Christian Militia Arrests and the Price of Violent Rhetoric (Plus: Rachel Maddow Video)

Yesterday’s news about the FBI raids and nine arrests of the Michigan-based Hutaree Christian Militia got me thinking of Ann Coulter’s recent remarks in Canada to a 17-year-old Muslim girl that all Muslims should be banned from flying on planes. Coulter then told the girl that if she couldn’t get where she wanted to go on her magic carpet, she should “take a camel.”

The details of the militia, which had been planning an epic war with the Anti-Christ, are still emerging, but the story makes clear the inherent danger in using violent rhetoric to pander to the far right. Until this weekend, what had been forgotten among xenophobic political pundits such as Coulter was that the second worst act of terrorism on American soil, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, had been committed not by people of Muslim faith, but by right-wing extremists with fair skin and light eyes.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that the FBI should stop monitoring Muslim extremist groups for terrorist activities, but it means that simple-minded racial and religious profiling will not keep us safe. It also strikes home the reasonable assumption that when Sarah Palin urges “real Americans” and patriots not to “retreat, but to reload,” some of the most disturbed of her base may very well interpret it as a call to violence.

 Eugene Robinson has an interesting column on this subject in the Washington Post today:

It is dishonest for right-wing commentators to insist on an equivalence that does not exist. The danger of political violence in this country comes overwhelmingly from one direction — the right, not the left. The vitriolic, anti-government hate speech that is spewed on talk radio every day — and, quite regularly, at Tea Party rallies — is calibrated not to inform but to incite.

Demagogues scream at people that their government is illegitimate, that their country has been “taken away,” that their elected officials are “traitors” and that their freedom is at risk. They have a right to free speech, which I will always defend. But they shouldn’t be surprised if some listeners take them literally.

Update: Rachel Maddow spoke with several local journalists and experts on the militia and patriot movements, including RD contributor Chip Berlet.

Part I

 

Part II:

 

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Lauri Lebo is the author of The Devil in Dover: Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America, a book about the 2005 First Amendment trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover in which intelligent design was ruled creationism.