Saturday, April 17, 2010

Funny Business?

Threats And Coverage

by digby

After the all day teabag news orgy yesterday I thought I'd do a little research on the coverage of the antiwar rallies before the invasion of Iraq to see if I remembered the blase attitude correctly. I did. The New York Times, for instance, didn't just fail to publish in-depth polling of the movement above the fold on page one, they just put a small story about the marches (which featured hundreds of thousands of people all over the country) on page 8 claiming they were smaller than the organizers had hoped for.

But I had forgotten about this from 2003:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 22— The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

The memorandum, which the bureau sent to local law enforcement agencies last month in advance of antiwar demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco, detailed how protesters have sometimes used ''training camps'' to rehearse for demonstrations, the Internet to raise money and gas masks to defend against tear gas. The memorandum analyzed lawful activities like recruiting demonstrators, as well as illegal activities like using fake documentation to get into a secured site.

F.B.I. officials said in interviews that the intelligence-gathering effort was aimed at identifying anarchists and ''extremist elements'' plotting violence, not at monitoring the political speech of law-abiding protesters.

The initiative has won the support of some local police, who view it as a critical way to maintain order at large-scale demonstrations. Indeed, some law enforcement officials said they believed the F.B.I.'s approach had helped to ensure that nationwide antiwar demonstrations in recent months, drawing hundreds of thousands of protesters, remained largely free of violence and disruption.

The memorandum, circulated on Oct. 15 -- just 10 days before many thousands gathered in Washington and San Francisco to protest the American occupation of Iraq -- noted that the bureau ''possesses no information indicating that violent or terrorist activities are being planned as part of these protests'' and that ''most protests are peaceful events.''...The memorandum urged local law enforcement officials ''to be alert to these possible indicators of protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts'' to counterterrorism task forces run by the F.B.I. It warned about an array of threats, including homemade bombs and the formation of human chains.

The memorandum discussed demonstrators' ''innovative strategies,'' like the videotaping of arrests as a means of ''intimidation'' against the police. And it noted that protesters ''often use the Internet to recruit, raise funds and coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations.''

The teabagger rallies don't seem to have activated any of these alarms despite the fact that we know for a fact that sympathetic members of the far right are currently plotting violent activity, which the anti-war marchers had no history or intention of doing. Hell, the antiwar protesters didn't even get any coverage in the press despite having millions take to the streets all over the world.

The teabag extremism doesn't seem to bother anyone much. Perhaps it's because they are all lumpy,middle-aged white people who spend more time watching beck than sharpening their guerilla warfare skills. But, you have to wonder what the government thinks about this:

[T]he extremism of the Tea Partiers will be far eclipsed on Monday when another band of American patriots rides into town to demonstrate against the government. On April 19, an assortment of gun-rights groups will mount the Second Amendment March at the grounds of the Washington Monument. On the Web site for the march, its founder, Skip Coryell, calls it a "peaceful" event. But these folks, as the Violence Policy Center points out in a new report, are pushing a virulent strain of anti-government extremism that certainly could drive a body to take violent action.

Last month in an article for Human Events, a conservative magazine, Coryell noted that one aim of the march is to imply the threat of violence:

My question to everyone reading this article is this: "For you, as an individual, when do you draw your saber? When do you say "Yes, I am willing to rise up and overthrow an oppressive, totalitarian government?"

Is it when the government takes away your private business?
Is it when the government rigs elections?
Is it when the government imposes martial law?
Is it when the government takes away your firearms?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating the immediate use of force against the government. It isn't time, and hopefully that time will never come. But one thing is certain: "Now is the time to rattle your sabers." If not now, then when?

... I understand that sounds harsh, but these are harsh times. ...

I hear the clank of metal on metal getting closer, but that's not enough. The politicians have to hear it too. They have to hear it, and they have to believe it.

Come and support me at the Second Amendment March on April 19th on the Washington Monument grounds. Let's rattle some sabers and show the government we're still here.

Notice that Coryell says he's not advocating the immediate use of force against the government. That sure makes it sound like he's revving up the gun-rights troops for possible rebellion down the road.

At the march, he will be in good company. One scheduled speaker for the rally is Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America. In 1992, Pratt participated in a Colorado meeting of neo-Nazis and self-proclaimed Christian patriots that marked the birth of the modern militia movement. Another speaker at this pro-gun hoe-down will be Sheriff Richard Mack, who states on his Web site that the "greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our own federal government. If America is conquered or ruined it will be from within, not a foreign enemy."

And the Oath Keepers are sponsoring the march. This is a group of right-wingers -- many of whom serve in the military or police forces -- who pledge to disobey what they regard as "unconstitutional" orders from an increasingly repressive government. Their view of the government is rather dark. They vow not to "obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps" and not to "obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps." As if the Obama administration is on the verge of declaring martial law and rounding up the citizenry.

These will be very peaceful rallies, I'm sure, because few citizens would venture into a crowd like this to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech. After all, they might get shot. So, in a practical sense, their right to speak ends at the muzzle of a gun --- ironically especially when the gun is held by a constitution revering, gun-toting libertarian. ("Sure go ahead and speak up. Better hope I don't lose my concentration or somebody might get accidentally capped.")

I suppose the bigger risk is that these armed zealots might shoot each other. It could end up in a shootout if passions run high as they often do at these things and there's a misunderstanding or a case of mistaken identity. And certainly police would be in danger if these armed anti-government types feel threatened.

But there will not likely be any trouble with the liberals. They'll get the message and stay far away. That's what gun toting political rallies are all about --- suppressing dissent.

But I do wonder how the government feels about this. Perhaps they are sanguine because these are all good Real Americans instead of rambunctious young people who break windows and taunt the police. They just pack heat in a crowd. And anyway, if anything happens, they'll just blame it on infiltrators.

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