Back in April, there was a huge fuss over an internal report by the Department of Homeland Security warning that current conditions resemble those in the early 1990s â€” a time marked by an upsurge of right-wing extremism that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing.
Conservatives were outraged. The chairman of the Republican National Committee denounced the report as an attempt to â€œsegment out conservatives in this country who have a different philosophy or view from this administrationâ€ and label them as terrorists.
But with the murder of Dr. George Tiller by an anti-abortion fanatic, closely followed by a shooting by a white supremacist at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the analysis looks prescient.
There is, however, one important thing that the D.H.S. report didnâ€™t say: Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.
Now, for the most part, the likes of Fox News and the R.N.C. havenâ€™t directly incited violence, despite Bill Oâ€™Reillyâ€™s declarations that â€œsomeâ€ called Dr. Tiller â€œTiller the Baby Killer,â€ that he had â€œblood on his hands,â€ and that he was a â€œguy operating a death mill.â€ But they have gone out of their way to provide a platform for conspiracy theories and apocalyptic rhetoric, just as they did the last time a Democrat held the White House.
And at this point, whatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased.
Exhibit A for the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism is Fox Newsâ€™s new star, Glenn Beck. Here we have a network where, like it or not, millions of Americans get their news â€” and it gives daily airtime to a commentator who, among other things, warned viewers that the Federal Emergency Management Agency might be building concentration camps as part of the Obama administrationâ€™s â€œtotalitarianâ€ agenda (although he eventually conceded that nothing of the kind was happening).