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April 2nd, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Avlon: Militia arrests raise questions about political landscape

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of the new book "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America." Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.

CNN Independent analyst John Avlon says the arrest of the Hutaree militia group raises new questions about the fear-fueled fringes of the political landscape.

CNN Independent analyst John Avlon says the arrest of the Hutaree militia group raises new questions about the fear-fueled fringes of the political landscape.

By John Avlon, Special to CNN

We’ve seen a ratcheting up of violent rhetoric and even violent plots in recent weeks. This edition of Wingnuts of the Week takes a look at a new Code Pink “citizen’s arrest” of Karl Rove and the real arrest of the Hutaree militia.

Militia movements exist well off the grid when it comes to conventional domestic politics. But the arrest of the Michigan-based Hutaree anti-government militia group raised new questions about the increasingly ugly and fear-fueled fringes of the political landscape.

The small, self-style Christian militia group (members say “Hutaree” means “Christian warrior”), led by father David Stone, was arrested by the FBI early this week on charges that they plotted to murder a local law enforcement officer and then bomb his funeral procession to up the body count in an attempt to spur a civil war in the United States.

This is the latest sign of the estimated 300% increase in militia groups – as detailed by the Southern Poverty Law Center – that we’ve seen in America during the first year of the Obama administration. Not all militia groups can be classified as violent extremists, but this rapid growth indicates an unwelcome return to the heated atmosphere of the mid-1990s, when militia movements proliferated in the wake of Bill Clinton’s election and incidents at Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. The era ended after Timothy McVeigh destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing more than 160 innocent men, women and children.

The Hutaree’s legal defense seems to be based in free speech. That’s about all they have in common with Code Pink – a notorious liberal activist organization that specializes in street theater demonstrations and the politics of confrontation.

This week they squared off against their old nemesis, Karl Rove, who was attending a book signing in Beverly Hills. Code Pink was accompanied by members of a wingnut reinforcing 9/11 Truth brigade in screaming denouncements of Rove, with co-founder Jodie Evans shouting “You took us to war. You should be arrested. I am here to make a citizen’s arrest,” and then attempted to place handcuffs on the man some called “The Architect” and President Bush called “Turd Blossom.” Other well wishes included calls for Rove to “rot in hell” and plenty of cursing at the assembled would-be book buyers.

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Rove got off the best line of the night, in my book, saying by way of parting remarks: “This goes to show the totalitarianism of the left. They don’t believe in dialogue. They don’t believe in courtesy. They don’t believe in 1st Amendment rights for anybody but themselves.”

A bonus round of wingnuttery goes to the group Organizing for America, which maintains the apparatus left over from President Obama’s 2008 campaign. After a week in which death threats were logged against more than a dozen members of Congress, including Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, this organization shamelessly sent out a fund raising e-mail attempting to capitalize off the death threats. It is a ghoulish new low in the era of the permanent campaign, where even death threats are plumbed for partisan advantage.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon.


Filed under: Opinion • Politics • Wingnuts of the week
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Raymond

    Karl Rove should be in jail, not signing books.

    April 8, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  2. simplefact

    We laugh at the stupidity & incivility of ethnic infighting in other parts of the world! And here we are!

    If these militias resort to violence, they should know the consequences.

    April 5, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  3. Howard

    These fringe groups exist at the edge of the Republican Party and are cheered on by the likes of Glen Beck and Jobba the Rush Linbaugh, who is the poster child for obesity in America. Wasn't it Sarah Palin who said it's time to reload after the health care debate, as in lock and load. No republican has ever condemned tea baggers who brought guns to the health care town forums. Theses militias and fringe groups can be directly tagged to the right wing of the Republicans, the ones who want no restrictions on gun ownership. They created this monster and one day it will come back to haunt them. One of them will perpetrate a heinous act and an investigation will find Beck and Rush's literature and venom all over the apt. Then we will see the Republican run for cover.

    April 5, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  4. ThisGuy

    Right hand of the anti-christ? Take a chill pill. I don't think "wingnuts" is auditioning.

    April 3, 2010 at 8:43 pm |
  5. Helga Helemendic

    Thanks. I knew that Karl Rowe came to undermine the GOVERNMENT. The person who used Agressive christians in his political manipulation, almost was arrested by them.

    April 3, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  6. Mitchell

    Reading the above comments all I can see is hate hate hate for anything that is not liberal for anything that is not socolist.

    April 3, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  7. Joan Fox

    The media is partly to blame for broadcasting the tea partiers and not the move-on.org demonstrations. They have not been giving a balanced view. When they do, the balance seems to be between one group spreading lies, and the other who is trying to legislate very complex issues. Personally, I consider Sarah Palin on the same level as the purple dinasaur; I would expect much of importance from either one.

    April 2, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  8. RetVet2wars

    Karl Rove is the RIGHT hand of the Anti-Christ. Remember the TOWNHALL meetings, the screaming and yelling that he pushed along with his Palin, Cantor, Boehner, Beck, McCain and Limbaugh. This is what they do. They have always done this, pushed TERRORISM from within. Be honest, What people on the left did you see with signs, yelling racial slurs and carrying Guns. Who's throwing Bricks? Take a gooood look at the FACES.

    April 2, 2010 at 7:35 am |
  9. Adam

    I will watch your piece at the gym this morning. There is an active discussion on Reddit.com about this topic: http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/bktnn/dont_call_them_christian_warriors_call_them_what/

    Please don't call them anything but what they are: Christian Terrorists.

    Thank you

    April 2, 2010 at 7:18 am |
  10. Dave

    On one side you have Code Pink who's trying to de-escalate/end the wars and on the other you have Karl Rove who publicly admits to favoring the use of torture. Hmmm. Am I mistaken or are you inferring that Code Pink is more "wingnutty" than Rove? Where's the moral high ground in this issue?? During 8 Bush years people had to restort to extraordinary tactics simply because the Bush administration tried to supress antiwar opinions at every turn. Even after Mission Accomplished Bush himself admitted there were no WMD. And WHY are we still occupying Iraq? Where is Ossama bin Laden?? I think the real WingNuts were occupying the Oval Office, White House and Congress. How much have these 2 wars contributed to our massive national debt so far? Maybe we could ask the Chinese for a subtotal on our credit line with them?

    April 2, 2010 at 6:54 am |
  11. AJ

    People keep asking why the public is so mad. Basically, Obama is bringing alot of change from the previous administration. Republicans berate him for everything he does, and they feed the public vitriol. Democrats then tell Obama he's not going far enough. What do you expect the public to think when they are being told to be angry on either side of the divide?

    April 2, 2010 at 6:41 am |
  12. Pauly

    Rove got off the best line of the night, in my book, saying by way of parting remarks: “This goes to show the totalitarianism of the left. They don’t believe in dialogue. They don’t believe in courtesy. They don’t believe in 1st Amendment rights for anybody but themselves.”

    This comes from the same man who praised teabaggers using the same tactics to disrupt town halls last fall. Just more hypocrisy from the right!!!

    April 2, 2010 at 6:38 am |