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February 06, 2012 3:45 PM Anti-Anti-Terrorism on the Right

By Ed Kilgore

Remember the brouhaha back in 2009 when a Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing militias was leaked? Well, it’s back.

Patrick Poole of Pajamas Media raised the alarm after unearthing a DHS “lexicon” that defined “militia extremists” as:

Groups or individuals who facilitate or engage in acts of violence directed at federal, state, or local government officials or infrastructure in response to their belief that the government deliberately is stripping Americans of their freedoms and is attempting to establish a totalitarian regime. These individuals consequently oppose many federal and state authorities’ laws and regulations, (particularly those related to firearms ownership), and often belong to armed paramilitary groups. They often conduct paramilitary training designed to violently resist perceived government oppression or to violently overthrow the US Government.

This sends Poole off to the races, suggesting that anyone concerned about Big Government or gun rights is being targeted for scrutiny by DHS. He rather notably ignores the language about “acts of violence” and “to violently overthrow the U.S. government,” which gives the entire statement its essential context.

But I dunno, maybe he thinks advocacy of violence in a good cause should not be grounds for a bit of official suspicion. A lot of today’s right-wing foot soldiers have a bad habit of blurring the bright lines between issue advocacy and justification of violence. A distressingly common theme among some of the fringier Tea Party activists is the assertion that a divinely inspired Constitution (in its original form, give or take a slavery sanction) in conjunction with a theocratic reading of the Declaration of Independence created an immutable set of policies dealing with issues ranging from unregulated property ownership to taxation to abortion that cannot be legitimately modified, even via mechanisms contained in the Constitution itself. When harnessed, as such views often are, to the belief that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to facilitate armed popular resistance to one’s own government, then it really is a small psychological jump to the militia camps.

If people like Poole really want to stay off any DHS radar screen, all they have to do is to disclaim any interest in violently overthrowing the U.S. government. You can certainly argue that the federal goverment is entirely too interested in surveillance against internal threats, or that “terrorism” itself is an overblown concern. But I suspect most wingnuts allegedly worried about terrorist monitoring by DHS are really just angry that it’s not confined to Muslims.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • kevo on February 06, 2012 4:11 PM:

    Sounds like a typical case of a man wearing a loud double-breasted, double-knit gad plaid suit complaining about other people's lack of fashion sense!

    Pat Poole needlessly over thinks the memos, and he should simply be satisfied in cleaning his guns, and making sure they have the same level of hygiene as he! -Kevo

  • Nancy Cadet on February 06, 2012 4:11 PM:

    But what about the split infinitive , "to violently overthrow"? Doesn't Poole care about that? What are conservatives coming to?

  • Gandalf on February 06, 2012 4:20 PM:

    Jesus!! Who the fuck is Patrick Poole. Why even pay attention to such a nondescript lightweight? C'mon now Ed it must be a slow day.

  • Mitch on February 06, 2012 4:34 PM:

    "... the belief that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to facilitate armed popular resistance ..."

    My Conservative friends (the male ones anyway) are quite fond of this belief, and they are not radicals. It's not the kind of thing that is limited to extremists. Conservatives (people, not politicians) seem to adore this idea of having a violent resistance, if not another Civil War.

    Have a conversation with any Conservative about guns, and sooner or later they will say that they want their guns so they can fight the government when the time comes. It is a deep and important part of modern Conservative philosophy.

    Thankfully, only a small minority of them are "training ... to violently resist perceived government oppression or to violently overthrow the US Government."

    Unfortunately the Big Mouths of the GOP like to play on the persecution complexes of the people. So while reasonable minds may realize that reports like this are not about your average gun lover, your average gun lover is being told that it IS specifically about them. And they are primed to believe it.

    Talk about playing with fire. Feeding fear is never a good idea.

  • Texas Aggie on February 06, 2012 4:47 PM:

    "most wingnuts allegedly worried about terrorist monitoring by DHS are really just angry that itís not confined to Muslims."

    You think? What gave you the first clue?

    The gentleman in question works for Pajamas Media. That means that whatever he says is going to be a diatribe promoting the far right wing talking points, and if he has to breitbart the discourse by neglecting certain inconvenient facts and distorting others so that they seem to say the opposite of what they originally said, then so be it.

    But there are many low information people who aren't really interested in finding out about reality, but rather want to have some sort of support for their ideas. These are the people who tune into this kind of diatribe and resist it whenever someone points out the inconsistencies in the presentation. Cognitive dissonance is the term, I believe, for not being able to accept evidence contrary to some belief because to do so would be to admit that their whole mental structure of the world is a sham. Instead they double down on believing what has been shown to be wrong and hold onto it even more firmly.

    Speaking of low information people, read the comments on Poole's article.

  • Ron Byers on February 06, 2012 4:48 PM:

    I read the Poole's piece. He simply misses the point. The operative language is "facilitate or engage in acts of violence." While it might be argued that "facilitate" is a little unclear, what isn't unclear is the definition's emphasis on "acts of violence."

    The funny thing about Poole is not only does he miss the point, the people commenting also miss the point. Maybe that is becaus he bolded the passages he deemed important but didn't bold the "acts of violence" language.

  • Quaker in a Basement on February 06, 2012 4:49 PM:

    Lexicon. Policy.

    One of these is not like the other.

  • DAY on February 06, 2012 5:01 PM:

    But, But T. Jefferson said from time to time we need to water the tree of liberty.
    If we can't do that, then what the hell are all these guns good for?

  • slappy magoo on February 06, 2012 5:03 PM:

    "But I suspect most wingnuts allegedly worried about terrorist monitoring by DHS are really just angry that itís not confined to Muslims."

    I'd argue an extension of the problem is that the wingnuts are dead-certain that the DHS is choosing to investigate them INSTEAD of Muslims. It fits that paranoid worldview: "We ain't the problem, but if they're gonna treat us like terr'sts and bonerfide terr'sts like 'mukans, then by God we're gonna show 'em the problem." Or "words" to that effect.

  • GregL on February 06, 2012 5:48 PM:

    "the belief that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to facilitate armed popular resistance to one�s own government"

    Odd that. They must not notice that the Founding Fathers, revolutionaries all, only name one crime in the entire Constitution:

    Treason.

  • cmdicely on February 06, 2012 5:52 PM:

    Odd that. They must not notice that the Founding Fathers, revolutionaries all, only name one crime in the entire Constitution:

    Treason.

    Strictly speaking, they limit the definition of only one crime—Treason—but they name two specific crimes—bribery and treason.

  • Joe Friday on February 06, 2012 5:54 PM:

    IF THE SHOE FITS:

    Just from the April 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City forward, the radical American RightWing has initiated MORE THAN 60 TERRORIST PLOTS inside our country:

    * Plots to bomb government buildings, banks, gasoline refineries, utility companies, medical clinics, synagogues, mosques, and bridges

    * Plots to assassinate police officers, government officials, judges, politicians, civil rights figures, and others

    * Plots to rob banks, armored cars, and firearms dealers

    * Plots to accumulate illegal machine guns, missiles, rocket launchers, explosives, not to mention chemical and biological weapons

  • nitpicker on February 07, 2012 8:28 AM:

    Meanwhile, here in the real world:

    The FBI is being inundated with calls from local government officials asking for assistance in dealing with anti-government extremists, officials said.

  • Ten Bears on February 07, 2012 11:03 AM:

    As I recall, Bush's DHS 2009 report warned local law enforcement agencies to be on the watch for those who carry The Constitution in their pocket, as they may be 'terrorists'. Which is exactly why I carry a pocket copy of The Constitution of the United states of America in my pocket... right along side of my pocket copy of Sun Tzu's Art of War, and my Colt double-action .357 magnum revolver.

    As a Pissed Off Pistol Packing Progressive, I like it when the reichwing crazies spout their amassing of weaponry and intent to "violently overthrow" the government. I chuckle, shake my head and think to myself "you boys just go on ahead and attract as much attention to yourselves as you need."