment of whether the current warnings about far-right extremism are warranted.

    I passed quickly over the details of the plans for the same reason I passed quickly over the role government infiltrators played in fomenting many of the plots, and the role other militiamen played in preventing the crimes: lack of space. If I do this at book length, I'll give you more than the summary.

  • Felix||

    1. Excellent article. Really something that ought to spur reflection across that hard-to-pin-down political spectrum.

    2. To that end, anybody who is debating along the lines of "Is the blood of tragedy x on the hands of the left or the right?" seems to be missing the point.

    3. Walker cites Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm to great effect. I would submit that Nixonland is also relevant here. At 800-plus pages, it's a long slog, but at heart it undeniably demonstrates that on both right and left paranoia can take hold and result in terrible, senseless violence. And obviously the figure at the heart of Perlstein's most recent work is Exhibit A as to the deadly consequences of paranoia from within the mainstream of American politics.

    4. If there's any common theme behind paranoia-fueled violence (from any political direction), it would seem to be a viewpoint of victimization. The feeling of being wronged has few peers in the way that it can rationalize violence against others.

    5. And of course, as Walker points out, there are plenty of dogs that don't bark here. Not all self-identified victims resort to violence.

    6. Worth saying again: excellent article.

  • Brad||

    As a photojournalist working rallies and protests on both sides of the aisle I see it all. But you and your ilk take the prize for paranoia.

  • ||

    Perhaps anticipating this objection, Stern argued that decentralist rhetoric is itself racist-that the idea of states' rights "has always been used to shield local governments from criticism over discriminatory practices." (Yes, he wrote "always." When state officials object to federal raids on medical marijuana clubs, Stern presumably believes they have a veiled racist agenda.)

    Even though my political aspirations are more towards decentralization than necessarily libertarianism, I have to defend Stern here. He is saying that when people want to shield local governments from criticism, they always use the states' rights argument, not that the states' rights is only used for that purpose. I think people make too much of this connection, but some of that may be just lack of exposure to true states' rights proponents. I, for one, prefer it so that people have more autonomy. If they want to turn California into a socialist state, then vote for it, but leave me out of it. Alternately, I would have a better range of options for moving to a state that will not end up being at least as nanny state as the current federal government wants to be.

  • Jesse Walker||

    He is saying that when people want to shield local governments from criticism, they always use the states' rights argument, not that the states' rights is only used for that purpose.

    I don't think that's what he's doing. Here's the passage in context:

    "[T]he ideas of 'states' rights' and 'county supremacy' that fuel so much of the militia movement are covers for bigotry. The former has always been used to shield local governments from criticism over discriminatory practices."

    From there he moves on to talk about country supremacy, leaving the subject of states' rights behind. So the history of people using states' rights arguments to defend racist practices is apparently enough for him to conclude that when militiamen use the term, they too are being racist.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Felix: Thanks for the kind words. I interviewed Perlstein when Nixonland came out; you might enjoy reading that article as well.

  • Enyap||

    Tony, please tell me whats right wing about environmentalism, eugenics, state control of crucial industrys, massive public works projects, and disarming the populace. And are you seriously going to paint nationalism and racism as being exclusive to the right wing dictatorships, so those Soviets defending the "motherland" were right wing.

  • Nodding Off||

    Well I'm sure glad to find out that nothing going on and it's safe to go back to sleep.

    Now, if someone would explain all those gun and ammunition sales.....

  • GILMORE||

    I was sorta disappointed the article focused so much on the early 90s right wing 'militia' dimension, and never did any clear cross comparison of the left vs right 'protest' movement/rhetoric over the last 10-15 years. I thought there'd be tons of "why no outrage over Bushitler" or "so kids smashing windows in Seattle is reasonable public discourse" or "why witch hunts like lewinski are fair game" or "why did abortionist assassinations never really bother the GOP" kind of analysis. Still, the piece was good, but I think there's more there to be mined.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "This is a big fat lie. "Socialism" is incidental to Naziism--socialism just happened to be popular at the time and hadn't yet acquired the stigma applied to it by the Red Scare. Racial scapegoating and fervent nationalism are hallmarks of the extreme right."

    LOL

    There is no better indicator of something being the absolute truth than to have Tony squeal that it's "a big fat lie".

  • Ratdog||

    As humans one of the most difficult tasks for any of us when it comes to these topics that involve us all by the very fact they are spun from every direction with ample insults for all assuring prejudicial thinking, is to be able pull back, remain objective, and not lose the only useful tool we have in such situations, clarity.

    Much kudos to Mr. Walker for pulling that most difficult task off exceptionally well.

  • ||

    Jesse Walker | September 15, 2009, 7:23pm
    "I passed quickly over the details of the [1990s] plans for ... lack of space. If I do this at book length, I'll give you more than the summary."

    That's terrific.
    And in regard to the right-wing extremist plots that occurred *this* side of the millennium you'll still give us nothing at all, yeah ?

    You know... the ones that prompted the DHS report, the increased SPLC coverage/warnings, the law enforcement think-tanks for how to handle these without travelling back in time to the 1990s, pretty much every single premise of your post including the need for you to write it at all in 2009.

    None of that worth a rebuttal while this 1990s stuff still needs some more fleshing out, yeah ?
    Like I said... bait, meet switch.

    I doubt you failed to notice the frequent question from your readers here "what right-wing violence?". As though they are genuinely unaware of what you could possibly be talking about. Quite odd, but not surprising.

    These comments of course were in response to your article which questioned whether the coverage right-wing violence was over hyped while the only mention of the actual occurrances of such trends was a comment that there were only a dozen or so plots after Oklahoma.

    As I pointed out, the only post 1990s plot you did mention was the kind of thing cable news dreams about in their hype-ability meetings and this received so little coverage that ABSOLUTELY NOBODY HERE could name the perp without googling him. Jose Padilla and his dirty bomb vs dirty bomb of the white supremacist named .... ? Oh, just at the last moment everyone's forgotten that that detail they never saw once.

    Much the same as every other right-wing extremist plot since the 90s where the plotters were planning on killing dozens, hundreds or thousands of people. They've received so little coverage people truthfull think this is fiction when it is referred to.

    Hence, how could this portrayal of yours -- that instead of being seriously under-reported, these non-reported trends in right-wing extremist violence are far too over-hyped -- be described as anything other than intellectually dishonest if not intentionally misleading ?

    Not a single one of your readers believes you're commenting on SPLC's reporting of right-wing extremist incidents without actually having read the articles and reports they've published which list all those incidents, plots, arrests and prosecutions. They do it so regularly it gets boring. So you're aware of that but it wasn't worth referencing what made up these incidents for some reason that totally wasn't because they ruin your premise.

    But yeah, do tell us more about Ruby Ridge instead. I can't wait to hear the part that prompted the DHS waring to law enforcement 17 years later.

    A time when "what's new in black America" included the announcement that Magic Johnson has AIDS. FFS.

  • ||

    There are 3 links on the front page of the SPLC --- the organisation credited with promoting this mis/characterization of trends in right-wing violence -- which concern the "rise of militias". Not real hard to find

    Two of them relate to a recent SPLC report dedicated to the topic (again, it's almost like they're not trying to hide this information), which carries this introduction:

    -----------
    Almost a decade after virtually disappearing from public view, the antigovernment militia movement is surging across the country, fueled by fears of a black man in the White House, the changing demographics of the country, and conspiracy theories increasingly spread by mainstream figures, according to a new SPLC report.
    ...
    Accompanying the SPLC report is a list of 75 plots, conspiracies and racist rampages since the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City - a key moment for the movement.
    -------------

    Yeah. Nothing to see here, move right along. There were really only a dozen and even they were mostly cases of entrapment. Sure.

    This being merely a footnote to a report which otherwise focuses on the activities and direction of current militia groups. None of it apparently worth a mention. None of it apparently as important as the question of whether militias like 1992 or 1994 best. Which was totally something someone gave a toss about before that strawman was built.

    Let's all together wonder why the militia movements and trends in right-wing extremism (or even just a single solitary mention of even one of the groups mentioned) that these people are pointing to are best left unexamined when mildly, almost arguing that these guys are just misunderstood:

    ---------
    "Evidence that angry Americans are arming themselves for action is growing. In March, for instance, a Spokane, Wash., man pleaded guilty to illegally possessing two grenade launchers, 54 grenades, 37 machine guns, eight silencers and a variety of explosives in a storage unit. The man had an "End the Fed" bumper sticker on his vehicle."
    ---------

    Because nothing says I have different ideas about big government and monetary policy like a grenade launcher. Oh, and a Ron Paul bumper sticker. That too.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Kilo: The article is about the social construction of a "surge" in "right-wing violence" since Obama became president (or, if you prefer, since the Palin campaign), which I compare to a similar scare in the '90s. The fact that scattered plots were played up during the militia panic, downplayed during the Bush years, and played up again now supports rather than refutes my thesis.

    That said, I also think the SPLC reports are really shoddy. They conflate a bunch of different movements together, make little distinction between the plans that were actually likely to be carried out and those that weren't, ignore the aforementioned issues of entrapment and militia cooperation in stopping plots, and in general are more aimed at scaring people into donating money to the SPLC than at offering an accurate accounting of the problem.

    The conflation of different movements is especially important. My article points out that Klansmen were much more of a threat when they served as a sort of para-state than when they became a bunch of powerless fringe groups. In some parts of the country, the violent wing of the anti-immigration movement may serve a similar para-state role today, which would put it in a different category than, say, the Viper Team. The SPLC isn't interested in distinctions like that.

  • ernie1241||

    There is an attempt by the radical right in our country to propose that we accept an entirely new conception of a political spectrum.

    Their proposal is that placement on a spectrum should be dependent exclusively upon the degree of government intervention and activism within society.

    In this scheme of things, nazism, fascism, communism, socialism and liberalism all belong on the left side of a spectrum because they are all "collectivist" or "pro-statist" philosophies whereas groups like the Birch Society or other anti-government activists belong in the CENTER or slightly-right-of center on the spectrum. The extreme right is exclusively the territory devoted to anarchy.

    From this perspective, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin and others have proposed that people like James von Brunn (the fellow who murdered a guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum) should be interpreted as being motivated by leftist sentiments and attitudes because of his connection to neo-nazi individuals and groups.

    For a detailed analysis which demonstrates why this is completely irrational -- based upon the persons, organizations, and publications which Von Brunn associated himself with over the years, see my report here:
    http://ernie1241.googlepages.com/vonbrunn

    Another report of mine which reveals the flaw in this conception of a political spectrum pertains to Eustace Mullins:
    http://ernie1241.googlepages.com/mullins

    More info: ernie1241@aol.com

  • nekoxgirl||

    I don't think there is anything irrational about viewing political orientation based on the degree of government intervention instead of social mores. Why does all political thought have to fit onto a one-dimensional left/right paradigm based on French politics?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Notice that Tony goes straight to the McVeigh trough, but ignores the Unabomber, Earth Liberation Front, and other left-wing nutbags.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Google the acronym "MIAC" and "Missouri", and look at how some idiots tried to tell cops they should consider supporters of Ron Paul, Bob Barr, or the Constitution Party, as being militia members JUST BECAUSE OF BUMPER STICKERS and other stupid shit.

  • FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (||

    Members of extremist groups may reveal their affiliations in a number of ways. First, the vehicles they drive often provide clues that can help officers prepare for potential danger before making a stop. Specifically, the extremists' vehicles may sport bumper stickers with antigovernment or pro-gun sentiments; display handmade license plates, plates from jurisdictions that do no exist, or no plates at all; or fit the profile of vehicles driven by known extremist group members in the area. Additionally, officers may have seen the vehicle or its occupants at locations where extremist groups assemble or may know that the subjects harbor extremist beliefs.

    The occupants of the vehicle may show other signs of extremist group involvement. Drivers who hold antigovernment beliefs may refuse to carry driver's licenses, vehicle registration, proof of insurance, or other forms of identification. Instead, they may present handmade licenses, a copy of the Constitution, a Bible, or political literature. In addition, a records check may reveal minor outstanding warrants. Extremists often fail to satisfy violations of motor vehicle laws, such as registration or license requirements, because they do not feel bound by such laws, and any statements to this effect that drivers make should send a strong signal to officers. Finally, because of their knowledge and experience, officers may be able to recognize indicators of extremist behavior unique to their jurisdiction.

    Once officers decide a subject may hold extremist beliefs, they should develop a plan of action. In fact, preparation remains the key to dealing with extremists.

  • anonymous||

    "I also think the SPLC reports are really shoddy."

    See "The Militias Are Coming" (Reason, August/September 1996)

  • ||

    I've not read all the comments (I came to the article from Sam Smith's Progressive Review), so someone else might already have caught this. Apologies if so.

    "the idea of states' rights "has always been used to shield local governments from criticism over discriminatory practices." (Yes, he wrote "always." When state officials object to federal raids on medical marijuana clubs, Stern presumably believes they have a veiled racist agenda.)"

    The author makes the same "Woody Allen" mistake here that he called out a few sentences previously. Let me try to illuminate the illogic.

    the quoted passage can be boiled down to "states rights always used to excuse racism, therefore Stern believes raids on medpot are racist".

    But if we say states-rights ialways shields racism (the group mortals includes humans), then all we know is that racism is something that states-rights shields. (humans are mortal). We don't know at that point whether states-rights shields other things besides racism just as we don't know whether there are other creatures also in the mortal category. That information is not contained in the statement.

    Which means we don't know whether Stern believes medpot raids are racist (whether Spot is a human).

  • ||

    Jesse Walker | September 16, 2009, 11:19am | #
    "Kilo: The article is about the social construction of a "surge" in "right-wing violence" since Obama became president (or, if you prefer, since the Palin campaign), which I compare to a similar scare in the '90s."

    Yes you do. Except for mentioning any reason why such a surge may be spoken of in 2009. You know, what with the failure to mention the incidents, the militia groups, numbers of them, trends in this data, etc, as pointed out repeatedly.

    I guess someone might find it persuasive for you to continue referring to your comparison of two trends where only one of them is examined as having merit.

    "The fact that scattered plots were played up during the militia panic, downplayed during the Bush years, and played up again now supports rather than refutes my thesis."

    Does it? Well that's great. I guess when you get around to writing the article that examines the plots that have actually occurred and then judges whether these were played up/down in the media, then your thesis will be better.

    Meanwhile, you're left referring to a thesis presented without examining these plots and reaching conclusions without them, conclusions which relate to whether they are being mentioned too much. So until then it ain't much of one. You know, assuming that leaving out these details wasn't essential to the whole endeavor.

    Certainly does help when you can solicit genuinely surprised comments questioning what, if any right-wing violence anyone could be referring to. Shit, what thesis can't be supported on this basis ?

    I can tell you from experience that the thesis of millbloggers that the DHS warnings about vets was completely fictitious goes downhill rather quickly when you start mentioning the hundreds of white supremacists and their plots it was referring to. Just *so* much better as a thesis when you simply don't mention the data you are referring to.

    "That said, I also think the SPLC reports are really shoddy."

    Again, good for you. I assume if you could engage and refute what they present, then you would have done this already rather than avoiding their actual content entirely.

    " They conflate a bunch of different movements together, make little distinction between the plans that were actually likely to be carried out and those that weren't"

    This is intriguing.
    Do tell us which of the post-1990s plots they've highlighted following the arrest of suspects intending to kill lots of blacks, jews, latinos, judges, federal workers, race traitors, liberals, etc that should be protested as being less than likely despite their arrest. Better yet, write an article that does that. No ? Leave that one as another vague claim too will we. Yeah, best.

    "ignore the aforementioned issues of entrapment and militia cooperation in stopping plots"

    Why wouldn't they? Why do you believe this even rates as worthy of mention? If white supremacist groups increase in number by 50% since 2000 how many are we suspecting are coached into the black/jew hating lifestyle by a cop?

    What portion of actual arrests and plots that have occurred are you wanting to claim are manufactured ? Yeah that's right, none, since it would actually require you to honestly examine the body of incidents that have occurred in order to do that.

    "and in general are more aimed at scaring people into donating money to the SPLC than at offering an accurate accounting of the problem."

    Really. So offer us your backup SPLC as replacement then. You know, the people doing the exact same thing which you *do* think provide an accurate accounting of the problem which you totally *aren't* pretending is completely absent. Go for it.

    "In some parts of the country, the violent wing of the anti-immigration movement may serve a similar para-state role today, which would put it in a different category than, say, the Viper Team. The SPLC isn't interested in distinctions like that."

    This is a strange objection for someone uninterested in examining the existence, growth, actions, or any other facet of these groups whatsoever. That distinctions between multiple groups, none of which are worth mentioning, aren't properly defined.

    Again, if you actually had something to say about how particular post-1990s groups and their actions are portrayed we would have seen it already.

    This is nothing but a litany of vague excuses for why we haven't and won't, for the obvious reason.

  • ||

    ernie1241 | September 16, 2009, 2:32pm | #
    "For a detailed analysis which demonstrates why this is completely irrational..."

    I'm sure you put a lot of work into that Ernie, but I don't think there's a lot of persuasion required on that front.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Mairead: See my comment at 8:32 on the 15th, which provides the context for Stern's statement.

    Kilo: To the extent that I can make sense of your barely coherent comment, you seem to be under the impression that my thesis hinges on whether there is any right-wing violence out there. It doesn't. Suppose I wrote an article about the scapegoating of illegal aliens, and the ways it fans racism against Hispanics in general. If someone wrote in to point out that Lou Dobbs had a list somewhere of robberies and drunk driving incidents involving undocumented Mexicans, the fact that many of the crimes he cited really happened wouldn't affect that thesis either.

    If I set out to write a refutation of the SPLC, I would have written a refutation of the SPLC. (I could point out, for example, that an increase in the number of "extremist" groups does not necessarily mean an increase in the number of people who belong to such groups. Or that their much-ballyhooed report on the "return of the militias" includes a bunch of incidents and organizations that do not, in fact, involve militias.) But there are plenty of critiques of the SPLC out there, which you can find with minimal Googling. I set out to do something else.

  • ||

    The real problem you needs to face is that your moderates make no sincere effort to distance themselves from the crackpots. For better or worse (and many argue, worse) Democrats are allowed to disagree within their party walls. They are doing it right now on health care. NONE of this is tolerated in the Republican party, which is why both Democrats and pundits can accurately claim Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, and the wacky tea-baggers are the voice of the Republican party. Not a one will stand up and say they these folks are crackpots, and those who have even hinted at such things are then quick to recant. Where were your moderates when Limbaugh spouted his newest appallingly racist remarks, Jesse? Where were they when the House formally rebuked Joe Wilson? Where are they on health care, or ANY Obama Administration proposal?

    If they don't want to be lumped in with crackpots then these moderates need to step out of the big, ugly, crackpot-shaped shadow they are hiding in and say so. Otherwise, they have no one to blame but themselves.

  • ||

    Maybe I missed it but I don't recall a single instance in this entire article where you actually demonstrate this so-called paranoia being used to "marginalize peaceful decent." Please show us one instance of someone unafiliated with and unsympathetic to these latest crackpots who is being marginallized.

  • ||

    "Unusual sexual practices?" Koresh was a child rapist. My heart bleeds for him.

  • ||


    Mike | September 19, 2009, 10:08am | #
    Maybe I missed it but I don't recall a single instance in this entire article where you actually demonstrate this so-called paranoia being used to "marginalize peaceful decent." Please show us one instance of someone unafiliated with and unsympathetic to these latest crackpots who is being marginallized.

    Stephen | September 19, 2009, 12:15pm | #
    "Unusual sexual practices?" Koresh was a child rapist. My heart bleeds for him.



    Fork deftly inserted into this turkey.

    The kooks are out there and they are armed with some extra deadly weapons:


    Extra! March/April 2004

    Homegrown Terrorists
    WMD found-in Texas, so media yawn

    By Richard Bottoms

    In his interview with Tim Russert (Meet the Press, 2/8/04), George W. Bush said, "See, free societies are societies that don't develop weapons of mass terror." Putting aside the U.S. government's enormous stocks of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons-which Bush would presumably insist are not intended for terror-the statement also overlooks the fact that the U.S. also produces freelance domestic terrorists bent on creating weapons of mass destruction.

    Russert might have reminded Bush of recent events in his home state of Texas, where William Krar was indicted in May 2003 for, among other things, possession of a weapon of mass terror. But it wouldn't have meant much to Russert's viewers, given that NBC-along with other broadcast networks, cable outlets and newspapers around the country-have virtually ignored this important story.

    Krar and his wife, Judith Bruey, had assembled quite an arsenal in a storage facility in Noonday, Texas, including 500,000 rounds of ammunition, machine guns, pipe bombs, briefcase bombs and their own personal WMD: a cyanide bomb. Unfortunately for Krar, a package he sent in early 2003, containing fake U.N. and Defense Intelligence Agency IDs, went astray on its way to New Jersey militia member Edward Feltus. The accidental recipient alerted the FBI, leading to the arrest of Krar, Bruey and Feltus in May 2003. Along with various white supremacist literature, the FBI seized documents indicating that co-conspirators may still be at large, though the trio has continued to keep silent about all details, including their accomplices and intended targets.

    As the Bush administration has been very effective in equating terrorism with Iraq and the Middle East in the aftermath of September 11, it's seldom recalled that Timothy McVeigh, a native-born American and a former soldier, carried out the second-deadliest terror attack on American soil, in Oklahoma City in 1995. At the height of the militia movement of the 1990s, McVeigh was just one of thousands of anti-government activists prepared for the possibility of waging war on their own government. As William Krar's activities indicate, the hard-core members of these groups did not disappear after international terrorists struck-yet the press has allowed them to fly under the radar.

  • whisker||

    It concerns me that articles like this never give equal concern for violence against "left" organizations.

    Yes, the Center is the most violent position. Let's unite with the left by remembering not only Waco but the MOVE massacres. Many are out there. Let's talk about them.

  • Jesse Walker||

    Brian: There is no shortage of conservatives willing to call other conservatives crackpots.

    Stephen: I don't really care how you feel about Koresh. The point is that someone could be so far outside the mainstream, sexually and otherwise, yet social conservatives looked past that and defended his civil liberties. Meanwhile, the people who said they were concerned about the fate of those children set a chain of events in motion that left most of the kids dead.

    Mike: Reread the intro. It consists almost entirely of examples of "this so-called paranoia being used to 'marginalize peaceful decent.'"

    Richard: I wrote that the press hyped right-wing violence during the Clinton and Obama administrations. You replied with an article claiming that the press paid inadequate attention to right-wing violence during the Bush administration. I trust I do not have to explain why this is not a compelling counterargument.

    whisker: I agree, and I've written about Waco in conjunction with MOVE in the past. But in this case that fell outside my topic, which was specifically the current panic over the far right.

  • Rich Birkett||

    Jesse, whisker: add Rainbow Farm Campground seige, where in 2001 the owner and his gay lover were killed, to the list of violence against "left" causes, specifically cannabis legalization.

  • ||

    "the Minutemen—the anti-communist activists of the '60s, not the anti-immigration activists of today"

    anti-illegal-immigration!

    Get right, you fool.

  • ||

    a) Get right /= Get it right

    b) "Churchill offers a more persuasive origin story. By his account, the militias overlapped with the older, broader populist right, but their origins were distinct. The movement began to congeal not in 1992 but in the early months of 1994, as activists reacted to the lethal federal raid on the Branch Davidian church in Waco, Texas. Rather than tracing the phenomenon back to groups like the Order, Churchill uses a series of case studies to explore the long American tradition of armed resistance to intrusive government."

    This isn't a coherent concept or paragraph you've put together. The origin of the Waco inspired resistance to intrusive government is the older, broader populist right, which was never into murdering people or robbing banks, let alone emulating the ideologies of foreign dictators.

  • J Bubble||

    This isn't a coherent concept or paragraph you've put together.

    Seems perfectly coherent to me. Whereas this:

    The origin of the Waco inspired resistance to intrusive government is the older, broader populist right, which was never into murdering people or robbing banks, let alone emulating the ideologies of foreign dictators.

    ...is completely incomprehensible. What are you trying to say?

  • ||

    According to that logic then the Discovery Channel Hostage Situation would be a clarion call for banning environmental alarmism...

  • Pro Libertate||

    Greetings. I am from the year 2013. The world gets worse--be warned!

  • William of Purple||

    I am from the year 2013 But from which month?

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Uncertainty Principle, now part of our legal code, makes it impossible for me to answer.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Facebook IPO? Avoid it.

  • William of Purple||

    Who wins the World Series?

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Tampa Bay Rays. Every year.

  • SugarFree||

    Twinkies go away, but then they come back. Hoard responsibly.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Obama drones some, spares others.

  • SugarFree||

    Obama wins a second term, the Derp gets turned up to 11.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Lindsay Lohan is still not in jail or dead.

  • SugarFree||

    But she does do softcore with James Deen. (He's a pornstar.)

  • Pro Libertate||

    The Obama administration hates Youtube.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Holy freak show, Batman!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Is that really a special guest appearance by Art-P.O.G.?

    Welcome, friend.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I miss The Art.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    That's what I get for ignoring timestamps.

  • Irish||

    Wow. Some really stupid people who apparently can't read showed up in this thread. I'm impressed that Jesse kept his cool in the midst of such unbelievable stupidity.

    That Kilo person is hilariously paranoid and it makes me laugh. Oh NO! People are buying GUNS! Clearly the only reason to do so is because you're part of a far right terrorist sect!

    I'd also like to point everyone to this chart by the FBI of all terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005. You'll notice that left wing and communist groups committed 29% of all terrorist attacks and right wing groups aren't even listed because so few terrorist attacks are committed by the right.

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