Saturday, February 06, 2010

Tom Tancredo to the Tea Partiers: Lack of 'civics literacy test' meant illiterates put 'a committed socialist' in White House

-- by Dave

Well, we knew the National Tea Party Convention this week was going to be a real festival of outrageous wingnuttery, but Tom Tancredo's speech to kick things off will already be hard to top:

Tancredo: Every year, the liberal Dems and the RINO Republicans turned up the temperature ever so slightly. It seemed after awhile that we'd all be boiled to death in a cauldron of the nanny state.

And then something really odd happened -- mostly because we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.


People who cannot even spell the word "vote," or say it in English -- [applause] -- put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. Name is Barack Hussein Obama.

It's hard to say which was more disturbing: Tancredo's apparent call for reinstituting laws that, as John Byrne at Raw Story points out, were a fundamental component of Jim Crow in the post-Reconstruction South, or the massive round of applause he received for saying it. (The New York Daily News has more on the literacy tests.)

Yes, these people really are nuts. Witness, for instance, the applause Tancredo got for saying he was glad McCain lost -- because, after all, McCain was for "amnesty" too:

If McCain had been elected, the neocons would be writing flattering editorials in the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal. Congressman Gutierrez and President McCain would have been posing in the Rose Garden with big smiles as they received accolades from La Raza for having finally passed an amnesty.

Of course, most of the speech was just Tancredo channeling Glenn Beck. (The boiled frog metaphor was the giveaway, along with the "committed socialist ideologue" bit. As well as lines like this:

So the race for America is on, right now. The President and his left-wing allies in Congress are going to look at every opportunity to destroy the Constitution before we have a chance to save it.

But as always with Tancredo -- as with his audience -- the real motivation comes down to defending white culture:

Some things we can deal with in just a political way -- which is, you know, by the votes we cast. Other things will require a commitment to passing on our culture -- and we really do have one, you know, it is based on Judeo-Christian principles whether people like it or they don't!


That's who we are! That is who we are! And if you don't like it, don't come here! And if you're here and you don't like it, go home! Go someplace else!

As the editors at Imagine 2050 observed:

It is obvious that Beck and Tancredo are trying to push the issue of immigration to the forefront of the tea party movement, something that was explicitly clear during Tancredo’s speech. The acts that followed paled in comparison to Tancredo, who definitely stole the first night spotlight of the three day event.

Indeed. If you thought the Tea Partiers went nuts at those town-hall forums on health care, wait till immigration reform is the issue. It's going to be very ugly.

Tom Tancredo, of course, will be leading the way, pitchfork in hand.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

James O'Keefe and the white supremacists: As Breitbart runs screaming for cover, bigger questions loom

-- by Dave

James O'Keefe and his boss, Andrew Breitbart, already are having trouble keeping their stories straight on O'Keefe's illegal attempts to access Sen. Mary Landrieu's phone system.

And now that Max Blumenthal has ripped off the facade from O'Keefe's background as a race-baiting right-wing dirty trickster the other day, they're having even more trouble.

Blumenthal reported in Salon that O'Keefe was actively involved in helping promote a white-nationalist conference in 2006:

Now an activist organization that monitors hate groups has produced a photo of O'Keefe at a 2006 conference on "Race and Conservatism" that featured leading white nationalists. The photo, first published Jan. 30 on the Web site of the anti-racism group One People's Project, shows O’Keefe at the gathering, which was so controversial even the ultra-right Leadership Institute, which employed O'Keefe at the time, withdrew its backing. But O'Keefe and fellow young conservative provocateur Marcus Epstein soldiered on to give anti-Semites, professional racists and proponents of Aryanism an opportunity to share their grievances and plans to make inroads in the GOP.

According to One People's Project founder Daryle Jenkins, O'Keefe was manning the literature table at the gathering that brought together anti-Semites, professional racists and proponents of Aryanism. OPP covered the event at the time, sending a freelance photographer to document the gathering. Jenkins told me the table was filled with tracts from the white supremacist right, including two pseudo-academic publications that have called blacks and Latinos genetically inferior to whites: American Renaissance and the Occidental Quarterly. The leading speaker was Jared Taylor, founder of the white nationalist group American Renaissance. "We can say for certain that James O'Keefe was at the 2006 meeting with Jared Taylor. He has absolutely no way of denying that," Jenkins said. O'Keefe's attorney did not respond to a request for comment on his client's role in the conference.

After reporting this, Andrew Breitbart -- O'Keefe's employer, and one of the chief promoters of his lawbreaking brand of "investigative journalism" -- went on the offensive. A writer for his "Big Journalism" site attacked Blumenthal's report as a "lie":

Here is the story they actually have:

James O’Keefe attended a forum years ago that dealt with race and politics. The forum was located at a Georgetown University building (that’s right, a 21-year-old man attended an event on a college campus). The forum had as one of its three speakers a controversial figure, Jared Taylor, with a track record of making racist statements. He was being debated by two other people including Mr. Martin (taking issue with the racist figure). Mr. Taylor has also appeared with Phil Donohue, Queen Latifa and Paula Zahn on their TV shows to debate race. Are the audience members of the Donohue show racist for sitting and watching that debate?

Honestly, that isn’t much of a story. But… you put Mr. O’Keefe at a table full of racist literature and you say that he was manning the table. And you say you have a picture proving it. And you make it sound like he was one of the organizers of this event. And you call the event a “White Supremacist Conference”. Well… now you’ve got a story.

Only problem: It’s all a lie.

Except, as Max pointed out subsequently, it was perfectly true:

According to an otherwise fact-challenged post on Breitbart, the website that has paid O’Keefe, O’Keefe said that he “attended the event with many of his Leadership Institute co-workers since it was right across the street from their building in Arlington, Va., and it was organized by other LI associates.”

In fact, a photographer who covered the event told me O’Keefe was helping its chief organizer, Marcus Epstein, and was not an innocent bystander, as he has claimed. But more on that later. First, O’Keefe vs. Breitbart…

Andrew Breitbart, who has paid O’Keefe and attempted to defend him by calling my reporting “FALSE,” has been undermined by O’Keefe himself. O’Keefe concedes my report was true — he was at the event. Breitbart has therefore been contradicted by O’Keefe.

Daryle Jenkins' response was equally pointed:

First off, you can't say that those who have written about your boy James O'Keefe attending a white racist forum is a lie when you yourself are publishing a story where he admits to going. Secondly, you are not going to make the charge of racism go away when that same article is downplaying a racist idiot like Jared Taylor, an editor of a white supremacist newsletter (who by the way is organizing a conference of white supremacists in Washington DC the same weekend as the Conservative Political Action Conference), as a guy who is just someone "with a track record of making racist statements." Thirdly, you might also want to think twice about pretending that if someone calls him a white supremacist when he is not white, it doesn't mean forum organizer Marcus Epstein (whose claim to fame besides working for Pat Buchanan and Tom Tancredo is karate-chopping a black woman in the street and calling her the n-word while drunk off his behind) is not a racist that doesn't work with white supremacists.

To put just what Epstein and O'Keefe were doing in context, it's important to understand what guys like Jared Taylor excel at -- namely, lending a respectable sheen to old-fashioned bigotry through a combination of pseudo-social science and pseudo-logical obfuscation. They constitute the self-proclaimed "academic wing" of the white-supremacist movement.

Here's the complete ADL backgrounder on Taylor. Some lowlights:

From February 22-24, 2008, Taylor held the eighth biennial American Renaissance conference in Herndon, Virginia. The event, which is named after the print and online white supremacist journal and Website that Taylor runs, brought together various speakers from the United States and Europe to present speeches on race-related topics. Approximately 300 people attended the event, including well-known extremists such as

* Don Black, who runs the white supremacist Website;

* Gordon Baum, head of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), a white supremacist organization that was the successor to the racist, anti-integrationist White Citizens' Councils of the 1950s and 1960s;

* Mark Weber, head of the Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust denial organization;

* William Regnery, a funder of racist organizations and publications, including The Occidental Quarterly, a racist journal whose articles often focus on race and intelligence.

Speakers at the conference included:

* J. Philippe Rushton, head of the Pioneer Fund, who promotes eugenics and an alleged link between race and intelligence;

* Bruno Gollnisch, a member of the National Front, a far-right French political party, who lamented the existence of the European Union for what he saw as its un-democratic nature and assault on national sovereignty ;

* Jared Taylor, who discussed why the vast majority of whites do not accept “race realism,” the idea that racial differences are real and that it is natural and healthy for groups to segregate along racial lines.

Other talks covered a range of topics, from an “insider” look at Mexicans to “a modest proposal” advocating for a white “racial state.”


Jared Taylor calls his views “race realism” and himself a believer in “complete freedom of association.” He advocates voluntary segregation as a “natural” expression of racial solidarity and denies that his views constitute white supremacism or white separatism. Viewing world conflicts and societal problems as derivative of racial, religious, and ethnic diversity, Taylor upholds racial homogeneity as the key to fostering peaceful coexistence. He sees Japan, where he lived until he was 16 years old with his missionary parents, as an exemplar of a racially homogenous society. He views Asians generally as genetically superior in intelligence to whites who he, in turn, sees as genetically superior in intelligence to blacks.

Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe may want to run away from his past now. But as Max points out -- considering that his most famous target, ACORN, is best known for its effectiveness at enrolling black voters and empowering the African-American vote, and that the tapes played to the lowest form of racial stereotypes -- it's very much a part of his present.

UPDATE: Blumenthal adds further confirmation:

After Marx’s email, I followed up with Isis. She told me in no uncertain terms that she had witnessed O’Keefe engaged in the “execution” of the white nationalist event of the Robert Taft Club.

“What I told Weigel and what I told him to quote me as saying, is that O’Keefe was involved the same way you would be involved if you went to a party and you put out the cups and stocked the cooler,” Isis told me. “He was helping Marcus Epstein in the execution of the event so I don’t see what the issue is. It was obvious that he was there supporting the event and was involved in its execution.”

Isis added more about her discussion with Weigel. “I told him the same thing I told you,” she remarked to me. “O’Keefe and Luke Pelican and the Leadership guys helped Epstein because they were friends with Marcus [Epstein], and they are friends with him because they agree with his views on the race stuff. And I told him when O’Keefe got there he was helping Marcus set the event up. Nitpicking over where he sat is bullshit. I mean, enough is enough. They were there; they were helping out with the event and they can’t deny that.”

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Friday, February 05, 2010

O'Reilly equates liberal blogosphere with the Birthers, claims right-wing extremists hold little sway in GOP

-- by Dave

Bill O'Reilly was all worked up last night on his Fox News show about that DailyKos poll revealing the Republican base for the collection of nutcases that it's fast becoming -- thanks in no small part to Fox News.

He launched into a vicious attack on not just DailyKos, but the rest of the liberal blogosphere as well, comparing them to the Birthers:

Apparently the leader of the Kos brigade is writing a book comparing Republicans and conservatives to the Taliban, and so this poll was designed to back up his insane point of view.

The survey says 39 percent of self-identified Republicans believe President Obama should be impeached. Sixty-three percent believe he is a socialist. Only 42 percent of GOPers think the president was actually born in the United States. And 31 percent believe he hates white people.

Now, if you believe that poll, you also believe Nancy Pelosi once dated Dick Cheney. The poll is a fraud, as is the Web site. But what is serious is the hatred that ideological Internet nuts continue to spew out there, and they have enablers on TV and radio, as we all know.

In fact, President Obama himself is very annoyed by the continuing intrusion that cable news has upon his administration. On Wednesday, he said this while addressing Democratic senators:


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If everybody here turned off your CNN, your Fox, your, you know, just turn off the TV, MSNBC, blogs, and just go talk to folks out there, instead of being in this echo chamber where the topic is constantly politics.


Now, "Talking Points" understands the president's pique, but when you consider that the mainstream media has been very friendly to Mr. Obama, his concern about cable TV news rings somewhat hollow. I mean, just about every major urban newspaper in America loves the president, so I don't know why he's so annoyed that there are few verbal snipers on the tube.

What Mr. Obama should be concerned about is the growing acceptance of lies by some Americans on both the left and the right. For example, by investigating the birth announcements in two Honolulu newspapers in August of 1961, "The Factor" has proven that Barack Obama was indeed born in America. It would have been impossible for anyone to get bogus birth announcements into two newspapers. And why would anyone bother unless they knew baby Barack would someday become President Barack? The birther deal is just madness.

On the left, we already told you about the crazy Kos people, but somehow folks like Arianna Huffington are now considered legitimate news sources. That's what the president should be worried about.

It is now very easy to demonize anyone in America, to slander and libel them all day long. There's no question the president has been treated unfairly in some precincts, but the garbage flows both ways, and Mr. Obama should point that out.

That's right, it's not right-wing kookery that Obama should be concerned about -- it's the liberal blogosphere.

Of course, O'Reilly neglects to provide any examples in which the liberal blogs, either DailyKos or HuffingtonPost or for that matter any of the rest of us on the "far left", have actually traded in bizarre conspiracy theories or provably false information. Indeed, what we've all tended to be preoccupied with is the provably false information and bizarre conspiracy theories being peddled on Fox News.

So then he brought on Karl Rove to agree with him:

O'Reilly: Now, the DailyKos -- it's interesting, it's not a real power in America but it does get picked up by powerful people, which is usually the way this game works. These far-out websites on the left, and on the right, a little bit, but not so much, uh, filter their little garbage into the New York Times and other people and then it gets mainstreamed out.

They are presenting a picture of the Republican Party as a bunch of extreme loons. You know, they want Obama impeached, they think he's not born here, or that he's a racist, he hates white people. You know, what I'm trying to get at it is this:

There's no doubt there's an extreme element of the Republican Party in the conservative movement. There's no doubt. They're there. But how much do you think that is?

Rove mostly rambled on about profanity at liberal blogs, blah blah blah, and claims that their methodology was faulty because they simply asked people the same questions they're being asked by Fox News hosts.

But O'Reilly returned to his main point:

O'Reilly: I'm trying to figure out, I'm trying to calibrate, the extreme wing of the Republican Party and the conservative movement. Is it 20 percent? Fifteen percent? What would it be?

Gee, we dunno, Bill. According to the Kos poll, nearly two-thirds of Republicans think it's possible or probable that President Obama is a racist who hates white people (31 percent said no, 33 percent said they weren't sure).

Maybe -- since this is a question Glenn Beck has promoted on Fox News -- Fox itself should conduct a poll asking the question. Wanna bet it's significantly different?

Of course, we understand: It's essential for O'Reilly to minimize the insanity of the American right in order to keep peddling his BS on a daily basis. It's his living, and any threat to it will be summarily dispatched.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Jon Stewart to O'Reilly: Fox foments 'full-fledged panic attack about the next coming of Chairman Mao'

-- by Dave

Tackling Bill O'Reilly on his home turf is never easy, yet Jon Stewart more than held his own Monday night.

The L.A. Times has more:

But most of all, Stewart used his second appearance ever on "The O'Reilly Factor" to levy a robust critique of Fox News and its coverage of President Obama.

"Here's what Fox has done, through their cyclonic perpetual emotional machine that is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: They have taken reasonable concerns about this president and this economy and turned it into full-fledged panic attack about the next coming of Chairman Mao," the comedian told his host.

"I think some people do that, but most people don't," O'Reilly responded, calling it "the narrative of a couple of guys."

That is, of course, a whole lotta hooey, as Stewart himself has ably limned.

You could tell that O'Reilly was on the defensive: He resorted to a cheap physical-intimidation tactic, shoving his finger at Stewart over the fact that Stewart made fun of Fox for cutting away from President Obama's tete-a-tete with the GOP last week. Stewart had to explain to him that he made fun of Fox because it was funny, not because he had anything against Fox.

Funny that BillO didn't bother to bring up the time that Stewart totally pwned Sean Hannity for showing fake footage. Guess it musta slipped his mind.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Who you gonna believe? Glenn Beck, or your lyin' eyes?

-- by Dave

It's been amusing watching Glenn Beck twist and squirm and try to explain what he meant last October when he proclaimed that President Obama was flying the American airplane right into the trees, "taking you to a place to be slaughtered."

After Arianna Huffington raised the matter with Fox Chief Roger Ailes this weekend -- and then explored it in some detail with Keith Olbermann -- Beck has been scurrying about coming up with a variety of shifting rationales for what he was saying.

First, he said, "I don't know if I've ever used the word 'slaughtered'." Then, upon discovering that he had indeed used it, still tried to claim he "had never used it on the air," but was only referring to SEIU's Andy Stern. Finally, he settled on the claim that he wasn't speaking "literally" about "slaughter," he was talking about, um, the economy! Yeah, that's the ticket!

That was the rationale he followed yesterday on his Fox News show, smirking and acting as though his rationale would reveal his critics for the fools they were. Of course, what you can really see is what a fool anyone who believes Glenn Beck is.

Here is what he actually said in October:

Beck: I told you yesterday, buckle up your seatbelt, America. Find the exit -- there's one here, here, and here. Find the exit closest to you and prepare for a crash landing. Because this plane is coming down, because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees!

Most likely, it'll happen sometime after Christmas. You're gonna see this economy come up -- we're already seeing it, and now it's gonna start coming back down again. And when you see the effects of what they're doing to the economy, remember these words: We will survive. No -- we'll do better than survive, we will thrive. As long as these people are not in control. They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered!

As Arianna noted in her response:

No, Beck contended again and again and again, the whole time he was just talking about "the economy." Barack Obama is going to slaughter the economy. Even though he clearly said "taking you" not "taking the economy."

So, to review the ever-changing explanations: Beck never used the word "slaughter" -- until it was proven that he did. Then he only used it in reference to Mao, Stalin, or Hitler -- until it was proven that this wasn't the case. Then, when he used it, he wasn't referring to the Obama administration, he was referring to Andy Stern. Then he was referring to Obama -- but didn't mean it literally.

Got it? You might need to use Beck's trademark chalkboard to keep track.

A little later in the show, Beck brought on Bill O'Reilly to chew over O'Reilly's segment of the night before in which Joe Klein castigated Beck for his "hateful crap," including "the part where he describes the president as intentionally steering the airplane of state into the ground." Yet Beck claimed Klein can't come up with any examples (and it's true that Klein's mention of the Birthers story was off; Beck has in fact never joined in on that conspiracy theory).

Somehow, the whole "the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees" line doesn't matter because it was just a metaphor. Of course he didn't mean Obama was some kind of pilot, you silly liberals.

That, in essence, is his entire defense: Because these were simply metaphors to illustrate what Obama was doing to the economy, it shouldn't matter that he uses metaphors involving mass death.

Beck may think his audience is stupid, but the rest of us are dumb enough to fall for this. We understand metaphors and rhetoric at least as well as Beck does. The point Huffington raised, and Klein as well, was that this kind of rhetoric, employing violent metaphors, in fact has the effect of inspiring violent responses among its audiences.

People's economic well-being is nearly as vital to them and their families as their physical well-being. When you tell someone that the president is going to drown them economically, or crash the economic engine of the nation, or economically slaughter you, the reaction will be every bit as visceral and violent as if people were being told they were threatened physically.

Arianna made this point in her response:

The crux of the matter was never whether Glenn Beck really believes Barack Obama is planning to actually slaughter Americans. It's the damage being done by the inflammatory rhetoric and imagery he constantly uses. The evoking of "slaughter" and "killing sprees" and a president who "has a deep-seated hatred for white people" is meant to play into the public's legitimate anxiety over the economy -- and fan the flames of fear.

Indeed, even the references to Mao and Stalin and Hitler engaging in genocide were not as untainted at Roger Ailes wanted to claim. Because those references all came in the context of a week's worth of Beck shows attacking the "progressive movement" as a "cancer" and a "virus" that was "sucking the lifeblood" out of the country, and culminating in a pseudo-documentary based on Jonah Goldberg's fraudulent work whose entire thrust was to connect the "progressive movement" as the underlying force behind all of the great genocides of the 20th century.

Moreover, Beck has consistently claimed that Obama is a totalitarian of whatever stripe fits that day's thesis -- a socialist, a communist, a fascist, a Maoist -- and made clear his belief that the current White House is run by "radicals" who intend to "fundamentally transform" America into a totalitarian state. The genocide documentary was unmistakably a component of this thesis.

See for yourself:

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A note of apology to my readers

-- by Dave

Boy, it's been dark here awhile, hasn't it?

I'd like to apologize to the readers who've been coming here for so many years for letting things slide since mid-November. I've been in the process of co-writing a book with my Crooks and Liars cohort, John Amato, titled Over the Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane. It's due out in May from PoliPoint Press, and it's been quite a bit of work pulling all the pieces together.

In the process, when I hit crunch time with the manuscript, I quit cross-posting because I simply didn't have the time or energy, figuring I would catch up when I got through it.

Well, it was a little more arduous process than I expected, but I'm back and will resume not just cross-posting, but posting pieces that don't fit into C&L's increasingly crammed schedule.

In the meantime, I'll be backfilling this week, going back and putting up C&L posts I intended to put up here the past couple of months but just ran out of time for. These will mostly be the essential posts that really belong here at Orcinus.

Anyway, my apologies for the absence. I'll be working hard this year to keep things going here, just because Orcinus deserves its own little niche in the universe still.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Roger Ailes lies about Glenn Beck: 'Slaughtering' remark was about progressives in the White House

-- by Dave

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When you watch Roger Ailes on TV, you can really see why Fox News is what it is: a compulsively mendacious propaganda operation. Because nearly every word out of Ailes' mouth is a lie, distortion or prevarication of some kind.

The most egregious yesterday on This Week, as John already noted, was in defense of Glenn Beck, after Arianna Huffington -- who has already made an issue out of Beck's rhetorical recklessness -- called Ailes out on it:

HUFFINGTON: Well, Roger, it's not a question of picking a fight. And aren't you concerned about the language that Glenn Beck is using, which is, after all, inciting the American people? There is a lot of suffering out there, as you know, and when he talks about people being slaughtered, about who is going to be the next in the killing spree...


AILES: Well, he was talking about Hitler and Stalin slaughtering people. So I think he was probably accurate. Also, I'm a little....

HUFFINGTON: No, no, he was talking about this administration.

AILES: I don't -- I think he speaks English. I don't know, but I mean, I don't misinterpret any of his words. He did say one unfortunate thing, which he apologized for, but that happens in live television.

Well, as John pointed out, this is flatly false. Just a couple of months ago, Beck was telling his audience that "progressives" like President Obama and SEIU chief Andy Stern were taking the country down the path to genocide:

Beck: I told you yesterday, buckle up your seatbelt, America. Find the exit -- there's one here, here, and here. Find the exit closest to you and prepare for a crash landing. Because this plane is coming down, because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees!

Most likely, it'll happen sometime after Christmas. You're gonna see this economy come up -- we're already seeing it, and now it's gonna start coming back down again. And when you see the effects of what they're doing to the economy, remember these words: We will survive. No -- we'll do better than survive, we will thrive. As long as these people are not in control. They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered!

Moreover, as Arianna pointed out, he talked last October about the Obama administration embarking on a "killing spree," inspired by Mao:

Spread the wealth -- hello, Mao -- that is what this is all about. And anybody not on board, look out because you too could be the next victim of the killing spree.

More to the point, the point of Beck's most recent big project, his fake "documentary" touting Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" thesis, is that the progressive movement -- represented by Hitler, Mao, and Stalin -- is responsible for all of the genocides of the previous century.

It's nothing new, in fact. Beck has been telling his audiences for some time that Obama and "the progressives" are planning all kinds of evil and nefarious activity in pursuit of the destruction of America -- including rounding people up into concentration camps, and marching us toward a "new" kind of fascism.

We've put together a compendium of these various moments.

So, who do you believe? Roger Ailes, or your lying eyes?

As Simon Maloy at Media Matters points out, Ailes also lied about Beck supposedly apologizing for an "unfortunate remark." Moreover, in spite of his endless deluge of misinformation and lies, Beck has not once apologized for a single thing he has said on Fox. On the few occasions when he has corrected a falsehood, he has decidedly not apologized; instead, he has used those occasions instead to launch fresh rhetorical assaults on the persons about whom he's already lied.

Seems a perfect fit for Ailes, really, considering just who Roger Ailes is and what he's done for years. Fox is just the final outcome of a lifetime stoking the politics of resentment -- a politics stoked by hate, fear, and above all, lies.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Jonah responds to the historians -- sort of -- in defense of 'Liberal Fascism'. Grade: Fail

-- by Dave

When we first published that series of historians' critiques of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism at HNN last week, the official word was that Goldberg had declined to respond, though we had notified him ahead of time that the essays were coming.

Well, it seems he changed his mind.

Sort of.

Actually, as you can see, Goldberg really only deigns to respond in any depth to one of his critics -- Robert Paxton, whose essay on Goldberg's scholarly flaws is damning indeed. I'll mostly let Dr. Paxton speak for himself in his own response, except that, as I'll explain, Goldberg's evasive reply is largely in line with the kind of exchange I've previously had with Goldberg.

The rest of us he airily dismisses. Indeed, according to Goldberg, the entire enterprise was tainted by the fact of my participation:

Let me say up front that selecting David Neiwert to “introduce” the discussion – without telling me in advance – is pretty strong evidence that this symposium was intended a priori to discredit the book rather than honestly discuss it (usually, introducers at least pretend to be evenhanded). The slanderous and absurd bile in some of these initial responses – comparing my book to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and me to a Nazi propagandist – runs completely counter to the spirit of open debate. I would like to think that HNN didn’t know what it was getting into when it started this project.

So forgive me if I take all of this gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth over the polemical – as opposed to scholarly – nature of Liberal Fascism with a grain of salt. Neiwert and Bertlet are deeply invested in their cottage industry of spotting fascism and Nazism in the Republican Party, talk radio and elsewhere. In nearly every respect they are both caricature and embodiment of precisely the mindset I attack in my book (a mindset Professor Paxton claims doesn’t exist). Heaven forbid I adopt a Marxist mode of analysis, but it’s fair to say that for them to treat Liberal Fascism respectfully would be like a Luddite welcoming the cotton mill. I’ve dealt with Neiwert’s arguments before, so I won’t waste more time on him here.

Well, it's true that I previously had a brief running exchange with Goldberg, largely in response to my review for The American Prospect. What you might miss from Jonah's link, though, is the the way Goldberg abruptly ended the discussion by dismissing me as no longer worth his time:

Here's my grand theory about this guy. He's made his career hyping the terrible threat from the Posse Comitatus, Aryan Nations and American Nazi Party and so like the bureaucrats in Office Space who think TPS reports are the most important thing in the world, he can’t seem to grasp that they’re pretty trivial.

In other words, he came to his understanding of fascism by following bands of racist white losers in the Idaho woods while using some Marxist tract or other as a field guide to identify the various species he encountered. In other words, he's internalized every cliché and propagandandistic talking point I set out to demolish in my book. Moreover, his career depends on maintaining his version of the fascist peril. So, he's banging his spoon on his highchair a lot because my book undercuts his whole reason for being.

... So, you want my short answer to why I don’t discuss, say, the Posse Comitatus? Okay here it is: Who gives a rat’s ass about the Posse Comitatus?

I’m sure Neirwert’s gorillas-in-the-mist reportage on these guys is top notch, and I’ll take his word for it their bad guys. But being bad guys alone doesn’t in and of itself make them fascists. Indeed, from my limited understanding of what these guys believe, they are radical localists , who don’t believe any government above the county level is legitimate. Do I really have to spell out why that’s not exactly in keeping with hyper-statist ideology of Nazis and Italian Fascists? “Everything in Hazard County, nothing outside Hazard County,” has a nice ring to it, but the Hegelian God-State it is not.

Ah, yes. The My Superior Mind Is Grappling With Great Metaphysical Questions While You Are Merely Wallowing In Insignificant Details dismissal.

Of course, I shortly responded in some detail. Judge for yourselves, but I believe I pretty thoroughly demolished Goldberg's "Grand Theory" about me (he had nearly every detail wrong).

All for naught, of course; I had already been summarily dismissed by his Superior Mind:

After today, I doubt I will deal with Neiwert again — at least not at any length — for one simple reason. Virtually every rebuttal to what he's said about my book can be found in my book. He simply doesn't care what I say, he only cares about discrediting me at all costs. There's no percentage in debating such people.

Besides leaving unanswered the specific responses to his counterclaims, Goldberg most of all refused to confront one of my ongoing and major points:

[L]et me first point out the fundamental dishonesty of this kind of argumentation: I in fact provided a long list of clearly fascist American organizations -- only one of which was the Posse Comitatus -- who represent a very real manifestation of actual fascism, not simply because they're racist (as I said, that's not necessarily any kind of definitive trait of fascism anyway), but because they fully fit the description, both academic and real-life.

So yes, one might easily dismiss the Posse Comitatus, by any accounts a relatively small organization with a relatively limited immediate reach. But one cannot so easily dispense with the entire American far right -- the bulk of which in fact is identifiably fascist or proto-fascist -- quite so readily. The Posse Comitatus is just a small, though important, part of this continuum -- it was founded by one of Gerald L.K. Smith's disciples, William Potter Gale; and it in turn became a significant cornerstone of the Patriot/militia movement of the 1990s, perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing; who in turn gave birth to the Minutemen so fondly back-slapped by right-wing pundits like Jonah Goldberg.

I'm not complaining that Jonah missed discussing the Posse Comitatus per se; I'm complaining that he completely elides any kind of serious or thoughtful discussion of American fascists as we've known them historically. Of course, any such discussion would probably have to include the Posse, but that's beside the point.

Tracking the activities of these groups has consumed a sizable chunk of my journalistic career, but Goldberg, rather than respecting that on-the-ground experience, dismisses it in a cloud of amusing innuendo ...

No, Jonah, being bad guys alone doesn't make them fascists. But holding swastika and Dixie banners aloft, shouting "Sieg Heil," and ranting ad nauseam about how bestial colored people and queers and the Jewish media are destroying the country, and demanding that we start shooting Mexican border crossers -- well, that pretty clearly marks them as fascist, dontcha think?

Of course, all this was before two Posse-style "sovereign citizens" -- Scott Roeder of Kansas and James Von Brunn of Washington, D.C., made national headlines by committing violent acts of domestic terrorism -- walking into a church and shooting a prominent abortion provider in the head, and walking into the Holocaust Museum and gunning down a security guard, respectively.

Of course, when that happened, Goldberg not only declined to discuss the Posse connection, but actually argued, alongside Glenn Beck, that these men were not right-wing extremists at all, but merely lone nutcases.

All this inspired Charles Pierce to observe at Altercation:

Pretty trivial, indeed.

I swear, if he were more of a tool, you could use him to spread mulch.

Since then, Goldberg has continued to pretend that he fully responded to my arguments, when in fact he only indulged in selective attacks on a handful of dubious points (note especially his continuing insistence that the Klan was nothing more than out-of-hand film cult) and completely ignored the central arguments, particularly the overwhelming historical evidence that contradicts his central thesis, to wit, that "properly understood," fascism is "a phenomenon of the left" and not the right.

Indeed, he continues to do the same in his response to Paxton. Note especially that among all the words Goldberg expends on minor details (without a hint of irony, I might add) he utterly fails to properly confront this this passage from Paxton:

Goldberg simply omits those parts of fascist history that fit badly with his demonstration. His method is to examine fascist rhetoric, but to ignore how fascist movements functioned in practice. Since the Nazis recruited their first mass following among the economic and social losers of Weimar Germany, they could sound anti-capitalist at the beginning. Goldberg makes a big thing of the early programs of the Nazi and Italian Fascist Parties, and publishes the Nazi Twenty-five Points as an appendix. A closer look would show that the Nazis’ anti-capitalism was a selective affair, opposed to international capital and finance capital, department stores and Jewish businesses, but nowhere opposed to private property per se or favorable to a transfer of all the means of production to public ownership.

A still closer look at how the fascist parties obtained power and then exercised power would show how little these early programs corresponded to fascist practice. Mussolini acquired powerful backing by hiring his black-shirted squadristi out to property owners for the destruction of socialist and Communist unions and parties. They destroyed the farm workers’ organizations in the Po Valley in 1921-1922 by violent nightly raids that made them the de facto government of northeastern Italy. Hitler’s brownshirts fought Communists for control of the streets of Berlin, and claimed to be Germany’s best bulwark against the revolutionary threat that still appeared to be growing in 1932. Goldberg prefers the abstractions of rhetoric to all this history, noting only that fascism and Communism were “rivals.” So his readers will not learn anything about how the Nazis and Italian Fascists got into power or exercised it.

The two fascist chiefs obtained power not by election nor by coup but by invitation from German President Hindenberg and his advisors, and Italian King Victor Emanuel III and his advisors (not a leftist among them). The two heads of state wanted to harness the fascists’ numbers and energy to their own project of blocking the Marxists, if possible with broad popular support. This does not mean that fascism and conservatism are identical (they are not), but they have historically found essential interests in common.

Once in power, the two fascist chieftains worked out a fruitful if sometimes contentious relationship with business. German business had been, as Goldberg correctly notes, distrustful of the early Hitler’s populist rhetoric. Hitler was certainly not their first choice as head of state, and many of them preferred a trading economy to an autarkic one. Given their real-life options in 1933, however, the Nazi regulated economy seemed a lesser evil than the economic depression and worker intransigence they had known under Weimar. They were delighted with Hitler’s abolition of independent labor unions and the right to strike (unmentioned by Goldberg), and profited greatly from his rearmament drive. All of them would have found ludicrous the notion that the Nazis, once in power, were on the left. So would the socialist and communist leaders who were the first inhabitants of the Nazi concentration camps (unmentioned by Goldberg).

Paxton has in these brief paragraphs utterly demolished Goldberg's thesis (and believe me, he is only briefly summarizing the mountain of concurring evidence in this matter).

What does Goldberg have to say? Very little: He excerpts only the portion pertaining to labor unions, and then claims that he's already rebutted this:

I find this argument bizarre. First of all, how did independent labor unions do under Stalin? Under Castro? Under Mao? Are those regimes not left-wing? Hitler sent Communists and rival socialists to concentration camps. This was evil, to be sure, but how was it right-wing? Stalin liquidated the Trotskyites (and 31 other flavors of socialists) too. Why is killing rival Communists and socialists right-wing when Hitler does it and not when Stalin does it? If your answer is that Stalin was somehow “right-wing” when he did these things, then your definition of right-wing is simply “evil”—and that validates a big chunk of my book.

But in fact the matter of fascist attacks on unions extends well beyond the actions took after fascists obtained power: These attacks were a fundamental aspect of the early rise of fascism as a movement, and clearly delineated that fascism was occupying political space on the right.

Indeed, Goldberg has continued to claim that his thesis remains intact:

By any remotely similar definition, fascism belongs on the left – and to date, not a single critic of the book has even come close to rebutting this basic point.

Translation: "Lalalalalalala I can't hear you!"

I think it's safe to predict that eventually, Goldberg will haughtily dismiss even Dr. Paxton as somehow not worthy of the expenditure of effort from his Superior Mind. Already, he's dismissed not just myself, but Roger Griffin, Matthew Feldman and Chip Berlet. (Feldman has responded here.) On what basis? Apparently, we're just too nasty. Gearing up for the predictable kissoff, he says he was disappointed in Paxton's response, but adds:

Still he stands head-and-shoulders above some of the spittle-flecked ranters.

Indeed, his cohort Michael Ledeen -- who penned his own semi-admiring contribution for HNN, largely in tune with the admiring blurb he wrote for the book's cover -- similarly complained that we were nothing more than a partisan "mob" intent on destroying Goldberg:

When asked to participate, I hoped that maybe finally it was time for a serious debate on the nature of fascism, which has been impossible for more than half a century, mostly because of the Left’s refusal to look reality in the face. Jonah’s crime was to look at it and say, as others (myself included) had said before him, that fascism came at least in part from a leftist revolutionary tradition.

Now, there are several deep ironies in this: First, all four of the essays in fact discussed the fact that fascism came at least in part from a leftist revolutionary tradition. And all four of them explained from various perspectives why this ultimately was a nonsequitur.

The second big irony is this: In 1972, Micheal Ledeen published a book titled Universal Fascism: The Theory and Practice of the Fascist International, a book built around interviews with Italian historian Renzo de Felice, whose thesis, as American Conservative magazine detailed a few years back, was that "Italian fascism was both right-wing and revolutionary".

Indeed, as the AC piece explores in some detail, the idea of a revolutionary right embodied in a "universal fascism" was a fetish of Ledeen's for some years. And as far as I can determine, Ledeen has never disclaimed or explained this work in light of his more recent preoccupation with "Islamofascism" -- not to mention his current endorsement of Goldberg's thesis.

Goldberg and Ledeen are rather transparently hiding behind the claim that somehow his critics are a spittle-flecked mob that unfairly misunderstands his Superior Mind and Great Metapolitical Thesis, and instead is merely intent on burning him at the stake.

Nevermind that, when it comes to flecks of spittle, Goldberg was entirely unconcerned about Glenn Beck's frothing "documentary" calling the progressive movement a "cancer" and a "virus" responsible for most of the past century's great genocides. Indeed, not only was Beck's entire thesis derived from Liberal Fascism, Goldberg played a prominent role as an interview subject for the "documentary," and actively promoted it beforehand.

In contrast, Goldberg spends much of his time in his response whining that the mean historians misconstrue his intent -- really, he's not trying to argue that liberals are taking us down the road to genocide. He cites the text of the book itself:

Now, I am not saying that all liberals are fascists. Nor am I saying that to believe in socialized medicine or smoking bans is evidence that you are a crypto-Nazi. What I am mainly trying to do is to dismantle the granitelike assumption in our political culture that American conservatism is an offshoot or cousin of fascism. Rather, as I will try to show, many of the ideas and impulses that inform what we call liberalism come to us through an intellectual tradition that led directly to fascism. These ideas were embraced by fascism, and remain in important respects fascistic.

Well, if this is so, why does Goldberg participate in, and avidly promote, a fake "documentary" by Glenn Beck claiming that indeed liberals -- or more properly, progressives -- are the same thing as fascists; and that believing in socialized medicine is part of path toward genocide, as he did just last week? (See the video above.)

Terry Welch raised this issue in the comments to Goldberg's reply:

Goldberg seems to be saying that all those darn liberals are simply getting him wrong: He never intended to suggest that American liberals are the equivalent of Nazis and to say he did is just being stupid.

So why is it that he ONLY argues this when liberals read his argument this way? Many right wing nutjobs believe that his books thesis is "liberals=Nazis" (just look at the many, many signs to that effect at the tea parties or the Glenn Beck "documentary" in which Goldberg himself took part) and yet Goldberg seems content with their use of his oh-so-scholarly work.

If Goldberg only answers one more question -- and that's doubtful, considering that we have already cost him more effort from his Superior Mind than he would like -- I would like to see him answer that one.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.