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The Boston Bombings and the Threat of Far-Right Violence

Aaron Patrick Flanagan • Apr 24, 2013

Boston bombing suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

In the United States, our collective memory has been lastingly damaged by the wreckage of the Oklahoma City bombing and by 9/11. The latter most certainly dominates our psyche, as 9/11 exposed to us both the immense cruelty of bin Laden’s network and the nonchalance with most Americans approached their daily lives. Because of this, we as a public seem obsessed with the fabrication that the only sources of terrorism threatening our country stem from radical Muslims.

John Tirrman, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for International Studies, blames our news media, which through its singular obsession with radical Islam has ultimately shifted our public’s perception. Tirrman writes, “The ‘Muslim threat’ meme has so overwhelmed the discussion of political violence that the actual topography of terrorist groups in this country is neglected.”

Moments like the recent backpack bombings in Boston only reinforce this point. The New York Post printed the photographs of two young men on its front page simply because they “looked” Muslim and were photographed carrying backpacks.

Thankfully, the FBI and other branches of law enforcement have never stopped taking seriously the domestic threat far-right extremist groups pose. Their present diligence, however, came at a cost—Timothy McVeigh’s murder of 168 people via a 6,500 pound truck bomb he built with the aid of a cell of three others, and with the support of militia members and associations with groups like the Aryan Republican Army.

On February 6, 2002, FBI Executive Assistant Director of Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence Dale L. Watson testified before Senate that “From the 1960s to the 1980s,” the FBI believed, “leftist-oriented extremist groups posed the most serious domestic terrorist threat to the United States.” After McVeigh and 9/11, Agent Watson testified that, “On the national level, formal right-wing hate groups, such as the National Alliance, the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) and the Aryan Nations, represent a continuing terrorist threat [….] Right-wing groups continue to represent a serious terrorist threat. Two of the seven planned acts of terrorism prevented in 1999 were potentially large-scale, high-casualty attacks being planned by organized right-wing extremist groups.”

Over the last few years, evidence of the potential for far-right terror attacks stands starkly, as their existences far exceed the presence of radical Islamists within our own borders.

The widely respected civil rights research group Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that ”the number of conspiracy-minded antigovernment ‘Patriot’ groups reached an all-time high of 1,360 in 2012, while the number of hard-core hate groups remained above 1,000.” To quote Tirrman again, “The START database on terrorism in America, which tracks all incidents of political violence, shows that most attacks in the last two decades have been on black churches, reproductive rights facilities, government offices, and individual minorities. And those have been committed mainly by right-wing extremists.”

According to a report from Muslims Public Affairs Council (MPAC), to date, 135 total plots against the US government have been planned since 9/11 by domestic extremists who were non-Muslim. Worldwide since 9/11 radical Muslim terrorists have only enacted 60 such plots. MPACs report, which collects publically accessible data from law enforcement and right-wing and left-wing research groups, also reflects that the election of our first African-American president is further fueling these plots—88 plots by domestic non-Muslim violent extremists have been uncovered, with 38 originating worldwide from radical Muslims, since President Obama’s 2008 election.

In the days after his election, federal authorities arrested two young neo-Nazi skinheads of the Supreme White Alliance, who were stockpiling weapons to launch a shooting-spree of 88 total blacks that would end in the assassination of President Obama. Previous to this, a similar plot was uncovered in Denver, Colorado, where three neo-Nazis planned to assassinate President Obama when he appeared at the Democratic National Convention. In May 2012, 10 members of the neo-Nazi American Front were arrested in Florida. The group had been stockpiling weapons and training at the private compound of its leader to kill immigrants, Jews, minorities, Occupy protestors, and to attack a City Hall.

In the immediate wake of the Boston back-pack bombings, Der Spiegel in Germany and some within US media quoted federal authorities as stating that these attacks stemmed from either “Jihadists” or far-right terrorists. Much of our media, of course, as the New York Post so shamefully demonstrates, latched immediately onto radical Islamists—as it stands now, the suspects are two young Chechen refugees who apparently “self-recruited” themselves into radical Islam.

Sadly, in the absence of a death toll, much of our media is quick to forget, or to dismiss, cases like that of Kevin Harpham.

Federal agents arrested this ex-soldier and long-time neo-Nazi, charging him with planting a “backpack bomb” along the planned route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in downtown Spokane, Washington in January 2011. With cases like Harpham’s, one can understand why federal law enforcement would entertain far-extremists and radical Islamists alongside one another.

Certainly ample data and evidence supports them doing so, with some of our far-right extremists even seeking to out-do their peers in radical Islam. A reported member of the National Alliance, Harpham was also a regular poster on a white supremacist message board website named Vanguard News Network (VNN), which he used to correspond and to connect with other extremists and to solicit advice for his various plots. Here’s a quote from another VNN poster, Victor Gerhard, which illustrates the mindset of these violent extremists: “…We should be blowing up NYC and DC, not waiting for a bunch of camel Jockeys to do it for us.” 




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