Second Amendment and F.E.A.R.: how our constitutional rights can encourage radicals
A discussion thread on D&T Editor-In-Chief Alex Moore’s article on the F.E.AR. militia’s plans for an Obama coup d’etat inspired me to write an editorial on the Second Amendment’s effects on the militia mentality.
Moore was not arguing, contrary to both rational and irrational Facebook comments, for disarming citizens. Far from it—he supports sensible gun registration. Even my relatives, a few of whom have been NRA members, support gun registration, waiting periods and background checks.
What he was actually commenting on was the fact that F.E.A.R.’s boneheaded radicals had military-grade weaponry and explosives. They weren’t some leftist radicals encouraged by the FBI to concoct molotov cocktails. This wasn’t thought crime. They actually killed a fellow soldier and his girlfriend to stop them from leaking the group’s plans.
F.E.A.R.’s arsenal, combined with their military training and service, made them quite dangerous. Whether they could have seriously pulled off an Obama coup d’etat is irrelevant—it is that they seriously undertook to do so, interpreting the Second Amendment’s phrase “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” as justification for their intended actions.
Only the murder of their two former accomplices stopped F.E.A.R. from attempting assassination and coup d’etat.
Again, it’s not so much how these fuckwits obtained the weapons (whether legitimately or on the black market), but that the Second Amendment inspires militant right-wingers to talk (or, in this instance, take) militia-like action any time a left-leaning president takes office.
Ever heard of the John Birch Society’s threats against JFK? JBS, co-founded by Fred Koch, founder of Koch Industries and father to the Koch Brothers, believed that Liberals were “secret communist traitors” working toward a one-world government. They, like the modern Bible-thumping, pro-rapacious capitalist conservative, believed in an originalist view of the Constitution—you know, where the only voter is a white, land-owning male, and where any law created to counter-balance capitalism’s more atrocious side effects was evidence of a collectivist conspiracy. Back then JBS was fringe, but now their rhetoric is the general tenor of the GOP.
Is it any wonder where F.E.A.R. and any other like-minded quasi-militia groups lurking about the American landscape get their ideas? JBS didn’t really vanish—its ideas got absorbed into the conservative mainstream. JBS cloaked its racism by suggesting the American civil rights movement was engineered by the world’s communists. Civil rights weren’t a matter of moral decency for JBS and other conservatives, but a states right issue—a violation of state sovereignty. The same argument was previously made when the South seceded from the Union, which lead to the Civil War.
With Obama being both an African-American and a Liberal, there is the perfect synthesis for JBS-inspired paranoia and hatred.
Obama’s blackness and perceived liberal politics—even though he’s been almost as conservative as Reagan economically— only encourages this brand of neo-Confederate uprising, which comes in the forms of secession talk (see: Texas, Arizona) and armed militias. This is a subset of the GOP but not the GOP at large, of course. That said, GOP rhetoric enflames the passions of this confederacy of dunces, to borrow John Kennedy Toole’s book title.
Some D&T readers noted that even the members of F.E.A.R. were “law-abiding citizens” at one time. (As Gawker’s John Cooke reported, one of F.E.A.R.’s members, Isaac Aguigui, was a page at the RNC in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2008.) That, however, was not the point Moore was making. He was simply calling for those at the extreme end of the right wing, given to militia talk and coup d’etats to just cool their freakin’ boots for a minute.
As noted above, rhetoric and propaganda enflames such obtuse minds. If one hears anything enough—namely, that Obama is a foreign communist (despite letting Wall Street off the hook, and the lowest taxes in 30 years) intent on ripping the country apart—they might well begin to feel compelled to take action, just like F.E.A.R..
The same thing happened with Occupy Wall Street, albeit in a different, far more peaceful and mostly intelligent form. For Occupy, the answer to addressing grievances lay in communication to the masses via media and symbols; for some right-wingers like the jackasses of F.E.A.R, the answer is guns and violence.
Our country’s response here shouldn’t be to revoke the Second Amendment (which would never happen anyway), but to spot these violently-predisposed radicals early on, which the government did in this case; though, tragically, people had to die for the truth to come out. I wonder if those who agree with F.E.A.R. believe that Obama manufactured this whole incident; which, of course, he did at the Aurora movie theater, right?
No one denies that the radical left can be violent. Indeed, there’s plenty of violent history to go around on either side of the political spectrum. I do seem to recall, however, that the most destructive and bloody act of domestic terrorism on American soil was carried out by ultra right-wingers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, or have we forgotten that little moment in history? McVeigh and Nichols were steaming about the government’s actions at Ruby Ridge and Waco. Keep in mind, though, that it was under GOP icon Ronald Reagan’s administration that the Randy Weaver investigation was launched. And it was under Bush 41 that Weaver and his family were killed. Conservatives ruled during actions against the rightwing militia movement. You won’t hear that narrative, though. It must have been rogue leftists in the Reagan and Bush 43 administrations, no?
I’m not so much worried about Islamic terrorists these days, but I am worried about maniacal right-wingers like F.E.A.R.. On the left, we have the Black Bloc radicals who will stupidly smash some windows and throw a few molotov cocktails at a WTO conference. Other leftwing radicals, like ELF (Earth Liberation Front), whose tactics generally involve torching SUVs, construction equipment, and various other machinery and structures, unleash destruction, though they don’t spill rivers of blood like McVeigh.
Not to engage in moral relativism here, but there are readers who would equate ELF’s actions with the rightwing, often religious mania that precipitated the Waco siege and Timothy McVeigh’s Oklahoma City bombing; to say nothing of the rightwing domestic terrorism that followed in the wake of the Civil War, right up until the ’60s. History books may call it lynching, but I’ll call it what it really was: domestic terrorism.
We are often fooled by our humane evolution over the last four decades. Instances such as the F.E.A.R. militia plot, however, remind us just how dangerous the fringe-dwelling rightwing mind can be. They simply took the usual rightwing rhetoric very near to its ultimate, violent conclusion.