[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Leftwing vs. Rightwing Extremism

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Leftwing vs. Rightwing Extremism

The latest controversy involving the DHS report on rightwing extremism, and its resulting reaction on both sides of the political spectrum, peaked my interest enough to want to look at this issue closer. Fortunately, The Schnitt Show's website has links to not just the original pdf document on rightwing extremism, but the one on leftwing extremism issued by the very same DHS back in January.

The "key findings" shape up like this:

For the leftwingers it's "the potential for economic damage, the individually-initiated and anonymous nature of cyber attacks, and the perception that cyber attacks are nonviolent align well with the ideological beliefs, strategic objectives, and tactics of many leftwing extremists". The core source of these leftwing extremists, according to the report, are extremist elements from animal rights, environmentalist and anarchist movement groups.

For the rightwingers, it's a combination of economic and social factors, the possibility of firearm restrictions, returning military veterans, illegal immigration and an African-American president that are key indicators. The report offers up this example:
A recent example of the potential violence associated with a rise in rightwing extremism may be found in the shooting deaths of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 4 April 2009. The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled “one world government.”
On the left side, we have:
In October 2005, animal rights extremists launched an e-mail attack against a Milwaukee, Wisconsin firm that held stock in an animal testing laboratory. The firm subsequently sold its shares in the laboratory, with losses it estimated at approximately $1.4 million.
How do I see this? Frankly, I think many on the right are somewhat exaggerating the anti-right-wing bias aspect of this. As we can see, a report was issued for leftwing extremists three months before the rightwing one came out. There's even a mention of some of these groups resorting to bombings and arson. So to point out that the leftwingers were painted out to be benign, well-meaning folks isn't completely accurate.

Where I DO think those on the right have a case to make lies in the organizations and methods the findings focus on for each group. For the left, it's primarily "non-violent" cyber attacks by fringe elements animal rights, environmentalist and anarchist groups. Sounds relatively harmless and it gives the impression that these folks live in some strange land far far away. For the right, the implication one can draw is that it's regular folks that get pushed into white supremacist and anti-government groups by a combination of economic and social factors, as well as a latent racism of sorts against President Obama. Among these regular folks: our military. In other words, it could be your neighbor next door who could decide to blow up a building. It could be that brave soldier who returns home, doesn't have a job and murders a bunch of minorities or plots to assassinate the President of the United States.

In other words, one can say the report pits leftwing nut cases targeting rich folks versus Average Joe who gets "recruited" and goes off the deep end because he has a propensity for disliking blacks and immigrants and can't find a job. While I don't totally buy into this as the intent of the reports, it's not an unreasonable conclusion to draw, IMO.

Perhaps the wording was clumsier in the rightwing report. But an honest analysis of both documents does seem to suggest a more pessimistic, threatening and downright scary scenario for the rightwing extremists, one that can come from just about anywhere and from anyone that has a beef against President Obama, whereas the leftwing report focused on specific fringe groups targeting banks and corporations using "non-violent" means.

Are the reports' conclusions based on reality of some sort? Sure (Timothy McVeigh rings a bell). But the perception that anyone could fall into the rightwing extremist trap is one that bothers me. Especially when "anyone" is either veterans or anyone not affiliated with fringe groups.


Blogger La Ventanita said...

I think the biggest mistake, and where I find biff with the report, is that a) the definition of the right wing extremists groups in the footnote in page 2 is very loose and non-specific and b) they make no mention of specific groups like they did in the leftwing report.

While not accusing conservatives of extremism, it leaves it quite open for interpretation. And the link to the Pittsburgh case was just awful.

In any case you beat me to the punch on the side by side...

10:35 PM, April 16, 2009  
Blogger Rick said...

Far from "anyone," Robert, the right-wing report specifically details those who might be predisposed to commit or take part in extremist acts. According to their information, some veterans are apparently in that group.

Would you rather that the government withhold that information from the public so as not to offend anyone?


8:16 AM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger La Ventanita said...

Rick, I'd rather the government point directly to specific groups by name, and not use such a wide brush.

All hysteria aside, the definition they use is quite wide, and it seems others within DHS were just as concerned about this.

1:08 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...


It's not about being afraid or not to affend a particular group, but who's being targeted here. The military was lumped in with white supremacists as the 2 identifiable groups mentioned. One I understand, the other one is quite reprehensible. Are there veterans wackos out there? Sure, but you can say that about most groups, and I'd venture to say that there are infinitely more violent wackos in the white supremacist groups versus veterans. Let's just say that the DHS was quite clumsy in its report.

LV, agree with you.

5:26 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger Rick said...

LV: I'm not so sure these groups have names and even if they did, would saying that "XXXX Group, comprised mostly of military veterans..." be that much better for you?

Robert: Intelligence reports have shown that veterans have been joining these groups, as have white males, as have racists, as have anti-Semites. No one is "targeting" anyone but right-wing extremists who are a threat to this country.

Seriously now: Do you actually believe that every military person out there is being regarded as a right-wing extremist? Let me answer that for you. No. Only the ones that are part of these extremist group. If we see that these extremist groups are comprised of white males, anti-Semites, racists or, much to everyone's chagrin, veterans, why withhold that information?


5:46 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...

I agree, Rick. But the report was a little too broad in its categorizations, although I don't think that was the intent of whomever at DHS wrote it. I would say that the veterans that fall into the rightwing extremist categories likely fall into the other categories first and foremost, making the fact that they're veterans irrelevant, IMO.

6:10 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger La Ventanita said...


LV: I'm not so sure these groups have names and even if they did, would saying that "XXXX Group, comprised mostly of military veterans..." be that much better for you?Excuse me? Skinheads and the Aryan Brotherhood come to mind. And since they decided to use the ADL definition of extremists in the right, they might as well have included their listing of groups of extremism in America.You know what would be much better? If they told us which groups these vets are joining, which groups are seeing the increase in recruitment, and what are they planning. What is the chatter on their websites? What can we expect in the form of attacks? - information that again exists on the leftwing report. Specifics, Rick.

And it is the absence of specifics that make this report weak at best, insulting at worst.

7:32 PM, April 17, 2009  
Blogger Rick said...

Well, "skinheads" technically isn't the name of a movement but they mention them in the report if you read it closely. They also specifically say that the "lone wolf" extremist and the smaller extremist cells may be the entities we need to be most concerned about.

Those are negligible points anyway, in my opinion, and I don't think it would be reasonable to characterize a report as politically driven or incomplete simply because it doesn't contain the same specificity as the left wing report.

I'm not sure who you think this report is "insulting" to: the extremists or the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Coulters, and Becks of the Republican Party who are worried that their loony opinions and conspiracy theories are going to be confused with, you know, the other guys. *gasp*


3:26 PM, April 18, 2009  
Blogger jose said...


5:40 PM, April 18, 2009  
Blogger jose said...

Too much John birch and fox news.... try David Frum.

this is all paranoia. if you are not doing anything wrong, don't worry. I mean , the feds are not targeting normal right-wingers , with guns. Just the ones threatening violence, just like on the left. this is silly paranoid talk.

5:42 PM, April 18, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...

You're on a roll today, brother Jose. You did notice that I thought the right was blowing this issue out of proportion some, didn't you?

5:57 PM, April 18, 2009  

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