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The Terrorist Threat: Right-Wing Radicals and the Eliminationist Mindset

Understanding the dangerous worldview that led to the murder of an innocent doctor and an attack at the Holocaust Museum.

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That is not an attempt to silence him. That is an attempt to make sure that these massive megaphones aren't being used to create permission for people to act out violently. That is our own free speech. They talk about how we want to take away their speech ... well, they want to take away our speech. We just don't think they should have these media megaphones. There is no God-given right to have a media megaphone. That is not a right. That is a privilege. Why should we extend that privilege to them?

JH: My last question is the same for every interview I do: If I were smarter, what would I have asked you that I didn't today?

DN: Hmmm. If you had asked me how effective standing up might be and how we should go about it, my answer would be that it's really important to understand that people on the right believe that they are doing the right thing. They believe that they are being good people and that they are standing up for what is right, even when they are being just so obviously evil.

But this is part of the dynamic. They see themselves are heroic. The dynamic of being a hero is what creates this phenomenon. It's part of the dualism of the mind-set that underlies the psychology of these problems. When you want to be the hero, you have to have an enemy.

So people on the right are constantly in the act of creating enemies. When the Soviet Union fell, they didn't have their classic enemy anymore. So they went about creating new ones. Suddenly, it was the government. It was our own people who were the enemy. We internalized in the 1990s -- at least the right really internalized it -- this idea of who the enemy is.

People on the left do it, too. People on the left want to think of themselves as heroic and engaging in this sort of heroic battle against the evil forces of the right. In the process, we help -- we just keep that dragon chasing its own tail. We become part of this self-perpetuating dynamic of creating enemies, and I think it is really fundamentally important to understand when we talk to and engage the people who are susceptible to this.

I want to add that you are probably never going to convince people like Limbaugh and Coulter and the real hard-core ideologues. You are just never going to successfully engage them and change their minds. But a lot of ordinary people -- the people who are influenced by them -- well, we have a great deal of hope for actually being able to change their minds.

So when we engage them, I think it is fundamentally important that we try not to see ourselves as heroes, that we don't turn them into the enemy but rather people like us, human beings who have frailties and have flaws and engage them in a real way, because that is how we are going to pull them over.

We are not going to change people's minds by pointing at them and calling them bad people. We are going to change people's minds by taking care to honestly engage them as one human being to another. That is the only way I think that we really can succeed.

For more, check out Neiwert's new book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right (PoliPointPress, 2009).

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.

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