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The Erosion of Democracy: How the Political Right Will Benefit From the Events of 9/11

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As the FBI struggles to crack anthrax cases, authorities have definitely not ruled out the possibility that they maybe the work of a domestic extremist group. Popular perception points to Al Qaeda or some international organization.But with no definitive leads in the case, law-enforcement officials are looking back home. Many domestic terroristsare said to be obsessed with biological weapons–as evidenced by the hundreds of anthrax hoaxes perpetrated byright-wing groups, most often against abortion clinics.

In 1995, members of the Minnesota Patriots Council, an antigovernment group, were caught plotting to killlaw-enforcement officials with ricin, a toxin they manufactured using a kit ordered from a magazine. That same year,Larry Wayne Harris, a member of the Identity Christian Church who Democracy Now spoke to two weeks ago, managed toorder three vials of Yersina pestis, which causes bubonic plague, from a laboratory in Maryland. Harris was caughtand arrested, but three years later police found eight bags of what he boasted was weapons-grade anthrax in his car.The substance turned out to be anthrax vaccine. Harris’s ability to acquire even a nonlethal form of anthrax–andthe press his actions garnered–may have inspired other right-wing groups. Since 1998, the number of anthrax hoaxessent to abortion clinics spiked sharply.

Political Research Associates, a group that monitors and analyzes the political right in the US, has long believedthat the right wing will capitalize on events of the time to try to limit rights for some. After September 11th, PRApresident Jean Hardisty began touring around the country to talk about the continued erosion of democracy.


1) The prejudice, bigotry and bias so easily visible in American society will be unleashed with new fury on anyoneperceived as a potential “enemy” of American interests. Scapegoating has already begun as we read of harassment, andworse, against those seen as Arab, Muslim, South Asian, or even just “foreign.”

2) We fear that civil liberties will be curtailed in ways that are not justified by genuine security concerns.

3) President Bush has appointed a number of men to his administration who are veterans of previous US internationalwars, both overt and covert, and whose roles in those conflicts were morally questionable.


  • Jean Hardisty, President, Political Research Associates.

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