More on right wing domestic terrorism

By Amanda Marcotte
Tuesday, October 12, 2010 21:41 EDT
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I know I probably sound like a broken record on this, but it’s important to cover the growing problem of right wing domestic terrorism. Media Matters has put together a report on the beliefs of Byron Williams, who got into a shootout with California Highway Patrol officers on July 18th. Luckily, he didn’t kill anyone, but it came out that his intention was to commit acts of terrorism against the Tides Foundation and the ACLU. Working for Media Matters, journalist John Hamilton interviewed Williams, and surprise surprise, found out that he’s a huge devotee of Glenn Beck.

I have no doubt that Beck will immediately deny any responsibility for filling people’s heads with paranoid lies until someone cracks and decides to do something violent. But there’s a clear line here:

Observers of this most recent act were mystified by one of Byron Williams’ reported targets: the Tides Foundation, a low-profile charitable organization known for funding environmentalists, community groups, and other organizations.

Beck, it turned out, had attacked Tides 29 times on his Fox News show in the year-and-a-half leading up to the shooting.

Here’s some more reporting on Beck’s obsession with Tides and particularly with George Soros. There are many other billionaires who spend money on lefty causes, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, but Soros gets the lion’s share of the attention from the freaked-out right. And frankly, after seeing the tenor that the freak-out over Journolist took, I’m definitely of the mind that this is anti-Semitic. With Beck, the unspoken but ever-present anti-Semitic themes of his fear-mongering are probably a result of expedience. Beck has never been one to reinvent the wheel. If he wants to paint a picture of an international conspiracy to rule the world, of course he’s going to finger Jews as the people behind it. The sentiment already exists in his audience. It’s much easier to fan the flames if the embers are already there. Check out some of the Facebook replies Michael Roston got off Mark Levin’s Facebook page when Levin was feeding his audience bullshit stories about Journolist and the liberal conspiracy to run the media, one listserv where we talk about “The Wire” at a time:

I want to take a moment to point out that Williams was targeting both Tides (which he concluded was the org from which Soros will do all his dirty, world-conquering work) and, yep, the ACLU.

Yeah, this last one is a head-scratcher.

Obviously, most people who eat Glenn Beck’s shit all the time aren’t going to commit acts of violence. Most of them are, luckily, too cowardly and comfortable to do something like Williams did, even if they fantasize about it. But some oddballs here and there are going to do this, because they really do believe what Beck is saying about some grand conspiracy of evil liberals.

In fact, right as Media Matters was releasing this report, another likely would-be terrorist was arrested.

Richard Scott McLeod of Brighton was arrested Monday in Webberville on weapons charges and is under suspicion for potential threats against President Barack Obama.

On the outside of the 48-year-old’s vehicle were bumper stickers quoting Adolf Hitler. On the inside, police say there was a picture of Obama, a loaded gun, a bullet-proof vest and tips on how to build bombs.

A lot of the time, these extremists consider folks like talk radio show hosts to be weak sauce, not extreme enough. (Though interestingly, this seems to be less so when it comes to Glenn Beck. Scary.) But it’s worth remembering that the bar on radical, over-the-top fear-mongering is set by what the more mainstream wingnut pundits will say. People who want to be more extreme in their conservatism take their cues from what is permissible to be said on Fox News and add 15 points of nutbar. Beck is impeding on the hardcore types’ “Jewish conspiracy to rule the world” fantasies, and I imagine their reaction will just be to turn the heat on even higher.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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