Sunday, June 05, 2016

Trump and U.S. Extremists More Dangerous than Foreign Ones

This blog has often looked at the growing threat of domestic terror rising from right wing extremist groups, many of who label themselves as "patriots" and view themselves as "real Americans" who are pitted against those deemed "other" based on race, religious faith, sexual orientation and other differences that make them debased and/or less than   The Southern Poverty Law Center ("SPLC") has details on the growing number of such groups:
The SPLC found that the number of hate groups operating in 2015 was 14 percent higher than in 2014. Anti-government “Patriot” groups – armed militias and others animated by conspiracy theories – also grew 14 percent during the same period. . . . . Hate groups increased from 784 groups in 2014 to 892 last year. Anti-government “Patriot” groups grew from 874 in 2014 to 998.

Fueling this rise is the demagoguery of the Republican Party and, most notably, Donald Trump, who is giving legitimacy to hate groups and falsely named "patriot groups."  A piece in the Washington Post looks at this growing danger.  Here are excerpts. 

           Take America back from those who have stolen it.
           Protect America from those who want to destroy it.
           Restore the principles that these usurpers betrayed. 
These are the messages that have defined the GOP presidential race. They have been used for the past eight years to justify obstruction of the Obama administration, and are now being used to paint the democratic candidates as dangerous. In the late stages of the GOP primary as the rhetoric became increasingly xenophobic, they were applied to increasingly broad swaths of the American population as well.
Years of constant repetition by members of the GOP have given them an appearance of legitimacy, now strengthened by Donald Trump’s victory in the GOP primary contest and the party’s growing embrace of him as their standard-bearer.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party isn’t alone in using these messages.
Right-wing extremist groups use them as well, and to very specific ends: to define the conditions under which anti-government violence becomes legitimate in their world view.
I have seen rhetoric like this used to mobilize violence in countries like Iraq and Kenya.  This same dynamic, I argue, is taking shape within American society now. If it continues, it represents a greater threat than anything we face from terrorist groups outside our own borders.
The GOP has spent many years mobilizing both (sometimes tacitly and sometimes actively), in the form of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, racist and anti-government sentiment. This strategy has secured them votes from the white, Christian, male and ideologically extreme demographic needed to offset the party’s growing distance from an increasingly diverse and progressive American society.
This has typically been done in code, a practice that’s come to be known as “dog whistle politics” – but this election has brought it into the open.
Trump has built his candidacy on the idea that America is sick, broken and misled, and “making it great again” depends on taking it back and cutting out the cancer.  His campaign rhetoric has a common thread with that of extremists. It emphasizes betrayal and theft. It tells Americans that things are bad because of it, and then points a finger and places blame.
Every violent group in history describes its own violence as the legitimate response to a threat that was forced on them.
The constantly repeated themes of theft and betrayal from the GOP suggest to the patriot militias and to supporters who feel angry and alienated that the push has already happened. Trump has on many occasions claimed that America is “lost” to the American people. Given his hostility against immigrants and Black Lives Matter protesters and short-lived nomination of a white nationalist as a delegate in California, it seems clear he means white Americans.
Recent years and the 2016 race aren’t the first time we’ve heard this kind of language from Americans within the patriot movement.
The following words were spoken by Timothy McVeigh, in an interview explaining why he destroyed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Those who betray or subvert the Constitution are guilty of sedition and/or treason, are domestic enemies and should and will be punished accordingly. It also stands to reason that anyone who sympathizes with the enemy or gives aid or comfort to said enemy is likewise guilty.
The blame for these rifts and the likely consequences neither begin nor end with Donald Trump. He simply used an existing trend for his own gain. His praise of violence and embrace of racism and political extremism, however, goes past even what the GOP has already made commonplace.
Mainstream GOP rebuttals were too little too late. . . . this strategy for winning elections isn’t just divisive. It’s creating a risk of violence that has already outgrown the threat it’s supposed to be a shield against.
It’s left to the GOP to decide whether American security or winning an election is more important to them.

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