Why are Americans unphased by domestic extremist groups?

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:

-A South Carolina Sovereign Citizen awaits execution for killing two lawmen in a standoff; in Texas,

-A Sovereign Citizen member faces attempted capital murder charges in the shooting of three men, two of them sheriff’s deputies.

-An Alaska sovereign citizen and five others are charged with plotting to kill two judges, state troopers and an IRS agent.

I mention these recent examples only to contrast with the flood of international (AQ) related terrorism news we view in the media. Terrorism conversations almost always focus on potential al Qaeda plots to the homeland; a rare and unsuccessful occurrence since the 9/11 attacks.
The ideology of domestic groups is often quite similar to that of al Qaeda and international extremist groups.  In terms of capability, Harpham’s IED appears to be the most sophisticated of these devices prepared in the U.S. to date.  The Hutaree videos suggest a significant military capability; well trained and well armed.  And for Kane and his son, they were toting AK-47’s with them in their car.  So why are Americans so worried about AQ and generally unconcerned about domestic extremist groups?   Here are a couple thoughts I have:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.