by Dave Weigel
The New Black Panther Party plays the same role for the right that Hutaree-style militants play for the left: They're a tiny, uninfluential group whose importance is magnified to keep the base excited. Left and right wind up worrying more about each other than they care about the institutions that actually govern the country. It's great if your goal is maintaining movement identity, but not if you're more interested in changing policy than collecting scalps.
I like this comparison and think it's 99% true. The 1% where it's not true -- the left gets attention when warning about militia dangers because of Oklahoma City. Unfair, probably, but militia members who mean well know how damaging the legacy of Timothy McVeigh has been. The left knows this, and that's why you see a rush to paint conservatives with the "militia" brush -- Americans hear it and think "like those terrorists who blew up the Murrah building!" By contrast, the fringe New Black Panthers are more silly than violent. The only "violence" I can think of them being involved came when they stupidly charged into volatile situations in racial hotspots, in order to get media attention. But I can't think of anyone who's charged them with violence.
That's not to defend the Panthers. It's just to point out the ridiculousness of this story. The Hutaree cult didn't pose a threat to anyone. These idiots don't pose a threat to anyone. It's easy, and lazy, to see a 30-second clip of scary guys in military garb and yell "Open-shut case! Voter intimidation! We have video!" But when you stop and realize that 1) no one has claimed the NBPP stopped them from voting, 2) the Philadelphia precinct was the only one where this tiny group pulled this stunt, and 3) they're about as threatening as any other group of racist newsletter editors, you realize the game being played.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.