Terrorism experts label millions of conservatives as radicals, an attitude that divides us even more
By Gary Abernathy
Have millions of conservatives been ‘mass radicalized?’
A recent Washington Post story on the founder of the rightwing militant Oath Keepers group basically determined that the organization’s influence and activities have often been vastly overstated. In fact, I’ve noted many times that groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys are straw men used by some in the media to portray supporters of Donald Trump in as negative a light as possible. In fact, most Trump supporters have little knowledge of, or use for, such groups.
But what really caught my attention was this paragraph:
Domestic-terrorism analysts warn that too much attention on established groups such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys obscures the hard-right turn of millions of conservatives, a phenomenon some have described as a “mass radicalization.”
Mass radicalization. That’s apparently how our domestic-terrorism analysts are now referencing conservatives, particularly Trump supporters. The “hard-right turn of millions of conservatives” is a phenomenon of great concern, the current theory seems to go.
I’ve stated many times that the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was one of the most shameful moments in American history. The people who breached security and invaded the halls of Congress should be identified and prosecuted, as they are. Trump’s contributions to that sad day are indisputable. He laid the groundwork by refusing to accept the 2020 election results. He encouraged thousands to gather in Washington that day, and he sent them to the Capitol after criticizing his own vice president — who was leading a constitutional step in validating the electoral vote count — for not doing more to overturn the election results.
But the vast majority of people gathered that day were peaceful. They did not storm inside the Capitol. Ninety-nine percent of Trump supporters nationwide are good and decent Americans who don’t deserve to be described as being “mass radicalized” by our domestic-terrorism analysts.
What about the hard-left turn of millions of liberals that we’ve witnessed in the last few years, a development that has landed some of the most leftwing extremists we’ve ever seen in the halls of Congress? What about members of Congress who supported and defended protests that sometimes turned into riots throughout the summer of 2020? What about members of the far left who think socialism is actually a good idea? Should we be concerned? Have they been “mass radicalized?” Of course not. Nothing to see here.
I would not be in favor of labeling the left, as much as I disagree with their views, any more than I like labeling the right. The concerted effort by many in the media to paint all Trump supporters with the same brush as radical militia members is part of a political calculation to discredit millions of normal, hardworking and patriotic Americans.
Instead of demonizing each other and attempting to label people with whom we disagree as dangerous or threatening, we need to encourage dialogue, understanding and empathy. Otherwise, our divisions will only grow.
Talking civility on the Postindustrial podcast
On the subject of constructive dialogue, I enjoyed being a guest on the Postindustrial Podcast with host Carmen Gentile, author of "Blindsided by the Taliban," which “documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade while embedded with U.S. Army forces in Afghanistan.” He is a founder and editor-at-large of Postindustrial Media.
Postindustrial is a news and information source that works to “shed light on the changing face of Postindustrial America, how we got where we are, and where we are going. We promote conversations about the challenges and opportunities inherent to the sustainable future of Postindustrial communities. We also highlight innovative ideas and the people behind them.”
They do a traditional quarterly magazine and a digital site that’s frequently updated, along with numerous podcasts. Their coverage area includes Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and parts of New York, Maryland, and North Carolina.
On the heels of a column I wrote back in July on the need for more civility when communicating with and about Trump supporters, Carmen — whose politics are not particularly aligned with mine — nevertheless invited me on his show to discuss the subject. I enjoyed our talk, and you can listen to it here.
Talking climate change and Manchin with Hoppy Kercheval
As always, I enjoyed talking with Hoppy Kercheval on Tuesday on his statewide “Talkline” show on West Virginia’s WVMetroNews network. We discussed climate change and Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) key role in determining how much of the Biden administration’s agenda will be approved by Congress. You can listen by clicking above.
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