CommunityFDL Main Blog

FDL Late Nite: The Media Don’t Care About The Other Kind Of Terrorists

domesticterrorsuspects.jpgOur ever-astute friends in the mainstream media have apparently identified the latest terrorist threat: Barack and Michelle Obama and assorted other "jabbers".

Meanwhile, when a group of actual terrorists is arrested as they prepare to strike in the American heartland … well, the media mostly snooze.

But as usual, it may have something to do with the fact that they were the wrong color:

Marvin Hall of Rimersburg, Perry Landis of the Clarion area, Morgan Jones of Lucinda, as well as Melissa Huet are in custody.

Investigators say they were stockpiling a cache of weapons with plans to target local government buildings.

The FBI, in raids over the weekend, confiscated hundreds of weapons – including everything from hunting rifles, homemade bombs, rudimentary rockets and cannons.

Sources tell KDKA’s Marty Griffin the suspects made threats to blow up government buildings and carry out other extreme acts of domestic terrorism.

Imagine, if you will, how this would have been handled were these folks of Arab extraction or believers in radical Islamist ideology instead of your garden-variety far-right American ideology. CNN would have the cameras and reporters there, NBC would host an hour discussing the threat, and Michelle Malkin and Little Green Footballs’ Chuck Johnson would bouncing around the walls of their rubber rooms even more frenetically than usual amid shouts of "Jihad!!!!"

Some of the worst damage inflicted by the events of 9/11 was the wreckage to the public’s already limited understanding of the nature of terrorism. Because ever since then, terrorism has been about Scary Brown Foreign People — despite the fact that the vast, vast majority of terrorist attacks planned and carried out on American soil are by white Americans.

Oklahoma City was virtually erased from the public consciousness as an act of terrorism. Since 9/11 — in addition to the anthrax killer, who promptly vanished from public consciousness once it was determined the perpetrator was a domestic terrorist — we’ve had people arrested for planning cyanide bomb attacks, destroying abortion clinics, plotting the deaths of liberal leaders, and a variety of other would-be terrorist plots. And they received ZERO attention from the national press and the cable-TV talkers.

As I’ve explained previously, the most important aspect of terrorism is the asymmetrical nature of the threat: very small numbers of people are now capable of inflicting significant damage and incurring massive loss of life against targets that in most regards are well defended. And white Americans just as easily fit the profile.

It’s true that, generally speaking, domestic terrorists are neither as competent nor as likely to pose a major threat as most international terrorists, particularly Al Qaeda. And the belief systems that feed the domestic terrorists have not become pervasive in popular Western culture the way Al Qaeda and Wahhabism generally have insinuated themselves in the Islamic world (though there has been an increasing blurring of the lines between the mainstream and extremist right in recent years).

Nonetheless, given the right actors, the right weapons, and the right circumstances, they remain nearly as capable of inflicting serious harm on large numbers of citizens as their foreign counterparts. This is especially true because they are less likely to arouse suspicion and can more readily blend into the scenery.

Most of all, what they lack in smarts or skill, they make up for in numbers: Since the early 1990s, the vast majority of planned terrorist acts on American soil — both those that were successfully perpetrated and those apprehended beforehand — have involved white right-wing extremists. Between 1995 and 2000, over 42 such cases (some, like Eric Rudolph, involving multiple crimes) were identifiable from public records. Some of these were potentially quite lethal, such as a planned attack on a propane facility near Sacramento that, had it been successful, would have killed several thousand people living in its vicinity. William Krar’s cyanide bomb could have killed hundreds. Fortunately, none of these plotters have proven to be very competent.

Annually, right-wing extremists within our borders are responsible for a siezeable number of crimes. These range, as Mark Pitcavage of the ADL points out, from "bombings and bombing plots to assassination plots and murders to weapons and explosives violations to hate crimes to massive frauds and scams (amounting in some cases in the hundreds of millions of dollars) to the myriad of lesser crimes." Even if you totaled up several years’ worth of criminal activity related to Islamic extremism, it would fail to come close to the levels produced by our own homegrown terrorists.

But of course, reportage like that doesn’t do much for your ratings. It’s much more important to repeat favored and established media narratives than to actually inform the public — because doing the latter just isn’t as profitable. Or easy.

Previous post

More pie please....

Next post

G*d damn. Can we afford a computer illiterate doofus as POTUS?

David Neiwert

David Neiwert

David Neiwert is the managing editor of Firedoglake. He's a freelance journalist based in Seattle and the author/editor of the blog Orcinus. He also is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000.