I’ve had 24 jobs at last count, ranging from three hours delivering pizza for Domino’s to 23 years as a U.S. diplomat. Now, I finally can add the title of Senior “Far-Right” Fellow to my resume.
Of course, that last part is a joke. So is “The Pyramid of Far-Right Radicalization,” a diagram displayed by college professor Michael Loadenthal at a seminar called “Extremism, Rhetoric, and Democratic Precarity” at the University of Dayton in 2021.
In the diagram, bedrock conservative institutions including The Heritage Foundation and the Republican Party form the pyramid’s base. (Heritage is The Daily Signal’s parent organization.) Some obscure, far-right organizations, represented by their logos, occupy the top of the pyramid.
Although Loadenthal recently claimed that the chart “is not meant to imply that engaging with level 1 inherently leads to level 4,” it’s hard to see what else it conveys. It looks like level 1 (the base of the Pyramid of Far-Right Radicalization) leads inexorably to the levels above it unless you take Loedenthal’s reeducation seminars.
This concept isn’t just stupid, it’s dangerous. The Democratic and Republican parties are both big-tent political organizations operating within the American constitutional framework. The two major parties disagree on policy but are supposed to share certain values, starting with revering the Bill of Rights.
Any American reader with half an ounce of sense can tell the difference between the Daily Mail and The Daily Stormer on the right, and between The Washington Post and the Communist Party of Cuba’s Granma on the left.
Unfortunately, too few American students are competent in civics and history, which makes it even more important that the federal government not lie to them by whipping up fear of phantom menaces.
Last year, a Department of Homeland Security initiative called the Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program gave the University of Dayton $352,109 to “raise awareness of the radicalization to violence process.”
Now, it wouldn’t be fair to assume that just because the University of Dayton hosted the biased 2021 seminar described above, the school would be incapable of providing more balanced content a year later. That’s called guilt by association.
But given the general leftist bias in higher education, careful scrutiny of every DHS grant proposal for bias and responsible content would be in order.
Although DHS can plausibly deny that the university to which it gives taxpayer money previously hosted events tarring everyone to the political right with the same radical brush, one should ask what they are even doing in this space to begin with.
As Heritage Foundation national security expert James Carafano told me:
When the Department of Homeland Security was stood up, we warned it should stay away from getting involved in domestic security. It was created to deal with external threats. As feared, DHS has been weaponized as a political instrument. This happened because they committed the original sin of drifting from the core mission—what the department was created to do.
Because of concern about this mission drift by the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, Congress is holding hearings on the weaponization of the federal government. We saw this when the FBI sent way too many cars, guns, and agents to arrest pro-life activist Mark Houck, or when the Justice Department appeared to collude with the National School Boards Association to intimidate concerned parents from speaking up at school board meetings, or when DHS briefly set up a Disinformation Governance Board in a direct challenge to free speech. (Remember Scary Poppins?)
Now, DHS clearly thinks it is in the business of controlling domestic opinions. Mike Howell, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, calls the DHS grant program an example of “weaponized government” in service of the Biden administration’s “need to build a narrative that there are white supremacists everywhere … neo-Nazis everywhere.”
But this narrative is hard to sell when there are so few actual white supremacists. The last two “Nazis” highlighted by the media, one who opened fire on shoppers in a Texas mall and another who ran a truck into the White House fence, were a Latino and a South Asian, respectively.
Evidence be damned, the Left’s answer is just to keep talking about the right-wing monster and make it sound bigger and scarier.
Take President Joe Biden’s recent speech at Howard University’s graduation ceremony. Instead of telling the audience of elite black graduates about the incredible opportunities that await them in the world’s most dynamic economy, in the world’s least racist nation, Biden chose yet again to talk about “crazed neo-Nazis with angry faces” and claim that “the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is white supremacy.”
Race-based extremism does exist in America, in (fortunately) rare and obscure varieties from William Pierce’s “The Turner Diaries” to Elijah Muhammad’s “Supreme Wisdom.” But any actual danger concerns a dispersed, fringe element in a country of 350 million.
In 2022, the Anti-Defamation League claimed that a total of 18 murders in the U.S. were “committed in whole or part for ideological motives.”
To put that in proportion, about 22,900 Americans were murdered in 2021. Of these, a disproportionate number of both victims and perpetrators are young, male residents of cities where prosecutors have decided to stop doing their jobs or legislators have defunded, demoralized, and intimidated their police forces into backing off from enforcing the law. The city of Philadelphia alone has seen 177 homicides since January.
While state and local governments face this real problem, the Department of Homeland Security has a slush fund of $40 million to spend on the vastly inflated threat of domestic terrorism. Apart from funding indoctrination seminars and policing speech, much of this money is going for purposes that are clearly local responsibilities.
Take a proposal from Berkeley County, West Virginia, under DHS’ Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program. It calls for a “sustainable, county-wide communication plan with standardized protocols regarding violent crime.”
This seems like a good idea, but surely it is a county or state competency, not a federal one? Also using money from the DHS grant program, the city of Sacramento, California wants to spend $600,000 to use “theater arts exercises … to engage students in practicing nonviolent solutions.”
Fine, if California wants to spend its own money on this program, but how exactly would it use my federal tax dollars to protect the homeland? Would the 9/11 hijackers have been deterred by theater games?
The FBI, DHS, and other federal agencies have been ideologically captured at the top. They need reform and reorientation to the public, not party, interest.
Yet, conservatives—and all Americans—can’t give up the high ground of these institutions, which are funded by our taxes and which hold great power over our lives. In the wrong hands, this power can be despotic.
We must hold federal agencies accountable, defend the good elements inside who resist the leftist lurch, and enforce ideological neutrality.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal