Bo to the rescue
Thursday, March 17, 2005
[James "Bo" Gritz at a Preparedness Expo in Puyallup, Washington, in 1998.]
Good gawd, if the Terry Schiavo drama -- and especially the atrocious role played in it by Jeb Bush -- weren't enough of a three-ring circus already, it's now drawn the participation of the extremist right. We're escalating from travesty to potential tragedy.
Namely, my old friend Bo Gritz, has leapt into the fray with a chorus of approval from World Net Daily and The Free Republic:
- Former Green Beret Commander Bo Gritz is trying to conduct a citizen's arrest of Terri Schiavo's husband and the judge who ordered the brain-damaged Florida woman's feeding tube removed so she can be legally starved.
The 66-year-old retired Army Lt. Colonel with his wife, Judy, arrived in Florida from their home in Nevada yesterday with the intent of arresting anyone involved in removing the life-sustaining tube.
Gritz came bearing a notarized "citizen's arrest warrant" addressed to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Attorney General Charlie Crist.
His intent is to "paper" state and federal law enforcement offices with his warrant today – one day before Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer's deadline to begin denial of food and water to Terri Schiavo.
Gritz says the "arrest" is designed to allow officials additional options as the Florida governor and legislature maneuver to save the woman from starvation.
Gritz says he successfully used the arrest-tool against federal law enforcement in August 1992 when he intervened in the so-called Ruby Ridge incident in Idaho and brought what was left of Randy Weaver's family down the hill without further bloodshed. Sammy, the 14-year-old Weaver boy, was killed along with his mother, Vicki, and U.S. Marshal William Degan. Randy Weaver and another man, Kevin Harris, were wounded by police gunfire.
Er, actually, that wasn't what happened. Bo showed up at Ruby Ridge and read out his arrest warrant at the blockade. But these threats were utterly ignored. In fact, since he was present, and Weaver was a big fan of Gritz's, the FBI decided instead to see if he could negotiate an end to the standoff. And, in fact, he did. But the arrest warrants were not only a nonfactor, they were something of a joke.
Ever since then, Gritz has made a career of showing up at standoffs and other celebrated cases and touting his public reputation, but having no effect whatsoever except perhaps to make things worse. I described in Chapter 7 of In God's Country his arrival at the Freemen standoff in Montana:
- The media horde was ready and waiting for Colonel James "Bo" Gritz when he flew in to Jordan. Which, as far as Gritz seemed to be concerned, was just fine.
For that matter, possibly the most dangerous place to be that day in Montana was between Bo Gritz and a television camera. Scarcely had his light plane touched down at the Jordan airstrip before Gritz climbed out and walked out to meet the waiting newsmen. Right behind him was the man responsible for Gritz's chief claim to fame: Randy Weaver, the martyred widower of Ruby Ridge.
It had been nearly a month since the FBI's standoff with the Freemen had begun, and the situation seemingly was going nowhere, although negotiators said they were making progress. Gritz and Weaver, following through on a promise Gritz made earlier that week on his short-wave radio program, had arrived to try to broker an end to the confrontation.
It was a nasty, windblown Thursday, with gusts hitting 60 miles an hour, and Gritz's entourage seemed intent on getting out of the winds and on with the mission. Gritz held the cameras at bay, chatting briefly with the newsmen, while Weaver and Gritz's two right-hand men, Jack McLamb and Jerry Gillespie, got out of the light plane and into a large pickup. Then, saying he'd make a statement later, the onetime Green Beret colonel climbed into the truck and headed off to meet with the Freemen -- or at least try to.
Gritz was far from the first person from the Patriot movement to show up on the scene. Only two days after the standoff started, a Kansas militia activist named Stewart Waterhouse and a cohort, Barry Nelson, took advantage of the loose perimeter around the compound and sneaked onto the Clark ranch, bolstering the Freemen's numbers in the process. The FBI clamped down on activity in the area and set up a checkpoint at the four-corner intersection near the Brusett post office. The media were confined to a hill that overlooked the Clark ranch from a considerable distance.
Over the next few weeks, Jordan saw a steady trickle of militia folks come in and out of town. A small group of supporters from Medford, Oregon, took the long drive out with food supplies and a few guns, but they were stopped at the perimeter by the FBI, their guns confiscated, and turned back. Kamala Webb, a Bozeman woman who heads up a Militia of Montana group in Gallatin County, drove up with another small group, including Dan Petersen's stepson, Keven Entzel. They too had food supplies for the Freemen; they too were turned back. And then there was the occasional solitary supporter, like Bill Goehler of Marysville, California, who drove out on his Honda 750 motorcycle and demonstrated in front of the FBI checkpoint by leaning against his bike and holding an American flag upside down.
The most colorful of all the arrivals so far had been "Stormin'" Norman Olson, the onetime commander of the Michigan Militia, who visited Jordan during the third week of the standoff with his longtime sidekick, Ray Southwell. He was there to support the Freemen, he said, and to make sure the FBI didn't try to pull any fast ones.
"I don't think they should surrender," Olson said. "I think they are doing the right thing, and they ought to stay where they are."
Tension was building around the compound at that point. It was April 16, only three days away from the Oklahoma City anniversary, and many townsfolk in Jordan were growing fearful that the Patriots would descend on their town and violence would erupt. Olson only made matters worse, saying he was there to organize a "national response team" that would "meet Janet Reno and the FBI, wherever they attack in the future. Waco, Ruby Ridge, now Montana. Where is it going to end?"
Olson tried several times to enter the compound, but was rebuffed by the FBI, even when he carried a stuffed animal and a Bible and claimed he wanted to go in to "minister" to the group. Finally, on April 19, Olson gave up in disgust.
... Four days later, Bo Gritz, always more affable and media-savvy, flew in to the Jordan airstrip on his own mission: to negotiate an end to the standoff, much as he did on Ruby Ridge. After his initial bow to reporters, he and his entourage headed up the gravel road to Brusett to see if they could talk their way onto the Clark ranch.
They couldn't. At the checkpoint, a grim-faced Montana Highway Patrolman told Gritz he’d have to get clearance from the FBI. A little nonplussed, Gritz turned to the waiting news cameras and did what comes most naturally to him -- he held a press conference.
"We are going to try to do for the Freemen and FBI and the American people what we did at Ruby Ridge," he told the gathered reporters. "We don't want any more Wacos and I don't want to wait for Janet Reno to have a bad hair day to have one."
While Gritz held forth, Randy Weaver and Jerry Gillespie waited inside the pickup. Jack McLamb, on the other hand, stood outside the cluster of newspeople encircling Gritz, looking over the various lawmen who stood nearby. McLamb's specialty in the Patriot movement is recruiting policemen to the belief system; his staredown with the officers at the checkpoint had the look of someone sizing up potential believers.
Gritz spent about twenty minutes with the reporters. He told them he was unsure what standing, if any, he had with the people inside the compound. "I don't think I have any rapport at all, but I got probably the only plan.
"If the Freemen throw me out, then it gives a message to America: they don't care. If the FBI stopped me, isn't it kind of stupid? If we do bring them out, then the FBI can go home where they belong."
When he was done, Gritz got into the pickup with McLamb and headed back up the gravel road to the FBI headquarters, at the Garfield County Fairground just outside Jordan. Gritz walked in alone to talk things over with officials there; his three friends waited outside in the pickup, munching on apples and listening to Garth Brooks tapes. About an hour later, Gritz emerged, got into the pickup without a word, and drove back to the Jordan airstrip, where he had a motor home parked next to his Cessna. Evidently the FBI had said no, at least for the day.
Eventually, Gritz was allowed to negotiate with the Freemen, but it was fruitless, to no one's great surprise:
- On the fourth day, Gritz gave up, evidently in disgust. After only three hours, he and Jack McLamb left the Clark ranch no closer to a surrender than when they entered. The Freemen, he said, believed Yahweh had erected an "invisible barrier" around the compound that made them invulnerable. If the feds wanted to negotiate, they said, perhaps onetime Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork could come out to Jordan and take up residence while talks progressed. Failing that, they’d accept Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Or better yet, Colorado State Senator Charles Duke, who they said understood their beliefs.
Gritz and his entourage, wearing baffled scowls, packed up and flew out of town that afternoon. The standoff had reached 38 days with no end in sight.
Gritz's next big adventure was to get involved in the Linda Wiegand case -- involving a mother who had fled with her children as part of a custody dispute -- which wound up getting him charged with attempted kidnapping (of which he was eventually acquitted).
Then, of course, there was the whole attempted suicide thing. Bo eventually remarried, this time to a woman named Judy Kirsch, who was raised in an Oklahoma Christian Identity church.
When I knew Gritz, he worked hard to downplay his Identity involvement -- and, in fact, he had distanced himself from those associations in part because of a public dispute with the Rev. Pete Peters (the nation's leading Identity preacher) over the latter's pronouncements urging the death sentence for homosexuals. However, his marriage to Kirsch has erased much of that old reticence, though not all of it. As the ADL explained:
- Even since unreservedly accepting Christian Identity, upon his marriage to Judy Kirsch in 1999, he has avoided the bigoted language typical of that movement.
Through Kirsch, Gritz became active in Dan Gayman's Missouri-based Church of Israel, attending and speaking at its religious celebrations. The influence of Gayman and Christian Identity led Gritz to rename, and spiritualize, the Center for Action. It became the Center for Action -- Fellowship of Eternal Warriors. Pursuing his new mission, and adding a religious gloss to old themes, he "anointed" a small number of God's "Israelpeople" to "meet the increasing challenge of Satan’s globalism." He spent a year, he said, identifying a dozen "warrior-priests" who clearly "embody the strengths of God’s Israelpeople" -- including old friend Richard Flowers, Steve Kukla of the Oklahoma-based Sovereign Studios and Sheldon Robinson, co-defendant in the Weigand case. Gritz recruits new candidates on his Web site, telling readers: "Contact me if you feel that God has called you to be a spiritual warrior for these last days."
The Fellowship of Eternal Warriors represents the most thorough merger to date of Gritz's paramilitary training, opposition to the federal government and religious ardor. While he has since parted ways with the Church of Israel and Dan Gayman, his efforts to prepare for spiritual warfare remain undiminished. Gritz now attends both the Christian Identity Rose Hill Covenant Church in Oklahoma and the Inter-Continental Church of God in California, continues to promote SPIKE training, whose newest edition qualifies participants as a "Master Blaster," and runs the Center for Action. His religious beliefs remain somewhat vague, however, in part because he has not, at least publicly, articulated the racial implications of his Identity faith. Nonetheless, Gritz has upped the ante by enlisting God against the government and its supporters. He says:
- I can assure you that if I was ever convinced that it was God's Will for me to commit an act of violence against the laws of our land, I would hesitate only long enough to, like Gideon, be certain. I would then do all within my power to accomplish what I felt he required of me. . . If God does call me into the Phinehas Priesthood . . . my defense will be the truth as inspired by the Messiah.
This latter reference is particularly disturbing, especially for those who've read Chapter 6 of In God's Country and understand the "Phineas Priesthood" reference. Essentially, though, the notion of the "Priesthood" is that one enters it by committing a killing of someone who has broken "God's law"; it is easily the most radical and potentially dangerous component of the extremist right's belief systems, especially within the context of Identity.
This is the kind of element that a scene like the Schiavo case -- with all its attendant supercharged hyperbole -- was bound to attract. People like Gritz are drawn to these events like flies to cloaca.
And of course, when it all spirals out of control, people like Jeb Bush and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly -- you know, those "mainstream" conservatives who have thrown gasoline on this bonfire at every step of the way -- will somehow find a way to blame the carnage on liberals.
That fanatical contingent
Jonathan Chait, filling in for Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, raised many eyebrows when he wrote earlier this week:
- I actually agree with Marshall and the DLC on the suicidal purity of the Democratic party's left wing, embodied by the Howard Dean movement and its fanatical internet contingent, even if I disagree with his support for Lieberman in particular.
Chait appears to be now joining the chorus of "moderates" on the left accusing the activist left of fomenting irrational hatred of Bush and the right, especially expressed by the "fanatical internet contingent" and its "suicidal purity."
Funny thing about that. It was only a few short months ago that the leading example of "irrational Bush hatred" offered up by wags on the right was this piece by Jonathan Chait:
- [Bush] reminds me of a certain type I knew in high school--the kid who was given a fancy sports car for his sixteenth birthday and believed that he had somehow earned it. I hate the way he walks--shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo. I hate the way he talks--blustery self-assurance masked by a pseudo-populist twang. I even hate the things that everybody seems to like about him. I hate his lame nickname-bestowing-- a way to establish one's social superiority beneath a veneer of chumminess (does anybody give their boss a nickname without his consent?). And, while most people who meet Bush claim to like him, I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more.
As Bob Somerby pointed out at the time:
- Much of the column was a critique of Bush policy. But Chait framed the piece as a tongue-in-cheek confession of his visceral "hatred" for Bush. And it isn’t just Bush’s policies, Chait says. "I hate the way he walks," the scribe writes -- "shoulders flexed, elbows splayed out from his sides like a teenage boy feigning machismo." Chait also hates the fact that Bush gives nicknames, and says, "I suspect that, if I got to know him personally, I would hate him even more."
Does Chait really "hate" the way Bush holds his arms? If so, he ought to be sent to a home. But, although Chait’s piece was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the result was one thousand percent predictable. In yesterday's New York Times, David Brooks discarded Chait's serious ruminations -- and quoted the list of his trivial complaints ... . Gravely faking for his national audience, Brooks then drew the scripted conclusion: Can't you see how crazy these liberals are? Can't you see that irrational "hatred" is driving these complaints about Bush?
Guys like Jonathan Chait did their best to thoughtlessly hand ammunition to right-wing propagandists about irrational Bush hatred from the left.
So how is it that they're the ones pointing fingers now?
Our little Osamas
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Now that the dust has settled from the Lefkow murders, it's clear that the killer was not connected to any known hate group. That idiosyncratic outcome might ordinarily leave us to write it off to the vagaries of crime in our society, but it's worth reflecting a little on what the incident, perhaps incidentally, revealed.
The most striking feature of the incident involved the reaction by the extremist right to the murders: openly cheering them, and urging similar action for other judges. This is consistent, it should be observed, with the far right's historic approach to violence that benefits their cause: Even if they cannot claim credit for it, they will exploit it.
It's called piggybacking, and it was evident, as I've explained previously, in the aftermath of September 11, particularly in the actions of the anthrax killer. The domestic terrorists of the American far right see any kind of violent disturbance as an opportunity to spread chaos, which is the centerpiece of their long-term strategy.
This is why I've argued consistently that any serious "war on terror" will, by its nature, consistently recognize domestic terrorism as a significant component of the real threat that confronts us.
Unfortunately, this has been twisted by some of my critics on the right into something I (for obvious reasons) didn't say, to wit, that "if (and only if) our enemy list is broadened to include right-wing domestic terrorists, then the left will recognize that its values are threatened and react by confronting both the domestic terrorists and the Islamic fundamentalists."
What I am arguing is that any serious war on terror will of its own encompass the domestic-terror threat and deal with it appropriately. The current war on terror is predicated on a symmetrical military response, which is exactly the wrong approach to an asymmetrical threat.
It's not that domestic terrorism should be given the focus of our approach; rather, it's that the failure to focus on it at all leaves us vulnerable in a way that also reveals the incoherence of our antiterrorism policy. The reason I keep stressing our handling of domestic terrorism is that it gives us a prism for understanding what's wrong with our ongoing response to the broader phenomenon of terrorism.
Nicholas Kristof's recent column on our "Homegrown Osamas" touched on some of this, discussing the white supremacists whose ugliness was again on display for all to see in this most recent incident:
- After the Oklahoma City bombing, American law enforcement authorities cracked down quite effectively on domestic racists and militia leaders. But Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors 760 hate groups with about 100,000 members, notes that after 9/11, the law enforcement focus switched overwhelmingly to Arabs.
The Feds are right to be especially alarmed about Al Qaeda. But we also need to be more vigilant about the domestic white supremacists, neo-Nazis and militia members. After all, some have more W.M.D. than Saddam.
Two years ago, for example, a Texan in a militia, William Krar, was caught with 25 machine guns and other weapons, a quarter-million rounds of ammunition, 60 pipe bombs and enough sodium cyanide to kill hundreds of people.
We were too complacent about Al Qaeda and foreign terrorists before 9/11. And now we're too complacent about homegrown threats.
The problem was underscored by a recent report in a conservative publication of a plea by white supremacists for an alliance with Islamist radicals:
- In a letter posted on its Web site the head of the white supremacist group Aryan Nations offers his thanks to radical Islamic terrorists and extends the group's hand of friendship.
Aryan Nations National Director August Kreis writes (www.aryan-nations.org), "We as an organization will also endeavor to aid all those who subvert, disrupt and are (sic) malignant in nature to our enemies. Therefore I offer my most sincere best-wishes to those who wage holy Jihad against the infrastructure of the decadent, weak and Judaic-influenced societal infrastructure of the West. I send a message of thanks and well-wishes to the methods and works of groups on the Islamic front against the jew such as Al-Qaeda and Sheik Usama Bin Ladin, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and to all Jihadis worldwide who fight for the glory of the Khilafah and the downfall of the anti-life and anti-freedom System prevalent on this earth today.
Kreis continues by saying (sic), "I ask our Islamic fellow fighters against jewry to remember the co-operation between Mufti Haj Mohammad Amin al-Husseini and Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler during the last century and to remember that all that is of the past it is our duty to surpass!"
Allying themselves with "real" terrorists has always been something of a fantasy of the extremist right. And the history of such gestures is that they have always been refused with scorn, for good reason.
Nonetheless, such gestures do underscore the reality that Islamist radicalism is a form of right-wing extremism, and its most natural allies in America are not -- as people like David Horowitz and Powerline are fond of suggesting -- on the left, but on the far right. The claims to the contrary are just another instance of the "up is down" kind of Newspeak that has become pervasive in conservative discourse.
But that's not to say that the response to American neo-Nazi "lone wolf" terrorists and white-supremacist terror cells should be the same as that to Al Qaeda. For all their occasional similarities, there are important differences between them, and the response has to reflect that as well.
My sometime correspondent Dr. Jeffrey Bale of the Center for Proliferation Studies outlines some important caveats when assessing the domestic right-wing threat, and they're well worth heeding:
- [T]he fact is that the overwhelming majority of acts of domestic right-wing violence have up until now been incidents of opportunistic street violence, as opposed to carefully planned and organized campaigns of terrorism, which are an entirely different thing. There are of course small cells of extremists who have been and still are busily plotting acts of more serious terrorism, but fortunately most of their actions have hitherto been interdicted or failed because the would-be perpetrators were 1) not terribly sophisticated from an operational standpoint, 2) easily infiltrated or "stung" by members of the law enforcement community, or 3) so amateurish as to be unable to maintain secrecy about their plans.
But rat-packing members of "out-groups," setting off the occasional homemade bomb at an abortion clinic, shooting an occasional "enemy" (like Alan Berg or abortion doctors), or robbing banks to fund other violent or criminal activities (like the Phineas Priesthood) -- however horrible these actions are, especially for the actual victims -- are in no way comparable in scale or impact to the systematic, large-scale campaigns of terrorism that have been and continue to be carried out in other parts of the world by well-trained, operationally sophisticated groups of professional terrorists. Anyone who is intimately familiar with the details of numerous operations carried out by left-wing and neo-fascist terrorists in Europe, left-wing and right-wing terrorists in Latin America, or religious terrorists in various parts of the Muslim world -- as I am -- cannot fail to be impressed, by way of contrast, by the extraordinarily amateurish quality of most acts of domestic right-wing violence. This certainly doesn't mean that they should be ignored or that their perpetrators should not be severely punished, only that it is apparent that the kinds of serious terrorist actions carried out by the Order and McVeigh have been -- fortunately -- relatively rare in this country.
Moreover, the fact that small, violence-prone fringe groups are capable of carrying out gruesome acts of violence does not mean that they are politically, sociologically, or culturally significant, in the sense that they represent extensive constituencies or broad-based social forces in the U.S. The fact is that such groups have long been confined to the margins of society and politics in America -- unlike, say, the general Christian right -- and short of a total social breakdown that is likely to be where they remain.
I agree with most of this analysis, though I differ on a couple of significant points:
-- The ongoing ideological traffic between the mainstream right and its extremist counterpoint is increasingly blurring the line behind which the far right has traditionally remained. I am not so complacent about the prospects of their remaining there, especially given the likelihood of future terrorist attacks that will further traumatize the national psyche.
-- I disagree that domestic right-wing violence has been "relatively rare" in this country. Relative, perhaps, to the Middle East, but not to America insofar as it has experience terrorism on its soil.
As I explained before:
- It's true that, generally speaking, domestic terrorists are neither as competent nor as likely to pose a major threat as most international terrorists, particularly Al Qaeda. And the belief systems that feed the domestic terrorists have not become pervasive in popular Western culture the way Al Qaeda and Wahhabism generally have insinuated themselves in the Islamic world (though there has been an increasing blurring of the lines between the mainstream and extremist right in recent years).
Nonetheless, given the right actors, the right weapons, and the right circumstances, they remain nearly as capable of inflicting serious harm on large numbers of citizens as their foreign counterparts. This is especially true because they are less likely to arouse suspicion and can more readily blend into the scenery.
Most of all, what they lack in smarts or skill, they make up for in numbers: Since the early 1990s, the vast majority of planned terrorist acts on American soil -- both those that were successfully perpetrated and those apprehended beforehand -- have involved white right-wing extremists. Between 1995 and 2000, over 42 such cases (some, like Eric Rudolph, involving multiple crimes) were identifiable from public records.
Some of these were potentially quite lethal, such as a planned attack on a propane facility near Sacramento that, had it been successful, would have killed several thousand people living in its vicinity. Krar's cyanide bomb could have killed hundreds. Fortunately, none of these plotters have proven to be very competent.
The rate has slowed since 2000, but the cases have continued to occur. And someday, our luck is going to run out. Certainly, if we are counting on their incompetence, the fact that the anthrax killer (whose attacks in fact were quite successful in their purpose) has not yet been caught. Likewise, if Al Qaeda attacks again, that will likely signal a fresh round of piggybacking.
It's vital that we take domestic terrorism seriously not because it represents a threat as immediately lethal as Al Qaeda. It doesn't. It's vital because we need to keep it that way.
The far right's clear willingness to piggyback on all kinds of public violence means that the subsequent aftershocks of a major terrorist attack could prove to be equally devastating to the national well-being. Their small-potatoes aspect belies their ability to wreak tremendous havoc.
We cannot say we are dealing with terrorism seriously until we confront this reality.
[Originally posted Monday at The American Stree.]
Monday, March 14, 2005
I've got a post up at The American Street on "Our little Osamas". Be sure to check it out.
John McKay at archy has an interesting take on the role of nationalism in genocidal atrocities, with an interview from Yugoslavia.
Discover Your Mommas Network makes me laugh. Hard.
Check out the very, very nice redesign by Eric Muller at Is That Legal?, as well as his very thoughtful piece on judging our ancestors. Eric's redesign may inspire me to finally do something with this site.
Hal Turner: The right's Ward Churchill
Sunday, March 13, 2005
One of the real consequences of the right-wing transmission belt is that it has an amplifying effect. It's often described as an echo chamber, but what actually occurs is more of a two-sided dynamic of upwardly spiraling ugliness: the mainstream "transmitters" indulge in a little bit of rhetorical nastiness, and soon those on the extremist right are playing the same tune, but even more hatefully, more viciously, more ... fascistically.
They keep pushing the envelope, and after awhile, they can't push any farther without becoming explicit bigots and unmistakable fascists. So they push farther anyway.
Usually, Michael Savage provides some of the more vivid examples of this amplification -- as when he said of the tsunami disaster, "It's not a tragedy. I wouldn't call it a tragedy." However, Savage occupies a somewhat unique space somewhere exactly in between the mainstream and genuine extremism; most "transmitters" tend to align more clearly with movement conservatism (see especially Rush Limbaugh) or the extremist far right.
One of the most repugnant of these latter figures is the fellow who pushed himself to the fore during last week's investigation into the murders of a federal judge's husband and mother in Chicago: Hal Turner.
Turner's case is particularly instructive, because he not only is unusually -- even eagerly and proudly -- vile, he also has history of activity within the Republican Party. On top of that, he reportedly has (or had) a friendship with one of the conservative media's leading figures: Limbaugh Jr. himself, Sean Hannity.
What it illustrates is how the dynamic of the transmission belt works: the extremist side of the equation provides the mainstream right-wing agitators with a fresh supply of outrage and talking points, and the mainstream connections give the far right a legitimacy, a connection with the larger political discourse, they would not otherwise have.
During the 1990s, Turner made a habit of calling into Hannity's WABC radio program as "Hal from North Bergen," one of the show's regular callers. "Hal" liked to say increasingly outrageous things: in August 1998, according to the One People's Project profile [Google cache],
he remarked on Hannity's show that "if it weren't for the white man, blacks would still be swinging from the trees in Africa." Hannity not only failed to rebuke "Hal" for the remark, he continued plugging into Turner whenever he called.
Turner in fact had a history of quasi-racist activism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which profiled Turner last year:
- As early as 1994, he was defending racism, holding a rally for New York radio talk show host Bob Grant, who had been fired from his show for making racist comments about blacks. In the late 199s, Turner often called in to local radio shows as "Hal from North Bergen," telling their hosts things like, "The problem with police brutality is that cops don't use it enough."
All this culminated in 2000, when Turner stepped forward to run for the Republican nomination for Congress in his home district in New Jersey. He appeared on Hannity's Fox News program and received his old friend's endorsement. Turner himself has claimed that during this time, he and Hannity were "good friends." Hannity himself has since remained mum on the subject -- because as noxious as Turner may have been before 2000, afterward, his true stripes became unmistakable.
Turner lost that race, and it became something of a turning point for his ideological career. Where before his bigotry had been of the "edgy" variety, he soon openly embraced the ideology of various hate groups and white supremacists, as the SPLC explained:
- In 2000, Turner sought the local Republican nomination for Congress, and was enraged when GOP leaders instead supported Theresa de Leon, a dark-skinned Hispanic who was the chief financial officer for New York's Legal Aid Society and the mother of 10 children. It was at this moment that Turner had a reported "epiphany," deciding the system was rigged against white men and abandoning all ties to the mainstream.
Not long after, he started up "The Hal Turner Show," renting time on shortwave radio maverick Allan Weiner's WBCQ, located in Monticello, Maine.
Building up a substantial audience and paying for the five-nights-a-week, two-hour show with advertising and donations, he became a favorite of many on the radical right, including several in the neo-Nazi National Alliance*. After neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator* leader Matt Hale was arrested in late 2002 for allegedly soliciting the murder of a federal judge, Turner openly supported Hale.
"I don't think killing a federal judge in these circumstances would be wrong," he said, referring to the judge's ruling against Hale's group in a copyright dispute over its name. "It may be illegal, but it wouldn't be wrong."
Turner's reptilian nature, of course, was revealed for all to see this past week as he expanded on the earlier remarks -- "I have rendered an opinion that what she did on the bench makes her worthy of being killed, yeah" -- as well as posting "Gotcha!" over a picture of Judge Lefkow after the killings in her home by someone, it turned out, who had no connection to the white-supremacist movement.
This isn't the first time that Turner has threatened judges. As Farmer at Corrente details, citing Daryle Jenkins' One People's Project material:
- In one instance he has threatened to incite people to "dispense revenge" on Federal Judge Maryanne Trump Barry and New Jersey NAACP officials and their attorneys after a fire in North Bergen claimed the lives of four people in 1998. Turner charged the NAACP with the deaths because they filed an anti-discrimination lawsuit against the local fire department. Barry was the judge who presided and imposed a hiring freeze on the department until the matter was resolved. After the fire, Turner, a real estate agent with access to the names and addresses of virtually everyone who lives in the state, wrote a letter that appeared on deja.com (now Google) that said that he was going to release the names and addresses of Barry, the NAACP officials, and their lawyers to the families of the fire victims. "It would be interesting to see how those families dispense revenge on those who are really responsible for the deaths of their loved ones, he wrote."
At other times, Turner has voiced other kinds of extremism, as when he defended the Bush side in the 2000 election by openly advocating civil war if Al Gore were to win the then-contested outcome of the Florida vote:
- Not since the early 1860's, prior to the Civil War, has the US population been so divided and openly talking about violent civil warfare. Radio callers are making unprecedented open and public calls to employ the Second Amendment (right to keep and bear arms) to protect the integrity of the Constitution and of the Bush election.
This election has pitted brother against brother, parent against child, young against old, white against black, Gentile against Jew. The anger is palpable and the situation grows steadily worse.
An examination of Turner's record reveals a long and sordid history of all kinds of outrageous remarks, particularly those expressing the ugliest kind of racial bigotry. This is how Turner "pushes the envelope." But it is the open advocacy of the intimidation of judges by invading their personal lives in a way that purposely exposes them to the threat of violence.
Turner did this last week, too, publishing the names and office addresses of three federal judges who ruled in the same case in which Lefkow was involved with Hale, and vowing to publish their home addresses. It's possible to do this while advocating merely for civil protests, as Turner claimed to be doing -- he even added a disclaimer urging everyone not to break any laws.
But it's not possible to do this while simultaneously celebrating -- which is to say, condoning and encouraging -- the murders of Judge Lefkow's family members. It's not possible to claim you are merely advocating nonviolent protests when you make it clear that you see the killer as having carried out a "comeuppance," and that you believe some judges "deserve to die."
It was this moment that should have crystalized, in the national consciousness, just what it is these people stand for: they openly condone, and indeed encourage, the use of criminal violence as a way of intimidating (or "sending a message to") the nation's judiciary.
Here's Turner's message, in a nutshell: "Nice family you got there, judge. Be a shame if anything should happen to it."
Could you imagine the uproar if, say, a spokesman for radical Islam did the same on the airwaves? Hell, we wouldn't stand for it if it were the Mob.
And could you imagine what would happen if such a figure had run as a Democrat for Congress? If he had a long-term friendship with a prominent "liberal media" figure?
We already have an idea what would happen in terms of law enforcement. The case of Sherman Austin -- arrested for merely having a link on his Web site to another site that discussed bomb making, something that would have gotten half the Patriot movement in trouble back in the 1990s -- does not compare favorably with Turner's.
An even more germane comparison, though, is to Ward Churchill. The right has been eagerly trying to drape Churchill around the left's neck for the past several months, even though he has no connection to Democrats or prominent liberals, and no one on the left seriously endorses his views.
The same can't be said of Turner. Indeed, it seems to me that people like Sean Hannity, who have made Turner's career possible, have a lot to answer for in this regard.
It's possible that Hannity has severed all ties with Turner, and disavows any prior relationship with him now. If that's so, though, we don't know, because he refuses to say. But we do know that, even before Turner went completely off the deep end, he engaged in nakedly racist banter even on Hannity's show and not only suffered no consequences, but used the reputation gained from that kind of outrageousness to run for Congress and to launch his own talk-show career.
Maybe a gentle letter-writing campaign will produce some answers. Hannity's e-mail address at Fox is Hannity@foxnews.com. You can also send him e-mail at this page. However, these kinds of form e-mails have a history of being giant black holes, especially for those impertinent enough to ask pointed questions.
You might have better luck by also contacting his superiors at Fox at the various addresses here.
Did Sean Hannity help launch the career of a notorious racist and hatemonger who has called for terroristic retaliation against federal judges? Is he still personal friends with this moral reprobate?
Discerning viewers want to know. Especially after having their own decency and patriotism impugned, over the last several years, by the likes of Sean Hannity.