Right-wing polemicists today are shrieking in self-pitying protest over a new report from the Department of Homeland Security sent to local police forces which warns of growing "right-wing extremist activity." The report (.pdf) identifies attributes of these right-wing extremists, warning that a growing domestic threat of violence and terrorism "may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration" and "groups that reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority."
Conservatives have responded to this disclosure as though they're on the train to FEMA camps. The Right's leading political philosopher and intellectual historian, Jonah Goldberg, invokes fellow right-wing giant Ronald Reagan and says: "Here we go Again," protesting that "this seems so nakedly ideological." Michelle Malkin, who spent the last eight years cheering on every domestic surveillance and police state program she could find, announces that it's "Confirmed: The Obama DHS hit job on conservatives is real!" Lead-War-on-Terror-cheerleader Glenn Reynolds warns that DHS -- as a result of this report (but not, apparently, anything that happened over the last eight years) -- now considers the Constitution to be a "subversive manifesto." Super Tough Guy Civilization-Warrior Mark Steyn has already concocted an elaborate, detailed martyr fantasy in which his house is surrounded by Obama-dispatched, bomb-wielding federal agents. Malkin's Hot Air stomps its feet about all "the smears listed in the new DHS warning about 'right-wing extremism.'"
The ultimate reaping of what one sows: right-wing edition
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As Glenn points out, the same people who are now complaining about this situation were some of the main cheerleaders for the domestic surveillance and human rights abuses of the Bush Administration. This report has opened a rich vein of irony that may supply all our needs for decades.
As Blue Girl notes, if there's any group of radicals that has proved themselves dangerous to public safety in the last couple of decades, it's those on the right.
As Dana Hunter observes, these people identify themselves with militias and other armed and potentially dangerous cranks. They haven't shown any similar concern for the rights of liberal, progressive, LGBT, or anti-war groups that have confined themselves to peaceful protest.
As Brendan Calling points out, this is something we've been warning about for years.
In fact, I have deliberately invoked the specter of a Hillary Clinton presidency to get my point across. I didn't do that because I found her to be particularly scary. I did it because I knew the Right finds her scary. Here's what I wrote on the subject of domestic surveillance in 2007:
I'll just add parenthetically that I don't trust any government with my civil rights and liberties. Governments are supposed to serve their people, not the other way round. That's as true for a Clinton Administration as it is for a Bush Administration. Everyone who has been in politics for a while has enemies and antagonists. You'd think all these bozos who assume that they can trust President Bush would think about that for a moment. Of course, if you're foolish enough to trust Bush, thinking probably isn't your strong suit.
Finally, A Definite Answer
In all the articles I've written on the subject of human rights or domestic surveillance, you'll have to look hard to find mention of left-wing or Democratic Party organizations in particular being at risk. My worry is that any government can abuse its powers, and that many do.
That's clearly not the case on the Right.
Today, Think Progress showed that the irony runs much deeper than we imagined:
Yesterday, a Department of Homeland Security report about the rising radicalization of “rightwing extremists” was leaked. The right wing was immediately incensed, viewing the report on radical “extremists” as an attack on “conservatives.” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, for example, tried to suggest it was a report about Republican “loyalists.”
However, this morning, Fox News’s Catherine Herridge revealed that the report, along with an earlier report on radicalized left-wing groups, was actually “requested by the Bush administration” but not completed until recently:
HERRIDGE: Well this is an element of the story which has largely gone unreported. One looks at right-wing groups, as you mentioned. And a second is on left-wing groups. Significantly, both were requested by the Bush administration but not finished until President Bush left office.
Herridge’s reporting undermines her network’s own “reporting” over the past 24 hours. Since news of the DHS assessment broke yesterday, Fox anchors and guests have been seizing upon the report as evidence that the administration is trying to intimidate tea party goers or “stifle speech”[.]
Fox Reporter Contradicts Fox: DHS Report On Right Wing Was ‘Requested By The Bush Administration’
I suspect that with reporting instincts like those, Ms. Herridge will soon be the go-to correspondent for Big Disastrous Fires and Bizarre, Scary Street Crimes. She certainly is far too inquisitive to be covering Washington politics for Fox News.
It's delicious that their own hero, George W. Bush, was the one who ordered these reports. It's even more delicious that, while these same people have been lamenting every step the Obama Administration has taken in the direction of the rule of law and respecting our rights, the Obama Administration has mostly chosen to continue the abuses of the Bush Administration. In view of the fact that this is a project left over from the prior administration, the protests ring particularly hollow.
It's hard to imagine that there will be more irony content in this story, but I'm sure if it's there, the right wing will find it and expose it for us.
UPDATE: It was Blue Girl, not Blue Gal, who made noted the relative danger from right and left-wing radicals. I've now corrected that oversight, thanks to Blue Gal's comment.