Saturday, August 22, 2009

The anti-Obama teabaggers can't really pretend they don't attract far-right extremists anymore

-- by Dave

Bill O'Reilly did an interesting thing Wednesday night when he reran that footage of Barney Frank castigating that woman carrying an Obama-as-Hitler sign at his town-hall meeting on health care: He completely omitted the fact that the woman who Frank was castigating was in fact a member of the far-right Lyndon Larouche cult.

All O'Reilly could muster was to mention that the woman was "a political activist." But that's like calling a Great White Shark a fish.

No, right-wingers like O'Reilly have been eagerly airbrushing out the existence of right-wing extremists from their worldview for some time now, embodied by their reaction to that DHS bulletin. But it's getting harder and harder to do all the time now.

Because, as we've noted, the far-right extremists are bubbling up everywhere in supposedly mainstream conservative circles these days -- particularly at the tea parties and their associated health-care protests.

Most recently, it turns out that the guys who brought those guns to a health-care forum in Arizona in fact were longtime members of the old Arizona Vipers Militia. These were characters who, prior to their arrests in 1996, had stockpiled close to 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and conducted field training exercises, practiced bomb-making, and trained with illegal automatic weapons.

Now, all the Fox talkers have been in heavy denial about extremists showing up for their tea-party protests, even making a regular joke out of it by asking the protesters they have on their show if they're Klan members and the like.

But it's becoming clearer all the time that, while not everyone at these events is an extremist, the percentages of them keep going up and up. And with them, so does the threat to public safety.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Violence at immigrants' march in Connecticut suburb as white nationalists turn out to harass

-- by Dave

The New Haven Independent has a complete report on the ugliness that emerged from last weekend's march by an immigrant-rights group marching in the suburb of East Haven, Conn.:

The clash happened during an event organized Saturday by New Haven immigrant advocacy organization Unidad Latina En Accion. More than 100 people marched through the streets of East Haven on Saturday, protesting alleged racial profiling on the part of East Haven police. They met groups of counter-protesters along the way, including a visiting band of white supremacists.

... Two arrests were made following a brief fistfight between a female marcher, Jessica Maldonado of East Haven, and Chelsea Fiorentino, an 18 year-old New Haven woman who was standing with a counter protest made up of members of two white pride organizations. Maldonado’s father, Dimas Maldonado, said that his family has suffered from police harassment. (Click on the play arrow to watch the fight and arrests.)

The argument allegedly started after Chelsea Fiorentino yelled an insult at Maldonado, who then crossed the street and confronted her. East Haven police quickly separated the women, placed them under arrest, and kept the march moving. The women were charged with breach of peace and assault; Maldonado was also charged with interfering with an officer.

It appears, from watching the video compiled by the Independent, that there were other near-brawls along the way. That's not terribly surprising: White supremacists and other haters turn out to these things in the hopes of starting fights, and they often succeed.

But watching this tape, one can't help but feel a sense of foreboding about what's likely to occur when immigration reform comes up on the national plate this fall. These people are already organized and already inclined to violence. If you thought the town-hall teabaggers went nuts over health-care reform, just wait.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

There's a reason the Obama-hating crazies are coming out of the woodwork

-- by Dave

ABC News had a noteworthy story last week on the increasing fears for President Obama's safety because of the plethora of nutcases -- many of them in fact mentally ill -- who are crawling out of the woodwork and threatening Obama and anyone associated with him:

Experts who track hate groups across the U.S. are growing increasingly concerned over violent rhetoric targeted at President Obama, especially as the debate over health care intensifies and a pattern of threats emerges.

The Secret Service is investigating a Maryland man who held a sign reading "Death to Obama" and "Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids" outside a town hall meeting this week. And in New Hampshire, another man stood across the street from a Presidential town hall with his gun on full display.

Los Angeles police officers apprehended a man Thursday after a standoff with him inside a red Volkswagen Bug car in Westwood, CA – the latest disturbing case even though officials said the man had mental problems.

"I don't think these are simply people who are mentally ill or off their rocker," Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told ABC News of those behind the threats. "In a very real sense they represent a genuine reaction, a genuine backlash against Obama."

Experts say a sharp growth in so-called militia groups that helped spawn a wave of domestic terrorism in the 1990s – and are now using YouTube, rock music and the Internet to recruit members and spread hate and fear - shouldn't be ignored.

"It's certainly a scary time," said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, now an ABC News consultant. Garrett said the Secret Service "cannot afford to pass on anyone," and he believes "they really do fear that something could happen to [Obama]."

Garrett said statements like one recently made by controversial radio host Rush Limbaugh comparing a logo for the White House plan to a Nazi symbol "legitimizes people who are on the edge to go do something or say something."

Naturally, the right is full-throated whine about people making this very logical connection: Yesterday on his show, Glenn Beck repeated the standard whine that "left is trying to silence me." No; we just want people like Beck to live up to the immense responsibility that comes with having those powerful media megaphones they hold.

Often we hear the excuse that the problem is simply the fact that these people are mentally ill crazies who would be doing something crazy anyway.

This is, of course, a complete cop-out. It ignores, in fact, the cold reality that violence, even by the mentally ill, does not occur in a vacuum. When people become the subject of a relentless campaign of demonization -- especially by the use of grotesque smears that make them out to be monsters and provably false "facts" that have the concrete effect of unhinging people from reality -- it will only be a matter of time before the lethal violence breaks out.

And while the concern for Obama is well-placed -- he is, after all, the focus of all this hatred -- there is only a remote likelihood of anyone actually succeeding in harming him, since he is very well protected indeed. What's far more likely, in fact, is that some innocent bystanders in his vicinity will be harmed -- or, moreover, that the crazies will decide that instead of harming Obama, they will take out their hatred on his supporters.

This was the thinking, after all, of Jim David Adkisson, the Knoxville church shooter. Recall this passage in his manifesto:

This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence.

The right-wing crazies popping up almost daily, thanks to right-wing fearmongers, are very real cause for concern about Obama's safety. But we should also be concerned about our own.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.