Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ratcheting up

Not in My County brings our attention to a column from E.J. Montini at the Arizona Republic describing how the Minutemen responded to a proposal in Arizona to outlaw them:
House Bill 2286 reads, in part:

"An individual or group of individuals commits domestic terrorism if the individual or group of individuals are not affiliated with a local, state or federal law enforcement entity and associate with another individual or group of individuals as an organization, group, corporation or company for the purpose of patrolling to detect alleged illegal activity or to individually patrol for the purpose of detecting alleged illegal activity and if the individual or group of individuals is armed with a firearm or other weapon."

Sinema said that it isn't the honest intentions of most people affiliated with such organizations that bother her but a belief that they attract racist extremists and other xenophobic recruits to their cause.

"What has happened over the past week or so more or less proves that point," she told me.

Ordinarily, when a long-shot piece of legislation falls in the forest of such bills at the state Capitol, no one notices. This particular proposal caught the attention of Minuteman members and their supporters, however. Word immediately went out over Internet message boards and blogs. When a proposal like this lands in the digital forest, everybody hears.

"I am not unwilling as a public figure to tackle issues that are controversial and unpopular, but I did not expect this," Sinema said.

The e-mails piled up quickly, many of them not only expressing disagreement but threatening Sinema with everything from death to rape.

"The nature of what they were saying was scary," she said, "One wanted to kick me in the uterus until I couldn't have children. Others have all kinds of really lewd and awful threats. There's not even this shared respect for another human being that you may disagree with."

You also have to love the Minutemen's official response:
When told about the threats by a reporter, Chris Simcox of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps said that his organization would not tolerate such behavior. He added, "If Miss Sinema wants to give me the e-mail addresses, I'll check them, and I would immediately terminate them (if they are members)."

Well, as I've noted previously, there's a reason that the Minutemen seem to keep having this problem with having to expel racist and violent yahoos from their midst:
Neither is it a big surprise that the leading anti-immigrant enterprise, the Minutemen, is constantly being infiltrated by neo-Nazis, or that so many of their spinoff groups are riddled throughout with extremists and racists, some going so far as to ally themselves with neo-Nazis.

The Minutemen, of course, make much ado about their efforts to "weed out the racists," though of course the reality is that their success is mixed at best.

What nobody seems to ask, though, is why they have to "weed out the racists" in the first place. If the core of their appeal isn't racial in nature, then why do they draw so many people for whom it is?

This is not a problem for most liberal groups -- say, the ACLU, or This is a problem largely on the right, and it's particularly pronounced among the nativist right in the current immigration debate.

...[T]he larger problem is that the Minutemen's core appeal is not to freshly awakened post-9/11 concerns about border security, but rather deliberately fomented racial fears about preserving "white culture" [see: privilege]. This has always been the racist right's bailiwick, so of course they're going to come swimming around when the water is rich with familiar scents, as sharks are wont to do.

That was certainly the case with the militia movement as well. Perhaps more tellingly, the common dynamic was for seemingly "normal" conservatives to be increasingly radicalized by the movement, to the point of becoming outright extremists.

The Minutemen, you may recall, are characterized by Michelle Malkin -- our omnipresent guardian of "unhinged" behavior by the left -- as being "the mother of all neighborhood watches".

I have another mother-related word in mind for what the Minutemen are, but I'm afraid Malkin would accuse me of being uncouth.

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