13 Genesis 9:6. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” And in yet another difference with Identity believers, who make no apologies for the theological commandment that they exterminate Jews or “cleanse” the nation of “mud people,” most violent opponents of abortion frame their arguments in a way that justifies the use of deadly force in protection of the unborn in the same way as it might be justified in defending a living person. Abortion is thus seen as a “greater violence,” according to Blanchard, and this justified the use of violence to prevent it.
TIPPING POINTS FOR COMMITTING VIOLENCE While the theology adopted by violent individuals and groups often commands them to go to war against their perceived enemies, including the state, tangible, real-world events are much more likely to push them into action. Whether someone commits violence also is related to the general level of violence carried out by their peers in the movement. As an example, Zeskind cites the endemic violence and forcible resistance to integration during the 1960s that “certainly created a dynamic in which people who might not otherwise have participated in violence didn’t hesitate to do so.” There is an individual tipping point, but also a movement tipping point, Zeskind observes, and the latter is no less important than the former; in fact both can be closely related. The development of a culture of resistance to the state—especially to the criminal justice system, law enforcement, and the courts—accompanied by a “war mentality” also primes people to act more abruptly than they might otherwise. This process is described another way by Blanchard as encapsulation, when people start isolating themselves from those who do not agree with them and live their lives in an environment where alternative ideas or explanations aren’t permitted. “Individuals can exist in a world with people who they don’t agree with but also don’t relate to in any meaningful way,” explains Blanchard. Under these conditions, the tendency to commit violence can be increased. All the experts interviewed agreed that it is not possible to end all the violence because some individuals are simply going to take action spontaneously or as a result of planning that is undetectable in advance. That being said, specific tipping points that were cited include: State violence, or the perception thereof, that allows people to justify their own personal violent actions. This was the case with the reaction of many people in the militia movement (including McVeigh) to the events
in Waco. Generally speaking, the more disproportionate the state violence is to the actual offense, the greater the likelihood that there will be a violent response. In the case of the anti-abortion movement, abortion is seen as killing on a massive scale akin to war, which thereby justifies the use of violence to stop it. A specific event that concretizes the general belief that “the stranger”—which in biblical terms according to many Identity adherents translates to mean non-whites or Jews—is “ruling over” white people. This dynamic appeared to be present when Richard Wayne Snell murdered Louis Bryant, a black Arkansas state patrolman, during a routine traffic stop. Similarly, many of the individuals who commit violence already have moved a considerable distance away from mainstream society, either physically, culturally, or both. Despite this considerable distancing, a perception that society is moving in on them often dominates. Sometimes the perception that they are being intruded upon is enough to trigger violence. “There’s nearly always a path to violence,” according to Moore. “Many people start with a grievance. Then they undergo a process of ideation. Some may feel that picketing may be sufficient to fulfill their need to address the grievance, but for others it may fall short. These people then may decide to do more.” There can sometimes be a desire for self-gratification that occurs related to the violence because the act brings the perpetrator societal recognition as well as acknowledgement by peers. “This can have a particularly significant effect on people who feel that they might not otherwise be leading lives that contribute very much to society,” says Moore. A seemingly innocuous government process can sometimes spur individuals or groups to violence. The violent shooting spree carried out by Benjamin Nathanial Smith after Church of the Creator leader Matthew Hale was denied his law license by the Illinois Bar Association is one example. Decisions by courts or actions by government that further constrain the options and effectiveness of the group or movement can also be a factor. The first tipping point for the anti-abortion movement came with the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which established a new legal right to an abortion. Ironically, passage of the FACE Act also led people to take more drastic actions as they came to believe that they had no other choice but to engage in violence to accomplish their goals. Just two months after President Clinton signed the bill into law, Paul Hill shot and killed Dr. John Britton and his escort in Pensacola, Florida. Although the very first murders occurred before passage of FACE, the rise in murders of clinic personnel coincided with passage of the act.
Published on Jul 23, 2010