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Tuesday, April 14, 2009
By Steven L. Taylor

Memeorandum is currently headlined by a WaTi story concerning a Department of Homeland Security report which highlights right-wing extremism. This has caused, for some reason, many to think that the report is about them (see Michele Malkin, Don Surber and William Jacobson, for examples).

Page 2 of the report defines it object of concern as follows:

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 antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

Okay, so the two main elements of the definition are “hate-oriented” and “antigovernment.” Read the definition again before going forth with the post. Note, please, again “hate” and “antigovernment.”

For some reason, Don Surber thinks this is equivalent to “Or, are you now or have you ever been a member of the Republican Party?”

Surely, Don doesn’t think that the above is the platform of the GOP.

William Jacobson entitles his post: “The Constitution Is A Subversive Manifesto Per DHS” (and Glenn Reynolds approvingly links thereto) and states:

This definition is so broad as to include anyone who seeks to preserve the foundation of our federal-state constitutional distinction, under the 10th Amendment (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people”), because such a person could be deemed to “reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority.”

Well, no. It is one thing to have political disagreements about how federalism ought to work. It is yet another to reject federal authority, or to be fundamentally antigovernment.

He also writes:

Similarly, the reference to “abortion or immigration” is purely political. Why pick those two subjects?

Well, that is pretty obvious as well. We have had examples of domestic terrorism aimed specifically at abortion clinics before, and ultrtanationalistic anti-immigration views are known quantities amongst hate groups and not just in the US, as Annie Lowrey notes at FP today.

The key phrase in the DHS definition is “dedicated to a single issue” (note single). It is quite normal for extremist groups, regardless of their ideological persuasion, to be especially focused on a narrow set of, if not a single, issue. The statement is not a blanket indictment of people who oppose abortion or who have specific views on immigration reform. Let’s use calm and basic reading comprehension skills, shall we? Read the whole definition and don’t key in on single words.

The notion that tough economic times and the election of a minority president might inflame the passions of hard-right hate groups should hardly be seen as controversial. Further, it should hardly shock anyone that these groups would have specific views on things like immigration, abortion and gun control. Noting that fact does not mean that DHS is out to get conservative bloggers, members of the GOP, or other mainstream conservatives.

For the record, the report does not mention bloggers, nor the Republican Party. Indeed, the word “conservative” isn’t in their either.

Note: a lot of bloggers are suggesting that this report is aimed at the Tea Party movements (see here and here). The fact that the Tea Parties, or really anything approximating them, is not mentioned in the report apparently is of no consequence.

My favorite response is from the always dramatic Pam Geller: “The report is the blueprint for Obama’s war on Conservatives and patriotic Americans.”

I keep thinking of those PSAs from when I was a kid about RIF (Reading Is Fundamental).

There are reasons that the current state of the Republican Party and the general public discourse that passes for conservative these days depresses me so…

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The views expressed in the comments are the sole responsibility of the person leaving those comments. They do not reflect the opinion of the author of PoliBlog, nor have they been vetted by the author.

20 Responses to “You’re so Vain, You Probably Think this Report is about You (or, so Paranoid…)”

  1. DHS releases a report warning of Right Wing Extremism, Far Right Blogs flip their corks « Political Byline Says:

    [...] Sadly, No!, American Power, Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog!, Clayton Cramer’s BLOG, PoliBlog, Don Surber, The Liberty Papers,  This ain’t Hell …, , Le·gal In·sur·rec· [...]

  2. Leonard Says:

    Re the post title: is today “reference a Carly Simon song day” in the ‘sphere? (see end of post)

  3. Steven L. Taylor Says:

    Must be ;)

  4. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Credit Where Credit is Due (and More on the DHS Report) Says:

    [...] to my previous post, it is worth noting that Tea Party supporter A. J. Stata isn’t freaking about about the report [...]

  5. News Reference Says:

    Excellent post, Taylor. And funny, fitting title.

  6. Chris Lawrence Says:

    I think in the context of the whole report the footnote more clearly applies to potentially violent extremist groups; my gut feeling is that if someone had intended this to be made public, someone with half a brain would have fixed the footnote to make it appear less pejorative.

    Probably more disturbing here is that this nine page document says nothing that anyone who reads Google News doesn’t already know or could figure out for themselves, yet for reasons I cannot fathom DHS thinks it is exempt from FOIA and contains “sensitive” and “for official use only” material.

  7. Steven L. Taylor Says:

    Probably more disturbing here is that this nine page document says nothing that anyone who reads Google News doesn’t already know or could figure out for themselves, yet for reasons I cannot fathom DHS thinks it is exempt from FOIA and contains “sensitive” and “for official use only” material.

    Indeed.

  8. Conservative Bloggers Now Identifying With Far Right Extremists - Liberal Values - Defending Liberty and Enlightened Thought Says:

    [...] Steven Taylor has the best title for a response on this issue:  You’re so Vain, You Probably Think this Report is about You (or, so Paranoid…) [...]

  9. Max Lybbert Says:

    It is one thing to have political disagreements about how federalism ought to work. It is yet another to reject federal authority, or to be fundamentally antigovernment.

    So where do you stand regarding libertarians?

    Also, remember that the quote is “reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority,” which is different from simply rejecting federal authority in toto. In other words, the quote — which may well be nothing more than sloppy writing — sounds a lot like worry over “political disagreements about how federalism ought to work” compared to worry about raving anarchists.

    As far as I can tell, the big bugaboo is skinheads/neonazis. But those guys are dangerous all the time. It’s hard to believe a report was needed to announce this fact to the Department of Homeland Security, unless there were credible evidence that they were planning an attack:

    The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence. … Threats from white supremacist and violent antigovernment groups during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts. … Rightwing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African American president … but they have not yet turned to attack planning (page 2).

    Oh, and the nonpartisan report bought the partisan line that crazy people don’t kill people, only right wing gun-owning conspiracy nuts kill people (“The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology” [page 3, where can I find these reports outside of liberal blogs?]).

    ***

    I think it’s silly to define “rightwing extremist groups” as groups that are mostly “hate oriented” (page 2, I guess this is in comparison to violent leftwing groups that are mostly love oriented) or “dedicated to a single issue” (page 2, the VFW is dedicated to a single issue, are they rightwing extremists? Based on their recent letter, possibly — http://ourvoice.legion.org/story/1543/legion-dhs-americans-are-not-enemy ).

    ***

    They also opposed free trade agreements, arguing that these arrangements resulted in Americans losing jobs to countries such as Mexico.

    Compared to the peaceniks in the UAW and AFL-CIO that supported said trade agreements. I don’t know where Obama stands on this issue, as his campaign speeches were critical of NAFTA and free trade agreements. For the record, I like free trade agreements, and think we need more of them.

  10. Max Lybbert Says:

    Now that I’ve had my fun, I do find the following passage troubling:

    Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy
    generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but … (page 5).

    I’ll chalk this up to sloppy writing, but if a politician started a sentence like this I would be very worried about the direction he was headed.

    Debates over [insert any political policy here] generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but …

  11. Max Lybbert Says:

    This sentence of mine might be too cheeky:

    I think it’s silly to define “rightwing extremist groups” as groups that are mostly “hate oriente” (page 2, I guess this is in comparison to violent leftwing groups that are mostly love oriented)

    The point is that most violent groups are hate oriented in some way. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine any other possibility.

    Which, by the way, is why I think hate crime legislation is silly. “You brutally murdered the victim and torched his house, but we think the motivation was a long-standing grudge and not outright hate.”

  12. Hume's Ghost Says:

    I read the report, and it reads like a political science text describing “right-wing” extremism would read. I agree that there is a legitimate concern about the criminalization of certain political beliefs, but I, unlike Malkin and the other members of the hissy fit, am opposed to numerous aspects of the national surveillance state which are prone to abuse in the first place.

    Everyone keeps picking that particular line from Pam Gellar. I find this curious, since I found this line to be even more absurd:

    It is the fascist blueprint to create a police state and legalize gulags. This is not a spoof. This is Obama’s “civilian army’s” MOB.

    Hey, do you think Michelle Malkin is some kind of super-duper deep cover plant performing some kind of Sokal Hoax? Here’s what she said back in ’05 when it was disclosed that the FBI had been engaging in surveillance of non-violent groups

    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/michelle/malkin072005.php3

    Oh, dear. Oh, dear. Civil liberties activists, anti-war organizers, eco-militants, and animal rights operatives are in a fright over news that the nefarious FBI is watching them. Why on earth would the government be worried about harmless liberal grannies, innocent vegetarians, unassuming rainforest lovers and other “peaceful groups” simply exercising their First Amendment rights?

    Let me remind you of some very good reasons.

    [Malkin lists her "reasons" which have nothing to do with the actual surveillance targets, but are meant to demonstrate "the left" are dangerous subversives.]

    The FBI’s job is to take threats to our domestic security seriously and act on them before catastrophe strikes. Given the suspect words and actions of left-wing groups over the last several years, “dissent is patriotic” is a bromide no responsible agent can swallow blindly. Tolerating the unfettered free speech of saboteurs has threatened enough lives already.

    This has to be some kind world record for hypocrisy.

  13. Polimom Says:

    “Everyone keeps picking that particular line from Pam Gellar.”

    I can’t understand why *anybody* would consider a line from Pam Gellar as somehow credible. Kinda goes along with the level of insanity, generally.

  14. Hume's Ghost Says:

    ‘I can’t understand why *anybody* would consider a line from Pam Gellar as somehow credible.’

    True that. I think the reasonable response for anyone who looks at her blog and see the shrieking hysterical insanity leaping off the page is to dismiss her as an outrageous kook.

    Except last night she was one of the guests on Fox News’ “Red Eye” with Greg Gutfield. And she previously was granted an interview with UN ambassador John Bolton.

    When kooks like Gellar are being promoted by a major news network and high level gov’t official we have a serious problem for the state of political discourse.

  15. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Meanwhile, Back to Serious Problems with Governmental Power Says:

    [...] is amazing, by the way, that a lot of folks will get up in arms over the suggestion that the federal government is concerned about right-wing hate groups seem not [...]

  16. The Pundits Who Cried “Wolf” « The Alabama Moderate Says:

    [...] Or not. That one was debunked in a rare moment of actual journalism by Fox News, of all things. [...]

  17. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Want a Reasonable Response to the DHS Report? Says:

    [...] DHS report that was the focus of so much discussion earlier in the week (and that I blogged about here and [...]

  18. Weekend Opinionator: Tea Parties, to the Extreme - The Opinionator Blog - NYTimes.com Says:

    [...] L. Taylor at PoliBlog, however, thinks this is just scaremongering: The key phrase in the DHS definition is “dedicated to a single issue” (note single). It is [...]

  19. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Yet More Evidence of What Ails Contemporary Conservatism Says:

    [...] methods”? This is a rather odd position. It reminds me of the bizarre identification by some right-ward bloggers with the DHS’s memo about potential right-wing extremism (indeed, some have gone so far as to [...]

  20. HOTAiR: Confirmed: The Obama DHS hit job on conservatives is real | Fire Janet Napolitano Says:

    [...] PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » You’re so Vain, You Probably Think this Report is about … [...]


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