Alexandria Terrorist Attack and the Challenge of Political Extremism. By Jeffrey Imm
|We need to call the June 14, 2017 attack on U.S. Congressional representatives and the public in Alexandria, Virginia what it is: "Terrorism."
There is a difference between a random lunatic shooting someone and a political terrorist targeting a group. The terrorist attack in Alexandria, Virginia was not only a "shooting," it was also a deliberate, terrorist attack, intended for targeted mass-murder and a political statement. It was as close to definition of terrorism as we get: violence intended to intimidate and in pursuit of political aims.
While all sane people respecting human life and dignity condemned the terrorist attack in Alexandria, we must also recognize that there were many who publicly defended, praised, and applauded the act of terrorism today. There were many political extremists defending such acts of terrorism in actually shooting at representative of the U.S. Congress, and many publicly expressing regrets that there were not deaths in this terrorist act. Such political extremists do not care about the 10 year old son of Congressional Representative Joe Barton, who had to hide under a car in Alexandria to keep from being shot by a crazed terrorist. Political extremists don't care about the police woman shot, the non-government individual shot, and the other victims. Political extremists don't care about the YMCA being shot at with bullets flying through windows and even landing inside the building and the pool.
Like any other deranged extremist ideologies promoting terrorism, such political extremists have de-humanized these victims, the public, the children, the families nearby as expendable to justify their "cause." What type of cause thinks that terrorizing children, shooting to kill our government officials, shooting to kill our police, shooting to kill anyone in the way... is any type of political cause for "justice" or "freedom"?
The threat of political extremist ideologies are no different than adherents of any other extremist ideologies, when they encourage, defend, incite, and promote violence on the behalf of such extremist views.
Such political extremism, and in this case, political anti-government extremism, is not simply disagreement, even passionate disagreement on political views. Such political extremism defends, excuses, and promotes openly inciting violence; it is just as dangerous to public safety, as any other extremist ideology.
While our law enforcement agencies will no doubt investigate this specific attack, so that they can find the appropriate legal terms they consider appropriate to apply, the American public must recognize this as an act of Political Extremist Terrorism. As of the date of publishing this, the FBI is still investigating this. They have not "declared" this as a "terrorist act."
But we know that the Alexandria terrorist attack was done by a political extremist who targeted and sought to mass-murder individuals of another political viewpoint. The social media postings of the political extremist terrorist James T. Hodgkinson have been publicly available all day for anyone to see. It is clear that this terrorist targeted and shot the known victims because of their political beliefs: Congressman Steve Scalise, aide Zach Barth, security detail David Bailey and Crystal Griner, and Matt Mika. It also clear that political extremist terrorist James Hodgkinson planned to murder them all, using his automatic rifle. It was only the quick response of those in Congressman Scalise's security details that prevented a total massacre by this terrorist.
A political extremist terrorist attack on Congressional representatives is simply that - a terrorist attack. It does not matter if the terrorist attack is by a religious extremist, a racial extremist, or a political extremist. Of course, it does not matter if a terrorist attack is on Republicans, Democrats, or any other group. Terrorism is terrorism. Wrong is wrong.
We don't want to be judgmental. But there is a difference between being judgmental and being willfully blind. A terrorist is not just a "shooter" like a bank robber or any other criminal. Terrorists with a gun or any other weapon don't look to injure, maim, and kill simply for some monetary gain or personal vengeance, but to terrorize and intimidate people of a particular group.
Yet what this terrorist attack in Alexandria reveals today goes much further than the murderous plans of terrorist James Hodgkinson. It represents a milestone in time, where the American public can no longer be in denial about this political extremist terrorist threat as a major public safety threat in America. It is time to stop the denial, the excuses, and the evasion about the political extremist terrorist threat in the U.S. Such terrorists have now clearly shed blood in an intended mass-murder terrorist attack.
Many who are non-partisan, and many who want to do everything we can to be fair and balanced, don't want to acknowledge political extremism as an ideology which can incite violence. But denial of the burgeoning and out of control political extremist movement problem that the U.S. has will not simply "go away." We have political extremist terrorists who use fire bombs, stab, assault, and beat those who they don't agree with. The "tolerance" of such political extremist acts of terrorism have only made the public less safe and the extremist problem more severe, because political extremists increasingly believe there will not be real consequences for their acts.
The world shook its head at the recent revelation that the United Kingdom reportedly has 23,000 "known" Islamist extremists as a potential terrorist threat.
How many political extremists defending, promoting, praising, and calling for acts of terrorism does the United States believe that it has right now? Surely not "just" 23,000. The United States wishes its political extremist number was so small. And how many are "known"?
The United States might have 23,000 political extremists publicly calling for acts of terrorism or threats against the U.S. Government and the President of the United States - EVERY DAY - on social media and in public demonstrations. How many actual arrests have been made by U.S. law enforcement authorities of such political extremists calling for acts of violence and terrorism?
The United States is a nation in denial that does not even want to admit it has a political extremist problem. The U.S. has simply gotten too "used" to it. People regularly make political death threats, with little to no consequences. These are not some anonymous figures, hiding in "dark Web" areas with secret names. Hardly. These are political extremists using their full names and in public. Celebrities join in, and there are no consequences. Celebrities can hold up a bloody "head" of a beheaded figure of the U.S. President, and there are no consequences. Celebrities can defend and praise calls for acts of violence and terrorism as somehow "patriotic" and "just." Without consequences, political extremists are simply emboldened to have increasingly more extreme and dangerous threats, leading us to the terrorist attack today.
The United States has a vigorous history of freedom of speech, which all free people must surely defend. But the concept that the U.S. freedom of speech grants its citizens the "right" to threaten to murder, threaten to kill, threaten to bomb, and threaten to injure one another is so absurd and outrageous that it is beyond all logical reason. The suicidal argument that death threats by extremists are tolerable because they "didn't mean it" is nothing less than a total abandonment of public safety standards. What part of the U.S. Constitution grants American citizens the right to threaten to kill and injure one another? How are threats of murder and bombing somehow "protected rights"?
Not just in the United States of America, but in any non-totalitarian nation, who has such "rights"? The "right" to threaten to murder, threaten to bomb, threaten to injure your fellow human beings certainly is not part of our Universal Human Rights.
In any sane, rational, nation with laws, we have a name for such actions: "a crime."
But for the past year and half, we have seen too many essentially look the other way at what any rational person would consider "a crime." Not surprisingly, when a society and its legal system normalizes such unabashed calls for open violence, people no longer believe there is anything "wrong" with such actions. For rational people who respect human rights, however, such threats are recognized to be nothing less than criminal acts.
The American government officials and leaders have been holding meetings and expressing "deep concern" about the use of social media to promote extremist views of the ISIS terrorist movement. The many thousands using social media to incite ISIS extremist violence must be brought to an end, as our legitimately concerned and troubled leaders state.
But when it comes to the many thousands and thousands of Americans using social media to incite political extremist violence, well, that's a different story to our concerned leaders. After all, we wouldn't want to offend the public's "free speech rights," would we, as political extremists call for murder, beheading, bombings, you name it. If a foreign Muslim woman got on an American stage and called for bombing the White House, she would expect to be led away in handcuffs. But when an American celebrity woman does the same thing, she is widely applauded, put on the mainstream media, and called an activist champion. This public threat of bombing a U.S. Government building to kill the U.S. President was applauded in public, not by merely a handful of political extremists, but by THOUSANDS in broad daylight. Such extreme, blatant hypocrisy and double-standards on law, acceptable speech, and public safety standards MUST end.
In politics, we don't have to agree, we have a right to criticism and passionate debate. But there has to be a line between "passionate debate" and political extremism. Support for violence and death threats, calls for beheadings, support and praise for acts of terrorism has to be a boundary between debate and extremism. We need to recognize that this boundary exists between political disagreement and political extremism. We need to condemn those on any side that cross that boundary to openly praise, defend, and incite political extremist violence. In terms of the public's rejection of such political extremist views, does it matter if such political extremism comes from the left, the right, or any other political spectrum?
The American public, its representative government, and its representative law enforcement can no longer allow political extremists to normalize calls for and incitement of violence. Calls for terrorism are not protected free speech, and terrorist acts are not a human right.
The only surprise about the June 14 terrorist attack in Alexandria, Virginia is how limited the casualties were thanks to quick-acting security.
The American public will likely not be as lucky in the next political extremist terrorist attack. What we do know, given the massive public praise, support, and defense of this terrorist attack in Alexandria by too many Americans on social media, is that without consequences, without challenging political extremists (like we would any other extremist threat), there is likely to be a NEXT time. With blood on the ground, the political extremists in America still don't think that there is anything wrong in such acts of terrorism.
In our war against terror, we must also challenge the terrorists among us, and we must deny that terrorism is no different than patriotism.