A recent Time article, “On the Hunt for Hate,” describes the Biden administration’s approach to “defeat far-right extremism.” Other titles that would fit the article include “Playbook for a New Red Scare,” or “Lessons Revisited: The Palmer Raids.”
The Biden administration seems to have missed those history lessons in high school, and the Time article explains as much:
Biden has asked senior advisers to do something no previous Administration has attempted: refocus the network of U.S. security agencies to help combat domestic extremism …
In “normal times,” the article continues, “a new Administration would be focusing on dire foreign threats like transnational terrorism, Chinese cyberespionage, or North Korean nuclear proliferation.” Instead of focusing on those things, however, good ol’ Joe is focusing on you and your neighbors.
For the next four years, try not to worry too much about Chinese cyberespionage. No, according to Daryl Johnson, a former Department of Homeland Security senior analyst mentioned in the Time article, the real threat is “soccer moms and Joe Blow citizens showing up at the same activities as hardcore white-supremacist groups and militia extremists.”
In other words, you should be aware that your neighbor — who, yes, seems fairly normal but does post on Parler — just might be a right-wing extremist. Indeed, one of the most powerful tactics of power and oppression is paranoia.
Without a doubt, acts of domestic terrorism are absolutely and categorically abhorrent, no matter the reason, and people who commit them should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Shifting a massive amount of U.S. national security resources to focus on America’s own citizens, however, is a different story altogether.
The Time article states that far-right extremism is “one of the greatest domestic threats since the Civil War.” Yet, Dale L. Watson, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence Division, states that “From the 1960s to the 1980s, leftist-oriented extremist groups posed the most serious domestic terrorist threat to the United States.”
To argue that the trend of far-right domestic extremism is currently at such a high level that an administration should “attempt something that has never been done before” is simply false. Furthermore, violent political extremism is seeing a gradual uptick across most of the world, not just in the United States.
Because the Biden administration is so blatantly focused on far-right extremism, one can only assume that it’s not necessarily the domestic terrorism they want to stamp out, but the ideology of those on the right. As was the case during the Red Scares, the executive branch played a large role.
Then, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer authorized the arrests of several thousand suspected radicals. Many were deported to the Soviet Union. President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order that provided for a federal loyalty program, and the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover compiled detailed information on suspected communists.
Worryingly, a similar pattern is emerging at present. For instance, after the Jan. 6 riot, the FBI worked with Bank of America to look through the banking records of people who purchased things in the Washington, D.C. region.
Yet at least one person taken into custody for questioning because of his D.C.-area purchases was found to have no ties whatsoever to the riots. Did the FBI take similar extreme measures to find those who were involved in CHAZ, an actual takeover of a U.S. city, which also involved deaths? No, they didn’t.
The party in power may change, but the Red Scare shows us that federal involvement in rooting out citizens of a particular ideology leads to tragic consequences. As the old saying goes, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.