The Internet offers a dark social network for militiamen and real soldiers. A July 2008 FBI intelligence report by the bureau's counterterrorism division warned that white-supremacist leaders were encouraging followers to "infiltrate the military as 'ghost skins' in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement." (The report said the hate-group leaders were especially interested in planting moles without any documented history with neo-Nazi groups or "overt racist insignia such as tattoos" so they could more easily slip by military recruiters. The FBI identified 203 people with confirmed or claimed military service who were active in ex-tremist groups. On the NewSaxon.org Web site for white supremacists, a blogger called "shadowman" posted a photo of a U.S. Army enlisted man in camouflage carrying a weapon with the boast "i am a professional killer?.?.?.?a soldier born of war." The Defense Department has long had a "zero tolerance" policy for membership in extremist groups, but last November the Pentagon quietly tightened its regulations governing such activity, a Pentagon official confirmed to newsweek. Not only are service members barred from "active participation" in such groups, they also may not "actively advocate supremacist doctrine, ideology, or causes," according to a copy of the Pentagon regulation.There's a lot more of this out there, and it's growing daily. And for the sin of pointing them out, Newsweek will be called racist, they will be called traitors who weaken our military during a time of war, they will be called all sorts of things.
It is hard to know how much such grim fantasies are stirred by the steady stream of conspiracy theories pushed by talk-radio hosts. Rush Limbaugh talks about the Democrats planning to "kill you" with health-care reform and suggests (agreeing with black Muslim minister Louis Farrakhan, of all people) that it "seems perfectly within the realm of reality" that the H1N1 vaccine was "developed to kill people." Like many talk-show hosts, he uses martial language to rouse the faithful: "The enemy camp is the White House right now," he says. Former Alaska governor turned media star Sarah Palin posted on her Facebook page a list of House Democrats who voted for health-care reform with crosshairs aimed at their home districts, while tweeting to her followers, "Don't Retreat, Instead—RELOAD!" She strongly denied any intent to incite violence. Other conservative talkers insist their foes are preparing violent attacks on them. Glenn Beck of Fox News is the master purveyor of this particular brand of sly paranoia. He suggests that he will be the victim of violence. "I'd better start wearing a [bulletproof] vest" to guard against White House attacks, he says, and warns that the Democrats will sic goons on him to break his kneecaps. Some talk-show hosts see the risk of going too far. Bill O'Reilly, the top-rated talker on Fox News, interviewed Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers in February and treated him coolly. After the interview O'Reilly said to his audience, "We have a system to uphold the Constitution. It is called the judicial branch. The Supreme Court. The Oath Keepers are not the system." Wise words, but it's a sign of disturbing times that O'Reilly felt required to say them.
It doesn't change the fact that these people are out there, stoking the fires. And they will continue to do so right until they lose control of the beast they unleashed.