This week, on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront," I tried to explain how a note written by alleged LAX shooter Paul Ciancia contained several hallmarks of the antigovernment "Patriot" movement's animating "New World Order" conspiracy theory. My remarks were based on references to the Federal Reserve and "fiat currency" that were exclusively reported by Hatewatch over the weekend.
My jousting partner in the exchange was Michael Medved, a conservative radio show host, frequent television commentator and columnist. Medved told the audience that my comments were "very dangerous" and "unforgiveable," that I was "completely unfair" to use the word "Patriot" in describing a key sector of the radical right, and that I was "try[ing] to tar" the political right with the Nov. 1 shooting that left one TSA agent dead "when the clear problem is mental illness."
Even as Medved spoke, the FBI was, in effect, backing me up with its own suspicions about Ciancia's motives. The Associated Press reports the FBI obtained a warrant yesterday to search Ciancia's cell phone for, in the words of its request, materials reflecting his "views on the legitimacy or activities of the United States government, including the existence of a plot to impose a New World Order."
In other words, the FBI also is looking into the possibility that Ciancia's views about the New World Order -- a feared totalitarian "one-world government" that he also reportedly mentions in his note -- may have been part of his motivations. That is precisely the point I was making on CNN. Even then, I carefully pointed out that we had no information suggesting Ciancia was involved in any Patriot group.
Medved is normally a fairly reasonable and calm debater and, to be fair, he was not very clear in many of his remarks on CNN. But he was clearly incensed at my description of the Patriot movement and, in particular, its name.
What he did not seem to realize is that this is what these groups, by and large, call their own movement -- this is not some name I made up to describe them. At times, they call themselves "Christian Patriots," but I don't think that would have made Medved any happier. He seemed to think I was impugning all conservatives.
I understand the idea -- at one point, Medved said, "I'm not willing to give up the word 'patriot' to those people." But to suggest, as Medved did, that by using the name I was simultaneously attacking the Tea Party Patriots and other groups closer to the political mainstream, is not only false, but just plain silly. It reminds me of complaints I've heard from some Christians when I speak about the wildly racist and anti-Semitic theology of Christian Identity. None of us may like it, but the proper name of the religion is, in fact, Christian Identity, even though it has no links to any belief system associated with any mainstream branch of Christianity.
In my original weekend post about Ciancia's note, I noted that the TSA, whose agents Ciancia was apparently seeking out to kill, was not particularly the target of most groups on the radical right, though many do despise its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security. (I also reported exclusively that the note called former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano a "bull dyke" and contained the phrase "FU Janet Napolitano.") But Gawker last night put up a good post noting that the TSA had been repeatedly vilified by such conservatives as National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg, former Fox News host Glenn Beck, Fox's Geraldo Rivera, several Republican congressmen and a number of other well-known figures on the right.
Will Michael Medved now attack Gawker's reporting as well? I'd love to discuss this with him, but so far, my note to Medved suggesting we get together on his radio show to continue the conversation has met with complete silence.