Some groups are using the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing to stoke new fears in America of the threat of homegrown terrorism. One of them is U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. But this is not new for her…

Early in her watch, she issued an internal threat assessment that raised alarms, especially when it got leaked.

“The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recuitment.”

What?! This is not only playing loosely and irresponsibly with stereotypes, but is actually peddling racism to stoke fear.

It also targets our vets.

“Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to rightwing extremists. DHS/I&A is concerned that rightwing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities.”

Only when this report was made public and outraged decent American citizens and veterans groups and many congressional representatives did Napolitano come out and say ’sorry, I wish that part had been worded a little differently.’

That was exactly one year ago this week. It’s back.

From MSNBC Monday, April 19th:

Napoilitano said the bombing anniversary was a reminder of “the continued need for vigilance against the violent ideologies that led to this attack, so that we can recognize their signs in our communities and stand together to defeat them.”

What’s really troubling about this is the lack of uniform application of such vigilance in cases like Major Hasan, who shot up Ft. Hood and killed many innocent victims, though his radical extremism and dangerous rants were well known and documented by his colleagues and superiors. But he was treated with fuzzy political correctness by the press and politicians. Conservative Americans who oppose government intervention can be dangerous “right-wing extremists” but Muslim radicals who call for jihad must be tolerated under sensitivity to diversity.

Even former President Bill Clinton is generating fear and suspicion.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, he calls the demonization of government “dangerous” and says that some of the rhetoric legitimizes violence. “We can disagree with them [elected officials], we can harshly criticize them. But when we turn them into an object of demonization, we increase the number of threats.”

Where was this concern when President Bush was demonized? Where were any serious-minded members of the press during that reign of extremely tasteless and borderline dangerous vitriolic attacks against the president without respect for the office of the presidency of the United States?

Rhetorical question. We have this matter in front of us now, of media generating breathless reports of rallies across America by citizens “wrapping themselves in the flag” and rebelling against taxation, big government and limited freedoms, creating “new militias” that pose potential dangers of right-wing extremism.

Painting the Tea Party and other citizen movements as extremist and potentially dangerous is an effort to shut down opposition. That’s not the American tradition. We have to resist extremism. But we have to be alert to how extremism is being defined.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....