This New York Times story is another in the ongoing decade-long series: We can’t do much about far-right domestic terrorism because far-right conservatives don’t want us to. We are reminded again of the apoplexy of right-wing pundits when a Homeland Security analyst warned, soon after the election of the first non-white president in U.S. history, that white supremacist and other far-right extremism was escalating and posed a significant danger. We are reminded that Republican lawmakers seized upon the Fox-stoked fury over good honest ammunition-hoarding conservative jus’ folks being profiled and performatively burst a few blood vessels themselves, in their indignity, and absolutely everyone from the pundits of the day (Michelle Malkin) to the conservative telehosts (Fox) to the current, ahem, secretary of state went very very very far out of their way to insist that there was no difference between the radical, prone-to-violence anti-immigrant anti-minority anti-Obama extremists the report was warning about and the rest of conservatism and how dare you.
And yes, that’s where we’ve remained stuck for the subsequent decade. The Obama administration tried their best to never again bring it up, conservative shouters continued to insist that this was all part of the grand worldwide victimization of conservatives at the hands of the Deep State, and also Twitter and Google and absolutely anyone who pipes up, ever, about gun violence or incels or the increasing batshit insanity of the Fox News All Day Conspiracy-O-Rama.
And if a white nationalist plows their car through a crowd in service to supreme whiteness or respecting confederate culture or whatever a torch-wielding mob is shouting about, that is coincidental.
The only difference between 2008 and now is that Trump is rather more blunt about believing the teetering-on-the-edge-of-violence right to be valuable members of the conservative base than previous Republican lawmakers would admit to. Before now, the connections were kept more intentionally ambiguous; when the Malkins of the movement sputtered about the gubbermint keeping tabs on “conservatives” the difference between “conservative” and “murderous neo-Nazi militia nutcase” was always stubbornly dodged, as if there was no difference between one and the other worth mentioning.
Now, the torch-wavers and the Proud Boys are considered not so much outliers as a constituency to be pleased and placated. Whatever violence comes from it, as Tucker Carlson ticks down the list of white nationalist conspiracies and tropes, is the fault of that day’s lone wolf.
One of the details that should not escape notice is that privately, nobody on Trump’s own staff appears to be under any illusions that Trump gives a damn. “Officials at the department have felt they could not broach topics like domestic terrorism and white supremacist violence with Mr. Trump because he was not interested in those concerns,” reports the Times. Trump’s team almost immediately went to lengths to refocus terrorism prevention efforts solely on Muslim terrorism, a different Times report, noted only last week.
The Washington Post, also last week, quoted an ex-FBI analyst as saying there was “reluctance among agents” to investigate the “white supremacist movement” because it targets “what the president perceives as his base. It’s a no-win situation for the FBI agent or supervisor.”
Again: Everyone is being rather blunt about this. Domestic terrorism is not a priority for the Trump administration because the cretin counts those that travel in those circles as important voters. If that results in having to fly across the nation for a hospital photo-op with the occasional infant victim of that extremism, it is not seen as a high price.
It’s lovely that we’re all being so open about this, but that doesn’t seem to solve the central problem. An increasingly radical conservative movement, its lawmakers and its president have all been insistent that any attempt to take on white nationalist terrorism before it happens would be an unbearable burden on … themselves. If Tucker Carlson or Donald Trump or any one of dozens of House Republicans find it to their own advantage to mouth the same language and pipe up with the same conspiracy theories that permeate the far-far-right cesspools responsible for birthing this violence, then by God you are not allowed to notice that. And neither are government counterterrorism experts, unless they want to be the subject of deep state conspiracy theories themselves, for the next ten years of their lives.