This weekend, a couple of anti-government nuts engaged in a murderous act of domestic terrorism, killing two cops and one civilian who attempted to stop them with his own weapon. They claimed the revolution had begun before killing themselves.
As is usual in these cases, the far Left is almost gleeful as they dig through the extremist politics of the killers. They are touting this as indicative of a huge surge in right-wing anti-government violence, supposedly caused by Sean Hannity and Fox News. Today, they are also touting a supposed surge in school violence since Sandy Hook. All of this is bent toward the ongoing effort to morally bully the American people into supporting gun control (and Democrats).
They are also full of it. Jesse Walker, who has written a book on conspiracy theorists:
As I’ve noted before when writing about the militia movement, violence on the far right often comes from hotheads who have been kicked out of the more mainstream militias. (Is “mainstream” the right word? It’s all relative, I suppose.) When actual organizations talk up non-defensive violence, they are often isolated and despised within the larger militia milieu. Yet these divisions are frequently missed in public discussions of the issue, which often lump all the “extremists” together—and, as a result, look in the wrong places for terrorist threats. Even when analysts argue that lone wolves acting on their own are a more likely source of violence than militias acting as groups, there’s a mistaken tendency to treat “radicalization” as the problem and to ignore all the cross-currents within a particular radical community. (J.M. Berger offers some strong arguments against that habit here.)
We are being shown a lot of footage of these two terrorists at the Cliven Bundy Ranch. What’s being ignored is that they were kicked off the ranch because Bundy and his supporters thought they were pushing a violent anti-government agenda instead of focusing on the issues at hand. And the Bundy supporters wanted no part of that.
One last thought: I see The Washington Post is already tentatively tying this to other “slayings…linked to hate movements.” So it’s wise to remember the sociologist Joel Best’s comment that “crime waves” often turn out to be “waves in media attention: they occur because the media, for whatever reason, fix upon some sort of crime, and publicize it.” Shortly after Obama’s election, a flood of stories suggested that right-wing violence was on the rise; a few years later, a study from the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point indicated that incidents of that sort actually declined in that period. So don’t assume that a new age of domestic terror is dawning. The Vegas killers seem to have believed they were the vanguard of an uprising, shouting “This is the start of a revolution!” before they opened fire. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and say they were wrong.
It bears repeating: violence is way down in our society. Gun killings are down 40% over the last twenty years. Gun assaults down 70%. Our cops are safer than they have been in over a century. School shootings are down, as well, to half the level they were in the 90’s. And no, mass shooting are not “rising” no matter how much Mother Jones tries to cherry-pick the data.
So why is there suddenly all this hysteria about “rising” gun violence? Several reasons. One, people are naturally prone to panics especially when goaded by a media that has no interest in objective reality. One thing you’ll notice about the school shooting map is that these occurs somewhat regularly but the media coverage tends to cluster whenever there is a high-profile shooting
Second, the biggest declines in violence have been in our inner cities and among minorities. This seems to matter less to our media and our commentariat than two vile people shooting up a Walmart.
Third, the current anti-government violence may pale in comparison to that of the past. But that past violence from the Left Wing. So our commentariat are more than happy to sweep it under the carpet to the point where the perpetrators can be … I dunno … friends of a future President. I recently read The Skies Belong To Us, a very good book about the “golden age of hijacking” in the 1970’s. What astounded me was how often even violent left-wing terrorists were hailed as heroes by left-wing media. I defy you to find any mainstream right-winger expressing admiration for right-wing terrorists.
But mostly it’s because these facts do not conform to the agenda. The agenda is that we are in danger, that we are under assault, that we could be shot when we step out of our door and it is all the fault of the evil Republicans, the evil NRA, the evil Fox News and the evil Rush Limbaugh. These are the villains who stand between us and “sensible gun control”. (Well, them and the vast majority of the American people, the Second Amendment and the Supreme Court as well as a body of research indicating that gun control does not curb violence).
Never mind that you’re safer today than you’ve been in fifty years. Never mind that today’s right-wing political terrorism is far less common, far less deadly and far less excused than the left-wing political terrorism of the 60’s and 70’s. Never mind that your child is safer in a school than they are just about anywhere else. You have to panic! Because cracking down on “right wing” groups and seizing guns is something will only happen if the American people take leave of their senses.