Home > Foreign Policy, The Left > Finest moment this isn't

Finest moment this isn't

There was a shooting in Idaho and it turns out that the gunman has ties to the Aryan Nations. Jay comments and Craig responds.

Let’s start with Jay’s post. He quotes Dave Neiwert to claim that the this was “certain[ly]” a political statement:

What’s clear is that Hamilton fully intended to take as many people with him as possible; that’s why he began by targeting the dispatcher’s office, where he knew he would get police response. And considering his extremist background, it is certain this was intended as some kind of political statement. It was, by most definitions, an act of domestic terrorism.

It’s not certain. That’s a completely absurd statement. As Craig points out, that’s where the shooter’s wife works. It’s perfectly consistent with a personal rampage. It’s absolutely not anything approaching “certain.”

Jay then tries to spin the whole thing into a lesson that we should take Islamic terrorism less seriously:

Furthermore, 42% of Christians consider themselves “Christians first,” not “Americans first.”

And in a post today, Greenwald notes that Americans in general are much more likely to support the killing of civilians for political purposes (51%) than U.S. Muslims (13%) and even Iranians (16%).

Do I think that all American Christians are sadistic terrorists? Of course not. That would be a simplistic generalization based on a few isolated events. In other words, the same type of generalization that has created the idea of a worldwide “culture war” pitting “Islamicists” against “civilized nations.”

Yes, the most repressive regimes on the planet are Islamist and Islamist terrorist groups are by far the largest that are bent on attacking us. Just a few isolated incidents, ya see. No cause for alarm.

You can make the case that terrorism in general is over-hyped. It is, to some degree. But to inflate right-wing terrorism in the U.S. to anything approaching radical Islam is completely asinine. To say that Islamist thought is not in conflict with the values of civilized (I don’t like using that word here, but it works) nations (you know, human rights, liberty, democracy…) is extremely myopic.

Jay ends with some happy and useless platitudes about the fight against terrorism:

So let’s fight terrorism realistically. Through policing, not culture wars. Through prevention, not eradication. And, above all, let’s remember that the best path to fighting terror lies not through anger and authoritarianism, but with civility, diversity, and democracy.

Nonsense. Civility, diversity, and democracy have never stopped suicide terrorism. It’s been stopped by ending the conflicts at the root of it. Policing is nice, but it’s simply treading water. At least he gets points for being against authoritarianism. Curbing Islamism will take cultural reform in the Muslim world.

Now, Craig’s response. He rightly attacks the characterization of the Idaho incident. Actually, it’s a generally correct post. Except for one thing:

Now, apply Occam’s Razor to the situation. He was a violent guy with a history of domestic violence and animal cruelty. He killed his wife, and people who were associated with her. It just so happened that she worked at the courthouse. I’d put odds that if she worked at Pizza Hut, that’s where he would have gone instead of the courthouse.

But, that explanation does not fit with the left’s narrative, namely that right-wing extremists are a far worse danger than Islamists.

Where did that come from? Jay’s post? Nope. Hey, it was pulled out of thin air! It’s a fuckin’ miracle!

Another thing to note, acting like a violent asshole generally and making a violent political statement are not mutually exclusive courses of action. This could be an act of terrorism. Or it might not be. Who knows? I’ll just say that I doubt it. It is possible, however.

Let’s put it this way: yes, there are right-wing terrorists in this country. No, they shouldn’t be ignored. Yes, Islamists are a bigger threat. No, right-wing terrorism is not an equivalent danger to Islamism.

Was that so hard?

Categories: Foreign Policy, The Left
  1. May 25, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Here’s your fuckin’ miracle, courtesy of Neiwert:

    Here’s a reality check: Terrorism comes in all shapes, ideologies, and colors. In this country, in fact, as we’ve remarked often, you’re far more likely to be harmed in an attack by a right-wing domestic terrorist than anyone from Al Qaeda.

    You did click through to read that post, right?

  2. May 25, 2007 at 11:50 am

    My post wasn’t a call to take Islamic terrorism less seriously, it was to quash the notion that terror springs naturally from Islam and brown-skinned people. It apparently also springs forth freely from Christians and white-skinned people and Americans, too.

    And let’s be honest: the idea of Islamic extremism representing any kind of global culture war that wants to expand militant Islam to the United States is an invention of right-wing bedwetters. Al Qaeda’s goal is not to exterminate the US, but to be the center of a pan-Arab movement that replaces corrupt and entrenched aritocratic rule in the Middle East with populist, theocratic goverments. The group attacks the US to earn its “chops.”

    The quotes you clip from my post were not intended to indict Christians, but to end the notion that somehow Muslims are unique in putting religion ahead of government or that they approve of violence to solve political problems.

    Also, if anything, I wish we took Islamic terror more seriously: I think the current policy theory of waging strategic war against terror puts ideology over reality. If we wanted to curtail Islamic terror, we’re going about it the wrong way.

    To Craig: I think the “fuckin’ miracle” is how you take an opinion of one guy and find it in half the nation’s “narrative.” By comparison Christ’s trick with the fish and the loaves was minor league.

    Personally I think, while extremist terror on both the left and the right seems to be more imminent, I’d have to be foolish to think that Islamic terror groups didn’t pose a bigger danger for a big attack and possibly more deaths.

  3. May 25, 2007 at 11:52 am

    And you’re right about Hamilton’s motivations. In reading your post and Craig’s it does seem his actions were personally — not politically — motivated.

  4. May 25, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    So, Jay, you’re saying that the opinion that you and Neiwert apparently share is outside the mainstream left? After all, you do quote him rather approvingly.

    Or would you say that the two of you are not outside the mainstream left?

    Just wondering.

  5. May 26, 2007 at 12:50 am

    And let’s be honest: the idea of Islamic extremism representing any kind of global culture war that wants to expand militant Islam to the United States is an invention of right-wing bedwetters. Al Qaeda’s goal is not to exterminate the US, but to be the center of a pan-Arab movement that replaces corrupt and entrenched aritocratic rule in the Middle East with populist, theocratic goverments. The group attacks the US to earn its “chops.”

    Any you know this how? I’ll defer to Mike Harris’ opinion of your overall grasp of the issue.

  6. May 26, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Craig – I did miss that, so I’m sorry for being so snarky there. Nonetheless, Jay is correct that you’re spinning a narrative out of one person’s opinion. I like Neiwert, but he’s spent his career chronicling right-wing extremism and should be a lot more careful extrapolting that research into broader lessons.

    Jay,

    Fair enough, but that’s not really how I read your post. When you use fairly minor incidents and compare them with a global problem, it looks awkward.

    This statement specifically deserves comment:

    And let’s be honest: the idea of Islamic extremism representing any kind of global culture war that wants to expand militant Islam to the United States is an invention of right-wing bedwetters. Al Qaeda’s goal is not to exterminate the US, but to be the center of a pan-Arab movement that replaces corrupt and entrenched aritocratic rule in the Middle East with populist, theocratic goverments. The group attacks the US to earn its “chops.”

    That’s completely backwards. That is what al Qaeda wants, in the sense that every Sunni Islamist wants that. Al Qaeda, however, is motivated by our actions. Their statements, their recruitment propaganda, etc focus on the perceived crimes we’ve committed in the Muslim world, particularly having troops in Saudi Arabia. You’re right that al Qaeda is not attempting to fight any kind of global culture war, but Islamism on the whole is very much a cultural threat to basic human rights.

  7. May 26, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Any you know this how? I’ll defer to Mike Harris’ opinion of your overall grasp of the issue.

    Good lord. Be sure to set your alarm every 90 minutes at night, so you can look under your bed for “Islamists.” And make sure your tinfoil hat has a chinstrap, so it doesn’t fall off when you do sleep.

    …you’re saying that the opinion that you and Neiwert apparently share is outside the mainstream left?

    I don’t remember when I said that Americans are more likely to die from right-wing terror than from Islamic terror.

    Al Qaeda, however, is motivated by our actions. Their statements, their recruitment propaganda, etc focus on the perceived crimes we’ve committed in the Muslim world, particularly having troops in Saudi Arabia.

    Yes, and Republicans make their “chops” off of creating the idea of an Islamic conspiracy to eradicate the U.S. One way to unify people is to scare them together over a common enemy. And I’d add that al Qaeda’s criticism of US troops in Saudi Arabia is more aimed against the government and royal family than it is against the U.S.

    And! another thing! Most of the Islamic fundamentalist terror is regional, not international. Al Qaeda was a marginal group heading for extinction before the invasion of Iraq. Just as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — at what time al Qaeda arose — unified a pan-Arabic fundamentalist movement, so, too, is the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

    Sure, Islamic fundamentalism is a problem. But I’d argue that religious fundamentalism always exacerbates and increases the violence in any political, societal, or regional conflict. Look at the abortion issue here in the States, where fundamentalism added terror and violence to a political debate. And I realize that Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East is a bigger problem than Christian fundamentalism here.

    But if you think that’s because of the “natural” or “inherent” superiority of Christians or Americans, you’re nuts. We’re just better off, we enjoy basic human and civil rights and are pretty dang prosperous, economically. And we’re relatively free from the type of ethnic and nationalist tensions that have gripped the Middle East for centuries.

    Yeah, maybe my post was sloppy. Maybe my point wasn’t clear.

  8. May 26, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    Yes, and Republicans make their “chops” off of creating the idea of an Islamic conspiracy to eradicate the U.S. One way to unify people is to scare them together over a common enemy. And I’d add that al Qaeda’s criticism of US troops in Saudi Arabia is more aimed against the government and royal family than it is against the U.S.

    If you look a the suicide terror campaigns across the globe you find that they have a lot in common, namely some kind of occupation. Suicide terrorism is simply not a diversion to unite people towards some elitist goal. It’s effective in ending or curbing occupations, not creating utopian regimes.

    Al Qaeda’s top people may primarily want to re-establish the caliphate. Even if that’s so, that’s not what hooks the people who actually act on behalf of the group. As I said, how they recruit people is through demonizing us. It’s been effective as it has been because of some of our actions, lately Iraq, as you mention. Without those actions there’s no support for al Qaeda, so in reality that’s what we should focus on.

    And! another thing! Most of the Islamic fundamentalist terror is regional, not international. Al Qaeda was a marginal group heading for extinction before the invasion of Iraq. Just as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — at what time al Qaeda arose — unified a pan-Arabic fundamentalist movement, so, too, is the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

    True as it goes (though al Qaeda formed after the Soviets left Afghanistan), but Iraq hasn’t really unified anyone. Al Qaeda at this pointed is hated by both Sunnis and Shiias in Iraq. Iraq strengthed al Qaeda because it gave them another example of our misconduct in the Middle East.

    Sure, Islamic fundamentalism is a problem. But I’d argue that religious fundamentalism always exacerbates and increases the violence in any political, societal, or regional conflict. Look at the abortion issue here in the States, where fundamentalism added terror and violence to a political debate. And I realize that Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East is a bigger problem than Christian fundamentalism here.

    But if you think that’s because of the “natural” or “inherent” superiority of Christians or Americans, you’re nuts. We’re just better off, we enjoy basic human and civil rights and are pretty dang prosperous, economically. And we’re relatively free from the type of ethnic and nationalist tensions that have gripped the Middle East for centuries.

    This, I agree with. I have no problem saying that were Christianity in the positon of Islam, the world wouldn’t be much different. It’s not like Christians haven’t been suicide terrorists – there were several in Lebanon in the 80s. Religious conflict, not specific religions, is a more powerful contributor to suicide terrorism. Though I will say that I think concepts like jihad are easy to manipulate, which makes Islam somewhat more friendly to this kind of violence than other religions. It’s not the root of the problem, however.

    I’ve mentioned it before, but Robert Pape’s Dying to Win is an excellent book on the subject. I put a review on here and I think there’s one on Intelligent Discontent, too.

  9. May 27, 2007 at 7:03 am

    Nonetheless, Jay is correct that you’re spinning a narrative out of one person’s opinion.

    Yeah, um, not so much. Google dKos for “christian extremists” and you’ll find a shitload of people who share the same view. (This is just one example — I’m sure that you can find plenty more if the mood suits you.)

  10. May 27, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    So I did that and I’m not seeing it. I found one diary saying Christian reconstructionists are a greater threat to our democracy than foreign terrorists, which isn’t what we’re talking about. Lots more are attacking Christian extremists and drawing parallels with the beliefs of Islamists and Christian extremists (sometimes correctly, other times incorrectly), but I don’t see anything like what we’re talking about.

    Am I just blind?

  1. May 26, 2007 at 5:55 am

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