- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Barack Obama, the Chicago messiah who promised to unite a fragmented nation, is succeeding beyond his dreams, and maybe even the dreams of his father, which he wrote about so eloquently in his campaign autobiography.

We’re all terrorists now.

The Department of Homeland Security, ever on the scout for opportunities to blow taxpayer money, commissioned one of those “studies” so popular among college professors, to find clues that would identify prospective terrorists before they blow up airplanes, bring down skyscrapers and otherwise wreak havoc.

The “new studies” show that just about everybody must be dreaming of terrorism, plotting mayhem and chaos and teaching others how to do it.

Something called the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (learned professors dream of being paid by the word) went to work at the University of Maryland and produced a $12 million magnum opus called “Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970-2008.” And not a moment too soon.

Islamic terrorism, the scourge of the civilized world, like bubonic plague in an earlier time, largely gets a pass; the study does not even mention the first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993 in the name of Allah. But the professors have got the number of the rest of us.

The NCSTRT, to use the popular acronym for the consortium, took definitions from a study it did last year called “Profiles of Perpetrators of Terrorism.” (Professors never tire of quoting themselves.) You might never guess who the perps who populate professorial dreams might be. These are some of the characteristics the feds at the Department of Homeland Security can use to identify terrorists: anyone who thinks his “way of life” is under attack, anyone “fiercely nationalistic,” “anti-global” or “suspicious of centralized federal authority,” or “reverent of individual liberty.”

These categories include, at one time or another, nearly all of us — liberals who continue to rail at how George W. Bush intended to do wicked things to dissenters, and conservatives who are saying similar things now about Barack Obama. Railing, some of it on target and some of it not, is what Americans do. Robust speech frightens the Department of Homeland Security and its minions, who are not, after all, necessarily steeped in the history, traditions and habits of the republic.

Some of this has made it into the mainstream press, so called, but much of it hasn’t, and the task of reporting it has often been left to Internet sites like prisonplanet.com and infowars.com that monitor the fine print of government regulations and handouts. “The most flagrant example,” reports prisonplanet.com, “was the infamous 2009 report published by the Missouri Information Analysis Center and first revealed by Infowars, which framed Ron Paul supporters, libertarians, people who display bumperstickers, people who own gold or even people who fly a U.S. flag, as potential terrorists.

“The rush to denounce legitimate political beliefs as thought crimes, or even mundane behaviors, by insinuating they are shared by terrorists, has accelerated in recent months. Under the FBI’s Communities Against Terrorism program, the bulk purchase of food is labeled a potential indication of terrorist activity.”

Who could have guessed that Costco or Sam’s Club, where everybody loads up hot dogs, pizza, sides of beef, fruit, vegetables and toilet paper by the ton and fruit juice and root beer in 60-gallon drums, are hotbeds of terrorist scheming. One program, under the aegis of the FBI, even calls using cash to pay for a cup of coffee suspicious, even though most coffee-shop cashiers frown on a customer paying for a $1.50 cup of coffee with a credit card.

Junk like this is of a piece with the continuing campaign to cast conservatives as nuts. It’s nothing new, there’s just more of it. A decade ago, a study by professors at California at Berkeley, Stanford and the University of Maryland, done for the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation, concluded that “social conservatives” suffer from “mental rigidity,” “dogmatism,” and “uncertainty avoidance,” together with “associated indicators of mental illness.” President Obama only said it more succinctly and more colorfully, that some Americans won’t vote for him because “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion.”

We’re all tempted sometimes to think those who disagree with us are crazy, but now comes the federal government to classify dissenters not merely nuts, but terrorists. Such is the new civility the president and his liberal friends commend to us.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.