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Oldie, 7/19/09: The other victims of the right-wing hate machine

This report from the Southern Poverty Law Center was the last thing I read before going to bed late last night, and it popped out at me first thing this morning.

One excerpt in particular struck me:

April 4, 2009
Three Pittsburgh police officers — Paul Sciullo III, Stephen Mayhle and Eric Kelly — are fatally shot and a fourth, Timothy McManaway, is wounded after responding to a domestic dispute at the home of Richard Andrew Poplawski, who had posted his racist and anti-Semitic views on white supremacist websites. In one post, Poplawski talks about wanting a white supremacist tattoo. He also reportedly tells a friend that America is controlled by a cabal of Jews, that U.S. troops may soon be directed against American citizens, and that he fears a ban on guns was coming. Poplawski later allegedly tells investigators that he fired extra bullets into the bodies of two of the officers "just to make sure they were dead" and says he "thought I got that one, too" when told that the fourth officer survived. More law enforcement officers are killed during the incident than in any other single act of violence by a domestic political extremist since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Here's the thing: I frequent a local message forum. It's a mixed bag of media veterans, minor celebrities, entrepreneurs, low-level politicians, stay-at-home moms, retired people, and just regular workin' folk.

Oh, and law enforcement. Mustn't forget the LEO's. There are at least four in our group, perhaps two to three more who don't post as frequently. We have a moderator for all LE-related topics; one who's sort of a philosopher and a brilliant writer; and then, well, we've got two other guys.

The moderator and the writer, I've met. Both relatively young, both married (neither for the first time); both have children. One actually has a child less than a year old. Their genuine dedication to their families and their jobs, and by extension, to the rest of us, can't be doubted. I have a lot of respect for both of them. Overall, their political leanings are conservative. I don't think it's possible to be effective in law enforcement unless you've got that mindset: The rules are made to be followed, if the law isn't respected all you get is anarchy, you can't be soft on crime, etc. etc.

However, the thing I sense about the moderator and the writer is their essential humanity and kindness. Neither of these guys is a bully. They may be cynics, but they have enough broad experience in the world to understand that "bad guys" come in all stripes and a measure of impartiality includes the notion that not even someone you think of as "respectable" is immune to sliding toward the dark side, under the right circumstances.

Now the other two guys, the ones I haven't met, are both prolific posters. I realize that the forum is an outlet of sorts. The writer has a better one: He actually gets paid to submit columns (under a pseudonym) to the newspaper, and he's earned accolades just in the year he's been doing it. We feel like he's "ours" and we're proud of him. But these other two specialize only in snarky one-liners and opinions that often come very close to hate speech.

This isn't a big city, so every one of these guys has workedthe area I call home. What strikes me is, the latter two most assuredly harbor a lot of the "us vs. them" mindset that trickles down from the alleged minds of Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly - the idea that only whites really have it together; that minorities are more prone to drug use and crime; that we need a strong military-style government in charge and it should be based on very conservative Christian values.

What inspired me to even write this was a clip someone posted featuring Glenn Beck speaking to Ron Paul about the whole "one world government/Federal Reserve at the center of everything/they're taking over and no one is doing anything about it" trip. And just as predictable as clockwork, one of our one-line LE pundits chimes in with something along the lines of "Yes I know the country's going to hell in a handbasket, but what do you want us to do about it?"

This guy, based on his huge number of posts, clearly believes that white male Republicans who listen to Limbaugh, Beck and O'Reilly are the key to preserving the status quo, and that everybody else (liberals, feminists and non-whites who don't know their place) are determinedly chipping away at it.

Looking more closely at his posted response, the two components that leap out at me are "us" and "do about it."

That brought me back to the excerpt that I started this with. Richard Poplawski is a classic right-wing extremist wingnut who also sees the world in terms of "us vs. them" and "do something about it."

And "do something," he did. As a result, three police officers are dead and one wounded. The guy with the gun was not "from the projects." He did not match the profile of any of the usual suspects that my LE acquaintances grumble about on a regular basis. He was, in fact, if you want to be kind about it, a white working stiff upholding his second-amendment rights. Just like so many of those who pepper the online paper here in town with their dubious wisdom. So many of them see white conservatives as working hand in hand with law enforcement against a common "enemy." "If you're not for us, you're against us," is the underlying theme.

So who came for Richard Poplawski's guns? Surprise! It wasn't President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Rachel Maddow. It was three guys who, if inclined, would quite likely have been posting on our forum about how "guvmint" is looking to unleash the anarchists and dismantle the beloved traditional hierarchies that made this country great.

And I wonder if the LE guys who post anonymously with such swagger are considering any of this. If they see the glaring logical fallacy in their views.

The side they so ardently support could one day be the death of them. Literally.


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