A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White
In another edition of the Falwell Confidential, an e-mail newsletter from the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s son Jonathan, the Baptist pastor drew a straight line connecting pro-lifers such as himself to violent extremists.
Hey, man: You said it, not me.
Falwell was reacting to the publication of an intelligence report by the Department of Homeland Security warning about the possibility of a homegrown terrorist attack due to violent radicalization of disgruntled individuals on the right. Here’s an excerpt from his letter to his “fellow ‘extremists’” (emphasis mine):
As a Christian, I find this intelligence assessment particularly troubling because it hones in on pro-life Americans who are almost exclusively law-abiding people of faith. I say “almost” because there have been those rare cases of radicals attacking abortion clinics, but those past actions were roundly condemned by all pro-life leaders and leading activists, as they should be.
I look out over my congregation of thousands each week, and I do not see dangerous individuals who are threats to our nation or our government. Instead, I see people who love God and seek to hold His commandments and principles through their faith and daily living. To suggest that these people could be risky extremists is disgraceful.
Reading Falwell’s assessment of the DHS report, you’d think DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano had gone to Thomas Road Baptist Church last Sunday and begun carting away parishioners for questioning. But the only person who suggested that those people “could be risky extremists” is Falwell himself.
If you read the actual report, which was initiated by the Bush Administration, it’s clear that Falwell is drawing lines that didn’t exist before he dreamt them up. Furthermore, Napolitano made it clear that “we do not — nor will we ever — monitor ideology or political beliefs.”
From the part where the DHS report “hones in on pro-life Americans,” supposedly:
Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
The reaction to the DHS report might be what actually separates the extremists from the extremely conservative.
It’s not just pro-lifers who saw themselves reflected in the intelligence report. The report had all kinds of conservative groups up in arms, from anti-immigration groups to gun rights activists. Michelle Malkin called it a “DHS hit job.” Rush Limbaugh accused President Obama of working toward “wiping out his political enemies.”
Some see this as yet another sign of the decline of right-wing political thought in general and the Republican Party in particular. Last week, Ariana Huffington made that point in an interview on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown:
OLBERMANN: Nowhere in this report does the word “conservative” come up, nor the name Rush Limbaugh. Why is the right trying to make this about them?
HUFFINGTON: One simple word: desperation. They don’t have anything else going for them at the moment, except this attempt to make stuff up. After all, their two big ideas, tax cuts and deregulation, have failed dramatically over the last eight years. So now they’re actually forced to identify — that’s what I find amazing — they actually willingly identify with these right-wing extremists. We’re talking about white supremacists, we’re talking about very marginal, extremists groups that have nothing to do with conservatism.
Olbermann later called it a “self martyrdom” technique with a short shelf life.
Much like some on the religious right use unborn babies as a shield for their extremism, those on the political right are imagining themselves as tireless defenders of our troops in their blustery opposition to the intelligence report. Detractors suggested that veterans were singled out as dangerous terrorists by DHS, when it was really quite the opposite.
On the contrary, the DHS report identifies veterans as an at-risk population, not a risky one. The report expresses concern that vulnerable vets, some of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression and other types of duress, could be recruited more easily by extremists.
In addition to turning the warning completely upside-down and pretending that DHS is the one targeting vets, these self-described “extremists” claim there’s no precedent for such a warning. But just because 14 years have passed since the Oklahoma City bombing doesn’t mean Napolitano has forgotten Timothy McVeigh’s status as a war vet.
The national commander of the American Legion criticized the mention of McVeigh, saying that using him “an example of the stereotypical ‘disgruntled military veteran’ is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam.”
Agreed; bin Laden does not represent Islam any more than McVeigh represents troubled vets. But both do represent terrorist threats that were underestimated. I wonder how the American Legion felt about the Bush Administration ignoring the memo titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.?”
Though the report clearly does not indicate the government is trying to accuse war vets of sedition, Napolitano did apologize for any perception that vets were being targeted.
Misunderstandings aside, the question remains: Why shouldn’t the Department of Homeland Security be on the lookout for extremists within our borders?
Other questions come to mind as well. Where were these self-described extremists when President Bush was revealed to be wiretapping phones? Where were they when fusion centers warned against “extremists groups” like the Humane Society?
The fact is, this report is one of many detailing threats from extremists of all kinds. Two months ago, DHS published a report of left-wing extremist groups (research for both reports started with the previous administration’s DHS).
All too often, violence comes from hate, which almost always comes from fear. Now that we’re in a recession and being led by the nation’s first black president, there’s bound to be more fear and hate brought up to the surface. If the intolerance and bigotry displayed by some of the teabaggers last week is any indication, a simple intelligence report is probably an essential precaution.
And a quick tip to those afraid of being labeled as extremists: It helps if you don’t proactively label yourself as an extremist.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS