I do not know the Rev. Matt Hale, head of the “World Church of the Creator,” have not read much about his beliefs, and have no disposition to defend him. Nevertheless, I do not believe he or his followers bear much resemblance to the international terrorist network of Al Qaeda, although that seemed to be the brunt of the message New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was determined to send his readers last week. [NYT, Hate, American Style (August 30, 2002)]
Mr. Kristof went to the trouble of traveling all the way from the safety and civilization of New York City to the wilderness of East Peoria, Illinois, where Mr. Hale lives, and taking him to lunch (Yes, no doubt to Mr. Kristof’s amazement, they do have restaurants in East Peoria, it seems).
Mr. Hale, you see, is a “racist” and an “anti-Semite,” terms he apparently uses himself to characterize his and his followers’ beliefs, and regards interracial marriage as “a form of bestiality.” Mr. Kristof wanted to meet Mr. Hale because, he says, “he has become the key figure of America’s hate community,” members of which “have shot, knifed or beaten blacks, Jews and Asian-Americans in several states.”
But the real reason Mr. Kristof traveled several hundred miles to meet, take to lunch, and write about a fellow who strikes me as both deservedly obscure and thoroughly pathetic, I suspect, is that Mr. Kristof wants his readers to believe that “racists” and “anti-Semites” of the far right are as dangerous as the real-life terrorists who leveled the World Trade Centers.
His column is part of a subtle campaign the witch-hunting left has waged for the last year to “link” the American right to Muslim terrorism, or at least to sympathy for it.
After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the left tried the exact same tactic, some even trying to connect House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party to Timothy McVeigh and the “militias” to which he never belonged.
One purpose of such “linkages” is to discredit the entire right, whether Republican, mainstream conservative, or far right, simply through the tactic of “guilt by association.” It’s a tactic usually ascribed to Sen. Joe McCarthy but is far more often used by the left itself. The left calls it “linking,” and it consists simply of lumping all of the above together, regardless of the vast differences among them, and claiming they’re “like” Al Qaeda (or the Nazis, or the Klan, or whatever demon haunts the left’s mind this week).
“It would be flattering Mr. Hale too much,” Mr. Kristof sneers, “to call his group America’s Al Qaeda,” though that’s essentially what he calls it. Mr. Hale and his church, which supposedly preaches the gospel of “Rahowa,” or “Racial Holy War,” are “revitalizing racism by recruiting women, children and convicts into a high-tech, energetic organization whose followers show a pattern of random brutality towards blacks and other ‘enemies.'”
“They are not a threat to national stability,” Mr. Kristof rather ruefully acknowledges, “but they are every bit as loony as Al Qaeda and they have been enmeshed in violence.”
The other object of “linking,” even by somewhat far-fetched comparisons, indigenous movements of the right to real foreign terrorists is to lay the groundwork for legal sanctions against political dissent from the right.
The left, of course, denies that, boasting of its commitment to “free speech” and the First Amendment, but the logic is obvious enough. If Mr. Hale and his merry band of racial holy warriors are as “loony” and violent as Al Qaeda, then they ought to be watched, if not rounded up and put away.
And they’re not alone, Mr. Kristof assures us. “There are plenty of other domestic counterparts to Islam’s manic mullahs. Think of Christian Reconstructionism,” a movement that advocates Old Testament laws but which even Mr. Kristof does not say practices or advocates violence.
What other groups does Mr. Kristof think are “domestic counterparts” to mass murdering terrorists?
In the panic after Sept. 11, we have seen laws passed and policies adopted that allow the government to hold suspects without warrants, try them in secret military courts, spy on law-abiding groups and individuals and harass innocent “persons of interest” with no evidence against them of any crime.
Most of the targets of these policies so far have been Arabs or Muslims. Now, with the help of people like Mr. Kristof, the ground is being prepared for the same powers to be deployed against Americans– simply because of their opinions about politics, race and religion.