9 Conservative Myths About Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism
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It's been a wild couple of weeks for those of us in the wingnutology business. Our services have been in tremendous demand as the mainstream media try to sort out the meaning of what Scott Roeder and James von Brunn did.
I've done an average of one radio show every day for the past two weeks trying to help various lefty talkers around the country make some sense of it all; and I'm generally gratified at how seriously people are starting to take this.
At the same time, I'm also appalled (though, sadly, hardly surprised) by the conservative mythmaking that's going on around the very serious issue of right-wing domestic terrorism. So it's obviously time to pull together another "Firing Back" piece to give progressives what they need to separate fact from fiction when these talking points start flying.
I've actually had every one of the following myths pitched to me by on-air interviewers, phone-in callers and/or online commenters over the last two weeks. Most of them have come up over and over, which suggests to me that you're likely to encounter them, too. So let's walk 'em through:
1. These are just "lone wolf" psychos who are acting alone. You can't hold anybody else responsible for what crazy people decide to do.
True and false. But mostly false.
It's true that every one of the nine right-wing terrorists who've made the news since Jan. 20 had a history of mental illness, domestic violence, and/or drug abuse. Several were military veterans who were having a really hard time adjusting to civilian life. None of these people could reasonably be considered sane; and, for whatever twisted reasons, they made a personal choice to do what they did.
But it's not true that they were acting alone. People who are dealing with these kinds of demons are often drawn into movements that offer a strong narrative that helps them make sense of a world that never seems to add up right for them. They're usually drawn into organizations like Operation Rescue or the Minutemen that are nominally nonviolent, but which also indoctrinate them into a worldview that justifies and motivates people to commit terrorist acts. They come to believe that they must do this to save the world, to serve God and to be the heroes they desperately want to be.
They're already walking sticks of dynamite. But it takes the heat of that apocalyptic, dualistic, eliminationist, pro-violence narrative to light their fuses and make them explode.
Unfortunately, these groups also make it easy to take that final step over the line, because they often have close ties to other, more secretive groups that do advocate and plan terrorist violence as a solution. Operation Rescue teaches that killing abortion doctors is justifiable homicide, and then feeds its most extreme members into the Army of God.
The Aryan Nations and several other white nationalist groups supplied the nine members of The Order, a racist terrorist group that killed two people (including left-wing talker Alan Berg) and stole over $4 million during a nine-month spree in 1984. Al-Qaida got many of its recruits from the nominally nonviolent (but still radical) Hizb al-Tahrir. Of course, when violence actually occurs, these groups always denounce it -- but they also usually have a very good idea of who was involved, because they've been hanging around with the perpetrators for quite a while themselves.
One of the things the public is finally beginning to understand is that the "lone wolf" story has never been accurate, because these guys are never really alone in the world. Every one of them was well-marinated in large, long-established subcultures that put them up to terrorism and promised to make heroes out of them if they succeeded.