The right-wingers have been in full-on gloat mode since the capture of the Boston Marathon bombers — not because it turned out that they were right about the nature of the perpetrators (they weren’t), but because speculation that they might be right-wing extremists was wrong. Only wingnuts can convert a sigh of relief into an attack on their opponents.
The problem is that all they’re really doing is attempting, yet again, to whitewash away the very real existence of violent extremists on their own side.
Leading the charge is William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, who published a post over the weekend titled“Add Boston Marathon Bombing to pile of Failed Eliminationist Narratives”:
Yet there was a theory behind the madness, the Eliminationist Narrative created by Dave Neiwart of Crooks and Liars about an “eliminationist” radical right seeking to dehumanize and eliminate political opposition. It was a play on the over-used narrative of Richard Hofstadter’s “paranoid style” in American politics.
The Eliminationist Narrative was aided and abetted by an abuse of the term “right-wing” to include groups who are the opposite of conservatism and the Tea Party movement.
In the case of Sparkman, the accusations were just Another Failed Eliminationist Narrative. And the Eliminationist Narrative would fail time and time again:
The Cabby Stabber
The “killer” of Bill Sparkman
The Fort Hood Shooter
The IRS Plane Crasher
The Pentagon Shooter
We can now add the Boston Marathon Bombing to the pile. The wild speculation that there was a Tea Party or “right-wing” connection proved false.
Of course, it would always help if people like Jacobson managed to review the posts of the people he’s attacking — since neither I nor anyone at Crooks and Liars ever speculated in print that the perps were white right-wing extremists. Others did, however — and frankly, we discussed it among ourselves. But we knew that it was irresponsible to speculate publicly until we knew more, and so we waited — unlike a few progressives, and even many, many more conservatives. (More about that in a moment.)
The fact, however, is that the speculation about right-wing extremism’s potential role was entirely rational, considering that in the past four years, there have been nearly 70 acts of domestic terrorism committed by right-wing extremists in the United States, compared to just over 30 such acts committed by Islamist extremists here. (I have prepared a report on this that Mother Jones will be publishing soon.)
Trust me on this, Mr. Jacobson, as a person who has attended their gatherings and spent time observing their ideology up close and personally: There is nothing remotely left-wing, or anything other than right wing, about the ideology promoted by people like the Aryan Nations and the Ku Klux Klan and American Renaissance and a whole bevy of other hate groups out there operating in America today. The notion that they are not from the political right is simply risible.
It just depends where on the very real spectrum of right-wing thought each happens to fall. You see, the reason they call these people right wing extremists is that they begin with simple, perhaps even mainstream, conservative positions and extend them to their most outrageous and illogical extreme.
Conservatives are, for instance, skeptical of the power of the federal government to intervene in civil-rights matters; right-wing extremists believe it has no such power whatsoever, but it has been usurped by a Jewish conspiracy that is imposing its will on white people.
Conservatives are skeptical of internationalism and entities like the United Nations. Right-wing extremists believe the U.N. represents a diabolical plot to overthrow American sovereignty and impose totalitarian rule.
Conservatives believe that abortion is murder of a living being and oppose its use on demand. Right-wing extremists believe that this justifies committing murder and various violent crimes in order to prevent it.
Conservatives believe affirmative action is a form of reverse discrimination. Right-wing extremists believe it is part of a plot to oppress white people.
Conservatives oppose taxation, and tax increases in particular, on principle. Right-wing extremists believe that the IRS is an illegitimate institution imposed on the body politic by the aforementioned Jewish conspiracy.
Conservatives oppose increased immigration on principle and illegal immigration as a matter of law enforcement, and believe the borders should be secure. Right-wing extremists believe that Mexicans are coming here as part of an “Aztlan” conspiracy to retake the Southwest for Mexico, and that we should start shooting border crossers on sight.
You get the idea.
Moreover, the claim that right-wing extremists have nothing to do with the Tea Party is just flatly risible. I have two simple words regarding that claim: Oath Keepers.
But the conspiracist Oath Keepers are hardly the only extremist element that has been absorbed within the ranks of the Tea Party. The list is long, but it’s headed up by the Minutemen who have become Tea Party leaders. Moreover, as I explored in an investigative piece for AlterNet, the movement became a functional extension of the Patriot/militia movement in many precincts, especially in rural areas, away from the television crews.
Jacobson’s limitations on what constitutes “right wing” are not only ahistorical, afactual, and fully at odds with reality, they’re also predictably self-serving. So it’s not surprising that, given his criteria, even his list of “failed eliminationist narratives” is fatally flawed.
Most of the examples he provides, notably the Bill Sparkman episode, were never discussed by me or by anyone at C&L as instances of right-wing violence, because we never considered them such. However, there are three cases here that we did indeed describe as involving right-wing extremists. And you know what? We still do.
We realize, for instance, that the post-shooting narrative favored pretending that Jared Lee Loughner was somehow not a terrorist because he was mentally ill (a claim they for some reason do not make when it comes to Nidal Hasan, the mentally ill gunman in the Fort Hood shooting rampage). They also found other mitigating factors, such as Loughner’s youthful liberalism, to claim that he was not a right-wing extremist, despite the obvious liberal-ness of his targets. However, none of that can overcome the reality that at the time he acted, Loughner was carrying out what he saw as a mission on behalf of his now-adopted right-wing beliefs involving a global monetary conspiracy. He was indeed a right-wing extremist, and other experts on the subject who have examined the record have reached the same conclusion.
Similarly, we found that the IRS plane bomber was indeed a terrorist, and that he was acting on behalf of the very same extremist anti-tax ideology we described above. And the Pentagon shooter, John Patrick Bedell, was acting out on his beliefs derived from Alex Jones’s conspiracy theories — and Jones, despite many efforts to pretend otherwise, is clearly a classic right-wing conspiracy theorist and extremist from the old John Birch mold.
Yes, we recognize very much that there is a significant difference between mainstream conservatives and right-wing extremists, as we’ve outlined above — but those differences, frankly, keep diminishing, and the ideological distances keep shrinking.
We would love nothing more than to report that conservatives were bravely standing up against extremists on the right and doing their part as citizens to bring an end to their toxic contributions to our society. Believe me, as a onetime moderate Republican from a conservative state, I would love nothing more than to see mainstream conservatives stand up against right-wing extremism, as they once did in the 1980s when Idaho became one of the first states to pass a hate-crimes law.
But those days are long gone. There are still a handful of thoughtful and decent conservatives remaining who will stand up to confront this problem, but they are tiny in number and nil in influence. Instead, conservatism is dominated by the likes of Michelle Malkin and Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Beck and William Jacobson (not to mention nearly everyone at Fox News), who instead of taking the problem of right-wing extremism seriously, dismiss its presence, downplay its influence and spread, and otherwise look the other way while viciously attacking anyone with the nerve to point it out.
Conservatives have instead made a cottage industry out of whitewashing away their extremists, most notably when decrying any efforts by law enforcement to confront the issue, and this latest effort in the wake of the Boston bombing is just the latest chapter.
In the meantime, of course, the tide is rising as the number of extremist groups in America reaches record proportions. And mainstream conservatives are aiding and abetting them — first by pretending that they don’t exist while attacking anyone who points out that they do, and second by silently giving them a warm embrace into the ranks of the Tea Party. It bodes ill for us all.