Friday, May 29, 2020

When Terrorism Succeeds

Timothy McVeigh, on the fringe of white supremacy blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklohama City in 1995 with a fertilizer bomb. He killed 168 people and wounded hundreds more. The Oklahoma City bombing was the most successful act of terrorism in American history. It led the FBI and other Federal agencies, as well as local law enforcement in many instances, to back off the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and kindred groups, leaving them be unless they did something really egregious. 

In the 1990s, Federal agencies like the FBI and Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms were called in to deal with heavily armed white terrorists. A 1992 stand off at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, between gun nut Randy Weaver (whose family was with him) ended in tragedy when FBI snipers took out Weaver and his wife. Weaver had refused to show up for his trial on weapons charges (he had sawed off a shotgun, which is illegal in Idaho). Then the following year the David Koresh splinter of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, was investigated for stockpiling weapons, and a raid left 4 ATF agents and 6 Branch Davidians dead, with many agents wounded. That firefight led to an FBI siege of the compound and ultimately to the deaths of 76 members, including Koresh, in fires that they may have set themselves.

It is one of the reasons for which the Obama administration did not take resolute action when Cliven Bundy staged a stand-off over his refusal to pay fees for grazing on Federal land. People like Bundy were looking for further ammunition to grow their “sovereign citizen” movement, and a violent crackdown would have helped them. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer merely complained about the mob that came for her with assault weapons, but did not order them dealt with by law enforcement. The Michigan state legislature actually just shut down to accommodate these white terrorists. But if any of them had been shot by police, you know that it would just have brought more gangs to Lansing and that Trump would have been whipping up the fringe into a lather.

The white supremacists and other far right elements are armed to the teeth. There are about 255 million guns in the US, but something like 75 percent of Americans say they don’t own a gun. So between 22% and 31% of Americans, about 80 to 100 million people, own all the guns. Then 3 percent of the population, some 10 million people, own 100 million guns.

Let me underline that. About 40 percent of all guns in the United States are owned by about 10 million people, some 3 percent of the population. A tiny percentage within that percentage of super-gun-owners are far-right wing extremists, and law enforcement is understandably reluctant to get them het up.

White supremacists, militia movement members, and other fringe groups of the far right may make up 10 percent of the US population. The form a key if unspoken part of the Republican Party and provide the margin for Republicans in many tight congressional races. This is why Sarah Palin and other GOP leaders engage in code-speak, talking about the “patriots,” which sounds inoffensive until you realize about whom exactly she was speaking.  Republicans in Congress actually stopped Federal agencies from keeping tabs and good statistics on far right extremism, lest one of their constituencies be upset. Trump is the first major national Republican leader openly to cultivate the far right constituency, but he has plenty of predecessors who did so.

African-Americans are made to look big and menacing by the white media and many political figures, but they are a minority. They are only 12 percent of the population. If you had a gathering of 100 representative Americans, only 12 of them would be of African heritage.  They are systematically discriminated against on employment, which keeps them poor. They have only 10 cents for every dollar a white person has. As a disadvantaged minority they are still, despite the supposed end to Jim Crow, subjected to enormous amounts of surveillance and are incarcerated at a rate many times more than whites. It is systematic racism that allows the authorities to treat African-Americans like pariahs and to crack down hard on them if they protest.

In Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down and shot dead in broad daylight for being in a white neighborhoo, the wrong place at the wrong time. In Central Park New York, an African-American had the police called out to him by a white woman for telling her to put her dog on a leash. In Minneapolis, George Floyd was slowly killed by a police-officer who presently remains free and uncharged of any crime. 

Yet the media is upset that his death has resulted in righteous rage from his community.

adapted from here

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