The Rise of Right-wing Extremism

Joe Veix

The Department of Homeland Security warned about a rise of right-wing extremism. Since then there have been at least three cases of domestic terrorism, and the rhetoric on the right is only becoming more frenzied and vitriolic.

In today’s Omaha World-Herald, there’s an article about a protest against an abortion clinic in Nebraska, organized by Operation Rescue, Nebraskans United for Life, and Rescue the Heartland. They plan on protesting Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s late-term abortion clinic. Carhart is one of the few doctors who still performs late-term abortions. He is also planning on opening up a replacement to the late Dr. Tiller’s clinic, which closed after his murder.

The threats made against Carhart have become so intimidating that one of his employees, Vanessa Klinetobe, has petitioned for police protection. Klinetobe claims in her petition:

"[Larry Donlan, of Rescue the Heartland], once followed her home from work in 2006; he sent a letter to her home demanding that she resign or face protests near her Bellevue house; and he recently shouted outside the clinic: ‘Vanessa, you are next. We plan to exploit you.’"

Donlan denies doing anything wrong, but admitted to following Klinetobe in his red van, saying it was only to find out where she lived.

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"A protection order is used to protect someone from real violence," Donlan said, "not to protect someone against First Amendment-protected actions."

Teaming up with Operation Rescue – which had contact with Dr. George Tiller’s murderer, Scott Roeder – could be considered enough of a reason for concern, in addition to all of Donlan’s creepy tactics.

Back in April, the Department of Homeland Security warned about a rise in right-wing extremism, saying that the combination of news of the recession, an African American president, and possible firearm restrictions might foster this rise. Even worse:

"The report also suggests that returning veterans are attractive recruits for right-wing groups looking for ‘combat skills and experience’ so as to boost their ‘violent capabilities.’ It adds that new restrictions on gun ownership and the difficulty of veterans to reintegrate into their communities ‘could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.’"

Earlier today, a man was walking around with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle strapped around his back and a pistol on his hip, just outside of Obama’s town hall meeting in Arizona. Last week, at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, another man had a pistol strapped to his leg, holding a sign that said, "It is Time to Water the Tree of Liberty."  This is a reference to the Thomas Jefferson quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants." There was a similar reference on Timothy McVeigh’s T-shirt on the day of his arrest.

Glenn Beck, in a recent broadcast, went so far as to discourage his viewers from committing acts of violence as it would "ruin everything," his address delivered in an even, somber tone quite different than normal. Gawker asked the right questions:

"One can’t help but wonder, "What the hell provoked this?" Was it a demand from the higher-ups at Fox News, and do they know something that we don’t about how close certain segments of the right-wing are to acting out violently? Remember when Shep Smith talked about the crazy-ass emails the staff at Fox get from unhinged right-wingers? Could this be tied to that?"

This isn’t all speculative fear-mongering: we’ve already had three attacks. Richard Poplawski, fearing rumors of gun control, shot and killed three police officers in Pittsburgh. James von Brunn, a white supremacist, walked into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and opened fire and killed a security guard before being wounded by other guards’ gunfire. Scott Roeder murdered Dr. George Tiller while Tiller was attending a church service in Wichita.

It may be that there’s legitimate, peaceful dissent occuring and that the extremists are just a small group of misguided and dangerous people who’ve hijacked our attention; the problem is, the right-wing political pundits’ rhetoric is becoming increasingly vitriolic, and it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish between what the pundits say and the motives behind the domestic terrorism we’ve already witnessed. More than that, the pundits are giving a mainstream voice for insane, fringe beliefs. We’ve already witnessed violence, inspired if not encouraged by the right-wing demagogues, and something must be done before we see more. We’ve moved beyond righteous indignation at others’ obscure political beliefs, to a point where people’s lives are at stake.

One solution is to force the pundits who stir up the anger to ease up on their rhetoric. Not through censorship, but with cold capitalism: get advertisers to pull out of extremist shows. This might seem impossible, but twenty companies (including Wal-Mart, CVS, and Best Buy) have already pulled their advertisements from Glenn Beck’s show mainly because of a campaign by At the very least, the extremist broadcasts can be pushed back to the fringe, where they belong.

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