Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Enemy Within


Remember back in July of 2007 when a U.S. Attorney, the FBI and the NYPD trumpeted the capture of four men they claimed had been trying to engineer "one of the most chilling plots imaginable" in New York City: the detonation of fuel lines under JFK airport? Chances are you do, the same way you likely remember every other self-congratulatory press conference held over the past several years in which the government announced with supposedly appropriate bombast that it had thwarted an imminent terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Thing is, though, quite a few of these plots -- to say nothing of the more than a dozen times that the terror alert level was raised based on nebulous information and with politically suspicious timing -- turned out to be a lot of horseshit. It's not that the actions of some truly dangerous people weren't uncovered; it's that there were more than a few times that the would-be terrorists hyped as being directly related to al-Qaeda turned out to be more like the Keystone Kops, their plans for mass destruction nothing more than the product of a lot of bravado and maybe a little too much to drink.

The point, though, is that you always heard about it -- shouted far and wide across the media landscape -- when the United States had supposedly foiled a terrorist attack from outsiders. We're always eager as hell to call someone not from this country who desires to attack us and spread fear and chaos a terrorist -- as well we should. What we're not as eager to do is call someone from within this country -- like, say, a far-right, white Christian militia member who believes the government is evil -- a terrorist even if he or she hopes to accomplish the same goal.

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that nine members of an ultra-right Christian militia group known as Hutaree had been arrested across the Midwest on charges of seditious conspiracy and the attempted use of weapons of mass destruction. Investigators claim the group was planning to wage war against the U.S. government -- a war that would begin with the murder of a Michigan cop, followed by a coordinated attack on that officer's funeral procession. The hope, supposedly, was that the strike would inspire a bloody, Turner Diaries-style uprising against the government. Needless to say, relatives of those arrested deny that the group is dangerous, one of them going so far as to make the not-very-reassuring statement that if the good people in Hutaree were going to kill somebody they would've done it already. It's a bit of a dubious claim, regardless, considering that a quick scan of the material posted on the internet by the group and its leader, David Brian Stone, reveals them to be every bit the standard paranoid white-guy gun fetishists with delusions of militaristic grandeur who've occupied a tiny portion of the cultural imagination for decades.

Back in late 2008, right around (surprise, surprise) the election of Barack Obama, one member of Hutaree, a guy who menacingly called himself "Pale Horse," posted a video on YouTube which showed him armed with a Kalashnikov and spouting all kinds of extreme-right bromides about how the U.S. was in peril and it was time for freedom-loving people to arm themselves, etc. etc. Whether or not he was ever truly on the verge of trying to turn his revolutionary fantasies into cold-blooded reality is anybody's guess. But that's not really the point; the point is that even after, say, the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City or the Austin IRS building plane crash -- Timothy McVeigh and Joe Stack's proven actions -- many in this country are still reluctant to label an American citizen a terrorist. Maybe it's because to do so would cause all kinds of cognitive dissonance, since it would put that person on the same level as the foreign insurgents raging against their own governments oversees whom we're more than happy to call terrorists but who refer to themselves as merely freedom-fighters (a lack of distinction, ironically, that militia members here at home have accepted for years).

What's really ironic, however -- and more than a little frightening -- is that not only will yesterday's announcement be unlikely to stick in the minds of many Americans or in the media's collective consciousness; it'll actually go a long way in fueling anti-government sentiment. In the absence of widespread outrage that it's entirely possible a burgeoning new anti-government movement bent on redneck revolution may be out there plotting murder and mayhem, the movement itself can only flourish under the weight of a federal law enforcement crackdown, since such action just proves the point of those who believe the government is comprised of jack-booted thugs who aim to trample free, decent, heavily armed Americans. In the cataractous eyes of guys like "Pale Horse," the fact that the feds are willing to arrest the Hutaree group only shows how much Hutaree is necessary to fight off the feds.

Remember, Oklahoma City was considered a direct response to both Ruby Ridge and Waco. And while each of those impetuses may have indeed involved gross federal overreaction, it doesn't change the fact that until we admit that there are potential domestic terrorists among us -- not patriots, terrorists -- and refuse to let that be deflected by the contrived indignation it may incite from one group or another, we'll continue to be at their mercy.

We need to stop hedging and call those Americans who want to wage war against our nation or simply kill other Americans in the name of a political end what they are. Because there are far, far fewer of them than there are of us.

21 comments:

Steven said...

Someone has to explain these people to me.

Maybe I would just make a crappy right wing terrorist, but I would say that killing local police officers is the opposite of what a right wing terrorist organization would want to do. Wouldn't it make more sense to go kill a civil rights leader or a federal officer?

But then again, these people don't exactly look like they won the genetic lottery.

Chez said...

That would come in time. The entire scenario is right out of the Turner Diaries.

Anonymous said...

Never in my life have I been so afraid for this country.

That doesn't mean I've not going to do whatever I can to make it better.

Anonymous said...

I remember years of being labeled an "angry liberal" on right wing blogs for (really) politely pointing out that Bush was sending the country into the crapper. What was interesting was the way "anger" was applied as a self-evidently bad thing to be. We needed to "get over it." Remember?

Flash forward and suddenly angry is patriotic. And it's served up as a warning to all those democratically elected officials who can't magically turn this country all white again like these lunatics imagine it once was.

I saw a right winger link today to a piece in the ironically named "American Thinker" that broods about the "quiet anger that's brewing." When you're side is arming up, that's not so quiet. It's delusional.

idiosynchronic said...

Speaking of Waco & OkCity - did you know there's a Second Amendment March being planned for the anniversary of both , April 19, in DC?

Kit said...

While I'm completely horrified by what's getting uncovered, what I keep getting struck by is that fact that they were apparently ripping off the Joker in the Dark Knight...kill a cop, incite violence at his funeral. Really? You're gonna do almost EXACTLY what a comic book villain (arguably one of the best of all time) did in a movie that came out the same year you guys started plotting? What ever happened to imagination?

Girl With Curious Hair said...

I think you misunderstand the terrorist label. It's not American vs. foreigner, it's Christian vs. Muslim. It is enough for a Muslim person to identify with the suffering of other Muslims being killed for to label them as terrorist sympathizers at least, if not make them targets of suspicion. White Christians meanwhile can advocate war, terror and death abroad and on their fellow citizens at home and still not be labeled/considered terrorists. Can you imagine a psychotic Muslim planning and talking about killing people openly, killing them in their place of worship (a church, synagogue, etc) and still not be charged with 'home grown terrorism'?

VOTAR said...

After a few cases of beer, they realized their first idea just wasn't feasible.

Getting the Trade Federation to blockade Naboo would take too long and cost too many robots.

Eric said...

Chez, an excellent post. One quibble, though: as far as I can tell, Joseph Stack was not attempting to change policy or law by terror--i.e., he was a derranged, homicidal nutbag, but not a terrorist. Timothy McVeigh absolutely was a terrorist, and the Hutarees are absolutely alleged terrorists and should be described as such. But I think precision in the term "terrorist" is called for because it has become so abused and meaningless in the media, especially (but not exclusively) in the right-wing media: there's no reason I'm aware of to call either Joseph Stack or Nidal Hasan "terrorists," just as there's every reason to use the word with regard to McVeigh and his co-conspirators. Stack and Hasan are part of the ignoble line of derranged murderers that includes, for instance, Charles Whitman (the UT-Austin bell tower sniper), not the ignoble line of douches like McVeigh or Ted Kaczynski who adorn their violence with purportedly "activist" rationales.

It's true that Stack wrote an incoherent political manifesto/suicide note. But that's actually part of why he's in the Whitman camp and not the Kaczynski camp: the Unabomber Manifesto was incoherent, but he clearly thought terrorizing people would bring about his... eco-Luddite-utopia-thing... whereas Stack's rant is just a long, narcisstic whine ending in tragedy for his victims and their families; it has jumbled elements of leftist and rightist politics, but it's not really about the politics or change as it is about how unfair his poor, hard-working but unappreciated existence has been thanks to government... and organized religion... and corporations... and stuff.

Anyway, aside from that particular, I kinda wish I'd written the rest of your post myself. Thank you.

Riles said...

I'm still astounded that the DHS report a few years ago about right-wing militias was criticized so heavily. This is exactly what they were warning about, no?

Anonymous said...

As long as Daily Kos continuously runs passionate defenses of convicted Islamic fundamental terrorists (real ones), your side has forfeited the national security argument.

Anonymous said...

A terrorist can come in any stripe, with any creed. They use fear to effect change.

Chez said...

Good point about Muslim vs. Christian, Parissa.

Chez said...

My "side?" Go fuck yourself. I'm not on anybody's side. A terrorist is a terrorist, regardless of what country he or she comes from or what religion he or she happens to be. And defending it is wrong no matter who you are.

Steven said...

Daily Kos runs defense of Islamic terrorists=Chez is on the side of terrorism.

It is really hard to argue with that logic.

Ragged Poetry Admirer said...

"...In the cataractous eyes of guys..." Man. That's some ragged poetry.

Russell said...

I think it also has to do with which side of the political fence your on...

Most right leaning people will not call their extremists (McVeigh et al.) terrorist and most left leaning people will not call their extremists (The Weathermen et al.) terrorists.

I do think it's crazy when people get all righteous over violent, political acts that aren't "formal," yet call it war and, well, it's just a fact of life.

Steven said...

I have to disagree Russell.

I think most reasonable people from across the political spectrum would refer to McVeigh and the Weather Underground as terrorists.

paleotectonics said...

@Russell;

Bullshit! McGovern/Humphrey/O'Neil et. al. never went to the well and called the Weather Underground heroes. OTOH, numerous right-wing leaders have gone to the well, to the media, to their districts/hometowns/churches/families/pets and called Stack a hero, explained away McVeigh as a overwrought reaction to Ruby Ridge/Waco, and cheered for Roeder.
False equivalency FAIL!

Russell said...

@ Steven,
OK, I'll bend. But I have been involved in many discussions over the years where everyone had the knee-jerk reaction that right-wing wack-jobs are obviously militant, anti-American terrorists.

When it came to folks like the Weathermen, it always seemed to get a little more hesitant and a fair amount of my fellow lefties would be happy with the Weathermen as "radicals who took their politics way too far."

@paleotectonics

No need to shout. I was in no way insinuating that because people are hesitant to call someone "terrorist" that it automatically means they call them "hero." That kind of misconstrued, hyperbolic rant is bullying BS.

Anonymous said...

Quoting Chez, But a little tip for the other side:. Sorry, I thought you understood the political reference. I would never question a new Yorkers understanding of terrorism.

But, let’s clear up two things about these idiots:
(1) They are, at this point, innocent. They will remain, as is KSM, ABL and the other like minded individuals, from within and without, who seek to do us harm.
(2) The British had an interesting view of our beloved founders; TERRORISTS! How about a little light reading of the Federalist Papers this weekend. JM, JJ and AH were explicit in their explanation of the need for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; to protect the citizens from their soon –to – be government. You can label these idiots all you want, but the fundamental premise of liberty in this country is not defined by our misinterpretation of our Bill of Rights as citizens: that is the last line in the sand. Our liberty is derived from our ability to redress grievences against our government (peacefully).