Right Wing Extremists
There’s been much back-and-forth since Wednesday’s tragic shooting of a guard at the Holocaust Musuem about the rise of right wing extremists and the need for the federal government to treat them as a threat. Inevitably, we’re seeing the perennial “their extremists are worse than our extremists” debate. Oddly, we’re even seeing some “No, he’s actually a Left-wing extremist!” arguments.
Rather than rehash the particulars of the debate, I’ll skip ahead to the most sensible posts I’ve seen on the matter (which, conveniently, already have much of the back story).
The ongoing efforts to conflate the Tiller and Holocaust Museum murderers with the Right, conservatives or Republicans – or to imply that criticism of government is responsible for these murders – is absurd and offensive. Would the critics change their political views if it turned out that one of the killers was a left wing militant? No.
Let’s conclude with two central ironies:
- The Left strenuously objects to connecting President Obama to socialists and William Ayers; meanwhile, they want to lump all conservatives in with militant radicals.
- Meanwhile, as Doug Mataconis points out, “Conservatives who object to being tied to Von Brunn were eagerly associating Obama with Ayers and Wright.”
Conservatives trying to make the case that the Holocaust Museum shooter James von Brunn is some kind of liberal or leftist sympathizer are tilting at windmills:
I will freely grant this this guy is a man of the extreme right. To posit the notion, as many on the left have been doing the last few days, that this guy has any connection whatsoever either in his philosophy or ideology with mainstream conservatism is ludicrous. It is equally fanciful to blame “right wing hate speech” emanating supposedly from mainstream conservative media outlets for this guy’s actions. The idea that von Brunn needed any motivation at all beyond his sick, twisted, personal extremist ideology and whatever demons possessed him ignores reality – about what we’ve come to expect from the “reality based community.”
By the same token, desperately seeking a way to disown von Brunn because the left has seen fit to smear all conservatives with his racist, anti-Semitic stench is equally ludicrous. We don’t have to disown him. It is self evident to any rational, semi-fair minded person that this guy had as much to do with mainstream politics as a member of the Black Panther party or some other far out, whacko leftist group.
So the Department of Homeland Security, a bloated and dysfunctional agency that shouldn’t exist in the first place, should spend its time tracking the possibility that a criminal kook with no co-conspirators will decide to shoot a doctor or a security guard? From preventing another 9/11 to preventing unorganized shootings: Talk about mission creep. Yes, these murders are terrorism, but they’re the sort of terrorism that can be contained by the average small-town police force. If you try to blow them up into a grand pattern that threatens ordinary Americans, you’re no different from the C-level conservative pundits who treat every politically motivated crime by a Muslim as evidence of a broad Islamic threat to ordinary Americans’ well-being.
The effect isn’t to make right-wing terror attacks less likely. It’s to make it easier to smear nonviolent, noncriminal figures on the right, just as the most substantial effect of a red scare was to make it easier to smear nonviolent, noncriminal figures on the left. The fact that communist spies really existed didn’t justify Joseph McCarthy’s antics, and the fact that armed extremists really exist doesn’t justify the Department of Homeland Security’s report.
The Tiller shooter and Holocaust museum shooter were right-wing fanatics. Ted Kaczynski was a left-wing fanatic. The key part of those description isn’t their political belief system but fanatic(s). It’s rather like the never-ending debate as to whether Josef Stalin was a left winger and Adolf Hitler a right winger. Once you’ve reached the point where you’re willing to commit criminal violence in support of your cause, your’re no longer in the company of people who merely debate issues and try to legally influence public policy outcomes.
There are various ways to represent this but these diagrams from Conservative Resources capture it nicely:
I prefer to think of ideology as a circle, rather than a line. Left and Right have meaning but, as one gets to the extremes on either side — depicted as anarchism in the top chart and “Everyone Against Everyone” in the second — the views converge.
I actually prefer the bottom figure best in that it groups authoritarian states — Communism, Theocracy, and Fascism — very tightly and depicts, for example, Socialism and Libertarianism are near opposites. Additionally, it contrasts all governmental/ideological forms with Anarchy, or the absence of government. Those who murder to carry out their political agenda are in that category; their particular ideas otherwise don’t much matter.
Finally, I should note that racism is neither right-wing nor left-wing (nor, for that matter, is it centrist or anarchist). It exists at all points on the spectrum and isn’t a political ideology at all. Von Brunn’s hatred of Jews isn’t what makes him a right-winger but rather his views on politics.