Tuesday, April 19, 2005

10 years later

And you may ask yourself,
Well, how did I get here?

How did we reach the point, as a nation, where treat the terrorists in our midst as "anomalies" -- despite their long record of wreaking havoc in our own back yards -- while embarking on a global "war on terrorism" that involves invasions and occupations of foreign lands?

How did it come to pass that, on the 10th anniversary of the second-worst act of terrorism on American soil -- the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City -- one of the nation's best-known newsmagazines completely ignores the date and its meaning (that's right; there's not a story in either the April 18 edition of Time or the Ann Coulter edition of April 25), and instead devotes its cover to plumping for a woman who has made light of the bombing?

I think Digby has nailed it just about right:
It has become clear to me that we are frogs being slowly boiled to death. And the media are enjoying the hot tub party so much that they are helping to turn up the heat.

It's become clear that not only the public, but the nation's mainstream media have bought in whole to the Bush approach to the "war on terror," which is nothing less than a political marketing machine. And anyone who questions it risks the wrath of being declared, a la Coulter, a traitor.

This was made clear most recently during the coverage of Eric Rudolph. As Paul McLeary at CJR observed, news reports concerning Rudolph were reluctant to call him what he is: a domestic terrorist.

The whole sorry situation, if nothing else, reveals one of the nation's abiding racial blind spots: We shrug off terrorism when it's committed by white Americans, but we fire up the bombers and declare a "war on terror" when it's committed by brown-skinned foreigners. Pointing this out, of course, is deeply unAmerican.

It's not that Al Qaeda is not a more serious threat: as I've explained in depth, it is. But ignoring the very real threat of homegrown terrorism -- particularly in its potential role as a kind of piggyback terrorism that echoes larger threats, as with the anthrax killer -- prevents us from coming to grips with the asymmetrical nature of terrorism as a global phenomenon.

One of the most thorough of the 10th-anniversary reports on domestic terrorism came from Steve Johnson at MSNBC, which gave a pretty thorough rundown on the current nature of the domestic-terror threat, especially from right-wing extremists. But notably, the report got little play and was quickly buried at the site.

[I was especially pleased with one aspect of the Johnson report: The special popup titled "Threat From Within" is a remnant of the 1999 report I put together for MSNBC that won the National Press Club Award for Online Journalism in 2000. If you click on it, you'll see the data I compiled for 1995-2000, though the recent years are missing quite a few actual incidents. At any rate, this little item had long since disappeared, so I was pleased to see it resurrected again. It's a very handy and enlightening little tool.]

Another solid roundup appeared in a Washington Post report by Lois Romano that covered many of the same bases. I noted especially these remarks from my old friend Ken Toole:
"If Krar had a Middle Eastern name, we would have had the military in there," said Ken Toole, director of the Montana Human Rights Network, which tracks militia and hate groups. "The war on terror continues to focus on the external threats, but do not kid yourself. The hard core is still out there in this country."

... Others argue that the most dangerous times can be during a power vacuum. "You have more marginal people trying to act out and hard-core believers trying to fill the void," Toole said, adding: "Everyone has to understand that they are just regrouping -- a new generation will come in."

I think, considering the increase in hate-group activity and recruitment among young people we've been seeing lately, that the new generation is already coming in, and is making its presence felt.

The Post story also noted something that we noticed awhile back, namely, that priorities are being skewed:
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI acknowledge that since the Sept. 11 attacks they have viewed foreign threats as a higher priority than domestic ones. A recent department internal assessment of threats did not list militias, white-supremacist groups and violent antiabortion activists. The assessment, first reported by Congressional Quarterly, did mention radical environmental groups and animal rights activists as potential threats.

Fortunately, some Democrats -- notably Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee -- appear to be wising up:
ALF and ELF "are the left-leaning groups that they identified," said Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee. "But they absolutely left out any of the other groups."

"If your responsibility is to protect the homeland from these domestic terrorists, then you have an obligation to identify all of them -- not just some of them," Thompson said.

Sounds like another unAmerican traitor to me. I'm sure Ann Coulter will have a fresh dish of venomous desserts to serve Rep. Thompson soon.

And the talking heads on Hardball will politely applaud and laugh. Isn't she a hoot? Same as it ever was.

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