Wednesday, April 15, 2009

'Right Wing Extremism' - Call Me Crazy

John Hindraker of Powerline has an excellent smack-down of the recent ludicrous DHS report on 'right wing extremism'. Apart from leaving that term vague, as does the DHS report, he carefully examines several of the claims and finds them to be arbitrary and groundless.

Here's an excerpt:
Another of the report's themes is that conditions today resemble those in the 1990s, when militia activity was a concern:

"The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s when rightwing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs, and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers. ...

"Growth of these groups subsided in reaction to increased government scrutiny as a result of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and disrupted plots, improvements in the economy, and the continued U.S. standing as the preeminent world power."

In 1995, the economy was booming. Nor is there any obvious similarity between the "political climate" now and in the 1990s, except that we have a Democratic administration in power. I suspect that's what the authors are really worried about, although they never quite come out and say so.

The Homeland Security report lists the possibility of restrictions on firearms as a driving force behind extremist recruitment:

"Proposed imposition of firearms restrictions and weapons bans likely would attract new members into the ranks of rightwing extremist groups, as well as potentially spur some of them to begin planning and training for violence against the government."

On its face, this is pure speculation. It's true that firearms sales have increased, but what evidence is there that those buying guns are "planning and training for violence against the government"? None that the report discloses.

The authors describe "rightwing extremist chatter" on the internet:

"Rightwing extremist chatter on the Internet continues to focus on the economy, the perceived loss of U.S. jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors, and home foreclosures. Anti-Semitic extremists attribute these losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish 'financial elites.'"

That's pretty sinister, all right: focusing on jobs and the economy. As far as anti-Semitism is concerned, you'll find much more of that on left-wing sites (including many that are considered mainstream) than on right-wing sites. That, though, must be the subject of another report.

Whoever wrote the report seems deeply hostile to conservatives' opposition to the agenda of the Obama administration. For example:

"Many rightwing extremists are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues, including immigration and citizenship, the expansion of social programs to minorities, and restrictions on firearms ownership and use. Rightwing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment."

Millions of Americans--not just "rightwing extremists"--are concerned about the administration's positions on immigration and many other issues. Note that wherever possible, the authors slip race into the discussion, as with the reference to "expansion of social programs to minorities." I'm not aware of a single social program that the Obama administration has proposed to "expand to minorities." But the authors' assumption is, apparently, that anyone who opposes the expansion of social programs must be a racist. Once again we see the assertion that right wing extremists are "galvanized" and are "leveraging" these issues as "drivers for recruitment." But is recruitment up, down, or stable? The report doesn't say, and its authors evidently don't know.

What he doesn't mention, though he does assert that the report is probably (ha!) politically motivated, is that this sort of thing is exactly what one would expect when a Progressive government is in power. For such people, truth is subjective and the only thing that counts is keeping and enlarging that power. For that purpose, no smear is too outlandish, no support for it too ephemeral.

There is more evidence for my view in an editorial in the LA Times by Marc Cooper, where he calls the Tea Party protests "insane."

It's filled with the usual left-wing lies about the protests. He suggests the participants are "outraged, simply infuriated, by the marginal tax rate rising 3% for millionaires". That's a deliberate distortion and typical of the entire editorial.

He also claims the protests are primarily against the current administration, and therefore "Republican." Well, it is the current one, after all. Then he goes on to assert "[t]hese same conservatives, however, were mum when George W. Bush erased our budget surplus and put us deep in the red by drunken spending on a pointless war in Iraq and by, yes, granting massive tax rollbacks for the loaded country clubbers who fund the GOP".

Either the author is woefully ignorant of the diversity of political opinion on that subject from all points on the political compass, or it's another deliberate distortion. That George Bush's approval ratings were so low by itself signals that there were more than just Democrats who disapproved of the effort. Also, the tax rollbacks were for all income brackets and the highest still pay 40% of the total.

Again, this type of smear job is exactly what one would expect from a Progressive. So to claim, as this 'right wing extremist' does that the media is biased in support of the Progressive policies of the current Federal government would hardly fall in the realm of insanity.

Of course, to a Progressive, believing in the value of individual freedom, and believing that your money belongs to you, really are crazy notions.


Anonymous said...

Charles Johnson has been arguing that the Right Wing blogosphere has been overreacting to this. The report was actually started under the Bush Administration. Here is a link to LGF:

Its important to oppose Obama but not in a way that mimics the Bush Derangement Syndrome the Left exhibited for the last 8 years.

Jeff Perren said...

This Anonymous comment is very likely one generated by a Progressive propaganda program.

It addresses none of the substance of the post, brings the ever-useful Bush into the issue, and argues - as Progressives do when cornered - for "the middle way."

Bush was no friend of freedom in domestic policy, so whether the report was started under his administration or under Calvin Coolidge's is irrelevant. The issue is one of freedom and individual rights, not who happens to occupy the Oval Office.

It's also typical for this sort to argue that we should all just calm down. When one's rights are under such concerted attack as they are today this is no time for calm. It's a time to get good and mad.

Of course one should avoid overreacting - to this or anything else, at any time. But it's no overreaction to protest about all the policies presently being pursued by the Administration and Congress, including ones that began before the latest occupant of the President's private office moved in.

Nice try at dampening the spirit of revolt, though. And how ironic, given that the Left used to do so much of it. Now that they have power, of course, anything that challenges the status quo in the name of individual rights is "overreacting" or "derangement."

Peddle this elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Did you even read the LGF post? LGF, which is a center-Right blog BTW and not Daily Kos. I'm not trying to dampen anything but merely to point out that there *are* Right Wing fanatics out there. Look up StormFront or many of the racialist and white nationalist groups. Collectivism needs to be opposed but in a rational way. The Leftists were hysterical for eight years under Bush. I don't want to see the Right do the same think under Obama. If that makes me a Progressive than so be it.

Jeff Perren said...

I'm glad to see that you are a person and not a program.

Obviously there are 'right wing extremists' in existence (though many fewer than in the past, I'd bet.) That's not the point. The point is that smearing anyone who engages in a protest against the government, even in such a peaceful form as a Tea Party protest, as a "right wing extremist" is a smear tactic of the Left and we shouldn't fall for it. Have you seen any of the media coverage? Do you consider it fair and balanced?

I'm glad to see you don't fit the category of Progressive - I take you at your word. But don't fall into their trap. There are no mainstream right wing extremist groups (almost by definition). There are hundreds of mainstream extremist Left-wing groups, starting with Daily Kos and the entire Obama administration.

If asserting that constitutes derangement then, as I said, call me crazy.

Jeff Perren said...

By the way, how is that StormFront and other racist organizations are categorized as 'right wing'?

Since their whole philosophy (explicit or implicit) is based on collectivism and coercion - two prominent attributes of the Left - most of them modeled after Fascist organizations of the past, are they not more accurately described as 'left wing'?

Or, are you someone who characterizes Nazis (National Socialists) as right wing?

Anonymous said...

Regarding Right/Left, you're right, it should be that collectivism is the essence of leftism. But the current spectrum is far right = fascism and far left = socialism with social democracy at the center. I don't agree with that scale but that is what dominates the culture right now.

The Nazis are hard to classify. They were egalitarian amongst themselves but they were non-egalitarian with the rest of the world; they considered themselves superior. That is very non-leftist as leftism believes that all cultures are equal. The Nazis were not multiculturalists. So, yes they should be considered fascist collectivists but today they are viewed as non-egalitarian totalitarians thus they are placed at the far right.

Charles Johnson's point is that there are many far right wackos that are also anti-Obama. He just recently pointed out that Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck both lent legitimacy to Alex Jones who is a Paleo Conservative conspiracy theory crackpot. Associating with these types (and I'm tempted to put Ron Paul in the same category as he is a supporter of the nightmarish Christian Fundamentalist Constitution Party) undermines the Conservative/libertarian movements and thus undermines their attempts to fight off the left.

As someone who I respect, would you say that Johnson is right or is he himself granting too much ground to the left?

Jeff Perren said...

Thank you for your comment. I'll give you a fuller reply tomorrow when I have more time.

For now, I'll just respond to this.

"Regarding Right/Left, you're right, it should be that collectivism is the essence of leftism. But the current spectrum is far right = fascism and far left = socialism with social democracy at the center. I don't agree with that scale but that is what dominates the culture right now."

This spectrum already concedes the entire argument to the left, for you can see that there is nowhere on this scale for an advocate of individual rights as exemplified by the U.S. Constitution.

Social Democracy is not at all "center." It is simply watered down socialism and collectivism with a few bones thrown to individual liberty. There is no principled recognition in that doctrine of laissez-faire, private property, free speech, and so forth. Look at semi-socialist Europe for numerous examples of different degrees.

Nor do I agree that this is what dominates the culture at present. Joe Q Public might mistakenly identify fascism (if he or she knew the word) with "far right" but would never recognize Social Democracy as "center" if the culture hadn't already been moved very far to the left by Progressive philosophy over the past 100 years. But even if that were the case, it would still amount to the logical fallacy of ad populum.

As to the Nazis, they certainly had no problem identifying themselves, or their program, as socialist and therefore what we would today call "on the left." I'll explicate this tomorrow.

Jeff Perren said...

"The Nazis are hard to classify. They were egalitarian amongst themselves but they were non-egalitarian with the rest of the world; they considered themselves superior. That is very non-leftist as leftism believes that all cultures are equal. The Nazis were not multiculturalists. So, yes they should be considered fascist collectivists but today they are viewed as non-egalitarian totalitarians thus they are placed at the far right."

As promised, here are a few additional comments about the Nazis, Fascism, etc.

The Nazis were Fascists, which is a form of socialism, or (more accurately) statism. The essential difference is not whether a particular political philosophy or group is egalitarian or chauvinistic. The essential (politically) is whether it does or does not recognize the existence of individual rights.

Fascists, like Communists, do not. (Social Democrats recognize some, making them a mixed case.) That one of these is nationalistic (Germany and Italy during the 1920s and later) and the other internationalist (Soviet Russia and Cuba) doesn't alter that. The distinguishing characteristic between, say Fascist Italy and the Soviet Union was not whether they wanted socialism "for themselves alone" or "for everybody." It was that in the Soviet Union disposition of property (and all other rights involving trade and freedom of action) were dictated by the State explicitly, whereas in Fascist Italy there were nominal property rights, with all trade completely controlled by the State. The end result is the same, though communism is the more honest system.

It's this latter characterization that makes it clear the U.S. is headed for a Fascist system, and fast. Over the past 100 years Progressivism (a diluted, disguised form of Fascism) has weakened respect for the Constitution and capitalism in general to the point that the Federal Government is rapidly becoming the de facto owner of all property.

Without the recognized and protected right of use and disposal as the owner sees fit, consistent with the rights of others to do likewise, property rights are chimerical. They are, to a dangerously increasing extent, becoming rights solely de jure (in law), not de facto (in fact). What's written on a piece of paper somewhere means little if the government ignores it at will.

The evidence of that is all around us, in the firing of the GM CEO, in the forced transfer of casino profits to race tracks in Illinois, in forcing banks to accept TARP money and refusing to take it back, etc. etc. That Bush started most of that is beside the point, as I said earlier. It's not the person that counts but the policy, though the person now occupying the Oval Office (like playing FDR to Bush's Hoover) is putting all those policies on toxic steroids.

[And, as a partial aside, how does being "non-egalitarian totalitarians" put a group or philosophy on the far right? Isn't that characteristic just as much a part of Communism, which everyone would put on the far left? In any case, how something is "viewed" is not a terribly helpful criterion of classification. What counts are facts and the proper methods of analysis.

As another aside, I don't think it's even precise to say that "[Nazis] were egalitarian amongst themselves". They were nationalistic, true. If that's all you mean, all that does is emphasize one half of the philosophy. If you mean they recognized equal rights for all Germans, that's not empirically correct. They recognized no rights of any individuals, only of the State. "All within the state, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State" as Mussolini taught Hitler. This criterion just doesn't strike me as worthwhile or even clear.

This "they considered themselves superior. That is very non-leftist as leftism believes that all cultures are equal." is also not accurate. Progressives were very nationalistic during the Wilson administration. You can't just look at the left since the 1960s for a clear picture. Chauvinism is not the exclusive hallmark of the far right, because it's not an essential of a political philosophy but a cultural accident.]

Anonymous said...

Oh wow. Excellent response. A lot for me to chew on. Especially the egalitarian / chauvinist false alternative. Thanks.

Jeff Perren said...

Thank you. Besides the Powerline post, here are two more good discussions of the DHS report.

One is by Diane West.

The other, I haven't been able to locate online, but it is Ayn Rand's essay in Capitalism the Unknown Ideal titled Extremism: The Art of Smearing. She was often called a right-wing extremist and had many insightful comments on the subject.