Saturday, December 15, 2012

Now Watch: Gun Nuts Will Claim Their Obama Paranoia is Coming True

If there is any kind of silver lining lurking in yesterday's horror show at Sandy Hook Elementary, it is this: The national conversation on guns is sharply changing. Perhaps that's because, as Charlie Pierce observes, this bell has been tolling long and loud -- and now we realize that it tolls for us.

It's a reflection of the depraved state of our national conversation that it took a parade of massacres culminating in a schoolhouse full of murdered 5-year-olds to awaken that realization in us. But that's where we are. The question now is how to get out of it.

Particularly because the other half of the conversation -- the gun-rights absolutists who increasingly retreat into paranoid conspiracy theories to justify their worldviews, as well as an insurrectionist interpretation of the Second Amendment asserting that the real purpose of gun ownership is to enable the overthrow of a tyrannical government -- is just plain ol' bug-eyed crazy. Not to mention psychopathically insensate, exemplified by the Brian Fischers and Mike Huckabees out there blaming liberals for the murders.

How exactly are we supposed to conduct a conversation with people who cling insistently to irrational nonsense?

And what is nearly certain to happen next is going to make the conundrum inescapable.

It's clear, both from his remarks yesterday and his radio address today, that President Obama has now screwed up the political courage to try to tackle the matter of the mass proliferation of guns in American society. And that, as it happens, will fall in line with the paranoid predictions of the gun nuts before the election.

You remember what they were saying:
"[The Obama campaign] will say gun owners -- they'll say they left them alone," LaPierre told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday. "In public, he'll remind us that he's put off calls from his party to renew the Clinton [assault weapons] ban, he hasn't pushed for new gun control laws. ... The president will offer the Second Amendment lip service and hit the campaign trail saying he's actually been good for the Second Amendment."
"But it's a big fat stinking lie!" the NRA leader exclaimed. "It's all part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and destroy the Second Amendment in our country."
How was the conspiracy to take shape? By the following steps:
1. Neutralize gun owners and NRA voters as a political force in national elections, and thereby:

2. Win re-election to a second term in the White House, where they then will be immune to the will of voters and free to continue consolidating and misusing their ever-increasing power to:

3. Prosecute a full-scale, sustained, all-out campaign to excise the Second Amendment from our Bill of Rights through legislation, litigation, regulation, executive orders, judicial fiat, international treaties—in short, all the levers of power of all three branches of government.
The result, predictably, has been a saturating boom in gun sales around the country:
"He's never been pro-gun," says Cris Parsons of President Obama. Parsons, 31, owns a Texas gun purveyor called the Houston Armory. So far, Parsons insists, Obama has been "pretty coy" about his antipathy toward guns--and he likely will remain so during the campaign. To do otherwise would "upset a lot of people."

But if Obama wins a second term, he'll have "nothing to lose," says Parsons.

Alan Korwin, author of nine books on gun laws, including "Gun Laws of America," says gun owners are worried that the president, as a lame duck, will clamp down as never before on gun ownership.

Parsons says about 40 percent of Armory customers cite this fear as their reason for stocking up on guns and ammo now, before the election.
And so with the President actually picking up the issue of gun violence now, these people will believe their worst fears are in the process of being realized.

Many of the "Patriot Porn" books I've been reading -- you know, apocalyptic "novels" for "preppers" about hardy bands of survivors making America safe for Patriots again after the depredations of Obama and the liberals who destroy America -- feature scenarios along these lines. Most of them depict Obama or his stand-in using various "crises", including school massacres secretly conducted by nefarious government agents out to create popular support while blaming fabricated scapegoats and ultimately gun owners themselves for the problem, to provide the pretext for destroying the Constitution and instituting the "Islamic Republic of America" or some similar "liberal" entity.

As I've observed before: These gun-rights absolutists thrive on the paranoia they engender, and the rest of us eventually pay the price for it.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Latest Far-Right Wingnuttery: Obama Plotting a 3rd Term

Our friend and sometime contributor Leah Nelson has a post up over at the SPLC's Hatewatch site examining that fringe world between far right and far left -- dominated by the rightist element, in the person of Alex Jones and his proto-Patriot conspiracy shop.

In this case, it's these pseudo-economists who put out conspiracist newsletters to investors -- their most recent theory being that President Obama is plotting to defy the Constitution and ensconce himself for a third term come 2016 -- whose Planet Bizarro version of reality gets a good sharp look:
'Anarcho-Capitalists’ Seen as Cousins of the ‘Patriot’ Movement
The star of the show is a fellow named Porter Stansberry, a scam artist/"financial guru" convicted of making over a million dollars selling false "inside tips" (he claimed a First Amendment defense) and was subsequently fined $1.5 million by the SEC.
Evidently soured on the government by his brush with the law, Stansberry has turned from scam artist to antigovernment radical, using various Internet publications to mix dubious investment advice with apocalyptic warnings about a coming era of tyranny that will destroy America.
His most recent insight? According to a YouTube video distributed across a multitude of far-right websites and discussed with great seriousness by figures like antigovernment conspiracist Alex Jones, President Obama is planning to overthrown the Constitution, implement socialism, and seize a third term in office.

According to Stansberry, Obama won’t even have to use force to do it. Instead, the president plans to buy his third term with untold profits gained from mining America’s vast shale oil deposits, which will lead to an era of extraordinary prosperity unlike anything America has seen before.

“All of this new wealth,” Stansberry says, “will seem like a gift from the Prophet Muhammad to the administration of Barack Obama.”

And his supporters will eat it up. Once the black gold really starts flowing, Stansberry claims, the president will execute a Hugo Chavez-like power grab, distributing money and favors to friends, cronies, and political allies, who in return will cheer for him in the streets as he seizes an unconstitutional third term — and, possibly, even a fourth — in office. During his reign of terror, Obama will replace America’s market economy with a socialist dictatorship and “punish and tax those who work hard,” using the wealth they create to “buy favors and luxuries for millions of Americans … who have done nothing to earn it.”
As Nelson explores, Stansberry is hardly alone peddling this scam. Indeed, Nelson goes on to explore in depth how these "anarcho capitalists" are in many regards just the latest attempt by the old far-right Patriot movement to expand its appeal -- mostly by exploiting the pieces of common ground they have with extreme libertarians from the left and anarchists. Be sure and read the whole thing; it's fascinating.

But it often comes down to a very familiar sort of refrain:
The Patriot movement is noteworthy for its followers’ forceful assertion of the right to bear arms, and form private militias willing to face down tyrannical government forces when the time comes. In contrast, Casey, Stansberry, and their sympathizers make a lot of noise about opposing violence, stressing the need to bring about their desired revolution through education and activism.

But in a 2011 essay titled “The Corruption of America,” Stansberry began to sing a very different tune. “The nation will soon face a choice between heading down the path toward fascism … or turning back the power of government and restoring the limited Republic that was our birthright,” he wrote. “What gives me confidence for the future? Gun sales, for one thing. U.S. citizens legally own around 270 million firearms – around 88 guns per 100 citizens (including children) today. That’s a hard population to police without its consent.”

Sounding very much like his Patriot cousins-in-arms — and very little like a proponent of nonviolent resistance — he continued: “[I]f the government attempts to take our guns … my opinion would change immediately. … But that’s one right the Supreme Court has been strengthening recently.”

“It gives me hope,” Stansberry said, “that most people in America still understand that the right to bear arms has little to do with protecting ourselves from crime and everything to do with protecting ourselves from government.”
Yep, we've heard that tune before.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Trent Franks Does the Projection Thing: Obama 'Out of Touch With Reality'

Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona today, discussing the ongoing fiscal bluff negotiations between President Obama and Speaker John Boehner:
I think the Speaker is at a profound disadvantage in the negotiations as it is ... simply because he's got a recalcitrant Senate and a president that simply is out of touch with reality.
Hm. And which reality is that? Maybe the reality on Planet Wingnut, where up is down, trickle-down succeeds, tax cuts create jobs, and the Rhythm Method works. And the public secretly supported Republicans in the last election.

Over here in our own little Planet Earth, the public resoundingly approves of Obama's approach to the negotiations -- and even a majority of Republicans agree that Obama has a mandate to take away those huge tax breaks Bush handed the wealthy. The crushing reality here is that Boehner and Co. are negotiating with their asses in their hands.

Of course, the current majority of members of the House happen to reside on Planet Wingnut. So that's a problem.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Happy Holidays From Clackamas: When Can We Talk About Gun Proliferation?

Gee, I wish someone would let me know when it's OK to have a national conversation about the mass proliferation of guns in American society and the inevitable slide to lethal violence that creates. Because, you know, it's obvious that now is not the time:
The masked gunman who opened fire in a crowded Oregon shopping mall, killing two people and wounding a third before taking his own life, appeared to have acted in a blind rampage with no known motive, authorities said on Wednesday.

The Tuesday afternoon shooting frenzy at the Clackamas Town Center in the Portland suburb of Happy Valley triggered pandemonium inside the mall at the height of the busy holiday season, sending thousands of shoppers streaming out of the complex as authorities arrived on the scene.
We know precious little right now about the gunman or his motivations:
Jacob Tyler Roberts, 22, was the masked man who stormed into Clackamas Town Center Tuesday afternoon, fatally shooting two people and wounding another before turning a gun on himself, police said.

Roberts does not appear to have a criminal history in Oregon, according to court records. He had two speeding tickets earlier this year.

Court records show that Roberts and a woman, Hannah Shoemake, were evicted last summer from their Happy Valley apartment.

Roberts' mother answered her door at her Portland home, but declined to comment to an Oregonian reporter. "I loved my son very much,"she said.
There isn't really a lot to say that hasn't already been said before. But it's worth noting the terror and chaos that these scenes inspire:

As I said not too long ago after something not very dissimilar happened in my backyard:
Everyone wants to know why this is happening. It isn't hard to figure out a couple of things that were clearly at play here: We're now a society awash in guns at unprecedented levels. And we're also awash in an increasingly untreated population of mentally ill people.

... [W]e haven't only government-gutting conservatives to thank for this problem. Because we can also thank the far-right paranoid gun nuts who run large national "gun rights" organizations for having gutted any kind of reasonable restraints on the public's access to guns.
Here's a natural fact I know from a lifetime of handling guns: A gun invites its use. Always. And for the insane or the insanely angry or the psychopathic or the weak of mind, that invitation becomes difficult to resist.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.