There’s a right wing firestorm overshadowing the half-hearted tea party protests today. Several Republican members of Congress are outraged that the Department of Homeland Security is considering whether military veterans are becoming potential terrorists. Many Republican politicians, including Republican congressional leaders such as John Boehner, are upset because the Department of Homeland Security is tracking the activities of right wing groups that it characterizes as “extremist”.
Among the groups that Representative Boehner is defending is Volksfront, a Nazi group that agitates for “the creation of an autonomous and self-determinate White European State in North America”, but claims to reject the use of violence to achieve this goal.
I have to wonder at the plausibility of Volksfront’s claim of nonviolent Aryan nationalism when I see their logo framed by a pair of brass knuckles. My doubt increases when I read the record of violent crimes against African-Americans, Jews, homosexuals and others by members of Volksfront.
Still, I have to say that I think that John Boehner is right to defend the Volksfront Nazis from this particular kind of attention from the Department of Homeland Security – although he seems to be completely wrong in his reasons for doing so.
It’s not a crime to be a nasty, hateful person. It is not a crime to be extreme. In fact, some extremism is really great. Extreme generosity, extreme talent and extreme conscientiousness are some of the highest ideals we can strive for.
The government should not be investigating people merely on the basis of their extremism. The government should not be sending out reports predicting which people are likely to be “potential terrorists”.
The government should investigate actual crimes when they occur. It should investigate violence after it takes place, and it should investigate serious conspiracies to commit violence. A conspiracy to commit violence is not, however, the same thing as the creation of an organization with repulsive values and an agenda of creating an oppressive totalitarian regime. The former is a crime. The latter is a manifestation of democracy.
If I had to hazard a guess, I would bet that members of Volksfront are planning violent crimes. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Volksfront’s leadership uses the organization to support such plans. However, the truth is that I have no actual evidence to suggest that such a conspiracy exists. In a nation of laws, you need evidence to justify a law enforcement investigation. Just being provocatively unlikable is not enough.
I am glad that the Republicans are calling the Homeland Security investigation into white supremacist organizations into questions. I’m not saying this because I like Volksfront. I’m saying this because under George W. Bush, allegations of extremism were used by Homeland Security as an excuse to infiltrate, spy on, harass groups of people that I do like. Homeland Security called anti-Republican protesters, environmentalists, and even pacifists “potential terrorists”.
Equality under the law must be applied regardless of the political opinions of any group, no matter how extreme they may be. I do wish, however, that John Boehner and the other Republicans who are expressing outrage at the targeting of Nazi groups in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security would have expressed one fraction of the same degree of outrage when Homeland Security goons targeted peace activists and environmentalists for investigation as potential terrorists.