Great Moments in Rightwing Victimhood

Jesse Walker, via Sullivan. Bolding mine.

Why did the DHS report come under such fire? It wasn’t because far-right cranks are incapable of committing crimes. It’s because the paper blew the threat of right-wing terror out of proportion, just as the Clinton administration did in the ’90s; because it treated “extremism” itself as a potential threat, while offering a definition of extremist so broad it seemed it include anyone who opposed abortion or immigration or excessive federal power; and because it fretted about the danger of “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities.”

You know what else blew up in the ’90s? The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Idiot.

***note***

This post inexplicably disappeared from the site a few minutes after I wrote it, so I re-wrote it and posted it again. Apologies to any commenters whose stuff might have disappeared. We may have two threads if the original one wanders back from the bar at some point.

***Update***

Jesse responds here that he specifically meant to condemn the civil liberties aspects of laws passed in response to the attacks by al Qaeda and Tim McVeigh. This is a criticism that both liberals and honest libertarians have made at least through the Bush administration. Therefore, at least with respect to that concern, I do not disagree in the slightest.

However, the questionable wisdom with which Congress reacted to either attack does not excuse his profoundly unimpressive claim that either threat was blown out of proportion. A country cannot ignore terrorist groups that are willing and able to level buildings full of innocent people. The libertarian ideal of laissez faire simply fails in this case. By the following election, if not sooner, any government that fails to respond to an assault like that will be replaced by representatives who will.

Nobody thinks that we should ever stop debating the wisest way to mediate violent threats. More accurately, I should say nobody thinks that but Republicans and the criminally stupid. But I repeat myself. Hell, I wrote about the civil liberties consequences of terrorist hysteria while wannabe Jack Bauers like Glenn Reynolds still credibly called themselves libertarian.

We can talk about whether we have accurately gauged the risk from various potential threats. When we’re done with that conversation, we can talk about the right and wrong way to handle threats. Mushing them together runs the risk that we accidentally wander into the unacceptable consequences fallacy. The badness of a proposed remedy does not ipso facto prove that a threat was inaccurately gauged.

75 replies
  1. 1
    AhabTRuler says:

    Errrr, you forgot the bolding this time.

  2. 2
    Tim F. says:

    Thanks. Fixd. I may need to hit that bar myself.

  3. 3
    Zach says:

    I really don’t get why it’s so unreasonable to think that Glen Beck + crazy people = more terrorism than crazy people alone. Ditto for Operation Rescue + crazy people (although posting pictures of women visiting Planned Parenthood online is pretty crazy and terrifying), racism + crazy people, etc.

    Crazy people with no involvement in extremist groups are less often involved in political violence than those who are involved in those groups.

    Also, the Feds defined “anyone who opposed excessive federal power” as extremist because, in the 90s, those people were forming lawless militias and undertaking military training in preparation for civil war. I don’t think Clinton was surveilling Grover Norquist.

  4. 4
    Punchy says:

    if the original one wanders back from the bar at some point.

    Speakin of…can we pulEEEZE get some Friday Beer Blogging today? Is it too much to ask our resident post-doc to chug a few brewskis at lunch and then report on their “lip” or “tail” or “head” or whatever the fuck fancy beerdrinkers use to describe the flavor?

    TIA!

  5. 5
    geg6 says:

    If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, the macho poseurs on the right are only compensating for the fact that every single one of them is a WATB. They’re the guys who got wedgies in the locker room who you’d have felt sorry for if they’d been in any way sympathetic or likeable. But they aren’t, so you just snickered.

  6. 6
    Sirkowski says:

    How dare the government victimize all those poor bigots, fascists and seditionists!

  7. 7
    Comrade Dread says:

    I wasn’t part of the great freak out.

    But I think his point is that there is a profound difference between people who believe in smaller national government and those who believe that and are willing to blow up a building to try an achieve it. Which is reasonable.

    His assertion is that the DHS report did not differentiate between the two sufficiently, so that the net it cast would seem to cover people who would never think of harming another human being, much less engaging in rebellion or secession.

    I think his assertion is incorrect, but I can understand the sentiment of wanting to make sure that the government agents who have the power of life and death over us understand that difference between holding a belief and holding a belief and being willing to engage in violence over it.

    I don’t know Mr. Walker personally, but at least half of the libertarian crowd was critical of the government’s infiltration and treatment of the anti-war protesters as well, so I would cut them the benefit of the doubt and assume that was the reason behind their objection and not simple right-wing ODS insanity.

  8. 8
    El Cid says:

    Yeah, it’s not like anything bad ever came out of that militia / ‘patriot’ movement which declared that Bill Clinton was a murdering soci_alist preparing to collaborate with the UN and the Russians to declare martial law. What?

  9. 9
    blogenfreude says:

    Andrew Breitbart – comedy gold.

  10. 10
    AhabTRuler says:

    @Tim F.: Two guys walk into a bar, which is funny because you would think that one of them would have seen it!

  11. 11
    blogenfreude says:

    @blogenfreude: Oops – you guys already got there. That is some Grade A batshit insanity.

  12. 12
    tc125231 says:

    But I think his point is that there is a profound difference between people who believe in smaller national government and those who believe that and are willing to blow up a building to try an achieve it. Which is reasonable.

    You know, I am not in sympathy with the sympathizers here. No one has ever suggested making talk illegal. Nonetheless, if you are analyzing possible sources of domestic terrorism, you have to assume that those referring to other people –of any category –engaged in LEGAL behaviors with epithets such as “murderer”, “traitor”, etc. to be more likely to be so seriously disaffected from the social and legal mores of the nation as to be willing to engage in extra-legal violence.

    Do you think it’s more likely that crabby but low key ex-Methodist Sunday school teachers, such as myself, will engage in violence?

    OK –but the statistics aren’t with you.

    You win at poker by playing the odds. The same applies to preventing crime and catching criminals.

    It’s as simple as that.

  13. 13
    Ash says:

    @Comrade Dread: I’m pretty sure law enforcement officials can adequately tell the difference between someone who goes around saying, “Get rid of the FED!” and “Get rid of the FED or I’m gonna do something bad about it!”

    The only people who apparently CAN’T figure it out are the WATB, and for some reason think all the crazies are in it together.

  14. 14
    Ben JB says:

    This may be a little lit history-nerdy, but the right-wing freakout over the domestic terrorism report reminds me of the Church freakout over Moliere’s play “Tartuffe,” to which Moliere consistently said (paraphrased) “But I’m not talking about you guys, I’m talking about religious hypocrites–and you only look like religious hypocrites because you’re standing up for them.”

  15. 15
    Jesse Walker says:

    Come on, Tim. Oklahoma City does not mean that no one blew the threat of right-wing terror out of proportion, any more than 9/11 means that no one blew the threat of Islamic terror out of proportion. The 1996 Antiterrorism Act was a civil liberties nightmare, just like the Patriot Act half a dozen years later.

  16. 16
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    and you only look like religious hypocrites because you’re standing up for them

    Exactly. When was the last time Republicans threw a crazy person under the bus? I can’t think of any. Some guy calls Obama a “terrorist” at a McCain rally, and the Republicans whine and moan when the Secret Service investigates. Not a good way to differentiate themselves.

  17. 17
    Jon says:

    Don’t forget, the ’90s also featured the Eric Rudolph bombings, which included two abortion clinics and a gay bar.

  18. 18
    SGEW says:

    I still hold that the DHS report, with its ambiguous language and nonspecificity, was not a moment of glory for our federal gov’t. To say the least. Void for vagueness.

    It would be hypocritical of me indeed to not criticize the report for the same problems seen in the previous report on “left wing” extremism: you know, the one that was a data point in the serial attempts by various law enforcement agencies (local and federal) to infiltrate, disrupt, wiretap, and malign a vast swath of legitimate, perfectly legal, and constitutionally protected interest groups. As for myself, I have been personally wiretapped because of my involvement with non-violent political speech (illegally, I believe (as does the ACLU)), and I criticized the previous DHS report as needlessly encouraging that sort of unconstitutional (or, at the very least, constitutionally questionable) behavior by officials.

    There are important differences, of course. Stoking concern about definitionally non-violent groups (e.g., Quakers, Greenpeace) or entire “lifestyles” (vegan pot luck dinners? wtf?) is, imho, far more absurd than warnings about extremely legitimate (and, as we have seen recently, rather imminent) threats of violence from violent, armed hate groups who have a verified domestic history of violence against civilians. Wiretapping pacifist organizations is a pretty silly waste of resources if you’re trying to avert violence. Etc.

    However: Even if ELF or EarthFirst! really did have a violent “terrorist” wing (e.g., if the property damaging actions wound up killing people, or if tree spiking campaigns continued and led to deaths, or if the Sea Shepherds lost their frickin’ minds and starting shooting Japanese whalers), there would still have been aspects of the report that were (imo) unacceptably vague. Cast too wide a net, and you are violating civil liberties. Investigating and infiltrating peaceful groups is still a dangerous, slippery slope: it all too often leads to instigation and demonization which could, counter-productively, lead to radicalization.

    The most recent DHS report (mostly written and compiled by the Bush administration, remember) suffers from much of the same dangerous ambiguity and, when viewed from a civil liberties standpoint, unconstitutional vagueness that the previous one did. Ron Paul supporters are overwhelmingly peaceful, responsible citizens. Having a Bob Barr sticker on your pickup truck does not indicate threat. Peaceful, public political sentiment should never ever land someone on a list somewhere, as a potential “threat.” Ask any historian where this sort of thinking leads.

    Worse still, this sort of wide net undercuts legitimate and necessary monitoring of actual violent threats. Monitoring Glenn Beck parties will, if anything, lead to further suspicion of authoritarian tyranny which would (among other things) decrease the chances of the group self monitoring and rejecting and reporting actual nutcases. Think of mosques: anyone here object to having agents spy on them in 2002?

    The government should do everything it can do to protect citizens from violent terrorism. But it must not violate our constitutional liberties while it does so. Those who would sacrifice essential liberties etc. etc. All that.

    [As I am already in the tl;dr zone, I leave aside delineations on hate speech, separatism, secession and “treason,” the right to peaceful assembly, and religious freedom. All important points, but, I believe, nonessential to my main point.]

  19. 19
    Rosali says:

    Don’t forget, the ‘90s also featured the Eric Rudolph bombings, which included two abortion clinics and a gay bar.

    And the 1996 Olympics

  20. 20
    Zach says:

    @Jesse Walker: In what sense was the 96 act a civil liberties nightmare? It restricted but didn’t eliminate habeas appeals… what else?

    The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act is nothing like the Patriot Act, and the response to 9/11 is nothing like the response to OKC. What thousands of people were indiscriminately rounded up following the OKC bombing? As I recall, we didn’t even shut down militias.

  21. 21
    Zach says:

    @SGEW: What evidence do you have that the government was monitoring Glen Beck parties?

  22. 22
    El Cid says:

    It was urgent for police to surveil and monitor and even infiltrate liberal and leftist protesters at the Republican National Conventions, but, by god, don’t you dare suggest that right wing extremists ought to be monitored as a possible source of violence like they always are, because that’s un-American.

  23. 23
    SGEW says:

    @Zach: None at all! I wasn’t even alleging that that was the case: rather, I was trying to illustrate an example (a corollary with monitoring vegan pot luck dinners, which did happen) of where this sort of thing leads to. Hope that’s clearer.

  24. 24
    iluvsummr says:

    @Rosali: What ever happened to that poor guy they originally arrested for the olympic bombings (security guard who tried to help people out; I’ve forgotten his name)?
    He was all over the news as the main suspect before Rudolph got arrested.

    Hope he was able to put his life back together after that ordeal.

  25. 25
    adolphus says:

    I think Jesse and Radley’s thoughts on this issue should be taken a little more seriously. While I don’t agree 100%, it wasn’t too long ago that the Maryland State Police was using threats of possible left wing extremism to infiltrate and possibly illegally tap phones of bicycle activists and Quaker peace groups.

    Ash: I wish I had your faith in law enforcement’s judgment, but I don’t. Time and again ambitious local DA’s and police use and misuse of every tool at their disposal to advance their careers, victimize powerless opponents, confiscate the property of others, and even get away with murder.

    Like I said before, I don’t totally agree with either Jesse or Radley on this. Vigilance against possible extremist violence from the left or the right should be taken seriously and monitored. But citizens have to be vigilant against law enforcement painting too broad a stroke.

    I will also say Jesse and Radley are consistent. Both were as outraged at the peremptory detention of left protesters before the Republican Convention.In an era when SWAT teams are being used to break up poker games and arrest (and accidentally kill) optometrists who engage in bar bets, I am willing to listen to their cautionary essays and take them to heart.

  26. 26
    John Cole says:

    @Jesse Walker: Actually, wasn’t much of the 96 act stripped because Republicans did not want the Clenis to have that authority, and then eventually enacted in the Patriot Act? I’m too busy and lazy to look it up right now, but my general understanding is that is the case.

    Regardless, this DHS report was neither the 96 act or the Patriot Act. It wasn’t proposed legislation. It wasn’t a call in infilitrate anti-war groups or to put every returning veteran through a screening process and document their every move ala sex offenders. It was a nothing burger of a report that people freaked out about because it was politically advantageous. Claiming otherwise is to engage in theatre of the absurd, and you are simply offending my intelligence. They cynically seized on it because it neatly fit their “ZOMG DEMOCRATS HATE THE TROOPS” narrative. You know it and I know it.

    Like I said the other day, this was akin to the DHS telling people to watch for unattended packages in airports, and contra Radley, I think when you have a string of packages blow up in succession, you can make a connection. We have the Pittsburgh shootings, the Tiller murder, the shootings in Florida, the holocaust museum, and other incidents I am forgetting. Why did these sorts of things not happen before President Malcolm X no-birth certificate gonna take your guns away Shabazz Obama became President. Could it be that with the uncertain economic times, the elevation of a black President in the presence of heated rhetoric and extreme fringe right completely uncomfortable with Republicans out of power, there might be a connection?

    I mean, it is almost like someone wrote a report suggesting this might happen.

  27. 27
    John Cole says:

    @iluvsummr: Richard Jewell was his name, and he died recently, penniless and with his life in tatters, if I remember correctly. He had severe diabetes and heart issues, I think.

  28. 28
    El Cid says:

    It was a nothing burger of a report that people freaked out about because it was politically advantageous.

    It wasn’t even that. It was a draft version of the DHS report which was on several agency websites, the report hasn’t been withdrawn, it has never been issued.

    Furthermore, People for the American Way are calling for the report to be expedited.

    I don’t personally see any great consequence of that other than (a) DHS saying, ‘no, we’re not going to let freak ass rightwing hissy fits control our jobs’, and (b) sending a message to the actual right wingers likely to be closer to those on the edge of violence that, yes, the DHS is looking at you.

    Which is a good thing.

    ************************

    PFAW Calls for DHS to Publish “Rightwing Extremism” Report

    In the past two weeks, our nation has experienced two significant instances of domestic terrorism. The murders of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider, and Stephen T. Johns, a security guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, were intended not only as horrific acts of violence directed at innocent individuals, but as efforts to terrorize and intimidate specific groups of Americans.

    In April, the Department of Homeland Security released a valuable report entitled “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” The report was met with outrage from right wing groups, many of whose activities were not mentioned or alluded to in the report, but who found protesting the report to be a convenient political stunt. With the support of sympathetic media outlets, these groups managed to exaggerate and distort the report’s findings.

    Although the report was withdrawn with the intent of being rewritten, the events of the last two weeks show that its core findings are fundamentally correct: “The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.” The Department of Homeland Security is charged with protecting the security of all Americans, and it is essential for the American public to have the unvarnished truth about the rise of dangerous extremism in this country.

    I urge you to expedite the approval of the “Rightwing Extremism” report and release a final version as soon as possible. Moreover, the report should offer the best available assessment of possible threats from far-right groups and individuals, no matter how politically inconvenient the findings might be to some groups. If the report can not be released immediately, please announce publicly the current status of the report and when you expect it to be published.

    Ensuring that law enforcement agents and the public have the best possible information about the threat posed by the far right is a crucial step in helping to contain the violence we are now experiencing.

    Sincerely,

    Michael B. Keegan
    President
    People For the American Way

  29. 29

    @John Cole: I don’t know if he was penniless but here is a NYT write up on his passing>

  30. 30
    GregB says:

    We have also had the neo-Nazi trust find dude in Maine that died while in possession of dirty bomb material.

    Plus the African-American church in Springfield Mass. that was burned down on election night.

    Plus some wingnut in Brockton that went on a shooting spree targeting Blacks, gays and Jews.

    But remember, it is Sarah Palin and the white Christians of America who are under attack.

    -G

  31. 31
    SGEW says:

    [perhaps I should clarify further]

    I am not criticizing the existence of the DHS report: rather, I am criticizing its vagueness/ambiguity, and its problematic stylistic lumping together of legitimate political sentiment (e.g., Ron Paul “Revolution” stickers, or positions on specific federal policy) with actual violent threats. My example “what if” (i.e., what if ELF was actually out killing people, or Code Pink had put bombs in recruitment centers) still holds: those legitimate threats would still not justify warning law enforcement agencies about the local anti-war group. Again, think of the examples of mosques or Islamic charity groups after, well, you know.

    If a group of anti-war modern-day-Weathermen-on-meth shot up a police station or something, the DHS still shouldn’t warn state governments about people who have an “End The War” bumper sticker on their car.

    Warning local law enforcement to look out for signs of violent extremism is non-objectionable, but must be handled very carefully so as not to create a top-down environment of suspicion of types of political thought. Chilling effects. Slippery slopes. Are you now or have you ever been. Broad brush.

  32. 32
    Rosali says:

    Richard Jewell received an apology from the FBI and he received settlements from newspapers and the TV news media for libel and slander.

    I’ve heard that the tape of his FBI interrogation is now used to teach agents what NOT to do.

  33. 33
    Kirk Spencer says:

    @John Cole: Not penniless. Piedmont College – which fired him due to the accusations (the President had made public derogatory statements at the time) paid an undisclosed amount in settlement. NBC paid $500,000 in settlement while insisting there was no basis. The New York post settled for an undisclosed amount but was facing $15 million in court. The suit with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (more accurately with the ownership, Cox Enterprises) was dismissed by the Georgia Supreme Court after Jewell’s death. (The attorney, at the behest of the estate, is appealing higher, but that’s unlikely to succeed.)

  34. 34
    Zach says:

    @SGEW: My point is that this isn’t the sort of thing that leads to that. Incompetent resource management and oversight leads to those problems. See stupid ICE raids under Bush’s DHS, ignorantly detaining people with the similar names as terrorists, your example of surveilling hippies, Maryland state police infiltrating radical coffee shops, etc. These were less a result of an irrational fear at the highest level than simple mismanagement and idiocy.

    Conversely, the DHS report is just warning people to keep their eyes open; in combination with poor management, this could lead to subordinates doing the kind of stuff you’re worried about, but incompetent people would find some other way to fuck up absent this memo.

  35. 35
    noncarborundum says:

    You know what else blew up in the ‘90s? The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

    Not to mention the fact that, from what I’ve read, the description “military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities” fit McVeigh like a glove.

  36. 36
    Notorious P.A.T. says:

    The Onion never has to worry about being out of work:

    http://www.theonion.com/conten.....=b-section

  37. 37
    iluvsummr says:

    @John Cole: That’s awful…

  38. 38
    Jesse Walker says:

    John: Yes, the worst parts of it were stripped, and then came back at PATRIOT time. But the stuff that remained — I’m thinking particularly of the use of secret evidence — was pretty bad; and for the purposes of the statement in my original blog post, what’s important is what the administration asked for.

    My main problems with the DHS report, and similar documents such as the various “fusion center” papers that came to light, were summed up well in this piece from the ACLU, which laid out the problems with “reports that focus on ideology instead of criminal activity.” In its report on the right — and its similar report on the left — the DHS fretted about “extremism,” which it then went on to define in an overbroad way. But extremism isn’t the problem.

    Finally, these things did “happen before President Malcolm X no-birth certificate gonna take your guns away Shabazz Obama became President.” Read the DHS report — it lists several such crimes. I don’t see any evidence that we’re seeing some sort of new pattern here.

  39. 39
    El Cid says:

    @SGEW: Every leftist and campus group I’ve ever been a part of has been monitored or infiltrated in one way or another by at least the local police, and no one ever caused much of a stink. (Thankfully only once was it apparently a provocateur and the dude was such an obvious idiot it was obvious and he went away.)

    As much as I hate government spying and infiltrating of legal groups, I don’t particularly mind such an agency saying that if there were to arise from these milieu any individuals committed to using terroristic methods, here is what you would look for.

    Does that mean I support pre-emptively tapping the phones of liberal and left protest groups, just in case? No.

    But you know what never happened, never even once locally? No police ever approached any of our groups to ask, hey, were there any individuals we were alarmed about, or who had spoken of or threatened to carry out any violent or terrorist acts. There weren’t, but there could have been.

  40. 40
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Why did these sorts of things not happen before President Malcolm X no-birth certificate Cardinal Ximenez / Irish Mafia gonna take your guns away Shabazz Obama John Fitzgerald Kennedy became President. Could it be that with the uncertain economic times, the elevation of a black n****r-loving Catholic President in the presence of heated rhetoric and extreme fringe right completely uncomfortable with Republicans out of power, there might be a connection?

    fixt, for historical parallels.

    The extreme Right likes to stick with what it knows. Why invent new tricks when you can party like it’s 1962? None of this is particularly new, it is just more visible now due to AM radio, cable TV and teh intertubes. Look up the history of the John Birch Society, for just one example.

    They freaked out when FDR and Truman were elected.
    They freaked out when JFK was elected.
    They freaked out after LBJ was elected.
    They freaked out when Clinton was elected.
    Seems to be a pattern here.

    I’m trying to figure out why things were so quiet after Carter was elected – was it because he was Born-Again and from the South, or did they freak out in 1977 and I just don’t remember it?

  41. 41
    SGEW says:

    Two more things, in semi-response/clarification:

    — One of my biggest concerns is that the DHS reports are specifically from the Federal government, as guidelines for local enforcement. I believe[1] that the Feds are supposed to protect us from local law enforcement, and try to ensure that state and municipal governments do not violate our constitutional rights. Top-down guidelines that extend the vagueness of civil liberties protection can create a trickle-down effect of laxness and can encourage violations. I guess I’m in the camp of people who are more concerned about threats against our liberties from the government than I am about threats against our lives from nutjobs and the occasional violent extremist. My personal, post 9/11 reaction. More security guard unions and better police training – less vague warnings and “threat level” kabuki theater.

    — None of this undermines accusations of hypocrisy on the part of the right wing now decrying the report, of course (where were they when I was being wiretapped?). But I hope that “we” on the “left” can hold ourselves to a higher standard, and see this as a civil liberties vs. security issue rather than a political or partisan one.

    [1] Insert discussion of 14th Amendment here.

  42. 42
    Zach says:

    @Jesse Walker: I’m looking at the DHS memo right now; how does it “define in an overbroad way?”

    Here’s the definition in the memo:

    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.

    It’s not defining any of these groups as “right wing extremists” but rather subdividing the different motivations behind right wing extremist groups. Reading the whole thing, extremist groups are always characterized by rhetoric encouraging violence (in most instances without specific threats); every concern expressed in the report is a specific possibility for violent attacks backed by historical references.

    The definition of right-wing extremism employed by the report is clear: individuals or groups posing a violent threat within the country who are motivated by white supremacy, anti-government views, or, more rarely, abortion rights and being scared of Mexicans. There’s nothing in the report that remotely suggests concern about peaceful groups advocating for the same issues; it’s all about discussions of violence, specific acts of violence, and threats of violence within these groups.

  43. 43
    Scott says:

    There’s a lot of reasons I should dislike Sonny Perdue, but he officially commended Richard Jewell as a hero a few months before he died, and I’ve always respected him for that alone.

    Jewell endured a lot of shit for being the hero of the Olympic Park bombing. It’s a shame that there are online fanpages for Eric Rudolph and no statues anywhere of Richard Jewell.

  44. 44
    Zach says:

    @Jesse Walker:

    John: Yes, the worst parts of it were stripped, and then came back at PATRIOT time. But the stuff that remained—I’m thinking particularly of the use of secret evidence—was pretty bad; and for the purposes of the statement in my original blog post, what’s important is what the administration asked for.

    The act as passed only allows for the introduction of FISA evidence in cases about the deportation of alien terrorists on the basis of classified intelligence. Obviously this can be abused, but you’re omitting a pretty key point there. What other stuff remained that was pretty bad?

    Thanks for posting that note, by the way. It’s interesting to match Gingrich’s rhetoric today on trying terrorists based on secret evidence and evidence elicited by torture in American courts with his uncompromisable opposition to allowing FISA evidence in deportation hearings.

    Ditto for complaining about designating foreign groups “terrorist” and then clamoring for Obama to apply the label to North Korea, Iran, and just about every Palestinian political group.

  45. 45
    Xanthippas says:

    @ John Cole: I was going to respond to Walker’s comment, but obviously it’s been handled.

  46. 46
    SGEW says:

    [googles, reads, grimaces]

    Well, I suppose I should’ve read the actual DHS memos before I opened my god damned mouth, right? I was confused, it seems, between the original DHS draft, unverified, anonymously sourced news reports of unpublished drafts, and some fuckwad state agency’s report in Missouri (“I’ll be dead in the cold, cold ground ‘fore I recognize the state of Missouri!” – Abe Simpson) that got shitcanned as soon as it was publicized.

    In any event, my objections stand. They are just almost purely abstract and theoretical, it seems.

    O! The indignities of not reading primary documents. This, my friends, is an excellent reason for pseudo-pseudonymity.

  47. 47
    Marc with a C says:

    You know, until 9/11 the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States was carried out by Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols, two right-wing “patriots.”

    Since the 1980s, we have had:

    1) Mathews’ and Lane’s Silent Brotherhood (spree of bank robberies and the murder of Alan Berg),

    2) Eric Rudolph (two abortion clinics, one gay bar, and the 96 Olympics), OKC (168 killed, 850+ wounded),

    3) that spate of black church arsons in the the mid and late 90s,

    4) James Cummings (the ME dirty bomb-builder),

    5) Richard Poplawski (3 cops killed, 1 wounded),

    6) Scott Roeder (George Tiller Murder),

    7) James Kopp (Barnett Slepian Murder)

    8) Chevie and Cheyne Kehoe (Aryan nations shootout with OH state troopers in 1997)

    9) Buford Furrow (rampage outside Jewish daycare in 1999, 1 killed, 4 wounded)

    10) Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman (plotted to go on an anti-black rampage in 2008)

    And countless others (and I’m not even counting people who MIGHT have acted because of their political beliefs, just people who obviously did).

    What has the left done in that time period? I mean, ELF and ALF have been listed as terrorist organizations, but they’ve never killed anybody, just committed arson and freed lab animals. There have been terrorist attacks in the US directed at soldiers and recruiting stations, but these have all been done by Muslims who other than being angry at the war on Iraq and Afghanistan have little in common with the left (and arguably a lot more in common with the right).

    But lord knows, infiltrating those Quaker meetings in 2002-2003 was worth it.

  48. 48
    b-psycho says:

    Tim: Jesse Walker is probably the most left-friendly Reasonian they’ve got, yet you lump him in with right-wingers on the strength of one comment?

  49. 49
    Jesse Walker says:

    Zach: It’s pretty much habeas. The 1996 law’s ill effects in that area are on display in the Troy Davis case.

    As far as the definition of extremism goes: I’m aware that it’s possible to read that passage the way you do, which is why I used the caveatish phrase “seemed to” in my original blog post when I alluded to the infamous passage about abortion. But the sloppiness with which that passage was composed has leaked into the rest of the report, which teetertotters between discussing violence and simply discussing ideology. (Even the references to “militia groups” are overvague on that score. McVeigh was not a member of a militia, and the Nichols brothers were kicked out of their militia group because of their interest in violence.) I don’t think it was wrong for nonviolent pro-life, pro-gun, etc. groups to feel they’d been tarred with that brush. Especially in light of the report on left-wing extremism, which specifically cited nonviolent groups such as the Ruckus Society and Crimethinc.

  50. 50
    Mike P says:

    @Jesse Walker:

    Jesse says:

    In its report on the right—and its similar report on the left—the DHS fretted about “extremism,” which it then went on to define in an overbroad way. But extremism isn’t the problem.

    Finally, these things did “happen before President Malcolm X no-birth certificate gonna take your guns away Shabazz Obama became President.” Read the DHS report—it lists several such crimes. I don’t see any evidence that we’re seeing some sort of new pattern here.

    Well, for one thing, virtually no one on the political right will even acknowledge that there was a similar report discussing extremism on the left, so bully for doing so (and I know you’re not on the right, by the way).

    But here’s my question…let’s set aside the simple fact that some on the right are conflating conservatism with the kind of actual extremism we’ve seen recently (the Holocaust Museum shooting, the Pittsburgh shooting, Tiller) in some kind of effort to up their persecution index, are you and Balko actually saying that there’s no kind of plausible connection between folks like Beck bleating about FEMA concentration camps and O’Reilly calling people “baby killers” and this kind of violence? Now, let it be said that the talking heads are well within their 1st Amendment rights to talk, but you don’t think they have some kind of responsibility to tone this stuff down? These guys are playing with fire and we all know it.

    In a sense this kind of taking offense at the use of a broad brush harks back to the accusations hurled at people who dared oppose warrant less wiretapping when that came to light; “if you’re not doing anything wrong, what do you have to worry about?”

  51. 51
    Nellcote says:

    #47 and that guy that shot up the Unitarian Church service a couple of months ago, specifically wanting to kill everyone in Bernard Goldberg’s list of ‘100 most dangerous’ Liberals.

  52. 52
    Zach says:

    @Jesse Walker: I don’t think the Davis case displays the ill effects of the law one bit. Countless courts have examined the evidence he presented in detail and found it lacking. The 11th Circuit examined the case in detail and found that it was improbable that a jury would have found otherwise in light of this new evidence. Lower courts and state courts recognized that practically all of the new evidence would be inadmissible in a new trial, anyway, and that none of the affidavits filed affirmatively recanted on previous statements identifying Davis as the killer.

    Prior to the ’96 law, courts were already charged with finding whether it was more likely or not that someone was innocent in light of new evidence in granting a new trial under habeas. The Antiterrorism Act modified that standard, but didn’t fundamentally change it. A unanimous Supreme Court ruling affirmed the law’s constitutionality… I doubt all of the Patriot Act challenges that eventually hit the Court will be so clear cut.

  53. 53
    Tim F. says:

    Tim: Jesse Walker is probably the most left-friendly Reasonian they’ve got, yet you lump him in with right-wingers on the strength of one comment?

    I don’t think much about a person’s background when I write a post. A long way back I remember flying off the handle at Atrios for being an asshole to Jeff Goldstein, of all people.

    One reason might be that I generally don’t read the stupid fringe of the blogosphere. I will feel compelled to respond (for example), and it is only useful to speak to people who will hear what you said.

  54. 54
    Jesse Walker says:

    Mike: I don’t think they’re “playing with fire.” Words have influence, of course, but I think the sorts of causal connections people are drawing now resemble the old arguments that Ozzy Osbourne songs cause suicide or The Basketball Diaries causes kids to shoot up schools. If Bill O’Reilly were actively urging people to kill abortionists, that would be one thing. But I don’t think people are morally responsible for all the ways their words can be received.

  55. 55
    bellatrys says:

    did they freak out in 1977 and I just don’t remember it?

    Yes. We did. You don’t remember, but I do. (I was a sign-carrying preskool prolifer then, and I remember the rhetoric of my parents’ friends and the conservative magazines about Carter being a tool of the Devil, and how St. Ronnie was going to save us from the Ebol feminist-communist-neopagan-environmentalist-atheist liberal hegemony, in ’79…)

    Also, google Karen Ann Quinlan – she was the Terry Schiavo of the 1970s. And Brent Bozell has been ranting about sex in the media since I was a kid.

    We just didn’t have Rush/AM radio, Bill O’Reilly/Fox and Matt Drudge back then – it all had to be done via print zines or face-to-face/telephones, back then.

  56. 56
    Jesse Walker says:

    Zach: I don’t want to get drawn into a debate about the Davis case, so we may have to agree to disagree about this one. I do agree that the PATRIOT Act is worse than the bill that preceded it.

  57. 57
    b-psycho says:

    Ok Tim, now you’re just going off the deep end. Since when were any libertarians saying that the proper response to terrorism was to do nothing (edit: and no, pointing out the influence that U.S. belligerence has in the case of swaying the kind from the middle east doesn’t count)?

    Extracting from skepticism of centralized power as a “good” the idea that murder is something to be shrugged at is ridiculous. Even the anarchists among us agree that murder isn’t somehow A-OK. We may not agree with the view that a concentration of a few ambitious people with power can be trusted to be a selfless force of good, but damn, you act like any doubt about that power is little more than nihilism…

  58. 58
    Gregory says:

    @Comrade Dread:

    I think his point is that there is a profound difference between people who believe in smaller national government and those who believe that and are willing to blow up a building to try an achieve it. Which is reasonable.

    You have a point — the Republican Party claims to believe in smaller national government but didn’t do anything at all to achieve it even when it had Bush in the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress.

  59. 59
    Tim F. says:

    @b-psycho:

    You.

    We may not agree with the view that a concentration of a few ambitious people with power can be trusted to be a selfless force of good, but damn,you act like any doubt about that power is little more than nihilism…

    Me, doubting the wisdom of concentrating power in the Executive branch.

    [Doubt about trading civil liberty for alleged safety] is a criticism that both liberals and honest libertarians have made at least through the Bush administration. Therefore, at least with respect to that concern, I do not disagree in the slightest.

    …Nobody thinks that we should ever stop debating the wisest way to mediate violent threats…I wrote about the civil liberties consequences of terrorist hysteria while wannabe Jack Bauers like Glenn Reynolds still credibly called themselves libertarian

  60. 60

    […] the course of slamming Jesse Walker as an ignorant wingnut (seriously, Jesse frickin Walker…) for, while making a good point […]

  61. 61
    b-psycho says:

    @Tim F.: …then what exactly is your beef?

  62. 62

    However, the questionable wisdom with which Congress reacted to either attack does not excuse his profoundly unimpressive claim that either threat was blown out of proportion.

    If Jesse Walker and his libertoid brethren actually believed that their ideology was capable of informing an effective, decent system of government, they wouldn’t feel the need to deny the existence of problems like global warming, right-wing extremism, and a lack of health care access for the poor. They’d be able to explain how libertarian policies can do just as good a job, or perhaps an even better job, of addressing those problems than liberal or conservative policies.

    But they can’t, and the libertoids know it. That’s how you get Jesse Walker insisting that the threat of domestic terror was overblown in the 1990s, or Matt Welch insisting that there was no recession in a column in July 2008, or Ron Bailey insisting that the world is actually getting colder. They realize they are incapable of putting forward solutions that are politically acceptable, so they try to make people feel bad about acknowledging the existence of problems. Pieces like Walker’s are acknowledgments of their failure of their politics.

  63. 63

    One of the reasons Jesse Walker slammed the report when it first came out was because it discussed individuals with extremist ideologies, rather than groups.

    Then we had these two attacks by lone wolf murderers.

    So what does Jesse Walker do? Complain that lone wolf murderers shouldn’t be discussed in reports about terrorism!

    My favorite part of his whine is that lone-wolf terrorists are best addressed by local law enforcement, which is why it was wholly inappropriate for the DHS to put out a report intended to serve as a guide for local law enforcement.

  64. 64
    Jesse Walker says:

    Tim: Your “Jesse replies here” link goes to my personal blog, which is of interest only to people intensely curious about the contents of my old radio playlists. I assume you meant to link to my first comment in this thread instead. I emailed John C. about this (since I can’t find your email address), but maybe it would be faster to tell you this way.

  65. 65

    Right-wing terrorism in the 1990s? Totally overblown. Just a bunch of fearmongering.

    Americorp expansion and a proposal to bring back the Fairness Doctrine that even the President opposes? ZOMG, the Obamabots are going to march us all into camps! Buy guns now because they’re all going to be illegal!

    Gotta love the right.

  66. 66
    Jesse Walker says:

    Joe: When did I slam the report “because it discussed individuals with extremist ideologies, rather than groups”?

  67. 67

    Reason Morning Links: Sneaky Banks, Careless Bureaucrats, Musical Bloggers
    Jesse Walker | April 17, 2009, 7:15am
    • The White House releases the torture memos that guided the Bush-era CIA. Obama won’t prosecute the agents involved. (Some people see some ambiguity in his language. Maybe, but I’m not convinced the loophole is deliberate.)

    • Banks look for ways to refuse bailout money without actually refusing all the bailout money.

    • The City of Baltimore finds $40 million under the cushions.

    • The Department of Homeland Security, not content to fret about broadly defined “right-wing extremists,” is worried about broadly defined “left-wing extremists,” too. Meanwhile, Michael German of the ACLU points out some of the problems with “threat reports that focus on ideology instead of criminal activity.”

  68. 68
    Jesse Walker says:

    Nothing in that post said anything about focusing on groups instead of individuals.

  69. 69
    Anne Laurie says:

    did they freak out in 1977 and I just don’t remember it?”

    Yes. We did. You don’t remember, but I do. (I was a sign-carrying preskool prolifer then, and I remember the rhetoric of my parents’ friends and the conservative magazines about Carter being a tool of the Devil, and how St. Ronnie was going to save us from the Ebol feminist-communist-neopagan-environmentalist-atheist liberal hegemony, in ‘79…)

    Also, google Karen Ann Quinlan – she was the Terry Schiavo of the 1970s. And Brent Bozell has been ranting about sex in the media since I was a kid.

    Bellatrys is correct about the hardliner conservatives. At the same time, the anti-terrorism sector (FBI, NSA) of the permanent government bureaucracy was still, shall we say, shell-shocked over all the lawless despicable Watergate crap that was fresh headline news. Even the true conservative believers inside the Bureau were scared, temporarily, of getting caught standing too close to G. Gordon Liddy or HR Haldeman. Also, to be honest, Carter was his own worst enemy and not much of a friend to “our side”. But it wasn’t until after Reagan’s election that the Hard Guy authoritarians inside the government felt free to once again start promoting murder and civil insurrection in the national media.

  70. 70

    OK, Jesse, I don’t know if it was you personally. You people all kind of look alike. ;-)

    Reason’s posts and comment threads, along with the rest of the right, were pushing that particular argument for weeks after the report was released.

  71. 71
    Tim F. says:

    @Jesse Walker: Sorry that it took me so long to fix. I really should not try to blog while working this freaking hard.

    /goes back to the microscope.

  72. 72
    Tim F. says:

    @b-psycho:

    You.

    …then what exactly is your beef?

    Me.

    We can talk about whether we have accurately gauged the risk from various potential threats. When we’re done with that conversation, we can talk about the right and wrong way to handle threats. Mushing them together runs the risk that we accidentally wander into the unacceptable consequences fallacy. The badness of a proposed remedy does not ipso facto prove that a threat was inaccurately gauged.

  73. 73
    b-psycho says:

    The point (at least as I see it. Jesse can explain himself if he sees it different) is that these tragic occurrences always end up being used as an opportunity to propose said bad remedies.

    Call it cynical, but the idea that its all in good faith seems to ring hollow.

  74. 74

    Then propose good remedies.

  75. 75
    b-psycho says:

    What’s your definition of “good”, Joe? What standard do you go by?

    It’s impossible to stop EVERY threat, and no government that ever has existed or ever will exist can resist its leaders using increased power for their own benefit. If you accept that (which I do not), the closest you can get switches the question. You’re now asking “what are the most effective measures against this that are politically tolerable?”.

    Of course, this leads to you & others arguing about what is and/or should be tolerated for a measure of security — which is right back where you started. I stopped bothering with the question back when I realized government is much more likely to violate innocent people than it is to stop people I’d actually want interrupted.

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