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The Circle of Strife: Right-Wing Furious over DHS Terror Warning

April 14, 2009

The conservative blogosphere is apoplectic over news that the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning over the growing threat of right-wing terror in the United States. Coming as it does just after bloody episodes including the politically-motivated slaughter of policemen in Pittsburgh and Unitarian church-goers in Tennessee, the vaguely worded statement seems to have struck a nerve among the raging right. Of course, given the increasingly incendiary rhetoric from leading Republicans and their amen corner in the conservative media, right-wingers' fury over the report may mask fears that their casual incitements to violence could leave them with blood on their hands.
In defense of the likes of Michelle Malkin, who deemed the April 7 DHS document "a piece of crap" and "a sweeping indictment of conservatives," it should be noted that the department has provided no specific assessments regarding "the next Timothy McVeigh." Indeed, the White House itself seems to be backing away from the report. And as Spencer Ackerman, certainly no friend of the right, fretted, "after years of insinuation on the right that Muslims in the U.S. represent a fifth column, it's similarly unacceptable to skirt the boundary of criminalizing right-wing politics, even if the invective can tend to the scabrous."
But as I catalogued recently, the terror talk on the right has advanced well beyond either the realm of scabrous or the boundary of the movement:

Whether concerning guns, abortion, gay Americans, immigration or judicial appointments, the line connecting the rhetoric of the Republican Party and the mainstream conservative movement behind it to right-wing terror is a very short one...
Increasingly, the conservative movement finds its strongest support at the dark nexus inhabited by gun rights advocates, religious zealots, white supremacists, anti-immigrant xenophobes, pro-life activists and anti-government crusaders.

(For more details, see "From Republican Rhetoric to Right-Wing Terror." Media Matters has more on the language of revolution and violence, including dire warnings of looming fascism and communism, now commonly in use by right-wing media mouthpieces.)
As a matter of public policy, the vague warning about a generalized danger from right-extremism, like DHS's color-coded threat level, may ultimately be counterproductive. By not citing specific individuals, groups or organizations threatening "rightwing extremist activity" and issuing "calls for violent action," the document is already producing blowback by fueling the very conservative paranoia it was designed to caution against. (14 years after the NRA's Wayne LaPierre decried Bill Clinton's "jackbooted government thugs," on Sunday CBS 60 Minutes highlighted the new Obama "gun rush.")
But as David Neiwert suggests in his new book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, that doesn't make the threat from right-wing terror - and its witting and unwitting cheerleaders - any less real.

3 comments on “The Circle of Strife: Right-Wing Furious over DHS Terror Warning”

  1. Don’t worry too much about fueling reactionary paranoia -- keep in mind that, among righties and lefties alike, the most thorough murder investigation in history -- Oswald’s murder of Jack Kennedy -- is fueling tremendous paranoia to this day.
    I wish I understood why, but in any case my point is that mass paranoia seems not to depend greatly upon what is fueling it, and is not exclusively a wingnut affliction.

  2. The Obama Adminstration's attack against pro-life conservatives is very frightening to me. There is NO evidence of groups of pro-life people or those against illegal immigration acting in a militant way. There are plenty of militants in this country, but pro-lifers are not one of those groups. When I think of what happened in Nazi Germany when the government turned against a group of citizens, I wonder where this is going.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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