After the shooting deaths of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller
last month and security guard Stephen T. Johns at the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Museum last week, I knew it was only a matter of time before I
would receive an e-mail like one sent from Ann Pinkerton of Oakland:
"Several weeks ago, I wrote you because I thought you dismissed the Homeland
Security Report on right-wing extremism unfairly. Since then, Dr. George
Tiller has been shot and killed, and a security guard at the Holocaust
Museum has been shot and killed. Both of these acts were acts of right-wing
terrorism on domestic soil. Have you reassessed your opinions in light of
The short answer is no. For one thing, Pinkerton didn't mention
the Monday shooting that killed Pvt. William Andrew Long, a military
recruiter, and wounded Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula outside the Army-Navy Career
Center in Little Rock, Ark. The man charged in the shooting, Abdulhakim
Muhammad, told the Associated Press, "I do feel I'm not guilty.
"I don't think it was murder, because murder is when a person
kills another person without justified reason." The former Carlos Bledsoe
defined the shooting as an "act, for the sake of God, for the sake of Allah,
the Lord of all the world, and also retaliation on U.S. military."
Now I understand why Pinkerton might have missed the left-wing
shooting of a military recruiter. The Tiller assassination garnered three
stories, an editorial and a column (mine) over the following two days, and a
week later a front-page story, whereas The Chronicle ran two national briefs
about the military-recruiter attack, on Page A5 one day, and Page A6 the
next. Other media underplayed the domestic terrorist attack as well.
For me, the reason is pretty obvious: Stories that reinforce
journalists' political beliefs rate the front page or top of their
newscasts; stories that do not are not considered big news. Chronicle
Managing Editor Steve Proctor told me he disagrees: "People do not make
decisions like that based on their political beliefs."
Oh, and when shooters take convicted Beltway snipers John
Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo espouse anti-American, pro-terrorist
politics, news stories focus on their mental health or personal issues, not
their destructive political philosophy. When the feds arrest Islamic
extremists, the press reports that an informer may have entrapped the
would-be bombers, rather than explore the twisted thinking that motivated
Painful as it is, I have to admit that Scott Roeder, who is
charged with murdering Tiller, is a creature of the right. He is a nut, but
a right-wing nut. And for that reason, anti-abortion activists must shun all
like-believers who espouse or condone violence.
And by the way, the April Department of Homeland Security report
to which Pinkerton referred, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and
Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,"
served no law enforcement value because it failed to name any dangerous
groups, but instead targeted suspect political thought such as "groups
and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as abortion or
immigration." If the memo had named "Dangerous Activists" or outlined
criminal behavior which law enforcement could prosecute as an earlier
memo on left-wing animal-rights and environmental extremists did then the
memo could have been useful, not heavy-handed and sophomoric.
But I reject the idea that James W. von Brunn, the alleged
Holocaust museum gunman and known white supremacist and anti-Semite, is
right wing as well as the implication that racism and conservatism
somehow are connected. The KKK is not welcome at any conservative event I've
Heidi Beirich, director of research for the Southern Poverty Law
Center, told me she understands my frustration in seeing von Brunn's bigotry
pegged as right-thinking. "Being a racist is not part of mainstream
politics," she acknowledged. And: "I wouldn't call it conservative. I call
it right-wing extremism." The anti-Semitism von Brunn espoused was
championed by conservatives before World War II, she explained, and men like
von Brunn "self-identify as conservatives."
Von Brunn probably thinks he is a patriot, too but that
doesn't mean anyone should call him a patriotic extremist. If anything, von
Brunn seems to have arrived at the very fringe where far left and far right
unite. According to Politico's Ben Smith, von Brunn believed George W. Bush
may have been in on the Sept. 11 attacks and the FBI found the address of
the neoconservative Weekly Standard on a piece of paper associated with him.
The FBI also found a note in his car that said, "Obama was created by Jews."
On the left last week, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright told columnist
David Squires of the Daily Press in Virginia that "the Jewish vote, the
A-I-P-A-C vote"" is "controlling" President Obama. And: "Them Jews ain't
going to let him talk to me." Flabby minds think alike.
There is such a thing as being so far to the right or to the
left that the only destination you can attain with any certainty is the