The latest installment in my running series at The Big Con is now up: "The Politics of the Personal: The Urge to Purge":
- The transformation of mainstream movement conservatives into something closer resembling far-right extremists didn’t happen overnight. It came in bits and pieces, drips and drabs, piling up in small events that seemed innocuous enough at the time. Beginning in the mid-1990s, and increasingly so in the years after 9/11, figures on the mainstream right began picking up ideas, talking points, issues, and agendas from its extremist fringes: the xenophobic, conspiracist, fanatical religious right. These ostensibly “mainstream” figures would then repackage these ideas and talking points for general consumption, usually by stripping out the overt references to racism and xenophobic hatred.
These “transmitters” were often leading right-wing media luminaries, all reliably viewed as mainstream conservatives: Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, Lou Dobbs, Michelle Malkin, Michael Savage. Some were public officials, like Sen. Trent Lott (whose ties to the segregationist neo-Confederate movement came floating to public attention in 2002), Rep. Tom Tancredo, and Rep. Ron Paul (the latter a 2008 Republican presidential candidate, despite his longtime proclivity for “New World Order” conspiracy theories). And sometimes the transmissions came from people with one foot firmly in the fringe camp who manage for a time to disguise their agendas: for instance, Jared Taylor of the white-supremacist American Renaissance, who is skilled at posing as an academic expert on race relations and is presented on TV as such; or John Tanton, the mastermind of various “immigration reform” groups whose work tends to specialize in demonizing Latinos, who is himself financed by white supremacists.
Longtime readers here will recognize a lot of the ideas herein, but this (and the preceding Part 3) are all fresh writing. Hope you enjoy.