ISIS death toll in America: 0. Domestic terrorist death toll in Charleston: 9.
Unless you’re totally clueless – unless, say, you’re a Fox Newsbot or a troll with sawdust between your ears – you’ll get my point. We spend so much time worrying about murderous foreign Muslims (Lindsey Graham says we gotta stop ISIS “before we all get killed here at home”) that we are routinely blind to the clear and present danger. I’m talking about the home-grown haters who marinate in the toxic American stew.
Dylann Roof – who has reportedly confessed - is a domestic terrorist right out of central casting. As the Department of Homeland Security warned in a report six years ago, “white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat, because of their low profile and autonomy – separate from any formalized groups.”
He Meets the Definition Fueled by his hatred of black people, he’s a classic domestic terrorist as defined by the U.S Code of Federal Regulations: “The unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Yet, amazingly (OK, not so amazingly), some people can’t bring themselves to call this kid what he is. They don’t see the terrorism. They don’t see the racism. They won’t concede that, all too often in America, a twisted misfit can get a gun almost as easy as a candy bar. Instead of connecting the dots, they lie to themselves, like they did yesterday on Fox News. Big letters on the bottom of the screen: Attack On Faith. Because, you see, this was not a hate crime (no matter what the Charleston police said), this was just another attack on Christianity.
Let’s connect those dots The willfully oblivious are advised to follow my words with their fingers, and move their lips if need be:
1. On his jacket, Roof wore flag patches honoring the old South Africa (the white racist apartheid regime), and the country formerly called Rhodesia (when it was a white racist regime). Both flags are popular on the numerous white supremacist websites.
2. Roof reportedly told a friend, Joseph Meek Jr., that blacks were taking over and that something had to be done to help the white race.
3. Another friend, Dalton Tyler, told ABC News: “He was big on segregation and other stuff. He said he wanted to start a civil war.”
4. John Mullins, another friend, says that Roof was known for his racist statements, “that kind of southern pride.”
5. Roof posed with a license plate honoring The Confederate States of America – the kind of “southern pride” that’s rampant in South Carolina, where the flag of treason flies daily on the State Capitol grounds. The flag, lest we forget, was founded by white supremacists who wrote in their manifesto that “the negro is not equal to the white man, that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”
6. At the Charleston church, Roof told a survivor that he had come “to kill black people….You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”
7. According to news reports this morning, Roof has told police that he wanted to start a race war.
Yup, Roof is a typical domestic specimen. As the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center documented in a ’12 report, right-wing extremists have averaged 337 attacks per year on American soil in the years since 9/11 – dwarfing the numbers attributed to left-wingers or American Muslims.
So let’s state the obvious: Roof should not be described as “a loner,” or “a disturbed individual.” He’s part of a pattern, an heir to the racist hatred that still stains our society, half a century after the civil rights movement. He’s a terrorist who committed violence against innocent civilians in furtherance of a political objective. The facts speak for themselves. And as the late southern historian Shelby Foote once observed, “Facts are just the bare bones out of which truth is made.”
Meanwhile the Confederate flag is flying this morning on the South Carolina Capitol grounds. The American flag atop the dome has been lowered to half-mast, the state flag has been lowered to half-mast…but, under state rules, the governor is powerless to lower the stars n’ bars. So let’s sing it:
“…And the racists’ dead glare / Their hate spewing in air / Gave proof through the night/ That their flag was still there…”
Dick Polman, former political writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, blogs at www.newsworks.org, where this column originally appeared.