Friday, April 17, 2009

Enemy of the State?

Folks, by now you are all aware of a leaked unclassified report authored by the Department of Homeland Security, titled, Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, dated April 7. Drawing from what they see as parallels with the 1990’s, the authors make some sweeping generalizations:

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.

At first sight, this seems pretty reasonable, the operative word here being “hate.” Still, how does this connect with “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration”? Who defines the connection?

For example, I am pro-Life and as a consequence, opposed to abortion. Am I single issue, hateful person? Should I be watched by the law-abiding as a potential troublemaker? Worse, I am a veteran with some basic knowledge of firearms and advanced knowledge of other disciplines – I don’t own any guns, though. Should I be held under suspicion? If someone commits a crime in the name of Life, should I be profiled as a suspect, interrogated, and sent to a lineup?

The problem with these broad strokes is that the reports containing them are going to become the first references on how local and state law enforcers are to conduct investigations of this kind.

The fact that the Obama Administration previously released a report on leftwing extremism, titled Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade brings me little comfort, since the majority of our citizens consider the groups mentioned therein – The Animal Liberation Front, the Earth Liberation Front, Animal Defense League, Earth First, Crimethic, Ruckus Society, and Recreate 68 – as positively cuckoo, and outright criminal. This concreteness is absent from the “rightwing” report, since the report doesn’t mention any specific groups, warning vaguely instead against various mindsets.

Also, the comparison that the report on rightwing extremism makes with the 1990’s strikes me as unbalanced. Why are the 1990’s the decade of archetypical bad rightwing madness? How about the 1970s with the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the Macheteros among others? The economy and the international situation back then were very similar, may be even worse that they are now and yet they tended to produce more violent leftwing criminals than rightwing – the perennial KKK being already on its road to extinction. It seems logical to conclude that national and international conditions are not necessary determinant of what kind of unrest and terrorism will spawn from these conditions. To keep the parallels going, the report’s authors should’ve warn against the emergence of leftwing terrorism different from cyberterrorism.

Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment is an incoherent report precisely because it fails to make the proper distinctions between the minds of those who seek a more humane, life-affirming society from those who kill, maim, and destroy in the name of Life. The report muddles the issue of who is or can be a terrorist by blurring the distinctions between citizens harboring serious concerns about governance issues from those who hide under those concerns to create mayhem. In the end, Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, will misinform law enforcers, investigators, prosecutors, and criminal profilers by injecting an antireligious bias into their investigations. Citizens with an ax to grind against pro-Lifers will find this report all too useful. I am very displeased with this report and I hope that the Department of Homeland Security issues a corrected report as soon as possible before “mistakes are made” and injustice flourishes, before a poor schmuck is declared an enemy of the state just for entertaining certain ideas.