Sunday, April 18, 2010

How serious is the far-right threat of violence?

Sara Robinson in None Dare Call It Sedition Orcinus 04/06/10 argues that it's very serious. Her title is a play on the title of one of the best-known far-right books on the 1960s, None Dare Call It Treason.

This April 2010 paper from the Violence Policy Center (VPC), Lessons Unlearned: The Gun Lobby and the Siren Song of Anti-Government Rhetoric, looks at the way the gun lobby, particularly the National Rifle Association (NRA), promotes ideas and rhetoric that feed the paranoia of potentially violent far-right "militia" groups. The VPC relates how the NRA was forced to backtrack from its extremist positions of the early 1990s after the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995:

During this period, the NRA adopted the anti-government language of the militias and other components of the “Patriot movement,” a loose coalition whose adherents are “animated by a view of the federal government as the primary enemy, along with a fondness for antigovernment conspiracy theories.” [Quote from Mark Potok, Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism Intelligence Report Spring 2010 .] Offering a soft embrace to many of the conspiracy theories that drove the anger and fear of the Patriot movement, the NRA declared in its official publications that “The Final War Has Begun,” equated Federal Bureau of Investigation agents with goose-stepping Nazis, labeled other federal agents “jack-booted government thugs” in its direct mail, and repeatedly warned of conspiracies—allegedly concocted by forces ranging from the Clinton administration to the United Nations—to disarm American gun owners. Presumably undertaken initially to engage and activate its membership while opening the door to a new strata of potential supporters, the NRA’s shift in rhetoric and action—as seen in the organization’s magazines, public statements, and nascent on-line efforts during this period—had the ancillary effect of validating the most paranoid fears of the most extreme elements of American gun owner. Eventually, the NRA found itself exploring potential partnerships with militia leaders.

After the Oklahoma City bombing and stung by widespread public criticism including the resignation of Life Member President George H.W. Bush, the NRA acted quickly to make its public face appear more moderate. The anti-government “Final War” trumpeted in the NRA’s publications prior to the bombing metamorphosed into the values-based “culture war” as articulated by eventual NRA President Charlton Heston. Through this rhetorical shift, the NRA sought to maintain its ability to tap into the same societal and anti-government anger that often drove the political engagement of many of those concerned with gun rights while appearing to distance itself from attacks on government itself. [my emphasis]
But now, with a new Democratic President and with memories of the Oklahoma City terrorist attacks largely supplanted by fears of Muslim terrorist attacks and with a media that steadfastly refuses to call domestic far-right terrorists "terrorists", the NRA has returned to its previous ways along with some other gun-lobby groups:

Now, 15 years after the Oklahoma City bombing, it appears that the National Rifle Association and other members of the gun lobby are once again enticed by the grassroots potential represented by anti-government sentiment spurred by the economic collapse of 2008, the election of Barack Obama, and the perceived threat of a Congress controlled by the Democratic party. The gun lobby is once again embracing—and, equally important, validating—the anti-government rhetoric being offered by activists that range from Tea Party members, through pro-gun advocates, to members of the militia movement.
The report goes on to offer numerous examples.

For instance, they quote this piece by Skip Coryell, founder of the "Second Amendment March", Rattling the Second Amendment Saber, from the long-influential conservative site Human Events 03/23/2010, discussing the so-called Second Amendment March demonstration scheduled for Washington tomorrow:

My question to everyone reading this article is this: “For you, as an individual, when do you draw your saber? When do you say “Yes, I am willing to rise up and overthrow an oppressive, totalitarian government?”

Is it when the government takes away your private business?
Is it when the government rigs elections?
Is it when the government imposes martial law?
Is it when the government takes away your firearms?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating the immediate use of force against the government. It isn’t time, and hopefully that time will never come. But one thing is certain: “Now is the time to rattle your sabers.” If not now, then when?

When the government ignores the First Amendment, it is time to rattle the Second Amendment sabers. It’s all about accountability. So long as our elected officials believe we will rise up and overthrow them under certain conditions, then they will not allow those conditions to occur. Their jobs and their very lives depend on it.

I understand that sounds harsh, but these are harsh times. Now is the time to rattle the saber. Now is the time to answer the very personal, very serious, very intimate question: “When do I remove the saber from its scabbard?”

I hear the clank of metal on metal getting closer, but that’s not enough. The politicians have to hear it too. They have to hear it, and they have to believe it.

Come and support me at the Second Amendment March on April 19th on the Washington Monument grounds. Let’s rattle some sabers and show the government we’re still here. We are here, and we are not silent!
Heidi Beirich in April 19: A Schedule Hatewatch 04/15/10 describes the plans for that march:

Patriot leaders, for whom the specter of gun restrictions is a recurring theme, will join gun rights advocates for a “Second Amendment March” in Washington, D.C. Speakers will include: Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, a conspiracy-minded, antigovernment organization composed mostly of active-duty police and military officers and veterans; Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who travels the country preaching about the evils of the federal government; Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, who advocated the formation of citizen militias in the United States in the early 1990s; and U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican who has questioned President Obama’s citizenship and suggested the administration might use a pandemic or natural disaster as an excuse to declare martial law.
Beirich also discusses the separately scheduled "open-carry" demonstration of arms:

An open-carry rally to “Restore the Constitution” will be held at Ft. Hunt National Park near Mount Vernon, Va. Designated a “call to muster,” those rallying want the federal government to know that they “will not be ignored anymore.” Daniel Almond, who believes the federal government is “bringing totalitarian socialism to America” and is a member of the Georgia chapter of the Oath Keepers, organized the event. Speakers will include Richard Mack and Larry Pratt, who will also speak to the D.C. rally, as well as Bob Wright, who ran the New Mexico militia in the 1990s and has more recently participated in border vigilante operations with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, and Mike Vanderboegh, a longtime Alabama militiaman who recently called for his supporters to throw bricks through the offices of representatives who voted for health care reform. This past Tuesday, the head of the Oath Keepers withdrew as a speaker due to “published statements by a few outspoken participants.” The group did not ask its members to stay away from the event.
Here are some links of some of the far-right militant groups who seem to present a threat of political violence:

Oath Keepers

Oath Keepers: Potentially the most lethal and dangerous of all the new 'Patriot' groups
By David Neiwert Saturday Mar 06, 2010 3:00pm by Dave Neiwert Crooks and Liars:

You can watch Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers' leader, at the recent CPAC conference being interviewed by the ever-friendly Bill Whittle and come away with the impression that, gosh, these are just folks who want to uphold the Constitution and apple pie. Paranoid, us?

As with all Patriot groups and their leaders, that's the schtick when the cameras are on. When the mask comes off, it becomes quite a different picture.
For the mask-off version, he refers us to Justine Sharrock, Oath Keepers and the Age of Treason Mother Jones Mar/Apr 2010.

You can hear the mask-on version of Rhodes at Scott Horton Interviews Stewart Rhodes Antiwar Radio 01/14/10; despite the title, the interview is actually conducted by Angela Keaton. has some valuable articles and some good interviews; but they are a hard-right isolationist site, and this interview is an example of that.

Repent Amarillo

Left Blogostan paid quite a bit of attention for a few days last month to what I think of as a neo-Klan organization, called Repent Amarillo. Maybe "neo" suggests too much, maybe it's just a Klan-type organization. Because they are practicing a version of "Christian" intimidation that is likely to turn into outright thuggery if the law in Amarillo doesn't start discouraging them. And, as it now stands as of these reports from late February and early March, it sounds like just the opposite is happening, that the local officials are encouraging the vigilantism.

Plutonium Page, Repent Amarillo: The Hate Group With A Nuclear Twist Daily Kos 03/06/10

Lee Fang, Christian Hate Group ‘Repent Amarillo’ Terrorizes Texas Town, Harassing Gays, Liberals, And Other ‘Sinners’ Think Progress 03/04/10

He Who Casts the First Stone by Forrest Wilder Texas Observer February 24, 2010

Rachel Tabachnick, Repent Amarillo's Spiritual Mapping and Vigilantism Talk to Action


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