Eliminationist Rhetoric Becoming Action

April 19, the anniversary of the end of the Waco Siege and Timothy McVeigh's terrorist attack is approaching. Two great sources on the right wing movement have recent posts on the current zeitgeist of the militia movement. Sara Robinson at OurFuture.org wrote None Dare Call It Sedition and Eric Boehlert at MediaMatters.org wrote Post-Hutaree: How Glenn Beck and Fox News spread the militia message.

Boehlert focuses on an important difference between now and the 1990's:
For anyone who thought the dark, Waco-fueled chapter of domestic extremism in this country was behind us, the Hutaree arrests were a jarring reminder that, with the election of another Democratic president, the violent militia message is back.

And it's stronger than ever.

Hutaree happy picNot only have the number of radical-right extremist groups exploded in the wake of President Obama's election (more than 500 today, as compared to just 200 during the 1990s), but these militia members now have a proud sponsor in the person of Fox News' Glenn Beck, who has done more than any other person to amplify and mainstream the movement's hateful and foreboding anti-government message. Beck continues to give a voice, and national platform, to the same deranged, hard-core militia haters and self-style "patriots" who hounded the new, young Democratic president in the early 1990s in the wake of Waco.

On TV and the radio, Beck rarely bothers to mention the militia movement by name. Instead, he's simply co-opted their rhetoric as his own. He's acted as a crucial transmitter, warning about Obama fronting his own private "army," and urging followers to "start food storage."
Folks, we're witnessing a militia rerun. Except this time, thanks to the likes of Beck and Fox News, the unwanted repeat is being broadcast nationwide.

Actually, today's hysterical warnings are probably even more extreme than the last time a Democrat sat in the Oval Office. What's disturbing is that instead of having to trade copies of The Turner Diaries, relying on grassroots fax networks, or traveling to gun shows to hear that kind of incendiary insurrectionist rhetoric (i.e. the president must be stopped!), haters can just turn on the highest-rated cable news channel.
Robinson shows how words are being turned into actions:
Sedition: Crime of creating a revolt, disturbance, or violence against lawful civil authority with the intent to cause its overthrow or destruction
-- Brittanica Concise Dictionary

Well, finally. It's high time somebody had the guts to say the S-word -- sedition -- right out loud.

When the indictments against the Hutaree were unsealed last week, the S-word was right there, front and center, in Count One. The Justice Department accused them of "seditious conspiracy," charging that the defendants "did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and other persons known and unknown...to levy war against the United States, and to prevent, hinder, and delay by force the execution of any United States law."

Michigan militia posterThis is very serious stuff. But the Hutaree are getting nailed for sedition only because they crossed the line with inches to spare. They're by no means the only ones. Advocating, encouraging, and sanctioning sedition is the new norm on the conservative side.

We saw it again last Thursday, when the Guardians of the Free Republics -- a Sovereign Citizen group that believes that the oath of office taken by state governors is invalid under their twisted Bizarroland interpretation of the Constitution -- sent letters to most or all sitting state governors telling them to either a) take what they consider to be a legitimate oath of office; b) stand down; or c) or be removed "non-violently" within three days. The FBI, rightly, regards this as a potentially seditious threat against the governors.
She goes on to describe the fine line between speech and action:
Here's the defining line we need to hold on to. People who promote subversive ideas, no matter how dangerous those ideas might seem, are completely protected under the First Amendment. Even calling for the overthrow of the government is protected (though not benign, as we'll see later, because it creates justification, permission, and incitement to seditious acts). That's why the conservatives have been safe -- so far.

It's only when those people start actively planning and implementing a government rebellion that it turns into criminal sedition. In this case: the weird rantings on the Hutaree website -- not seditious. The group's allegedly operational plans to assassinate a police officer, ambush the resulting funeral, and thus bring on a national militia uprising -- absolutely seditious, if the charges stick.

This bright-line distinction, which has been part of American sedition law for the past 50 years, parallels closely the line drawn by terrorism analysts in sussing out which groups are benign and which ones are headed for trouble. As I've noted before, one of the cardinal signs these experts watch and listen for is a fundamental shift in rhetoric. In the early stages of dissent, groups establish the lines of conflict by obsessively focusing on their enemies and loudly denouncing their essential evilness. You hear this kind of talk in politics all the time these days. It's always ugly, but not inherently dangerous.

But in the latter stage, the talk turns overtly eliminationist, and the group starts expressing its clear desire and intention to eradicate specific enemies. When they shift to that second stage, it's a sign that they've made the mental commitment to violent action -- and are more likely to be acquiring arms, selecting targets, and getting ready to act in the near future. When a group starts actively planning an attack on government offices or officials, it's officially crossed the line into sedition.
There's lots more and both posts are chock full of links.

Why do all the recent reports on "homegrown terrorists" only mention Muslims? Don't Christians have their own jihad brewing?

Michigan militia mugshots


Ryan said...

I dunno, this looks a bit trumped-up to me, just like the arrests of the alleged "Muslim terrorists" in Miami a few years back who turned out to be Catholic Haitian refugees who were goaded into everything by an undercover FBI snitch and now are doing life. Did these "Hutaree" people have the actual capability to do anything? If so, did they have that capability before the police informant in their ranks started supplying them with "contacts?" It's like the RNC protesters here in town --- most of thee people don't have the actual ability to do squat until an undercover snitch starts supplying them with ordnance or the means to get it. I don't doubt that these "Hutaree" clown maybe would have liked to do everything they were supposedly planning, but at what point do the actions of agent s provocateus cross the line into full-fledged entrapment? It's funny how for eight years we were all supposed to think that we were living under a brutal police state-waiting-to-happen, but now that Obama's in there we're supposed to suddenly believe the cops are our friends? I don't buy it. I'm waiting for more evidence and for the court proceedings to play out, everyone is entitled to a presumption of innocence until they're proben guilty --- muslims as well as rednecks.

Jon C. said...

Mark, I found the NYT piece about the Hutaree just plain unsettling. This is no longer about which party plays up difference more for positioning...it's something quite different altogether. I'm going to start following your posts!