Whose Ox Is Being Gored

In response to the congressional hearings being held by Representative Peter King of New York about so-called radicalization of U.S. Muslims many (mostly conservative) voices have dismissed concerns that the hearings may be seen as a sort of witch hunt against Muslims, hearkening back to the days of Japanese internment camps. The argument goes that no one outside of the small group plotting terrorist acts in the name of Islam should be worried by the hearings. Rep. King, we are told, is only probing those who pose a threat to the U.S., which does not include the vast majority of freedom-loving, American-flag-toting Muslims in the U.S. Never mind for the moment that King has had an anti-Muslim agenda for years, saying that it is unfortunate that "we have too many mosques in this country." Putting that aside, what interests me in regards to these hearings is actually the reaction from the right to a couple of things that happened in 2009 and late last year.

Way back in '09 the Department of Homeland Security released a report warning against right-wing extremism in this country. Immediately, concerned parties on the right, including Rep. King, cried foul, saying among other things that the report amounted to little more than an attack on conservatives. Though the report specifically targeted "rightwing extremists," that didn't stop conservatives from claiming they were the ones being targeted. Glenn Beck sarcastically proclaimed himself an extremist for predicting the country's economic meltdown and offering his viewers tips for "preparation" in response to the meltdown. Michele Bachman called it "a hammer coming down on interest group after interest group that apparently the Obama Administration perceives as a threat to us." Michelle Malkin called the report "a sweeping indictment of conservatives." And King criticized the report for looking at the wrong group, saying that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano "has never put out a report talking about look out for mosques. Look out for Islamic terrorists in our country. Look out for the fact that very few Muslims come forward to cooperate with the police.If they sent out a report saying that, there would be hell to pay." (You finally got your way, Representative King. So, is this hell to pay or just some Americans exercising their rights?)

And then there was the outrage from some conservatives that any of their actions might be associated with one "whack job" who acted alone and shot and killed a number of people in Tucson, Arizona last year. When that tragedy occurred, those voices pleaded with us to blame the individual and nothing more. Not society. Not rhetoric. Not signs with crosshairs. Certainly not them. Acts of violence, they said, are the responsibility of the individuals who commit them. We should not, they told us, look any further than those individuals.

Yet now we have a congressional hearing explicitly naming not individuals who have perpetrated acts of violence and terror, but a larger supposed trend. "Congressional investigation of Muslim American radicalization is the logical response," King states, to repeated warnings about homegrown terrorism. In other words, something greater than the "whack job" individuals.

And as these hearings began some of those who took offense to that DHS report couldn't see why others might worry that King's hearings looked like an attack on an entire group, even though they themselves felt attacked as a whole when another group of extremists was singled out. It is apparently impossible for them to take into consideration how this may be seen as a hearing against a religion and not against any sort of act of terrorism or individual acting with terroristic intent, even as they felt their whole ideology was in question by the label "rightwing extremists."

The hypocrisy is what really gets you, isn't it? Even if you don't disagree with the intent of the congressional hearings, you have to admit that, in the end, the response to such things just depends on whose ox is being gored.

Oh, and then there's this, which brings into question the very foundation upon which Rep. King is trying to stand:

This article originally appeared at utne.com.