I’m afraid of Americans: Understanding the new threat of domestic terrorism

black panthers. california state capitol
So right wingers brought guns to a town hall meeting? Black Panthers on the California State Capitol steps 1968. Both actions were quite legal. And the world didn’t end.

UJ, writing in Enduring America.

The domestic terror groups are not dangerous for their extremism, their paranoia, or their particular calibration of ideology. Rather, the danger lies in their imminent potential to separate themselves from normal political discourse, adopting violence, terrorism, and murder.

If the debate over domestic terrorism continues along hysterical, partisan, and sometimes downright tyrannical lines, the threat of domestic terror will go unchecked, and many innocent Americans will lose their lives. And they may die at the hands of terrorists, but the incompetence and negligence of those in the political and security establishment will surely bear a great deal of responsibility as well.

His primary point is that highly polarized and partisan attacks by all sides against anyone who disagrees with them usually just makes things worse and can drive the genuinely violent and deranged underground. If you want to stop terrorism, follow their money trail, you’ll probably find something to indict them on. But shrieking that the other side is Satan will just make things worse. Plus, free speech means everyone gets a chance to speak. Not just your side.


  1. Yes, follow the money. Equally importantly, recognize that the cycle of violence favors the extremist. The cycle you point out is also important, and might be called the cycle of “pre-violence.”

    The cycle of violence goes something like this: Suppose I’m an extremist who’s getting ignored by the media and my intended constituency (ethnic, religious, economic, etc.). I commit a heinous act of violence and state publicly that this was done on behalf of that constituency (the one that wants nothing to do with me). The media, of course, takes me at my word and gives me the publicity I crave. More importantly, the government begins to see my constituency as a threat, and treats them accordingly. All I need is one innocent terrorized by the government in its quest to bring me to justice, and I’ve got my war cry. (“See, the United Methodist Middle Class White Folk [or whoever] don’t get treated fairly in this country– and I am their mouthpiece, and every UMMCWF is ready to die as we strike back against government brutality in our war for justice for this downtrodden minority!”) Now my constuency has reason to consider me as a leader. They may not yet be convinced, but a few more times and that constuency will be begging me to save them from government brutality. And why not? I’m the only leader with a “proven” track record of violence against the big, bad government!

    Combatting extremists using conventional means strengthens and legitimizes the extremists.

    On the other side, a similar cycle occurs. There are always extremists (and would-be extremists) within the government, howling about how insescure we are and suggesting that our freedoms ought to be restricted. They get to say “I told you so.” And they and their ilk get reelected, at the expense of moderates. They get to channel billions of dollars to their cronies in the military-industrial complex. And, for our own good, they get to eliminate all those pesky freedoms we have– and censure any opposition– ensuring their continued rule. Term limits? Those are bad for national security and you should vote them out (or let me use my executive power to strike them down) so I can continue to serve you…

    Extremists on both sides need each other. That’s why Sri Lanka President Premadasa sold guns to the LTTE in 1989, and U.S. President Reagan sold guns to Iran, and President George W. Bush was thrilled to see Al Queda arise in the chaotic aftermath of the (otherwise unjustifiable) invasion of Iraq. Extremism in the streets begets an equal and opposite extremism in the halls of government.

    You’re right– it can be prevented. But to do so requires curbing the natural urge to strike back– the urge that makes the cycle of violence work.

  2. As a Pissed-Off, Pistol-Packing Progressive I am quite content with their attraction of attention. Indeed, no stranger to Northwest extremists, I regularly chuckle when the Trochmans, Butlers and sordid “Freemen” publicly declare themselves armed and intent upon the overthrow of the government.

    All a true malcontent need do is wait.

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