If you want to see conservatives get all twisted into knots, try asking them why, if it makes sense for Peter King to hold his Islamophobic hearings on the supposed threat of domestic terrorism from Muslim Americans, we shouldn't hold similar hearings examining why we're seeing a real surge in domestic terrorism by right-wing extremists.
Take, for example, Bill O'Reilly last night. He got all bent out of shape over Mark Potok's exchange with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux earlier this week:
MALVEAUX: If you can from your study of tracking radical groups, potentially hate groups, what do you think of this hearing? Is al Qaeda radicalizing Muslims? Is that our biggest homegrown terrorism threat right now?
POTOK: Well, I think it's not our biggest domestic terror threat. I think that pretty clearly comes from the radical right in this country. Although I would certainly not minimize the threat of jihadist terrorism in this country. Obviously, we have seen a fair amount of it.
Of course, O'Reilly deceptively edited out the last two sentences, and then replied:
O'REILLY: Are you kidding me? The radical right? The last terror act assigned to them was the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. I mean, think about what the guy just said. Muslim terrorists have killed tens of thousands of people all over the world, correct?
How many people have the radical right killed?
Well, Bill, just to get you up to speed: There have been many, many more right-wing terrorist acts on American soil since 1995 -- including the bombing of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, just for starters. All told, there were over 60 major cases of right-wing domestic terrorism in the ten years after Oklahoma City.
Even more important, let's talk about just the past two and a half years:
We've documented, to date, 22 cases of domestic terrorism since July 2008 involving right-wing extremists of various stripes, all inflicting (or attempting to inflict) violence on a variety of "liberal" and government targets. Compare this to the Bipartisan Policy Center's report on homegrown Islamic-radical terrorism, which documented only seven incidents, all of which occurred in 2009.
Which not only raises the question, "Why not hold hearings to explore the growing radicalization of far-right extremists?", but a similarly pertinent: "Where are the media?"
This is especially the case, given that the SPLC recently released a fresh report finding that the number of hate groups in America, for the first time ever, now exceeds a thousand. This was a key point Potok discussed in his appearance on Cenk Uygur's MSNBC show.
Potok also had the audacity to point out that if a Muslim lawmaker were to hold hearings on right-wing fundamentalist Christians' roles in the radicalization of far-right extremists, the pitchforks would be out en masse.
Of course, Dana Perino disagrees, claiming (in the source of this week's biggest belly laugh): "If there was a hearing on radicalization amongst Christianity, there would have been no protesters". Yeah, those of us who remember the endless right-wing shrieking over the Department of Homeland Security's bulletin for law enforcement about the threat of increasing right-wing extremism -- they were insulting mainstream conservatives and veterans and calling them terrorists! -- got a good long laugh over that one.
Exhibit A that Potok was on the money was O'Reilly's outrage -- which bubbled up beyond his opening Talking Points Memo segment, attacking both Potok and Ezra Klein for bringing up Christian extremists (though frankly, Klein's remarks about "Christian kids" supposedly involved in school shootings as part of the domestic-terrorism picture was in fact off-base). But O'Reilly thought it was outrageous, just outrageous, that anyone would think the radical right still posed a significant terrorist threat to Americans, and had on both Alan Colmes and Monica Crowley to talk it over some more.
It is not to conservatives' credit that they so eagerly and adamantly try to whitewash away the existence of right-wing extremism -- even though such hysterics have demonstrably made law-enforcement officers less safe in the field, because it short-circuits the flow of needed intelligence.
And it's really shameful on O'Reilly's case, because one of the more vivid terrorist acts of the past couple of years committed by a right-wing extremist was the assassination of Dr. George Tiller by in Kansas -- a murder for which O'Reilly bore no small chunk of culpability.
But then, it has since become an article of faith among right-wingers that domestic terrorists who assassinate abortion providers are not terrorists at all. Sarah Palin, we recall, refused to acknowledge that abortion-clinic attacks were domestic terrorism.
Along similar lines, there was Palin this weekend, claiming that Gerald Loughner's lethal attack on Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in January was in any way related to terrorism:
PALIN: Why is the administration so naive in assuming the American public is going to accept a comment like P.J.'s that essentially equates a crazed maniac in Arizona, shooting Gabbie Giffords to this terrorist who tried to and was successful in gunning down our servicemen overseas as he did yell out Allahu Akbar?
O'Reilly and Crowley similarly dismissed such notions. But the reality is that Loughner's act was clearly terrorist in intent, and it's similarly clear that his twisted worldview came straight out of the radical right, including most notably the paranoid alternative universe of Alex Jones.
It seems that conservatives' mania for whitewashing away the existence of far-right domestic terrorism is reaching a fever pitch just at the same time that it's actually becoming resurgent -- and it never seems to occur to them that in doing so, they are creating cover and giving them implicit permission to proceed apace. Funny how that works.