Newsweek Links Stack to ‘Right Wing Terror,’ Inexplicably Mentions Racism

February 19th, 2010 3:29 PM

On Thursday, Newsweek's politics blog The Gaggle shamefully linked Austin kamikaze pilot Joseph Stack to a laundry list of right-wing stereotypes, and then, just for good measure, threw in a warning about death threats against President Obama.

Writer David Graham made one passing mention about liberal elements found in Stack's manifesto before launching into a full-blown effort to blame it all on conservatives anyway.

Graham got right to the point with his headlined blog post "Joseph Stack and Right-Wing Terror: Isolated Incidents or Worrying Trend?" What followed was a disgusting effort to mention as many conservative bogeymen as possible (emphasis mine throughout):

Thursday's antitax domestic terror attack on an IRS building in Austin, Texas, may reopen a debate that's been quiet since last summer: are violent incidents against the federal government on the rise?

The notion of far-right terror was much discussed following the June incident at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., in which white supremacist James von Brunn killed a security guard and injured two other people. That followed on the brutal February murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas, by a militant abortion foe. Meanwhile, there had been a spike in threats against Barack Obama since his inauguration. Suddenly much of the media was in an uproar about a new domestic terror threat, with Fox News' Shep Smith offering a stunningly frank and heartfelt  statement of concern live on the air. And then things quieted down. [...]

The tax protest movement has historically been linked to right-wing groups like the Sovereign Citizen movement, white supremacist groups, and militias. Stack mentions meetings with groups that meet that rubric, and his antigovernment rhetoric fits that mold too.

To add a hint of balance, Graham chose this point to admit that Stack also held anti-capitalist a quick reference comprising all of 48 words:

But he also takes traditionally left-wing swipes at corporations for keeping the little guy down, and signs off, "The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed."

Did Graham express concern about other left-wing criminals, such as Alabama professor Amy Bishop?


Having taken care of that little detail, Graham returned to his worry over conservatives and brought in an expert from - wait for it - the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Groups that track extreme right-wing violence say they see a definitive spike in activity. "This attack comes in the context of an absolute explosion in militias and the larger antigovernment 'patriot' movements in the last 12 to 18 months," says Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "This has been driven initially by nonwhite immigration for the last 10 years, which is reflected in the person of Barack Obama, which represents a very real and irreversible demographic change. Second, the economy has played a role. Unemployment has stayed high. There's a huge amount of anger about bonuses for bankers, at the same time that most middle-class and working-class Americans don't see things getting better, and in fact getting worse."

NBers might recognize the name Mark Potok. He's the same guy who appeared on MSNBC's Chris Matthews show that same day to call Stack a radical conservative, which NewsBusters documented. SPLC has a long history of partisan accusations against the right while not being too keen on tracking left-wing violence.

To buttress his case, Potok reached all the way back to tragedies from the Clinton years:

Potok says the level of violence is reaching levels last seen during the 1990s, when a wave of militias arose-especially in states like Montana and Michigan-of people who believed they needed to protect themselves from the government. But that activity was fed by fears of large government, and especially confrontations involving the government at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Although left-wing administrations are a common denominator, these groups didn't like the Bush administration's record on civil liberties, either. It's just that after the movement ran out of gas in the 1990s, the economic crisis provided a new burst of energy.

Ruby Ridge happened 18 years ago, and for young readers who might not remember, that was an example of reckless federal agents who shot two civilians in the woods of Idaho during a standoff. The FBI was gravely embarrassed by its handling of the case, which eventually led to agents getting reprimanded and a million dollar lawsuit for the family. Likewise, the siege of Waco was a messy event that turned into a massacre and almost cost Attorney General Janet Reno her job.

What those two things have to do with Joseph Stack's suicide mission, one can only guess.

Just in case Mark Potok didn't do enough to drive home the point, Graham then tapped another liberal group to provide "expert" analysis of the issue:

Mark Pitcavage, the director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, also says that Obama's election has "energized" the extreme right. In strict numbers of members, he says the biggest increases are in antigovernment groups, while white-supremacist groups, though more active, have seen less growth.

So you see, Joseph Stack angrily targeted an IRS office because white supremacists hate Barack Obama.

Clear as mud.

Did Newsweek think to ask any conservatives what they had to say about this? Not at all. Graham's piece didn't offer one single shred of attempting to defend anti-tax sentiment, didn't provide prospective from anyone on the right, and didn't bother admitting far-left kooks can be equally dangerous.

By contrast, when Amy Bishop killed three people at the University of Alabama, Newsweek wasn't interested in learning about her politics. In fact, Newsweek writer Kate Dailey covered that shooting by blaming it on guns. And when Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed fellow soldiers in Fort Hood, Newsweek blamed it on the military.

But when any hint of conservative leanings appear, suddenly it's proof of unhinged right-wingers mounting systematic violence.