Wingnut, why are angry white guys shooting people?

Our conservative denies that the Holocaust Museum shooting and other violent acts are related to Obama's election.

Published June 15, 2009 10:03AM (EDT)


Dear Wingnut,

It seems like a lot of white guys have gone nuts with their guns since Barack Obama became president. Is there any connection between his election and the shooting of George Tiller, the Pittsburgh shooting and the Holocaust Museum attack? Or do you think the DHS report is "crap" too?

Hello again. This week the editors have asked me to explain if conservatives think there is a connection between Barack Obama's election and the recent murders of Kansas abortion Dr. George Tiller, three Pittsburgh policemen, and Wednesday's shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and if these acts of violence have caused them to reassess the Department of Homeland Security's recent report on right-wing extremism.

I know this is going to provoke a heated response from a lot of people who read this column, so let me begin by saying that I, and every conservative I know, condemn the murders of Tiller, Pittsburgh police officers Paul Sciullo II, Eric Kelly and Stephen Mayhle, and Holocaust Museum guard Stephen Johns.

There is no reason, no excuse, nothing that can be said or written that would justify these senseless acts.

As to whether there is a connection between these acts and Obama's election, I can only say that conservatives certainly do not believe there is.

I know there are statistics floating around the Internet purporting to show that violence and threats against abortionists have increased since Obama's election. As one writer put it, Obama's election was followed by the murder of an abortionist just as Clinton's election was — while there were none during the just-concluded Bush administration. But I think this is much more coincidence than proof of cause and effect.

It may be true that Obama's election has emboldened some of those called white supremacists — like Richard Poplawski, who stands accused of shooting and killing the three Pittsburgh police officers, and James von Brunn, who was arrested and charged with shooting Stephen Jones. These are, self-evidently, dangerous people.

It can be argued — and I suspect it will be by those of you who read this column and post comments — that their movement is potentially dangerous, just as any movement that teaches the superiority of a single ethnic, racial or religious group over all others may be, whether it is the Ku Klux Klan or the New Black Panther Party. But taking the potentiality of that danger as an excuse for the state to act to repress these organizations and individuals comes into direct conflict with the First Amendment's guarantee that people are allowed to think what they like and that like-minded people are free to assemble and to share their ideas with others.

This is one reason for the conservative outrage over the shoddy report on so-called right-wing extremism released by the Department of Homeland Security in the early days of the Obama administration.

That report attempted, using loose language, to connect religious and racial hate groups to "those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely," singling out antiabortion activists — without clarification — gun owners, immigration opponents and returning veterans.

It was an exercise in profiling, which we all know to be wrong. And which is probably why the report was withdrawn so DHS could rewrite it, as Secretary Janet Napolitano told the House Homeland Security Committee in May when she admitted, "The wheels came off the wagon because the vetting process was not followed" and that "an employee sent it out without authorization."

If, however, anyone is actively engaged in a conspiracy to violate the laws of this country and to do violence against its citizens, the conservative response is to arrest the conspirators, charge them, give them a fair trial in front of a jury of their peers and, if they're convicted, to jail them for a very long time. And in this sense, conservatives think there is a very real difference with those on the left who, they would argue, have turned people who have committed perceived acts of violence against the state into pseudo-folk heroes.

William Ayers and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn, who were members of the terrorist Weather Underground in the 1960s, are now held up as positive role models. Their bomb-setting past is dismissed as something on the order of youthful indiscretions, unworthy of discussion.

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Black Panther who was sentenced to death after having been found guilty of the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, is another example. Although his death sentence was set aside due to irregularities in the sentencing process, his conviction has not been overturned — yet he has become a global celebrity who has been made "an honorary citizen" of cities around the world including Paris, Montreal and Palermo and whose radio commentaries were broadcast over the Pacifica radio network.

And then there is Leonard Peltier, the American Indian activist who was sentenced to two consecutive life terms following the 1975 cold-blooded murder of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In 2004 the tiny left-wing California-based Peace and Freedom Party selected him as its presidential candidate. He got 27,607 votes.

These people and their causes have been embraced by the left, even by some mainstream liberals. I know some of you will point to G. Gordon Liddy as an example of a former felon whom conservatives have embraced, but a) his crimes were nonviolent, and b) he served his time in prison. And there weren't any "Free Eric Rudolph" T-shirts in evidence at the last large conservative gathering I attended.

I hope that helps.

By Glenallen Walken

Glenallen Walken is the pseudonym of a longtime conservative political operative who was an official in the George W. Bush administration.

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