It hasn't been a great month for right wing extremists. They were crushed at the ballot box in November. Their Great White Hope is besieged on all sides by law enforcement. Their idols are losing their access to the public square. Like a body rejecting a virus, the United States is slowly but steadily pushing them back into the shadows they came from.
But having come so close to the mainstream and tasting real power, white nationalists are not going to go quietly into that good night. Already a violent movement to begin with, the right has been escalating in recent years:
An analysis of the Global Terrorism Database by researchers at the University of Maryland published in 2017 shows a “sharp increase” in the share of attacks by right-wing extremists, from 6% in the 2000s to 35% in the 2010s. The share of attacks by religious extremists also increased, from 9% to 53% between the two decades.
An analysis by Quartz of the same Global Terrorism Database confirmed that the trend persisted in 2017, when most attacks in the US were committed by right-wing extremists. Out of 65 incidents last year, 37 were tied to racist, anti-Muslim, homophobic, anti-Semitic, fascist, anti-government, or xenophobic motivations.
2018 saw an even further increase in violence with a dozen attempted bombings, an attempted black church shooting that left two African Americans dead in a nearby supermarket, and a mass shooting in a synagogue that left 11 Jews dead. All of which occurred within the same two weeks span leading up to a midterm election in which the right was predicted to be crushed while Trump and right wing media whipped the base into a frenzy of hate against Jews, liberals, and minorities. These things were not unrelated.
Recent articles have described American law enforcement as being blindsided by this "sudden" increase in right wing violence but that's not entirely true. Homeland Security was well aware of the growing problem and was prepared to do something about it until the right, aided by the press, stopped them:
Johnson was appalled. “I never anticipated such an aggressive, vile backlash,” he told me recently. It was puzzling: Just a few months before his April 2009 report was published, the department released an assessment of the cyber threat posed by “left-wing extremists,” like the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. Legislators, the media and the public at large — including progressives — had no objection to that terminology. But the political firestorm over “right-wing extremism” had caused such an uproar that the Department of Homeland Security ultimately avoided using ideological terminology like “right-wing.” A few weeks after the report was released, Napolitano formally apologized to veterans, and after intense pressure from veterans’ groups, the department withdrew the report.
The right wing will not allow a rational discussion of right wing terrorism. They can't for the very simple reason that if we start to talk about it seriously, we will start to examine the root cause of it. That, in turn, will lead us directly to the entirety of right wing rhetoric.
For the last 20 or so years, Fox News, AM Hate Radio, and right wing hate sites have been pushing an eliminationist/persecution narrative. The left is evil and out to destroy America. Right wingers are the only "real" patriots and it's time to water the tree of liberty. Grab your guns and get ready for the revolution, etc. etc. etc. We've all seen this happening in broad daylight.
When I say the right was "aided by the press" I mean exactly that. Despite the fact we literally see the Republican Party openly call for political assassination, we on the left are told to sit down and shut the fuck up when we raise a ruckus over it. The press will not tolerate a conversation in which the right is portrayed as the lunatic extremists they are. Instead, we are subjected to the ludicrous spectacle of Hillary Clinton, a moderate centrist, and Bernie Sanders, a moderate progressive, being treated as the left's equivalent of Donald Trump, a white nationalist fascist.
This is why the majority of right wing terrorists are referred to by the press as anything but terrorists. They're "lone wolves" or "disturbed individuals" or, if the press really wants to rub it in our faces, people who committed a "hate crime." As long as we don't call them terrorists and connect the attacks into a larger narrative of right wing violence, everything will be just peachy. Because, again, once we acknowledge the existence of the right's domestic terrorism problem, we'll start to talk about what's causing it and, again, that will lead us back to the right's violent rhetoric. For a press addicted to the "both sides" lie, this would be intolerable.
And so we continue pretending that the right is a perfectly normal political movement. That they don't espouse violence on a daily basis. That they don't create multiple video games depicting genocide. That they don't regularly advocate for mass murder. That they don't eagerly embrace the tear-gassing of children.
This is how they act when they felt they were winning. Now that reality has delivered a slap to the face in the form of a brutal midterm loss, the violence will escalate. Trump has promised that the "people" will revolt if he's impeached. What he means is that his white nationalist base will go on a violent rampage. They'll claim they're defending "freedom" or that they're being "patriots" but, really, it will be about lashing out in a blind rage as they lose their grip on power.
The question that faces us is how long will we allow this cultural lie to go on? How many people have to die before we demand the right be held accountable for the hate speech it spews? When will we acknowledge that the eliminationist rhetoric of the right is producing wave after wave of terrorists and start treating those who traffic in it like we would any other terrorist organization?
We knew this was coming and we buckled to right wing pressure and the media's complicity and did nothing. Do we really have to wait for another building to be blown up by a maniac wearing a MAGA hat before we act?
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