Coincidentally, three of yesterday’s major news stories bear directly on recent controversies over the threat (real or imagined) of political violence. First, nine members of a “Christian militia” were arrested, following an FBI investigation, for plotting to murder police officers. The arrest was accompanied by much hoopla, with Eric Holder calling the group, Hutaree, “a dangerous organization that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States.” I don’t know how dangerous they were, but one thing we can say for sure is that they were not Christians. What they were, is crazy.
The second story is that of Norman Leboon, arrested for threatening to murder House Republican Whip Eric Cantor in a YouTube video. By the end of the day it had emerged that Leboon is an Obama donor, a left-wing-activist–he was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Verizon for cooperating in the government’s anti-terror efforts–and, reportedly, a Muslim convert. As a conservative, I find it tempting to speculate that Leboon could be an excitable liberal who was roused to violence by Barack Obama’s exhortation that “if they bring a knife, we’ll bring a gun.” But that would be a cheap shot. Leboon, like the Michigan militia group, is bonkers.
Insanity is randomly distributed across the political spectrum. There is no cause so pure but what a crazy person (or several) can fasten onto it and purport to be acting in its name. It is wrong to try to make political hay out of such random nutcases, as the Democrats have been doing of late–without even waiting for the nutcase to appear!
The third relevant story is the bombing of Moscow’s subways by Muslim terrorists. Not coincidentally, this was the only one of the three that involved actual rather than hypothetical violence. And, while the perpetrators have not yet been identified specifically, in all likelihood they were not crazy, at least not in the sense that we associate with people like Norman Leboon. Rather, these terrorists were no doubt members of a movement–a real movement that commits real terrorist acts.
It is important not to blur the distinction between organized, persistent and deadly political violence such as took place in Moscow and the random but always-possible violence that can be perpetrated by a single nut, or small group of nuts. It might make some of us (Eric Holder, perhaps) feel better to pretend that the threat of Islamic terrorism is no different from, and little greater than, the danger posed by the Hutarees and Norman Leboons of the world. Unfortunately, it isn’t true.