FBI Gonna Catch All Those Non-Existent Pro-Choice Violent Extremists, Because 'Both Sides'
Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray announced his new plans to deal with domestic terrorism. Some of it, as we have noted, was good. They will now be taking violent white supremacists more seriously, and that will probably save some lives.
Some of it, however, is stupid.
The really, really stupid thing is that in Wray's description of one of the domestic terrorism issues, "abortion violent extremism," he pretended as if the actual terrorism threats came from both anti-choice people and pro-choice people — referring to "people on either side of that issue who commit violence on behalf of different views on that topic."
The problem with that is, while the anti-choice crowd has killed lots and lots of people and bombed lots and lots of buildings, the pro-choice side has not done any of that. At all. For any reason.
When Wray's questioner, Rep. Karen Bass, pointed this out, he weaseled around it, later telling the Daily Beast about a time when a pro-choice person left a threatening comment on the internet.
Via Daily Beast:
His questioner, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), was puzzled at Wray's seeming equivalence: "People on either side of that issue don't commit violence." In fact, the FBI pointed The Daily Beast to just one episode of pro-choice-inspired terrorism—one that did not involve an actual act of violence, but rather a threat in an online comments section.
But Wray persisted: "Well, we've actually had a variety of kinds of violence under that, believe it or not. But at the end of the day." Bass asked, "Really, that blow up buildings and threaten doctors?" Rather than responding, Wray moved on to detailing the FBI's next domestic-terrorism category, one about "animal rights and environmental extremism."
As the Daily Beast points out, this isn't the first time the FBI has gone on about imaginary pro-choice terrorism, either.
In 2017, the FBI distributed a brief "Abortion Extremism Reference Guide" at a counterterrorism training for local law enforcement, listing "pro-choice extremists" as a group of domestic terrorists. The document, first reported by Jezebel, claimed that these extremists "believe it is their moral duty to protect those who provide or receive abortion services"—though even this document noted that only one "pro-choice extremist" had ever been prosecuted. Additionally, an earlier FBI training document obtained by the ACLU in 2012 referenced pro-choice violence but did not "provide a single example of violence against abortion opponents," the ACLU wrote.
I have a sinking suspicion that this has nothing to do with the FBI actually thinking there is any kind of hotbed of pro-choice violence anywhere in the country. I mean, we're certainly not the ones putting up kill lists on the internet. It's more likely that they are throwing it in there because, if they didn't, anti-choicers would feel attacked.
You know, like how the white supremacists felt this weekend over the FBI considering them a terrorist threat but not "antifa," just because of how they regularly kill people.
But the thing is, left-wing terrorism just isn't really a thing anymore, in general. At least not the kind that results in people dying. Pretty much the worst thing on our side are "eco-terrorists," but guess who's never killed anyone, ever? Unless you count Ted Kaczynski, but I think we all know that dude had other shit going on and wasn't clearly right- or leftwing.
The only people the Weather Underground killed were three of their own, and that was by accident. The Galleanist anarchist bombings of 1919 killed only one person who wasn't even a target, and while anarchists were suspected to have orchestrated the 1920 Wall Street bombing that killed 30 people, police never found who did it. Before that, you have the Los Angeles Times bombing by union activists that killed 21 people, and the assassination of McKinley by Leon Csogolsz.
Even in the cases of people like Assata Shakur, Leonard Peltier, and Mumia Abu Jamal — while they are all certainly leftwing people who were accused of killing people, they certainly weren't doing terrorism. In Peltier's case, many people (myself included) believe he is innocent, and in Abu Jamal's case, he was defending his brother against police brutality. The killing Assata Shakur is accused of committing happened during a shoot-out with police after a robbery.
Contrast that to rightwing extremists, who have killed 111 people since 9/11, and many, many before that. There's no legitimate "both sides" here. I'm not saying that terrorism that doesn't result in deaths shouldn't be taken seriously — of course it should — but it's certainly fair to acknowledge that it's not exactly equal.
And it's even less equal when it comes to abortion. I'm sorry, but pro-choice people are not going around killing or bombing anything. It's just not a thing. It would serve literally no purpose for us. And you can't say that "a threatening comment on the internet" is on the same level as bombing the Olympics.
There is no pro-choice equivalent to the Army of God, an actual terrorist organization that promotes violence against abortion providers. There is no pro-choice equivalent to 11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 4 kidnappings, 42 bombings, 188 arsons, 100 butyric acid attacks, 290 incidents of assault and battery, and more:
That's over 10,000 incidents of violence or attempted violence on one side, and an internet comment on the other. Now, I would be the last person to dismiss concerns over threatening comments on the internet. However, I would also say that one would be hard pressed to find an even minorly controversial subject that did not inspire threatening comments on the internet to some degree or another. There are probably people somewhere on the internet threatening to murder someone for disparaging their favorite K-Pop band right now, as we speak. Hell, there are people out there pretending to care about stuff they don't care about just to rile people up, just because they like trolling and getting a rise out of people.
What movement on earth can say that the absolute worst person that movement has ever attracted is someone who left a shitty comment on the internet one time? None that I can think of. Instead of being listed as a potential terrorist hotbed, the FBI ought to be giving us some kind of award.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse