One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

You've probably read about the latest report on the dangers of right-wing terrorism to come out of the US Federal Government, in this case the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. I'd like to begin by acknowledging the disclaimer on the report, which states that the opinions are the author's only, and not those of the government, the DOD, etc. Fair enough!

That said, The Atlantic would like you to know that the report shows that there is a rising scale of domestic right-wing terrorism. They highlight the report's findings that "in the 1990s the average number of attacks per year was 70.1, the average number of attacks per year in the first 11 years of the twenty-first century was 307.5, a rise of more than 400%."

OK, again, fair enough. Apparently there is a rising tide of violence from right wing groups. However, I have a question about the composition of the groups described as violent.

Two of the three divisions the author proposes aren't very controversial. He mentions racist groups such as the KKK, and "Christian Identity" groups such as the Aryan Nations. These two divisions seem to be responsible for the rising tide of violence.

But then there is a third division in the report, a so-called "anti-federalist" movement. Here's the description of them.
Violence derived from the modern anti-federalist movement appeared in full force only in the early to mid-1990s and is interested in undermining the influence, legitimacy and effective sovereignty of the federal government and its proxy organizations. The anti-federalist rationale is multifaceted, and includes the beliefs that the American political system and its proxies were hijacked by external forces interested in promoting a “New World Order” (NWO) in which the United States will be absorbed into the United Nations or another version of global government. They also espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights. Finally, they support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government. Extremists in the anti-federalist movement direct most their violence against the federal government and its proxies in law enforcement.
Now that sounds to me like he's talking about Timothy McVeigh and his co-conspirators, and indeed it turns out that he begins the main part of his report by talking about McVeigh.

However, it seems strange to bring this up as if it were a living movement. If we're talking about the 'violence derived from the anti-federalist movement only appearing in the early-to-mid 1990s,' then we are talking about the period when the violence from such groups was minimal and statistically insignificant. More than that, we're saying that this minimal, statistically insignificant period of violence represents the high point of violence from this group.

Now, on the other hand, since 2010 there has been a very loud, viable anti-federalist movement called the TEA Party. But it doesn't advocate the violent overthrow of anything. It doesn't direct violence toward law enforcement, or anyone else. It doesn't go on about any 'New World Order.' It does, however, "espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights [and] support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government."

In other words, insofar as you want to talk about the KKK and racist skinheads, there's no problem. If those groups are increasingly violent and dangerous, we can talk about how to address that problem.

If you want to use this report to paint the loudest and most effective political opposition to the President and Democratic Senate as terrorists, however, people are right to be disturbed. It is not at all clear to me that it is appropriate to suggest that there is anything like an "anti-federalist" movement that embraces both the TEA Party and the late and un-lamented Timothy McVeigh. I think, in fact, it is a dangerous sort of slander, at a time when the government is asserting "anti-terrorist" powers that are undefined and subject to no clear limits.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Emotionally, this is what it feels like to them. To be against the Federal Government, especially when a Democrat is in the WH suggests danger and violence to them. Mere opposition is suspect, however much they protest that they have no objection to differing viewpoints.

Yet they do. I have wondered if it is projection, and relatedly, if it is a response to the perceived threat against acquiring resources that a competing political tribe has. I think both of those things have some weight, and help sustain liberalism.

But the desire to see oneself as a heroic good person, out rescuing the world and being on the side of the angels, is the stronger motive. If one would be a hero, one's adversaries must become very formidable and very evil.

RonF said...

Anti-Federalist? The Tea Party adores the concept of a Federal government! The issue they have is that the present government isn't a Federal government - it usurps government functions properly belonging to the States while neglecting the very responsibilities that it properly has (e.g., enforcing immigration laws).

Grim said...

Good point, Ron. If the Feds abided cleanly by the 10th Amendment, 99% of the TEA Party's complaints with the central government would be resolved. There might be a whole new raft of complaints with state and local governments, but that's the right scale at which to handle problems like this. (For example, see the recent post on how Georgia's government is addressing budget priorities -- something states do but the Feds don't because states can't print money.)

Anonymous said...

I call BS- I would like to see citations on those 300 "incidents" a year- With the overwhelming liberal slant to the news,that would result in any such incidents being run front and center, and my obsession with reading the news, ,I simply do not believe the number-at all. Just have not seen any reports of anywhere near that magnitude.

It seems pretty obvious with the deletion of the term Jihad and so forth from the Nation Security lexicon, and the issuing of reports like this, and the language coming from the MSM, that the anti-terror swivel gun of infinite reprisal is being swung around to sweep the decks of any domestic opposition.
Once they define a terrorist, that person or group is pretty much literally beyond the pale, with no legal recourse at all. This is a bad portent.