A different kind of political correctness

In a few too many cases, we appear to be moving towards a new kind of political correctness: Americans should be careful not to say or do things that might hurt conservatives’ feelings.

A few months into the Obama presidency, the Department of Homeland Security released reports about ideological extremists, alerting officials to potentially violent groups and organizations. Republicans and conservative activists threw quite a tantrum — even though the report was commissioned by the Bush administration, conservatives decided concerns about violent radicals attacking Americans may have been referencing them.

The right’s hysterics looked pretty silly when there were a series of violent incidents involving home-grown extremists, suggesting DHS was correct to issue the reports. But the response from Republicans and their allies was so intense — some unhinged GOP lawmakers even called for Janet Napolitano’s resignation — there’s now less scrutiny of domestic threats.

The Department of Homeland Security has stepped back for the past two years from conducting its own intelligence and analysis of home-grown extremism, according to current and former department officials, even though law enforcement and civil rights experts have warned of rising extremist threats.

The department has cut the number of personnel studying domestic terrorism unrelated to Islam, canceled numerous state and local law enforcement briefings, and held up dissemination of nearly a dozen reports on extremist groups, the officials and others said.

So, let me get this straight. There are growing numbers of home-grown extremists who may commit acts of violence against Americans, but officials are deliberately steering away from investigations because Republicans threw a tantrum in 2009 and the Department of Homeland Security is being deferential to conservatives’ fragile egos.

Indeed, it appears that the DHS unit responsible for the 2009 report has been “effectively eviscerated,” and much of its work related to white supremacists and “the sovereign citizens movement” has been “blocked.” We’re now at the point at which DHS has “not reported in depth on any domestic extremist groups” in two years — in large part because of Republicans throwing a ridiculous fit.

It’s not uncommon for conservatives to complain that political correctness might make the United States less safe. The irony of the complaints is rich.