Kurt Eichenwald wrote a very interesting — and provocative — article in Newsweek back in February. The title is: “Right-Wing Extremists are a bigger threat to America than ISIS”
Boom. That must have pissed off quite a few people. Eichenwald probably didn’t realize at the time he was describing a large segment of Donald Trump’s base. Six months later it is obvious. But when we hear or read about anti-terrorism efforts, the focus never includes these militant groups.
All we’ve been hearing about is how ISIS is such a threat, what are we doing to fight ISIS abroad and here at home, blah-blah-blah. ISIS is a threat of course and the government is doing a lot to fight the group, but ever since the Department of Homeland Security released a report critical of so-called militias in 2009 — and then quickly backtracked because Republicans objected to a key core of their base being vilified and compared to Muslim extremists — it’s been no secret right wing militias, our homegrown terrorist organizations, are a growing and dangerous threat to America. Well, except at the Department of Homeland Security.
After the GOP objected to the accurate portrayal of these right wing nut bars running around the woods and hinterlands with assault weapons and survivalist store camouflaged fatigues, the DHS closed down the office that investigated such organizations. So, on an executive branch level, there was no office investigating right wing extremists who claim the laws of the land don’t apply to them, don’t register motor vehicles and issue their own passports because they don’t recognize the federal — and often state and local — governments as representing them. Crazy people with guns, in other words.
That didn’t stop the Department of Defense from conducting similar investigations, or at least the U.S. Military Academy’s Combatting Terrorism Center. According to them right wing extremists conduct an average of 350 attacks per year and killed about 250 people from 2002-2011.
Right wing extremists include people like Dylann Roof, who murdered nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina just over a year ago, to the cabal of “patriots” who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Led by Ammon Bundy and his brother Ryan, this group attracted followers from across the West, including Robert “LaVoy” Finnicum who traveled from Arizona to join the protest and was killed when federal authorities closed in to arrest the protestors.
Ammon Bundy insisted he and his confederates were not terrorists, but their presence in the community scared many of the residents who universally told the refuge occupiers to go home.
One aspect of the Malheur refuge story was the other militia group that came, armed, to act as a buffer between the federal authorities and the militia group in the compound: the Pacific Patriots Network. In one interview one of the Pacific Patriots said his group was there to help and protect the federal authorities. On the face of it, that’s funny, but it’s a window into how these people think: a little goofy, a bit off kilter, somewhat out there, when it comes to reality. Read Here.
The threat, they believe, is our government especially now that a black guy is president. When Barack Obama became president there were 149 known right wing extremist groups in the U.S. By 2012 there were 1,360, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such groups. General characteristics of these groups is their unfounded beliefs that the government is going to ban guns, that their right to free speech is being blocked — despite the fact that they regularly voice their opinions to anyone who will listen.
Maybe that’s their problem: nobody wants to listen to them. Their messages do not resonate with the saner elements of society. In fact my not so carefully chosen words are a reflection of a broader opinion of right wing extremist groups: they are kind of nutty.
What isn’t broadly reported is just how dangerous they are to America, more so than any threats from foreign terrorists and their confederates here in the U.S. But we can’t talk about that because the GOP says it’s unpatriotic, that these people are “patriots” and it’s an insult to criticize the veterans that join these groups. Well, I’m a veteran and I’ve met a few of these people, fellow veterans with those views and I’m convinced they are more than a little nutty.
The point is there is a nutty core of the Republican Party, the Teabaggers, who count these so-called patriots as part of their constituencies and now that nutty wing of the GOP is supporting Donald Trump. They make the most outlandish claims, most recently that Hillary Clinton’s health is suspect and then try to float that nonsense to the mainstream media, from the conspiracy theory sites like Info Wars and Breitbart News.
Which brings us to the latest shakeup in the Trump Campaign. Paul Manafort is still an advisor — he’s Trump’s conduit to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin — but now Trump has GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, who is no slouch when it comes to pedaling misinformation, and Breitbart News co-founder, Stephen K. Bannon. Oh yes, and fired Fox News president Roger Ailes to help with debate prep.
Despite Donald Trump’s speech to African-Americans, given in a suburb of Milwaukee, WI that is almost exclusively white, the candidate has taken on as his campaign manager a man who has never held any position of leadership in political campaigns and has a long history of pedaling lies and conspiracy theories through his right wing website. Just scroll through some of their headlines: “There’s no hiring bias against women in tech, they just suck an interviews.” “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.” “Teenage boys with tits: Here’s my problem with Ghostbusters.” Apparently women as the Ghostbusters were too objectionable.
For months the media has been reporting Trump’s appeal to racist organizations like the KKK, and right wing extremists have voiced their support for the self-described billionaire who speaks for no one but himself. But the right wing militia groups believe Donald Trump speaks for them.
One Trump advocate, Jim Stachowiak even said “patriots” should go into riots and shoot anyone walking out of looted store, including women and children. He called the Black Lives Matter movement a “domestic terrorist organization” and that anyone caught rioting should be shot on sight, on suspicion of looting. Here’s his video. I sort of hate giving this guy any more views on his video, but it illustrates my point. And a tip of the hat to the Daily Kos for bringing him to our attention.
That’s part of Donald Trump’s base and these right wing nuts have sympathy from the rest of Trump’s followers, including members of Congress who believe labeling these groups as terrorist organizations is an insult to the veterans that belong to these groups.
Now, with Stephen Bannon running Trump’s campaign, we can expect more Info Wars and Breitbart News conspiracy theories to make their way into the Trump Campaign and out in front of the press — more of a direct appeal to these right wing extremists who pose the biggest threat to America. And with Trump stoking the fires with claims that the November elections are rigged, we might want to get prepared for violent reactions from some of these groups, or lone actors, once Trump loses in a landslide.
Makes you wonder what Governor Mike Pence is thinking as the campaign he’s a part of twirls down the toilet. He doesn’t get much press, he doesn’t seem to do or say very much, other than to smooth things over with the establishment of the GOP. No matter what he says or does between today and November 8, Mike Pence will forever be identified as the guy who became Donald Trump’s running mate.
Can’t feel any sympathy for him though — he wanted the job. Now he too can be linked to right wing extremists and racists. That will look good on his curriculum vitae.
Top photo: Jim Stachowiak from his YouTube video
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the elected government officials and business were so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that.