Tag Archives: Christian extremists

The Federal response in Malheur and far right extremism

David Alpher, George Mason University


Photo: YouTube

After a weeks-long standoff with federal and Oregon state police, 16 members of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation have been arrested, one wounded and another killed. The occupation’s leaders, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, are among those in custody.

Although some of the foot soldiers remain on federal land, the occupation’s end is inevitable. But the end of the siege will do nothing to reduce the increasing threat from America’s radical right wing.

The official response to both this current takeover and last summer’s standoff at the Bundy ranch in Nevada has been subdued. Given that in both cases the radicals were heavily armed and threatening to kill anyone who tried to arrest them, the fact that only one militant has lost his life is startling.

I have spent 14 years studying terrorism and extremism in conflict. The militants in Malheur aren’t, in my view, currently terrorists, but groups like theirs have performed acts of domestic terrorism in the past. I believe the country’s leadership needs to work quickly to stop that from happening again.

‘Act or do nothing’ is a false choice

Burns resident Jen Hoke. Burns, Oregon, January 30, 2016.
REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Restraint is certainly preferable to the violence of the federal actions at the compound of Randy Weaver in Ruby Ridge, Idaho and the Branch Davidian cult’s compound in Waco, Texas in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Each of those cases began as investigations into the sale or possession of illegal firearms and escalated into sieges involving multiple agencies.

In Waco, the siege ended with a full-scale assault on the compound, four federal agents killed and 16 wounded. Eighty-two members of the Branch Davidians were killed, including 17 children.

Ruby Ridge ended with a U.S. marshall killed along with two members of the Weaver household, and two more wounded. One of the dead was Weaver’s 14-year-old son, and one of the wounded was his pregnant wife.

Two years later, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killling 168 and injuring more than 600 others, in retaliation for Waco and Ruby Ridge.

The comparative restraint demonstrated recently at the Bundy ranch and Malheur suggests the government has taken a clear lesson to heart: there are more militants out there, and they are watching.

Double standard

Unfortunately there is also legitimate protest that had these armed occupiers been anything but white, we’d likely have seen far less restraint.

In 1985, Philadelphia police responded to the occupation of a house by the black power group MOVE by dropping a firebomb that ultimately killed 11 people and left another 250 homeless. In 1973, the occupation of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement resulted in federal troops called up on American soil and ended with two dead and 15 wounded. More recently, we saw a militarized police reaction to a series of racial protests following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Even noting the double standard, the degree of restraint shown in Malheur is still admirable. The current U.S. domestic strategy for countering violent extremism correctly recognizes that while violent or armed responses are occasionally needed, they are usually more effective at driving further violence than at ending it. Threat reduction should focus on preventing the cause of radicalization rather than attempting to crush the symptom. That means focusing on inclusive governance, ending social marginalization and focusing on community policing instead of violent reaction.

In the current political climate, however, restraint also has a dangerous edge. It gives the impression of leaving the field to emboldened extremists, who are now claiming victory. That’s a dangerous precedent, especially as such groups are showing a shift toward direct action that the U.S. hasn’t seen for a long time.

Right-wing extremists are on the rise domestically, becoming more active and far bolder than they used to be.

The diversity effect

Between President Obama’s election in 2008 and 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of right-wing extremist groups operating in the U.S. increased by over 800 percent. While we’ve seen a slight decrease over the past year, the U.S. now faces a perfect storm of conditions for resurgent growth.

As the tone of the presidential election has proven, the prevailing American emotion is anger. Mistrust of government is at record high levels, along with several beliefs that make the problem worse.

First is the belief among extremists that the government is not simply untrustworthy but actually an enemy.

Second is the belief that anyone who supports the other side is the enemy as well.

In addition, the perception by the Christian right wing is that they are fundamentally threatened with extinction by changing American demographics.

And the double standard in federal response to extremism on the left and right is driving an increase in tension on the nonwhite side as well.

It could get worse

All of this amounts to fertile ground for growing extremists. The presidential election is only adding fuel to the fire.

A Hillary Clinton victory would be seen by right-wing radicals as entrenching the same liberal sentiments that extremist organizations like the Oath Keepers – involved at both the Bundy ranch and Malheur – already hold up as the enemy. Bernie Sanders calling himself a socialist makes him seem even more alien.

On the Republican side, GOP candidates and officeholders alike have failed to condemn the occupiers. At least one – Representative Andy Holt of Tennessee – has made explicit statements of support. Not only does this legitimize the right wing, but it also sends an ominous message to non-Christian and nonwhite America.

The GOP as a whole has become more radical from top to bottom – to the point where an article written in bipartisan collaboration between Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein (the former with the liberal Brookings Institution, the latter with the conservative American Enterprise Institute) labeled the entire party an “insurgent outlier” in American politics.

The party faces a growing divide between its white, Christian base and a population that bears it less resemblance by the year. They have sought to bridge that divide by inviting more and more of their own fringe to the table, to the point where extremist “sovereign citizens” and “patriot militias” now find themselves close to the party’s mainstream. Nativist xenophobia coming from the GOP presidential candidates lends an air of legitimacy to language that should have been universally denounced as political extremism long ago.

All of this means that the U.S. government finds itself in a catch-22: becoming more assertive, having previously backed down, is likely to fuel aggression from right-wing radicals. On the other hand, if the government doesn’t become more aggressive, the trend toward direct action will continue.

Victory means navigating the narrow ground between violence and capitulation. It means avoiding the double standard and applying consistent restraint to everyone, regardless of color or religion. The perfect storm can still be averted, but course corrections need to be set in motion as soon as possible.

There is little more dangerous than an extremist who feels betrayed, as Timothy McVeigh taught us.

The Conversation

David Alpher, Adjunct Professor at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Why my “whiteness” is so shameful to me

Contributed by Carol Benedict.

Six students at Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee — a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona — took a picture proudly wearing shirts spelling out a racial slur that swept through social media this Friday. Image via Facebook.

Six students at Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee — a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona — took a picture proudly wearing shirts spelling out a racial slur that swept through social media this Friday. Image via Facebook.

(Opinion) So America wants to claim that we are a post-racial Christian nation. Yet, on our social media platform, we see everyday images like these that bombard our nation with the underlying message of being white – it is better than all other races and deserves its own privilege.

The above photo was taken in Arizona.  The expressions on the faces of these teens says it all. They are proud to make fun of a race they have been taught to view as inferior to them. They see this act as a way of making a statement on “senior picture day” at the school. The school’s Black Student Union defiantly responded by tweeting a picture with a group of white and black students smiling together under the banner #thunderstrong.

Facebook meme demonstrating the baseless arguments of "whiteness" in the US. Image via Facebook.

Facebook meme demonstrating the baseless arguments of “whiteness” in the US. Image via Facebook.

I saw the above post on the page of a family member – one who is thought of by most everyone in the family to be a “Christian.” I wanted to ask what verse in her Christian Bible could she point to that encourages this attitude toward other children of God. What example from Christ’s life is there that would demonstrate to Christians that intolerance of other races or faith is bettering the kingdom of God? Do her prayers include a plea for white supremacy in her society?

Armed white terrorists take over a federal building in Oregon. Official response is to "monitor the situation." Pleas for the siege to stop from local residents of the nearby community go ignored. Image screenshot via USA Today.

Armed white terrorists take over a federal building in Oregon. Official response is to “monitor the situation.” Pleas for the siege to stop from local residents of the nearby community go ignored. Image screenshot via USA Today.

In the case of the Oregon standoff, the disconnect is exceptional. The land these ranchers are demanding be turned over to them for the grazing of their cattle was originally sacred burial and ceremonial ground of the Paiute Indians. By using the “tyranny” they accuse the government of, they are trying to force non-whites to allow cemeteries to be grazed by livestock. How many WHITE CHRISTIAN cemeteries would allow this? How many white people would be outraged if non-whites brought their livestock to graze on the cemetery lawns next to their churches?

And yes, I have comments about the Native Americans as well. The treatment of indigenous peoples in the United States has become the nation’s oldest ongoing crime, with no significant indication that it will change anytime soon. From Wounded Knee to the man-camps in North Dakota Indian country surrounding the oil business there, the human rights violations against this entire group of people is enough to bring about international intervention.

The examples of the reprehensible behavior and rhetoric goes on and on. There is no shortage of hate in America.

Photo via Facebook

This is how law enforcement responds to protestors that want to exercise their right to freedom of expression in what has been considered “public space” since malls have become privately owned enterprises welcoming the public on a daily basis. Image via Facebook

And then there is the Black Lives Matter movement. I completely understand and appreciate what this movement is about. The racial policing of communities across America has proven, without question, that law enforcement overall views black Americans differently than white Americans.

My white friends will comment about how they are “inconvenienced” by stopped traffic, marches and protests at shopping malls. Not one of these white people ever want to discuss how the black community is “inconvenienced” by racial profiling, income and employment inequalities, discrimination from creditors, substandard education compared to their white peers, reductions in budgets designed to assist these communities, and speeches by politicians saying we need to stop these blacks from disrupting our daily lives.

When Donald Trump said that he thought all Muslims in America should be required to register, and that all Muslims trying to enter the United States need to be stopped at the borders, many white Americans cheered. It shows how quickly a nation that calls itself “Christian” will abandon those values taught in the Bible they cling to in order to protect the “whiteness” of their country.

If we all see other faiths, ethnicity and races as “those” people, how will we ever find a path toward peace, tolerance and understanding? How can we expect the guns of war to fall silent if we can’t hear that silence through the noise of our prejudices?

I am sick of the intolerance, double standards and privilege my race affords me. I no longer want to be identified with people that can hate like this.

About the Author:
Carol Benedict is an independent researcher studying Kurdish history, culture and politics. She is also a human rights activist and advocate.

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New Poll Reveals Americans’ Double Standard About Religious Violence

By Esther Yu-Hsi Lee. Published 12-10-2015 at ThinkProgress

Muslim girls at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta posing in front of the camera. Photo by Henrik Hansson - Globaljuggler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Muslim girls at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta posing in front of the camera. Photo by Henrik Hansson – Globaljuggler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Many Americans have a double standard when it comes to judging whether self-identified Christians and Muslims are committing violence in the name of their religion, according to new data released just a week after two Muslims were accused of shooting and killing 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

A Public Religion Research Institute poll released Thursday finds that 75 percent of Americans believe that self-identified Christians “who commit acts of violence in the name of Christianity are not really Christian.” Only about 19 percent of respondents said they believe these types of perpetrators are authentic Christians. Continue reading

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Why Extremism Can Not Be Labeled

Image via Internet.

Image via Internet.

The discussion in the news media in the past few days has been regarding President Obama’s comments, the name of the terrorist group known as IS, ISIL, ISIS or Daesh, and whether this is a “religious” group or “just” extremists.

The majority of US mainstream media does not grasp the complexity of this terror organization. Unwilling to think outside the box of predisposed personal biases toward their own faiths, they can not grasp that Muslims are facing the same complication within Islam when  Daesh claims their name.

As we have pointed out in a past article, attempting to put simple labels on complex ideologies is not only dangerous, it is misguided and, when coming from media outlets, is also unethical. Continue reading

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