Anti-liberal propaganda has been ramping up for years. Former Fox News host Glenn Beck, who was cited as an inspiration for at least three rightwing extremists accused of committing or plotting violence, called himself a “progressive hunter” and attempted to rebrand Hitler as a leftist. Anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney routinely warns of a “red-green” alliance between liberals and violent Islamist terrorists. But the people behind a website called “Target of Opportunity” (motto: “Eliminating the planet of liberals one at a time”) have taken things several steps further, creating a “Hit List” profiling supposed liberal enemies of America.
“This website is a list and record of people that betray and endanger America by their Seditious, Treasonous, and/or Terrorist activities,” its homepage reads. “Operating under the false illusion of Peaceful and Non-Violent activism, their methods are anything but Peaceful and Non-Violent. These people present a serious threat to all Americans. Each and every one of them should be considered a “TARGET OF OPPORTUNITY.”
Beyond lies a mission statement proclaiming the website’s devotion to “fighting Terrorism and the forced integration of Marxist oriented ideas and values into the American mainstream,” and a “Hit List” of “groups and people that pose a considerable threat to the citizens of America.”
Some of those listed, like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front (ALF/ELF), have a long history of violence. Others, like the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, which publishes communiqués from underground activists, are linked to violent activists but are not known to engage in violence. A third set includes outspoken individuals with whose politics, typically socialist, anarchist, or pro-Palestine, TOO’s creators vigorously disagree.
Its open use of the term “hit list” notwithstanding, TOO is hardly the first example of radical activists using the Internet to publicize names of individuals they want silenced. Anti-abortion extremist Neal Horsley pioneered the technique in the late 1990s with his “Nuremberg Files” site, which lists the names and locations of abortion practitioners and clinics across the country. On the left, the approach has been used by animal rights extremists like Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), six of whose members were found guilty in 2006 of using the Internet to terrorize the employees and business associates of a pharmaceutical research company that uses animals to test drugs and chemicals. More recently, the radical animal liberation group Negotiation is Over (NIO) has begun posting pictures, names, addresses and other personal information about scientists who use animals in their research, urging activists to attack them and offering its followers suggestions about how to carry out those attacks.
(Ironically, SHAC is among the groups named on TOO’s Hit List. So is Steve Best, a philosophy professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who is intimately involved with NIO and rationalizes violence against “animal oppressors” by saying that “since [animals] cannot defend themselves … humans must act on their behalf” – using violence, if necessary.)
TOO insists that its hit list exists for educational purposes only and that it does not want to “stop anyone from exercising their Right of Free Speech or expressing themselves however they choose.”
But the oversized, bold-printed banner at the bottom of its mission statement strongly suggests otherwise. “This is a call to action! These anti-American Liberals are dangerous people that can no longer be ignored! One person can make a big difference!” it says. “There are those that read about history. There are those that make history. Which one do you want to be? It is time to get involved. These people and organizations are Enemies of Freedom, the American people, and the American way of life!!! Each and every one should be considered a ‘Target of Opportunity.’”
In case there’s any doubt about what it means by “call to action,” TOO directs readers to “Misc Links – To Help You Get The Job Done.” Several lead to online purveyors of ammunition, knives and survival gear.
The rest of the website is devoted to “educating” newcomers about the “liberal threat.” One section lists “Anti-American, Racist, and Terrorist” websites, from which readers can get to know the “enemy.” In keeping with the far right’s tendency to lump together everyone it doesn’t like under the label “leftist,” the list of enemy sites includes genuine purveyors of hate like Stormfront, Nation of Islam, and the National Alliance; radical leftwing entities like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front; old-fashioned lefties like Michael Moore and MoveOn.org; and Al Jazeera English, the award-winning English-language version of the Arabic-language news network.
Readers seeking inspiration from “The True America” are directed to a list of sites including Peter Brimelow’s white nationalist VDARE; the racist and immigrant-hating National Policy Institute; Pam Geller’s virulently anti-Muslim blog Atlas Shrugs; the nativist extremist Minuteman Civil Defense Corps; and Joseph Farah’s far-right WorldNetDaily, an online publication best known for its relentless “birther” propaganda.
A 265-point questionnaire titled “Are you a liberal” includes statements like “You believe America deserved 9/11”; “You fail to see the connection between Lenin and Lennon”; “You believe that pornography should be federally protected as ‘Freedom of Speech,’ but public profession of Faith should be outlawed”; and “You only see white people and Jews as racists.”