Will This History Repeat Itself?
Fourteen years ago, on April 19, 1995, a young man named Tim McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 Americans. It remains to this day the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history.
McVeigh was heavily influenced by far-right racist screeds like William Luther Pierce's The Turner Diaries, and he subscribed to eliminationist ideologies. Unfortunately for our nation, he eventually acted upon his murderous passions.
When it was suggested that hate radio played a part in the development of McVeigh's attitudes, the talk-radio crowd reacted predictably; they claimed that there was no way that right-wing radio propaganda could possibly share any responsibility for the terrorist attack. After all, they're just "entertainers," as they usually allege. Of course, these are the first elements to declare that ‘gangsta’ rap and heavy metal incite young urban kids to kill policemen. But right-wing talk radio had nothing to do with Tim McVeigh. Nope.
The right-wing eliminationist fringe receded somewhat during the Bush years. Despite the Bush's administration's endless attacks on individual freedom and the Bill of Rights, the nutjobs professed their satisfaction with the president's actions; after all, he wasn't going after them.
But the election of Barack Obama last fall has brought these groups back with a vengeance – and the paranoia and lunacy that characterizes these groups has reached a fever pitch, to the point that the Department of Homeland Security has just issued a report citing rightwing extremists as "the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States."
The John McCain campaign – especially through Sarah Palin, with her infamous remarks about how Obama "palled around with terrorists," and with her insinuations that the Democratic candidate was an America-hater – helped lay the groundwork for the re-emergence of the radical right. And once President Obama was inaugurated, Rush Limbaugh, the leader and chief spokesman for the Republican Party, loudly proclaimed that he wanted our new president to fail. Meanwhile, Fox News loudmouth Glenn Beck pushes the envelope on outright sedition almost every night on his cable show.
With this kind of rhetoric fueling paranoia and extremism on the right, it's only natural that we've seen things like a mad rush on weapon sales – despite the fact that President Obama has absolutely no intention to ban guns. The Democrats moved on from that fight years ago. And the recent cop-killer in Pittsburgh had associations with Stormfront, one of the ugliest racist, right-wing organizations in the country. He acted upon his paranoia, fed with daily doses of extremist propaganda.
Among many other assertions, the Department of Homeland Security report states that: "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 anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or ejecting government authority entirely."
But, oddly enough, mainstream conservatives have responded to this report, not by distancing themselves from these fringe hate groups, but by condemning the Department of Homeland Security for shining a light upon them. Newt Gingrich, the number-two spokesman for the GOP after Mr. Limbaugh, seethed that the memo "smears conservatives." Does Gingrich feel a kinship with these terrorists?
It is extremely troubling that "respectable" conservatives aren't doing more to stifle this burgeoning cauldron of hate emanating from their right flank. This isn't an academic exercise; this has real consequences for our domestic security. If Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Gingrich aren't interested in dousing these flames of paranoia and hatred, then it's only a matter of time before another Tim McVeigh emerges from that sad, sorry crowd.
And the consequences of that would be devastating for the country. This isn't what mainstream Republicans want. Is it?