Back in April and May I wrote a whole series of posts about how the Right was systematically trumping-up a controversy over the Department of Homeland Security Report, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” [PDF,]” which eventually led the DHS to pull the report.
Now, in light of the murder of Dr. George Tiller and the recent shooting at the Holocaust Museum, we’re seeing a variety of pieces claiming that these events validate the report’s warnings. And undoubtedly they do, but the irony here is that this report was never about run-of-the-mill conservatives or right-wing political groups – it was focused on violent, racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-government extremists – but it was the conservatives and right-wing political groups who made it about them.
In the very first post I wrote about this issue, I noted that when I first read this report, I ignored it because it was of no use to me and what I do at this blog:
While I am always on the look-out for things demonstrating the extremism of the Religious Right, this report focused solely on violent racist and anti-government groups and since we tend not to cover such groups here, the report had little to offer.
Or so I thought. As it turns out, the report was apparently exactly about the Religious Right groups we follow here … or at least that is what Religious Right groups are insisting, based entirely on a single footnote that says:
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 Right immediately seized on this one footnote in the ten page report, calling it an attack on Christ and turning it into a fund-raising opportunity. But, as I repeatedly tried to point out, the report wasn’t about them and I couldn’t understand why they kept insisting that it was, leading to this post asking “Why Is The Right Willingly Conflating Itself With Violent Extremists?” and doing so by intentionally misrepresenting what it said while running ads demanding DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s resignation:
Everything about this ad is either misleading or outright false, especially this claim:
Ignoring the real threats to our security from known Islamic jihad terrorist cells currently training terrorists on American soil, DHS, instead, has declared law-abiding citizens who express their First Amendment Rights as: “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States” and has initiated domestic spying on them.
Here is what the DHS report actually says:
DHS/I&A assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States. Information from law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations indicates lone wolves and small terrorist cells have shown intent—and, in some cases, the capability—to commit violent acts.
It’s not “law-abiding citizens who express their First Amendment Rights” that DHS says are “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States,” its “lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology.”
How completely unhinged has the Right become when they are now paraphrasing “small terrorist cells” to mean “law-abiding citizens” and then using that false characterization in order to play the victim?
The report was not a warning about mainstream conservative political groups or lawful anti-abortion activists or religious organizations – it was a report about violent, radical extremists. But it was the Right that intentionally conflated the two and now, in the wake of two high-profile violent acts carried out by right-wing extremists, it is the Right that is insisting that they have nothing in common with such people.
And that is exactly the point: the report was not about them, but they made it about them because they thought they could score some political points and raise money by doing so.
How ridiculous and crass this phony controversy became can pretty much be summed up by these cards, which the Liberty Counsel is still selling on its website, that, in light of the recent attacks, seem to be in pretty poor taste: