Thursday, May 16, 2013
Chris Hansen's problem is that he isn't a big enough scumbag.
You see, the reason the NBA this week turned away Hansen's bid to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle was that he was honest about his intentions. If he had followed the established NBA model, he would have gone about this thing entirely differently.
Clearly, the chief reasoning of NBA owners for declining to add Hansen and Steve Ballmer to their list of owners was that they were from Seattle. When the NBA ripped their team of 41 years out of Seattle back in 2007, it was intended as an object lesson for the rest of the league: Unless you bow to our extortion demands, you will lose your team.
Sacramento, obviously, got that lesson. After teetering on losing the Kings because of the failure to build a new arena, the city gave up every ounce of its soul in its desperate effort to keep the NBA in town. The new arena deal requires the taxpayers to foot about 60 percent of the tab.
So of course the NBA was going to reward the city that gave in to their extortion demands. And it would continue to punish the city that insists on limiting the taxpayers' role in enriching billionaire owners and their exposure to ever-ratcheting arena costs.
You see, Seattle thought it had done everything right for years. Its fans always supported the Sonics -- even when they sucked, the team still averaged 15,000 a game -- and were among the most rabid and knowledgeable in the league. (I was myself a season ticket holder for over a decade.) There's a reason so many NBA teams are populated with players from Seattle high schools: It is a basketball-saturated town.
We even bellied up to the bar in the 1990s on the arena demands -- spent $100 million tearing apart and renovating the old Seattle Center Coliseum, three-quarters of which was paid for by Seattle taxpayers. When it reopened in 1995, David Stern came and proclaimed the new facility as state-of-the-art for the next generation.
Six years later, it was no longer good enough for the NBA. Or so said then-owner Howard Schultz, who demanded a whole new arena from city, state, and regional leaders. Those folks, of course, were still paying off the bonds for the supposedly state-of-the-art arena they had just refurbished, not to mention their new football and baseball stadiums, and weren't exactly eager to take Schultz's extortion demands seriously -- especially since, in the early part of the decade, much of the town was hurting economically.
So Schultz -- who to this day is the least popular billionaire in town -- threw a fit of pique and sold the team to Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. Everyone immediately understood that Bennett intended to move the team to Oklahoma. But Bennett, wide-eyed and innocent, proclaimed piously that this was not the case.
Bennett, as documents later unearthed during the departure debacle disclosed, is a prodigious liar. At the same time he was telling Seattle fans all they had to do to keep their team was step up to the plate and deliver on their new arena plan, he was telling his business associates that moving the team to OKC was a done deal.
And that arena plan was a doozy. Bennett proposed building a $500 million arena in the relatively remote southern suburb of Renton, right next to the two worst traffic intersections in the state. Oh, and his investors were only willing to pay $100 million, at the most, for their share of the building. Of course, the state Legislature knew when it was being gamed and declined to play along. Soon the moving trucks had backed up and our team was playing in Oklahoma City for an ownership group comprised of proven liars and scumbags.
Clay Bennett, of course, was then named to head up the same relocation committee that was summarily slapped down the Seattle bid this time. Because that's the kind of league this is.
If Chris Hansen had really wanted to be part of this league, he should have understood that. If Hansen had really wanted to succeed in getting a team back to Seattle, he should have followed the established NBA model. Clay Bennett's model.\
He should have bought the Kings and lied about it. He should have claimed that he wanted to try to keep the team in Sacramento and was willing to work with locals. Then he could have proposed building a new arena in Davis and soaking taxpayers for 80 percent of the tab. And when they balked (as anyone sane would) Hansen and Co. could have packed up stakes and moved them up to Seattle.
That's the established NBA model. Which raises the question: Why would anyone want to get in bed with a business that toxic and dysfunctional in the first place?
We really don't want to be the NBA's Los Angeles -- the extortion threat the league can hang over every other city. Having just been the NBA's bitch, there's really no appetite here to be its tool as well.
This just-finished episode has just reminded everyone in Seattle what they were first taught eight years ago: The NBA is a malignant, dysfunctional entity that preys on cities people's normative civic pride and exploits that for the sake of enriching a few millionaires, who are the real owners of these teams. Cities don't own them, and Seattle was always intended to remind everyone else of that.
Thanks to David Stern, the NBA today is by, about, and for the 1 percent, while suckering the 99 percent into thinking it's about them. Quite a game, really. And when you see that from the outside, as Seattle basketball fans must, the desire to get back in just melts away.
It's time to just walk away from the NBA. We can still be a hoops city. It will be harder, but the foundation is already well in place. And we can find other diversions as well. How about those Sounders, eh?
The NBA can come back some day. But it has to be on our terms. It has to be our team, not something stolen from another city. By then, David Stern will be long gone. And so, perhaps, will be the scumbag ethos that rules the league.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Have you noticed how many right-wingers are decrying the "tyranny" of the Obama administration these days?
It's particularly rife on the Tea Partying far right, where it's extremely common to hear Obama being portrayed as a "tyrant," particularly regarding his recent attempts to promote gun-control measures. (See Ben Shapiro whining thus in the video above.) So you'll often find crap like this floating about on their Facebook pages.
But it's becoming common among mainstream right-wingers, particularly after the president dismissed these characterizations during a speech at Ohio State. Sure enough, everyone from Jonah Goldberg to Michelle Malkin piled on with the "yeah, whatever you say, dude" retorts.
But I was reminded the other day, rereading Stephen Budiansky's marvelous book about Reconstruction, The Bloody Shirt: Terror After the Civil War, just where the right-wing fetish about "tyranny" comes from. It's a highly selective fetish, after all; none of these "libertarians" seemed even remotely concerned when George W. Bush launched the whole "enemy combatants" enterprise back in 2001.
According to Budiansky, it -- like the phrase "waving the bloody shirt," as well as the whole conservative adoption of that rhetorical ruse as an aggressive form of defense -- has its origins in the years during and immediately following the Civil War, when it was common for Southerners to sneer at Abraham Lincoln (alive or dead) as a "tyrant":
Indeed, it's common to hear neo-Confederate agitators -- those folks who are still pushing for modern secession by the South -- describe Lincoln to this day as a "tyrant."
A bald fact: Generations would hear how the South suffered “tyranny” under Reconstruction. Conveniently forgotten was the way that word was universally defined by white Southerners at the time: as a synonym for letting black men vote at all. A “remonstrance” issued by South Carolina’s Democratic Central Committee in 1868, personally signed by the leading native white political figures of the state, declared that there was no greater outrage, no greater despotism, than the provision for universal male suffrage just enacted in the state’s new constitution. There was but one possible consequence: “A superior race is put under the rule of an inferior race.” They offered a stark warning: “We do not mean to threaten resistance by arms. But the white people of our State will never quietly submit to negro rule. This is a duty we owe to the proud Caucasian race, whose sovereignty on earth God has ordained.”
“No free people, ever,” declared a speaker at a convention of the state’s white establishment a few years later, had been subjected to the “domination of their own slaves,” and the applause was thunderous. “This is a white man’s government,” was the phrase echoed over and over in the prints of the Democratic press and the orations of politicians denouncing the “tyranny” to which the “oppressed” South was being subjected.
A bald fact: more than three thousand freedmen and their white Republican allies were murdered in the campaign of terrorist violence that overthrew the only representatively elected governments the Southern states would know for a hundred years to come. Among the dead were more than sixty state senators, judges, legislators, sheriffs, constables, mayors, county commissioners, and other officeholders whose only crime was to have been elected. They were lynched by bands of disguised men who dragged them from cabins by night, or fired on from ambushes on lonely roadsides, or lured into a barroom by a false friend and on a prearranged signal shot so many times that the corpse was nothing but shreds, or pulled off a train in broad daylight by a body of heavily-armed men resembling nothing so much as a Confederate cavalry company and forced to kneel in the stubble of an October field and shot in the head over and over again, at point blank.
So saturated is our collective memory with Gone With the Wind stock characters of thieving carpetbaggers, ignorant Negroes, and low scalawags, that it comes as a shock not so much to discover that there were men and women of courage, idealism, rectitude, and vision who risked everything to try to build a new society of equality and justice on the ruins of the Civil War, who fought to give lasting meaning to the sacrifices of that terrible struggle, who gave their fortunes, careers, happiness, and lives to make real the simple and long-delayed American promise that all men were created equal—it comes as a shock not so much to be confronted by their idealism and courage and uprightness as by the realization that they were convinced, up to the very last, that they would succeed. Confident in the rightness of their cause, backed by the military might of the United States government, secure in the ringing declarations, now the supreme law of the land embodied in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments of the Constitution, that slavery was not only dead but that equality and the right to vote were the patrimony now of all Americans, they could not imagine that their nation could win such a terrible war and lose the ensuing peace.
The idea of being governed by a black president? To many of these people even today, that is itself the essence of tyranny.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
There are probably fewer pundits more consistent at their intellectual dishonesty than James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal. This week he topped himself -- no easy task.
The headline, responding to the recent reports of a woman in Wyoming who perpetrated a hoax pretending to have been threatened with rape by a right-wing hater, read:
'Hate Crime' HoaxesAnd indeed Taranto goes on to ask:
Why are they so common, especially on campus?
Why are phony "hate crimes" so common, especially on college campuses?Oh really? Phony hate crimes are common? Taranto arrives at this conclusion from ... a single case? (He later cites two cases of phony hate crimes ... from thirty and twenty years ago, respectively. Neither were on a college campus.)
Where is the data to back up this claim? Can Taranto show us any more cases of phony hate-crime reports from college campuses? Yes, there have been some (we know of a few others), but just how many are there? Enough to claim that it's "common"?
Contrast this to what Taranto says about real hate crimes:
Oppression of minorities, and certainly of women, scarcely exists in America in the 21st century. Genuine hate crimes happen, but they are very rare.Oh really now:
In 2011, U.S. law enforcement agencies reported 6,222 hate crime incidents involving 7,254So, in order for hate-crime hoaxes to be "common" they either have to number quite a few more than 6,222 a year (when in fact the number is probably closer to 6), or Taranto has to be claiming that the vast majority of hate crimes prosecuted in this country annually are "hoaxes." I'm sure the prosecutors and police who pursued those crimes and reported them to the FBI's database will be interested to know the latter, if that's the case.
offenses, according to our just-released Hate Crime Statistics, 2011 report. These incidents included offenses like vandalism, intimidation, assault, rape, murder, etc.
Or more likely, Taranto is just indulging in his favorite right-wing pastime: Inverting reality on its head by trumpeting anomalistic incidents as representative.
In reality, those 6,222 hate crimes reported in 2011 by the FBI are seriously under-reported:
Federal law has required states to collect hate crime data since the early 1990s. Congress has defined a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation."No, James Taranto, the real question is: Why are phony hate crimes such an object of fetishization by right-wing apologists, when in fact they are relatively rare?
But states don't have to report their data to the FBI if they don't want to. Four states -- Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Ohio -- don't even have a Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program.
The result, critics say, is a federal data system that costs $1 million-plus but offers very little help to authorities who investigate, identify and track hate crimes.
"We can only report by the numbers we are given," said the FBI's Michelle Klimt, who says the lack of data could be because of a lack of state funding.
In states that do have UCR programs, the FBI offers training
for state and local law enforcement on how to collect and report hate crime data.
On Capitol Hill, 26 senators have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to expand UCR programs to include tracking of hate crimes against Hindus, Arabs and Sikhs. Last year's deadly attack on a Wisconsin Sikh temple raised awareness about crimes targeting Sikhs.
"Without accurate, nuanced reporting of these crimes, it is more difficult for federal, state, and local law enforcement to assess and respond to the particular threat that the Sikh community faces," the senators said last month in a letter to Holder.
If authorities don't know how many hate crimes are committed, it's difficult to get an accurate picture of whether hate crime laws are effective.
Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
The FBI arrests a right-wing extremist in Minnesota for a planned domestic-terrorism attack:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced on Monday that it had arrested a Minnesota man for plotting a “localized terror attack.”It appears he came by his nuttiness the natural way -- via his family:
A press release from the Minneapolis Division said that “special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in conjunction with the Montevideo Police Department; the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Minnesota State Highway Patrol; the Bloomington Police Department; the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office (South Dakota); the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; and members of CEE-VI (Cooperative Enforcement Effort), executed a search warrant at 1204 Benson Avenue, Lot #8, in Montevideo, Minnesota. Several guns and explosive devices were discovered during the search of the residence” on Friday.
Buford “Bucky” Rogers, 24, was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. An Associated Press report said that he had previously been convicted for felony burglary in 2011 and a misdemeanor charge of dangerous handling of a weapon in 2009.
Throughout the interview with FOX 9 News, Jeff Rogers insisted he still doesn't know why his family is considered a threat.Meanwhile, the media -- and Fox News especially -- yawn. Eric Boehlert observes:
"We are peaceful people, okay? We're not out to blow up the world -- none of this crap," Jeff Rogers said.
Investigators claim to have removed a computer, a military-style Romanian rifle and explosives from his shed -- specifically, Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs. Jeff Rogers said that isn't the case, describing the seized items as household chemicals.
"That's a bunch of s---," he said.
Police and Jeff Rogers both point out that Buford Rogers does not live at the home. Rather, he lives across town with his girlfriend and their new baby. Neighbors say they don't see him much, but residents told FOX 9 News the family is very dedicated to their Black Snake Militia, which some consider un-American.
Jeff Rogers is not coy about the family's political leanings, displaying an upside down American Flag and signs suggesting the government wants to implant microchips inside citizens outside his home.
"We are patriots. You guys are patriots," he said. "You see the country is going to s----."
Yet, Buford Rogers' Facebook page suggests a sinister side to his politics. In publicly visible posts from 2011, he wrote, "We already started fighting. I'm sure you'll hear about it in a bad way."
for the Minnesota Minutemen Militia, which says it is not anti-government, claims the Black Snake Militia is comprised of 73 members. The leader's profile shows a man who claims to be 29 years old wearing a ski mask and holding an assault rifle. His bio reads, "Im an american patriot willing to lay down my life so we may take our republic back…. [sic]"
You will likely not be surprised that none of Fox News' primetime hostsOf course, none of this is particularly a surprise. Yes, there has been a significant upsurge in right-wing-extremist domestic terrorism in the past four years, and it has gone unreported in the mass media, who have instead focused exclusively on "Islamist" domestic terrorists (whose plots and acts are occurring at less than half the rate of RWEs).
mentioned the Rogers arrest last night or the looming threat of right-wing extremist violence. That, despite the fact the shows have dedicated countless programming hours in recent weeks to ginning up fear and angst surrounding the terror attack in Boston on Patriot's Day.
Prompted by the arrest of a Muslim suspect, Fox News has spent weeks demonizing Islam by assigning collective blame, as well as targeting Muslims who travel here to study. But yet another far-right, anti-government plot to possibly kill law enforcement officials? At Fox News, that's not a story that draws much concern, especially not from its primetime talkers.
Yes, we were recently witness to another domestic-terrorism incident by a right-wing extremist -- the ricin attacks on the Senate and White House -- and yet you would not be aware of it if judging from the media response (though it is true that the picture was muddled by the initial arrest of the wrong man).
And yes, there is at least a substantial possibility that the Newtown shootings will be revealed to be another domestic-terrorism incident by a right-wing extremist if those initial reports from CBS indicating that Adam Lanza was attempting to imitate Anders Breivik prove substantive, and if it emerges that Lanza adopted Breivik's ideology in the process.
Rest assured: If Adam Lanza were of a Muslim background and his "hero" an Al Qaeda terrorist, the media would not rest until they found the answer to that question. As it is, we'll have to wait until the investigation is complete and the results released to know. Which, frankly, is how it should be. But the difference in treatment is noteworthy.
There's a reason for this: Anytime the media report on right-wing extremist terrorism, they are descended upon by the flying monkeys of the wingnutosphere, who complain that calling them right-wing extremists is "an abuse of the term 'right wing'" (trust me on this: it's not). Witness what became of the DHS's section on right-wing extremists after the screaming hissy fit over a remarkably accurate and prescient law-enforcement bulletin.
It's creating a dangerously skewed picture, and a dangerously misinformed public. And when something really awful happens as it inevitably will, the media will all wring their hands and ask, "Why didn't we see this coming?"
Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
One of the ways I always used to chat up potential sources -- especially if they were participants or attendees at militia gatherings in the 1990s -- was by smoking with them. That's what I was doing when I met Paul deArmond the first time.
It was in Maltby, Washington, at the community meeting hall above, in February 1994. The meeting featured Bob Fletcher of the Militia of Montana (MOM), who had come to explain to the gathered "Patriots" how the government was plotting to round up American gun owners and place them in concentration camps hidden deep in the North Cascades. It was a fairly typical militia gathering of the time, featuring tables full of far-right conspiracist books and VHS movies and endless, droning explanations of various conspiracy theories.
One of the people manning the book table for MOM was David Trochmann, a man I wanted to meet. It was Trochmann, you see, who had an outsize role in the origins of the Ruby Ridge standoff that had unfolded tragically in northern Idaho two years before: ATF agents suspected that Trochmann had been smuggling weapons over the border into Canada from his Montana home, and so they had tried to put the squeeze on Trochmann's friend Randy Weaver by threatening him with jail time if he wouldn't act as an informant. Weaver, of course, refused, and then balked at the jail time too, and the rest became history.
I was more interested in learning about MOM's theological leanings: There were indications from other sources that Trochmann and his cofounder brother John were both adherents of Christian Identity, the white-supremacist religion that was also practiced at the nearby Aryan Nations headquarters. When Trochmann went outside to have a smoke, I went out and joined him. And Paul deArmond came with us.
I described this in my first book, In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest:
Dave Trochmann has the same kind of intense demeanor as his brother, but there's something vaguely unsettling about him. I've known men like him, that hard-eyed working-class kind of man, and they are not people you want to mess with. If you do, they'll fix you and anybody close to you. It's hard to believe that Randy is his son. Randy, a skinny, dark-haired twentysomething, is doe-eyed and easygoing, a little jittery like all the Trochmanns, but you get the feeling he'd find it possible to like you even if you were a liberal.
I asked Dave about the Identity Bible studies. Any truth to that?
"Well," he said, looking about before answering, "you know, we're not white supremacists. We just think the races should be separate."
I'd heard the distinction made before.
"We just don't believe in race mixing," Trochmann said. "It's the laws of Nature. You don't see robins and sparrows mating, do you? We don't have a bunch of spobbins flying around."
I started explaining the genetic distinction between race and species, but realized it was a useless argument here.
"We don't hate other races," Randy said. "We just don't think they should mix. That's all Identity means to us." I let it go at that, and we wandered off to other topics, and eventually back into the meeting hall.
Paul was there and began chuckling at Trochmann's biology lesson. I had noticed him acting a bit like a reporter inside the meeting hall, taking notes and standing off to the side, as I had been doing. When we got back inside the hall, we began chatting and I discovered that, while he wasn't a reporter, he was there to do much the same as I was, namely, observing, taking notes, and listening to what was being said at these meetings.
Paul was a political researcher, and he had a special flair for focusing on right-wing extremists. He had been doing this for awhile, and much of the data he collected helped fuel some fine studies and journalism exposing the toxic effects of these extremists and their politics.
He once told me that he got involved in doing this as a way to counter some of the bizarre land-use policies and politics that were arising locally in Whatcom County, where he lived, but that pretty soon it grew to encompass a much broader scope. But fighting the far right was something he grew up with: Paul's father had been a filmmaker whose career had been essentially destroyed by a cabal of McCarthyite witch-hunters who had prowled the Washington state political scene in the 1950s and '60s.
Paul was especially astute at exposing the way mainstream conservative organizations and politicos interacted with these far-right elements, producing public policy that was an utter travesty -- such as attempts to delist killer whales under the Endangered Species Act and, more broadly, to gut the ESA.
And, like me, he was good at digging up information because he was good at talking to right-wing extremists as though they were otherwise ordinary people (and a number of them are). One of the ways he did that, also like me, was that he would smoke with them. It's an easy way to form an artificial bond with someone and begin chatting them up.
Of course, there is eventually a price to pay for that technique, especially if you are a heavy smoker, as Paul was (I was more of an opportunistic smoker, though there undoubtedly will be a price to pay for that too). A couple of weeks ago, Paul died of lung cancer. I for one will miss him deeply.
Tim Johnson at Cascadia Weekly has a beautiful obituary:
Yet Paul was equally adept with the rest of the political landscape. In splendid political analysis, he was penetrating, articulate and—above all—droll. He could read polling data with inerrant and deadly accuracy. In prophecy, Paul was gracious as Cassandra.
He understood the nature of politics as satire, without surrendering to the smug view that politics is therefore unimportant and deserving of being shunned or ignored. He knew the enduring vitality of a sticker or slogan, the dirty trick turned on its head. Mailers and mailing lists
were his tea leaves. He gloried in the WTO protests and Occupy movements. In one of his most endearing stunts, Paul documented the entire schematic of the cut-and-flip greenfield land grab that has so polluted local politics for the past two decades, mashed up so a child could grasp it in a series of old comic strip panels long in the public domain.
The public domain was Paul’s domain. He was—as David Ronfeldt, a retired senior researcher at RAND Corporation, notes—a pioneering practitioner of what political analyst John Keane calls “monitory democracy,” the power of citizens to hold their government accountable not just at the polls, but every day, through the assembly of data and documents and networks in all their forms.
Be sure to read the whole thing, especially the many encomiums from the people who knew Paul and worked with him. I especially like this one from Jane Kramer:
“What impresses me most about Paul de Armond,” she said, “is his immense generosity of mind, his collegiality, his commitment to enlightening—you could call it benign forced feeding—all of us who are trying in one way or another to understand, with him, what is happening to our country.”
Paul had the loveliest dry sense of humor, and many other personal qualities that endeared him to people. He was also unflaggingly tenacious -- a bulldog has nothing on Paul -- and that was why he also had many enemies, especially the politicos who loved to play footsy with far-right nutcases while pretending to just be mainstream conservatives.
He was also unflinchingly, demandingly, honest. Even his friends and allies were not spared if they dared leap to unproven conclusions or play games with facts, or worst of all, make afactual assertions. I grew to inherently trust Paul's data and his analysis because it not only proved consistently inerrant but prescient. Anything he produced was tested eight ways to Sunday.
But most of all, Paul was my friend, a superb bartender, a compulsive tinkerer (we won't even talk about his basement), and a great gatherer of fine people around his fire pit. There will never be another like him, and we are all the poorer for it.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
The right-wingers have been in full-on gloat mode since the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers -- not because it turned out that they were right about the nature of the perpetrators (they weren't), but because speculation that they might be right-wing extremists was wrong. Only wingnuts can convert a sigh of relief into an attack on their opponents.
The problem is that all they're really doing is attempting, yet again, to whitewash away the very real existence of violent extremists on their own side.
Leading the charge is William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, who published a post over the weekend titled "Add Boston Marathon Bombing to pile of Failed Eliminationist Narratives":
Yet there was a theory behind the madness, the Eliminationist Narrative created by Dave Neiwart of Crooks and Liars about an “eliminationist” radical right seeking to dehumanize and eliminate political opposition. It was a play on the over-used narrative of Richard Hofstadter’s “paranoid style” in American politics.Of course, it would always help if people like Jacobson managed to review the posts of the people he's attacking -- since neither I nor anyone at Crooks and Liars ever speculated in print
The Eliminationist Narrative was aided and abetted by an abuse of the term “right-wing” to include groups who are the opposite of conservatism and the Tea Party movement.
In the case of Sparkman, the accusations were just Another Failed Eliminationist Narrative. And the Eliminationist Narrative would fail time and time again:
The Cabby Stabber
The “killer” of Bill Sparkman
The Fort Hood Shooter
The IRS Plane Crasher
The Pentagon Shooter
We can now add the Boston Marathon Bombing to the pile. The wild speculation that there was a Tea Party or “right-wing” connection proved false.
The fact, however, is that the speculation about right-wing extremism's potential role was entirely rational, considering that in the past four years, there have been nearly 70 acts of domestic terrorism committed by right-wing extremists in the United States, compared to just over 30 such acts committed by Islamist extremists here. (I have prepared a report on this that Mother Jones will be publishing soon.)
And let's not overlook the OTHER terrorist attack that occurred in the same week -- namely, the ricin attacks on the White House and Senate, a case that is still officially unsolved, now that the original suspect has been released. However, considering both the targets and the fact that ricin has long been a favorite weapon of right-wing extremists, there is a high likelihood that one or more of them will eventually prove to be the source of these attacks.
Indeed, just in the past year alone, we've observed the following entirely successful acts of domestic terrorism, perpetrated by extremists animated by various kinds of far-right ideologies and their eliminationist rhetoric:
An Army veteran named Wade Michael Page walks into a Sikh temple and opens fire, killing six and wounding fourWe've also had a couple of unsuccessful plots broken up:
Two Tulsa men embark on a killing rampage targeting black people, killing three and wounding two
A group of Louisiana "sovereign citizens" kills two sheriff's deputies when they try to serve warrants
A Utah skinhead shoot six police officers, killing one, when they try to serve a warrant
A black man named Ray Lengend torches a Muslim mosque
An ex-convict tries to blow up a Wisconsin women's clinic because it performs abortions
Seven member of a racist skinhead organization arrested for training to launch a terrorist race warOf course, the violence and terror emanating from right-wing extremism has not been limited merely to the United States. Easily the worst case in recent memory was that of Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing Islamophobe who massacred a school-camp full of children in Norway because they had been "polluted" by liberal education, and also set off bombs that killed 8 more people in Oslo.
"FEAR" militia plot broken up when members are charged with murder of member and his 17-year-old girlfriend
That same eagerness to assume that Arabic radicals were the only kind of terrorists worth fearing was again on display after the Boston Marathon bombings, particularly among right-wing pundits and the wingnutosphere. The reactions ranged from a bevy of pundits spewing vile things about Arabs to even more appalling behavior by the mouth-breathing troglodytes who follow them.
As Tim Wise adroitly observes (and be sure to read the whole thing):
White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in white folks generally being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI.It turned out, of course, that the bombers were white Chechen Muslims, which basically threw out everyone's guesses and predictions. That has nonetheless not stopped right-wingers from scapegoating all Muslims for the act.
White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation.
White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize — and specifically to kill — but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.
And it is this same powerful impulse to scapegoat minorities, liberals, and the powerless that fuels the violence that spews forth on a regular basis from right-wing extremists:
Right-wing movements attract people who are likely to act out violently because they indulge so overtly and, in recent years, remorselessly in the politics of fear and loathing: indulging in eliminationist rhetoric, depicting their opposition as less than human, and aggressively attacking efforts to blunt the toxic effects of their politics as "political correctness" -- or, in the case of both Anders Breivik and Andrew Breitbart, "Cultural Marxism".Now, readers of blogs like Legal Insurrection will be forgiven if they are unaware of many of the incidents listed above, because generally speaking, they get short shrift in the media, and hardly a word about them thus appears in places like right-wing blogs. When they do appear in the media -- as in the cases of the Wisconsin Sikh massacre and Anders' Breivik's rampage -- they are addressed dismissively if at all at places like Jacobson's blog.
Scapegoating is, as Chip Berlet explains, "the social process whereby hostility and aggression of an angry and frustrated group are directed away from a rational explanation of a conflict and projected onto targets demonized by irrational claims of wrongdoing, so that the scapegoat bears the blame for causing the conflict, while the scapegoaters feel a sense of innocence and increased unity."
Jacobson, you see, has simply defined the problem away for mainstream conservatives: These extremists are not definably "right wing" in any discernible way, it seems, and therefore no taint exists. That's his rationale in claiming, in this weekend's post, that calling neo-Nazis and white supremacists right-wing extremists constituted an "abuse of the term 'right wing'". This was also his rationale in dismissing Anders Breivik's rampage as somehow unconnected with his American friends' hatemongering.
He explained it similarly when confronted with the reality that the neo-Nazi Sikh massacre perpetrator was a right-wing extremist:
Needless to say, the MSM and left-blogosphere have concluded the shooter was a white supremacist/neo-Nazi based on tattoos and being a former member of what they describe as a “skinhead” band — which they then obscenely generalize to be “right-wing,” a way of trying to link him to the political right. This is the age-old tactic. If Page was a white supremacist/neo-Nazi/skinhead, then he stood against everything the political right stands for.Trust me on this, Mr. Jacobson, as a person who has attended their gatherings and spent time observing their ideology up close and personally: There is nothing remotely left-wing, or anything other than right wing, about the ideology promoted by people like the Aryan Nations and the Ku Klux Klan and American Renaissance and a whole bevy of other hate groups out there operating in America today. The notion that they are not from the political right is simply risible.
It just depends where on the very real spectrum of right-wing thought each happens to fall. You see, the reason they call these people right wing extremists is that they begin with simple, perhaps even mainstream, conservative positions and extend them to their most outrageous and illogical extreme.
Conservatives are, for instance, skeptical of the power of the federal government to intervene in civil-rights matters; right-wing extremists believe it has no such power whatsoever, but it has been usurped by a Jewish conspiracy that is imposing its will on white people.
Conservatives are skeptical of internationalism and entities like the United Nations. Right-wing extremists believe the U.N. represents a diabolical plot to overthrow American sovereignty and impose totalitarian rule.
Conservatives believe that abortion is murder of a living being and oppose its use on demand. Right-wing extremists believe that this justifies committing murder and various violent crimes in order to prevent it.
Conservatives believe affirmative action is a form of reverse discrimination. Right-wing extremists believe it is part of a plot to oppress white people.
Conservatives oppose taxation, and tax increases in particular, on principle. Right-wing extremists believe that the IRS is an illegitimate institution imposed on the body politic by the aforementioned Jewish conspiracy.
Conservatives oppose increased immigration on principle and illegal immigration as a matter of law enforcement, and believe the borders should be secure. Right-wing extremists believe that Mexicans are coming here as part of an "Aztlan" conspiracy to retake the Southwest for Mexico, and that we should start shooting border crossers on sight.
You get the idea.
Moreover, the claim that right-wing extremists have nothing to do with the Tea Party is just flatly risible. I have two simple words regarding that claim: Oath Keepers.
But the conspiracist Oath Keepers are hardly the only extremist element that has been absorbed within the ranks of the Tea Party. The list is long, but it's headed up by the Minutemen who have become Tea Party leaders. Moreover, as I explored in an investigative piece for AlterNet, the movement became a functional extension of the Patriot/militia movement in many precincts, especially in rural areas, away from the television crews. You can see the video for yourself below.
Jacobson's limitations on what constitutes "right wing" are not only ahistorical, afactual, and fully at odds with reality, they're also predictably self-serving. So it's not surprising that, given his criteria, even his list of "failed eliminationist narratives" is fatally flawed.
Most of the examples he provides, notably the Bill Sparkman episode, were never discussed by me or by anyone at C&L as instances of right-wing violence, because we never considered them such. However, there are three cases here that we did describe as involving right-wing extremists. And you know what? We still do.
We realize, for instance, that the post-shooting narrative favored pretending that Jared Lee Loughner was somehow not a terrorist because he was mentally ill (a claim they for some reason do not make when it comes to Nidal Hasan, the mentally ill gunman in the Fort Hood shooting rampage). They also found other mitigating factors, such as Loughner's youthful liberalism, to claim that he was not a right-wing extremist, despite the obvious liberal-ness of his targets. However, none of that can overcome the reality that at the time he acted, Loughner was carrying out what he saw as a mission on behalf of his now-adopted right-wing beliefs involving a global monetary conspiracy. He was indeed a right-wing extremist, and other experts on the subject who have examined the record have reached the same conclusion.
Similarly, we found that the IRS plane bomber was indeed a terrorist, and that he was acting on behalf of the very same right-wing extremist anti-tax ideology we described above. And the Pentagon shooter, John Patrick Bedell, was acting out on his beliefs derived from Alex Jones's conspiracy theories -- and Jones, despite many efforts to pretend otherwise, is clearly a classic right-wing conspiracy theorist and extremist from the old John Birch mold.
Yes, we recognize very much that there is a significant difference between mainstream conservatives and right-wing extremists, as we've outlined above -- but those differences, frankly, keep diminishing, and the ideological distances keep shrinking.
We would love nothing more than to report that conservatives were bravely standing up against extremists on the right and doing their part as citizens to bring an end to their toxic contributions to our society. Believe me, as a onetime moderate Republican from a conservative state, I would love nothing more than to see mainstream conservatives stand up against right-wing extremism, as they once did in the 1980s when Idaho became one of the first states to pass a hate-crimes law.
But those days are long gone. There are still a handful of thoughtful and decent conservatives remaining who will stand up to confront this problem, but they are tiny in number and nil in influence. Instead, conservatism is dominated by the likes of Michelle Malkin and Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Beck and William Jacobson (not to mention nearly everyone at Fox News), who instead of taking the problem of right-wing extremism seriously, dismiss its presence, downplay its influence and spread, and otherwise look the other way while vociferously attacking anyone with the nerve to point it out.
Conservatives have instead made a cottage industry out of whitewashing away their extremists, most notably when decrying any efforts by law enforcement to confront the issue, and this latest effort in the wake of the Boston bombing is just the latest chapter.
In the meantime, of course, the tide is rising as the number of extremist groups in America reaches record proportions. And mainstream conservatives are aiding and abetting them -- first by pretending that they don't exist, and second by silently giving them a warm embrace into the ranks of the Tea Party. It bodes ill for us all.
Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.