America was hit by another terrorist attack last week, and once again its source was domestic, not foreign. Three people, including a police officer, were killed in the attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic Friday in Colorado Springs.¹
It’s a continuation of a pattern. Since the tragedy on Sept. 11 more than 14 years ago, attacks by white supremacists, anti-government, anti-abortion and anti-immigrant extremists have killed almost twice as many people in this country as attacks by jihadists. Those who have decided to exercise their alleged “Second Amendment right” to push political change through armed violence have targeted Sikhs, Jews, African-Americans, Unitarians, government employees and, as in this case, those linked to abortion providers.
The list of victims also includes police officers, who have repeatedly been targeted for ambush and assassination by white anti-government extremists.
Typically, as in the Colorado Springs case, the perpetrator of the domestic terror attack has been a “lone wolf,” a socially alienated white male. But such descriptions, considered by themselves, hide a clear pattern. If you scan through the database of such attacks compiled by the New America Foundation, you discover that while such men have generally acted alone, they have typically turned to right-wing extremist groups and websites for inspiration, indoctrination and instruction. The radicalization of vulnerable minds works in much the same fashion that jihadist groups have spread their own hateful message to a geographically diverse audience.
Now, does that mean that the pro-life movement is somehow responsible for the Colorado attack? No, it does not. But in some quarters, to even notice a parallel between jihadists and our own home-grown terrorists is cause for defensive hysteria. For example, Leon Wolf, writing at RedState, complains bitterly that liberal commentators “have already convicted the entire Republican Party of murder” in the Colorado Springs case. Any effort to link even extremist pro-life rhetoric to the actions of Robert Dear, the suspect in the Planned Parenthood attack, must be rejected, he argues.
Wolf goes on to contrast the reaction to the Colorado Springs attack to public reaction to the recent attacks in Paris:
“And yet, when 130 innocent Parisians were killed by violent Muslim terrorists, neither Anjem Choudary nor any other Muslim cleric was rushed before cameras and demanded to condemn and apologize for their religious brethren. In fact, the media went to great pains to allege, again and again, that Islam was not responsible and had nothing to do with this. Hillary Clinton specifically said that Islam had “nothing to do” with what happened at all, as if all the many attackers suddenly contracted a violent mental illness that we don’t have a specific name for yet.”
Let’s deal first with Wolf’s claim that in the aftermath of Paris, Muslims weren’t “rushed before cameras and demanded to condemn and apologize for their religious brethren.” It is a monumental example of hypocrisy and self-inflicted blindness. For one ugly example:
Again, I think Wolf has a somewhat valid point. I too am wary of trying to use acts of violence by extremists as a means to sully an entire mainstream religion, political party or movement. There are cases in which the connection might be drawn, but most of the time the charge of causation is much too morally grave to be sustained by the flimsy evidence at hand. It is not a claim to be made lightly, particularly in cases when the alleged killer appears psychologically disturbed.
That said, it’s interesting to watch conservatives who have insisted that mainstream Muslims must share collective guilt for the crimes of extremists who claim Islamic inspiration, and who claim that Black Lives Matter has the blood of police officers on its hands, now emphatically rejecting any suggestion of their own shared responsibility and collective guilt for attacks such as those launched repeatedly against Planned Parenthood.
If you are going to traffic shamelessly in accusations of shared responsibility — if you’re going to indulge yourself in lunacies such as denying food stamps to Syrian refugees in Georgia based on what Islamic extremists did in Paris, for example — well, this is what it feels like on the receiving end.
This is just a very small taste of it.
¹Under federal law, crimes qualify as domestic terrorism if they “appear 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.”