The New York Times's "Visual op-ed" columnist Charles Blow issued his latest conservative-baiting column on Saturday, "The Enemies Within." Blow actually defended the infamous report from the Department of Homeland Security that vaguely tarred anyone active in conservative causes like abortion or immigration as potential extremists.
Blow focused on what the report said about U.S. veterans, who are apparently not smart enough to avoid getting involved in hate groups after returning home. The text box read: "Hate groups want our veterans." Blow's piece came with a helpful visual aid showing the number of "Veterans in White Supremacist Groups." The total confirmed or claimed over the last seven years? A less than overwhelming 203 out of a group numbering millions.
The United States Department of Homeland Security's Office of Intelligence and Analysis issued a report last week suggesting that current political and economic conditions are energizing right-wing extremist groups, that many of these groups follow extremely conservative ideologies and that some may seek to recruit and "radicalize" veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
True, true and true.
But, conservatives reacted by throwing a knee-jerk hissy fit. They twisted the report's meaning to imply that they, and more importantly our war heroes, were being vilified by a partisan document.
Their argument seeks to suppress and subjugate two rather unfortunate facts: while only a tiny number of conservatives and veterans are members of hate groups, nearly all hate groups do indeed follow far-right ideology. And they covet members with military experience.
Yet an excerpt from the actual report shows that conservatives were in fact vilified:
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.
Blow painted the report as showing veterans as helpless potential victims of hate groups:
The only debate we should be having is about the best way to protect our newest veterans from falling prey to this handful of military apostates.
If they only recruit a few, that is still too many. Terrorists have shown the world time and again that a few well-trained men is all it takes.
The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.
It's reminiscent of the paper's January 2008 smear of returning veterans as criminals, a fact-free front-page story reviled across the board and condemned as flawed by the paper's Public Editor.