A recently released report by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding right-wing radical groups in the United States, entitled "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," has caused much heated reaction, particularly from conservative talk radio hosts, television personalities and bloggers, as well as newspaper columnists across the country.
Many on the right equate this type of scrutiny by the government as an attempt to squelch their constitutional rights to free speech. Some have even accused the current administration of targeting conservatives. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It is in reality the job of the Department of Homeland Security to assess what is happening right here in our own country in regard to what is known as "homegrown terrorism." In fact the report that has sparked so much controversy over the last week or so was actually initiated during the Bush administration, although every administration keeps track of all extremist activity happening in the country, as well they should.
A similar report from DHS also initiated under the previous administration was released in January and was entitled "Left-wing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyberattacks Over the Coming Decade," as was reported by Fox News last week. It focused mainly on the technical savvy of left-wing extremists rather than violent acts.
The report did, however, specifically mention "eco-terrorist" Earth Liberation Front, which has been accused of fire-bombing construction sites, logging companies, car dealerships and food science labs. The report noted that left-wing extremists favor economic damage on businesses to get their message across. "Direct actions range from animal releases, property theft, vandalism and cyber attacks, all of which extremists regard as non-violent, to fire-bombings." The assessment says it "focuses on the more prominent left-wing groups within the animal rights, environmental, and anarchist extremist movements that promote or have conducted criminal or terrorist activities," Fox News reported.
The report issued by the DHS earlier this month is part of an ongoing review of extremist groups, whether they are considered to be "left" or "right." This most recent assessment does, however, say that the current economic and political climate in the country may help to recruit more followers.
The April 7 report was distributed to police and law enforcement nationwide. The Homeland Security Analysis says threats from white supremacist and anti-government groups "have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts." But it indicates that they seek to expand their recruitment by trying to capitalize on: insecurity caused by loss of jobs and economic troubles, the rise in illegal immigration, fears of renewed efforts to limit gun ownership, and racist reaction to the election of President Obama, as was reported by NBC News.
Right-wing extremists have used the election of the first African-American president as a recruiting tool to increase the number of new members, mobilize existing supporters, as well as "broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have yet turned to attack planning," the assessment concludes. It was also noted that right-wing recruitment grew in the 1990s, but subsided after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings by American terrorists, according to a Fox News report.
The downturn in the economy, particularly over the past six months, with job losses, home foreclosures, as well as the years of outsourcing of American jobs, has added fuel to the fire for some radical extremists. The report by the DHS also cites concern for growing anti-Semitism, saying that some groups are blaming the loss of U.S. jobs and home foreclosures on "a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish 'financial elites' in an attempt to recruit members."
An example of what can happen was evidenced earlier this month when an unstable individual who reportedly frequented white supremacy Web sites was apparently pushed over the edge by the type of extremist propaganda and false information that is prevalent on such sites and discussed on talk radio. He ended up shooting and killing three Pittsburgh police officers.
Information released by the DHS about extremist groups in our country, whether they be "left-wing" or "right-wing," should strike a warning to all radio and television commentators, as well as partisan columnists and bloggers that stoking sentiments of hate against individuals or groups in our own country may result in violent behavior with tragic results.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Carol Jensen is a long-time Barstow resident, graduating from Kennedy High School and Barstow College, where she was an English instructor for many years. Much of her time now is spent writing political and social commentary. She may be contacted at email@example.com.