The Ultimate Reaping of What One Sows: Right-Wing Edition

Right-wing polemicists today are shrieking in self-pitying protest over a new report from the Department of Homeland Security sent to local police forces which warns of growing "right-wing extremist activity." The report
(.pdf) identifies attributes of these right-wing extremists, warning
that a growing domestic threat of violence and terroris

Right-wing polemicists today are shrieking in self-pitying protest over a new report from the Department of Homeland Security sent to local police forces which warns of growing "right-wing extremist activity." The report
(.pdf) identifies attributes of these right-wing extremists, warning
that a growing domestic threat of violence and terrorism "may include
groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single-issue, such as
opposition to abortion or immigration" and "groups that reject federal
authority in favor of state or local authority."

have responded to this disclosure as though they're on the train to
FEMA camps. The Right's leading political philosopher and intellectual
historian, Jonah Goldberg, invokes fellow right-wing giant Ronald Reagan
and says: "Here we go Again," protesting that "this seems so nakedly
ideological." Michelle Malkin, who spent the last eight years cheering
on every domestic surveillance and police state program she could find,
announces that it's "Confirmed: The Obama DHS hit job on conservatives is real!" Lead-War-on-Terror-cheerleader Glenn Reynolds warns
that DHS -- as a result of this report (but not, apparently, anything
that happened over the last eight years) -- now considers
the Constitution to be a "subversive manifesto." Super Tough Guy
Civilization-Warrior Mark Steyn has already concocted an elaborate, detailed martyr fantasy in which his house is surrounded by Obama-dispatched, bomb-wielding federal agents. Malkin's Hot Air stomps its feet about all "the smears listed in the new DHS warning about 'right-wing extremism.'"

certainly true that federal police efforts directed at domestic
political movements -- even ones with a history of inspiring violence
in both the distant and recent past
-- require real vigilance and oversight, and it's also true that the
DHS description of these groups seems excessively broad with the
potential for mischief. But the political faction screeching about the
dangers of the DHS is the same one that spent the last eight years
vastly expanding the domestic Surveillance State and federal police
powers in every area. DHS -- and the still-creepy phrase "homeland
security" -- became George Bush's calling card. The Republicans won
the 2002 election by demonizing those who opposed its creation.
All of the enabling legislation underlying this Surveillance State --
from the Patriot Act to the Military Commissions Act, from the various
FISA "reforms" to massive increases in domestic "counter-Terrorism"
programs -- are the spawns of the very right-wing movement that today
is petrified that this is all being directed at them.

When you
cheer on a Surveillance State, you have no grounds to complain when it
turns its eyes on you. If you create a massive and wildly empowered
domestic surveillance apparatus, it's going to monitor and investigate
domestic political activity. That's its nature. I'd love to know how
many of the participants in today's right-wing self-victim orgy uttered
a peep of protest about any of this, from 2005:

F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show

Dec. 19 - Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of
Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and
intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers,
giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites,
mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The
bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with
suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected
of having links to violent or disruptive activities.

But the
documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that
President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting
terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the
government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.

F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to
conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another
document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic
ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the
location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals.

The documents, provided to The New
York Times over the past week, came as part of a series of Freedom of
Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
For more than a year, the A.C.L.U. has been seeking access to
information in F.B.I. files on about 150 protest and social groups that
it says may have been improperly monitored.

The F.B.I. had
previously turned over a small number of documents on antiwar groups,
showing the agency's interest in investigating possible anarchist or
violent links in connection with antiwar protests and demonstrations in advance of the 2004 political conventions. And earlier this month, the A.C.L.U.'s Colorado chapter released similar documents involving, among other things, people protesting logging practices at a lumber industry gathering in 2002.

latest batch of documents, parts of which the A.C.L.U. plans to release
publicly on Tuesday, totals more than 2,300 pages and centers on
references in internal files to a handful of groups, including PETA, the environmental group Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers group, which promotes antipoverty efforts and social causes.

clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from
the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the F.B.I., to engage in spying on
Americans," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director for the A.C.L.U.

look at these documents," Ms. Beeson said, "and you think, wow, we have
really returned to the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when you see in F.B.I.
files that they're talking about a group like the Catholic Workers
league as having a communist ideology."

I was in Minneapolis and St. Paul during the 2008 GOP Convention and witnessed first-hand massive federal police raids and "preventive" arrests of peaceful, law-abiding protesters and even the violent arrests of journalists,
and I don't recall any complaints from Jonah Goldberg or
Michelle Malkin. I don't recall Glenn Reynolds or Mark Steyn
complaining that the FBI, for virtually the entire Bush administration,
was systematically abusing its new National Security Letters authorities under the Patriot Act
to collect extremely invasive information, in secret, about Americans
who had done nothing wrong. Russ Feingold's efforts to place limits
and abuse-preventing safeguards on these Patriot Act powers in 2006 attracted a grand total of 10 votes in the Senate -- none Republican.

thanks to the very people who are today petulantly complaining about
politically-motivated federal police actions (now that they imagine
it's directed at them rather than at people they dislike), the Federal
Government today has the power to eavesdrop on telephone calls and read
the emails of American citizens without warrants; monitor bank records
without court approval; obtain all sorts of invasive personal records,
medical and financial, without Subpoenas; and obtain and store a whole host of other personal information about American citizens
who have not been accused, let alone convicted, of having done anything
wrong. Also thanks to them (and things like the War on Terror, the War
on Drugs, the Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments Act, etc. etc), most of
this is carried out without any real oversight or safeguards,
left entirely to the judgment and good faith of federal officials to
wield these powers carefully and for proper ends. And, better still,
federal officials can hide behind sweeping claims of secrecy and
National Security to prevent courts from scrutinizing what they did and
determine if it was illegal (we call that "the state secrets

So what's the problem? As the National Review/Bush-following-Right has been telling us for years now, there's nothing to worry about if you've done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide. The
first duty of the Government is to protect us all -- keep us safe and
warm from all the scary things out there, like a Good Daddy does -- and
if they need to trample on some lofty privacy ideals and so-called
civil liberties concerns and supposed Constitutional safeguards, well:
that's just how it is. It takes a real paranoid hysteric to think that
federal government officials have nothing better to do than target
domestic political opponents. And besides, what good is
the Constitution if we're all dead at the hands of domestic
McVeigh-like Terrorists? After all, the Constitution isn't a suicide
pact. Remember all of that? I certainly do.

is all as laughable as it is predictable. Just a couple months out of
power and they have suddenly re-discovered their fear of the Federal
Government and their belief in the need to limit its powers. As I wrote in February about the Glenn Beck Movement that is taking over the Limbaugh/National Review Right:

was most remarkable about this allegedly "anti-government" movement was
that -- with some isolated and principled exceptions -- it completely
vanished upon the election of Republican George Bush, and it stayed
invisible even as Bush presided over the most extreme and invasive
expansion of federal government power in memory. Even as Bush seized
and used all of the powers which that movement claimed in the 1990s to
find so tyrannical and unconstitutional -- limitless, unchecked
surveillance activities, detention powers with no oversight, expanding
federal police powers, secret prison camps, even massively exploding
and debt-financed domestic spending -- they meekly submitted to all of
it, even enthusiastically cheered it all on. . . .

But now,
only four weeks into the presidency of Barack Obama, they are back --
angrier and more chest-beating than ever. Actually, the mere threat of
an Obama presidency was enough to revitalize them from their eight-year
slumber, awaken them from their camouflaged, well-armed suburban caves.

can't wait until these limited-government, super-principled
"conservatives" start putting these bumper stickers back on their cars:

now, though, one can't help but note that these "conservatives" seem so
very angry about a federal government program designed to do nothing
other than protect the glorious Homeland from Terrorists. And we know
that this is the purpose of the DHS program because that's what
the Government said its purpose is. So what else is there to know?
That's the lesson we all learned over the last eight years: Bush said that all of his secret surveillance programs were only directed at Al Qaeda, so how can anyone say otherwise?

though, the Right has forgotten these important lessons about Trusting
Our Political Leaders and instead is now embracing a newfound and quite
disturbing devotion to Terrorist Rights.
To borrow from Sarah Palin, they are apparently more worried about
whether the Timothy McVeighs and Eric Rudolphs of the world can plan
their next violent attack without interference from the DHS than they
are in having the Government keep us all Safe. What kind of twisted,
warped, subversive political movement prioritizes Terrorist Rights over
the Safety of Americans like this?

UPDATE: In comments,
e_five perfectly summarizes the Bush-following Right (as distinct from
the small faction of Ron-Paul/Bruce-Fein/Bob-Barr conservatives who
stayed true to their limited-government principles during the Bush
era): "When they have a club in their hands, no one is more sadistic.
When the club is removed, no one is more whiney." Precisely.

And Brendan Calling has some very related thoughts on this right-wing scandal du jour that are worth reading.

UPDATE II: The Right's self-victimizing outbursts are always as fact-free as they are self-pitying. Just marvel at this (h/t sysprog):

Jonah Goldberg, today:

Yes, DHS has done reports on anti-war, environmental, and other groups. But my understanding is that they didn't - and wouldn't - use the all-purpose term "left-wing" to describe those threats. . . . If the Bush administration had issued a sweeping indictment of "left-wing" groups in America, arguing that they needed to be monitored, something tells me we'd be hearing a lot about it.

From the very same Washington Times article he linked to that started the whole scandal:

In January, the same DHS office released a report titled "Leftwing extremists likely to increase use of cyber attacks over the coming decade."

That was in the precise article that he linked to. Also, the Bush Department of Energy published an April, 2001 document entitled "Left-Wing Extremism: The Current Threat." The woe-is-us whining (this would never happen to the Left -- only us!) is just revolting.

Drudge -- who never bothered objecting in the slightest to the extreme
surveillance abuses under Bush -- adds fuel to the fire with big screaming headlines featuring scary pictures of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano,
playing the role of Janet Reno, with this warning: "She is watching
you." But Drudge doesn't mention that preparation of the report began
more than a year ago -- when Bush was still in office -- and that
similar reports have been issued about, and actual surveillance
programs directed to, so-called "Leftwing extremists." As I said,
they're as fact-free as they are unprincipled, hypocritical and

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 Salon