A recent 60 Minutes episode detailed the actions of a particularly violent member of the Sovereign Citizen movement. When Jerry Kane killed two law enforcement officers in Arkansas, the media portrayed Kane as just a crazed man committing a random act of violence. His membership in the Sovereign Citizen movement was never fully addressed in the press until recently.
Kane is a member of one of many U.S. domestic anti-government or apocalyptic-ideological groups that have grown substantially in recent years. Aggressively ascending amidst the financial meltdown and political rabble rousing, these domestic extremist groups, in my opinion, pose a dangerous threat unnoticed by most Americans. Here is a quick recap of just a few of many recent domestic terrorism cases in the U.S.:
- Jerry Kane and other Sovereign Citizen affiliated violence to include:
- Hutaree group arrests in the spring of 2010- Hutaree members were arrested for sedition and weapons violations. These individuals are members of a Christian separatist group advocating a separate breakaway state in the U.S. and preparing for a battle coinciding with the apocalypse. See one of their training videos here.
- 2011 MLK Parade IED Plot- In March, the FBI arrested Kevin William Harpham for planting an IED along a MLK Parade route in Spokane, WA. Harpham allegedly had connections with the Neo Nazi group National Alliance.
- Psychological impact of 9/11 – The scale of the 9/11 attacks and its repeated portrayal in the media has permanently frightened Americans instilling the belief (an untrue one) that AQ can attack any and all U.S. citizens in North America at any given time. Meanwhile, domestic extremist attacks lack the visual impact of the 9/11 attacks, occur in places not routinely covered by the media and occur in small numbers by a variety of groups thus making it difficult for the public to collectively recognize. Meanwhile, every act of international violence covered in the media seems to be attributed to an amorphous, ill-defined al Qaeda. In reality, it’s far more plausible that an American citizen will be threatened by violence from Mexican drug cartels or domestic extremist groups than al Qaeda.
- Lack of a cultural divide for domestic extremist groups- Much of the fear surrounding al Qaeda comes from Americans generally not understanding foreign cultures. Al Qaeda’s ideology, motivations, and tactics seem very threatening to most Americans because these terrorists emerge from Middle Eastern, North African or South Asian cultures. When Americans see coverage of a domestic extremist attack (such as Jerry Kane), they immediately dismiss his actions to that of a crazy man committing a random act of violence. Rarely are the actions of these white Americans attributed to a larger organization or ideology until long after the story has left the headlines. When I’ve traveled overseas and talked to locals (in Kenya for example), they similarly dismissed the violence of one or two local AQ members as that of fanatics. Essentially, we are all more frightened by the devil we don’t know than the devil we do know.
What are some other reasons that Americans seem so disinterested in domestic extremist groups? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.