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April 27, 2009

The Threat from Within

On April 7, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis released a disturbing assessment of right wing extremism in the United States. The Department noted that “the economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.” Recalling the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh, the Department speculated, “The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”

Of particular concern to the Department was the recent spike in gun sales nationally. The assessment stated that “the high volume of purchases and stockpiling of weapons and ammunition by rightwing extremists in anticipation of restrictions and bans in some parts of the country continue to be a primary concern to law enforcement.”

Richard Poplawski, a Neo-Nazi gun enthusiast who recently murdered three police officers responding to a 911 call from his house, was also mentioned in the assessment. DHS cited Poplawski’s cold-blooded murders as an example of violent right wing extremism and noted, “The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories relating to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled ‘one world government.’”

The Department also voiced concerns about disgruntled military veterans who possess combat skills and experience that right wing extremist groups find attractive. “These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists,” said DHS. The assessment noted that Timothy McVeigh was an Iraq War veteran and referred to a 2008 FBI report that found that some returning military veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had joined extremist groups.

Unlike insurrectionist activity during the Clinton Administration, DHS was concerned that “the advent of the Internet and other information-age technologies since the 1990s has given domestic extremists greater access to information related to bomb-making, weapons training, and tactics, as well as targeting of individuals, organizations, and facilities, potentially making extremist individuals and groups more dangerous and the consequences of their violence more severe.”

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence recently addressed the increased threat of right wing extremism—and the promotion of anti-government violence through mainstream media news sources—in a Huffington Post blog entitled “Insurrectionism Goes ‘Mainstream.’”

Many other commentators are expressing their unease regarding current right wing paranoia and rhetoric. Eric Boehlert, in an article for Alternet entitled “Fox News' Unhinged, Irrational Obama Attacks Stir up Violent Right-Wing Militants,” states that “What Fox News is doing today is embracing the same kind of hate rhetoric and doomsday conspiratorial talk that flourished during the ‘90s, and Fox News is now dumping all that rancid stuff into the mainstream. It’s legitimizing accusatory hate speech in a way no other television outlet in America ever has before.” Boehlert writes that “the Oklahoma City bombing story broke 18 months before Fox News made its cable-news debut. But if [Fox owner Rupert] Murdoch’s team maintains its current course—if Beck and company insist on irresponsibly fanning the militia-type flames of distrust—there’s the danger Fox News might soon have to cover other episodic gestures of anti-government payback.”

In another article, “Glenn Beck and the Rise of Fox News’ Militia Media,” Boehlert correctly notes that Richard Poplawski is not the first American to be inspired to murder by extreme right wing rhetoric. On July 28 of last year, Jim Adkisson brought a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee and opened fire on parishioners, killing two and wounding several others. He specifically targeted those on the Liberal end of the political spectrum, and made that painstakingly clear in a suicide note: “Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people.” Investigators who searched Adkisson’s house discovered copies of Michael Savage’s Liberalism is a Mental Disorder, Sean Hannity’s Let Freedom Ring, and The O’Reilly Factor, by Bill O’Reilly.

In a post 9/11-era, where terrorist threats from abroad are taken very seriously by the public and law enforcement officials, the threat from within is quickly becoming equally—if not more—grave.

April 13, 2009

Insurrectionism Goes "Mainstream"

For years, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) has warned Americans about the dangers of insurrectionist ideology: the idea that individuals have the “right,” in the words of National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre, “to take whatever measures necessary, including force, to abolish oppressive government.” CSGV has argued that not only does insurrectionism degrade the democratic values and institutions that protect the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans; it also poses a direct threat to the very existence of our constitutional democracy.

13 years after the Oklahoma City bombing, insurrectionism was in the national headlines again this month. On April 4, 23 year-old Neo-Nazi gun enthusiast Richard Poplawski shot and killed three police officers who were responding to a 911 call at his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Poplawski was equipped with an AK-47-style assault rifle and a bulletproof vest and ambushed the officers as they entered the house.

Details about Poplawski’s extreme political beliefs emerged quickly. His self-professed “best friend” Edward Perkovic told reporters that Poplawski feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on its way” and “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon.” Perkovic also commented that Poplawski carried out the shooting because “if anyone tried to take his firearms, he was gonna’ stand by what his forefathers told him to do.” Like the central character in The Turner Diaries, Poplawski blended overt racism with his gun rights activism. In posts on the Neo-Nazi website Stormfront, he stated his belief that “Evil Zionists” controlled the U.S. government and described African Americans as “vile.” Poplawski felt those of like mind were running out of time to “[take] back the nation” and noted that “a revolutionary is always regarded as a nutcase at first.”

It might be tempting to see Poplawski’s views as simply the ravings of a lone madman, but the truth is far more disturbing. Poplawski’s insurrectionist ideology—once the sole province of militia and hate groups in the United States—has now found its way into the highest levels of government and media, creating serious concerns about the violence that could result.

For starters, the philosophy has been embraced by the Supreme Court. In the recent case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the NRA argued in an amicus brief that “the Second Amendment refers to the utility of an armed population in preventing government tyranny.” The 5-4 majority opinion by the Court not only endorsed the NRA’s “individual right” interpretation of the amendment; it also affirmed “the existence of a ‘citizens’ militia’ as a safeguard against tyranny.

The politics of violence soon spread to the legislative branch. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) recently stated that she wants residents of her state to be “armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us ‘having a revolution every now and then is a good thing,’ and the people—we the people—are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country.” Apparently, voting against President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce global warming isn’t sufficient.

Insurrectionism has also reared its head on major Conservative media outlets like Fox News. Not long before the Pittsburgh shooting, Richard Poplawski posted a clip of Glenn Beck talking about “FEMA concentration camps” on the Stormfront website. Undoubtedly, other content on “The Glenn Beck Program” would have appealed to Poplawski. In February, Beck hosted an hour-long special on Fox called “We Surround Them” and a program that gamed a 2014 civil war scenario that Beck called “The Bubba Effect.” On March 3, Beck interviewed NRA celebrity spokesman Chuck Norris. During the interview, Beck stated that, “Somebody asked me this morning, they said, ‘you really believe that there's going to be trouble in the future?’ And I said, ‘if this country starts to spiral out of control and, you know, and Mexico melts down or whatever, if it really starts to spiral out of control, before America allows a country to become a totalitarian country … Americans will, they just, they won't stand for it. There will be parts of the country that will rise up.’ And they said, ‘where's that going to come from?’ And I said, ‘Texas, it's going to come from Texas.’” Six days later, Norris wrote in an editorial: “How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?

Beck also sponsors a website called www.the912project.com that has been overrun with insurrectionist commentators.

The Supreme Court made it clear last June that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in the home. The notion that our Constitution empowers individuals to start shooting and killing local, state and federal officials when they personally believe our government has become “tyrannical,” however, is one that was rejected entirely by our Founding Fathers—as witnessed during incidents like Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion. The NRA seems to think that Timothy McVeigh had a point. Only violent anti-government extremists are likely to agree...

Far from protecting liberty, insurrectionism deprives American citizens of their freedom. While grieving for officers Paul Sciullo III, Stephen J. Mayhle and Eric Kelly, who were lost in the recent Pittsburgh shooting, the local Post-Gazette said it best:

On Fairfield Street, no rights of gun ownership or free speech were vindicated. The police were just doing their thankless duty, answering a domestic disturbance call, for which they were caught in a coward's ambush and murdered. It was their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that were lost.

April 6, 2009

CSGV Mailbag

Recently, after a tragic assault weapon shooting spree in Alabama that cost 11 Americans their lives, the National Rifle Association informed the country that it was an inappropriate time to debate policies to prevent gun violence as the afflicted community was in mourning. Given that 82 Americans die from gun violence every day, it leads one to wonder if the gun lobby’s “right time” will ever come.

Thankfully, though, not all opponents of gun control heed the NRA’s gag order, and we are blessed to receive some wonderful missives that advance the national dialogue on this critical issue. Over the past six months...

We heard from fans of CSGV President Mike Beard’s “Mondays with Mike” blog...

From: lawrence mattera [lawrence.mattera@sbcglobal.net]
Subject: Mondays with the “Porky little bastard”
Date: March 31, 2009

Call mike what he is .

We heard from those seeking gainful employment...

From: Karl Hadley [kaveman1@centurytel.net]
Subject: job opportunity
Date: March 28, 2009

I'd like to apply for the job of lying to dumb-ass people on your behalf. I have absolutely no problem telling and constantly repeating blatant lies in order to make cash. Hire me you stupid bitch.

We heard from those that believe that nonprofit employees can afford “personnel bodyguards” and who we’re eager to make a bet with...

From: Michael Beairsto [mbeairsto@cfl.rr.com]
Subject: Stop sending me your propaganda
Date: March 11, 2009

...Most of America knows that once you get a law passed to outlawing assault weapons your group will go after hand guns than hunting rifles, than bows and arrows, than knives, than forks, steak knives and spoons. Get my drift.

If my family and I lived in a well protected community and could afford personnel body guards just like you folks, I probably would side with your organization on this issue. But, I don't live in guarded communities so if you please I would like to maintain the option to buy a gun if I ever feel like I needed to in order that I may protect my family. Or would you tell me, oh well, so sorry, it’s not your fault if I can’t live in a gated community and my your family dies by the hand of some criminal who can and will get a gun no matter what laws you get on the books. But, that’s right we poor common people are just what, a commodity that can be replaced at the drop of a hat. Does that sound about right for all you goody-to-shoes in the world

By the way I do not own any guns. Just wanted to clear that up for you. But I’ll bet a buck you do.

... The way I see it, if you don’t own a gun take of the rose colored glasses and look at the real world around you, it will scare the crap out of you ...

God help us if your side wins. Oh yeah, you probably don't believe in God either. I just hope my family and I are gone from this world before your side wins.

Mike Beairsto
Palm Bay, Fl

We heard from loquacious and heavily-armed insurrectionists...

From: Christopher J. Jones
Subject: Thanks for your support
Date: February 16, 2009

I just wanted to say thank you for all the work you do. Thanks to your organization and others incompetence regarding guns, I am now able to purchase just about any gun I want. I am the proud owner of 3 “ASSUALT RIFLES” and 5 “HAND GUNS”. I feel it’s only a matter of time before the 2nd Amendment is realized and the infringements currently placed on weapons are completely removed from the books and I may be able to purchase an “AUTOMATIC RIFLE” ... You have to understand, the 2nd Amendment protects the individual right to purchase, store, and bear arms and that “right” will not be “INFRINGED”. That includes bans on evil magazines and pistol grips too. It was not meant to protect hunters or target shooters…but rather enable people like you and me to have a defense against a tyrannical government, should one ever come to power ...

We heard from the next Monty Hall/Howie Mandel...

From: MOOSE1620@aol.com
Subject: gun violence
Date: February 15, 2009

i'll make you a deal. you take EVERY gun away from EVERY criminal in the country, and i'll give you my guns, but so long as even one criminal has a gun... leave me, my guns AND my right to carry that gun alone. deal?

... law abiding citizens such as myself ( i live just outside the city of Detroit, MI.) do not carry a gun because we are afraid, we carry them so we don't ever have to be afraid. I would dare any one of you people to walk down the city streets of detroit after dark, alone and unarmed..... i dare ya. those of us that live here don't have a choice ...

if you have anything intelligent to say, please respond. if all you can say is the normal anti-gun bullshit, don't bother.

thank you

john ayrton
eastpointe, michigan

We heard from insurrectionists who understand the definition of “criminal”...

From: Joel Jensen [thejensenhero@hotmail.com]
Date: January 30, 2009

Criminals dont obey gun laws. THATS WHY THEY ARE CRIMINALS. only honest people will follow gun laws.

How can you be so damn one sided?
How can a society protect itself from its government without weapons?
Do you really trust the government?

We even heard from a New Age Gun-Toting Poet...

From: Anonymous
Subject: RE: Gun Control
Date: January 25, 2009

Statistics be damned.
Statistics lie when applied to an ideology.
Violent criminals are a total drain on our society, in equally destructive ways other than homicide.
An armed citizenry has as much right to combat these parasites as the police, which we pay an inordinate amount of money to do so-not to mention the court system, jails, parole, etc.
A dead perp is a very economical solution to this problem.
If we had as many chalk lines as unsolved violent crimes, what would we do with the multi-billion dollar surplus?
What would the wrongfully incarcerated do with their freedom?
What would the victims do with their closure?
How would we handle the peace of mind in knowing that these animals have been thinned to the point of near extinction?
An armed society is a polite society when lethal self defense is respected.
It is our duty to protect our families, not surrender to some creep.
To me it is as clear and clean as a mountain stream, and I am at total peace with this obligation.

And finally, we heard from someone who’s never been to a gun show...

From: Allan Sentineri [mediattack@lycos.com]
Subject: [RE]Stop the NRA's Anti-Democratic Legislation in Senate
Date: September 29, 2008

people who carry around guns tend to be black democrats and liberals

Until we open our mailbag again, we are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of this insight into how to save the 30,000+ lives lost to gun violence each year in America.