Peter Beinart has a doozy of a column up over at the Daily Beast, rather breathlessly titled, "Why Norway Could Happen Here." Since I suspect that Beinart managed to repeat every left-wing myth about the violent tendencies of Christians and conservatives, let's take a look at the key paragraph:
There’s actually been a lot of right-wing, extremist Christian terrorism in the U.S. in recent years. The biggest terrorist attack in U.S. history prior to 9/11—the 1996 Oklahoma City bombing—was carried out by Timothy McVeigh, a white ex-Army officer with ties to the militia movement. That same year, Eric Rudolph bombed the Atlanta Olympics to protest abortion and international socialism. The only major WMD attack of the “war on terror” era—the 2001 anthrax mailings—apparently was the handiwork of a microbiologist angry that prominent Catholic politicians were pro-choice. In 2009, anti-abortion militants murdered Wichita doctor George Tiller. (He already had been shot once, and his clinic had been bombed). That same year octogenarian neo-Nazi, James Wenneker von Brunn, shot a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Last February, Andrew Joseph Stack, angry at the federal government, flew a small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas.
Beinart is either largely ignorant, or has a pretty curious definition of "right-wing, extremist Christian." For one thing, I'm not sure that label applies in its entirety to Anders Breivik. As for his other examples, well, McVeigh was no Christian. He famously declared that "Science is my religion," and his final words were quoting from Invictus: "I thank whatever gods may be/ for my unconquerable soul ... I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."
Here's abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph in an interview with USA Today:
"Many good people continue to send me money and books," Rudolph writes in an undated letter. "Most of them have, of course, an agenda; mostly born-again Christians looking to save my soul. I suppose the assumption is made that because I'm in here I must be a 'sinner' in need of salvation, and they would be glad to sell me a ticket to heaven, hawking this salvation like peanuts at a ballgame. I do appreciate their charity, but I could really do without the condescension. They have been so nice I would hate to break it to them that I really prefer Nietzsche to the Bible."
As for alleged Anthrax mailer Bruce Ivins being supposedly motivated by his pro-life, Catholic views -- well, that's a pretty unfounded assertion based on a lot of tenuous and anonymous sources. Further, from what we know about his religious views -- to say nothing of considerable evidence that he was mentally ill -- he wanted the Catholic church to liberalize on the issue of female and married clergy. Not exactly what one thinks of when we discuss extremist religious views.
Then there's holocaust museum shooter James von Brunn. Who in his own words, was emphatically not a Christian: "The Big Lie technique, employed by Paul to create the CHRISTIAN RELIGION, also was used to create the HOLOCAUST RELIGION ... CHRISTIANITY AND THE HOLOCAUST are HOAXES." As for Brunn's politics, this is a little close to home, but Ben Smith handled it nicely:
The [WEEKLY STANDARD] is about a mile north of the Holocaust Museum, and there's no other indication that von Brunn had targeted it. Von Brunn's published rants included attacks on "neocons," and the Standard has been at the heart of the neoconservative movement.
The suggestion that the Standard may have been a target complicates any view of the racist shooter in contemporary left-right terms. Von Brunn's white supremacist roots put him under the rubric of a "right-wing extremist," but the substance of his views -- which included everything from believing that President Bush may have been in on the September 11 attacks to denying that President Obama is an American citizen -- are too far on the fringe to fit into conventional political classification.
And then there's Andrew Joseph Stack who flew his plane into an IRS building in Texas. Allow me to pull out some quotes from the manifesto he left-behind:
"...institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church..."
"The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living."
"The recent presidential puppet GW Bush and his cronies in their eight years certainly reinforced for all of us that this criticism rings equally true for all of the government."
"The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed."
Yup. Sounds like a Stack was a "right-wing, extremist Christian."
So I guess that leaves us with abortion doctor George Tiller's murderer. It's fair to say he was motivated by his warped vision of religion. But one killing does not make a case for rampant right-wing, Christian terrorism. (I also presume that Beinart is ignorant of the fact that a pro-life activist was gunned down outside a high school in Michigan just a few months after Tiller was killed.)
Beinart really ought to retract much of the column, but I suspect any suggestion to do so would be declined.