Are Right Wing Militias Running Rampant?

By Terry Turchie

All last week Craig Fahle, a talk show host at a big NPR affiliate in Detroit http://www.facebook.com/CraigFahleShow ran a very interesting series of interviews and commentary on “right wing extremism.”  We were invited to participate, so Terry was on with Craig for about 20 minutes at the top of the show.  You can listen to it here:  http://tinyurl.com/ykfloeo

There’s a lot of nervousness in the country right now about right wing militias and anti-government rhetoric.  The case of arrest of the “Hutaree” faction of the Michigan Militia for their actions in service of a plan to kill police was fresh – http://tinyurl.com/yhe8tnv - so Craig wanted the perspective of someone who’s actually worked cases like this.

Well, militias have been around since America was in its infancy – and so has dissent.  Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our society – and law enforcement is sworn to uphold the right to it.  When it goes beyond speech to violent action, that’s where law enforcement gets involved.  Our first book concerned our adventures with the Unabomber and Eric Robert Rudolph, as well as a study of lone wolf terrorism, and that’s why Craig Fahle had Terry on his show.

But even though the media is apparently viewing the arrests in Michigan as a sign of the resurgence of violent action by militias, we think it’s actually more media-driven than real.  Militia movements have ebbed and flowed throughout our history.  Whenever there are hard times economically and unemployment is high, distrust of the government grows substantially.  People get together and agree that something’s awry. They’re angry about it, and they talk angrily about it.

It’s not true, by the way, that violent rhetoric is the sole purview of the radical right. We were in the FBI during the end of the Weathermen years, and radical left-wing terrorist groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army killed police and innocent citizens.  (The WashPo seems to differ with us on this:  http://tinyurl.com/yhj8e75 ).

But even when the media’s not watching, the FBI and local law enforcement are aware that these things can get out of hand, so they keep up with what’s going on in the country and in the world.  Don’t ever believe that what’s emphasized at any one time by the 24-hour media frenzy is the only story; neither CNN nor Fox news give the FBI its assignments or tell it what to watch for.

The fact is that local law enforcement and the FBI make it their business to know who’s who in the world of militias, and to establish a reasonable dialog with them.  The vast majority of militia members would never commit or consider committing terrorist acts. In fact, they are an important key to public awareness, and to identifying problems in their social groups that may lead to violence and the killing of innocent citizens.  The best thing for everyone is to prevent the execution of violent terrorist acts, and that’s exactly what happened in Michigan.


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  2. George Aradi says:

    Unfortunately many leaders are steeped in Political Correctness a keep trying to pin events on a canard that avoids the most immediate threat to public security, radical Islam, which is global an scope and has State-sponsorship. There is probably no country that would harbor a militia member who participated in mayhem but can that be said of radical Islam?

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