Spyhopping the Right.
David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. He is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000. His freelance work can be found at Salon.com, the Washington Post, MSNBC and various other publications. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Sara Robinson has worked as an editor or columnist for several national magazines, on beats as varied as sports, travel, and the Olympics; and has contributed to over 80 computer games for EA, Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other companies. A native of California's High Sierra, she spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver, BC in 2004. Her lifelong interest in the social effects of authoritarianism have most recently led her to pursue the MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. She's also a student member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and member of the Accelerated Studies Foundation advisory board on social and cultural issues. For fun, she raises kids and travels. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara's recent series:
Cracks in the Wall: Parts I, II, and III.
Tunnels and Bridges: Parts I, II, III, and IV, plus a Short Detour.
Dave's recent series:
The March of the Minutemen
Intro: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Other books by Dave [limited availability]:
"The Rise of Pseudo Fascism": An essay
Available in Adobe PDF format here
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Original posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.
"The Political and the Personal"
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Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
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[In HTML: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV. See explanatory note.]
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Orcinus Principium No. 1
Orcinus Principium No. 2
Death to traitors
Saturday, April 05, 2003
The threats keep coming:
Professor, recruiter face off at UMass
- Eyewitnesses said the recruiter told adjunct professor Tony Van Der Meer and a student that they should be shot in the head for their antiwar views.
Of course, it was the professor and not the man who uttered the death threat who was arrested by police:
- As the guardsmen packed up their literature and began to leave, Van Der Meer walked into the lobby. It's unclear what happened next, but a half-dozen students and Van Der Meer later said that one of the four guardsmen turned to Naro and the professor and said: ''You should be shot in the head.''
''No. You should be shot in the head,'' replied Van Der Meer, according to Shauntell Foster, a senior and a student of Van Der Meer's. Students Theresa Myrthil and Bethanie Petitfrere said they also watched the confrontation.
According to the police report, which did not record their words, the men were screaming at each other, nose-to-nose. An officer stepped between them.
The students said Van Der Meer never raised his hands or threatened the officer, and that the officer attacked Van Der Meer. In his report, the officer said Van Der Meer shoved him in the chest and told him to ''get out of my [expletive] face,'' and then elbowed him in the chest.
Three UMass-Boston police officers tackled Van Der Meer and wrestled him to the ground, several students said.
This is, unfortunately, consistent with police behavior in other situations in which "pro-war" protesters have threatened violence.
The specter of violence
Now come the death threats. From just up the road in Bellingham:
Unidentified caller warned he would shoot 2 protesters
- The man first called the business line of the 911 dispatch office at 7:03 a.m. Friday. A dispatcher asked the man if he wanted to leave a message; he replied that he planned to shoot one male and one female protester. The call couldn't be traced.
He next left a message, also untraceable, at the newsroom of The Bellingham Herald, saying he planned to make national headlines by shooting two protesters at close range.
Then, at 10:20 a.m., he called in a similar threat to the registrar's office at Western. Campus officials said the call came from a pay phone.
KGMI radio station broadcast a recording of the man's 911 call on its morning newscasts. If caught, the man could be charged with making felony threats.
Fortunately, it didn't succeed:
Students stage anti-war 'die-in'
Before the speakers began, students circulated Red Square and handed out slips of paper warning students of a threat phoned in anonymously this morning to Bellingham police, Western Washington University and The Bellingham Herald. The caller said he planned to shoot a male and female protester at the march.
Western officials spread the word of the threat via e-mail and the university’s Web site. Students also announced the threat before the rally.
It didn’t seem to scare anyone away.
'What a cowardly, insidious, un-American attempt to stop free speech," said Alberto Mejia, one of the speakers, as cheers and applause filled the red brick square.
Of course, this is what we've come to expect from the so-called "pro-war" crowd. Indeed, in case there was any doubt about which element was responsible for the threat:
- During the silence, the two dozen or so support-the-troops ralliers across the street started chanting "U.S.A." and one told the protesters to "stay that way."
One week ago, this same bunch -- only in a much larger contingent -- invaded a peace vigil in Bellingham, in much the same way we've seen confrontational campaigns to disrupt peace protests in other places:
Hundreds of pro-military truckers roll downtown in show of support
Note the bizarre slant of this story. It isn't until you read midway through it that you realize that this was not merely a pro-war demonstration -- it was an overt attempt to disrupt a smallish antiwar protest.
Interestingly, this appears to be much of the same crowd of in-your-face disruptors who were called out by KVI radio host Kirby Wilbur last week in Duvall:
- "We had no idea it was going to get this big," said Bosman, who said he was inspired by a pro-war rally in Duvall he drove his rig through last Monday.
"There are a lot of people that feel the way I do," he said. "Sometimes, it just takes a little snowball to get things going."
In case there was any question that the intent of the "pro-war" crowd is not so much to support the war, but rather to attack antiwar protesters, the well-buried details should make it clear:
- They blasted their horns down the Guide and through the city, escorted by Bellingham Police officers who led them on a route that included Squalicum Parkway, Roeder Avenue and Chestnut Street, where they turned north on Cornwall Avenue. Between Holly and Magnolia streets, they passed the building where the Bellingham chapter of the anti-war group, Not in Our Name, held an Anti-War Fair Saturday morning.
Two men in camouflage fatigues stood on Cornwall near Magnolia saluting the convoy. Three women held their fingers in the shape of a "v." Nearby, three Sehome High School students -- Katie Hoyt, 18; Ken Hoyt, 15; and Josh Hatfield, 14 -- played snare drums in the center of a crowd of anti-war demonstrators, creating a contrasting rhythm to the truck horns' steady drone that was so loud sidewalk conversations had to be yelled.
And unsurprisingly, a tinge of violence made its appearance;
- There were a few scuffles as protesters from both sides converged, said Olise Olufunke, founder of the local Not in Our Name chapter and the organizer of another peace rally at that intersection Saturday afternoon.
Olise said a man berated her for her anti-war views and slapped her, back-handed, on the arm. She hopes to press charges, she said. And Cassandra Malec, who helped organize the morning's event, saw police officers drag away people who were trying to cross the street during the truck convoy.
Mark Polin said he backed his car out of a Cornwall Avenue parking space to join the convoy while holding a sign that read, "Support our troops, bring them home," out the car window.
"Some guy stuck his torso in the driver side window," said Polin, "grabbed the steering wheel, told me to get off the road, and tried to grab the sign. But another pro-war guy told him to get out of my car."
It seems inevitable that this is going to get out of hand, and at some point Americans are going to start killing each other over this war.
One wonders where that uniter-not-a-divider stands on all this. Given the way this frenzy is being whipped up by his propagandists in talk radio, I guess it's really not hard to tell.
[Thanks to Paul deArmond for the heads-up.]
Dissent is Treason
Friday, April 04, 2003
From Fayetteville, N.C., home of Fort Bragg, Special Forces, Delta Force, and the 82nd Airborne:
Activists encircle Market House
- More than 100 people were there to support American troops, waving flags, holding signs and urging motorists to honk to show their support. Most drivers obliged.
"The majority has finally gotten vocal," said Sonja Rothstein of Fayetteville.
About 20 people were at the Market House to protest the war. They held signs and yelled "power to the people" at passing cars.
What this story doesn't really make clear is that the antiwar protesters were part of a weekly peace vigil of about 20-30 people who set up a relatively quiet regular group at the Market House. Last Wednesday, they were invaded by a confrontational group comprised largely of "Patriots" and bikers, their presence inspired by local talk radio.
Typical of the sentiments:
- Rothstein and others on the troop-supporting side said that those protesting the war are a vocal minority that only seems like a majority because of constant media coverage. Mikele Haywood of Fayetteville said it is impossible to support the troops but not the war.
"It's all the same thing," she said. "The troops are over there watching us, and it's very disturbing for them to see any type of protest."
Haywood said protesting now that the war has started is akin to aiding the enemy, Saddam Hussein.
Chuck Fager of the Quaker House, who brought this to my attention, reports that the peace group is not going to be run off. He says police managed to keep things peaceful this time, but one has to wonder how long this can be sustained.
The War on Dissent: Southern Discomfort edition
Thursday, April 03, 2003
War protesters say threats have become serious
- Scott O’Bryan, a University of Alabama history professor and co-chair of the Tuscaloosa Peace Project, said the group has received six or seven e-mails and phone calls over the last few days from people unhappy with them.
One e-mail ended with, “And oh, yeah, get the hell out of my country you traitor." The message was sent by someone identifying himself as “Your Worst Nightmare."
One person told O’Bryan over the telephone that there were people in Tuscaloosa planning to “do certain things" to the protestors.
“It’s definitely meant to intimidate," O’Bryan said.
Also noteworthy was this remark:
- Capt. David Hartin, Tuscaloosa Police Department spokesman, said officers will patrol more often during the group’s protests. He said the police can do little beyond that. He said charges could be filed against people whose comments to protesters rise to the level of intimidation or threats.
“If you’re following the national news, there are quite a few people who are expressing their disgust against people who are protesting," Hartin said. “People have their freedom of speech."
Translation: The cops may step in after a victimized protester has been assaulted, but don't count on anything beforehand.
Sounds like the good ol' days have returned to the South.
A thousand words
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Digby has a hilarious (and of course dead-on) response to the Rodney Lee essay:
- 7. Repeat steps 2-6 until the desired results are obtained and the idiot realizes that if you are going to fight back, it’s smart to fight the real enemy instead of invading a country that had nothing to do with attacking you. Keep doing it until he understands that it is stupid and counterproductive to rally everyone in the neighborhood to hate him with the same fervor as his attacker just so he can prove how tough he is.
Enter the militias
Another increment in the slow crawl to fascism that's occurring in the crucible of the War on Dissent:
Right wing militia claims it is targetting local anarchists
This source is not entirely reliable; the writer is an activist in the so-called 'anarchist' movement. Of course, this bias reveals itself in the headline; it's clear that antiwar protesters are the primary target of these militiamen.
However, the piece cites the militiamen's own Usenet and Web posts, which make the point clearly:
- I can however tell you that we do believe in the first Amendment and the exercise of it by protestors, however we feel that some people/groups have stepped across that fine line between use and abuse of their Constitutional rights. To us they have yelled "fire" in a crowded theatre. We know the police are being harassed and baited into taking actions against these protestors that of course they will exploit in the media, police brutality etc. To this point these extremists have not succeeded in doing the job.
We feel it is past time to Eliminate this element from our society. we feel it is our Patriotic duty. At almost any other time their protests would not be a bother to us but due to the nature of our Countries [sic] current situation, and the fact that we have been watching the activities of this/these groups for over 6 months (and before they even started their Anti-war campaign) we know for a fact that the Anti-Government and Anti-American Ideals that many of these people have are Parallel to that of domestic terrorists.
'Necrotic State' also reports that at the now-defunct militia Web site where this appeared, Gun Policy Center, a banner headline earlier read: "The only good protester is one with a bullet in their head."
Of course, I'm sure the Wall Street Journal op-ed page would assure us that this is only intended for humorous effect.
[A tip o' the Hatlo hat to reader MJ for the tip on this.]
The heart of the meme
Reader Sam Hunting was able to track down the author of the essay describing how to physically assault war protesters. It seems it was written by a self-described comedic writer who goes by the name of Rodney Lee (but who also appears to write under the name Rodney Lee Conover), and he published and copyrighted it shortly after Sept. 11 and during the runup to the war with Afghanistan -- against which, you may recall, protests were nearly nonexistent. Here's the original:
The Daily Hump [Oct. 6, 2001]
Note that the wording in the version now circulating on the Internet has now been changed to add "and those who support terror" to the first sentence, which underscores that this line of "reasoning" is being adapted for use against those who would protest the current war with Iraq as well. This in turn makes self-evident the speciousness of the whole enterprise.
Hunting also googled the essay and found it popping up on 86 different locations, and a lot of them were talk-radio related. Kynn Bartlett writes in to note that no less a radio talker than Laura Schlesinger -- No. 2 behind Limbaugh -- recited this essay shortly after 9/11. And Ted Barlow writes in to note that he heard it recently in Texas: "It wasn't a right-wing talk show or a country station, either, just a regular pop station in Houston."
Indeed, it's clear that this essay was the one being read by an MOR Seattle AM radio talk-show host when my original e-mailer brought it to my attention. This host was Gary Ryan of KIRO AM, who I unsuccessfully attempted to contact about the broadcast. However, Ryan's station manager did respond to my queries:
- Thank you for your concern regarding a statement talk show host, Gary Ryan made during his Sunday, March 23rd afternoon program in regards to actions toward war protestors.
Gary's statement was intended to use sarcasm to form a comparison between the attacks of September 11th, and a theoretical action taken against a protestor. In both cases innocent people were, or would be, victims of violence. He was NOT, however, advocating the assault of a demonstrator.
Mr. Ryan could be accused of poor judgement in his choice of words. However, he was merely presenting a "what if" scenario to make the point why would striking a protester be any different from two planes hitting the Twin Towers. Also please be reminded that opinions expressed by our talk show hosts do not necessarily reflect the views of Newsradio 710.
Finally we have talked to Mr. Ryan about his comments, and believe there will be no further controversies along this line. Thank you for you concern about this matter. We hope you continue to listen to Newsradio 710 KIRO.
The lameness of this response should be self-evident. Another reader, Jake Sexton of Lying Media Bastards and Stray Bulletins, addresses it well:
- That particular "punch the peaceniks" email has been circulating since just before the Afghan war in 2001 in various forms. I don't see it as a call to action to beat protesters but as an example of two bizarre conservative behaviors:
-- Violent conservative humor. For some reason, conservatives can tell the most vile, violent jokes around, sometimes aimed at specific individuals, but among themselves, they seem to know that they don't really mean "shoot protesters in the face" when they say "shoot protesters in the face." I think they see it more as a a burst of anger, like someone saying "I'm going to kill you" to someone who's made them really mad. Or, they mean every word of it and try to justify it as "just a joke" to liberals.
-- The "discredit the hypocrites" debate. Conservatives seem to think that if they can find a hypocrisy in any non-conservative argument, then they have won the debate. This sort of smirking "proof" is frequently spouted on the internet: "If you're so for peace, why didn't you speak out when Clinton attacked Serbia? If you're so concerned about civil rights, why aren't you concerned about the Iraqis' civil rights?" and so on.
The problem with the analogy, of course, is that it's an analogy. Waging war is in no way similar to punching someone in the nose. A single activist defending themselves with the small destructive power of their own fists is not the same as wildly bombing a large region of land in which your attacker (in the Iraq case, your potential attacker) might be located, alongside thousands of people who are not your attacker. As I've said in my blog, I would fully support a team of skilled soldiers going into Iraq to punch Saddam Hussein's regime into submission. But when you start using guns and bombs that will kill many, many people who are not "the bad guys," then I have serious problems.
However, I have to say that claims of "humorous intent" have often provided cover for rhetoric that is clearly designed to promote a mindset in which violence is an acceptable and appropriate response, as is silencing the opposition through physical intimidation and verbal threats. Both Rodney Lee and Gary Ryan may have thought he was merely using "sarcasm" or "satire" to point up some liberal hypocrisy, but the scenario they suggest is openly violent, and it would not surprise anyone if someone in his audience who was less stable chose to act on his suggestion. But no one in the audience can tell for certain. It is frankly just as likely that either of the two considers the idea of assaulting peace protesters an appealing idea and is merely using the cover of the "hypothetical" to foment such acts.
That is why any suggestion of resorting to violence as an appropriate response to one's fellow citizens is simply unacceptable for anyone who works in the mass media. This is a longstanding ethical standard that dates back to the lynching era, when such nods and winks indeed encouraged very real violence.
Of course, the base line of the perpetuation of this meme points up a fundamental falsehood in the ongoing campaign to defend the Iraq war: The notion that Iraq is somehow responsible for the events of Sept. 11. As I've mentioned previously, I was among the first journalists to explore the possibility that Iraq was involved in 9/11, and certainly remain open to the possibility. But anyone who has studied the facts of the matter knows full well that the connection is far from being proven; and the mere possibility of it is not in any way an adequate case for war.
Not that the jingoes care about such picky details. They have a different agenda in mind anyway.
Many thanks to Greg Roach of Tacoma, who writes in to point out that I was mistaken about KVI's ownership in my post about talk radio. KVI is owned by Fisher Communications, not Clear Channel. Limbaugh, who is the station's talk-show centerpiece, is syndicated through Clear Channel, which was the source of my mistake.
Roach also points out that I neglected to mention that Michael Medved is no longer at KVI; he has since moved on to one of the Clear Channel stations that is practicing the all-conservative talk format, 770 KTH (which in typically Orwellian fashion calls itself "The Truth").
Roach was also kind enough to send in a list of Clear Channel's other stations in Seattle:
KFNK 104.9 -- The Funky Monkey
KJR AM 950 & FM 95.7 -- Sports and 70's, respectively
KHHO AM 850 -- Fox Sports
KUBE 93 -- Urban Dance
In any case, this was simple sloppiness on my part. My apologies.
Tracing hate to its source
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
I mentioned yesterday that a Seattle talk-show host had urged his listeners to walk up to protesters and hit them, knock them down, and when they got up, to hit them again until they "got the idea." (I'm still waiting to hear back from either the host or his manager to confirm that he said this.)
A sharp-eyed reader (David Croot) forwarded this to me. It's an e-mail that apparently is making the rounds -- he picked it up from a pro-war/pro-pornography (seems like an appropriate mix) blog -- whose author at this point is still anonymous:
- With all of this talk of impending war, many of us will encounter "Peace Activists" who will try and convince us that we must refrain from retaliating against the ones who terrorized us all on September 11, 2001, and those who support terror. These activists may be alone or in a gathering... most of us don't know how to react to them. When you come upon one of these people, or one of their rallies, here are the proper rules of etiquette:
1. Listen politely while this person explains their views. Strike up a conversation if necessary and look very interested in their ideas. They will tell you how revenge is immoral, and that by attacking the people who did this to us, we will only bring on more violence. They will probably use many arguments, ranging from political to religious to humanitarian.
2. In the middle of their remarks, without any warning, punch them in the nose.
3. When the person gets up off of the ground, they will be very angry and they may try to hit you, so be careful.
4. Very quickly and calmly remind the person that violence only brings about more violence and remind them of their stand on this matter. Tell them if they are really committed to a nonviolent approach to undeserved attacks, they will turn the other cheek and negotiate a solution. Tell them they must lead by example if they really believe what they are saying.
5. Most of them will think for a moment and then agree that you are correct.
6. As soon as they do that, hit them again. Only this time hit them much harder. Square in the nose.
7. Repeat steps 2-5 until the desired results are obtained and the idiot realizes how stupid of an argument he/she is making.
8. There is no difference in an individual attacking an unsuspecting victim or a group of terrorists attacking a nation of people. It is unacceptable and must be dealt with. Perhaps at a high cost.
We owe our military a huge debt for what they are about to do for us and our children. We must support them and our leaders at times like these. We have no choice. We either strike back, VERY HARD, or we will keep getting hit in the nose. Lesson over, class dismissed!
The hounds of hate are now roaming freely.
They don't incite violence -- they just tell their listeners to beat people up
Following up on last night's post ...
Peace activists claim harassment
- Wilbur said he had noticed peace activists holding a regular Monday vigil at the location. On his morning radio show -- at least Friday and yesterday -- the Duvall resident told his listeners to show up to give another side of the debate.
"Our intent wasn't to confront," he said. "It was to give the other side."
Oh yeah. Suuuure. They just happen to "give the other side" by screaming in people's faces and frightening them into silence.
- But many of the peace activists -- who numbered about 20 yesterday -- said they were being intimidated. Yesterday and last week, the activists said, some people with "Support Our Troops" signs followed them down the street to confront them.
Wilbur denied the allegation. "How many of these people look violent? Do you think moms and babies in carriages look intimidating?" he said.
If they're screaming obscenities and calling people traitors, all while being backed up by male companions -- sure they do.
But then, Wilbur knew that. He just doesn't want to admit that he is indeed, as the peace-vigil organizer suggests, carrying out a vendetta.
Of course, this isn't only happening in Seattle. In Louisiana, there was this story:
Local protesters shout about the war
- Along with plenty of American flags, several of the signs they carried demeaned the marchers: "Protesting this war while our troops are being killed is equal to treason," read one. "You should all be shot."
And of course, the talk-show host who inspired all this hatred is openly fomenting it:
- Richard Condon, a morning show host for rock station KOOJ, said he wanted the hecklers to "put these goofballs in their place."
"This has been going on since World War I, and it's the reason they have the right to feel the way they do," Condon said, pointing at the peace protesters marching down Stanford toward LSU.
Despite that right, he concluded, "I think these son-of-a-buggers deserve a bullet in the head."
The charming thing about these cretins is that they will then heatedly deny that they are advocating violence.
Continuing along these lines, Atrios is running a "thug watch."
Quote of the day
- "The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."
"Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star", 149
May 7, 1918
Obviously, Teddy hated America.
Wingnut fantasies come true
So, was Ann Coulter only joking?
Remember when she urged, regarding Muslims:
- "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
Of course, we have been assured by no less worthy a source than the Wall Street Journal editorial page that Coulter's remarks are only for humorous effect, as it were: "Why would anybody even pretend to believe that Ms. Coulter ... wishes to convert all Muslims forcibly to Christianity?"
Now comes this:
Plans Under Way for Christianizing the Enemy
- Two leading evangelical Christian missionary organizations said Tuesday that they have teams of workers poised to enter Iraq to address the physical and spiritual needs of a large Muslim population.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the country's largest Protestant denomination, and the Rev. Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse said workers are near the Iraq border in Jordan and are ready to go in as soon as it is safe. The relief and missionary work is certain to be closely watched because both Graham and the Southern Baptist Convention have been at the heart of controversial evangelical denunciations of Islam, the world's second largest religion.
Gee, I wonder how well Graham's line about Islam being "a very evil and wicked religion" will work out there.
Maybe if they just name themselves the Ann Coulter Brigade ...
[A tip o' the Hatlo hat to reader TruthToPower -- who wants me to cry 'fascism' already. Sorry, not yet. But damn, we are getting warmer all the time.]
The War On Dissent: The popular front
The dogs are being unleashed.
The thuggish element of the far right that has taken up residence with the mainstream GOP is being called into action on the home front. They are being sicced on anyone who questions George W. Bush's dirty little war. And with them, they are drawing in formerly mainstream conservatives likewise moved by the bonfires of jingoism.
Not all at once, but pack by pack: quietly, locally.
Listen to talk radio for awhile and you'll know what I mean.
The pro-war right is no longer satisfied merely to be at war. It has now shifted to a program of threats of violence and open intimidation in the hopes of shouting down anyone who dares to dissent from their agenda.
Indeed, the fact that we are now at war is the chief excuse they give for silencing any dissent, accusing those who would protest the war of "treason" and worse. As the body counts rise and the entanglement snarls, as all the well-laid fantasies of easy victory are sand-blasted into the desert, the bile is growing thick and venomous. The landscape is becoming dangerous.
And because it is largely occurring through the medium of talk radio (with a healthy assist from the Internet), it's falling under the radar of most of the mainstream press. Perhaps just as significant, this same talk-radio segment is particularly dominated by corporations with extremely close ties to the Bush administration.
The specter of genuine American fascism, as I've discussed previously, looms larger all the time.
I've been listening in, and even here in "liberal" Seattle, it's getting ugly.
A lot of the ugliness comes from the callers. Some can scarcely contain their violent loathing for all things liberal, but particularly for those they deem insufficiently "supportive" of the people whose lives are now in the line in Iraq.
The most common line of argument I've heard from this segment goes like this: The Iraqi army's unexpectedly potent resistance is being fueled by the media reports of antiwar protests in the United States, because it's inspiring propaganda for them. Therefore both the media and especially the protesters are directly responsible for the rising toll of American deaths. (Don't be surprised to see Ari Fleischer trotting out this line at some point too.)
No one bothers to point out to them that this is a classic case of projection, of blaming your political opponents for your own failings. The chickenhawks in charge of this administration's war plans clearly underestimated the will of both the Iraqi army and the general populace in resisting this invasion, a will that is obviously borne out of fierce (and natural) national pride and not government propaganda. (There is, unsurprisingly, scant evidence that the antiwar protests provide any more than brief inspiration, if any at all.) It was that miscalculation which has produced higher-than-expected casualties, at least from the perspective of the little armchair generals now manning the airwaves. Protests had nothing to do with it.
Of course, the reason that no one points this out to them is that the talk-show hosts encourage this kind of rhetoric. They not only agree with such callers, but then go on to opine with similarly outrageous smears of the motivations of the protesters.
More than that, they are now openly encouraging tactics of intimidation against antiwar activists. In some cases they merely encourage prowar supporters to show up at antiwar demonstrations and counter their voices -- which is, of course, a recipe for confrontation, particularly given the bellicose nature of the audience that will respond to such encouragement. In other cases, they appear now to be openly advocating violence.
According to a report whose veracity I'm currently trying to ascertain -- but which so far appears reliable -- one of the local Seattle talk-show hosts actually urged his audience to assault antiwar protesters. (The host in question, as well as his station manager, have so far not responded to my e-mails. If and when they do -- or if all attempts to reach them fail -- I'll identify them.)
If you see an antiwar protester talking to people on the streets, he reportedly said, you should walk up to them and not even talk to them, just hit them and knock them down. Then, when they get up, he said, knock them down again. And again -- until they "start to get the idea."
Listening to this same station, I myself heard another talk-show host opine that antiwar protesters don't deserve to be alive.
As I say, it's getting ugly out there. This is just a small sampling, but you get a flavor for what "conventional wisdom" is floating about right now. Put simply, it's this: Antiwar liberals are the enemy of the state, and are costing American soldiers' lives, and need to be silenced by any means necessary.
I listen to a broad spectrum of stations, but the AM airwaves these days are particularly dominated by conservative talk shows. In Seattle alone, there are three stations dedicated just to that format.
The granddaddy of these is KVI, which rose to prominence on the wings of Rush Limbaugh's dulcet tones, but which is notable as the home of other famed conservatives, including Michael Medved and the GOP's 2000 Washington state gubernatorial candidate, John Carlson. I've been on Carlson's show; to his credit, he's one of the few conservatives who seems genuinely concerned about the influence of right-wing extremists on the mainstream movement. (He also is perfectly aware of my own conservative background -- I used to edit his column when I was at the newspaper that first ran his column, the very Republican Journal American, and we chatted irregularly -- and he probably gives me more of a hearing than most other conservatives.)
And yet Carlson was one of the most prominent among the talk-show hosts who openly urged their audiences to show up at events involving Rep. Jim McDermott, the Seattle Democrat whose opposition to the war has of course been fairly prominent. [I happen to be among those unhappy that McDermott traveled to Baghdad and allowed himself to be used for Iraqi propaganda; but his steadfast opposition to the war has been otherwise mostly admirable, and he has in fact made numerous thoughtful points against the conflict subsequently.] Indeed, KVI generally has been in the fore of generating the meme that antiwar dissenters are "treasonous" and now need to be confronted and silenced.
The disturbing thing is the way this has played out in real life.
Weekend before last, at the Federal Building in downtown Seattle -- site of many a protest over the years -- a group of about 50 antiwar protesters gathered to voice their opposition to Bush's campaign. McDermott showed up. And so did several dozen of the KVI listeners urged on by Carlson and others.
They were not exactly peaceful about it. They mostly mingled with the antiwar protesters and then started getting into people's faces. A number of the confrontations were broken up by orange-clad "peacekeepers," who moved in and defused situations mostly by surrounding and separating the would-be combatants.
The pro-war bunch reserved most of their venom for McDermott. As he gave his remarks, a knot moved in behind him and the TV cameras and became boisterous, waving their KVI-issued "Support Our Troops" signs and shouting obscenities. It was clear they were hoping to drown him out. As McDermott's remarks went on, they became noisier and nastier, screaming epithets and threats at McDermott even after he had finished. A staffer I spoke with afterward said she was "frightened for my life."
Moreover, Seattle police -- who were arranged in a row before the doors in front of the building -- never moved from their positions. It was clear that if violence did break out, they would probably stand back and let it happen.
McDermott tried working the crowd and shaking a few hands, but that ended abruptly. One of the prowar demonstrators, evidently a veteran wearing a uniform festooned with numerous medals (though, having been at many a militia meeting, I have to say their authenticity may have been suspect), took McDermott's hand, leaned into his face and shouted: "Thanks for coming, traitor!" McDermott then left.
This little confrontation appeared briefly, with little further reportage, on one of the local newscasts, and the Seattle Times ran a short item on it, but otherwise the ugliness went unremarked -- as well, apparently, as the near potential for violence that fortunately had been defused by the "peacekeepers."
Oh, and did I happen to mention that KVI is a Clear Channel station?
Of course, Atrios has been reporting diligently on the underwriting of the pro-war campaign by Clear Channel, along with all of the relevant connections between the upper echelons at the radio giant -- not just at his blog, but in his weekly NY Press column too. Paul Krugman has addressed it as well.
The closeness of the corporation that is the leading progenitor of the pro-war element to the Bush administration is clearly cause for concern. (Clear Channel is in truth the poster child for reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, as well as the now-defunct cross-ownership prohibition.) It becomes cause for downright alarm when that activism begins translating into thuggish attempts at intimidation and outright threats of violence directed at elected officials.
There were indications of this element early on in the pro-war demonstrations, as I mentioned earlier (along with Atrios and numerous others). It was especially notable that the rhetoric was more anti-dissent oriented than actually pro-war or anti-Saddam.
Fortunately, this shifted somewhat; in most of the initial large (Clear Channel-sponsored) pro-war rallies, the dominant signs read: "Liberate Iraq." This, of course, is a perfectly appropriate sentiment for a pro-war rally, and represents fairly that side of the debate without any attempt to silence the other.
In the intervening weeks and days since, however, the clearly pro-war rhetoric has been receding to the background, and the anti-dissent jingoes are starting to froth their way to the fore.
And it certainly is not relegating itself to merely Clear Channel stations. It's widespread. The station on which the host allegedly advocated hitting dissenters is the quintessential MOR Seattle AM outlet -- probably the most popular news and traffic station in town, with talk-show hosts who run the gamut from not-very-sharp liberals to conflicted centrists to the usual brand of robotic talking-points conservatives. Apparently, though, the competition to keep up with the wingnuts is growing stronger.
As I suggested earlier, you can probably turn to nearly any talk-oriented station now and find this kind of rhetoric dominating the airwaves. And the signal couldn't be clearer: It's time to shut them down. Time to loose the hounds.
And perhaps what is most disturbing about this trend is another presence that underlies the pro-war rallies: the unequivocal support for President Bush. (These expressions often have a religious twist, as in "God Bless George W. Bush".) In effect, they are becoming the first wave in Bush's re-election campaign.
If that is so, and it is commingling with thuggish rhetoric and behavior, then we are heading for a potentially violent and nightmarish election year in 2004.
Signs on the overpasses
Monday, March 31, 2003
Drove down to Portland this weekend to meet my new nephew. Mrs. Orcinus and the Princess and I all jumped in the car for the three-hour drive down, and were of course rewarded. It's always a little stunning to see a newborn and to be reminded just how tiny and vulnerable they are, and at the same time how much potential is there inside that quivering little bundle.
En route on Saturday, there were were crowds of pro-war demonstrators on the overpasses, especially in the Fort Lewis area, all waving American flags. I have no problem with these kinds of demonstrations, but there is an aspect of them that seems essentially dishonest.
The vast majority of the signs they held declared: "Support Our Troops." The unstated implication of these signs, of course, is that people who oppose the war do not support the troops.
This is fundamentally false. Many of those opposed to the war are indeed veterans and others (myself included) who simply do not believe an adequate case has been made for the war. They support our troops -- and do not wish to waste their precious lives for a war intended mainly for political purposes. As one popular antiwar slogan puts it: 'Support Our Troops: Bring Them Home!"
This is a common right-wing tactic -- wrapping themselves in a position that hardly anyone can refute, and thereby implying that their opponents are against essential homespun values. This is also why anti-abortionists like to label themselves "pro-life."
And then there were the "God Bless George W. Bush" signs -- in case there was any doubt about the political undercurrents at work here.
Of course, there also were the obligatory anti-antiwar signs, but most of them were content to use France as a shorthand for "antiwar." I'm sure if I had looked closer -- I was driving, after all -- I could have spotted worse.
More on this tide later today.
That shared worldview
Doug McGill at the McGill Report and Global Citizen went to a pro-war rally in Minnesota and observed the proceeedings. His report included this observation:
- Representative Gil Gutknecht told the audience in his speech that “periodically the tree of liberty needs to be nourished with the blood of patriots.”
This actually paraphrases a Thomas Jefferson quote:
- "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
And where did we most recently see this worldview promoted?
It was on the T-shirt Tim McVeigh was wearing at the time of his arrest -- and probably when he set off the bomb in Oklahoma City.