Just because no federal buildings have been blown up in the last five years doesn’t mean that extremists aren’t still out there. A recent issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin carried an article on how to recognize them. It’s too bad the Bulletin isn’t on your coffee table, because, according to the article, you’re probably an extremist yourself. The article, “Vehicle Stops Involving Extremist Group Members,” by James Kobolt, tells us it’s important to be able to tell who’s an extremist because when the cops pull over a vehicle in a routine traffic stop, it may well be packing extremists and the extremists may be packing lead. “Sadly, most officers can recall a traffic stop in their state that involved a member of an extremist group and ended in a surprise fight for survival,” the article avows, offering no support whatsoever for that statement.
In any case, the way to recognize an extremist is fairly easy. First, we’re told, “extremists’ vehicles may sport bumper stickers with antigovernment or pro-gun sentiments,” among other signs. Well, like what? The article offers two hypothetical examples of “bumper stickers with antigovernment or pro-gun sentiments.” These are “Know Your Enemies: They Are Your Leaders,” and “Joe McCarthy Was Right.” You’re probably catching the article’s drift by now.
The article offers one actual example of an incident involving extremists, when two “members of the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations and white supremacist religion Christian Identity” fired at Ohio police after being stopped. We’re not told what “sentiments,” if any, the pair’s bumper stickers expressed, but the reason they were pulled over was that their license plates had expired.
There are, of course, other ways to detect extremists, especially if they don’t believe in drivers’ licenses or car registration. In that case “they may present handmade licenses, a copy of the Constitution, a Bible, or political literature.” No doubt the nuts who run around with the Constitution or the Bible in their vehicles are the most dangerous of all. You probably need to shoot them on sight.
Nevertheless, “Once officers decide a subject may hold extremist beliefs,” the article cautions, “they should develop a plan of action.” The rest simply regurgitates fairly routine security procedures that most street cops learn at the police academy; the article’s clear purpose is not to tell experienced law enforcement officers that kind of stuff but rather to wash their brains a bit.
What the article is injecting into the minds of the police officers who read it is that anyone who expresses support for the Second Amendment in a bumper sticker is an “extremist” and a likely killer. Similarly, anyone who expresses “antigovernment” sentiments is also probably an “extremist” and a killer.
But what, besides agreeing with Joe McCarthy, constitutes extremist “anti-government” sentiments exactly? “Abolish the IRS”? “Don’t Vote. It Only Encourages Them”? “Get US out of the UN”? All those are real bumper stickers that express “antigovernment” sentiments. Do those who display them need to be approached with caution?
Nowhere does the article offer any real instance of cops being harmed by people who displayed any kind of bumper sticker, and nowhere are there any other kinds of “extremist” sentiments offered. What about stickers praising Karl Marx, Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-tung, or Malcolm X? Do “extremists” include anti-white racists, Hispanic separatists, adherents of fringe religious cults like Santeria or any number of other oddballs? The article never mentions any of them.
The article itself is what’s really dangerous, and the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin needs to get itself a new editor who will refuse to publish garbage like this. What’s dangerous about it is that it teaches cops unlikely to know any better that anyone who expresses perfectly harmless and entirely legitimate political ideas drawn from the mainstream of American history and political culture is a violent crackpot who needs to be watched and will probably boil over at any moment.
There are indeed nutty people out there, and some of them may be dangerous and more or less say so on whatever bumper stickers they paste on whatever vehicles they drive. But there are other nuts as well whose ideas are far more extreme than anyone who’s against big government and gun control. Unfortunately, some of them seem to have wormed their way into the confidence of law enforcement in recent years and are busily trying to exploit state power to suppress ideas they don’t like.
It’s nuts like these, who never fire a shot or break a law, who are the really dangerous extremists, because they’re often able to gull well-meaning cops and their supervisors into swallowing their propaganda without understanding the hatred of freedom from which it comes or the destruction of freedom to which it’s intended to lead.