Saturday, September 26, 2009

ACORN is a handy substitute for the 'n word': At 912 event, black teens harassed by hysterical teabaggers

-- by Dave

One People's Project has the full-length version of this video, taken from the big 912 rally in Washington, D.C., showing a middle-aged white man and his Asian wife chasing after and harassing a trio of black people -- primarily two teenagers and an adult guardian (possibly their mother) who were selling "Don't Tread on Me" flags along the long grassy mall.

As you can see, the man -- who identifies himself as Tim Jones -- shouts after them: "ACORN! These people are ACORN!!! They are frauds!!! ACORN is fraud!!! Obama sucks! This woman sells signs for profit of ACORN!!"

It attracts more harassers, and it verges on the point of an outbreak of violence when the D.C. bicycle police show up and break up the scene.

Now, how does Jones claim to know that they are actually ACORN workers? He says he overheard a police officer ask them if they were selling for ACORN and the young woman -- who appears to be a young teen -- told the cop "yes." The older woman tells him flatly they're not from ACORN, but he keeps shouting it anyway.

Most of all, Jones and his wife are harassing these people based on some shaky presuppositions: that a young teenage girl would answer a cop's question -- particularly the addition of the ACORN element -- accurately is probably the shakiest, but toss in the fact that "off brand" vendors, people who have nothing whatsoever to do with a political entity like ACORN, employing young African Americans often flock to these political events and sell whatever is selling in terms of hats, T-shirts, pins, flags, and whatever gewgaws can be sold. Cops regularly chase them off if they don't have a license.

Which is probably what these people were doing, and why they fled. Well, that and the fear of being lynched by these maniacs.

The bigger question is: Why target African Americans when there are are hundreds of vendors at these things? And why assume that they have anything to do with ACORN?

Because, to the teabaggers, ACORN is synonymous with scary black people. The kind who, in the minds of Glenn Beck and his followers, are lurking, waiting to overthrow America when Obama orders them to. (Even if they later turn out to be a dance troupe.)

As Susie says, ACORN is just the new wingnutspeak code for the 'N' word. It's now become an epithet -- one you can chase black people around with and accuse them angrily. Just what America needs right now.

[H/t Max Blumenthal.]

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Malkin's venom knows no bounds: Obama 'doesn't like this country very much,' is the 'Groveler in Chief'

-- by Dave

Michelle Malkin was the featured guest on Sean Hannity's Fox News show last night to talk about President Obama's address to the United Nations, and it was a sight to behold. A wretched, horrifyingly ugly sight, but yeah, a sight:

Malkin: He doesn't like this country very much. And I think you did a great video tour there of all of his wonderful hits on his "We Suck '09" tour, ah, so far. And this latest speech before the United Nations and its cast of villainous characters -- it was really a Legion of Doom parade that he dignified with his presence -- and he solidified his place in the international view as the Great Appeaser and the Groveler in Chief!

Hannity finds it "almost shocking" that "Obama was saying we're not going to force our values on you." Malkin correctly calls this "a rejection of American exceptionalism" -- as though that were a bad thing. Maybe that's one of the differences between movement conservatives and sane people: The latter do not harbor megalomaniacal visions of American power ruling the world and forcing our values on other nations.

Ah, but we liberals are so naive, Malkin says, because "hatred of America is never going to go away" -- which is probably true. On the other hand, policies that arrogantly inflame and deepen that hatred are not, you know, really in our best interests.

And then Malkin finishes with a flourish:

Malkin: With this speech, and over the last eight months with his policies of retreat and surrender, he has solidified his place as the weakest of weak leaders of modern American history. There's no question about it! They laugh at us! He is a laughingstock.

There she goes, projecting again.

At some point, you have to wonder whether these people understand that the angrier and more venomous and more hateful they become, the more disempowered they become? Because the only people who are going to be convinced by this kind of nastiness are already True Believers. And even some of them may take pause at how bottomless is the pit from which this stuff crawls.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Beck boils a rubber frog to demonstrate what Obama's doing to the country

-- by Dave

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Glenn Beck has intimated previously that President Obama wants to destroy you -- after all, who could forget the time he doused another Fox weenie with "gasoline" and then held a match in his vicinity, saying he was Obama?

He did it again last night, by way of explaining why he said he thought John McCain would have been worse than Obama. He put out a pot of boiling water, playing off the old scenario about boiled frogs, and how they can't tell they're in lethally hot water until it's too late if you turn the heat up slowly. That, he argues, is what has been happening to us, and McCain just would have continued the process.

Beck thinks what Obama is actually doing is turning the heat up all at once and then tossing the frogs (that is, the American people) in. So he grabbed a supposedly live frog and tossed it into the water. (Later, he had John Bolton declare that it was actually a fake rubber frog.) Gosh, he says, he was hoping the frog would jump out.

It really is amazing to think how far and how fast Beck has pushed the envelope of acceptable rhetoric for the American Right. I remember when Alan Keyes declared Obama "a radical communist," everyone laughed and shrugged and took it as another sign of just how far out to lunch Keyes really is. But Beck -- who really does increasingly resemble the lunatic who talks to himself on the streetcorner, except that he has a media megaphone and millions of dollars -- can say this stuff now and it scarcely raises a ripple.

Watch for the Obama Genocide Program theories to start turning up on this show any day now.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Dropping Lou Dobbs: Unrepentant wingnuttery means CNN needs to choose between its credibility and its pride

-- by Dave

Lou Dobbs has always been unrepentant in the face of proof of his many journalistic misdeeds. So it is not surprising that, in the face of a concerted campaign to have CNN remove him as one of its major news anchors, Dobbs defiantly embraces conspiracy theorists who argue, among other things, that President Obama is planning to round up conservatives and incarcerate them in concentration camps, and who feature pro-secession articles on their websites.

Dobbs's irresponsible brand of journalism besmirches the credibility of an organization like CNN. Which means that it needs to choose between preserving its fast-eroding integrity, or sacrificing it on the altar of Dobbs' ego.

America's Voice is stepping up its campaign to have Dobbs removed this week with a series of ads and other measures intended to increase the public pressure on CNN's executives to act.

Dobb's mainstreaming of extremist beliefs and provably false "facts" simply cannot go on if CNN wants to be considered a responsible mainstream news organization:

White nationalist conspiracy theories flow seamlessly from vigilantes and extremist web sites to Dobbs and back again. Watch just a couple of episodes and you'll see how he throws around the term "criminal illegal aliens" with the spite and frequency of a mid-century Southern politician using the N-word. In Dobbs’ world, immigrants are disease ridden criminals who kill cops and are plotting for revolution. Bogus claims that immigrants are bringing a new wave of leprosy to America might be taken with a grain of salt on Fox - but on CNN, it’s news.

Perhaps to quell the criticism, CNN is airing a new mini-series in October called, "Latino in America." The network is in heavy promotion mode, sending the show's host, Soledad O'Brien, around the country to drum up interest.

Yeah, well, nice PR segments never quite wash the bad taste out of your mouth after having to swallow Dobbs' nightly broadcasts of immigrant-bashing.

The movement to challenge CNN to drop Lou Dobbs Tonight is growing. Dozens of local and national advocacy organizations are standing together to take the fight to CNN. Media Matters with, and dozens of Latino groups with, and Democracia Ahora with TellCNNEnoughisEnough, have all launched excellent campaigns against Dobbs. And groups like the National Council of La Raza have chronicled Dobbs’ extremism through websites like

Our new campaign to get Dobbs off the air will hit CNN both on the air and online. In addition to the TV ad, we’re running online ads and targeted ads on Face Book. You probably won’t see them unless you work for CNN or Turner – we’re asking Anderson Cooper, Soledad O’Brien, Wolf Blitzer and others how they feel about promoting and enabling Dobbs and his unrelenting campaign of immigrant bashing.

The real question is, what else does Dobbs have to do to get fired? He called Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst a "public service," perpetuated the birther conspiracy, has congratulated the Minutemen, and just last week was honored by the anti-immigrant group FAIR - designated a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

It's time that CNN executives and the other "talent" at CNN deport Dobbs to Fox or talk radio where he belongs. He doesn't deserve the CNN seal of approval. Until CNN deals with its Lou Dobbs problem, any attempt to reach out to Latino audiences will be pure hypocrisy.

You can donate here.

More info on Dobbs

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Max Blumenthal goes toe-to-toe with Morning Joe about the spread of far-right wingnuttery

-- by Dave

Max Blumenthal went on Morning Joe today to debate the nature of the unhinged rhetoric and behavior that's becoming part and parcel of the right-wing response to Obama's presidency.

Joe Scarborough often talks a good game about realizing what a huge mistake it is for Republicans to allow themselves to be dragged over the cliff like this, but like David Brooks, he has yet to come to grips with the dimension of the beast he's up against. Max tried to set him straight, but as you can see, this is a very slow process for recovering movement conservatives.

Both Joe and Mike disputed some of Max's facts, and as promised he's posted the substantiation for those facts at his blog. Yes, it's true that Jim DeMint believes that neither single pregnant women nor gays and lesbians -- moral reprobates all, apparently -- should be allowed to teach in public schools.

Incidentally, you can find these details and many more in Max's new book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Destroyed the Party. On bookshelves everywhere!

P.S. Northwest readers, take note: Max will be appearing at Town Hall in Seattle on Thursday, Sept. 24, at 7:30 p.m., to promote Republican Gomorrah. He's also scheduled to appear at Powell's Books on Monday, Sept. 28, at 7:30 p.m.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tom Coburn's chief of staff warns Values Voters: Porn makes you queer! Tell your kids!

-- by Dave

Rachel Maddow featured a hilarious bit from this weekend's "Values Voters Summit" in Missouri, featuring a fellow named Mike Schwartz, who is Republican Sen. Tom Coburn's chief of staff. Matt Corley at ThinkProgress actually had this first (and deserves credit from those who later make use of it -- ahem!), and has the transcript too:

SCHWARTZ: But it is my observation that boys at that age have less tolerance for homosexuality than just about any other class of people. They speak badly about homosexuality. And that’s because they don’t want to be that way. They don’t want to fall into it. And that’s a good instinct. After all, homosexuality, we know, studies have been done by the National Institute of Health to try to prove that its genetic and all those studies have proved its not genetic. Homosexuality is inflicted on people.

How does Schwartz know this? Well, a friend of his was once tragically caught up in "the homosexual lifestyle":

SCHWARTZ: And one of the things that he said to me, that I think is an astonishingly insightful remark. He said, “all pornography is homosexual pornography because all pornography turns your sexual drive inwards. Now think about that. And if you, if you tell an 11-year-old boy about that, do you think he’s going to want to go out and get a copy of Playboy? I’m pretty sure he’ll lose interest. That’s the last thing he wants." You know, that’s a, that’s a good comment. It’s a good point and it’s a good thing to teach young people.

You can't make this stuff up. This is a truly special level of stupid we are reaching here in America.

The full video is at YouTube.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

David Brooks: The problem for Republicans is that race-baiters like Limbaugh and Beck own them

-- by Dave

It was somewhat gratifying to see Chris Matthews' right-leaning panel on his Sunday show -- which was, as expected, eager to deny the role of racism in the ugly animus that's been directed at Barack Obama -- at least admit the truth:

David Brooks: What Rush and Glenn Beck are doing is race-baiting. 100 percent. That's race-baiting.


Kathleen Parker: What Rush Limbaugh and Beck did in those two clips is to empower racists.

But it was even more interesting to watch Brooks in particular somehow manage to stumble upon the core of the problem:

Matthews: Would the White House like the leaders of both parties to say, 'Cool it'?

Brooks: Well, I think they would. First, I think Father Coughlin was objecting to FDR, and he -- that's what we're seeing, Father Coughlin, that's what these guys are --

Matthews: And he was far right.

Brooks: He was far right. The White House understands, you've got 10 percent of the country over here on the wacky right, 10 percent on the wacky left, that's not what they can pay attention to. And they're not going to pay attention to it. They're sticking with the independents -- that's what the health care, why it's tending toward the center.

The one danger -- the main danger of all this, the Glenn and the Rush and all that -- they're not going to take over the country. But they are taking over the Republican Party.

And so if the Republican Party is sane, they will say no to these people. But every single elected leader in the Republican Party is afraid to take on Rush and Glenn Beck.

Brooks' percentages are off -- it's more like about 5 percent on the left and 30 percent on the right side, and this latter fact is actually what he identifies as the problem; the right has been so overwhelmed by its wingnutty elements that they have largely taken over the GOP at this juncture in time. And there's no prospect of the David Brookses ever getting it back -- in no small part because they refuse to acknowledge the magnitude of what they're up against.

But at least they recognize the problem. That's a start.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Does hateful rhetoric really lead to violence? History gives us the clear answer: yes

-- by Dave

Chris Matthews decided to take seriously Nancy Pelosi's choked-up discussion of concern about the violent undertone of recent right-wing rhetoric -- which of course has the right-wing a-holosphere chortling in blithe dismissal -- on Hardball earlier this week. So he brought on author Gerald Posner and the SPLC's Mark Potok to talk about it.

It prompted an interesting discussion about the relationship between the wild rantings of right-wing talkers and the ugliness that is manifesting itself on the street in our discourse -- especially now that we have right-wing nutcases who attend churches where the preacher tells them killing Obama would not be murder showing up at presidential rallies with AR-15s.

MATTHEWS: ... The question here is very serious. What is it in the atmosphere that allows a person to feel comfortable showing up at a political event carrying a gun, in some cases two guns, and letting people know they're armed? What is it in the atmosphere that lets a person bring a sign that compares the president of the United States to an animal or to a Nazi? What is it makes them feel comfortable doing that kind of crap in public? I wonder if it isn't the atmosphere of language that's being used today. Your thoughts, sir, Mark.

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: I think it is the atmosphere, the language that's being sort of ejected into the atmosphere, I think that, you know, what we're hearing, in particular from our—quote, unquote—“leaders,” from both political leaders and commentators.

I mean, you know, yesterday Rush Limbaugh was on the air talking about an incident in which black kids attacked a white kid on a school bus, an incident that police said was not racially motivated, and saying that what we need are segregated buses, that this is the only way, I suppose, that white people can be protected from black people.

I think when we have characters like Limbaugh saying that on the air to millions of Americans, many of whom actually revere the man, you know, it's not surprising that people feel that, you know, the race war is around the corner and that we're allowed to say these kinds of things.


GERALD POSNER: ... Chris, you have hit the nail on the head. It's a license that allows somebody who's on the edge to cross the edge from thinking about acting out to actually crossing the line and being violent and thinking they can change history with a single bullet. And we have shown time and time again that that's possible.

It's not simply the overt threat to the well-being of the president that's important here. There's also the threatening nature of packing heat openly at a public meeting where the presence of guns is highly likely to be interpreted by your fellow citizens as an implied threat to their well-being should they happen to disagree. That is, they not only threaten the president, these guns intimidate and silence your fellow citizens.

The flip side of this was Glenn Beck, responding also to Pelosi's remarks, and insisting that we pay it no mind, because the people she's concerned about are just crazy, and there's nothing we can do about them.

Beck: Look -- Timothy McVeigh -- nutjob! Nutjob! On the fringe of the right! That, President Clinton tried to blame on Rush Limbaugh. It was ridiculous then, and it's ridiculous now. Harvey Milk -- killed by a guy who was hepped up on Twinkies. It was ridiculous then -- it's ridiculous now. The shooter -- and Timothy McVeigh -- crazy people! It's madness.

This was largely the position taken by Jesse Walker at Reason earlier this week, when he drew up what appears to be the first serious attempt at critiquing my book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right.

When panicky centrists aren't willing to draw an unbroken line from peaceful conservatives to the violent fringe, they posit a somewhat subtler link. The killers, they acknowledge, aren't taking their marching orders directly from Fox News and AM radio. But by giving serious attention to theories associated with the fringe right—that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is preparing concentration camps, that Barack Obama is not a natural-born U.S. citizen—Glenn Beck and other broadcasters are validating the grievances of potential killers, giving them the impression that they aren't alone. This validation is buttressed by the sweeping, sometimes violent rhetoric about "liberals" that you hear from partisan celebrities, such as Ann Coulter's joke that McVeigh should have blown up the New York Times building instead. In The Eliminationists and on his blog, David Neiwert tries to establish a chain linking "eliminationist" behavior in American history (lynchings of blacks and Asians, the slaughter of American Indians), eliminationist rhetoric on the mainstream right (the Coulter wisecrack), and von Brunn–style efforts to eliminate people directly.

The theory is interesting, but it has two enormous problems. The first is that it ignores the autonomy of people on the fringe. Not just the radicals who commit the crimes, but the radicals who don't commit crimes. There's a complex ecology at work here, one demonstrated most clearly in those cases when militiamen alerted authorities to terrorist plots in their midst. Words have influence, but they influence different people in different ways; you can't reduce media effects to simple push-pull reactions. Accusing Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly of validating right-wing violence isn't so different from accusing pornography of validating rape, Ozzy Osbourne of validating teen suicide, or Marilyn Manson of validating school massacres.

Actually, it is quite different from that. Because what The Eliminationists describes is not artistic expression or mere point of view, but rather ideological exhortation -- rhetoric specifically intended to inspire both belief and action. The former has only a tenuous causal connection at best, while the latter has a long and well-established causal connection to violent behavior.

Surely Walker doesn't believe for a minute that radical anti-Israeli speech emanating from Hamas has no connection to the suicide bombers who board buses in Tel Aviv. It's hard to imagine anyone not acknowledging that radical Jihadist anti-American speech doesn't inspire Al Qaeda's acts of terrorism. Nor even that the Ku Klux Klan race baiters of the '20s and '30s didn't help inspire various acts of lynching and "race rioting".

Accusing Beck and O'Reilly of validating right-wing violence isn't like connecting Marilyn Manson to Columbine -- which is to say, connecting something that only tenuously could be said to actually inspire or advocate violence. It's much more like connecting radical imams to 9/11.

Ideologues who inspire violent action through radicalizing propaganda have been with us for many decades, even centuries. The fact that, in recent years, the more action-prone of the people who violently respond to these exhortations are increasingly confined to the fringes of American politics doesn't mean there isn't still serious culpability on the part of those who indulge rhetoric that winds up unhinging people.

I frequently use the case of David Lewis Rice to explain and illustrate this point:

On Christmas Eve 1985, Charles and Annie Goldmark were at home with their sons Derek, 12, and Colin, 10, preparing for a holiday dinner when the doorbell rang. It was Rice, a 27-year-old unemployed transient, posing as a taxicab driver delivering a package. He brandished a toy gun and forced his way into their home, then set about using chloroform to render all four Goldmarks unconscious. He then proceeded to kill them slowly, using a steam iron and a knife that he used to insert into at least one of the victim's brains. Annie was pronounced dead on the spot, Colin pronounced dead on arrival, while Charles died there a short while later; Derek finally succumbed 37 days later.

But Rice wasn't just a deranged loony -- though he probably fit that description too. He also was a deranged loony who had been set into action by the malicious lies of a group of right-wing haters, whose venom became his inspiration ...

Sociologist James A. Aho, in his book This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy explains where Rice got his inspiration:

Ed Fasel [fictitious name] was head of the local Duck Club chapter. It was from Ed that Rice received the tragic misinformation that Charles and Annie Goldmark were leading Seattle Communists. In the course of discussions concerning local subversives and crooks who were presumably frustrating Rice's efforts to secure a job, Fasel, mistaking Charles for his father John, related to Rice that the Goldmarks had been investigated and that Charles was "regional director of the American Communist Party." Rice took this to mean that Charles was the "highest obtainable target I could reach, the greatest value informationally." After handcuffing the Goldmarks, Rice intended to interrogate them about the next person in the conspiratorial hierarchy, possibly to preempt at the last moment the impending invasion of alien troops [a conspiracy theory to which Rice subscribed].

What occasioned Fasel to dredge up a name associated with an event that had occurred two decades previously in another part of the state? In a Seattle Port Commission election during the summer of 1985, one of the candidates was Jim Wright, a Republican. Wright's campaign manager was none other than Ashley Holden, a defendant in the Goldmark trial. [Holden had been a leading torchbearer in the McCarthyite "Red fever" that swept Washington state in the late 1940s and '50s, and had been one of the people who falsely accused the Goldmarks in print of being part of the Communist Party.] Upon discovering this unusual link, the Seattle media jumped on it, and the name "Goldmark," with its unfortunate connotations, "got out again," to use one informant's phrase.

In my interview with him, Holden convincingly insisted that he knew nothing of the Duck Club nor any of its members. "I deplored the murder," he said. "There is no question," he went on, parroting local wisdom, "Rice was demented."

Now, did "Fasel" or any of his cohorts have criminal or even civil liability in this matter? Almost certainly not.

But did they have the blood of the Goldmark family on their hands? Most of us would judge that they did indeed.

That is to say, there was a level of moral and ethical culpability involved in the irresponsible speech that inspired David Lewis Rice. When you fill an unstable person's head with a pack of crazy ideas that inspire them to act out violently, there are social and economic consequences that deservedly ensue.

The critical components that distinguish irresponsible free speech from responsible are interworking pieces: whether it is intended to harm by scapegoating or demonizing, and whether or not it is provably false. In the Goldmark case, the things the Duck Club told Rice not only demonized the Goldmarks, but they were also things that were simply not true -- though the tellers wished ardently that they were, they were purely concoctions of their fevered imaginations.

This is true of so much far-right wingnuttery -- the "Birther" conspiracy theories, the FEMA-camp claims, the "constitutionalist" theories about taxation and the Federal Reserve, to list just a few examples -- and yet people believe them anyway.

This rhetoric also acts as a kind of wedge between the people who absorb it and the real world. There is always a kind of cognitive dissonance that arises from believing things that are provably untrue, and people who begin to fanatically cling to beliefs that do not comport with reality find themselves increasingly willing to buy into other similarly unhinged beliefs. For those who are already unhinged, the effects are particularly toxic.

All of these theories, you'll observe, serve the explicit purpose of supporting a scapegoating narrative. And a number of them have been featured in some shape, form, or fashion, in the mainstream public discourse because they have been presented seriously for discussion by various right-wing talking heads, most notably Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs.

But pointing out their ethical and moral culpability inevitably means that they immediately blame it on the "crazy" people, and who can take responsibility for "crazy" people?

Part of the problem is that we actually have seen this happen time after time after time: A mentally unstable person is inspired by hateful right-wing rhetoric to act out violently -- and yet because of that mental state, the matter is dismissed as idiosyncratic, just another "isolated incident." And over the months and years, these "isolated incidents" mount one after another.

But simply ascribing these acts to mental illness is a cop-out. It fails to account for the gross irresponsibility of the people who employed the rhetoric that inspired the violent action in the first place, and their resulting moral culpability.

Next, inevitably, they complain that we're only trying to silence them:

This is a familiar refrain that comes up every time anyone raises a socially damning issue like this one: We're trying to oppress them, to silence their voices, by pointing out how morally and ethically bankrupt they are.

Actually, we're just pointing out how bankrupt they are. No one here has said anything about silencing their voices -- we just want them to face up to the consequences of their irresponsible rhetoric. It's called culpability: They obviously are not criminally culpable, nor likely even civilly culpable. But they are morally and ethically culpable.

We do have serious differences of opinion here. We strongly believe that there's a clear, common-sense connection between the paranoiac fearmongering that has passed for right-wing rhetoric since well before Obama's election (and has become acute since) and violence like that in Pittsburgh, or in Knoxville: horrifying tragedies, in which the sources of the criminal's unambiguous motives are that very same hysterical fearmongering -- whether it's about the evil socialists, stinking immigrants, or conspiring gun-grabbers who've taken over the country since Election Day.

... The point is not to silence the people saying these things, but to point out how grotesquely irresponsible they are -- in the hopes that they will cease doing so, and start acting responsibly. It's their choice to use irresponsible rhetoric. It's not just our choice but our duty, as responsible citizens, to stand up and speak out about it.

And make no mistake: Rhetoric that whips up irrational fears among the public, that demonizes and dehumanizes and scapegoats -- that's irresponsible rhetoric. And we are calling the American Right on it.

Think about what Bill Clinton actually said after Oklahoma City (and carefully note the difference between this and what the Right now claims he said):

In this country we cherish and guard the right of free speech. We know we love it when we put up with people saying things we absolutely deplore. And we must always be willing to defend their right to say things we deplore to the ultimate degree. But we hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other. They spread hate. They leave the impression that, by their very words, that violence is acceptable. You ought to see -- I'm sure you are now seeing the reports of some things that are regularly said over the airwaves in America today.

Well, people like that who want to share our freedoms must know that their bitter words can have consequences and that freedom has endured in this country for more than two centuries because it was coupled with an enormous sense of responsibility on the part of the American people.

If we are to have freedom to speak, freedom to assemble, and, yes, the freedom to bear arms, we must have responsibility as well. And to those of us who do not agree with the purveyors of hatred and division, with the promoters of paranoia, I remind you that we have freedom of speech, too, and we have responsibilities, too. And some of us have not discharged our responsibilities. It is time we all stood up and spoke against that kind of reckless speech and behavior.

If they insist on being irresponsible with our common liberties, then we must be all the more responsible with our liberties. When they talk of hatred, we must stand against them. When they talk of violence, we must stand against them. When they say things that are irresponsible, that may have egregious consequences, we must call them on it. The exercise of their freedom of speech makes our silence all the more unforgivable. So exercise yours, my fellow Americans. Our country, our future, our way of life is at stake.

Of course, the right-wingers mewled piteously after Clinton gave that speech, too. They claimed he was trying to silence them, when in fact he was quite explicit about not doing that. Nonetheless, it became part of established right-wing lore that "Clinton blamed Rush Limbaugh for Oklahoma City."

This, as we've already noted, is palpable nonsense:

Because we believe in freedom of speech and freedom of thought, there will probably always be haters like Richard Poplawski among us. Inevitably they will be driven by fear: the fear of difference. Because to them, difference of any kind is a threat.

And what we know from experience about volatile, unstable actors like them is that they can be readily induced into violent action by hateful rhetoric that demonizes and dehumanizes other people. And thanks to human nature and those same freedoms, we will certainly always have fearmongering demagogues among us. But the purveyors of such profoundly irresponsible rhetoric need to be called on it -- especially when they hold the nation's media megaphones.

That was as true in 1995 as it is now. Which brings us to the second part of Jesse Walker's critique:

The second problem is the implicit version of history. Neiwert has uncritically embraced the idea that the militia movement began in 1992, so it's easy for him to imagine a progression from the old lynch mobs to the right-wing '80s underground to the '90s militias to Republicans who tolerate militia-style arguments. But if Churchill is right about the origins of the militia movement, the original eliminationists might have a different, more dangerous set of descendants.

I'm not sure what in the hell Walker is talking about here. Nowhere have I suggested that the militia movement began in 1992. And I haven't uncritically embraced anyone's theories about their origins. After all, I was there and reported on them at the time. I've been reporting on them since.

Walker seems oblivious to the fact that my first published book was a study of the "Patriot" movement of the 1990s from a Northwestern perspective, titled In God's Country. It was published by a small academic press, so I can't blame him if he hasn't read it. But a little research would have revealed to him that the book is based on my on-the-ground reportage involving the extremist right in the Northwest dating back to the 1970s and picking up in the early '90s.

I come by my conclusions honestly -- that is, through firsthand experience as a journalist. I covered the Montana Freemen standoff and subsequent federal trials, as well as the activities (and ultimately federal court trials) of militia activists in western Washington, northern Idaho and eastern Oregon as well. I interviewed numerous militia leaders and even more of their followers, and I dug through the extant sociological research to understand better what made them tick.

What I can tell you is what I laid out in the book, with the full body of evidence: that the militias were actually an outgrowth of the larger "Christian Patriot" movement that became an umbrella term for the American extremist right in the mid-1980s. The militias were seen as a means to recruit new believers from the mainstream, by appealing to their "libertarian" ideals and their fears about guns and government power.

This shift was best recorded by Aho in his seminal text The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism, which was published in 1990. It contains the first real dataset of information about this segment of the American Right. It describes, on page 10, the "Christian Patriot" organization calling itself the Oregon Militia. So the concept of Patriots forming militia cells certainly predated 1992.

Now, did the militias' recruitment efforts -- their attempt to mainstream themselves -- entail the very sort of appeals that Robert Churchill describes? Certainly. But the far-right bloc that now calls itself the Patriots have always tailored their appeals in such fashion. They are nothing if not adaptable.

I've only just picked up Mr. Churchill's book, but here's my impression from my initial cursory glance: It's written from the perspective of someone who wasn't there, and is more interested in promoting a provocative thesis than digging to get to the whole truth. Churchill, for instance, devotes a great deal of time to the work and writing of Mike Vanderboegh, who made great show of trying to drive out the racists from the militia movement. But Vanderboegh had virtually no influence within the movement and was generally shunned by "real" Patriots. Yet at the same time, Churchill makes no mention whatsoever of Col. James "Bo" Gritz, who was a major figure in the movement and one of its important figureheads.

The Gritz example is instructive: I interviewed him on multiple occasions, and inevitably tried to get him to discuss the rumors that he was involved in Christian Identity, the white-supremacist religious movement which stipulates that Caucasians are the true children of Israel, and that Jews are Satanic and non-whites soulless brutes. Gritz was almost always evasive on this count, even though it was well known that he'd had a significant falling-out with Identity leader Pete Peters over the latter's insistence on the death penalty for homosexuals. But what he did tell me, on more than one occasion, was that politically, he identified with libertarians (and particularly Ron Paul).

Later, it emerged that Gritz was indeed deeply enmeshed in the Identity movement. He's now fairly public about it, having married the daughter of one of Identity's more prominent preachers.

This is fairly typical of the Patriot movement in general and its "militia" components specifically: They love to present a normative front that is non-threatening and whose deep radicalism is not immediately apparent. But eventually the real agenda emerges.

It's important to understand that these folks in fact see themselves as residing outside the mainstream. They embrace their radicalism and are proud of it, make wry jokes about it. To the far right, even Fox News is part of the "liberal media" establishment that doesn't dare tell the whole real truth about the nefarious Jewish cabal that really runs America.

So when they see someone like Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck or Lou Dobbs repeating for a mass national audience things they believed were only understood by people like themselves, it has not only a powerfully validating effect, but even moreso a permission-giving one. Just as hate-crime perpetrators believe they are acting on the secret wishes of their larger communities, violent extremists have a need to believe that they are acting heroically, on behalf of their nation or their "people". Mainstream validation tells them they are supported.

Mark Potok explained this to Chris Matthews in that Hardball segment:

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you -- let me ask Mark of the Southern Poverty Law Center, let me ask you this thing here of the South. What is it about the cause—we used to hear the phrase the cause for the people who didn't like what happened in the Civil War afterwards. They thought they lost the war they should have won.

This attitude about how you got to carry—I heard a guy talking the other day in front of the Lee Mansion about you got to keep the battle going, the battle, showing up at these rallies in Washington against Obama.

What is the battle out there that's being fought by the right, especially in the South? What is this? What is this thing out there?

POTOK: Well, I think—I think, in the South, it's a very particular form of white nationalism. I mean, you know, there are a great many people down here who truly believe that the war had nothing to do with slavery, the Civil War, you know, that it was about tariffs or the North imposing an industrial system on the South or any one of any number of other things.

You know, this is very much alive in the minds of a lot of people down here, including academics in many cases. So, you know, all of this rhetoric, all of these ideas have consequences.

I mean, I think it's worth saying, overall, when we talk about the subject, that, you know, hate criminals, people who go out and murder people who don't look like them, are not typically people who think of themselves as criminal thugs.

They are very typically people who think that they are acting on the wishes of the community. They are the brave young men standing up to defend their community.

So, you know, when you have a Limbaugh or other public figures saying Obama's a racist, he has a hatred for white people, as Glenn Beck said on FOX News the other day, you know, there are some people out there, some small sliver of the population, who feel, you know, what the brave young warriors ought to do is go out there and defend the white race, and that may very well mean taking a shot at the president.

MATTHEWS: Well, I thank you both for joining us on this terrible subject.

... By the way, I think that everybody who does these horrible crimes in history does so thinking that, somewhere, there will be warmth for him; somewhere in the country or in the world, there will be people who will respect and love him for what he did. That thought is frightening.

And all the more frightening for being hard, cold reality. No matter how ardently the American Right would like to whitewash it all away.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Glenn Beck: No stranger to right-wing radicalism

-- by Dave

The centerpiece of Glenn Beck's incessant attacks on "White House czars" like Van Jones, as well as his attacks on ACORN, is his claim that this is all about rooting out the deep-seated radicalism within the Obama White House -- and ultimately, the deep-seated radicalism of Obama himself. He's been quite explicit about this.

But what about Glenn Beck himself? Beck has shown a powerful affinity for right-wing radicals dating back at least to his days at CNN's Headline News, when he declared his sympathy for the John Birch Society (in its campaign to stop the non-existent "NAFTA Superhighway") and warned that Al Gore's real purpose behind his "global warming campaign" was to install a global government. (Back then, it was Gore, not Obama, who was just like Hitler.)

It's only intensified since he left CNN for Fox. Given the freedom to let his fetid imagination run amok, has quickly amassed a massive record of mainstreaming ideas and talking points from the genuinely radical right of American politics. (The accompanying video gives you a 17-minute compendium of Beck's extremist rhetoric.)

We noticed this back when it first surfaced amid a raft of other Beck wingnuttia. This week, Alexander Zaitchik in Salon published a devastating rundown of perhaps the foundation of Beck's radicalism: His ardent adoption of the ideology espoused by W. Cleon Skousen, one of the most radical of the old "Church-Birch Connection" gang of LDS elders who spread Bircherirsm throughout Mormon-land. (I remember seeing The Naked Communist on the bookshelf of many of the Mormon homes I grew up around in southern Idaho, including several in my family.) Salty City Sinner noticed the Skousen connection back in March too.

Skousen, as Zaitchik explains, was so far out on the fringe he even made the Birchers nervous:

W. Cleon Skousen was not a historian so much as a player in the history of the American far right; less a scholar of the republic than a threat to it. At least, that was the judgment of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, which maintained a file on Skousen for years that eventually totaled some 2,000 pages. Before he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Skousen's own Mormon church publicly distanced itself from the foundation that Skousen founded and that has published previous editions of "The 5,000 Year Leap."

Beck not only avidly endorsed The 5,000-Year Leap on his program -- it was one of three texts he told everyone who watched his show to read as part of "The 912 Project," since the very phrase "912" came from Skousen (whose book details the "9 Principles" and the "12 Values" Beck employs). He also wrote the foreword to is newest edition, in which he told readers it was "divinely inspired" -- something repeated in his blurb for the book:

"I beg you to read this book filled with words of wisdom which I can only describe as divinely inspired. You will find answers to questions plaguing America, and more importantly you will find hope. I know I have!"

Beck also promoted The 5,000 Year Leap on the 912 Project Blog, and listed his "12 Values" on the Fox News site. Lawdy, when the first "912 Project" aired, it was truly a sight to behold.

The result, of course, was that Skousen's book shot up the bestseller charts:

On Friday, after several days in the top 10, "The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World, Principles of Freedom 101" leaped to No. 1 on's list of Bestsellers in Books.

"Everyone should read this book," the conservative talk show host said as he passed out copies during a recent broadcast. On his radio program Friday evening, Beck touted the book's climb to No. 1.

Skousen published "The 5000 Year Leap" in 1981, nearly 25 years after he published "The Naked Communist," a national bestseller that has sold more than 1 million copies.

Just how far out on the far right was Skousen. As Zaitchik explains, some of movement conservatism's leading poohbahs fled screaming from him:

"The Naked Capitalist" does not seem like a text that would be part of the required reading list on any reputable college campus, but some BYU professors taught it out of allegiance to Skousen. Terrified, the editors of Dialogue: The Journal of Mormon Thought invited "Tragedy and Hope" author Carroll Quigley to comment on Skousen's interpretation of his work. They also asked a highly respected BYU history professor named Louis C. Midgley to review Skousen's latest pamphlet. Their judgment was not kind. In the Autumn/Winter 1971 issue of Dialogue, the two men accused Skousen of "inventing fantastic ideas and making inferences that go far beyond the bounds of honest commentary." Skousen not only saw things that weren't in Quigley's book, they declared, he also missed what actually was there -- namely, a critique of ultra-far-right conspiracists like Willard Cleon Skousen.

"Skousen's personal position," wrote a dismayed Quigley, "seems to me perilously close to the 'exclusive uniformity' which I see in Nazism and in the Radical Right in this country. In fact, his position has echoes of the original Nazi 25-point plan."

Hey, it may be that Glenn Beck is uncovering true radicals within the Obama White House -- though all we've seen so far is a McCarthyite smear job of Van Jones and his fellow "czars" and some videotaped corruption within a community-volunteer organization that has no official or other connection to the White House.

But what about the far-right radicals lurking in Glenn Beck's own closet? It might be time to take a longer and deeper look.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Yes, 'respectable' Republicans, you do have reason to worry

-- by Dave

It seems respectable Republicans who like to think of themselves as "intellectual" conservatives are growing dismayed at the living, breathing monster they themselves have unleashed upon us:

Such insiders point to theories running rampant on the Internet, such as the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is thus ineligible to be president, or that he is a communist, or that his allies want to set up Nazi-like detention camps for political opponents. Those theories, the insiders say, have stoked the GOP base and have created a "purist" climate in which a figure such as Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) is lionized for his "You lie!" outburst last week when Obama addressed Congress.

They are "wild accusations and the paranoid delusions coming from the fever swamps," said David Frum, a conservative author and speechwriter for President George W. Bush who is among the more vocal critics of the party base and of the conservative talk show hosts helping to fan the unrest.

"Like all conservatives, I am concerned about this administration's accumulation of economic power," Frum said. "Still, you have to be aware that there's a line where legitimate concerns begin to collapse into paranoid fantasy."

Frum and other establishment Republicans have spoken out in recent days against the influence of what they view as their party's fringe elements.

Some are pressuring the Republican National Committee and other mainstream GOP groups to cut ties with, which reports some of the allegations. Its articles are cited by websites and pundits on the right. More than any other group, critics say, WorldNetDaily sets the conservative fringe agenda.

Well, as observed last week, getting unentwined from the liked of WorldNetDaily and its extremist clientele is easier said than done.

No, the right-wing populist beast is loose. You fellas have the right idea, but you're a bit late. We're already well into the great thrashing about that comes with any set of death throes, such as those now besetting movement conservatism. You can see how it plays out on the ground now, particularly at the Tea Parties. And it isn't pretty.

A camera crew from Free Speech Radio showed up in D.C. on Saturday for the big GlennBeckFest. It was frightening and disturbing and even got ugly. The reporter, Leigh Ann Caldwell, describes what happened:

We met a group of nearly a dozen "912ers." They adorned t-shirts with the fractured Revolutionary War snake, the symbol of their group created by Glenn Beck. At the end of the 10-minute interview, they demanded my contact information and a picture so they could "find" me if they didn't like our work. I took that as a threat, declined to give them my contact information and walked away. They followed and continued with their demands. I continued to decline.

One of the women then yelled into her megaphone that "the woman in the black shirt works for ACORN." She commanded the crowd to take my picture. They found out my last name from a previous interviewee, so she then yelled my full name into the megaphone and nearly 50 people surrounded and swarmed me, putting cameras in my face as they heckled and laughed. The crowd then followed me down Pennsylvania Avenue for the next ten minutes.

Robin Bell, the cameraman, posted that and other videos at his channel at YouTube.

I hope everyone took note of what color those T-shirts were. Please tell me that was just an accident.

Because the behavior sure did remind of people in that color of shirt. Nice earthy brown.

And dontcha love how the self-importance-inflating numbers -- the teabagging shouter ends by saying she was with 2 million great Americans that day -- have already become embedded reality for them. These are true fanatics. (The numbers, in reality, were closer to 60,000.)

Michael Shaw found some images from the 912 event along the same lines, with a touch of death wish thrown in for good measure.

We wish Frum and his sane conservative friends lots of luck rescuing their movement from the flood of wingnuttery washing away their lovely intellectual-right edifice. But let's face it, fellas -- it was made out of sand in the first place. These are the natural consequences of that fact.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.