The March of the Minutemen
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Part I: What's in a Name?
Part II: Rotten from the Top
[Note: Part I began to count and describe the ways we know that the Minutemen are an extremist organizing strategy. No. 1 was their origins.]
2. THEIR LEADERSHIP
Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist have taken steps to attempt to reassure the mainstream media that their organization is not extremist. They've described efforts to "weed out" racists by performing background checks that in fact are likely only to uncover criminal backgrounds, and it's not even clear just how assiduously they're being applied (there are many indications that the standards loose at best).
They've also toned down the rhetoric they use. But their own previous pronouncements regarding immigration and the borders -- as well as some of their current remarks -- give a clear indication about their underlying motives.
Simcox makes border security a major focus of his media remarks, describing the original Minuteman Project as involving volunteers from throughout the country who are "concerned that the U.S. government must be made to act and take control of our borders."
- "We want a secure U.S. border and an end to the blatant disregard of the rule of law regarding illegal immigration," Mr. Simcox said. "Nearly four years after the September 11 attacks on America, we should be doing a better job of securing our borders.
"Our government is more concerned with securing the borders of foreign lands than securing the borders of the United States," he said.
Now, you'll want to take the numbers they predict on the border with a large mine of salt. They predicted 10,000 for the Arizona watch and came up with something far short of that (some media observers counted only around 2,500, at best, though of course the Minutemen's "official" numbers are around 8,000).
Simcox's insistence that the Minutemen's mission is focused on securing borders for the "war on terror" doesn't hold a lot of water, either. Most of the Minutemen, when interviewed, tend to talk about how their hometowns and neighborhoods are being overrun with criminal Latinos. It's about Latino-bashing, and the "war on terror" talk is just a fig leaf.
Indeed, Simcox himself will start talking this way if you let him go long enough, as one reporter did:
- "It's a public safety issue because 30 percent of crimes are committed by aliens," said Simcox, who cites no source for the statistic. "There's an explosion of vicious gangs with no respect for human life that target us because of soft laws."
Simcox also has a criminal record arising from his anti-immigrant activism. He was convicted on a federal weapons charge for carrying a handgun while allegedly tracking illegal immigrants in a National Park.
The extremist beliefs embraced by Simcox and Gilchrist are detailed in an SPLC report from last summer on the Minutemen, which notes that both men specialized in racist Latino-bashing prior to taking their organization national:
- While Gilchrist is newly prominent on the anti-immigration front — he recently joined the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, a hate group whose leader routinely describes Mexicans as "savages" — Simcox has been active since 2002, when he founded Civil Homeland Defense, a Tombstone-based vigilante militia that he brags has captured more than 5,000 Mexicans and Central Americans who entered the country without visas.
"These people don't come here to work. They come here to rob and deal drugs," Simcox told the Intelligence Report in a 2003 interview. "We need the National Guard to clean up our cities and round them up."
But that was the old Chris Simcox talking, not the new, spiffed-up, buttoned-down, ready-for-primetime Chris Simcox.
The old Simcox described Citizens Homeland Defense as "a committee of vigilantes," and "a border patrol militia." The new Simcox -- the one interviewed for dozens of national TV news programs and major newspaper articles about the Minuteman Project -- characterized his new and larger outfit of citizen border patrollers as "more of a neighborhood watch program."
The old Simcox said of Mexicans and Central American immigrants, "They have no problem slitting your throat and taking your money or selling drugs to your kids or raping your daughter and they are evil people." The new Simcox said he sympathizes with their plight, and sees them as victims of their own government's failed policies.
Likewise with cofounder Jim Gilchrist, as the Center for New Community reports:
- Under Gilchrist's guidance, the Minuteman Project has tried to rhetorically distance itself from both paramilitarism and racism. Yet Gilchrist himself is prone to hysterical remarks about immigrants and to conspiracy mongering, as evidenced by these remarks:
- From what I have seen in videos, to me there is a clear and present danger of insurrection, sedition and succession by those who buy into the fact that this really is Mexico’s territory and doesn’t belong to the United States and should be taken back.
Gilchrist's words are a succinct statement of the so-called reconquista conspiracy theory which holds that Mexico is quietly infiltrating a fifth-column of revolutionaries into the United States with the purpose of territorial conquest. Moreover the infiltration is being accomplished with the treasonous collusion of various "liberal elite" institutions, e.g. the Catholic Church and the Ford Foundation, and the applause of muddle-headed multiculturalists.
Gilchrist's conspiracist formulation of the problem he sees with undocumented immigration is only an extreme form of the basic xenophobic arguments repeating the time-tested formula of bigoted fear-mongering. In the early years of the twentieth century it was the "yellow peril" -- which led to laws excluding those of Asian descent from immigrating to the United States. In the wake of the Civil War, and with the failure of Reconstruction, it was Jim Crow and anti-miscegenation laws, intended to keep the races forever separate and distinct.
In a May 2005 speech to a meeting of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, a hardcore anti-immigrant group which promotes the reconquista conspiracy theory, Gilchrist said, "I'm damn proud to be a vigilante." He believes that, "Illegal immigrants will destroy this country." At a Memorial Day 2005 "summit" of anti-immigrant leader in Las Vegas, Gilchrist commented, "Every time a Mexican flag is planted on American soil, it is a declaration of war."
Another report of the same event included some worthwhile observations from the people who came there to protest -- and an interesting response from the Minutemen:
- Meanwhile, down a dirt road at the hilly, rugged border fence, protesters barbecued food, chanted and prayed, and stayed out of the sun. When they spotted border watchers, the protesters massed around them, telling them to go home.
"There's no place for you in California," said Bruce Cooley, of Los Angeles. "You are contributing to the deaths of people who are trying to cross to feed their families" back home.
One border watcher, who refused to give his name as he climbed into his Jeep, outfitted with a dirt bike, said he would be back. "It's intimidating to have all those people yell at you," the San Diego resident said. "But we'll come back tonight and just sneak up on them."
The notion of "wait till dark," as it happens, shows up in a lot of interviews with Minutemen. [More about that in Part III.]
The definitive word on the Minutemen's leadership, particularly Simcox, could be found in the investigative report filed by Suzy Buchanan and David Holthouse of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which reveals plenty of troubling information.
The portrait of Simcox that emerges is of a paranoid self-promoter who sees himself as an overlooked genius finally coming into his own. He also is prone to extremely unstable behavior:
- Court records obtained by the Center's Intelligence Project show Simcox's second ex-wife, Kim Dunbar, filed an emergency appeal in September 2001 to obtain full custody of their teenage son because she feared that Simcox had suffered a mental breakdown and was dangerous.
Dunbar declined to be interviewed for this article, but her sworn affidavits speak for themselves. In one, Dunbar testified that throughout their 10-year marriage, Simcox was prone to sudden, violent rages.
"He once took a knife from the kitchen and threatened to kill himself," she testified. "When he was angry, he broke furniture, car windows, he banged his head against the wall repeatedly and punched things."
Dunbar said that when their son was 4 years old, Simcox slapped him so hard that a mark remained on his face for two days. Another time, she testified, she grabbed her young son in her arms and jumped out a window because Simcox was throwing furniture at them.
After such episodes, she said, Simcox would become despondent. "He would stare at walls, mumbling to himself." In the affidavits, Dunbar said she repeatedly pressured Simcox to seek professional help and even tried to have him hospitalized. But he persistently refused treatment.
"Eventually," she said, "the only thing I could do was file for divorce."
Simcox and Dunbar initially shared custody of their son. There was no legal dispute until shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, when Dunbar suddenly filed a flurry of emergency appeals.
"While Chris has always been prone to strong opinions and ranting behavior, this last episode has gone even farther," she told the court. "I am convinced he has had some kind of mental lapse and I am now, more than ever, afraid for my son to be in Chris' care."
Dunbar grew frightened after Simcox left her a series of bizarre voicemail messages beginning that Sept. 13, in which he went on angry diatribes about the Constitution, patriotism, and impending nuclear attacks on Los Angles, and talked about training their 15-year-old son in the use of firearms.
"I will begin teaching him the art of protecting himself with weapons," Simcox said in one recorded message he left for Dunbar. "I purchased another gun. I have more than a few weapons, and I intend on teaching my son how to use them." Simcox added, "I will no longer trust anyone in this country. My life has changed forever, and if you don't get that, you are brainwashed like everybody else."
In phone conversations with his son that his ex-wife recorded and submitted to the court as evidence of Simcox's mental instability, he challenged the boy to become "a man and a real American."
"You better stop playing baseball, buddy, and you better do something real, 'cause life will never be the same," Simcox thundered. "I'm going to go down to the Mexican border and sign up for the government for border patrol to protect the borders of the country that I love. You hear how serious I am."
It's also quite clear that Simcox is motivated less by real concerns about border security than about the influx of Latinos into the United States:
- In January 2003, while on patrol with Civil Homeland Defense, Simcox was arrested by federal park rangers for illegally carrying a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun in a national park. Also in Simcox's possession at the time of that arrest, according to police records, were a document entitled "Mission Plan," a police scanner, two walkie-talkies, and a toy figure of Wyatt Earp on horseback.
Two months later, in a speech to the California Coalition on Immigration Reform, a hate group whose leader, Barbara Coe, routinely refers to Mexicans as "savages," Simcox offered a dire warning to his audience.
"Take heed of our weapons because we're going to defend our borders by any means necessary," he said. "There's something very fishy going on at the border. The Mexican army is driving American vehicles -- but carrying Chinese weapons. I have personally seen what I can only believe to be Chinese troops."
Of illegal immigrants, Simcox added: "They're trashing their neighborhoods, refusing to assimilate, standing on street corners, jeering at little girls walking on their way to school."
He also has been known to inflate his resume:
- "When I'm asked by reporters if I'm a racist, I tell them, 'Why don't you go ask my black ex-wife and my biracial children and the members of the racial diversity committee I chaired whether I'm a racist?'" he said at the October conference.
Simcox, evidently, was never the chair of his school's diversity committee. Even more disturbing, however, is what comes next:
- "When they ask me, 'Well, what do you have to say to people who call you a racist?' I come back at them with, 'What do you have to say to people who call you a child molester?'"
That's a strange rhetorical device given the accusations leveled at Simcox in the summer of 1998, when his 14-year-old daughter from his first marriage -- prior to his union with Dunbar -- came to live with him in Los Angeles.
In separate interviews with the Intelligence Report, two of Simcox's former colleagues at Wildwood and his first ex-wife gave the same account. They said that Simcox helped his daughter get a job babysitting for a Wildwood School employee and that one night, Simcox's daughter showed up unexpectedly at her employer's house, visibly upset, alleging that her father had just attempted to sexually molest her.
"He tried to molest our daughter when he was intoxicated," said Deborah Crews, Simcox's first ex-wife and the girl's mother. "When she ran out, he tried to say he was just giving her a leg massage and she got the wrong idea."
Contacted by the Report, Simcox refused to answer four direct questions about the molestation allegations. "I would never answer those questions to you. You can't ask those questions," he said. "You're on a witch hunt and you're trying to discredit our movement, which is to secure the borders. ... My personal life has nothing to do with anything that goes on here."
No charges were filed against Simcox, but Crews said she and her daughter immediately broke off all contact with him.
"He's a drastic, chaotic, very dangerous guy," said Crews. "I'm surprised he hasn't shot anybody yet. I see him on TV and I have to turn if off, because it makes me sick to see him getting all this attention."
If this is someone's idea of the leader of a "neighborhood watch," I'd be watching my neighborhood very closely indeed.
Next: The Following They Attract
The March of the Minutemen
Friday, January 13, 2006
[Note: What follows in this series of posts is the text of an informational paper I presented Dec. 9-10 at a researchers' conference on the Minutemen in Bellingham, Wash., which I described here. The full title of the paper: "The March of the Minutemen: When Extremist Vigilantism is Embraced by the Mainstream." Much of the material contained in it was gleaned from work compiled at Orcinus, so it will be appearing here for a second time. However, some of it is also new material.]
Part I: What's in a Name?
What do we call the "Minutemen"? Should we call them racists? Vigilantes? Nazis?
It's important to find an adequate descriptor for phenomena like the budding border-militia movement, especially for those who recognize it as the kind of civic threat it actually represents. After all, quickly -- and accurately -- communicating the essence and the presence of that threat is one of the fundamental tasks in dealing with it.
A lot of terms have been bandied about, and I'm not sure all of them are accurate. Certainly "vigilantes" is appropriate enough, but not all of the Minutemen are racists, and the racism inherent in their program is well disguised and not all that easy to explain.
One term that I think we can accurately use to describe them is extremist. It's a term that conveys both the nature of the Minutemen and the challenge they represent to the mainstream.
Indeed, one of the most significant facts about the Minutemen, in this context, is the extent to which they signify the real embrace of right-wing extremism by large swaths of the mainstream conservative movement. This is a development that has real significance beyond merely the debate over immigration.
A thorough review of its core of support -- from the white-supremacist American Renaissance and Aryan Nations organizations to less noxious but nonetheless racist outfits like VDare and American Patrol -- as well as the words of its own founders and participants will reveal right-wing extremism in every nook and cranny. Portraying them as "jes' folks" is not merely irresponsible, it's dangerous.
How do we know the Minutemen are extremists? Let us count the ways:
1. THEIR ORIGINS
Most Americans became aware of the Minuteman Project last summer, when Chris Simcox and James Gilchrist's "border watch" obtained national coverage, especially among the mavens of the right-wing press. But the idea had been bubbling up from the tarpits of right-wing extremism for some time.
Simcox's first organization in Tombstone, Arizona, devoted to patrolling the border was called the Tombstone Militia, though he changed it in short order to the Civil Homeland Defense Corps. Simcox's campaign was attracting press attention as early as January 2003, when he was inviting media members to observe the group's patrols. This is typical of even both the supporters and the offshoots of the Minuteman Project: they consistently identify themselves with the "militia" (or "Patriot") movement -- which is, by any definition, extremist. They call themselves "militias" with surprising consistency. That this hasn't set off any bells of recognition among reporters who were alive in April of 1995 is remarkable.
Indeed, claiming the name of the Minutemen is a page right out of the militia handbook: the original Minutemen were the heart and soul of the militias who defeated the British army in the Revolutionary War. The name claims a kind of descent from these historical forebears in exactly the same way as the "militia movement" claims descent from the Revolutionary War-era militias.
Prior to the announcement of the Minuteman Project, press coverage of the border-militia movement referred consistently to the participants as "militiamen," including a piece in the Los Angeles Times that examined Simcox's patrol and a few others, then made the following observation:
- So far, no one has been reported hurt in a confrontation. Another new outfit called American Border Patrol is planning to send volunteers equipped with Webcams and satellite uplinks to the border to stream live online video of immigrants crossing illegally into the U.S. The groups differ in tactics, but all three share an apocalyptic vision of an America under siege. "We cannot let [the Mexicans] export their failures," says Glenn Spencer, the 60-something organizer of American Border Patrol, based in Sierra Vista, Ariz. "They are a threat to our entire culture."
None of these organizations can produce more than a handful of supporters, and an informal poll--in restaurants, gas stations and on the streets of southwest Arizona--turns up few ready to strap on a gun and join them. Illegal immigrants "come through our land all the time, but so what? They're not doing any harm," says Cathy, who declines to give her last name when I meet her at a Chevron station in Bisbee, four miles from the border. She then uses a popular obscenity to describe Simcox and others like him.
Joanne Young, who tends bar at the Crazy Horse Saloon in Tombstone, says "Simcox doesn't have 10 people in this town on his side." Tombstone lives on tourism, she says, "and visitors are down this year from last. People are calling and saying, 'I don't want to bring my children there; it isn't safe.' "
Still, few in Arizona dismiss the border militiamen. While reporters are drawn by the photogenic firearms, fiery Rambo quotes and a morbid certainty that sooner or later somebody's going to get killed, locals know Simcox and his allies are on to something. In their half-baked, xenophobic, scary-screwball way, they've identified a real problem: The U.S.-Mexico border is a disaster.
It was immediately clear that the border-militia movement was in the classic mold of a Patriot movement opportunity: exploiting a genuine problem and in the process grossly distorting it -- a la Ruby Ridge, Waco, the Freemen standoff. Prior to the rise of the Minutemen, their most recent such hijacking of the political process was in the Klamath River water dispute, which was exploited by Patriots who screamed about the government there until the Bush administration caved. The outcome of that interference -- a fish kill of Biblical proportions the following summer -- seemed frighteningly apt, not to mention portentous.
Unsurprisingly, the dark side of the border-militia movement soon began making its presence known. An August 2003 Sojourners article described the problem in sobering detail:
- Human-rights organizations charge that these militias terrorize people they assume to be undocumented immigrants, violate state laws limiting militia activities and civilian arrests, escalate the potential for violence, and maintain links to racist hate groups.
"People were already being harassed by the Border Patrol, and now things have gotten even worse," says Jennifer Allen of the Tucson-based Border Action Network. Mexican Americans born and raised in the United States, she says, "used to go out hunting or hiking, but they've been dragged out of their tents and harassed to such a degree that they don't go out of the city anymore. And now these vigilantes are out there with the attitude that if you're brown and out in the desert, you must be an undocumented migrant. So even the residents are in danger because the vigilante groups are bringing people in that are racist and hunting for anyone with brown skin."
Border Action Network asserts that some militia members have openly consorted with out-of-state representatives of racist groups. One public meeting in May 2000 was attended not only by such local militia backers as Roger Barnett and Glenn Spencer, but also by two representatives from David Duke's National Organization for European American Rights and members of an Arkansas Klan group.
Questions of racism aside, militia members are reacting to, and contributing to, an already dangerous situation. In the past couple of years, smugglers have become increasingly desperate, aggressive, and in many cases violent. Groups of illegal immigrants have been fired upon -- and people killed -- by drive-by assailants who have never been apprehended. Law-enforcement agencies theorize that the killers are rival smugglers, while human-rights activists speculate that the attackers could be U.S. vigilantes.
John Fife, pastor of Tucson's Southside Presbyterian Church and a leader of the sanctuary movement in the 1980s, has decried the killings, no matter who is responsible for them, as "the culmination of a history of dehumanization and racism and militarism on this border that has gone on for a long time. Too long." Such faith-based groups as Humane Borders and Samaritan Patrol have given humanitarian aid to border crossers in trouble, but they are ill-equipped to contend with such violence—and the potential for more.
Border Action Network, while acknowledging that the border situation has become dangerous and untenable for crossers and residents alike, has been calling, with limited success, for state and federal authorities to take the militias out of play.
Most noteworthy at the time was the evident willingness of local law enforcement to play along:
- Activists charge that some law-enforcement agencies are complicit in the militias' activities. According to the Border Action Network's "Hate or Heroism" report, "Ranch Rescue says its members include former Border Patrol agents, military personnel, law enforcement officers, and members of Soldier of Fortune magazine. This may explain why Ranch Rescue operates with impunity."
Isabel Garcia, of the Human Rights Coalition, says, "What's really disturbing to us is the complicity of Larry Dever, the Cochise County sheriff. He's been a featured speaker at every one of these racist meetings they've had. He's done nothing to stem their violations, and we're not convinced that there may not be some involvement by the U.S. Border Patrol. The ex-Tucson sector chief, Ron Sanders, and [a former California-based] sector chief, Bill King, have been to American Border Patrol meetings. Ron Sanders still has folks within the ranks that are very loyal to him." Frank Amarillas, a spokesperson for the U.S. Border Patrol in Tucson, says there is no connection between his agency and American Border Patrol.
One of the early "border militia" groups called itself "Ranch Rescue," which, in the description of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is "a group of vigilantes dedicated to patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border region in an effort to deter and repel border crossers and trespassers. They conduct paramilitary operations and equip themselves with high-powered assault rifles, handguns, night-vision devices, two-way radios, observation posts, flares, machetes, all-terrain vehicles, and trained attack dogs."
The SPLC legal report went on to explain that one of the members of the Arizona chapter of Ranch Rescue, Casey Nethercott, was arrested in November of 2003 for assaulting two illegal immigrants in Texas -- for which he was ultimately convicted, and then forced to relinquish property rights to the ranch to the couple he assaulted when they successfully filed a civil lawsuit. Nethercott also did prison time for a weapons violation in connection with the assault.
While Nethercott awaited trial, his property in Arizona was briefly converted to a heavily armed compound -- one, perhaps, designed both for "hunting" illegal aliens and for repelling federal authorities. This was revealed in a seemingly nondescript story in the local weekly paper, the Sierra Vista Herald, describing some e-mails that raised concerns about Ranch Rescue's activities at the ranch:
- The correspondence shows deputies met with FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents in November to discuss Ranch Rescue and varying reports that the group had constructed an armory with "'a million' rounds of ammunition" on the property, as well as previous reports of gun-mounted dune buggies and .50-caliber sniper rifles with a range of up to two miles.
... At the heart of the county's interest in Ranch Rescue are two zoning complaints, both filed in November regarding a flurry of construction on the 70-acre property believed to be owned by Casey Nethercott.
Ranch Rescue President Jack Foote has said that the group was invited by Nethercott in September to help Nethercott, a Ranch Rescue member himself, guard his border property against trespassing by illegal immigrants and the Border Patrol.
... The complaints allege the Ranch Rescue compound has constructed observation and guard towers from the remnants of a water tower and windmills, and workers are in the process of completing bunkers, barracks, a helicopter landing pad and indoor weapons range.
Zoning inspector Rick Corley said that while the complaints have yet to be investigated, such construction is likely a violation of the property's residential zoning restrictions.
A complaint filed Nov. 3 by the Sheriff's Department has since been withdrawn, with Rothrock citing FBI contact regarding the situation on Nov. 13 as the reason. In his explanation for the removal of the zoning complaint he writes, "The situation is more serious than we were aware of. We will be setting up a meeting (with) the FBI in the near future."
According to an e-mail from Rothrock, "(Border Patrol) says that the (Ranch Rescue) people openly state that they are 'hunting' undocumented aliens."
According to Ranch Rescue's Web site, volunteers from the Missouri Militia and other groups based out of Texas and California are at work in Douglas on a mission known as Operation Thunderbird. With continuous armed patrols of the U.S.-Mexico border region around Douglas, as well as the construction of physical obstacles on the private property to deter Mexican traffic, their goal, the site says, is to protect private ranchers' properties and apprehend illegal immigrants before they can ravage the land.
Trouble continued brewing with the border militias brandishing their hardware and stirring up trouble with property owners along border areas. A story in the Tucson Citizen described it reaching a point where the Ranch Rescue vigilantes were targeting Mexican military, because they believed the army was aiding and abetting drug and people smuggling:
- The next time a Mexican soldier sets foot on the small chunk of border property owned by a Ranch Rescue member group, members plan to open fire, their leader said.
"Two in the chest and one in the head," warned Jack Foote, president of Ranch Rescue, a civilian group that patrols in search of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. He said his group is protecting the rights of property owners.
Chances are rising for an international shootout, thanks to patrols along the Cochise County border by people other than law enforcement, said Douglas Mayor Ray Borane.
"This isn't a game," Borane said. "That's the thing that has always worried me, that these people would cause an international incident and not only hinder relations with Mexico, but that they'd make this area become a hotbed for other organizations like that."
The "border militia" idea is not new -- the only thing that is new is that those promoting it have been able to disguise their racism successfully. It has been most loudly promoted in recent years by such groups as VDare, Peter Brimelow's anti-immigrant organization, and such figures as Glenn Spencer, founder of American Patrol. Both organizations have been designated "hate groups" by the SPLC.
Spencer is particularly notorious. As the SPLC explains in its report:
- Glenn Spencer, one of the hardest line anti-immigrant ideologues now operating, founded the Voices of Citizens Together (VCT, which is also known, like his web site and radio show, as American Patrol) in 1992.
In 1994, VCT lobbied hard for passage of California's controversial Proposition 187, which would have denied educational and other benefits to illegal immigrants and their children. (Although it passed, 187 was later thrown out by the courts.)
Four years later, Spencer claimed 3,500 subscribers to the VCT newsletter. Spencer takes a hard line on immigration, demanding that the armed forces seal America's southern border. He also displays a bigoted and vulgar side quite openly.
On his web site, he attacks Mario Obledo, a leading Latino activist and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as "Pinche [literally, fucking] Cockroach and 1998 Asshole of the Year." A cartoon character is depicted urinating on Obledo's picture.
Spencer posts dozens of immigration-related articles but replaces the words "illegal immigrant" with "illegal alien," among other editing touches. In a 1996 letter to The Los Angeles Times, Spencer wrote: "The Mexican culture is based on deceit. Chicanos and Mexicanos lie as a means of survival."
He posts material on his site from such men as H. Millard, an infamous columnist for the racist Council of Conservative Citizens who once bemoaned the "slimy brown mass of glop" that immigration and interracial relationships were making of the U.S. population.
Spencer sent every member of Congress a copy of his videotape -- "Bonds of Our Nation" -- that purports to prove the Mexican government and Mexican-Americans are plotting to take over the American Southwest and create the nation of Aztlán. Hand-delivering the videos was Betina McCann, the fiancé of neo-Nazi Steven Barry.
On a weekly radio show that airs in several cities, Spencer has hosted a series of guests like Kevin McDonald, a professor who accuses Jews of devising an immigration policy specifically intended to dilute and weaken the white population of America.
The idea preceded even those far-right activists, though. The Center for New Community's Building Democracy Initiative explains this in some detail in a new report titled "Shell Games: The 'Minutemen' and Vigilante Anti-Immigrant Politics [PDF file], which lays bare the history behind the "border watch" concept:
- The strategy of border vigilantism as a political spectacle did not originate with the Minutemen Project, Glenn Spencer's American Border Patrol, Ranch Rescue, or even the militia groups that inspired Chris Simcox. Instead, the "men of this calibre" who hatched the idea were leaders in the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, more than a quarter century ago.
The Klan Border Watch was launched on Oct. 16, 1977 at the San Ysidro, California, Port of Entry by Grand Dragon Tom Metzger and Imperial Wizard David Duke, who claimed that the patrols would stretch from California to Texas. It was conceived to recapture the Klan's glory days. With nearly 4 million members in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan was highly influential in the passage of the 1924 National Origins Act, thereby making racism part of official US immigration policy until the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965.
While Metzger handled the California operations, the Texas side was run by Louis Beam (who would go on to terrorize Vietnamese fishers in Galveston Bay a few years later.) They predicted that thousands would participate, though only dozens materialized. To Duke, a Klan Border Watch was a necessary part of "the battle to halt the flow of illegal aliens streaming across the border from Mexico."
More important than actually stopping border crossers, the Klan Border Watch was conceived as a way to "arouse public opinion to such a degree that they [the Federal Government] would be forced to better equip the beleaguered U.S. Border Patrol."
Just the name itself -- "Minuteman" -- has a certain legacy in right-wing circles. The most recent previous incarnation of an organization claiming the "Minuteman" name was the right-wing anti-Communist group of the 1960s. They too started out presenting themselves as merely patriotic citizens acting on concerns about the nation's well-being. But they ended up being something else altogether.
I wrote about them in Chapter 3 of In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest [pp. 52-54]:
- Then there were the Minutemen. Not only did they preach a more rabid style of anti-Communist paranoia than the Birch Society, their activities also manifested, for the first time, the violent undercurrent of these beliefs.
Led by a Missouri man named Robert DePugh, the Minutemen not only believed that government had been infiltrated at its highest levels by Communists, but that a Communist takeover was virtually inevitable; therefore, they told their believers, you should arm yourselves with whatever weaponry would be effective as a counterforce to strike back when the takeover occurred. DePugh, a onetime associate of [JBS founder] Robert Welch before DePugh was dropped from the John Birch Society, also told his followers to harass "the enemy," and compiled at his headquarters a list of 1,500 people he identified as members of the "Communist hidden
government," with the intent to assassinate them in the event of the Communist coup.
The Minutemen soon became associated with groups like Wesley Swift's Church of Jesus Christ Christian, a Christian Identity church located in Hollywood. Swift preached the "two-seed" brand of Identity, holding that not only are white people are the true Israelites and descendants of Adam, but that blacks, Asians, and other non-whites thus are "pre-Adamic" people without souls, and Jews are either descendants of Satan himself (the offspring of conjugal relations with Eve) or practitioners of a Satanic religion. Among Swift's more notable adherents: retired Col. William Potter Gale, a former MacArthur aide who eventually became a key figure in Posse Comitatus; and a quiet-spoken Lockheed engineer named Richard Girnt Butler.
Also in attendance at Swift's Sunday services was Keith Gilbert, a gunshop owner who also was a Minutemen member. Gilbert was arrested in 1965 and convicted for the theft of 1,400 pounds of TNT that he later said was part of a plot to plant a bomb under the stage of the Hollywood Palladium during an Anti-Defamation League convention, and to detonate it during the keynote speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- a plot only disrupted by his arrest.
Other Minutemen were getting into trouble around the nation. The group was connected to an October 1966 plot, broken up by the FBI in New York City, to bomb three summer camps operated by liberal East Coast organizations. And illegal caches of weapons and ammunition linked to Minutemen kept popping up around the countryside.
By this point, though, DePugh had decided to move into the political arena. Using the Minutemen's agenda as a platform, he formed the Patriotic Party and made public speeches around the country touting its potential in the wake of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential election defeat. Two of those appearances were in Seattle in 1966. A mail-room employee of Seattle City Light named Duane I. Carlson put up $500 of his own money to sponsor the Northwest convention of the Patriotic Party at the Hyatt House. A few months later, DePugh made a stump speech for a November Patriotic Party gathering; some 600 people, paying $1 apiece, were in attendance. DePugh, however, only spoke to the crowd by a telephone hookup. The Minutemen's fearless leader was temporarily indisposed: he and an associate had been recently convicted on a variety of felony firearms violations and sentenced just the week before to four years in prison.
Over the next year, DePugh fought that conviction, and managed to stay out of jail through a string of appeals. But the legal troubles started taking their toll on the organization's finances -- and pressure mounted to find alternative sources of revenue.
Soon, Duane Carlson's activities moved well beyond public meetings. He gathered a group of six other Seattle-area men -- a longshoreman, a church sexton, a grocery clerk, a civilian driver at the Fort Lewis Army Base, a self-employed draftsman, and an unemployed ship's oiler -- and began plotting ways to finance the Minutemen's arms operations and strike a blow against the "Communist controlled" government at the same time. Their plan: set off a bomb at the city hall of a small Seattle suburb, Redmond, while simultaneously detonating another at the local power station, thereby creating a major distraction while taking out police communications at the same time. This would enable the gang to strike three Redmond banks they had targeted for a series of successive robberies.
Their downfall, however, came when a federal informant infiltrated the group. On the day the Minutemen planned to strike -- January 26, 1967 -- the FBI swooped down on them in two parking lots, one in Bellevue and another in Lake City, where the conspirators were meeting to carry out their plot, and arrested all seven. DePugh denied they were part of his organization, claiming Carlson had been dropped from his rolls for "non-payment of dues." Federal prosecutors, who found evidence that DePugh actually was party to the plan from its early stages, put out a warrant for his arrest.
DePugh went into hiding but was caught a few months later hiding out in Spokane, where he was charged in the Redmond plot. Five of the seven Seattle plotters were charged, and all five were convicted. DePugh, convicted in September 1970, wound up serving four years out of a ten-year sentence on the original firearms charges, but by then, his career in politics was in the ashheap. He later tried to resuscitate his ambitions by heading up an ultra-conservative organization called the Committee of 10 Million, but the numbers fell well short of those suggested by the group's name. DePugh currently is in prison again, this time on a 1992 conviction for sexual exploitation of a minor.
A number of human-rights monitors have pointed out the extremist origins and underlying dynamic of the Minuteman movement. A report in August from Bill Berkowitz explored this:
- Devin Burghart, who monitors anti-immigrant movements with the Illinois-based human rights group, the Centre for New Community's Building Democracy Initiative, is not surprised by the growth of the vigilante movement -- or its potential for internal strife.
"We are seeing a similar trajectory today with the Minutemen movement that we saw with the militia movement in the early 1990s," Burghart told IPS.
However, Burghart maintains that the Minutemen are in a much better position then the militias were because "they appear to be mostly relying on a number of already established anti-immigrant networks and activists to spread the word."
Twelve years ago, the Militia of Montana, the Michigan Militia and a number of other like-minded groups appeared to spring up out of nowhere. In short order, they captured the nation's attention as well as the media's spotlight.
Militia leaders such as Montana's John Trochmann and Michigan's Norm Olsen became oft-quoted spokespersons for what was at first portrayed as an amorphous collection of anti-government activists.
"In the early 1990s, it didn't take long for new militia groups to start springing up, many of which weren't even organised by the originators of the concept," Burghart pointed out.
"The establishment of local militia groups took on a life of its own, becoming somewhat of a mass movement. Even older and pre-existing Christian Patriot groups started calling themselves militias. It sounds like we could be on the verge of that happening with the Minutemen phenomenon."
... "The Minutemen of today and the militias of a decade ago have many commonalities ideologically,” Burghart said. "Despite all their 'law-and-order' rhetoric, they both rely on illegal paramilitary vigilantism and intimidation to push public policy."
"They both appear to be expressions of Middle American Nationalism -- the notion that 'middle Americans' are being squeezed from above by the economic elites, and from below from the multicultural hordes that are sucking the lifeblood from the productive middle."
"Both the militias and the minutemen create a demonised 'other' based on citizenship status: The militias had the 'sovereign citizen' concept, which divided people into (white) state 'sovereign' citizens and so-called '14th Amendment' citizens. The Minutemen do it the basis of perceived immigration status."
He noted that "both are rife with conspiracy theories. For example, the militias were concerned about the New World Order, while the Minutemen have La Reconquista, which contends that there is a secret plot to re-conquer the American southwest for Mexico."
Moreover, both the militias and the Minutemen have something in common with the Posse Comitatus, an anti-Semitic white supremacist group that sprung up in the 1970s. Latin for "power of the county," the Posse Comitatus was founded in 1971 by retired army lieutenant colonel William Potter Gale.
Gale "believed that all white, Christian men had an unconditional right to take up arms to enforce the principles of a 'Constitutional Republic,' and challenge various 'unlawful acts' of the federal government, including integration, taxation and the federal reserve banking system," Daniel Levitas, the author of ”The Terrorist Next Door. The Militia Movement and the Radical Right” (St Martin's Press, 2002), told IPS.
Simcox himself continues to make the connection of the Minutemen to the Patriot movement explicit. This summer, a news release on its Web site described its plans to organize patrols in four states -- California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas -- for the entire month of October:
- Join fellow Patriot-Minutemen in October for a four state month-long Border Patrol to observe, report and protect the US from illegal immigration in all southern border states
MinutemanHQ.com is the new National Organization for the original Minuteman border project. It is the only group authorized by Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist who organized the first border watch.
Contact us immediately to learn about upcoming missions. We are expanding to California, Texas and New Mexico on the southern border. Requests from activated volunteers on the northern border with Canada - Maine, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho and Washington State are creating new operations, this is truly an exciting time for Patriots!
"Congress and the U.S. Senate continue to drag their feet on securing our borders with U.S. military and National Guard troops. Meanwhile, thousands of illegal immigrants cross our southern border every week.
Next: Their Leadership
Red alert, everyone! Left-wing wackos are setting off bombs in Starbucks!
At least, that seems to be what Michelle Malkin was waving her arms about last week. Of course, the "MSM" was heavily criticized for not doing its job, as one of her readers put it:
- Once again, left-wing terrorism and violence gets a pass in the MSM.
No doubt. Those rat bastards. Don't they know that we're in a war -- with the left?
Anyway, it turns out that, um, well, gosh, they were kinda wrong.
- Police say it was a flashlight casing filled with corroded batteries.
A man arrested in the investigation says he found the flashlight on the street and accidentally dropped it in the bathroom.
The man, who says he's homeless, tells a San Francisco TV station he intended no harm. He says he loves that Starbucks because they let him drink coffee for 50 cents.
Hey, doesn't this have kind of a familiar ring to it?
Readers will recall that I've previously pointed out Malkin's handling of an arson case in Maryland which she and other prominent bloggers presumed to be the work of eco-terrorists; but when it turned out that these were race-related arsons, the subject went away quickly with a brief semi-acknowledgement of error. Likewise, Malkin waved all kinds of accusations about regarding the murders of a Coptic Christian family in New Jersey, and then quietly shut it down when it turned out not to be the work of Islamist radicals after all.
Anyone detect a pattern here?
Thursday, January 12, 2006
I just mentioned that I'm really not very good at this blogging thing, and it just came to my attention that last Sunday, I passed my third blogiversary. It was three years ago that I filed my first post -- about border militias. Three years later, I'm still writing about them.
Along the way, I've picked up nearly a million hits a year, which is still mind-boggling to me.
I've been working on a post with my deep inner thoughts about the nature of blogging for nearly a year now. They're so deep and inner that I can't seem to find the will (or energy) to put them down in print. Maybe because I think bloggers blogging about blogging is ... boring. Well, anyway, I'll see if I can't finally wrap it up soon, though. Honest.
In the meantime, let me give a quick general thanks to all the readers, regular and irregular, who have taken some of their time over the past three years to read my work and contribute to those 3 million hits. Many thanks, too, to the people who spend enough time to contribute to my comments as well. And many more thanks to the many other bloggers who have linked here over the years. I'll have more details in that longer post.
In the meantime, let me observe my third anniversary with some annual upkeep, which includes some new names in my blogroll. Please welcome:
- Chip Berlet
Talk 2 Action
The Mighty Corrente Building
Skookum Geoduck [Jay Taber]
Red State Rebels
43rd State Blues
A Chicken Is Not Pillage
Creek Running North
Blame India Watch
History Mike's Musings
Some of these, as you can see, are blogs I should have had up for some time and somehow overlooked through neglect. Others are some of the regional bloggers from the Northwest who I've been getting to know better recently. And others are just new blogs that deserve a good look. They're scattered throughout the blogroll, and I've also deleted some of the now-extinct members of the blogroll, too.
Give 'em all a good look, if you have the time.
Paging Michelle Malkin
You know how Michelle Malkin claims in her book Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild that "it's conservatives themselves who blow the whistle on their bad boys and go after the real extremism on their side of the aisle" and that "conservatives zealously police their own ranks to exclude extremists and conspiracy theories"?
Well, Michelle, here's an opportunity to step up and prove it:
The person selling this item at CafePress is offering this design on coffee cups, T-shirts, baseball caps, camasoles, spaghetti tanks ... you name it. Personally, I think the toddler T is the most charming.
Chris Clarke has more.
I know, I know. It's only another CafePress item.
But then again, Malkin devotes two whole pages of Unhinged to a CafePress item devoted to a line of "KillBush" wear (a parody of "KillBill") -- pp. 163-164. Surely this is equally "unhinged" -- not to mention much more nakedly eliminationist.
Scaping the goat
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Four weekends ago I was in Bellingham, a college town near the Canadian border up in Whatcom County, taking part in a researchers' workshop and subsequent panel discussion about the Minutemen. The local organizers assembled a pretty impressive panel, including my old friend Devin Burghart of the Center for New Community's Building Democracy Initiative, who has become a national expert on the Minutemen; as well as Marc Brenman, director of the state human rights commission.
Opinions were many and diverse, but one thing I think every panelist agreed on was this: The Minutemen represent the spear point -- the opening public-relations foray, as it were -- in a larger effort by right-wing extremists to scapegoat and demonize Latino immigrants, legal and otherwise.
The unspoken question that hovered over all the discussions was one I don't think any of us could answer: Where is that campaign taking us as a nation?
Half a world away, events were occurring that same weekend that illustrated, in disturbing fashion, just where things could go:
As I discussed previously, the anti-immigrant riots in Australia were fomented by the white-nationalist Australia First Party, which presents itself in mainstream guise (it has numerous members both in Parliament and various local and regional councils) while promoting a nakedly racist "programme." They fired up the Cronulla Beach riots in conjunction with a loose network of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
A New York Times piece provided one of the best explanations I've read on how the situation in Australia came to pass, particularly the context of growing racial agitation aimed at immigrants:
- Several recent events have made this latest eruption of racism and xenophobia different from those of the past. While denying even that racism exists, our leaders have given tacit approval and support for it through policy, whether this is policy on refugees, security or Indigenous affairs. The policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers was strongly linked with border protection from 2001, and, as most asylum seekers of recent years have been from the Middle East and Muslim South Asia, "border protection" has become protection from Muslim refugees in the popular imagination.
Like the United States, Australia has new anti-terrorism legislation, first passed in 2002 and significantly strengthened just recently. Such laws have helped to validate broader community mistrust of Arab and Muslim Australians.
Our government has done little to substantively allay fear of Muslim and Middle Eastern Australians generally or to increase public understanding and appreciation of their culture and contribution to Australian life. Arabic is the fourth most commonly used language after English in Australia, and the most commonly used language after English in New South Wales, Sydney's home state, yet it is taught in only a handful of schools and universities.
In the last five years there has also been evidence of an increase in violence toward people of Arab appearance. An Iraqi writer I know begged his wife and daughter to stop wearing the hijab because of the potential of violence on the street. An Afghan refugee taxi driver in Adelaide said to my partner last night that he thought he would have to quit because his younger passengers were so nasty. In recent years high-profile cases in which Arab-Australian youths were charged with violent crimes generated a storm in the news media, as well as unchecked vilification on talk radio.
Prejudice creates what it fears by curtailing young people's prospects. Young Arab-Australians are increasingly ghettoized in Sydney's poor suburbs, where they struggle for education and jobs. Their families are often prejudiced against non-Arab Australians; the racism of the minority and that of the broader society reinforce each other.
I have Muslim friends who used to feel that they were Australians, but now cannot identify themselves in the negative space created for them in our community. I have non-Muslim friends who are furious at being mistaken for Muslims because of their Middle Eastern background; they are doing all they can to differentiate themselves from people they too are starting to openly dismiss. It has become fashionable, perhaps, to be racist, although none of us, not even our prime minister, is willing to call it what it is.
We can readily see a similar pattern of anti-immigrant sentiment growing in the United States -- not quite as much toward Arabs and Muslims -- though that, of course, is also a significant component, particularly among the "war on terror" set -- but more toward Latinos, particularly under the guise of being against illegal immigration. The vilification of immigrants is especially notable on right-wing talk radio, with Michael Savage, as always, leading the way. The LGF/Malkin component of the blogosphere, naturally, has been similarly eager to make scapegoats of brown people.
The Australian press later reported that the bulk of the neo-Nazis who were involved in the Cronulla Beach riots had been festering and growing, under cover of whiteness, in the Sydney suburbs, which appears to be their base nationally as well. In the USA, the same precursor can be found in the suburbs and exurbs where, quietly, white supremacists increasingly are just blending in and spreading their agenda.
We also know that, in the 21st century, the leading edge of white-supremacist agitation has focused on immigrant bashing. Not only do they see it as the most fertile ground for recruitment, it also has proved -- via the Minutemen -- a significant means of repositioning themselves and their agenda out of the fringe and into the mainstream.
There was already abundant evidence that the Minutemen were primarily a public-relations stunt aimed at planting the idea in the public's mind that Latino immigrants crossing the border were the source of a broad range of social ills, particularly crime and "cultural pollution." But this fact became unmistakable when the Minutemen brought their campaign to Washington state this fall -- an event that precipitated the gathering of researchers and activists in Bellingham last month.
After all, there isn't exactly a problem on the Canadian border with illegal immigrants. The only border-security issue there of any note is one of drug runners bringing goods over the border -- and most of those crossings occur either at official ports of entry through surreptitious means, or in the stretches of mountainous wilderness well to the east of where the Whatcom Minutemen were doing their thing.
As the continuing fluff pieces in the Bellingham Herald -- a clueless and hapless news organization that couldn't even see fit to run notice of the anti-Minuteman gathering, let alone send a reporter to it -- inadvertently demonstrate, not a single would-be illegal border crossing has been prevented by the Minutemen. However, it's become obvious to local retailers in Whatcom County that the traditional traffic they get from Canadian shoppers -- many of them brown-skinned -- who cross the border to sample the wares at places like Bellis Fair Mall has been radically curtailed since the Minutemen began toting guns along the border. (Hate, as always, is bad for business -- even if Chamber organs like the Herald are a little slow to recognize that fact.)
What was clear to those of us on the panel was that Minutemen were revealed primarily as a publicity stunt whose chief purpose is to pave the way for a larger political campaign aimed primarily at demonizing Latinos and using them as a wedge issue to push the public into supporting a wide range of planned anti-immigrant policy measures. In Washington state, for instance, a "Protect Washington Now" initiative -- modeled directly after the successful "Protect Arizona Now" measure -- is reportedly in the works for the coming election year.
It's happening everywhere -- in the Northwest, in California, in the Midwest, in the South, even in pockets in the Northeast. What's important to understand is that much of this agitation is taking place under the radar, by well-financed organizations who operate through focus groups and "think tanks." Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Nick Coleman described just such an operation taking place recently in Minnesota under less-than-upfront circumstances:
- The woman moderator, who said she was from Maryland, wanted very much to talk about immigrants. The participants already had discussed any issues they were concerned about, except the war in Iraq. There would be no talk about Iraq, the woman said. But up to that point, no one had mentioned immigration, much to the annoyance of the moderator. So she prodded the group to complain about immigrants.
"I haven't heard anybody talk about immigration," Peoples, an independent, recalls her saying. "Anybody have a problem with the illegal aliens coming in?"
The group's response to the question was "a deafening silence," Peoples says. But the woman pushed harder, listing some of the complaints she said she had heard in other states where she had conducted focus groups. Still, no one obliged her. Instead, Peoples mentioned the immigrant workers in a nearby town, praising them for how hard they seem to work.
Not the correct answer. Someone was paying money for this. They wanted problems.
"She shut me off," Peoples recalls. "Then she said, 'Aren't you having problems here?' "
The state Republican and DFL parties each deny having sponsored the mystery focus group, as does the Republican congressman for the area, Gil Gutknecht, and his DFL challenger, Tim Walz. Also in denial mode was the office of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who recently poured gasoline on the immigrant issue with the release of a crudely overstated report designed to inflame opinion and make immigration into a wedge issue.
That last bit was opinion. But this is fact: Anti-immigration forces are working hard to raise resentment and to exploit immigration for political gain, cozying up to politicians who will help them fence the borders.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of all this is the big picture: the anti-immigrant push really represents a significant incursion of right-wing extremism into mainstream conservatism. Each is busy empowering the other, with the end result being an American right pushed even farther to the right.
Take it from D.A. Kodolenko at San Diego CityBeat:
- What’s in a name? Sometimes a hell of a lot. Simcox and Gilchrist claim that their Minutemen “have no affiliation with, nor… accept any assistance by or interference from separatists, racists or supremacy groups or individuals,” but that’s lip service, public relations, a scam—and some mainstream media and right-wing politicians have fallen for it. They quote Sam Adams and paste illustrations of American revolutionaries on their website, sidestepping nearly a century of border-patrolling, immigrant-bashing, like-minded, bloodthirsty Nazis calling themselves Minutemen, as if they could start over fresh with the same name -- not to mention tactics -- and supposedly expunge it of its racist heritage.
But names gain their meaning in real, not ideal, contexts. Nobody would believe your swastika tattoo represented a lucky Indian sun sign if you were a white, jack-booted, skinhead leader of an Oi! band. Think a Muslim political party could call itself “Al-Qaeda, but not that Al-Qaeda?” It just means “foundation,” right? Wrong. It means flying planes into buildings in the same way Minutemen means harassing and attacking people at the border. Names, words, symbols and signs get wrecked. Ignoring their history is disingenuous.
Arvin Hill seems to have noticed that as well:
Hill was among the many counter-protesters who recently took to the streets to oppose one of the recent forays in the anti-immigrant campaign, namely, their attempt to organize "Stop the Invasion" protests at various locales around the country. As it turned out, those protests actually drew very few participants:
- The so-called "Stop the Invasion" protests were organized in 19 states, demanding the government increase border security and penalize employers who hire illegal workers.
"We are keeping the debate on illegal immigration in the forefront of the American consciousness," said Joseph Turner of Save Our State, who was among about two dozen protesters who waved American flags outside a home-supply store in a Los Angeles suburb.
But Turner's group in Glendale was surrounded by more than 100 drum-beating supporters who chanted, "Racists go home." The two groups traded shouts and obscene gestures for more than an hour. One man was arrested for assault, police said.
In Farmingville, N.Y., where immigration-related violence erupted several times in recent years, only about a dozen protesters showed up and argued against the growing number of day laborers on eastern Long Island.
From the presence of these voices, I think, we can draw heart that scenes like what we saw in Australia may yet be avoided here in America. But in the coming months, we will need many more of them.
[Note: At the Bellingham conference, I presented a long informational paper on the Minutemen. I'm going to be posting that paper -- which features a lot of information already published here -- in a series of posts here at Orcinus over the coming week.]
The eliminationist chorus
Monday, January 09, 2006
As if to underscore my recent discussion of eliminationist rhetoric, all kinds of figures on the right have been providing me with a fresh bounty of examples. The right-wing cup, as it were, runneth over.
First we had a fifth-tier online columnist attacking Rep. John Murtha as "vermin" and a "traitor".
This kind of talk, of course, has become quite common in recent years, almost to the point that it is unremarkable. But to understand why it's noteworthy, we can leave it to Dean Esmay to explain what should be done with such "vermin" (via Glenn Greenwald at Hullabaloo):
- When I say "treason" I don't mean it in an insulting or hyperbolic way. I mean in a literal way: we need to find these 21st century Julius Rosenbergs, these modern day reincarnations of Alger Hiss, put them on trial before a jury of their peers, with defense counsel. When they are found guilty, we should then hang them by the neck until the are dead, dead, dead.
No sympathy. No mercy.Am I angry? You bet I am. But not in an explosive way. Just in the same seething way I was angry on 9/11.
These people have endangered American lives and American security. They need to be found, tried, and executed.
Unsurprisingly, when Gavin at Sadly, No! decided to turn the tables on Esmay to see how he liked someone harboring execution fantasies about him, the result was rather predictable shrieking on Esmay's part. [Longtime readers will recall my encounter with the mendacious Mr. Esmay.]
Meanwhile, Brad R. at Sadly, No! took note of another right-wing blogger's execution fantasies, this time Dean Franks:
- I'll make a deal with the Left: You wanna impeach President Bush? Go ahead. Knock yourself out. In fact, let's just go to the polls and turn the whole government over to the Democrats. You wanna run the whole show? Fine. Elect Howard Dean President. End all surveillance against possible enemy combatants, unless you can get a warrant based on probable cause. Withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. Permanently kill the PATRIOT Act. Do whatever you want to do. I'm perfectly willing, at this point, to do it your way.
I mean, really, what's the worst that can happen? An American city goes up in nuclear fire? Well, it’ll probably be New York, Chicago, or LA. You know, a major city. I don't live there, nor do most Americans. So we'll be fine.
But here's the other half of the deal: If that happens, we get to march on Washington, drag you naked and screaming from your offices, and hang you from the ornate lampposts that line The Mall. Then, free from roadblocks thrown up by infantile political fools, maybe we'll get serious about defending the United States, her people, her freedoms, and her values, in an increasingly hostile world.
Hanging traitors from lampposts? Wasn't that the central fantasy of The Turner Diaries?
Anyway, Esmay, Franks and Co. aren't the only right-wingers giving voice to that old lynch-'em-high impulse: so is Bill O'Reilly:
- Where does George Soros have all his money? Do you know? Do you know where George Soros, the big left-wing loon who's financing all these smear [web]sites, do you know where his money is? Curaçao. Curaçao. They ought to hang this Soros guy.
Yessiree, it's a regular ol' necktie party in the Conservative Corral these days. But lest we think the rhetoric extends only to lynch-mob violence, you can look elsewhere for right-wingers ready for all-out, eliminationist war, like the Shot in the Dark commenter "DLG":
- The only "common ground" we'll ever find with the blue state scum is the battleground, when we finally cut the shit and put all the enemies of this nation to the pike. It can not come too soon.
... Have fun spending your vast wealth when you are dead. Other countries will be happy to sell you potash and soybeans. But you'll all be dead, so they might balk at the terms.
Heads on pikes, traitors hanging from lampposts ...can't you just feel the love?