Feature

Extremism: An environmental terrorist?

Last week, James Lee, an “environmental radical” with obsessive concerns about population growth and global warming, walked into the headquarters of the Discovery Channel strapped with explosives.

Finally, a violent, hate-spewing nut job who can’t be blamed on conservatives, said Peter Roff in U.S. News & World Report. James Lee, an “environmental radical” with obsessive concerns about population growth and global warming, walked into the headquarters of the Discovery Channel in suburban Washington, D.C., last week, strapped with explosives. His demands included scrapping shows like Kate Plus Eight, which, in Lee’s view, promoted the birth of more “parasitic human infants.” The ensuing four-hour standoff ended when a police sniper shot and killed Lee. Later, said Investor’s Business Daily in an editorial, it emerged that Lee was strongly influenced by Al Gore’s anti–global warming crusade, which takes a “dim view of the impact mankind has on the planet.” But “no one will blame Al Gore for inciting hate and violence.” In the media’s weird double standard, Sarah Palin, Fox News, and the Tea Party are blamed for “inciting violence” on a weekly basis, but people who see humans as a blight on the planet get a pass. 

“Lord, have mercy,” said Michelle Cottle in The New Republic. Must we turn every tragic incident involving a clearly deranged individual into a “partisan slapfest?” Conservative pundits have been nothing short of gleeful about Lee’s meltdown, branding him a “violent liberal environmentalist” and “liberal ecoterrorist.” In fact, Lee was simply “a deeply messed-up guy” who lost his job, suffered deaths in his immediate family, and eventually became homeless. He was “far from any sort of winger—left or right.” Sometimes, “a nut is just a nut.”

At times, unfortunately, it would appear that America is full of nuts, said Ross Douthat in The New York Times. Polls show that 20 percent of Americans believe President Obama is a secret Muslim, and that a third of Democrats believe George W. Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened. What should we make of these polls? Not all that much. They serve mainly as evidence for both liberals and conservatives to caricature the other side, and thus defuse legitimate criticism of your side. During the Bush administration, conservatives preferred to ridicule the conspiracy theories of “the angry Left,” rather than face “the disaster Iraq had become.” Today, liberals would rather “fret about the insanity of the Republican base” than confront the reasons for Barack Obama’s declining popularity. Individual nuts can be dangerous, but “over all, Americans have more to fear from the folly of establishments.”

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