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No, actually, the government is not calling you a "right-wing extremist"

Friends, I understand that you have a very low opinion of the Obama administration and would not be surprised at all if they considered you to be an "extremist" because you are pro-gun, pro-life, believe in limited government, are concerned about illegal immigration, etc...BUT, I read the DHS report about right-wing extremists (link)  that has your knickers in a twist.  I also read a recent DHS report about left-wing extremists (link) and a recent press release from the FBI about left-wing extremists (link).

It is clear to me that all of the mainstream conservatives who are claiming that the DHS is calling them "right-wing extremists" are misreading what the report is saying (assuming they have read it).  The report is about right-wing extremist groups.  Reading the report (and the one about left-wing extremists groups), it is clear that extremism as far as the DHS is concerned is defined by the proclivity to resort to violence (which is common sense anyway because that is what DHS seeks to prevent).  Violence is mentioned throughout the reports.

The reports do identify issues of concern to many right-wing extremist groups (states rights, gun rights, immigration, abortion, etc.) and left-wing extremists groups (globalization, the environment, animal rights, etc.)...BUT, those things are not what defines an extremist.  Proclivity to violence is what defines extremists.  Normal conservatives and liberals (like you and me) are also often concerned about immigration, abortion, the environment, animal rights, etc.  Unless we are contemplating acts of violence and terrorism in response to our concerns, we are not extremists in the eyes of DHS.  The DHS report does mention some specific examples of right-wing extremist groups (militias and white supremacists) but does not, given a fair reading, equate normal people who are concerned about abortion or gun rights with extremists like those.

Again, let me emphasize, there is an important distinction here that is critical to understanding these reports. The report on right-wing extremists does not identify core conservative values as extreme. Instead, it indicates that some extremists are motivated by core conservative values. The left-wing reports indicate that some extremists are motivated by a stereotypically core liberal value (environmentalism), but that is entirely different from identifying environmentalism as an extreme value!  When someone states the fact that some extremist groups that perpetrate violence against abortion providers are (of course) motivated by opposition to abortion, obviously I should not take that to imply that I am an extremist just because I oppose abortion.

That, to me, is a common sense reading of the recent reports on extremism.  Of course, I don't necessarily expect everyone to use common sense in reading reports like these.  Some people will tell you that the DHS is calling you a "right-wing extremist" and, again, I understand that you are inclined to believe them (given your very low opinion of the Obama administration).  However, as far as I can tell, those people who are telling you that are not actually telling you the truth.


To quote from page 2:

Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and
adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups),and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

The report does make mention of violence and returns over and over to the 1990s. The quote above is apparently their definition of rightwing extremism, and as such it should note a proclivity to violence, not just a dedication to a single issue.

Yep, I agree that as a definition that footnote is terrible because it leaves out the critical defining characteristic. I maintain that someone is not using common sense if he reads that report and concludes that the DHS believes that all individuals who oppose abortion or immigration are extremists, for example. If someone wants to (and obviously many do), he can take that footnote out of the context of the report and out of the context of reality and take it to mean something absurd, but I don't recommend it.

A friend pointed out that DHS realized that footnote had the appearance of a definition and was worded inadequately but weren't wise enough to fix it before releasing it. It also points out that violence was explicitly cited in the definition of left-wing extremists in the left-wing report: link

Reproducing part of what I wrote on Facebook:

I think that MOST people who are concerned about [the government's definition of "right-wing extremists"] are concerned because they have an irrational fear of the Obama administration (how is it reasonable or rational to think that the government of the United States of America considers anyone who is pro-gun, anti-immigration, anti-abortion, or pro-states rights to be an extremist?). I think that SOME people are probably using it to boost ratings and political contributions and to reinvigorate a political movement that needs to find a way to reverse recent electoral trends. Of course, manufacturing controversy is a tactic employed by media of all stripes and by both political parties.

For my own future reference, the discussion on Facebook is here.

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