July 30, 2009

There's been a lot of talk on the teevee -- particularly Fox -- the past couple of days about domestic terrorism, sparked by the arrests of 7 men in North Carolina for supposedly planning acts of terrorism on the behest of Al Qaeda.

What strikes so many of them -- including the Fox "All Star" panel yesterday -- was that the suspects were so successful at blending in as regular American neighbors. But not once does it ever seem to cross their minds that this, indeed, has long been a feature of right-wing domestic terrorism in this country.

There's no doubt that the addition of Al Qaeda as a player on the domestic terrorism scene is cause for special concern. America has been fortunate in that, for the most part, its many would-be domestic terrorists have not typically been very competent. Adding a highly competent organization like Al Qaeda to the mix ratchets up the potential danger on this front significantly.

Attorney General Eric Holder was fairly thoughtful in his interview with ABC in addressing this:

"I mean, that's one of the things that's particularly troubling: This whole notion of radicalization of Americans," Holder told ABC News during an interview in his SUV as his motorcade brought him from home to work. "Leaving this country and going to different parts of the world and then coming back, all, again, in aim of doing harm to the American people, is a great concern."

... Holder said the ever-changing threat of terror and the pressure to keep up with it weighs heavily on his mind as he tries to ensure that the government has done all it can to anticipate the moves of an unpredictable enemy.

"But, you know, in the hierarchy of things, it's hard to figure out how to prioritize these things in some ways," he said. "The constant scream of threats, the kind of things you have to be aware about, the whole notion of radicalization is something that didn't loom as large a few months ago ... as it does now. And that's the shifting nature of threats that keeps you up at night."

Obviously, Holder is focused on these new cases involving international-terror entities. But the dynamic he's describing also fits what has been happening on an increasingly intense basis within the ranks of American right-wing extremist groups since the election of Obama: Not only are people being radicalized by right-wing rhetoric, an increasing number of them are joining organizations that preach the violent overthrow of American democracy -- our genuine enemies within.

People don't need to travel overseas to become violently radicalized in this country. Indeed, there are exponentially many more white Americans who have gone through "radicalization" from white-supremacist, nativist, and anti-abortion organizations than will ever be successfully recruited by Al Qaeda.

Now, there's plenty of evidence the Holder DOJ gets this. But the media -- particularly its right-wing component -- clearly doesn't.

Frequently mentioned on cable, for instance, the past few days has been the New York "terrorism" cell that was busted by the feds a couple of months ago ... except they turned out not to be so much of a "terrorist" cell after all.

Moreover, these cases have been relatively few and far between. We simply can't say that, however, of the regular drumbeat of domestic terrorism we get from the extremist American right -- both in recent months and indeed for many years running.

Now, we all remember how prescient the Homeland Security warning about far-right domestic terrorism proved to be. Yet Janet Napolitano was forced to apologize to the raving wingnuts for having issued it.

But then, right-wingers have been trying whitewash away the existence of these domestic terrorists for some years now. For the most part, movement conservatives have trouble seeing white right-wing domestic terrorists as just that. The only terrorists who matter, it seems, are those from overseas or with dark skin. (It didn't help, of course, that the Bush DOJ practiced an ugly double standard on this score.)

Which is why, periodically, we continue to see "lone wolves" committing acts of horrific violence, themselves domestic terrorists radicalized not by foreign organizations, but by entities that reside right here in America.

And periodically, the media are surprised by all this. Because they all thought the problem was just Al Qaeda.

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