The ABC’s Discerning Eye for Terror

their abcUnsurprisingly, the Home of the Free has a large number of people who despise the power of the state. Some of them apparently badge themselves as ‘sovereign citizens’, who believe they are not answerable to national laws. Effectively they are anarchists.

Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh is often invoked to illustrate what harm can be wreaked by such people. And it is a powerful illustration; there is no doubt of that. But to my mind, call me conspiratorial, I think the threat of this so-called right-wing extremism is being given extra prominence by the left to divert attention away from their pals, the Islamic supremacists. Enter the ABC.

Forget about ISIS, Islamists more generally, and even maybe – President Obama take note — climate change. According to an ‘authoritative’ report on 7.30 (30/11), a new threat has emerged which dwarfs all others. State-despising, right-wing extremists, called ‘sovereign citizens’, are out to harm us. Compere Leigh Sales underscored the threat to Australians.

Tonight, 7.30 can reveal police intelligence showing that sovereign citizens are also taking root in Australia, with 300 thought to be living in New South Wales alone…They don’t pay taxes or fines, they drive unregistered cars and they can be violent.

John O’Reilly, commander of the Counter Terrorism and Special Tactics Operation Group for NSW Police, was brought in to add verisimilitude to this threat. However, his admission that the police became aware of the threat by examining overseas trends was hardly convincing.

Intrepid reporter James Thomas, who authored the tale, was, plainly cognisant of the threat. He therefore sensibly chose to interview the most innocuous-looking Australian representative of these so-called sovereign citizens he could possibly find. “Did you ever plan to shoot the people that occupied your house when you were kicked out?” Thomas asked 73-year-old retired dentist John Wilson. “No. That’s silly,” Wilson replied. I half expected Thomas to turn to the camera and say, ‘Well, he didn’t deny it, did he?’

We were told that since 1995 in the US domestic anti-government extremists had murdered 32 law enforcement officers and that the Department of Homeland Security has put them as the number one domestic terrorist threat. Be careful here with definitions, Ms Sales, lest your viewers be led astray, which I know would draw the ire of Mark Scott.

In Homeland Security parlance, a domestic terrorist is not a home-grown violent extremist inspired or directed by a foreign terrorist group. So 9/11 and the Boston bombing were not domestic terrorism. Presumably, domestic terrorism, as defined by Homeland Security, is restricted to terrorism inspired by home-grown grievances: big government, abortion, animal rights and the like. It is not therefore surprising that those directing their violence against government bulk large in the threat.

According to the Heritage Foundation “there have been at least 60 Islamist-inspired terrorist plots against the homeland since 9/11.” I don’t know, but doubt, whether any of these have been categorized as domestic terrorism by Homeland Security. For the record, under the FBI’s definition they would, I understand, be regarded as domestic terrorism — which goes to show how tricky it can be to interpret information sourced from overseas.

I couldn’t verify the deaths of 32 officers at the hands of sovereign citizens since 1995 but I suspect that this number would fray around the edges if subjected to scrutiny. Unfortunately, in any event, it has to be weighed against an average, according to the FBI, of 64 law enforcement officers feloniously killed in the line of duty each year from 1980 to 2014. So in the time period in question around 1400 police officers were killed. In that context, 32 deaths, though tragic in themselves, represent only 2.3% of those feloniously killed in the line of duty. Clearly then, this isn’t the biggest risk facing police officers in the Unites States.

Bob Paudert, a former chief of the West Memphis Police Department was, it is fair to say, the principal witness for the prosecution. “ISIS is not the number one threat to Americans. The real problem and the real threat to Americans are the domestic terrorists in our own backyard…the FBI says that they’re the number one threat to law enforcement in this country. The number one threat. And yet five years ago, we didn’t know about them. Australia is facing a very similar scenario that we went through.”

Now Mr Paudent has good reason to be concerned and angry. His son, a police sergeant, was gunned down and killed in 2010 by a ‘sovereign citizen’. But that doesn’t make him right. Go onto the FBI’s official site and find listed the most wanted 27 terrorists. One is related to black power; one to animal rights and 25 to Islamic terrorism in one guise or another. There are no sovereign citizens.

The tale is as stretched as they come. If it were designed to distract us from the real threat of Islamic terrorism it couldn’t have been better designed. Here is Thomas again: “This domestic terror threat assessment [apparently from “police intelligence”] obtained by 7.30 reports links sovereign citizens to firearms, plans to shoot civilians, kidnap judges and murder sheriff’s officers. The document states that Australian sovereign citizens should be considered a potential terrorist threat.”

But wait, what’s this from Thomas: “Australia has not [my emphasis] experienced high-impact violence resulting in death or casualties associated with sovereigns overseas, but there are indications of radicalisation.” It is a comfort that at this stage there are only indications of radicalisation. Actual radicalisation and actual killings, well they belong to another unstated threatening development.

Now there are undoubtedly some eccentrics and nut-jobs in Australia styling themselves as sovereign citizens (or they will now) and some of them may turn violent but this hyping of the threat was as silly as they come. Surely the ABC can do better than this to lead us down the garden path. Even Simple Jack could see through it.

  • Hoppy

    It was a pathetic program the other night. I turned it off and read a magazine. And last night was no better.
    Leigh Sales and her team should take the night off every now and then, so the ABC could run something more interesting, like a test pattern.

    • denandsel@optusnet.com.au

      We/you still have to pay for the ABC. It is beyond comprehension that we are FORCED to fund those who would destroy us.

  • Jack Richards

    They are trying to smear everything they regard as “right wing” like the Reclaim Australia Movement and the ALA Party. They’re yelling “Look out the window! Quick! Look out the window!” while they swipe your wallet.

    What a load of rubbish it all was. The “We have nothing to fear from Islamic extremists – it’s our own people we need to fear! All those ignorant rednecks, bogans and Hansonites!”

  • Jody

    I’ve just seen Cory Bernardi on “Kitchen Cabinet”!! Very impressive, I must say. Annabel was excellent too and threw some curly questions at him – but not in a confrontational way.

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