[Editor's note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Politics.]
By Kelly Sloan
Real Clear Politics
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On its front page Sunday, the New York Times ran a story headlined “As Far-Right Peril Brewed, U.S. Eyed Threats on Left.” The editors, apparently thinking that description insufficiently tendentious, slapped on a sub-head to clarify: “Trump’s Insistence on Danger of Antifa Led Federal Officials to Shift Resources.”
The Times is often in the business of finding problems where none exists, but every so often its reporters and editors stumble upon a real one. Their point here was that the Trump administration devoted time and attention to antifa-led riots and violence while ignoring the threat posed by various far-right groups in the country. The clear implication was that undue obsession with violence from groups he didn’t like resulted in a misallocation of resources that, at best, allowed violence from groups presumably more simpatico with the president to happen -- or at worse implicitly countenanced it.
The Times writers made a good point, though probably not the one they intended. If pressed on the question of which was more concerning today, violence from the far left or the far right, the answer would likely be: the left, for the exact reasons the Times spelled out.
To wit, the official reaction to the Jan. 6 Capitol melee has, for the most part, been appropriate. Yes, it’s been accompanied by the usual excesses – for instance, the nation’s capital need not be a fortress, and Tulsi Gabbard was entirely correct in her assessment of the hastily composed, knee-jerk “domestic terrorism” bill as a pernicious and easily abusable insult to the Bill of Rights. And of course, the purge in media, social and otherwise, of dissenting voices is rapidly moving from being a bore to something distinctly Orwellian.
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In the main, however, relevant parties have responded as they should to the violence: The incident is being actively and aggressively investigated, the perpetrators are being arrested and charged with the appropriate crimes, active analysis of the day’s inexcusable security failures are being made, and officials are examining the threat posed by similar groups to identify patterns and other useful markers. Meanwhile, society as a whole has condemned the actions of the Jan. 6 miscreants, applying proper social sanctions. Importantly, the conversation is about how to provide law enforcement with the tools and capabilities they need to prevent future such incidents, and to adequately protect lives and property in the event it should nonetheless happen again. Bravo.
Here’s the problem. Rhetorical gestures from the White House aside, few, if any, similar measures were universally and consistently applied in response to the uprisings and riots that occurred throughout the summer by left-wing antagonists. In many cities, relatively few arrests were made, and even fewer prosecutions were carried out. No task forces were convened to examine and analyze the threat posed by these groups. What task forces were convened were perversely assembled to criticize “overly violent” police response. A few big city mayors openly encouraged the rioters, or minimized the societal damage caused by the attacks on government buildings, destruction of private businesses, overrunning and burning of police stations, and even the establishment of lawless “autonomous zones” within their cities. The cry of the hour was not “what do the police need to improve safety and security”; it was “defund the police.”
The effect of a hyper-politicized society is to polarize virtually everything – we managed to do so with a viral infection, for heaven’s sake – so it is not surprising that reactions to political violence are subject to the same assignments. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, the reductionist saying goes. But a civilized society rejects fanatism of any stripe, and any violent disorder that emanates from it.
Progressives have long been susceptible to the lure of ideological mysticism, which at times has beguiled them to a romantic tolerance of left-wing violence and terrorism. Some on the populist right have been susceptible to similar impulses, and conservatives have been lamentably slow to give serious attention to the problem of far-right violence and terror in this country. What is needed is to give the FBI and local police the resources and the discretion needed to preempt the violent actions of any ideological provenance, and to aggressively restore order when preemption fails, under the aegis of the law and the Constitution. Because the New York Times was right, if inadvertently: The threat that is ignored -- or worse, tolerated -- is the graver concern.