Yes, There is
A few months ago, as the world knows, the Department of Homeland
Security issued a report on the dangers from right-wing extremists, and
were roundly pilloried from all sectors of the mainstream right.
The DHS report, titled "Rightwing Extremism: Current. Economic and
Political Climate Fueling. Resurgence in Radicalization and
Recruitment," warned that there are threats of violence from far-right
groups, the likes of militias, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and others
on the extreme political fringe. The report made clear that it was
referring to lone nut-types, as well as fringe groups, and came nowhere
remotely close to suggesting that everyday Republican voters were a
threat to the safety of the Republic.
But the conservative establishment, whether members of Congress, talk
radio hosts or bloggers, heard the phrase "right wing extremists" and
chose to conclude, "They must be talking about us!" The resulting outcry
of fake outrage was enough to even get Janet Napolitano to partially
Then, in recent weeks, a couple of, for lack of a better word,
right-wing extremists – the murderers of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas and
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum guard Stephen Johns in
Washington – have carried out dangerous and violent acts, just as the
report warned. The Holocaust Museum shooter, James W. Von Brunn, was an
individual who frequented neo-Nazi web sites and wrote openly about his
desire to kill blacks and Jews, while Tiller's killer, Scott Roeder, had
similarly operated at the fringes of the anti-abortion movement.
So you would think those who had attacked the DHS report would be
apologizing, right? Wrong. The actual attacks by actual right-wing
extremists that actually happened a short time later have led
conservatives to argue that the shooters had nothing to do with those
named in the report, or that they were actually somehow closet liberals.
Some examples of outrage from the right, in response to the argument
that the Tiller and Holocaust Museum killings vindicate the DHS report,
have been downright laughable. National Review's Jonah Goldberg
wrote that Von Brunn's "hatreds echoed the kind of stuff we hear from
the Kos crowd, Chris Matthews, Andrew Sullivan et al." I wasn't aware
that Matthews or Sullivan was either an anti-Semite or a murderer; nor,
do I imagine, was the virulent racist Von Brunn a supporter of Barack
Conservative Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart picked an
interesting venue – the voice mail of former journalist and current
Gawker gossip sniper John Cook – to rant
about how describing Von Brunn as a right-wing extremist was "a f---ing
slander on people like me," because after all, the gunman was "a
multiculturalist, just like the black studies and the lesbian studies
majors on college campuses." Because if there's anything neo-Nazis are
known for, it's multiculturalism – and if there's anything lesbian
studies majors are known for, it's shooting people. And pundit Debbie
Schlussel found a way to blame the killing of an African-American war
hero by a white supremacist on Muslims.
Politics is a continuum, which some would even call a circle, as the
ultra-fringes of the left and the right have a lot in common, i.e.,
racism, violence, nuttiness, etc. There is a right-wing mainstream, just
as there is a right-wing fringe, just as there are similar differences
between the mainstream and radical lefts. In most cases, on both sides,
it's not particularly difficult to tell the difference. And wrong as the
mainstream Republicans may have been in the past decade or so, they're
not the Klan, and they're not neo-Nazi gunmen.
If you're an actual conservative who isn't an extremist, you should find
nothing offensive about the report. If a member of the Communist Party
USA committed a political assassination, I would have no problem as a
liberal either with the government sounding the alarm about "violent
left-wing extremists," or with the shooter being described as such.
Neither should anyone else who is neither violent nor an extremist.
No one is saying the Holocaust museum shooting is part and parcel of
what the modern-day GOP is all about (and anyone who does is very, very
wrong.) But while this chapter doesn't show that mainstream
conservatives are extremists, it does show that many of them just plain
don't get it.