Terror Schadenfreude

As it’d be a bit hard to miss, if you’ve read the paper today or watched or listened to the news, a gentleman was killed last night after pulling a gun on two security officers at The Pentagon. The shooter, John Patrick Bedell, was a white American male.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not happy that Bedell wounded two guards and caused a great deal of mayhem and confusion. Nor am I happy about the people killed at Fort Hood recently. Or the people who died in Texas after Joe Stack plowed his plane into an IRS office there. Or the victims of the Holocaust Museum shooting, or any of the other incidents of late. I’m not one to celebrate pain and suffering, as a rule.

That said, a big part of me is happy, in a kind of abstract way, that these incidents have happened. And, in a way, a small part of me hopes that they continue to happen.

Okay, that’s not really true – a part of me hopes that what’s come so far is enough to get the government’s serious attention.

A decade ago, the two top priorities for federal law enforcement in this country were transnational criminal organizations – i.e. gangs – and domestic extremists. The former – especially drug cartels – were out of control and operating with relative impunity; the latter were a growing problem that the government had been slow to do anything about. Anarchists and anti-capitalists had just run amok in Seattle, the Animal and Earth Liberation Fronts were just starting to become household names in the United States, and Y2K (remember Y2K?) had more than quadrupled the number of anti-government militia members and fringe survivalists, many of whom were heavily armed and sometimes literally praying for a confrontation.

Domestic extremism was a big thing, back then. The top three criminal threats, according to some reports, were ALF, ELF, and Mara Salvatrucha.

Then 9/11 happened, and almost literally overnight, pretty much nobody cared about white extremists anymore. ALF and ELF and MS-13 stopped being important, and were replaced by al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas. “Terrorism” now meant “Islamic militants”. “Extremists” meant “supporters of militant Islamic groups”.

Nobody cared about domestic extremism, or anyone who wasn’t brown-skinned.

While the government wasn’t looking, the militias rebounded in size and organization, and increased their radicalization. Outlaw motorcycle gangs fought a protracted war for control of the Canada-US drug trade. The White Nationalist movement more than tripled in size. Eco-extremists expanded across the country and refined their tactics. Far-right political extremists became organized, radicalized, and embraced Teh Crazy before becoming reasonably mainstream. Mostly unnoticed by the government, members of all these communities went and joined the military, where they gained real-world marksmanship, leadership, and small-unit tactical experience that they were quick to share with their like-minded brethren outside the military.

Domestic extremism isn’t a priority for the government – or it wasn’t, very very recently. For almost a decade, it’s been nothing but “The War on Terror”, where “terror” means “crimes committed by Islamic radicals” and “Islamic radicals” means “brown people”. Domestic extremism has been neglected, along with cybercrime and everything else that involves non-brown people.

So, as much as I’m saddened every time a white guy commits an act of terrorism – or what would be an act of terror, were he brown-skinned – a little part of me is kind of happy, and hopes that this will be the act of terrorism that finally makes the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the rest of the government remember that white men (and women!) can be terrorists, too – and that there are a lot more white domestic extremists in this country than brown ones.

Published in: General, Security | on March 5th, 2010| 2 Comments »

Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. On 3/7/2010 at 12:22 am Tim Said:

    I agree with the sentiment, but I disagree with the way you seem to be spinning this. We already have way too much hysteria about “terrorism”. These people are not terrorists. They are crazy people doing criminal acts. We should arrest them and treat them like the criminals that they are. The problem is that our government has given the green light to preventing terrorism before it starts, rather than responding to criminal acts. This sounds great, but what it leads to is secret detention, illegal wiretaps and other abuses of police power, harassment of photographers, and all the other erosion of our freedoms that, when confronted, all end up with somebody saying “you know, since 9/11, it’s a different world” as they cart you away.

    What I think our government should be doing is police work. Find criminals, arrest them, send them to trial where the evidence against them is evaluated by jurors and a judge. Don’t make a big fuss about finding somebody doing something bad, whether they have brown or white skin. Just send them to jail.

    The alternative seems to be for the DHS to start applying the same tactics that they do to the brown people to everybody. And that seems like a really bad idea. Police state? Personally, I don’t think they should be doing what they do to brown people either, but maybe that’s just me. 🙂

  2. On 3/7/2010 at 1:09 am Nemo Said:

    I, as a middle-aged white-ish person, definitely have a vested interest in DHS not applying what are now brown-people-only “counterterrorism” tactics to the rest of the populace. (Also, I concur that they shouldn’t be doing that to brown people in the first place.) And I couldn’t agree more that they should emphasize criminal investigation and prosecution, as opposed to… whatever the current buzzwords are. Prevention? Detection? Whatever they’re calling it this week.

    That said, I think that some of the non-brown criminals are terrorists, in the pre-2001 sense of the term. In fact, that’s one of my gripes – that since 9/11, “terrorism” == “Islamic radicals”. By today’s standards, the IRA were not terrorists, nor were Theo Kaczynski, the Weather Underground, ETA, or the Symbionese Liberation Army. (ETA, I think, are now “insurgents”, and the IRA “freedom fighters”, but it might be the other way around.)

    But, screw semantics, I think my point still stands – amid all the other nasty byproducts of the “War on Terra” has been a near-complete disregard for non-brown extremists on the part of law enforcement. From 9/12/2001 to today, the militias, sovereign citizens’ groups, neo-Nazis, and all the other militant or hate or domestic extremist or domestic terrorist groups – or whatever the politically-correct term is these days – that are primarily comprised of white people have basically gotten a free pass from law enforcement, and I think it’s just beginning to come back to bite us all on the collective ass.

    I mean, it’s not a coincidence that all of these people are attacking not their employers, or ex-employers, or whatever (“going postal”, as they used to say), but non-random government facilities…