Walter Donway reports in the introduction of a very scary new bill.
The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (DTPA) of 2021, introduced into both houses of Congress on January 19, defines “terrorism” by reference to ideas or beliefs—in particular, the ill-defined term “white supremacism,” which is less an idea than a smear. The proposed legislation is an innovation not only in the United States, but for most world bodies, too, where “terrorism” has been defined strictly in terms of violent criminal acts.
One sponsor of DTPA says the “threat that reared its ugly head on January 6th is from domestic terror groups and extremists, often racially-motivated violent individuals …”
Another says DTPA is “to combat the threat of violent white supremacists and other domestic terrorists …”
Another says: “Homegrown, violent domestic terrorism from white supremacists, and other racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists, remains a serious ongoing threat that demands the full coordination and efforts of our federal law enforcement agencies.”
Another says: “White supremacy and domestic terrorist organizations have no place in America. Rhetoric from the outgoing president and right-wing political leaders have emboldened white nationalist groups to pursue violence as a means to an end.”
And: “DTPA directs DHS, DOJ, FBI, and the Department of Defense to establish an interagency task force to combat white supremacist infiltration of the uniformed services and federal law enforcement.” Infiltration? Surely terrorists must be outed from the police, military, and intelligence agencies?
These statements usually couple the term “white supremacism” with “violence,” but it could hardly be more obvious that “domestic terrorism” is violence connected with white supremacist and “other racially motivated” beliefs and ideas. The act now before Congress declares a viewpoint—one capable of infinite elasticity and only subjective “proof”—to be part of the nature and definition of “terrorism.” …
As we have seen, given the elasticity of the term “white supremacism,” it is used to mean “any racially or ethnically motivated” belief. Like opposing reparations. Or attacking quotas in university admissions. Or opposing defunding the police. Or opposing riots in cities. Or opposing the government funding of abortions. Or drawing negative conclusions about the disintegrating American family structure. Or opposing prioritizing Blacks for the COVID-19 vaccine. Or opposing removal of public statues. Or opposing the growth of the welfare state. All are now seen to contribute to the “white supremacist” atmosphere that fosters terrorism’s violence.
At a very minimum, DTPA portends a new and virulent leftwing McCarthyism. Allegations will be enough to destroy careers. The search will be on for “a terrorist under every bed.” One atrocity story, January 6, will be enough to cast all republicans, conservatives, libertarians, and objectivists under a pall. Periodicals, TV networks, social media sites, publishers, employers like universities and schools will all feel patriotically justified in excluding ideas they view as politically incorrect. And with almost everyone involved with ideas and opinions now on record and easily “searched” online, it will take five minutes to identify those against whom “our whole country must unite”—as against the “radicals,” the “commies,” and their “fellow travelers” during the McCarthy era. Mostly, the “Reds” were deemed unpatriotic, not American. This time around the designation is “terrorist” and the penalty is potentially decades in prison.
As usual, the first cases will have some plausibility. On January 15, Justin Stoll, a 40-year-old man from Wilmington appeared in court … He had posted on YouTube and elsewhere videos from the Jan. 6 riot, some allegedly including himself yelling aggressive comments. A woman online responded online that she had “saved” his video. Stoll took that as a threat and responded: “… you ever in your f—— existence did something to jeopardize taking me away from my family [sic], you will absolutely meet your maker…. And I will be the one to arrange [it].”
That could be five years for “interstate communication of a threat” and another 20 years for “intimidating a witness”—the woman “saving” the video. But this, of course is pre-DTPA and the charge is not terrorism. And whether the woman threatened is Black was not “of the essence” in the charge. But, notably, Stoll was arrested by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.
I offer this as the kind of plausible case with which DTPA prosecutions might begin. There was no violence, but there was a clear threat—although it sounds like a bit of swaggering and most death threats are not made as part of YouTube threads. But if “white supremacy” was clearly involved (again, say the woman threatened was Black), I think Stoll would be facing charges of terrorism.
The legislation could well pass; co-sponsors include Republicans. The New York Times almost daily runs front-page stories about the Jan. 6 violence to keep the crisis alive until the vote on the legislation.