Right-Wing Extremism: The Absurd And The Obvious

Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis, April 7, 2009 (For Official Use Only).

My official use happens to be mockery.

The report is pretty absurd. Absurd in that a government report was prepared and disseminated to tell law enforcement officials something everyone already knows: instability nourishes discontent, some racists dislike Obama, and as the "out" group, the fringes of the right are more unhappy than usual. Absurd in that it's duplicative; the FBI does this stuff better, more frequently, and with more detail. The report is absurd, in that its absurd (though legalized) generalities unintentionally reveal the insanity of modern classification guidelines; we are told that the idea that lone domestic extremists are the top domestic terrorist threat is a conclusion that's "law enforcement sensitive." How? Why? Either the top domestic threat comes from groups or from individuals. Not sure why choosing one draws the curtain around the conclusion. For some reason, this sentence is suspect to some government officials: "DHS/I&A notes that prominent civil rights organizations have observed an increase in anti-Hispanic crimes over the past five years." Really? That the DHS analysts read public releases is somehow sensitive info?
The report contains an absurdly overdrawn caricature of the right:

"Historically, domestic rightwing extremists have feared, predicted, and anticipated a cataclysmic economic collapse in the United States."  
The logical fallacy aside, this makes WIlliam Grieder a right-wing extremist.

Rightwing extremists were concerned during the 1990s with the perception
that illegal immigrants were taking away American jobs through their willingness to
work at significantly lower wages. They also opposed free trade agreements, arguing that these arrangements resulted in Americans losing jobs to countries such as Mexico.

One, this gives too much credit to some right-wing extremists, leaving out xenophobia as an explanation. The politically correct explanation for agita about immigration is, indeed, that immigrants drove wages down. And a whole lot of Americans -- in excess of 40% at times -- believed this in the 90s.  The paragraph -- and the report -- makes no effort to distinguish between valid, albeit thinly considered political beliefs and true extremism, which is often coldly rational and whose adherents are much more prone to go outside the system to press their claims. 


The right's reaction, in general, seems a little too contrived. It's kind of funny -- conservative opinionists get all nervous when they read stuff like this because they think it applies to them. There's a little bit of self-examination mixed in with the outrage. The report is so broadly drawn, so utterly inconsequential, so laughable in its conclusions -- that it ought not be taken seriously. Except -- of course -- intelligence analysts for the U.S. government were tasked with writing and distributing a report like this. And DHS insists that similar reports were prepared about liberals(!). 

Believe it or not, the White House is not interested in criminalizing conservative belief. Making fun of Rush Limbaugh is one thing.... you can kind of picture a recent WH meeting: 

Rahm: "Who's responsible for this?"

Senior staff: [Silence]

Rahm: "F#*$( it, guys, we can't let small mistakes like this happen. Who's liaising with DHS? Why wasn't this report vetted? Or at least edited?"

Senior Staff:  [Silence]

Rahm: "Ronda, get me cabinet affairs on the phone."

Ronda: "One minute, sir."

Voice: "Cabinet affairs."

Rahm: "Who the hell was watching DHS on the day that right wing thing was published?"

Voice: "Uh, I'll check sir. But you know... the government produces 100 reports a day... and we don't have the resources to backstop everything DHS does, particularly the not-for-public-release stuff...you gotta check with their intergovernmental affairs office."

Rahm: "Fine. Transfer me."

Voice: "Homeland Security, intergovernment affairs, may I help you?"

Rahm: "This is the chief of staff. I want to know, right now, who was responsible for approving the dissemination of that report on right-wing extremists. I know it wasn't Rand."

Voice: "I'm sorry sir, I'll have to transfer you. Who am I speaking to again?"