Saturday, March 6, 2010

Breitbart's Sites Breeding Ground For Homegrown Terrorists?

By now, most of America has heard of the Pentagon shooter already, although some may not be familiar with the circumstances, but in brief, the shooter, Patrick Bedell, attacked the Pentagon out of a strong distrust for the government. I am curious as to whether conservative pundits will be quick to call Bedell a terrorist, much like they did for the Fort Hood shooter, but I doubt that will be the case. According to the Washington Post, "researchers who track violent groups see Bedell's rampage as a distorted manifestation of the anti-Washington view that has driven the rise of right-wing militias" and that the plane crash last month into an IRS building and the shooting of a museum guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is an alarming trend in that while all three blamed their personal failings on the government, all three had "drawn ideological nourishment" from "online communities of like-minded people who validate and amplify extreme views."
Today, more than in recent years, such communities are tapping into a broad undercurrent of anti-government discontent fueled by economic recession, joblessness and concern over the growing federal deficit, according to experts who have studied the phenomenon.
The Washington Post article states that while Bedell's case was a distortion of the anti-Washington message circulating in right-wing circles, right-wing extremist groups have been on the rise, with a Southern Poverty Law Center study finding that since 2008's election, such organizations increased 244 percent, "from 149 groups to 512, including 127 militias." Prior to this increase, deaths as a result from extremist attacks had fallen for the past 20 years, making these last couple of years abnormal. In my opinion, it seems to coincide with the emergence of the Tea Parties and the right's wholehearted embrace, with Fox News' pundits giving 24/7 airtime to anti-American conspiracies and views, such as calls from the likes of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly regarding topics from school indoctrination to secret security forces established by the administration. "People are bringing completely groundless conspiracy theories into the mainstream, and they are doing it for purely opportunistic reasons," said Mark Potok, author of the Southern Poverty Law Center Report. "To some, it may be only a ratings game, but the danger is that some people actually believe these tall tales and a few will actually act on them."

As for an online companion to the wild topics spewed by conservative pundits, just look to the host of Big websites that promote the same stories seen on Fox News but in greater detail, and to greater extremes, such as the anti-gay smears against Kevin Jennings or the constant fear mongering against Islam and the encroachment of socialism, communism, Marxism, or any other type of "ism". Considering the various topics on any given day on any given Big site, the responses from the readership sound eerily like what the Washington Post described in the article as substantiating these attacks against the government in the minds of those who perpetrated them. Attacks such as these will most likely be on the rise as long as conservatives play this dangerous game of displaying highly sensationalized (and blatantly distorted) stories for the promise of ratings and future political gains at the cost of innocent lives, of course those very same conservatives will probably fail to see any correlation between their actions and the actions of these madmen.

Just consider the report by by the Department of Homeland Security regarding increased "rightwing extremist activity." Conservatives were quick to attack the report, claiming politics to be the cause, and quickly shifted the story around, focusing on the susceptibility of returning war veterans to right wing militias and extremist groups. Maybe there was something to that report that conservatives like Beck, Hannity, and O'Reilly were afraid of...

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