The XX Factor

Self-Proclaimed Patriots Calling for Sedition

Today, a group of right-wing extremists plans to gather on the riverbanks of the Potomac brandishing weapons and making seditious threats, all while issuing mealy-mouthed denials about the hard-on they have for violence. The rally falls on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma federal building bombing , and while the “patriots” gathering officially claim to be inspired by other events, the similarities between the modern militia movement and the one that spawned Timothy McVeigh make this claim hard to believe. There haven’t been any shootings at similar rallies, but since today is the big day for the gun-wavers, there’s reason to be concerned.

The good news is that, for most militia types, their love of violent fantasies is equaled only by their cowardice. If I were to generalize about right-wing extremists, I’d say they’re mostly a bunch of people standing around hoping someone else does something-and that someone else faces the consequences. No one can throw one of their own under the bus faster than right-wing extremists. When one of them periodically takes the nonstop drumbeat of violent rhetoric seriously and does something like shoot an abortion provider or attack a federal building, you can bet his comrades in gun-brandishing will suddenly pretend like they’ve never heard of the man. I was mildly surprised to see some of Scott Roeder’s buddies testify in his favor at his sentencing for the murder of Dr. George Tiller. I have to assume the defense attorney had to sign 15 different documents assuring them they wouldn’t be held accountable as co-conspirators if they showed their faces in public.

So this is probably going to be the standard operating procedure for these open-carry rallies. They’ll show up, wave their guns around to scare people, wish that someone else would stand up and make some Hollywood-style speech in order to spur them to action, wait around for that to happen some, get bored and go home.

My real concern is that this escalation of violent rhetoric is going to continue to inspire lonely men with nothing to lose to martyr themselves for the cause.