The Terrorists Among Us

Back in 2009 I wrote ablog post about a report issued by the Department of Homeland Security to federal, state and local law enforcement regarding the threat of terrorism from right-wing extremists groups. And I wrote about how “conservatives” threw a fit about the report and called it a political hit job. See “Malkin et al. Admit That ‘Conservatives’ Are Right-Wing Extremists and Potential Terrorists.”

Under pressure from conservatives, in a few months DHS repudiated the report. The chief author of the report no longer works at DHS.

Now the New York Times is running a major story called U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It. The truth is, they were warned.

This is from the NY Times story:

 According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center, between 2002 and 2017, the United States spent $2.8 trillion — 15 percent of discretionary spending — on counterterrorism. Terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists killed 100 people in the United States during that time. Between 2008 and 2017, domestic extremists killed 387 in the United States, according to the 2018 Anti-Defamation League report.

“We’re actually seeing all the same phenomena of what was happening with groups like ISIS, same tactics, but no one talks about it because it’s far-right extremism,” says the national-security strategist P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the New America think tank. During the first year of the Trump administration, Singer and a colleague met with a group of senior administration officials about building a counterterrorism strategy that encompassed a wider range of threats. “They only wanted to talk about Muslim extremism,” he says. But even before the Trump administration, he says, “we willingly turned the other way on white supremacy because there were real political costs to talking about white supremacy.”

Well, yeah.

It’s not just white nationalists. One of the women-hating he-man club members shot up a yoga studio and killed two women this weekend. There is a well documented connection between what appear to be random mass shootings and a history of domestic violence by men against women. And abortion clinic violence continues to be swept under the rug.

What’s to be done? First, law-enforcement experts say that right-wing extremists should be treated just like ISIS.

From Axios:

Far-right extremists have killed more people since 9/11 than any other category of domestic terrorism.

* 71% of extremist-related deaths between 2008 and 2017 were committed by members of a far-right movement, while Islamic extremists were responsible for 26%, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

* Between 2002 and 2017, the U.S. spent $2.8 trillion on counterterrorism. In that time frame, terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists killed 100 people in the U.S.

* Between 2008 and 2017, meanwhile, domestic extremists killed 387 people.

David Atkins:

Law enforcement has been ill-equipped to identify and deal with the threat in part because white male anger in defense of traditional power structures is considered normative in America, in part because law enforcement has long been infiltrated by white supremacists who defend their own, and in part because of a considered and explicit effort by the conservative political movement to prevent federal law enforcement for doing so–including by scuttling a landmark government report on the problem. Indeed, the Trump administration is shutting down an Obama-era program to counter threats of domestic terrorism even as it wields xenophobia to focus on the far less dangerous threat of attacks by foreign agents.

Here’s the hard part:

But all of this raises a terrifying question: if this horrific wave of right-wing terror is rising when these deplorable men are at the height of their political power, what happens when even that power is wrested from their control? What happens when several more years of natural demographic changes replace conservative boomers with progressive millennials and rural whites with urban and suburban diverse communities? When Democrats regain the White House, Congress and many state governments in a census year, eliminating many of the “structural advantages” conservatives have put in place to gerrymander districts and implement restrictive voting laws?

What happens when these hateful men discover that even politically, the country is finally irrevocably lost to them? What kind of asymmetric violence and terrorist insurgencies will we see from them when they don’t just feel disempowered despite all their power and privilege, but actually do find themselves truly out of power?

And the next question is, what will we do about it? As a people and as a nation? How far are we willing to go? What will we be willing to do?

18 thoughts on “The Terrorists Among Us

  1. I’m all in favor of rounding up every last one of these “stick -heads” and locking them up.

  2. I never believed in the wingnuts “freedom and liberty” shtick.  For most, it was a cover for tribal authoritarianism.  The few amongst their sanctioned elders who truly believed in such things are pretty much out wandering the wilderness these days.  Freedom and liberty and democracy and the key middle class component are tenuous things which have to be carefully maintained by the government itself.   Eliminate that maintenance, and bad things happen, which are usually authoritarian in nature.

  3. "How far are we willing to go? What will we be willing to do?"

    There's a story about bullies and the psychology of bullies I like to tell. I was in the Navy in the 70's just before the end of 'Nam. The Philippines has a huge base there for carrier groups and marines. Right outside the base was a town designed to painlessly separate sailors from their money. A lot of bars, a lot of bar girls. All good Catholic girls – they were making a living as best they could while hunting for an American husband. I loved being hunted, but that's a different story.

    The Marines, some of them, decided to engage in sport in the afternoons if/when they were off duty. A group of Marines – always a group – would find a near empty bar with a couple of sailors and start a fight when the odds were 3 to 1 in their favor. Tough guys proving how macho they are.

    After a series of incidents, and reports from the Navy hospital the Base commander (Navy) called his Marine counterpart to protest. The Marine CO replied that his were "real combat troops who saw real fighting and were only letting off steam." No action taken to discourage the rat-packing. The Navy CO (reportedly) called in the Senior Chief and gave him instructions.

    There's more sailors than there are marines. Gangs of silors began prowling the bars looking for marines. (The haircuts and attiudes are distinctly different, even when dressed in civilian clothes.) With odds of 3 to one in their favor, the Navy is quite as effective as the "battle hardened" marines. With a steady stream of his soldiers passing through the base hospital, it was the Marine CO's turn to make a call to the Navy commander.

    They say the Navy CO replied that the sailors were just, "letting off steam". The argument had less weight with the marine CO than when he was saying it. An agreement was struck. The word would go out to all that the sport of beating up others would be banned and dealt with harshly if anyone broke the truce. It worked.

    There's something to that story that applies here. The Nazis and white supremacists are bold in gangs – much less so when they are outnumbered. When it becomes clear that this isn't Germany in the '30s and they are under surveillance, the fun will go out of the game. As a society, we will need to lock up for life gangsters who try to achieve political ends through violence, the threat of violence or the mere act of planning violence.

    Prison is an unfriendly place for a white supremacist. He's a minority in prison because the law has targeted people of color. He's no longer the bad-ass he was – some mean people with nothing to lose will kill him for sport if he makes one mistake. That picture of prison – locked up with the people you most hate – needs to circulate. These thugs want to beat up helpless people – becoming the victim themselves until they die isn't something they relish.



  4. A terrorist is a terrorist – regardless of ANY other factors, like race, color, gender, etc…

    We currently track the communications of ISIS, and other ME and international terrorist groups.  (And then we seem to wait and then blow-up some wedding or other, for some reason – bad joke, sorry….,

    We should do the same here.  The conservatives purposely ignored warnings for over decades.  And quashed studies.  Why?   Maybe out of fear of their (more than) kissing cousin's blow-back?

    We need to monitor to identify active and potentially active groups – with care not to go overboard on privacy and civil rights (don't ask me how, 'cause I'm no expert).  Issue warnings, where possible. *

    I hate killing.  I hate violence.  "Catch and never release," is more along what I would like to see happen.

    But, if any number of Bubba's won't take heed, and continue on their violent ways, well then, "BOOM-BOOM! KABOOM!! AND BYE-BYE BUBBA!!! ( AND BUBBETTE, if she's complicit).

    Obviously, the issue is vastly more complex than I could even imagine.

    *  These out-of-shape, war-game-playing, paste-eating loons will be a lot easier to keep track of than some of the brightest minds that international terrorists recruit.

  5. The only difference between Trump and republican leaders is their method  of incitement:  GOP leaders have been using dog whistles for decades, while Trump goes bullhorn.  Right wingnuts have been engaging in terror attacks before Trump.  The difference today is Trump's bullhorn gives an added "legitimacy" to the violence they respond with.  

    By refusing to have these people characterized as terrorists, the republicans tacitly acknowledge that these are their people and they benefit politically from giving them cover to continue. 

  6. We have two episodes in US history about the prevalence of White supremacist violence when they lose power. One is reconstruction, the other is the end of de jure segregation. In the case of reconstruction, White supremacist violence prevailed and continued well into the 20th century. In part that was because President Grant did not believe that he could use the military to suppress that violence. (The war was officially over.) In the case of integration, there was a surge of White violence, but it was put down by the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations, through the use of the national guard and the FBI. By the 1970s White violence had been largely suppressed. IMHO, as a Southerner who observed with surprise that reduction in White violence over a 20 year period, I believe that the reason lies in the authoritarianism of White supremacists. They respond positively to force, especially superior force. We now have militarized police on both the local and Federal level. IMO our response to domestic fascist terrorism should be to put it down and crush it.

  7. Kudos, Billikan on a very well-reasoned comment. History often provides the blueprint of what to do – or Not-To-Do. Your comment illustrated both.  There are lessons in post-WWII Germany and Italy. For decades, fascism was crushed in Europe. In both countries, their leaders died with the defeat of the military. This has a devastating effect when the movement is a cult of personality – true of Adolph and Benito. And Donald. 

    Which had more energy to dismember (exactly the right word) the movements, the defeat  or the death of the leaders? Would Trump in prison be a rallying cry that wouldn't exist if he had a heart attack on the 16th hole? I'm not sure. Maha asks the right questions, and Billikan had a good reply. IMO, the answer is in an orchestrated attack by government, law enforcement and society on the psychology of authoritarianism. What factors draw new members? What events need to happen to discourage those same potential members? The answers will drive the movement underground.

  8. Every time terror is the subject I suffer from severe cognitive dissonance.  I know that cognitive dissonance is probably a fantasy of philosophical psychology, but you have to have a name for the problem.  I am probably dead wrong but I see terrorism as a technique of warfare.  There is no such thing as a terrorist.  There are people that use terror as a weapon.  There are people who use terror as a political weapon.  Political terror seems best defined as the inducement of fear and anxiety in the opposing group.   As an example one might barrage a TV audience with pictures of swarms of refugees, allude to all manner of horrors they might bring, show Constantia wire being stung on the border with flashing, incessant, repetitive, images of BREAKING NEWS (Pardon the yelling)  By the way, the induced fear and anxiety does not have to be rational as I see it, but I am probably wrong on this whole thing.  Who would have thought Yoga classes a target, but then the target only needs to be viewed as that by the irrational one employing terror as a weapon in my way of thinking.

  9. The Crying Nazi is their poster child.  All it took was one posted video to reveal his racial "courage". 

  10. I don't know about anyone ignoring terrorist warnings for decades, but in the US people were well aware of the terrorist threat, even if their government said nothing. The US seems to date the so-called war on terror to 9/11/2001, but I think it goes back at least to the attack on the Olympics in 1972. If you count Jewish terrorism in Palestine and Arab terrorism in Algeria, even further back, but there the target governments were Britain and France. And, OC, don't forget the IRA.

    Movies are enlightening in regard to popular awareness of terrorism. I have mentioned movies of the 1970s treating domestic terrorists with ridicule. But any number of movies since 1972 show the FBI and CIA fighting terrorists. The war was on, in the public imagination. And, surely, in fact, as well. The first terrorist attack against the World Trade Center was a failure, and was also met with public ridicule. The second attack succeeded. (And those in the know were surely aware of the possibility of using airliners as bombs. Tom Clancy had even used such an attack in one of his books.) The movie, "The Battle of Algiers", shows clearly that the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. By that token the 9/11 attack succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of Bin Laden. The US is still terror stricken. 

  11. Men do what other men let them do. We have seen in a short span : two black people, two women  and eleven Jews killed because it is election season  and no one questions why a president has a campaign set up hours after inauguration and he is not on a ballot,  and no one questions why we even have 'militias 'that run to the border in response to conspiracy nonsense created to excite a certain segment of the population.  Why does not one see what is obvious? 

  12. Thank you aj.  You make the most sense to me so far.  My kudo's to your optometrist also.


  13. I truly believe trump and all republicans who support him are guilty of these murders. It is the inevitable result of trumpism.we were just lucky in 2016 when the pizzagate shooter did not murder people trying to find the pedophile ring at the pizza parler. 

  14. Well me and the wife walked our 1000 feet and voted this morning! I'd like to thank my a-hole trumper neighbor for taking the time to put all the signs in his yard. It makes it easier for us to know who NOT to vote for!

  15. The article in question has been removed. And there doesn't seem to be any trail to it – I looked up Alex Koppelman's articles and couldn't find it. Maybe someone can help?


  16. "But all of this raises a terrifying question: if this horrific wave of right-wing terror is rising when these deplorable men are at the height of their political power, what happens when even that power is wrested from their control?"

    This question is like asking in the '60's "what will happen when "massive resistance to integration" is broken by federal law, including the Voting Rights Act, EEOC, Fair Housing Act, etc.? Answer, a lot of the terroist violence of the Civil Rights Era, like lynchings, government officials standing in doorways to prevent integration, etc.,  just melted away, and the bigots all joined the Republican party.

    They are raging and howling and killing now because they know they are losing, and Trump is a last-ditch attempt to "take our country back." White man's country that is. If they are defeated politically over the next few years, and the Federal Government starts seriously cracking down on domestic terrorism so that they know the FBI will be looking for them if they post violent hate messages on social media and try and organize publicly we will see a lot less of this stuff.

    Not none, but less. The Nazis and Alt-right will be despondent over their defeats, and their counter-attack which resulted in Trump in the first place, will have been turned back like Pickett's Charge. What did Lee do when Pickett's charge failed? He went back to Virginia and lost the war.

Comments are closed.