August 13, 2008

And so yet another person has been shot and killed in the United States in a shooting that has political overtones. Yesterday it was Bill Gwatney, the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic party, who died after a man walked into the local party headquarters, forcing his way into Gwatney's office to shoot him three times.

Two weeks ago, Linda Kraeger and Greg McKendry were killed and six others were injured by Jim David Adkisson at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Not being able to obtain a job, Adkinsson had come to the conclusion that all liberals must die.

It is not altogether surprising that he should have come to such a conclusion, since a Google search of "liberals must die" (without the quote marks) turned up 603,000 results and even an url with that title. Not to be outdone, "conservatives must die" turns up 506,000 results, although, curiously, fully half of the results on that first page are actually conservative-leaning pages, and most of the serious liberal pages focus rather on the GOP than on any individual. By the way, unlike the liberals, conservatives don't get their own hate url. Freedom of speech protects any statement, so long as it can be proved not to lead to harm or reasonable anticipation of harm. Tie in the determination that we can't be held responsible very nearly in the slightest for the actions of others, and this covers some broad ground indeed.

Yet in the last two decades, there have been a startling number of killings over lax morals. Since 1993, seven separate people have been killed in the United States over the abortion question alone: Michael Griffin (Florida, 1993), John Bayard Britton and James Barrett (Florida, 1994), Shannon Lowney and Leanne Nichols (Massachussetts, 1994), Robert Sanderson (Alabama, 1998), and Barnett Slepian (New York, 1998). Over a dozen other people have been injured in these abortion-linked attacks, some of them seriously. Among other bombings of a moralistic nature, Eric Rudolph, the Alabama bomber, has additionally claimed responsibility for the pipe bomb set off during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. His activities are supported by the Army of God (AOG), who share his value system. I still remember when everyone thought it was the security guard who was trying to clear the area who was responsible for the bombing, back when the most logical bomber profile seemed to be that of the lone bomber. Will his complete vindication and, yes, true heroism turn out to be another of those terribly under-reported stories?

(If Kopp does turn out to have been responsible for several similar attacks in Canada, he will be the only such shooter known to have taken his crusade outside the United States.)

Every single time, these shootings are downplayed as having been done by mentally unstable individuals or by isolated extremists: and yet the pattern is disturbingly consistent -- and its components are far more common than it might seem on the surface. According to the FBI, between 1980 and 2000, 250 of the 335 incidents confirmed as or suspected to be domestic terrorist acts were carried out by American citizens. This translates to an average of 12.5 out of seventeen such incidents per year: and the frequency appears to be increasing. Several of the shootings mentioned above don't even qualify, because the FBI's definition requires the involvement of two or more persons to be so classified.

(Probably the best-known incident of domestic terrorism, the Oklahoma City bombing, claimed 168 lives. Outside this single event, since 1980 alone, the total mortality resulting from the various shootings and bombings which seem to be politically/morally motivated has already surpassed this toll.)

There was a previous spike in domestic terrorist activity during the Vietnam/racial rights period, characterised that time by violence by extreme left groups such as the Weathermen and the Symbionese Liberation Army, but that spike quickly collapsed after the United States' withdrawal from Vietnam. Perhaps because the left-right polarisation also tends to divide along interpretation of the Second Amendment, modern extremist leftist organisations such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) seem to target property rather than lives. The major exception here is the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, who conducted a one-person bombing campaign from 1978 until he was caught in 1995. His are the only leftist attacks against individuals (rather than property) that I have thus far been able to trace.

(We don't know enough about the anthrax attacks to draw any conclusions, even as to whether the right person has been identified -- it is possible that now we never will -- but based on the targets, those too would seem to be politically motivated. From what I have heard, the reasoning is believed to be that the suspect wished to demonstrate fatal flaws of security. Is it worse for me to remain utterly silent, or to pass on authoritative hearsay?)

A strong argument could also be made that the cross-border criminal fund-raising activities of the Canadian/Québecois Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) also qualified as terrorism within the United States. It certainly did within Canada. It is worth noting, in this context, that these were completely brought to an end in 1970 only by the invocation, in Canada, of the War Measures Act (by the "socialist"/liberal/and thus "appeaser" Pierre Elliot Trudeau).

Unlike historical cell structures, such organisations as the Army of God appear to hold a deliberately leaderless structure. A startling number of people not directly affiliated with this structure have nevertheless claimed sympathy with it: and indeed boost their domestic popularity by doing so. The sudden emergence, active support of violence, and popularity of such organisations seems to have caught the FBI off guard: although who could do better when both public opinion and government policy desperately wants to write off every politically-motivated violent act as either a lone wolf or of foreign/quisling origin?

(I often feel very sorry for those working for the FBI. What kind of dedication must it take to try and maintain domestic security, in the face of so much deliberate obstructionism in the twin names of freedom and dogma?)

Up until the change of millennium, domestic terrorism seemed to flow opposite the federal government and dominant federal policies: where the right seemed to be federally dominant, domestic terrorism was strongly leftist, while rightist terrorism raised its head during the Clinton administration. However, in recent years there has been a very disturbing surge in rightist political shootings during a right-dominated federal government. While established organisations obviously do exist, the acts taken are increasingly individual, in direct correlation to the rise of the Internet blogosphere. The most common claim -- during a Republican-dominated government -- is that liberals are running and destroying the United States. The reasoning is simple:
Liberals have the blood of countless souls on their hands and yet they call us war mongers and baby killers.
- Dave T, comment on American Thinker
And even the article to which this comment was posted was considered by two among the commenters to have a liberal bias, in not having labelled things accurately and gone far enough, one of whom promised:
I am holding on to my guns and my God for if Obama is elected blood will run in the streets as it did on 9/11. Never have I seen such an unadulterated media hype for such a worthless, spineless, buzzword babbling baffoon.
- john orr
Nine guns in every ten United States households. Sooner or later, other Adkissons will come to the conclusion that not having "the moral fiber" and "moral shallowness" and "appeasement" and even general "incompetence" merits a death sentence: and they will certainly have the means to do something about it, even if the government can't or won't.

I can't help but wonder if, someday, we won't look back at these shootings and bombings and see them as the opening volleys in a new American civil war.

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