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Friday, June 19, 2015

Just don't call it terrorism. Or racism.

by digby

I wrote about Charleston for Salon this morning:

It’s an odd feature of American life today that so many people are frightened to death at the prospect of a Muslim jihadist perpetrating an act of terrorist violence, even as they accept mass killings as if they are routine.  It happens with such regularity that it’s almost as if Americans see them as acts of nature, like hurricanes or earthquakes. And yet the mere possibility that someone inspired by ISIS might do exactly what Americans motivated by political grievance, social isolation, racist hatred, mental illness or some mixture of all of them do — with some frequency — strikes people as a fundamental threat to all we hold dear. Maybe it’s natural. But it’s also irrational.

America has a major problem with mass murder, virtually all of it carried out using guns. In fact, our high level of violence generally is one of the defining characteristics of our “exceptionalism.” It’s true that there are Lone Wolf would-be terrorists inspired by Islamic extremism. But that is far from the only terrorism this country faces. It’s not even the worst terrorism this country faces.
In a startling coincidence, just two days before the Charleston massacre an op-ed in the New York Times reported on the growing right-wing terrorist threat in America:
Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.
In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.
Other data sets, using different definitions of political violence, tell comparable stories. The Global Terrorism Database maintained by the Start Center at the University of Maryland includes 65 attacks in the United States associated with right-wing ideologies and 24 by Muslim extremists since 9/11. The International Security Program at the New America Foundation identifies 39 fatalities from “non-jihadist” homegrown extremists and 26 fatalities from “jihadist” extremists.
You may recall a few years back when the Department of Homeland Security issued a report warning about a surge in right wing extremism, including white supremacist violence, and was met with a furious response:
Conservative writers feared that the DHS was demonizing — even, potentially, criminalizing — mainstream right-wing speech. “It’s no small coincidence that [Secretary Janet] Napolitano’s agency disseminated the assessment just a week before the nationwide April 15 Tax Day Tea Party protests,” pundit Michelle Malkin speculated in the Washington Times. [...]
Stung, DHS responded by cutting “the number of personnel studying domestic terrorism unrelated to Islam, canceled numerous state and local law enforcement briefings, and held up dissemination of nearly a dozen reports on extremist groups,” the Washington Post reported in June 2009.
In fact, in the horrific massacre in Charleston this week, we can see the systemic structure of our All-American right wing extremist terrorism, much of it perpetrated down through our history by White Supremacists. The church where the murders took place is a monument to our terrorist past going all the way back to the 1800s, when  Denmark Vesey led a slave rebellion  that was plotted in that very church. It’s extremely unlikely that this young racist murderer chose that place at random.

Read on. I go on to talk about the Republican response to these events. Unfortunately, at the time I wrote it I hadn't heard Lindsay Graham make the second stupid comment he's made about this event, this time defending the rebel flag. And I didn't know Jeb! was going to say that he didn't know if the shootings were racially motivated. Seriously:

The candidate opened his remarks with some words about the shooting, which took the lives of nine African-American churchgoers. I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes,” Bush said near the top of his speech. “But I do know what was in the heart of the victims.”

Bush said the events had a “big impact” on him, adding, “I know that your hearts and prayers are with the families and the pastor who lost their lives and let’s hope it never ever, ever, happens again.”

But unlike President Barack Obama and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Bush made no mention of the racial motives for the attack and offered no policy proposals to prevent mass shootings like this one from happening again.

And now, Bush is facing some heat from critics who believe that we do know what we in the shooter’s mind and heart due to witnesses who specifically heard him say he was there “to shoot black people.”

Pressed to explain whether Bush believes the attack was “racially motivated,” his communications director [Tim Miller] said, “of course.”

Update: Despite Tim Miller’s insistence that Bush “of course” thinks the attack was racially motivated, the candidate was more tentative in a follow-up interview with The Huffington Post’s Laura Bassett.

“I don’t know. Looks like to me it was, but we’ll find out all the information,” Bush said. “It’s clear it was an act of raw hatred, for sure. Nine people lost their lives, and they were African-American. You can judge what it is.”

Dear God, how can anyone think this man can be president? He's such a coward that he won't even admit that the shooting of nine black people in a famous black church by a young white man who wears white supremacist symbols on his clothes, was known to be a racist among all his friends,tells the victims "you're raping our women and taking over the country" and confesses to the police that he wanted to start a race war was motivated by race. It's pathetic. These Republicans are obviously so scared of offending their racist, white base of voters that they can't even admit something this obvious for fear of upsetting them?

Good luck with that minority outreach Heb!

Update: The Wall Street Journal outdid itself with this one:

Mr. Obama recalled the September 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., that killed four black girls.

The President quoted at some length Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s remarks on the bombing: “They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with [about] who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.”

Amid the horror of Charleston, it is also important to note that the U.S., notably the South, has moved forward to replace the system that enabled racist killings like those in the Birmingham church.

Back then and before, the institutions of government—police, courts, organized segregation—often worked to protect perpetrators of racially motivated violence, rather than their victims.

The universal condemnation of the murders at the Emanuel AME Church and Dylann Roof’s quick capture by the combined efforts of local, state and federal police is a world away from what President Obama recalled as “a dark part of our history.” Today the system and philosophy of institutionalized racism identified by Dr. King no longer exists.

What causes young men such as Dylann Roof to erupt in homicidal rage, whatever their motivation, is a problem that defies explanation beyond the reality that evil still stalks humanity. It is no small solace that in committing such an act today, he stands alone.

I'm sure those nine dead black people and their families will be relieved to hear that.

All these acts of terrorism against black churches are coincidental. The mass incarceration of black people is coincidental, The killing of unarmed black teenagers is coincidental. There is no racism. It just so happens that black people are born criminals, act suspiciously and are, for some reason, often the targets of crazy people who aren't motivated by the racism they see around them in the form of symbols like the confederate flag or the vile racist rhetoric that comes from right wing extremists in every form of media.

They managed to catch the kid who obviously wanted to be caught. Huzzah. Thank God racism is over and done with.

Now let's get back to the real problem we face. The war on Christians. Ok????

Update II: And the hits just keep on coming. Rick Perry, ladies and gentlemen:

“This is the MO of this administration, any time there is an accident like this — the president is clear, he doesn’t like for Americans to have guns and so he uses every opportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message,” Perry said.

Instead of talking about guns, Perry said, we should be talking about prescription drugs: “Also, I think there is a real issue to be talked about. It seems to me, again without having all the details about this, that these individuals have been medicated and there may be a real issue in this country from the standpoint of these drugs and how they’re used.”

He said that such drugs are responsible for high suicide and joblessness rates, adding that “there are a lot of issues underlying this that I think we as a country need to have a conversion about rather than just the knee-jerk reaction of saying, ‘If we can just take all the guns away, this won’t happen.’”

He added that while the shooting was “a crime of hate,” he didn’t know if it should be called a terrorist attack.

I just can't ...

Update III: Another GOP cretin weighs in:

Mike Huckabee spoke today to Todd Starnes of Fox News, who was agitated that the “despicable” President Obama “wants to go after the guns” following the shooting at an African American church in Charleston. Huckabee agreed, claiming he was “disappointed” that the president considered the shooting “a great opportunity for me to grandstand and jump up on the stump and talk about gun control.”

The GOP presidential candidate said that the only thing that could have stopped the shooting would have been an armed member of the church. Channeling the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, Huckabee said: “It sounds crass, but frankly the best way to stop a bad person with a gun is to have a good person with a weapon that is equal or superior to the one that he’s using.”

Starnes ended the brief interview by castigating Obama for “playing politics” and “scoring cheap political points on the graves of the innocent” when he should’ve remained silent.

Anyone remember this?