Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the Right

Tonight, following Amanda Melissa's resignations, I am reminded of the how violence has long been a tool of the right-wing in its attempts to end reproductive choice in America. Consider the following:
In the U.S., violence directed toward abortion providers has killed 7 people, including 3 doctors, 2 clinic employees, a security guard, and a clinic escort.(...)

According to statistics gathered by the National Abortion Federation (NAF), an organization of abortion providers, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, there have been 17 attempted murders, 383 death threats, 153 incidences of assault or battery, and 3 kidnappings committed against abortion providers.(...)

The first letters claiming to contain anthrax were mailed to U.S. clinics in October 1998, a few days after the Slepian shooting, and since then, there have been a total of 655 such bioterror threats made against abortion providers.(...)

According to NAF, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 173 arsons, 91 attempted bombings or arsons, 619 bomb threats, 1630 incidences of trespassing, 1264 incidences of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid.
Violence against abortion providers is by far a more serious threat to reproductive freedom than any democratic, legislative, or judicial means. On the democratic front, despite South Dakota being the 11th most "pro-life" state in the nation, according to Survey USA, a ballot measure to outlaw abortion was soundly defeated, 55%-45% last November. On the legislative front, despite Republicans holding a trifecta in Washington D.C. for four years from 2003-2006, and despite Republicans holding a trifecta in over 25 states for at least two years during the last decade, not only does abortion remain legal in every single state in the nation, it was never successfully outlawed anywhere (although Demcoratic-controlled Louisiana is pending on that front). When it comes to the judiciary, despite more than two-thirds of current federal and Supreme Court justices being appointed by Republicans, Roe vs. Wade has yet to be overturned, or even seriously challenged since Casey versus Planned Parenthood (another Democratic move).

Over the past fifteen years, conservatives have had every possible democratic, legislative, and judicial tool at their disposal to outlaw abortion, at least somewhere. However, all of their attempts on these fronts have failed miserably. The only thing hat has worked for them has been violence committed against abortion providers. When I write "violence," I am being as nice as humanly possible. Take another look at the list of acts I quoted above, described, and tell me that it doesn't smack of a coordinated, terrorist campaign against abortion providers. Sadly, it has largely been successful. The reason there are only one, two or three abortion providers in two dozen states is because of the terrorist campaign conducted against abortion providers. As all democratic means have failed them, the only tool conservatives have successfully used to slow down abortion has been a campaign of terrorist violence against abortion providers.

But that isn't the only area where terrorism and the threat of violence remains a key political tool for American conservatives. As much as we laud the sophistication, coordination, and long-term funding that was required to build the Republican Noise Machine, the incidents of the past week bring into stark relief how the continuing threat of violence against targets of the Noise Machine play a key role in its operation. Keep in mind that the targets of right-wing smears are often junior staffers, college professors or other mid-range employees that ultimately mean little to the organization where they are employed. By targeting such people, the Noise Machine hopes to enact more pain to the organizations who employ those-who-dare-to-ever-step-out-of-line- with-conservative-orthodoxy than those-who-dare-to-ever-step-out-of-line- with-conservative-orthodoxy can ever bring to the organization in question. However, in the rare cases where that is not enough to achieve victory, such as John Edwards refusing to fire Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan last week, other tactics are employed in order to achieve the desired result. In order for the Noise Machine to get its scalps and thus continue its normal operation, simultaneous to all of the media smears there is a constant campaign of violent threats. In the case of Marcotte and McEwan, when the organization employing the targets refused to cave from media pressure, the targets themselves caved largely as a result of the constant string of violent threats leveled against them by right-wing activists. As Melissa wrote in her public resignation letter:
There will be some who clamor to claim victory for my resignation, but I caution them that in doing so, they are tacitly accepting responsibility for those who have deluged my blog and my inbox with vitriol and veiled threats. It is not right-wing bloggers, nor people like Bill Donohue or Bill O'Reilly, who prompted nor deserve credit for my resignation, no matter how much they want it, but individuals who used public criticisms of me as an excuse to unleash frightening ugliness, the likes of which anyone with a modicum of respect for responsible discourse would denounce without hesitation.
Much like the democratic means attempted by conservatives to outlaw abortion, the media pressure against Edwards didn't work. Unfortunately, the violent threats against Melissa did. Over at Pandagon, Amanda offers a taste of some of the tamer threats she received during the episode, and which it appears she continues to receive. Ultimately, it appears that it was the continuing threat of violence, not any media pressure or caving from the Edwards campaign, that allowed the right-wing to "take scalps" in this whole affair.

During the brief media frenzy surrounding my googlebomb campaign in October of 2006, I myself received about five dozen death threats that looked not unlike the ones Amanda posted at Pandagon. Also, when Michelle Malkin tried to attack two college students for engaging in anti-war protests, the college students also received dozens of death threats. Considering of this, it now seems pretty clear to me now that every right-wing media campaign against a mid-level Democrat or progressive is always accompanied with numerous threats of violence. It seems to be a ubiquitous back-up tactic of the American right-wing in the event that their media pressure fails to work, just as it failed to work against the Edwards campaign, and just as it failed to work against me when it came to the Googlebombs. As it the case with abortion providers, if you can't beat them using democratic means, and if you can't defeat them using your vast media empire, use death threats as a final tactic to force relatively powerless individuals to bend to your demands.

Terrorism and the threat of violence against American citizens remains a key political tool for the American right-wing. This is true both in the sense of conservatives and Republicans trying to scare people into voting for them / justifying their legislative agenda, and in the sense of actual terrorism and threats of violence against Democrats and progressives who stand in their way. The most important lesson we should learn from the entire "Edwards bloggers" incident is not that Edwards caved (he didn't), not that Amanda and Melissa let us down (they didn't), not that the media is dominated by a Republican Noise Machine that justifies any right-wing smear (it is, but what else is new under the sun?), but that physical violence and the threat of physical violence is still successfully being employed as a political tactic against individual progressives in America. Make no mistake: without threatening violence, Donohue, O'Reilly, Malkin, and everyone else associated with this smear campaign would have lost, and badly, just as we thought they had lost badly at the end of last week. In the end, their campaign was saved via death threats. You won't read about that in any of the AP stories, but it is something we need to address front and center--even if just on our own at first--none the less.

Tags: Blogosphere, choice, Ideology, Media, Republicans (all tags)



Oh my god...

Your right.

It is terrorism.

What the hell do we do?

by nhcollegedem 2007-02-13 08:48PM | 0 recs
What the hell do we do?

As a provider of abortion care in deep-red Texas for the past 14 years, what I generally do is get up and go to work every morning. I did that today, and I will do it again tomorrow.

I have been threatened with a good deal more than nasty emails, but that's still what I do.

Yes, it's terrorism. But if you're not going to let them stop you, there's no point in letting them have you.

by moiv 2007-02-14 05:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

Seeking an analogy and historical backdrop?  Three letters:


by pseudo999 2007-02-13 08:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

This is consistent with the right-wing reaction to legal frameworks in the civil rights movement as well, as we all still remember.  And the only recourse is to sick the Feds on 'em, as heart-breakingly long and laborious a campaign as that was in the South in the Fifties and Sixties.  In the end it prevailed.  That would also appear to be the only restraint on violence against abortion providers these days, too.

As far as I am aware death threats are a matter for law enforcement and I wonder if you, in the past, or Amanda and Melissa have considered taking the matter up with the relevant authorities?

If it is any consolation, and this applies to Islamic fundamentalist violence too, history shows that this response on ethical, social or theological issues is usually among the last chapters of a dying, bankrupt ideology when faced with extinction in the face of the rule of law and social justice.  Let us hope it is so in this case as well.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-13 09:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

  But what do you do when the Feds are on their side?

  During the civil-rights movement, our leadership consisted of people like Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, and Earl Warren, not to mention LBJ, who for all his Vietnam idiocy at least was good on the domestic front.

  Today, our positions of power are occupied by animals like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Samuel Alito, and Alberto Gonzales.

  They are on the terrorists' side.

  What do we do?  

by Master Jack 2007-02-14 03:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

Embarass them into action.  The FBI is, as you point out, a federal agency which tends to do the bidding of its masters.  But like any public service institution it is sensitive to criticism that it is not performing its job function.  Especially public criticism.

If every death threat resulted in a complaint to the FBI it would eventually show up on their radar.  It is a long, slow process but can only start at the beginning.  The mere fact that the Right-wing thinks it is a normal and appropriate response to do this could be arrested with a little bit of media publicity on the subject.  I would have liked to have seen the death threats more visibly cited in the publicity surrounding the Amanda and Melissa resignations in the MSM, for example.  I wasn't aware of them at the time and the public still isn't.  Exposing rats to daylight always makes them scatter.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-02-14 01:01PM | 0 recs
Who's Sending This Stuff

Thought-provoking stuff.

I think the point about law enforcement is valid. If they aren't using sophisticated masking techniques like relying stuff through a botnet or finding some other way to completely forge the e-mail headers, tracing a death threat e-mail should be relatively simple. You might need a warrant to get ISP info to identify a specific computer. If a sender is a tech idiot or doesn't care about being identified, determining identity might even be possible through the WhoIs database.

What could be done once a group of people are identified would be a different matter. Perhaps just exposing these folks would provide some deterrent and help separate the purely rhetorical death threats from ones that should be taken seriously. The serious ones could be forwarded to the FBI and a little media pressure might get some action.

Perhaps this is something a grassroots tech team could explore. I'd imagine there is a relatively small group of these "e-terrorists" blasting their fury to multiple subjects. If a few major bloggers and liberal media figures could be convinced to forward their threatening e-mail to the team, there would probably be a significant number of common senders. And if a conspiracy or connection to larger "legitimate" conservative organization could be established with even mild certainty, that would make a nice story to disseminate through the nascient liberal media infrastructure.

On the other hand, I don't recall hearing about any bloggers or liberal media figures that have actually suffered violence yet. Abortion providers, yes, but those are much more vulnerable physical targets. Perhaps the blogosphere simply has to slog on through the invective and hope that none of it is legit. And if the FBI is as overwhelmend and/or compromised as we suspect, that's the only real option.

by ProgressiveChristian 2007-02-14 04:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Who's Sending This Stuff

We ought to have the tech experts to do this.  Exposing a few of these folks might have some deterrent value.  There have to be laws broken by transmitting death threats through the internets, just as through the mails.

In addition, there needs to be more of a campaign to expose right-wing violence and exclusionist rhetoric and to make "responsible" righties disavow it.

by Mimikatz 2007-02-14 07:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains etc...

There is no room for this sort of moral bankruptcy. When O'Reilly or Malkin are asked about this, their condemnation must come without a "but" or be ignored-and condemned. They would hold us to no lesser a standard.

by Jilliker 2007-02-13 09:04PM | 0 recs
Christian Violence

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. - Mohandas Gandhi

by HCLiberal 2007-02-13 09:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains...

As usual, the right has the left cornered politically... people like Malkin & Donahue are vile, of course, but their real function is to unleash the violent id of those who are disposed to believe them, and it's almost impossible to counterattack 'normal' citizens.  I've long said that Ann Coulter is a clown more than anything else, cranking out stupid, dishonest crap and laughing all the way to the bank, while populating the sick fantasies of the American loser (actually, I think she & Malkin are flip sides of their icky dominance/submission coin, but that's another story).  But our problem is that the fans are more of a cancer than the celebrities, yet no politician can issue a blanket condemnation of entire groups of citizens.  We can, of course, but then we 'hate Americans' and are therefore illegitimate spokespeople for liberalism who will be disparaged by the establishment left.

by latts 2007-02-13 11:22PM | 0 recs
You're right to call them on it

I wouldn't tar all conservatives with that brush but there is an element of the right that is basicaly an insecure, angry, hateful bully. I've had far right people wish me dead several times on blogs. The behaviour has become so commonplace that it's lost its noteworthiness but I think you're right to bring it up.

After all aren't these the people who are constantly saying "why don't moderate muslims denounced violence".  Funny how that same rhetoric doesn't seem to apply to them.

by Jose 2007-02-14 02:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

Then it's time for Democrats to begin hearings on domestic terrorism coming from the Right.

The GOP claimed that animal rights terrorists were the greatest domestic terroism threat, and they held investigations.

Now it's time for the Democratic leadership to start investigating who is sending death and violence threats to abortion providers, environmentalists, the Dixie Chicks, our bloggers, etc.

Start investigating who on the Right is engaging in domestic terrorism. Highlight the main groups behind it, and see if we can track down the individuals who are instigating it.

by Naturegal 2007-02-14 03:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

unfortunately, I suspect that its decentralized.  Angry limbaugh listeners sitting at their computers screaming the most vile shit they can come up with through semi-anonymous yahoo email accounts.  No intent to follow through, of course.  Until, one of these days, one of them does.  And someone ends up being attacked physically.  

by JJCPA 2007-02-14 05:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

My response to threats I've received over my own postings is to remind the writer that not all Democrats and progressives are unarmed and unwilling to fight back.

by Spiffarino 2007-02-14 04:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

Yes, indeedy!

by Pericles 2007-02-14 06:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool

In 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks, Democratic Senators Tom Daschle's office was targetted by an anthrax attack along with Senator Patrick Leahy's office, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, the New York Post, and the National Enquirer. This anthrax strain originated at Fort Detrick, Maryland (though this particular anthrax may have been produced somewhere else). For details, see this very good article at Wikipedia. Though this is the only real, large-scale terrorist attack against the US government since 9/11, the government and mainstream media seems to have given up trying to find out who perpetrated this attack.

This attack may have contributed to the spinelessness of the Democrats and the MSM in standing up to the Bush administration. If the attack was perpetrated by terrorists or a foreign power, then (they rationalize), we must let the Bush administration do whatever it takes to stop them. If the attack was perpetrated by the US government or a right-wing scientist, then it behooves liberals to lay low so as not to be attacked and killed. Either way, Democrats and the MSM are coaxed to go along with the Bush administration.

In May 2003, white supremacists in Texas were caught with a sodium cyanide bomb, more than a hundred explosives, half a million rounds of ammunition, dozens of illegal weapons, and a mound of white-supremacist and antigovernment literature. As the Christian Science Monitor reports, it ranks at the very top of all domestic terrorist arrests in the past 20 years, but outside Tyler, Texas, the case is almost unknown. The Bush administration did not focus much attention on it and the mainstream media gave it little coverage. Though here is another reasonable article from CBS.

by RandomNonviolence 2007-02-14 04:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

Chris it would be nice if you would suggest to Taegen that he should post on politicalwire that the bloggers left because of the death threats.

Right now he just has up there that she resigned and then provides a link to her explanation. It still gives the impression that Edwards caved. I know that's what the hotline (and many posters on this site) thinks.

Maybe you could email Chuck Todd too, or the person over there that writes about blogs.

by adamterando 2007-02-14 04:51AM | 0 recs
Chris, I think you are being a responsible progressive leader to bring this up, but I think you are irresponsible and disempowering when you conflate the abortion violence with the idle threats of any couch potato conservative with a computer.
The abortion crowd is a completely different animal from the rightwing internet commandos. And that is borne out by the fact that there are no actual attacks to report (that I am aware of) on celebrities, bloggers, spokespeople, staffers or any others in the progressive hiearchy away from the abortion issue. Threats yes, real violence, no. You are doubling the effect of the abortion terrorism by brushing it all over everything else in the political spectrum.
Here's where I think you are being responsible (and I'll get to my point with a story): I attended an alternative high school where the principal had been involved in the protests against nuclear weapons testing in the Nevada desert.
I remember him talkingabout the protests where people got arrested. It didn't just happen. People decided ahead of time which protesters would engage in civil disobedience to get arrested and which ones wouldn't. They thought it through and dealt with it all ahead of time: bail money, phone numbers, child care, who would go to the courthouse after the arrests. They talked out  whether there would be any potential fallout on participants if they got an arrest record.
We progressives need to go through the same kind of a process right now about threats of violence. Can you handle it? Are you going to get unnerved by this tactic? Will your family support you? Basically, you decide your level of participation (apologies for quoting Fight Club), which means make the decision now about how you feel about threats and deal with your response now, so that somewhere down the line when you are offered an opportunity to become a politically consequencial symbol you already have clarity about whether you want to participate at that level.
Chris, someday soon you will be getting death threats again. What have you decided about how you are going to respond?
by johnalive 2007-02-14 05:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Responsible/Irresponsible

There's always a first time.  I guess McEwan didn't want to test your theory that they're all blowhards.  After all, it only takes one.

by Ian Welsh 2007-02-14 06:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Responsible/Irresponsible
Even if we had an activist government pursuing these threats, it still wouldn't completely eliminate them.
My point is that people should decide for themselves right now, but If "it only takes one" is the standard we're going to promulgate amongst ourselves, then we should all just roll it up and go home.
I'm not trying to get all sloganeerish about this, but we ask our politicians to have the courage of their progressive convictions (I recall news reports of Obama's decision to get in the race including a family discussion about the possibility of someone trying to assasinate him), but then we we don't practice the courage of our own. We should do better if we want better.
by johnalive 2007-02-14 07:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

There's a big difference between deciding to get arrested by the government and deciding to leave your life open to a nut-job who may or may not decide to kill or rape you, as he threatened.

The government is not the same as a right-wing religious fanatical. One is predictable -- the other is not.

We need to make these sorts of threats a form of domestic terrorism under the law, and then threaten to track down the emailers and persons sending these threats, and prosecute them under the law.

That is the only way we can be even remotely safe. And we should be allowed to live in America without domestic terrorism from our own fellow citizens.

by Naturegal 2007-02-14 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political
Well, my point was not to equate government force with terrorist violence, but to hold up the example of a decision-making process that we need to engage in now.
I'm not willing to advocate that we put our political engagement on hold until the government decides to protect us against these threats. As someone pointed out upthread, with this government we could be waiting for a long time.
And my point still stands that outside of the abortion issue, real violence against progressives is nonexistent.
We are not well-served by broadening the definition of violence so much that we include threats in that definition. Yes it's uncomfortable and a little scary, but to date they've amounted to nothing more than a lot of hot air.
by johnalive 2007-02-14 05:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

Well action by us progressives is possible as I,with the help of Pandagon, show in my post: Catholic League 2 Edwards 0. But...I say the game ain't over.

Believe in the rule of law much?

by Pericles 2007-02-14 06:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Terrorism Remains A Key Political Tool Of the

"Over the past fifteen years, conservatives have..."

"...the American right-wing. ...conservatives and Republicans..."

These terms can perhaps be used synonymously in the present context, if we all agree that conservatives, the American right-wing and Republicans use fear and the threat of violence as a political weapon to further their ideological ends.

But really, the terms - in normal English! - pick out very different groups. The term 'conservative', for example, depends on it's context to differentiate between social, economic and political conservatives. In this post, I think you mean to refer to social conservatives.

'Republicans', as you use it, appears to mean those who advocate the Bush/Cheney style neoconservatism and unilateralism. There are other types of Republicans.

But the underlying semantical distinctions are important. A traditional political conservative (eg., a libertarian) should be very sympathetic to abortion rights since a legislative ban on abortion would constitute further intrusion of government into society.

Likewise, a traditional economic conservative, whose beliefs are limited to balancing the federal budget, eliminating government waste, correlating taxes collected to services received, etc., would be neutral about abortion.

These distinctions are important, and lumping them all together is a mistake, semantically but also politically. The progressive community is often too compliant in agreeing that the 'American right wing' is monolithic. But it isn't. Social conservatives are unhappy with the GOP, as are economic and political conservatives.

One thing all these groups of individuals appear to agree on, however, is a distrust/dislike of Democrats. That can hardly constitute an inexorable political force. More specifically though, it is the high pitched rantings of very small subdivisions within the American right that gives the impression of unity around a defined agenda.

by scudbucket 2007-02-14 08:06AM | 0 recs
And Mike Stark, too

Don't forget O'Reilly's threats of violence against Mike Stark when he called into his radio show.

by Fran for Dean 2007-02-14 08:46AM | 0 recs
It was a lynching

What happened to Amanda and Melissa was a lynching, pure and simple.  You don't have to be black to get lynched, that's just our most common type.  And it doesn't have to involve actual physical violence.  Just the threat of violence, used to intimidate, qualifies.

It's going to continue until either a) the people who engage in this are outed and shunned by society, and/or b) someone actually gets hurt, there's an outcry against it and legal action follows.

by liberalrob 2007-02-14 08:48AM | 0 recs
This is a powerful critique

that deserves further study.

by msnook 2007-02-14 09:10AM | 0 recs


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