Paranoia and Extremist Violence in the USA

Right-Wing Extremist

Kyle at Right-Wing Watch has an excellent post:

Back in April and May I wrote a whole series of posts about how the Right was systematically trumping-up a controversy over the Department of Homeland Security Report, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” [PDF,]” which eventually led the DHS to pull the report.

Now, in light of the murder of Dr. George Tiller and the recent shooting at the Holocaust Museum, we’re seeing a variety of pieces claiming that these events validate the report’s warnings.  And undoubtedly they do, but the irony here is that this report was never about run-of-the-mill conservatives or right-wing political groups – it was focused on violent, racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-government extremists – but it was the conservatives and right-wing political groups who made it about them…The report was not a warning about mainstream conservative political groups or lawful anti-abortion activists or religious organizations – it was a report about violent, radical extremists.  But it was the Right that intentionally conflated the two and now, in the wake of two high-profile violent acts carried out by right-wing extremists, it is the Right that is insisting that they have nothing in common with such people….

Kyle also draws attention to the above ID Card, available from the Christian fundamentalist Liberty Counsel.

The recent spate of far-right violence also brings to mind Eric Boehlart’s warnings about Fox’s “Militia Media” back in April:

Is there any doubt that Fox News is playing an increasingly erratic and dangerous game by embracing the type of paranoid insurrection rhetoric that people like Pittsburgh cop killer Richard Poplawski are now acting on? By stoking dark fears about the ominous ruins that await an Obama America, by ratcheting up irresponsible back-to-the-wall scenarios, Fox News has waded into a territory that no other national news organization has ever dared to exploit.

The hate seems to be at fever-pitch: Max Blumenthal’s video of well-educated young American Jews in Jerusalem spouting extremely crude racism and opining that Obama should be shot is one particularly shocking piece of evidence.

And as my previous post notes, those who have heavily invested in crank conspiracy theories are now lashing out at everyone else to draw attention away from their own hatemongering. Chip Berlet has characterised very well what in fact is going on:

Apocalyptic aggression is fueled by right-wing pundits who demonize scapegoated groups and individuals in our society, implying that it is urgent to stop them from wrecking the nation. Some angry people in their audience already believe conspiracy theories in which the same scapegoats are portrayed as subversive, destructive, or evil. Add in aggressive apocalyptic ideas that suggest time is running out and quick action mandatory and you have a perfect storm of mobilized resentment threatening to rain bigotry and violence across the United States.

Of course, far-right conspiracism and hate are not the only corrosive forces working against civil society in the USA – Jeremiah Wright’s anti-Semitism was in evidence just yesterday, and Islamic extremism continues to inspire acts of violence and terror. 9/11 “Truther” nonsense crosses many political shades, stoking irrationality and fatalism wherever it finds a hearing, while the “Jewish lobby” remains an attractive explanation for those too lazy to consider in any detail the complexities of the USA’s relationship with Israel. However, after eight years of insisting that anyone who seriously criticised Bush was unpatriotic (or even anti-God), it seems that some conservatives have painted themselves into a corner: if it’s unpatriotic to criticise lawful authority, then the only thing to do is to borrow from the far-right the idea that institutional authority in the USA is tyrannical and unlawful. That can mean mainstreaming the most paranoid ideas from the far-right, without any regard either for truth or for consequences. Once again, I give you this, from WorldNetDaily:

WND Obama Flu

It’s off the scale.

But some at least are appealing for a more sensible discourse – famously, GOP chair Michael Steele recently attacked Rush Limbaugh as “incendiary” and “ugly”, although he lacked the Kugelsack to stand by his words. Meanwhile, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has broken with some of his “anti-Jihad” fellow travelers over “stories and causes that I think are completely nuts”, and now Shepherd Smith has gone on air at Fox to complain about the extremist emails he receives. Dan Wooding of the Christian ASSIST News Service similarly bemoans the many

…hateful e-mails that are forwarded to me attacking other Christians, the President, and a plethora of other things. Most are Urban Legends that have not been checked, but they still get sent.

Will we see some moderation now that people are getting killed? Or will we simply hear more complaints that joining the dots between paranoia and violence is simply about smearing innocent conservatives?

One Response

  1. […] On the Wingnuts. 2009 June 14 by modernityblog Bartholomew notes on Paranoia and Extremist Violence in the USA, it is very informative, and helpfully he points us to Right Wing Watch which is a useful resource […]

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