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1 Romantic Heretic  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 10:21:44am

Yet when the DHS noted several years ago that the biggest danger of terrorist act would be from right wing Americans, not Arabian Islamists, they were forced to retract it.


2 CuriousLurker  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 12:15:58pm

re: #1 Romantic Heretic

Indeed. I think people feel better, or rather more in control when the “bad guys” are someone easily identifiable as “other”: Blacks, Asians, Jews, Muslims, whatever.

I’ve heard countless times, “Well, Christianity had the Reformation and the West had the Enlightenment.” Presumably, this means that Christianity has been “defanged” and Christians in the West are therefore no longer capable of being violent extremists, so the only thing we really need to be worried about are those barbaric Muslims and their pernicious religion.

Muslims have certainly been responsible for a lot of terrorism in recent decades, and I’m sure it’s comforting to stuff all your fears in one little box and slap a label on it that says “Islam/Muslims”, but it’s just not realistic. Our civilized behavior is a pretty thin veneer, IMO. I don’t believe it wouldn’t take much to undo it, especially when we don’t have to look too many decades into the past to see some really hairy stuff, like people smiling during hideous lynchings as if they were at a picnic (Duluth, 1920).

Anyway, the far-right is still being monitored, as the following report from West Point’s CTC (Combating Terrorism Center) demonstrated earlier this year. The page loads kinda slow, so be patient.

Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right

In the last few years, and especially since 2007, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks and violent plots originating from individuals and groups who self-identify with the far-right of American politics. These incidents cause many to wonder whether these are isolated attacks, an increasing trend, part of increasing societal violence, or attributable to some other condition. To date, however, there has been limited systematic documentation and analysis of incidents of American domestic violence. […]

It is important to note that this study concentrates on those individuals and groups who have actually perpetuated violence and is not a comprehensive analysis of the political causes with which some far-right extremists identify. While the ability to hold and appropriately articulate diverse political views is an American strength, extremists committing acts of violence in the name of those causes undermine the freedoms that they purport to espouse.

3 sliv_the_eli  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 12:53:20pm

re: #2 CuriousLurker

CL, all points well taken. A few thoughts of my own for the LGF community’s consideration:

1. There was and is much to criticize about DHS’ efforts to inject politically correct terminology into what should be its dispassionate and objective analysis of threats to the U.S.
2. The existence, scope and breadth of domestic right-wing extremist and/or terrorist groups in the U.S. would likely shock most Americans. I remember being stunned when I was first introduced to the subject many years ago, and the problem has not disappeared.
3. With respect to this particular individual, though, it may nevertheless be premature to opine whether he is a terrorist or a bigoted, violent extremist. The difference is subtle, but significant, in that a terrorist seeks to influence a particular outcome through the use of violence, generally aimed at civilians, which causes fear (hence the term “terror”). If it turns out that Mr. Stout was merely (although I hesitate to use that word for a crime of this sort) acting out of a personal hatred of Muslim, he is not a terrorist, no matter how disgusting the bigotry that animated his actions.
4. Kudos to the law enforcement personnel who secured his confession. If it turns out that he is involved with one or more extremist organizations, I hope they got some useful intelligence that will help them continue monitoring those groups.

4 CuriousLurker  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 1:22:39pm

re: #3 sliv_the_eli

I agree with your definition of terrorism, and I’d just like to point out that I didn’t label Mr. Stout a terrorist. I did put the Page in the “Terrorism” category rather than the “Crime”, because… Well, I suppose partly because it felt better to do so. Why? I guess because if his name had been Ali or Mustafa and he’d torched a church or a synagogue, the media would be injecting the word “terrorism” into every other sentence, even if it was to repeatedly say, “Authorities claim there’s no known link to terrorism.”

Also, in the past the only religion that had a category in the LGF Pages was Islam, so people used to post pages about extremism & terrorist attacks under “Islam” instead of “Terrorism”. Thanks to Charles, that’s no longer the case.

As for Wonkette, well, it’s Wonkette—the snark makes me LOL.

5 sliv_the_eli  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 1:39:30pm

re: #4 CuriousLurker

All fair and well-put points. I appreciate your concern abut the limitations of the categories in LGF; they are a great tool but it can sometimes be difficult to find the right nuance for a post.

Re: how the media report these issues, I share your frustration. Unfortunately, the media — and this is true from the worst of the tabloids and cable programs to the so-called newspapers of record — too often fail to inform in the pursuit of selling their product to a particular audience by shading how they report on this serious and sensitive subject. As a society, we are the worse off as a result.

6 CuriousLurker  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 1:42:03pm

re: #3 sliv_the_eli

I want to revise one point: I think that hate crimes are a kind of terrorism, even by your definition (which I believe is why they’re treated differently that regular crimes). Their intent is indeed to cause fear—if a synagogue is burnt down or defaced with swastikas & such, what is the message, the intent? The intent is to strike fear in the hearts of Jews, to shut them up, make them go away. Ditto for the KKK burning crosses on lawns.

7 theheat  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 1:48:59pm

First, what a dick. I mean what a total, hateful, crazy, dangerous dick. I hope the prick rots.

Second, but, but, but The Troops. // I only say that because of the wacko Right’s freaky infatuation of anything to do with the military.

While most anyone with common sense sees people like this as the scourge of the earth, and a piss poor rogue representative of the military, I’m pretty sure there’s a healthy contingent that believes he scores extra Patriot points for doing “what few ‘mericans have the guts to do.”

So he’s a crazy lone wolf jackass, or maybe part of a broader movement; either way I think targeting people or buildings because of your fucked-up ideology is closer to terrorism than garden variety arson.

8 theheat  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 1:52:08pm

Yeah, I’m going to go with terrorist. / added

9 sliv_the_eli  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 2:30:31pm

re: #6 CuriousLurker

re: #8 theheat

I would agree that, in some cases, an attack on a house of worship or the burning of a cross on a lawn, are absolutely criminal acts. However, that depends on the particular circumstances. To constitute terrorism, the attack and the terror induced is not the ends, but the means to a broader agenda. Hence the distinction I made above with respect to whether the perpetrator was merely acting out of a personal hatred of Muslims (not terrorism) or committed the act in order to achieve some other goal, such as causing Muslims to flee the area or causing the government to change its policies that allow Muslims to live and worship freely in this country (terrorism).

With that said, I re-read the original piece that CL posted, and note that Mr. Stout was initially questioned about an arson at a Planned Parenthood center. Taking note of that additional fact, I would tend to lean toward agreeing that the terrorism label might be appropriate here. But to say so conclusively before we know more facts would be the same kind of semi-informed speculation for which we criticize the media.

10 theheat  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 2:55:06pm

I have to wonder how setting fire to symbolic buildings because of personal hatred of a particular group of people (or abortions) isn’t terrorism.

11 sliv_the_eli  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 3:11:04pm

re: #10 theheat

There is a subtle, yet, I believe, important distinction, which is critical in order to properly understand and combat the very real scourge of terrorism.

The distinction is the goal of the act. Terror for the sake of terror, or violence for the sake of violence, regardless of its motivation, is not terrorism because the act is itself the goal in such a case.

Terrorism, on the other hand, is a tool or tactic in the pursuit of a larger political or societal goal. In such a case, the act is not intended to inflict terror or violence merely for its own sake but because the person or group behind the act seeks to influence the outcome of some other matter.

In both cases, the individual perpetrator might be motivated at least in part by a sociopathic or psychological joy derived from causing the harm, but that is distinct from whether the act was intended to achieve a greater — in the sense of “other” not “better” — goal.

If we do not make this distinction between the act as the end in itself and the act as a means to an end, every act intended to cause fear — an armed robbery, a physical assault, bullying (all of which are serious issues in their own right) — could arguably be classified as terrorism, and we wind up without a useful construct for formulating and implementing counterterrorism strategy and policy.

12 cinesimon  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 6:09:20pm

Pink-skin = not terrorist.
Of course.

13 electrotek  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 7:16:21pm

So how will the anti-Muslim bigots explain this man’s hatred of women by aspiring to bombing Planned Parenthood clinics when anti-Muslim bigots often keep pontificating about how Muslim men treat their women?

14 CuriousLurker  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 8:34:47pm

re: #11 sliv_the_eli

So then, by your own definition, it’s entirely possible that some instances of Palestinian-on-Israeli violence are a result of purely personal hatred & bigotry towards Israelis—or in some cases perhaps mental illness/pathology— and are not in any way related to or indicative of the broader agenda necessary for it to qualify as terrorism, is that correct?1

I’m asking because we seem to be splitting hairs here and I want to be sure we’re on the same page. While I (mostly) agree with your definition of terrorism, there is no definitive scholarly or international legal definition of terrorism that I’m aware of. defines it as:

1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

Wikipedia provides numerous definitions:

There is neither an academic nor an international legal consensus regarding the definition of the term “terrorism”. Various legal systems and government agencies use different definitions of “terrorism”. Moreover, the international community has been slow to formulate an agreed upon, legally binding definition. These difficulties arise from the fact that the term “terrorism” is politically and emotionally charged. […]

The report I mentioned earlier, in my comment #2 above similarly states (emphasis mine):

Similar to the attempts of terrorism scholars to confront the absence of an agreed definition of terrorism, two complementing conceptual approaches have evolved to describe the far right.2 […]

The Jewish Virtual Library agrees as well:

Terrorism is difficult to define, even the various law enforcement branches of the U.S. government cannot agree on one single definition. The old adage, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is still very much alive and well today.

Listed below are several definitions of terrorism:

[Eight definitions follow…]

The FBI apparently follows the U.S. Code, which describes three different types of terrorism: International, domestic, and the “federal crime of terrorism”. The first two, which are closest to your definition, both involve “violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law” which “appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping”. Obviously, the domestic version occurs within U.S. jurisdiction and the international version occurs outside of it. The third definition is specific to federal facilities, officers & employees, so it’s irrelevant to this discussion.

IANAL (obviously), but going strictly by the FBI/U.S.C. definition, it seems to me that Mr. Stout’s actions could put his crime in the terrorism category, especially since the violent acts only need to “appear to be intended to…” Of course, he could be suffering from some sort of mental illness that rendered him unable to judge between right & wrong, or his intent may have only been to damage the structures and not the people in them—the article doesn’t mention whether or not there were people in the Planned Parenthood building or the mosque when the arson was committed (or attempted in the case of PP). Time will tell, I guess.


1. I’m purposely leaving out violent crimes such as armed robbery or kidnapping for (cash) ransom since those crimes—while I’m sure they’re quite terrifying—are clearly not terrorism-related unless it can be proven that the proceeds were intended to fund the material support of such.

2. See Arie Perliger, Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right (Combating Terrorism Center, November 2012), p. 14.

15 theheat  Thu, Oct 24, 2013 9:34:52pm

re: #14 CuriousLurker

intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion

I think we have a bingo. You start burning down symbolic shit to make a statement and scare and intimidate a very specific group of people, you’re a terrorist. I doubt this guy did it for recreation or compensation.

If a Muslim on American soil had done this (to, say, a synagogue and PP), it would be front page news. In such case, if Obama didn’t label it as terrorism, we’d never hear the end of it from the Freepers.

White country doughboy veteran gets a pass. Lemme guess, he just loves (white, Christian, pregnant) America so much it hurts? Maybe he thinks the Tree of Liberty needs some fresh blood? Somebody had to show them Muslims and babykillin’ libtards they ain’t welcome here? I dunno, but it sounds like terrorism to me.

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