by Jack CashillPosted: April 23, 2009 1:00 am Eastern
"The current economic and political climate has some similarities to the 1990s," so reads a recent DHS report, "when rightwing extremism experienced a resurgence fueled largely by an economic recession, criticism about the outsourcing of jobs and the perceived threat to U.S. power and sovereignty by other foreign powers."
Curious how an administration too sensitive to use the words "war on terror" or "jihadist" feels entirely comfortable mouthing the mindless phrase "rightwing" (sic) a full 50 times in one document.
Word to the media: The "R" word works much like the "N" word. We can use it among ourselves, but we hear it as a slur when used by others.
In addition to being wrong â€“ the '90s was America's most prosperous decade â€“ the DHS report resurrects the smear campaign the Clinton and their local clones foisted off on the American people a decade ago.
Here in the Heartland, where people still take their rights seriously, I got to see this campaign up close.
Are you the Obama administration's idea of a dangerous subversive? Fight back with the magnetic message: "Why is being Right Extreme?"
I first met Heather Johnson* in a St. Joseph, Missouri prison. She was serving two years. The young suburban Kansas City woman had attended one constitutionalist meeting in her life, for one hour, as a babysitter.
At the meeting, a 17-year-old honor student, protesting the perceived violations of her constitutional rights, was advised to file a lien against the judge â€“ a nuisance lien maybe, but a legal one.
For this one bit of advice, then Missouri attorney general and now governor, Jay Nixon, a Democrat keen on fighting "terror," managed to send 15 people to prison for up to seven years, the babysitter Heather among them.
At the time of the meeting, as Heather told me, "The world 'lien' had yet to enter into my vocabulary."
Heather was the victim of an anti-"extremist" hysteria that had raged in these parts throughout the Clinton years.
The hysteria caught fire here in 1993 when a prominent local cleric, a professed moderate, mounted his affluent suburban pulpit and denounced the local law-abiding conservative activists as "a far greater threat than the old threat of communism."
The smear artists of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti Defamation League piled on.
In fact, the clowns at both the ADL and the SPLC â€“ never underestimate their creepiness â€“ had contracts with the Justice Department to spy on the right.
At Clinton's direction, the FBI was doing the same through the notorious VAAPCON program, which targeted pro-lifers up to the rank of cardinal.
Local media embellished the demagoguery with casual claims of hate, bigotry and racism leveled against just about anyone to the right of Elizabeth Dole, and for this mindless name-calling, they give each other good-neighbor awards.
Despite their promiscuous use, these names had serious sting. They killed careers even when misapplied. In 1998 the organizers of the first â€“ and only â€“ American Heritage Festival in Carthage, Mo., learned this the hard way.
The festival catered to what was then called the "patriot movement," a broad coalition of Middle Americans who share a generalized belief in limited constitutional government, personal freedom, traditional moral values and old-fashioned patriotism.
The great majority of men at the event were veterans, "disgruntled" and otherwise. The National Purple Heart Museum was a featured attraction at the Carthage event.
With some justification, informed patriots worried then that Bill Clinton â€“ with his casual use of executive orders, emergency powers, anti-gun initiatives and anti-terrorist measures â€“ might have presaged the advent of a homegrown fascism.
In their active resistance to socialism, gun control and powerful centralized government, "patriots" made poor fodder for a Third Reich or any kind of Reich for that matter.
One would not have gotten that impression from reading The Kansas City Star's front-page coverage of the 1998 Carthage event.
After two paragraphs of faux objectivity, The Star dropped this bombshell: "A few of (the exhibitors) sold books such as 'The Militia Battle Manual' and neo-Nazi and racist tracts."
The article then cheerfully resumed its reportage as though it had not just casually destroyed the reputations of the festival organizers and threatened the careers of everyone else identified as being in attendance.
After a few more benign paragraphs, the Star article struck hard and deep. It dragged in the inevitable spokesman from the insidious Southern Poverty Law Center who, without having attended, could somehow assure Star readers that the festival proved "that the white Christian separatists have become well-established in rural Southwest Missouri."
From there, the article quickly devolved into an exploration of the Christian Identity movement and neo-Nazism, none of whose adherents were on the agenda nor likely in attendance. The reporter interviewed no such person.
I, however, was on that agenda. I had been asked by the organizers to moderate an opening-night panel and was honored to do so.
The Star mentioned several of the people on the panel, but not health guru Dr. Len Horowitz, who fielded more questions than anyone.
Indeed, none of the 15 or so audience members who raised questions, unedited, even hinted at any kind of racist or anti-Semitic subtext.
Given Dr. Horowitz's prominence in the movement, I can't believe they ever did. In fact, every presentation at the festival was taped. There was not a racist moment among them.
The Star article was technically accurate. "Mein Kampf" was on sale, but at a booth run by a student of conspiracy who sold "conspiracy literature" of all sorts.
I had read "Mein Kampf." I did so to write the script for a video series I wrote and directed for the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education. I got the book at the library.
What the Star neglected to mention was that this was just one of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of books and videos for sale at the festival.
If the organizers had banned the book, they might well have invoked the wrath of the ACLU. Liberals loathe censorship, or so they tell us.
Then again, liberals also bristle at malicious stereotyping, McCarthyism, ignorance and injustice of all sorts.
Just ask Janet Napolitano.
* Name changed to protect the innocent.