It's very easy to write off extreme right-wing fringe groups as unworthy of our sensitivities when the FBI uses thug tactics against them.
Take the poor guy in Idaho whose wife was shot dead by the FBI. "She was not wanted for any crime," the man, Randall Weaver, testified to Congress the other week. "There were no warrants for her arrest. At the time she was gunned down, she was helpless. She was standing in the doorway of her home." In her arms she held the couple's 10-month-old daughter.
After hearing his narration of the events at Ruby Ridge, Sen. Charles E. Grassley said, "The swashbucklers are in charge and it has to stop now."
Mr. Weaver went to live in the mountains because he feared the overthrow of the U.S. government and other cataclysmic happenings. Was his paranoia justified, and will it reinforce similiar feelings from other extremist groups and more than a few people who don't hold extremist views at all? Like you and me?
I find it equally scary that the full force of the FBI is being unleashed to determine whether Calvin Klein used under-age models for his raunchy jeans ads. Scary because the government has sicked the G-men on Calvin to show right-wingers that Democrats are not soft on kiddie porn.
Or am I being paranoid here? It's one thing for the FBI to use excessive zeal in pursuit of bad guys who were illegally selling sawed-off shotguns or running a religious cult involved in possibly molesting children or a man suspected of involvement in the Oklahoma City bombing. You could argue they were only trying to do their jobs.
But what makes the Calvin Klein investigation so outrageous is that the FBI in this case clearly isn't doing its job. For the FBI to be used for blatant political purposes, people outside the Justice Department had to give their encouragement and blessing.
"I cannot remember in the 30 years I've been in the business, any case where the FBI has investigated an advertisement," said Felix Kent, senior partner in a law firm specializing in ad matters.
The advertising community is taking all of this quite calmly. "We have had no feedback from members either way on the FBI's investigation into Calvin Klein," said a spokesperson for the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
And maybe the whole thing is not as big a deal as I'm making it out to be. Maybe the affair is just the FBI's way of saying it's sorry to the white supremacist groups and fanatic religious cults for using just a little bit of excessive force in going after some of their people. That, you must admit, would be a refreshing change-for the government to own up to its mistakes.
And if you buy that maybe I can sell you on the idea that Mark Fuhrman, by taking the Fifth, has nothing to hide.