Do you remember that report that was leaked in April from the Department of Homeland Security?
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 anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.
What was the response to the report?
Rush Limbaugh called it an attempt by the Obama Administration to "stifle what anybody would consider to be normal political dissent":
"Rightwing extremists are harnessing this historical election as a recruitment tool. Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use. Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment. From the 2008 election timeframe to the present, rightwing extremists have capitalized on related racial and political prejudices in expanded propaganda campaigns, thereby reaching out to a wider audience of potential sympathizers." What you have here is Barack Obama, forget Napolitano, it's his administration, he provides the vision, he puts people in these positions that he wants to do his bidding. This is Barack Obama, and this is an effort to stifle what anybody would consider to be normal political dissent. He is characterizing those of you who oppose an expanding government, huge socialistic tendencies, legalization of illegals for the purpose of making them Democrats, we are now right-wing extremists and we are arming up, and this report is to warn other law enforcement agencies of the dangers posed by right-wing extremists.
Michael Steele was insulted:
This is the height of insult here. I'm sorry, Sean. I just want to jump on this so badly because this is so — talk about arrogance. Talk about insult. I mean to segment out Americans who dissent from this administration, to segment out conservatives in this country who have a different philosophy or view from this administration, and labeling them as terrorists and then to call into question the service of the men and women who are right now standing on that wall defending our freedom and linking them to terrorism while you refuse to call the terrorists — the real terrorists — terrorists, to me it's the height of insult, and you know, you know, the president and Napolitano, with these half-hearted apologies, to American citizens versus these full throated apologies to the rest of the world, to me is embarrassing.
Michelle Malkin saw it as confirmation that the Obama Administration was out to get conservatives:
By contrast, the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives. And the intent is clear. As the two spokespeople I talked with on the phone today made clear: They both pinpointed the recent "economic downturn" and the "general state of the economy" for stoking "rightwing extremism." One of the spokespeople said he was told that the report has been in the works for a year. My b.s. detector went off the chart, and yours will, too, if you read through the entire report — which asserts with no evidence that an unquantified "resurgence in rightwing extremist recruitment and radicalizations activity" is due to home foreclosures, job losses, and...the historical presidential election.
In Obama land, there are no coincidences. It is no coincidence that this report echoes Tea Party-bashing left-wing blogs (check this one out comparing the Tea Party movement to the Weather Underground!) and demonizes the very Americans who will be protesting in the thousands on Wednesday for the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party.
Newt Gingrich tweeted:
The person who drafted the outrageous homeland security memo smearing veterans and conservatives should be fired.
I guess Newt jumped the twit, because a reporter at Fox News disclosed the fact that it was the Bush Administration that ordered the report:
However, this morning, Fox News’s Catherine Herridge revealed that the report, along with an earlier report on radicalized left-wing groups, was actually "requested by the Bush administration" but not completed until recently:
HERRIDGE: Well this is an element of the story which has largely gone unreported. One looks at right-wing groups, as you mentioned. And a second is on left-wing groups. Significantly, both were requested by the Bush administration but not finished until President Bush left office.
As Brian Beutler at TPM reports, Shepard Smith at Fox News says today that it is time to take a second look at that report:
Say what? You want to go back and read that report again for content, instead of looking for problems with the labels it used to identify extremists? I would hope that Fox News is beginning to realize that there are consequences for the type of hate-filled commentary and reporting they offer to viewers of Fox News. But, I'm not holding my breath.
Update: Thank you to grannyhelen for reminding me that Shep Smith didn't join the bandwagon when the report was released in April:
Shepard Smith brought that rarest of things to Fox News yesterday: amid the cacophony over the Tea Parties, he actually committed an act of journalism. In the process, he also managed to also bring a voice of sanity to the nonstop right-wing shrieking at Fox over the recent Department of Homeland Security bulletin about the possible rise of right-wing extremism.
In fact, Smith confirms everything we've reported here: Not only is the report focused entirely on the very real problem of the lethally violent potential of extremist right-wing terrorism, but mainstream conservatives' wailing and teeth-gnashing over it is -- besides being an egregious display of a persecution complex -- if anything a tacit admission of their own complicity in fueling extremist rhetoric.
Update II: So what did that report actually say? I just read an excellent recap by Joan Walsh over at Salon:
What should happen now? Ironically, a great example of the right-wing echo chamber's bullying came when they managed to smack down the release of a Department of Homeland Security report about the rise of right-wing extremism. Judging from the right's rhetoric, you'd have thought Janet Napolitano was suggesting rounding up Rush and his dittoheads and putting them in an old Japanese-American internment camp or something. But in fact, as Susan Page explained today on "Hardball," the calm nine-page report merely looked at warning signs for extremism, based on history: They include a prolonged economic downturn, the demonization of immigrants, the election of the first black president, fears about losing the right to own guns, a banking crisis inciting age-old paranoia about "Jewish cabals" and the return of many veterans to the States suffering from PTSD and other conditions while getting insufficient care.
Presciently, the report said the top perceived threat was a "lone wolf": "White supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy — separate from any formalized group — which hampers warning efforts." DHS, meet James von Brunn, whose wife divorced him because of his hatred, racism, paranoia and violence.
This is the problem. Separate and aside from the fact Right-Wing Hate Talk incites people to violence, when this report came out the story wasn't about the report and what it contained. Nobody was saying, "Let's talk about ideas of how we can help identify these lone wolf home-grown terrorists and neutralize them before they can act." The story became about the labels within the report and perceived offenses against political factions.
Will anybody in the media have the courage to go back to all those who demonized the report in April, and ask them what they think of that report now? And if so, will those people who attacked Janet Napolitano for issuing the report, continue to claim they were correct in their accusations at the time?
I watched Northeastern University Criminologist Jack Levin interviewed on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and he made some excellent points, as well,
But let me point out something. First of all, it's not the ideology that comes from the right that causes these kinds of crimes. It's the name calling. You know, these kinds of racists view blacks and Asians and latinos as sub-human, as animals. And they see Jews as the children of Satan. They don't like Catholics, they don't like gays. They don't specialize. There's a whole bunch of people they regard as less than human and as influences that come from outside of our society.
Certainly, we've been very concerned, as you know, to fight the War on Terror. And we always see it as international, coming from the Middle East, or Pakistan. What a lot of people don't realize is that the vast majority of terrorism since 9/11 has actually come from American citizens. It's domestic, it's not international, the vast majority.
If we can't turn our country around and stop the personal attacks, this is going to get much worse. Last year I watched the interview of Supreme Court Justice Scalia on 60 Minutes. No, I do not agree with Scalia on many of his opinions, but I do agree with him about one thing.
Lesley Stahl (Interviewing): But do you respect that there's another way to look at this?
Antonin Scalia: You know the story of the Baptist preacher who was asked if he believed in total immersion Baptism. And he said, "Believe in it? Why, I've seen it done." I have to say the same thing about your question. There must be other views because I've seen them.
Lesley Stahl (Interviewing): But do you respect them? You don't. Do you?
Antonin Scalia: I respect the people who have them but I think those views are just flat out wrong.
Lesley Stahl (Narrating): He's talking about some of his fellow justices, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal who is, and this never ceases to surprise people, one of his best friends both on and off the court [displaying photo of Scalia and Ginsburg sitting on top of an elephant].
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I see the constitution as striving for a more perfect union.
Lesley Stahl (Narrating): To her, the constitution evolves and should reflect changes in society. That going back to what was meant originally when they wrote for instance, We The People, makes little sense.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Who were We the People in 1787? You would not be among We the People. African Americans would not be among the people.
Switches back to interview with Justice Scalia
Lesley Stahl (Interviewing): Justice Ginsburg and you disagree.
Antonin Scalia: We do indeed.
Lesley Stahl (Interviewing): On lots of things, and yet, you're such good friends.
Antonin Scalia: I attack ideas. I don't attack people. And some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can't separate the two, you gotta get another day job. You don't want to be a judge. At least not a judge on a multi-member panel.
Justice Scalia on the Record, Part One (about six minutes in)
The remainder of the interview is here: Part Two
I attack ideas. I don't attack people. Who is going to explain to the Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Glen Beck, and their ilk, that if the continued to attack people, that this problem is only going to get worse? Will they listen? Do they care?