BELOW RADAR

Posted in Quick Hits on April 7th, 2014 by Ed

There is precious little to add to what this piece over at Death & Taxes has already said, but I will make the effort nonetheless.

But Robert James Talbot, Jr. gets arrested for terrorism and I don’t see a thing about it until days later, until this weekend when I happened upon this article from the Southern Poverty Law Center. So weird! In fact, most of the other articles I’ve been able to find are from local Texas news sources. Very few national outlets have even bothered with the story.

Talbot is a white, radical right-wing conservative who was arrested by the FBI on charges of “attempted interference with commerce by robbery, solicitation to commit a crime of violence and possession of an explosive material.”

He set up a Facebook page, “American Insurgent Movement” in order to recruit five or six like-minded folks for what he called a “a Pre-Constitutionalist Community that offers those who seek True patriotism and are looking for absolute Freedom by doing the Will of God. Who want to restore America Pre- Constitutionally and look forward to stopping the Regime with action by bloodshed.” People, whom he said, must be willing to walk away from their lives to “stop the regime.” His plan was to rob banks to fund his revolution, and then also blow up mosques. He claimed to have already cased several Bank of Americas.

He wasn’t shy about his intentions, and even brazenly posted the following messages to the group’s Facebook page:

“Liberty movement starts this summer for those who are up for anything. Email the admin if your [sic] interested in walking away from your life (we have weapons if you need a weapon) to stop the Regime. We always will be recruiting. …You will be giving your life for a greater nation restoring liberty and the Lord himself. Stopping the New World Order and banking cartels.”

“That is exactly what I will have my men do during the heist. Same goes with the Muslims. Mosques are to be a blast! With three of my guys with FA [full automatic] AK’s [AK-47 semi-automatic rifles], we will send that white house worthless piece of dirt and his Muslim brotherhood a message they will never forget.”

And on March 15th…

“In a few weeks me and my team are going active for Operation Liberty. I will not be able to post no more. We will be the revolution, things will happen nationwide or in the states. They will call us many names and spin things around on media. Just remember we fight to stop Marxism, liberalism, Central banking Cartels and the New World Order.”

He was arrested after meeting with three undercover FBI agents who were pretending to be interested in helping him rob an armored car, and providing him with C-4 explosives. He also told the undercover agents that he planned to locate and kill a police officer who arrested him for drunk driving.

Now, call me crazy, but I have a feeling that if Talbot had been, instead, a Muslim man plotting to blow up Christian churches, that this is something that would have made the news cycle, in pretty heavy rotation. Despite the fact that two people with a similar ideology once committed one of the most tragic incidents of terrorism on U.S. soil, it is highly unlikely that other like-minded folks–like Larry Klayman and friends–will be put on the do-not-fly list anytime soon.

The if-he-was-Muslim point is almost too obvious to bother making – replace white with brown and Lord with Allah and we'd have a full-blown media circus on our hands. This raises two useful questions. First, is the problem that the media didn't pay enough attention to this jackass or that it pays far, far too much to other would-be terrorists? Realistically this guy posed a minimal threat to the public; anyone stupid enough to post stuff like this on Facebook is going to attract undercover FBI/ATF agents like a ham attracts starving dogs. This story isn't a big deal, and that's the point. Most of the Great Big Terrorism Scares involve bumbling dipshits who couldn't rob a liquor store without getting caught (e.g., the Fort Dix plotters in 2007) yet the media routinely turns every example into a 9/11 near miss. Lots of people plan things, yet it's only when white people do the planning that the media are able to distinguish between a plan and a realistic threat to the public. Strange.

Second, how much of the activity on the Militia/"Patriot"/Ultra-right in the U.S. is abetted by the indignant howling that conservatives do whenever law enforcement suggests that, you know, gun-toting lunatic McVeigh types pose a greater threat than Scary Foreign Muslims? Perhaps it has been too long since Oklahoma City and Americans forget what kind of people make up the survivalist Right. Maybe the terror acts perpetrated by non-U.S. citizens have simply been better executed and therefore more memorable. Or maybe a significant minority of American conservatives think that plotting to overthrow the government is a reasonable response to electing a moderate Democrat to the White House. Hmm.

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Posted in Rants on April 7th, 2014 by Ed

Over time I've learned the futility of trying to interact with people in comment sections on the vast majority of websites. The odds of changing someone's opinion are so very low when the opinions they express are of the Thought Terminating Cliche variety or some subliterate expression of racism. Sometimes I wonder if the people commenting on news sites are even people as opposed to paid astroturfers or spamming software; it is only the doubt that a computer could be programmed to generate anything as stupid as the average Journal-Sentinel Online comment that convinces me of the human touch behind them.

(Seriously, the JSO has the worst comment sections I've ever seen. The three regions in Wisconsin are apparently Milwaukee, Madison, and 1950s Mississippi.)

There are only two comments I ever find myself tempted to make anymore. One is to point out during bitch sessions about lazy employees (usually Union Thugs) that the lard-assed white guys making these comments are most likely at work browsing the internet and posting inane comments on the company dime. The second is to ask people why they have not quit whatever job they have in order to become teachers. Because boy oh boy, to listen to right-wingers tell it, teaching is the sweetest, cushiest, most lucrative racket posing as a career ever devised by man. And part of me always wants to ask these people what keeps them from boarding this mighty gravy train. Summers off! Enormous salaries! Cadillac health care and retirement packages! No real work to do, just glorified babysitting! Ironclad Union Thug protection! Teaching is just a big pot of gold delivered in installments.

Since regional shortages of K-12 teachers are real and demonstrable, there are only two reasons that the average internet commenter / AM Radio Caller would not take advantage of such a sweet deal. One is that they are so professionally successful that even the gold plated deal given to teachers can't hold a candle to their wealth. Since these people are sitting around during business hours posting barely coherent comments on the internet, I will assume that this is not the case for most of them. The second is that they lack the intelligence or attention span required to get a Bachelor's Degree and a teaching certificate.

For a very small percentage of these blowhards there might be a third reason: in the back of their minds they realize exactly how miserable and thankless being a high school teacher is in 2014. They realize while making snide comments about "planning periods" and "summers off" that teaching K-12 is a life of ten-plus hour days, taking work home every night and weekend, surrogate parenting the dozens of students who have effectively no adult guardian, and opening up the newspaper to read about how teachers are Public Enemy #1 in post-Koch Brothers America. All that for a starting salary in most states just north of $30,000 and the incessant interference of every Teabagger and young Earth creationist who manages to talk the local car dealerships into buy him into the state legislature.

Sure, teaching is a blast. And it's super easy as long as you never have to make a lesson plan, grade a stack of 50 poorly executed assignments, listen to screaming parents, talk for six or seven hours per day to an audience that bores almost immediately, and quasi-parent the seven year old who's wearing shorts during a blizzard because his mom disappeared on a bender a couple days ago and he doesn't know where his clothes are. Do all of that without losing your temper, drinking at lunchtime, punching a student (or coworker, or parent), or forgetting that people in the capitol want to tie your salary to your students' grades.

When teaching at the college level feels difficult, my colleagues and I like to remind ourselves that, well, at least we don't teach high school. Our hats tip to the people who do and don't have the luxury of telling a student "You're an adult, I don't care if you do this or not" or seeking cover behind a law that prevents us from dealing with whiny parents. But perhaps I have it all wrong and the life of a middle- or high school teacher is all breaks, handing out worksheets, and sitting on the beach all summer eating bon-bons. I encourage more people who believe this is the case to sign up for the World's Easiest Job and try their hand at it.