On June 8. 2014 Las Vegas, Nevada police officers Soldo and Beck went to a pizza diner. Their meal was interrupted by Jerad and Amanda Miller, two right wing anti-government extremists who had previously participated in the infamous Bundy Ranch stand off. Officers Soldo and Beck paid with their lives for the Millers’ warped minds and itchy trigger fingers. The Millers and their ilk aren’t typical of American politics, but then that’s exactly what makes them dangerous.
Last November, the Washington Post reported:
“As a Republican, Mitchell Adkins complained of feeling like an outcast at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. “Hardcore liberals” made fun of him, he wrote, and he faced “discrimination on a daily basis.” He soon dropped out and enrolled in trade school.
But his simmering rage led him back to campus one morning in April 2017, when Adkins pulled out a machete in the campus coffee shop, demanded that patrons state their political affiliation and began slashing at Democrats.
“There was never any ambiguity about why he did it,” said Tristan Reynolds, 22, a witness to the attack, which left two women injured.”
Fortunately, the result wasn’t as lethal as in the Las Vegas, Nevada pizza parlor, but the core problem was similar. Fast forward to October 26, 2018. Cesar Sayoc sent out 13 pipe bombs to critics or opponents of President Trump. We were lucky, none exploded either in the mail or at the destinations of the intended targets.
The Washington Post article, which described the increase in right wing violence offered this sobering information :
“Over the past decade, attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist, according to a Washington Post analysis of data on global terrorism. While the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency — and has surged since President Trump took office.”
Might we wonder why? After Sayoc was arrested the tenor of the White House response left something to be desired:
Speaking at the White House, Trump praised the “incredible job” done by investigators and promised to punish the person responsible. Speaking later at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trump won applause from his loyalist supporters for calling for national unity and an end to political violence. But he soon attacked the media, encouraged chants of “CNN sucks” and set the audience up to boo the Democratic House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, and reprise “lock her up” chants aimed at Hillary Clinton. [Guardian]
It seems he just can’t help himself. And now, after the arrest of Christopher Hasson, and the confiscation into evidence of his cache of weapons and ammunition, the President can’t bring himself to acknowledge how his “lock her up,” chants and repeated references to the press as the “Enemy of the People” might play a role in eliciting reactions like those of the Millers’, Sayoc, Adkins, and others.
He called the Hasson incident “a shame.” When asked if his rhetoric might have played a role in igniting Hasson’s rage, the President asserted his words have been “very nice.” [CNN video] I’m not at all certain the record bears this out — there’s another example, again in Las Vegas, where Trump called out that he’d like very much to punch a heckler in the face. Trump keeps hauling out the Enemy of the People line to describe the media, most recently three days ago, directly targeting the New York Times. On February 12, 2019 the Times reported on the assault of a BBC cameraman at Trump’s rally in El Paso, Texas. The White House keeps announcing that the President condemns violence and doesn’t condone attacks on reporters and opponents, however the list of incidents compiled by ABC news keeps getting longer. So does the assemblage from Vox. And these incidents and comments are not without consequences:
“A Kentucky gunman attempted to enter a historically black church, police say, then shot and killed two black patrons in a nearby grocery store. And an anti-Semitic loner who had expressed anger about a caravan of Central American refugees that Trump termed an “invasion” has been charged with gunning down 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history.”
If the President’s word choices are determined by what will play well with his base, then he (and his advisers) might do well to consider the distinction between base and debase. He is now speaking not merely to the deplorables, but to the despicables and the debased. It’s been noticed. The ADL reports that as of 2014 about 70% of Americans thought it was necessary for the government to step in to counter Antisemitism, the poll results now show about 80% believing the government should do more to protect against this scourge.
In April 2009 Janet Napolitano warned us about the rising temperature of right wing extremism in this country — and the conservatives prompted hit the fainting couches.
The American Legion formally requested an apology to veterans. Some in Congress called for me to be fired. Amid the turmoil, my (Daryl Johnson) warning went unheeded by Republicans and Democrats. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security caved to the political pressure: Work related to violent right-wing extremism was halted. Law enforcement training also stopped. My unit was disbanded. And, one-by-one, my team of analysts left for other employment. By 2010, there were no intelligence analysts at DHS working domestic terrorism threats.
What’s happening today? Not much.
“The Trump administration has done little to counter the impression that it is soft on right-wing extremism. Even before Trump took office, his presidential transition team began drawing up plans to redirect national-security resources away from white supremacists to focus solely on Islamic terrorism. The main target of this effort was Countering Violent Extremism, an interagency task force created by Barack Obama in the wake of the Charleston Church shooting to help prevent acts of violence before they happen. In 2016, the Office of Community Partnerships, which housed C.V.E., boasted a full-time staff of 16, about 25 contractors, and a budget of $21 million. But the Trump White House was skeptical of the preventative approach.” [Vanity Fair 2018]
The situation within the Department of Justice at present describes a CVE program killed for all intents and purposes by a thousand paper cuts.
There are some actions we should consider:
- Fully fund and restore the CVE efforts within the Department of Justice.
- Keep records and statistical analyses of right wing terrorist groups and their activities within the United States.
- Prioritize efforts to combat foreign influences which seek to foment racial and ethnic divisions in the United States.
- Publicize the sources of funding for right wing extremist groups and their propaganda machines, including Dark Money organizations.
We can do some things individually. I, for one, don’t find ethnic ‘jokes’ amusing, and I’m not above telling the reciter thereof so. If this makes the “Adkins'” of the world uncomfortable, so be it. I don’t need to listen to anti-government spiels, unwarranted racial or ethnic diatribes, and I feel no compunction about indicating to those emitting this verbal garbage I’m quite through listening. “I don’t hate you, I’m just through listening.” If this drives the cockroaches back into the dark, fine. That’s where they belong. If a person thinks a two year old Guatemalan girl and her 20-something parents are a “national security threat,” and doesn’t hold the same opinion of some jerk with a personal arsenal harboring his sexual, political, ideological, whatever, perversions, then the person probably won’t enjoy my company anyway. I certainly won’t be enjoying his.
We DO want affordable health care. We DO want to address climate change issues. We DO want to rationalize and reform our immigration policies. And, we need to tell our Congressional representatives and Senators we’d like this done in a country that doesn’t have to put up with the rhetoric of derision and division, and the verbal violence that leads to the real thing.