In the run-up to the 2008 elections, National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast a piece about the possible election of this country’s first black president, and how white supremacists would make use of the situation. The story talked to some white racists, who explained how they could exploit an Obama presidency for recruiting more knuckleheads to their movement.
On April 7, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acknowledged the danger posed by lunatic fringe groups in a report titled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” The nine-page report essentially confirms what the NPR story was on to last fall — and then some.
There are some points in the DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis report that are of interest to the Jewish community. Apart from racial resentments stirred by the Obama presidency, the economic crisis has led to right-wing extremist “chatter on the Internet” about how the “cabal of Jewish ‘financial elites’” is to blame for job losses and home foreclosures.
Specifically, the report mentions the April 4 shooting death of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Penn., by a gunman who “reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and Jewish-controlled ‘one world government.’”
The April 7 DHS report, which was distributed to local law enforcement agencies across the country, warns that the trend to scapegoat Jews “is likely to accelerate if the economy is perceived to worsen.”
The DHS report draws parallels to the situation in the 1990s, when there was a “growth in the number of domestic right-wing terrorist and extremist groups and an increase in violent acts targeting government facilities, law enforcement officers, banks, and infrastructure sectors.” The April 19, 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, in Oklahoma City, by militia movement terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, was the signal event of that era. America awakened to the reality that homegrown right-wing terrorists were a security threat within this country’s borders.
In the case of McVeigh, the DHS report also mentions that he was a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, and quotes a “prominent civil rights organization,” which reported in 2006 that “large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces.” Further, according to the DHS report, the FBI noted “in a 2008 report on the white supremacist movement that some returning military veterans from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan have joined extremist groups.”
The Homeland Security report correctly focuses on the latent menace posed by violent right-wing extremist groups, and by deranged lone wolf sociopaths acting on benighted ideological motives. What has created a storm among conservative pundits is that the report extends its purview from dangerously violent fanatics on the right to “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration,” and “groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.” The howls coming from the conservative blogosphere were analyzed by Glenn Greenwald, a former civil rights litigator who now writes books and contributes to Salon.com.
In his April 14 column on Salon.com, Greenwald wrote, regarding conservative fears of represssion at the hands of federal authorities: “Conservatives have responded to this disclosure as though they’re on the train to FEMA camps. The Right’s leading political philosopher and intellectual historian, Jonah Goldberg, invokes fellow right-wing giant Ronald Reagan and says: ‘Here we go again,’ protesting that ‘this seems so nakedly ideological.’ Michelle Malkin, who spent the last eight years cheering on every domestic surveillance and police state program she could find, announces that it’s ‘Confirmed: The Obama DHS hit job on conservatives is real!’ Lead-War-on-Terror-cheerleader Glenn Reynolds warns that DHS — as a result of this report (but not, apparently, anything that happened over the last eight years) — now considers the Constitution to be a ‘subversive manifesto.’ Super Tough Guy Civilization-Warrior Mark Steyn has already concocted an elaborate, detailed martyr fantasy in which his house is surrounded by Obama-dispatched, bomb-wielding federal agents. Malkin’s Hot Air stomps its feet about all ‘the smears listed in the new DHS warning about right-wing extremism.’”
The irony in the plaints from the right of the political spectrum is that we have seen real political repression — in the Twin Cities last year. As Greenwald notes in his column, heavily armed SWAT teams raided a local meeting place and homes, and rounded up the alleged anarchist ringleaders of the RNC Welcoming Committee, a group that proclaimed its intention to disrupt the Republican National Convention. Greenwald was on the scene, conducting interviews at the south Minneapolis homes that were raided on Saturday, Aug. 30, two days before the Republicans convened.
(And here’s the full disclosure: As most Jewish World readers know, my son Max, 20, is one of the group called the RNC 8, the young political activists facing criminal conspiracy charges in Ramsey County District Court. He’s not in jail, and he’s no longer considered a “terrorist” by the authorities. On April 8, the prosecutors dropped the counts with enhanced terrorism penalties against the RNC 8 defendants. Unfortunately, this was a strategic decision, according to Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, who called the terrorism charges a “distraction,” which needed to be removed in order to better prosecute the RNC 8 on the two remaining felony counts. A trial in this extremely complicated conspiracy case, which hinges on the allegations of paid police informants — from both the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI — who infiltrated the RNC Welcoming Committee, is expected to take place in the fall.)
Returning to the outrage of conservatives about Big Brother spying on them, Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, has responded to criticisms of the DHS report.
“We are on the lookout for criminal and terrorist activity but we do not – nor will we ever – monitor ideology or political beliefs,” Napolitano said, in an April 15 press release. “We take seriously our responsibility to protect the civil rights and liberties of the American people, including subjecting our activities to rigorous oversight from numerous internal and external sources.”
In regard to the DHS report and the ensuing controversy, there are real threats to our community and to other minority communities from right-wing hate groups, and from individuals marching to the beat of their own crackbrained drummers. Also, in the post-9/11 climate of fear that has been generated by politicians and certain segments of the press, there has been a concerted assault on the Bill of Rights. As Jews should know, horrific things can happen when a national regime tramples upon the rule of law. We must be vigilant to the danger of ceding our civil liberties for illusory promises of security.
— Mordecai Specktor /Â email@example.com