DHS Report on Right-Wing Extremists Is No Attack on Tea Party Conservatives

Right-wing extremists really are a threat. Mainstream right-wingers really are silly.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Now conservatives know how many Muslims feel. The right is up in arms (as it were) over a Department of Homeland Security report that was leaked this week and looks at whether the first black president and a historically bad economy might energize right-wing extremist groups.

Please note the word "extremist"—because few prominent conservatives seem to have. Instead, they are painting this as a cheap propaganda attack, specifically timed to counter the "Tea Party" movement. Seriously?

Here's my question: Why are prominent conservatives so quick to lump themselves in with genuine nuts and terrorists? Seriously.

Two stipulations: First the use of "rightwing" (one word at DHS, two words at USN & WR) may have been ill-advised. That said, if the department released a report looking at eco-terrorists or other far-left terrorist groups and described them as " leftwing extremists," I don't think I would get particularly upset. Oh wait, they did, and I'm not. Note again in any case the use of the word "extremist."

Second: Michelle Malkin makes one arguably fair point:

They were very defensive — preemptively so — in asserting that it was not a politicized document and that DHS had done reports on "leftwing extremism" in the past. I have covered DHS for many years and am quite familiar with past assessments they and the FBI have done on animal rights terrorists and environmental terrorists. But those past reports have always been very specific in identifying the exact groups, causes, and targets of domestic terrorism, i.e., the ALF, ELF, and Stop Huntingdon wackos who have engaged in physical harassment, arson, vandalism, and worse against pharmaceutical companies, farms, labs, and university researchers.

The DHS report (which is available in PDF here) would certainly be more useful or at least credible with more detail, specifically regarding sourcing. But in fairness, its earlier report on "leftwing extremists" didn't provide much either. And such lack of detail (in both reports) is less an indication of a political bent than, arguably, a sign of sloppy preparation.

But here's where Malkin and the cons go wildly off-track:

By contrast, the piece of crap report issued on April 7 is a sweeping indictment of conservatives.

Well ... no. It's not. It's simply not. Just as U.S. leaders have to periodically assure aggrieved Muslims around the world that we are not fighting Islam but rather Islamic extremists, maybe someone at DHS should let the conservatives know that we're not worried about them but rather about--again—extremists.

Here's who the report is talking about, according to a footnote on Page 2:

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.

The last time I checked, that was not a description of conservatives. It's a description of extremists, specifically the kind that blew up a federal office building less than 15 years ago in what was, until 9/11, the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil (and remains the second-bloodiest terrorist act in our history).

So why are conservatives like Malkin and El Rushbo claiming that this report targets them (and the Tea Party movement)? Surely they would not be self-described as "primarily hate-oriented" or "rejecting federal authority," would they? Why are they trying to lump themselves in with genuinely bad people? This is the worst kind of demagoguery—the more so because it legitimizes the fringe who we can all agree are a threat. An al Qaeda-level threat? No. A Timothy McVeigh-level threat? Quite possibly.

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