The shooting at the Holocaust Museum yesterday was a chilling reminder that domestic terrorism is real, and was just the latest in a disturbing trend of increased political violence from right-wing extremists. What these fanatics have in common is a paranoia fueled by mainstream conservative rhetoric about liberal traitors, gun confiscation, and immigration hysteria. Conservatives have their head in the sand, squealing with outrage over the DHS report about the threat of right-wing violence, which concluded presciently:
Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
The tirades against all of these groups that routinely feature on mainstream conservative talk radio verge on incitement; it’s partly because of hyperventilating about liberals, Obama and the government that there’s an ammunition shortage right now as paranoid fringe self-styled patriots are racing to stock up for the all-out war they both fear and lust for. Meanwhile, the conservative Islamophobes have concluded (of course) that somehow von Brunn’s anti-Semitism is all Islam’s fault. (Here’s Jeffrey Goldberg with a sane but pointless rebuttal; also see my earlier post on the fallacy that Islam is inherently anti-Semitic).
The problem is that the conservative rhetoric and focus on muslims as the threat above all else has made us all less safe. Consider how astonishing it is that a man like von Brunn, who was jailed for attempting to violently storm the Federal Reserve building and has published books and essays promoting his radical views, was under no supervision. Meanwhile, the US government still retains the power it had under the previous Administration to take a (muslim) US citizen and dump them in prison without trial or evidence, indefinitely.
The greatest tragedy about von Brunner’s rampage is that he could have been stopped, but was ignored as a potential threat to public safety, not because of who he was, but because of who he wasn’t.
Related: Here’s the original 10-page report on rightwing extremism by the DHS (PDF). Also, my earlier post about the apologetics for George Tiller’s murder by conservatives; it’s worth noting that even “respectable, moderate” conservatives like Ross Douthat are blaming the victim. Note also to Ed Morrissey – no one is blaming “all conservatives” as a group for Tiller’s murder or the Holocaust Museum shooting. We are pointing out that right-wing rhetoric doesn’t exist in a vacuum.