Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

The Tiller Assassination & The Much Maligned Government Report on Right Wing Extremists

The murder of abortion provider George Tiller should force a re-assessment of the Department of Homeland Security’s maligned report on “right wing extremism.”
I was thoroughly dumbfounded at the conservative reaction to that report in April. If you read the report, it was quite clearly aimed a serious, violent, insane extremists. Yet mainstream conservatives took great offense, accusing the Obama administration of chillingly targeting the free-speech of conscientious anti-abortion citizens, veterans and conservatives writ large..
Conservatives should have said, “Here! Here! We applaud the efforts to clamp down on terrorism, crime and extremists.” After all, most conservatives have nothing to do with, and deplore, violent extremists. Instead, by saying the report was an attack on conservatism in general, the conservatives — not the government — blurred the lines between the violent extremes and the conservative mainstream.
Now, it turns out that the man in custody on suspicion of assassinating Tiller, Scott Roeder, had been arrested back in 1996 on criminal use of explosives and had connections to an extremist anti-government militia group, the Freeman: On April 17, 1996, Associated Press reported:


“Roeder was stopped because his car didn’t have a legitimate license plate. Instead, it had a tag indicating the driver was a “sovereign” citizen and immune from Kansas law. The same type of tag is sometimes used by Freemen, whose members in Montana are in the fourth week of a standoff with federal agents.
Roeder’s name is included on an FBI list of Freemen, said Shawnee County Sheriff Dave Meneley.
In Roeder’s trunk, authorities found fuse cord, a pound of gunpowder and two nine-volt batteries, one wired to a switch – the alleged triggering device. Ammunition and a blasting cap also were found in the car.”

In other words, we’ll have to wait on the details on both cases but at first glance Roeder seems exactly the sort of person that the DHS warned about.
The report suggested that the bad economy and the election of a black president could stimulate more anger and activity from “violent anti-government groups.” Far from attacking anti-abortion activists in general, as many claimed, the report instead noted white supremacists’ “longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion.”
We’ll see if Roeder maintained his ties to the militia groups or had shifted his focus to abortion only, but at a minimum, conservatives have to make a new choice: take seriously right wing extremists — the real ones, not the bloviators — or run the risk of truly being lumped together.
In a way, conservatives now face a choice similar to what liberals in the late 1960s and early 1970s faced during the hayday of the Weather Underground. Some on the New Left defended them as legitimate-albeit-excitable members of their broad coalition, while other more traditional liberals attacked them as extremists who violated liberal ideals. My sense of the history is that enough on the New Left defended extremists to tar all of liberalism. Will that happen for conservatives now?

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Dean Myrick

posted June 1, 2009 at 1:47 am

Shouldn’t we take all extremists seriously? The Left would have us believe that there are no Left-wing extremists. There are. ELF is a good example of that.
I don’t mean to belittle this horrible crime, but with the lack of information and corroborating evidence given in this article about the 1996 crime, how do I know that he wasn’t out in the country blowing up tree stumps? Sometimes people have perfectly good reasons for having ammo in their possession. Seriously, I wish you would have given more details. I also have to mention that you called the victim George Stiller in the article and Tiller in the title. Which is it? Given these kinds of over-looked and glaring mistakes, well, it just makes the whole article suspect.

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posted June 1, 2009 at 3:53 am

ELF doesn’t target people. And you *are* belittling the crime by making excuses for it.

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posted June 1, 2009 at 3:56 am

My sympathy and condolences go out to Dr. Tiller’s family and patients.
At the age of 67, he had survived being shot in both arms, the bombing of his clinic and several instances of persecution in the guise of prosecution by the former (but still fascist) Kansas Attorney General.
Over the next several weeks we will see the anti-rights-for-women groups try to distance themselves (brilliant example, Dean Myrick) from the murderer and pretend they abhor violence. Cries of “shocked, I tell you, simply shocked” will ring out.
Yeah, right. It wasn’t that long ago that your faction was pretending Matthew Shepard wasn’t really tortured and murdered for being gay on the floor of the US House of Representatives. Can’t wait to hear your spin on this one…church ushers are a threat to democracy? Lutherans are far-left beachheads for the anti-Christ? Oh, I know – the killing was necessary after this doctor was acquitted of all charges brought against him by Phill Kline. The government had failed, so the vigil-antes were forced to intervene for the Volksgesundheit.
I’d be more comfortable with them if they were to be honest and admit that the murderer is one of them and spoke what’s in their hearts. When you preach hatred as the conservative Christians do, this is what happens. You reap what you sow.

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posted June 1, 2009 at 10:07 am

I think it is horrible about George Tiller, but I resent the women’s movement standing behind the wholesale erradication of the mentally retarded and the spina bifida community (the majority of late term abortions). I have two severely autistic nephews and a mildly genius autistic nephew and I appreciate their lives as well as several friends who carry genetic illnesses.

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posted June 1, 2009 at 11:48 am

The “Womans Movement” does no such thing.
That is just more lies and false witness from your side.
You know – the side that tortures and murders people who don’t see things your way.
Fascinating how this murder has brought out you right-wing conservative Christians.
Why not just make a clean breast of it and admit you are glad he was murdered and regret he wasn’t tortured first?

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posted June 1, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Dean, the DHS had released earlier reports on left-wing extremists. That, of course, was ignored by the right-wing when it took umbrage at being also so examined.

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Your Name

posted June 1, 2009 at 12:37 pm

ExFeminist – I’ve never heard anyone in ‘the women’s movement’ advocate eugenics. In fact, I’ve never heard any feminist suggest that abortion is anything other than a difficult and very personal decision that each woman must make for herself.
It’s difficult to square your charge of an organized push to abort the challenged with feminism…the cornerstone of which is personal autonomy for women.

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posted June 1, 2009 at 2:25 pm

This is one act. ONE ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST AN ABORTIONIST. And what?????? now the whole entire pro-life movement are terrorists. Give me a break.
I am so ticked off right now.
Millions of children are dismembered a day alive….hundreds of thousands of abortionists and ONE ACT OF VIOLENCE.
Now we need a special committee to evaluate a peaceful movement to stop abortion.
Such is the liberal humanistic government…….

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posted June 1, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Birth defects which may be detected before birth should not be confused with autism which cannot.

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posted June 1, 2009 at 2:58 pm


posted June 1, 2009 at 4:12 pm

So, it’s OK for you folks on the Christian right to murder people as long as you stop just one short of the number of abortions performed?
That is what you are saying.

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posted June 1, 2009 at 7:14 pm

A good article about the killer from the Kansas City Star. The articles include statements from his family. A partial exert:
“Roeder’s family life began unraveling more than a decade ago when he got involved with anti-government groups, and then became “very religious in an Old Testament, eye-for-an-eye way,” his former wife, Lindsey Roeder, told The Associated Press.
“The anti-tax stuff came first, and then it grew and grew. He became very anti-abortion,” said Lindsey Roeder, who was married to Scott Roeder for 10 years but “strongly disagrees with his beliefs.”
“That’s all he cared about is anti-abortion. The church is this. God is this.’ Yadda yadda,” she said.
Lindsey Roeder said that the early years of the marriage were good and that Scott Roeder worked in an envelope factory. But she said he moved out of their home after he became involved with the Freemen movement, an anti-government group that discouraged the paying of taxes. The Roeders have one son, now 22.
“When he moved out in 1994, I thought he was over the edge with that stuff,” his ex-wife said. “He started falling apart. I had to protect myself and my son.”

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posted June 1, 2009 at 10:25 pm

This is revisionist.
Conservatives didn’t reject the alert that right wing groups were prowling the countryside. They were complaining about how the report appeared to single them out based on their beliefs.
Whether you agree with that or not, a murder of an abortion provider by a person who has ties to sovereign movement groups that (startlingly) predate the report doesn’t resolve the issue of whether the report was responsible or irresponsible.
What you’re doing is analogous to the following example:
(1) Agency publishes study that shows that crime has increased among a certain group.
(2) Members of that group complain that the language of the report is culturally insensitive
(3) Agency itself apologizes for language in certain parts of the report that they acknowledge is insensitive
(4) A few weeks later, a member of that group is arrested and charged with a crime.
(5) You publish a silly editorial arguing that people were crazy to get upset about the report because, “look, one of them committed a crime.”
Realize that there are two different points in this debate–and they aren’t incompatible
(1) right wing nuts commit crimes; they may feel even nuttier because the people they support aren’t getting elected; they may act nuttier
(2) the DHS report painted with a broad brush, and offended people who aren’t nuts or criminals.

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posted June 2, 2009 at 6:30 am

The trouble with your quiet, calm reasonable analysis is that the report wasn’t talking about the Buckleys, Noonans and Douthats of this world.
Not even the about Coulter.
This action was what the report was warning against.
Now, over the last eight years (and many before) those of us to the left of Genghis Kahn have had to live with being called “Defeatocrats” “Socialists” “Marxists” “America-Haters” “The Anti-Christ” “Baby-Killers” “People who marry rocks” “Pedophiles”….and even worse. These claims came from the right – and not necessarily from the dangerous right.
Sure, I can understand that the return to constitutional government after eight years under Bush has been disconcerting. What this report did was to bring a dangerous group back into focus – while in no way dimensioning the dangerous people who also exist on the left.
These days and the next few are not a good time for folks on the right to be lecturing those of us on the left. This is a very good time for those of you on the right to be taking a close look at the language of hatred and the de-humanization of your political opponents which has become the norm for your side.

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posted June 2, 2009 at 11:53 am

(Exodus 21:22-25) When two men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman’s husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on reckoning. But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Thus, since the word of God determines that no life (nor eye, nor tooth, nor hand, nor foot) is taken in an induced miscarriage, then life cannot begin with conception, and abortion is not murder, in any so-called “Judeo-Christian” tradition.

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posted June 2, 2009 at 11:56 am

That’s “heyday” not “hayday”. The expression does not refer to a happy day you scythe the grass and stack it up for the cows to eat in the winter. The “hey” part is from Middle English, kinda like you might say “hey dude how’s it goin'”.

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Your Name

posted June 3, 2009 at 2:09 pm

There have been other recent murders that were perpetrated by “rightwing” nutjobs such as the Pittsburgh cop killings and two more cops killed in Ocaloosa County, Florida. Both suspects were reportedly flirting with white supremacist and militia groups and were fearful of Obama directed gun bans. I think as 2009 continues, we will see even more incidents that will validate the main findings of the DHS report. Just yesterday, I saw a news article online about a “disgruntled” military vet in West Virginia who was arrested for an Obama threat. Is that enough proof?

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posted January 12, 2011 at 8:47 am

Excellent read about The Tiller Assassination & The Much Maligned Government Report on Right Wing Extremists
– Steven Waldman!

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