Thursday, October 02, 2003


I'm off to the Olympics for a brief visit to the real world. I'll be completely unplugged, but plan to be back Monday sometime.

Rush Limbaugh's identity politics

It should surprise no one that, instead of recognizing that he was out to lunch and apologizing for it, Rush Limbaugh has chosen to make himself a martyr on the cross of political correctness in the wake of the flap over his Donovan McNabb remarks.

After all, being conservative means never having to admit you were wrong.

But what's most interesting about the flap is what it reveals about Limbaugh's political commentary as well.

Here are the remarks that caused the furor:
"I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve. The defense carried this team."

After nearly all of the NFL and the rest of the sports media reacted with understandable revulsion, Limbaugh tried backtracking:
"Liberal sportswriters have pushed the notion that it's unfair that there haven't been more black quarterbacks, and I agree with that. I simply said that their desire for McNabb to do well caused them to rate him a little higher than perhaps he actually is."

Never mind that "liberal sportswriters" is a term that belongs with "radical pro golfers" in the laugh-test rankings. I'd like to find evidence that anyone was hoping McNabb would do well because he was black.

Limbaugh continued defending himself on his radio show:
"All this must have become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something. If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sportswriter community."

By this kind of logic, of course, then Al Campanis and Jimmy the Greek were right, too. For that matter, Adolph Rupp was right when he said, "You'll never see me let a black player wear Kentucky blue." Because whatever those liberal sportswriters say, it must be wrong -- and therefore their victims are right.

In truth, of course, the outrage is almost entirely because Limbaugh is wrong -- grotesquely, laughably, how-stupid-can-you-really-be wrong. It's true that sportswriters are in the fore of saying this, because they know it better than anyone else. And suffice to say that even the most politically conservative of them are saying that Limbaugh's remarks were ridiculous.

There's one main reason for this: In Limbaugh's world, people are capable of advancing to superstar levels on the tide of pure hype. Indeed, one could not find a better description of Limbaugh's own career, so it is a syndrome he knows well.

But while the athletic world has its many flaws, its one great virtue is that for the most part, people succeed or fail almost purely on the basis of what they actually achieve on the field of play. The Anna Kournikovas are the exceptions. Donovan McNabb achieved the reputation he has almost entirely on his game-day performances. If Limbaugh were a serious NFL fan, he would know about McNabb's reputation for grit and sacrifice and toughness, and he need only have seen a few Eagles games to know it was true.

None of this mattered, though, because Limbaugh had a political point to score on the NFL broadcast. What this says about Limbaugh's politics is something else altogether.

In reality, there was for years a marked slowness on the part of the NFL to overcome one of the real vestiges of racism in football: namely, the myth that whites are "better equipped" (as Campanis might have put it) to play quarterback. It is a myth that in fact continues to have many adherents among sports fans, particularly its white ones.

The myth has only been torn down by the reality of black quarterbacks emerging over the past decade on a broad scale and putting the lie to the old coaches' tale. The overwhelming drive to win that is the essence of sports has effectively buried the racial profiling of quarterbacks,

However, that has never stopped the more ignorant contingent of sports fans. Everybody who is a sports fan -- particularly if they are white -- knows this species: The guy who, inevitably during the course of watching a basketball game, remarks on the racial composition of the teams on the screen. "Jeez, that team is all black." "Man, those guys play smart! They have a lot white guys."

These are the same guys with an "inexplicable" animus toward Tiger Woods. The same guys with an automatic ability to spot the "laziness" of Hispanic baseball players, and the "stupidity" and "overratedness" of black quarterbacks.

What is also true about these people is that they tend to view the rest of the world through this primitive racial prism. You'll often hear them whining about how white people can't get jobs anymore because of "political correctness." And they're likely to think skits comparing "welfare recipients" to apes are just hilarious.

Well, the networks have from time to time tried using broadcasters in the sports booths who have no real expertise in the subject -- they are neither the sports journalists who have attended hundreds (if not thousands) of games and practices, nor former players and coaches, but instead are hired to be a sort of "fan's voice" for the broadcasts.

Invariably, these guys -- like Dennis Miller -- just fall flat because they really haven't much of interest or value to add to the conversation. And in Limbaugh's case, it's simply a disaster. Because Limbaugh represents the racially idiotic contingent of fandom. Inviting him onto ESPN's broadcasts is little different than inviting the bellicose know-nothings who always keep track of every athlete's race and even their relative whiteness.

A lot of people have wondered why ESPN hired Limbaugh in the first place, given his previous record for, er, racial sensitivity. The answer always was that they wanted to add a little provocation to their broadcasts, which seems reasonable enough. But the more serious question was why he was invited to join the on-air team, not because of his racial views, but for his manifest lack of qualifications. Limbaugh has never played sports. He has never coached. His exposure as a sportscaster is limited -- particularly at the level of the NFL.

Above all, Limbaugh revealed himself on Sunday night to be an utter and profound ignoramus on something as basic as race in sports -- little better than that moronic loudmouth who offers the same level of profound judgment over his beer at the bar. And that ignorance, as much as the racial insensitivity that accompanies it, was the clearest reason Limbaugh did not belong on a national sports broadcast.

Finally, Limbaugh stepped down from his ESPN job last night -- though without, of course, anything resembling gracefulness. He did not apologize for the remarks, and even suggested that his former colleagues' thin skins were the reasons for his departure:
"My comments this past Sunday were directed at the media and were not racially motivated. I offered an opinion. This opinion has caused discomfort to the crew, which I regret. I love 'NFL Sunday Countdown' and do not want to be a distraction to the great work done by all who work on it. Therefore, I have decided to resign. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the show and wish all the best to those who make it happen."

Limbaugh continued the same "woe-is-me" line today at the National Association of Broadcasters Convention in Philadelphia:
"In my opinion, it wasn’t a racial opinion, it was a media opinion. We live in a country where, supposedly, by right of the First Amendment you offer opinions but you can’t in certain places and certain times."

All right, suppose we take him at his word: that he didn't intend to suggest that McNabb was overrated because he was black, that there was no "racist" intent, but rather, his purpose was to criticize the media.

Well then, what he is saying about the media is this: That it "hypes" black athletes at the expense of whites because of "political correctness" -- the same "thought police" who are now silencing him for simply voicing an "opinion."

I don't know about the rest of you, but this has the distinct sound of "identity politics" to my ears: Whites whining that they're being victimized by the real gains of other racial groups -- especially those who whites historically have oppressed.

(Will Mickey Kaus be issuing a denunciation for Limbaugh's "discarded and discredited" worldview?)

This argument indeed suggests what is, at root, wrong with Limbaugh, not merely as a sportscaster, but providing commentary on any aspect of our national discourse: He is an ignoramus. He is not merely ignorant about the realities of sports, he is ignorant about the state of race and culture in America. Like the buffoon at the bar, his opinions on politics are as profound as those about sports.

One has to be amused, however, at the way Republicans who keep insisting that Democrats represent the "real racist" party in America keep guys like Limbaugh up on stage as their chief national spokesmen. And then they wonder why 90 percent of blacks vote Democratic.

The advances of blacks at the quarterbacking position in college and pro football have not come about because of the attitudes of "liberal" sportswriters but, more truthfully, in spite of the entrenched attitudes of conservatives in the coaching and sportswriting ranks. Blacks are now regularly taking on quarterbacking roles because they have proven the old attitudes flat wrong -- they are every bit as intellectually capable of the job as whites. And they have proven that time and again on the field. Any coach who wants to win knows this now.

The example of black quarterbacks reveals the larger bankruptcy of Limbaugh's argument about "political correctness" and race -- not just as it pertains to sports, but to the rest of American culture. It also is quite revealing about the nature of Limbaugh's logic and the people who believe in it. The truth is that a black quarterback is no longer a novel thing to any kind of knowledgeable sports fan or reporter -- though, as we all know too well, the perception that they are not as well "equipped" lingers among certain ranks of people. And that these people are all too eager to leap upon a stumbling black quarterback as proof of their beliefs.

It is no accident that the cry of "identity politics" and "political correctness" is the first to escape the lips of these same folks. But then, hypocrisy is in no short supply on their parts, either.

Maybe it's just the OxyContin talking.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Facing the music

A paragraph in David Brooks' most recent New York Times column stands out as emblematic of everything wrong with his thesis:
The fundamental argument in the presidency wars is not that the president is wrong, or is driven by a misguided ideology. That's so 1980's. The fundamental argument now is that he is illegitimate. He is so ruthless, dishonest and corrupt, he undermines the very rules of civilized society. Many conservatives believed this about Clinton. Teddy Kennedy obviously believes it about Bush. Howard Dean declares, "What's at stake in this election is democracy itself."

Parsing this let's first examine the initial assertion:
The fundamental argument in the presidency wars is not that the president is wrong, or is driven by a misguided ideology.

This in truth depends on who's doing the arguing. For most people opposed to Bush, these considerations are at least of nearly equal if not paramount importance. Indeed, their concerns about his legitimacy are rather deeply confirmed by both the wrongheadedness of his actions and the grotesque failures of the neoconservative ideology now driving foreign policy, not to mention his breathtaking incompetence, mendacity and corruption.
The fundamental argument now is that he is illegitimate. He is so ruthless, dishonest and corrupt, he undermines the very rules of civilized society.

And Bush's opponents have every reason to believe this. The evidence that he stole the election only mounted after the dust had settled. To this day, no adequate defense of Bush v. Gore has ever been mounted. The episode, as I have remarked previously, is the kind to anger not just liberals but centrists for whom the principles of fair play and respecting the rules are paramount.

Brooks dismisses this worldview without ever explaining why it may be wrong. Instead, he simply equates it with the rabid conservatives who rejected Bill Clinton's legitimacy:
Many conservatives believed this about Clinton. Teddy Kennedy obviously believes it about Bush. Howard Dean declares, "What's at stake in this election is democracy itself."

This is a false equivalency. The conservatives who rejected Bill Clinton's presidency as illegitimate did so because he only won by a plurality of votes. And yet, after the 2000 election, they couldn't exactly make that argument any longer, could they? Their grotesque hypocrisy was never more apparent.

So Howard Dean is right that democracy itself is at stake in this next election. The Bush team, in tandem with the Supreme Court and their sycophants in the Mighty Wurlitzer right-wing media, severely damaged key democratic institutions -- the sacredness of the right to vote; the respect for established law; states' rights; respect for the Supreme Court and its inherent fairness -- in the 2000 election. And Democrats, to their credit, have not responded in kind by trying to undermine Bush's presidency by raising phantom scandals and prying into his private life. They have in fact made a great show of rallying behind him during the national crisis of Sept. 11. Instead of trying to negate the results of the election forced upon them by the Scalia five, they have waited.

2004 is about reclaiming our democracy from the people who have stolen it from us -- not just in Florida in 2000, but in Texas and California too. And, yes, about punishing them politically for the deed. This isn't hate, Mr. Brooks. This is justice.

Conservatives may not relish facing the music. But they better prepare for it.

Onward Christian Soldiers

Via Atrios, I see that Tom McClintock's senior advisor has been outed as a writer for Chalcedon.

The LA Times story is quite vivid in describing John Stoos' belief system, particularly:
"I dream of the day when a strong Christian majority is elected to a city council somewhere in America. This council could then pass a resolution declaring that abortion is now illegal in their city."


"If these sinners who desperately need the great gift of salvation in Jesus Christ can do so much in the power of the flesh to defend practices that the general public finds repulsive, then what should we as Christians be doing to advance the kingdom of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit?

"The critical question is whether we as Christians are prepared to show the same resolve and discipline and do the kind of hard work that the homosexuals have done over the past fifteen years promoting their ungodly agenda. Lord willing, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can!"


"Christians are the only people who can restore the proper biblical understanding of government to our modern system."

What's missing about this piece, however, is the larger context: Chalcedon is the leading publishing arm and fundraising foundation of the Christian Reconstructionist movement. Indeed, everything that Stoos is quoted as having said is perfectly in line with their beliefs.

Many of you may already be familiar with what Christian Reconstructionism is about, but here's the short version: They believe the vote should only belong to Christians, and that the American government and laws should be explicitly governed by their fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture.

Chalcedon's publisher for most of its existence was the late R.J. Rushdoony, one of the leading lights of Christian Reconstructionism.

Here's the longer version:

Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence, by Frederick Clarkson
The original and defining text of Reconstructionism is Institutes of Biblical Law, published in 1973 by Rousas John Rushdoony--an 800-page explanation of the Ten Commandments, the Biblical "case law" that derives from them, and their application today. "The only true order," writes Rushdoony, "is founded on Biblical Law.

All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion." In brief, he continues, "Every law-order is a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare."

Gary North, Rushdoony's son-in-law, wrote an appendix to Institutes on the subject of "Christian economics." It is a polemic which serves as a model for the application of "Biblical Principles."

Of course, also worth remembering:

One of the other leading lights at Chalcedon is none other than Howard Ahamanson ... who also has been appearing in the news recently connected with the brouhaha over computerized voting technology. Seems Ahmanson is one of the chief owners of American Information Systems -- which is co-owned by Diebold's president and vice-president.

Oh what a tangled web we weave. But regardless of how Tom McClintock chooses to spin things now, his political identity should be understood now as unmistakably interwoven with the Christian Reconstructionist agenda -- and his campaign an attempt to mainstream it.

The Conserva-Traitors' Hall of Shame

The ongoing Valerie Plame affair is more than sufficient to remind us all of a certain fact: Conservatives have a long history in America of resorting to traitorous acts to further their own private agendas, which typically revolve around matters of power and greed.

Thus, in addition to "Manifestly Unfit," another ongoing Orcinus series this fall will be sporadic entries detailing the ways conservatives have, over the years, engaged in various acts that are either identifiably treasonous or have involved dealing with the nation's enemies in ways that enabled them to later commit violence that cost Americans their lives.

I briefly considered giving the series the highly original title Treason: Conservative Treachery From World War II to the War on Terrorism, but my ace legal team (who just got done advising Fox News on a major lawsuit) tells me it might unfairly violate the rights and tender feelings of lying, sociopathic blond Republican bimbettes everywhere. So I'll refrain.

Instead, I'll be posting entries periodically detailing the careers of a variety of right-wing traitors, focusing on the years since about 1920 (when the foundations for the Second World War were being laid) to the present.

And unlike certain other extremist and deranged attempts to cast, Newspeak-like, liberals as historically prone to treason (which will here go unnamed), these accounts will be entirely factual, based solely upon published and substantiated fact.

As regular readers will recall, I've already examined in detail the activities of two such noted conservatives who contributed substantially to the rise of the Nazi regime in the 1930s: Prescott Bush and Henry Ford. You may, if you wish, consider these posts the first installments in the series.

Episode 57: The America First Committee

[Brochure cover, Friends of Democracy]

Regular readers of Orcinus know that I've written at length previously about the "Transmission Belt" by which extremist ideas and agendas make their way into mainstream political discourse and policy. A few readers have asked if the concept is my own; as you can see by the cartoon above, it actually has been with us for quite awhile and was in fact a generally recognized, if not often acknowledged, phenomenon in the early 1940s, when the presence of incipient fascism was a very real threat. (I did base my idea of "transmitters" on this concept.)

In the early 1940s, there were numerous transmitters of fascist ideas -- William Dudley Pelley's Silver Shirts and the German-American Bund being the most notable examples. But these were themselves nearly fringe figures; though Pelley did run for president in 1936, he only managed to garner some 1,598 votes nationwide, or 0.23 percent of the vote. However, his campaign was noteworthy for the way it tried to mainstream its message, namely, by overt identification with Christianity. He called his party the Christian Party, and his campaign featured the slogans "Christ or Chaos!" and "For Christ and Constitution." He also managed to make headlines when called FDR the "lowest form of human worm -- according to Gentile standards." (Pelley, it must be remembered, was obsessed with the grand Jewish conspiracy to control mankind.)

Even though it only existed for a little over a year and a half, unquestionably the transmitter with the greatest impact in this period was the America First Committee -- precisely because of its image as an essentially mainstream organization. Indeed, this image persists, as evidenced by its current-day apologists, particularly the libertarian set.

The AFC had its origins in 1940, when a Yale law student named R. Douglas Stuart Jr. organized a petition on campus to build opposition to intervention in the European wars then reaching a high pitch. He found a sponsor in Robert E. Wood, chairman of the board at Sears, Roebuck -- then and now the quintessentially middle-American company. Wood and a group of fellow Chicago businessmen (including former diplomat William R. Castle, who had been a high-ranking Hoover Administration official, and whose work appeared in Japanese and German propaganda publications; and William Regnery, founder of Regnery Publishing … yes, that Regnery Publishing …) helped Stuart form plans for a large-scale organization, which led to the naming and formation of the America First Committee in August of that year.

The chief point of agitation for the America Firsters was FDR's loosening of the arms embargo to Europe -- particularly for Britain and France -- shortly after Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the subsequent outbreak of war. In retrospect, of course, this not only helped pull the United States inexorably to war, it was the morally courageous -- and right -- thing to do. To have utterly abandoned Britain especially to the tender mercies of the Nazis would have been cowardice, and almost certainly would have wrought an unimaginable nightmare: complete and uncontested Nazi hegemony in Europe, a reign that may well have continued even to the present day. The idea that America First was in hindsight somehow "right" is both laughable and truly contemptible. Defenders of America First (including Patrick Buchanan) like to argue that Hitler's regime eventually would have collapsed under its own weight -- but the evidence they present for this is thin and quite unconvincing.

Nonetheless, in its origins at least, America First was in truth largely a mainstream response that was mostly isolationist, and not fascist, in nature. It charter even specifically announced that Nazis, fascists and communists were not welcome.

But even in the beginning, there were warning signs: Among the first members of the committee's were Henry Ford, who, as the publisher of the Protocols hoax-promoting text, The International Jew, was not only one of the foremost progenitors of anti-Semitism in America, but had an open and celebrated business and ideological connection with Hitler's war machine.

Also on that original national committee:

-- Avery Brundage, former Chairman of the American Olympic Games Committee when in Berlin 1936. Brundage's behavior in that episode had already earned its place in history as one of the low watermarks of cowardice and complicity in the Nazis' consolidation of their power.

-- Charles A. Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic and a household name even still, was to become the leading spokesman for the America First Committee -- as well as a notable anti-Semite.

The arc of Lindbergh's career in this period mirrored that of the America First Committee itself -- beginning, to all appearances, as mainstream isolationists and pacifists, but then rapidly devolving into something more sinister. The first real warning sign came at a May 29, 1941 rally in Philadelphia with 16,000 in attendance, when many audience members gave a Nazi salute. Lindbergh, while demanding the overthrow of the FDR regime, asked the audience: "Are we going to let Jews run this country?"

However, that remark received relatively little play, especially compared to the national firestorm that erupted after Lindbergh, on Sept. 11, 1941, gave a speech in Des Moines that blamed Jews for dragging the nation toward war:
It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to make bitter enemies of any race.

No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany. But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences.

Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastations. A few far-sighted Jewish people realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do not.

Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.

I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people. Both races, I admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us in the war.

We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their own interests, but we also must look out for ours. We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.

Of course, in retrospect, it is clear that on the basis of Hitler's plans for the Jews alone, America would have been justified in entering in a war against Germany on purely moral grounds. Not that this actually happened; if anything, American officials were in reality congenitally slow on the uptake about what was happening to the Jews in Europe.

In any event, Lindbergh's Des Moines speech created a national uproar, because its rather naked anti-Semitism -- especially the suggestion that American Jews were unpatriotic -- made plain for the first time what the underpinnings of America First were in reality about. Lindbergh had already raised eyebrows by accepting in October 1938 the Service Cross of the German Eagle from Herman Goering for his service in advancing the cause of aviation; Lindbergh had in fact helped advise the Germans on organizing the Luftwaffe. After the Des Moines speech, however, Lindbergh's reputation was so tarnished that even his hometown of Little Falls, Minnesota, removed his name from its water tower.

The connection to the Nazi agenda had indeed been gradually revealing itself for some time. On Jan. 22, 1941, Dr. Joseph Paul Goebbels, Propaganda Minister for the Third Reich, made a short-wave radio broadcast that promoted the group, proclaiming: "The America First Committee is truly American and truly patriotic!"

Other America First spokesmen were likewise nakedly anti-Semitic. The most notorious of these was Father Charles Coughlin, the Protocols-promoting radio ranter with a weekly audience of millions, who continued to insist that Jews were trying to pull Americans into a war against "their own kind." In his magazine Social Justice, he wrote: "Stalin's idea to create world revolution and Hitler's so-called threat to seek world domination are not half as dangerous combined as is the proposal of the current British and American administrations to seize all raw materials in the world. Many people are beginning to wonder who they should fear most -- the Roosevelt-Churchill combination or the Hitler-Mussolini combination."

Another famous aviator -- Laura Ingalls, the first woman to fly solo across the American continent -- was also a noted America First figure. She was also a raving anti-Semite who, it turned out later, was fully in the pay of the Germans. Ingalls received funds from Baron Ulrich von Gienanth, head of the Gestapo in the U.S. (his title was Second Secretary of the German Embassy in Washington). She also worked with Hans Thomson, German Charge' d'Affaires and Fritz Weidemann, the German Consul in San Francisco. In 1942, Ingalls was arrested by the FBI for failing to register as an agent of the Nazis and was sentenced to two years in prison.

While all this was going on at the top, the troops of the America First movement were also becoming increasingly Nazified. Members of the German-American Bund -- which received large amounts of funding from the Nazi regime -- moved quietly into the chapters of the America First Committee. Other proto-fascists likewise swelled the ranks of America First: William Pelley’s Silver Shirts, Coughlin's Christian Front, the KKK, White Russian Fascists. All this infiltration by mid-1941 led the American Legion in California to declare that the entire fifth column in the U.S. had joined the America First movement.

Smaller opposition groups tried to counter their propaganda by drawing public attention to the underlying agenda. The most notable of these was "Friends of Democracy," which produced the "Nazi Transmission Belt" cartoon was well as a pamphlet examining Lindbergh's Nazi ties. It also produced a flier that pointed out:
1) A large part of the audiences of many America First meetings are members of pro-Nazi organizations.

2) Nazi propaganda is distributed at many of these meetings.

3) Nazi organizations not only distribute the literature of the America First Committee but recruit members and raise money for the committee.

4) The Nazi press in the United States has stamped the program of America First with its approval.

5) The propaganda ministries of the democracy-hating Nazi and Fascist governments endorse the policies of the committee.

Another group, calling itself the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA), published an article in May 1941 that observed:
The point is that un-American organizations have made appeals for contributions of money to America First. Un-American element crowd America First rallies. They applaud America First speakers. They boo the President of the United States. They do not boo Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin. . . Some of them belong to the Nazi Bund which is pro-Hitler. . . What Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin and their friends in this country Applaud cannot be good for America.

All this came to a screeching halt on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and America's entry into the war was cemented. America First's officials met on Dec. 8 and announced the organization was disbanding. At least publicly.

In secret, however, the leaders -- who were convinced America would lose the war -- kept the organization going, planning for the day when the Nazis took over. As Russ Bellant reported in Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party: Domestic Fascist Networks and Their Effect on U.S. Cold War Politics:
After Pearl Harbor and Germany's declaration of war on the United States, the America First Committee didn't go out of business as it officially declared on December 12, 1941. Five days later, a secret meeting of certain key leaders of America First took place in New York to plan for what they assumed (and hoped) would be the Axis victory in Europe and the Far East. "[T]he Committee has in reality gone underground," FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover reported to the White House. It began planning for the day when they would be the Americans with whom the victorious Nazis would negotiate a surrender. Finally, when the defeat of the Nazis by Allied powers was a foregone conclusion, the America First Committee secretly dissolved itself in 1944.

(Bellant's primary source, for those interested, was a Feb. 13, 1942 memo from J. Edgar Hoover to Major General Edwin M. Watson, Secretary to the President, which declared that America First had "gone underground.")

The meeting was held in the home of Edwin Sibley Webster, a wealthy Wall Street broker with Kidder, Peabody, and it featured a number of key American First members, including Lindbergh. The group reformed under a new name, Americans for Peace. One of the attendees, Horace Haase, left no doubt about the future activities of the gathering:
"It is obviously necessary for the leaders of the America First like Wood and Webster to keep quiet. But the organization should not be destroyed. I have never been in the limelight and have nothing to lose. I can remain active in a quiet way. I should like to offer to keep the files. We must get ready for the next attack which must be made upon this communistic administration."

The America Firsters' fantasies of serving as a future Vichy government in America gradually crumbled, of course, as the tide of the war turned. Americans for Peace quietly disbanded in late 1944.

Monday, September 29, 2003

The Fresno case

Seems the Free Republic's complaint about being labeled a "hate group" has created a big dustup at Fresno City Hall, with Republicans coming out of the woodwork to demand the removal of the Human Relations Commission chair who issued the press release.

You'll notice, of course, that the conservatives who are so solicitous of the feelings of the Free Republic are the same folks who excused the Fresno city councilman who said he wanted to kill every liberal in Fresno with a "dirty bomb" (notably including the object of their wrath in this case).

It's hard to work up a lot of sympathy for the Free Republic. They are, as I have reported previously, one of the nation's foremost transmitters of extremist memes into mainstream conservative discourse.

Their record on this is fairly extensive, but one notable recent instance of this was its heavy promotion of the extremist meme that "MEChA is racist."

Anyone notice how easily the Freepers' feelings get hurt when someone flings the "racist" accusation their way? And might there be any signs of self-awareness on this point when using it themselves?


Well, as I have noted previously, the accusation of being a "hate" group or "racist" is indeed an extremely serious one, and any serious person or organization that uses it must do so with due criteria. I prefer the SPLC's criteria:
All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.

I also prefer to add that these attacks are characterized by exclusionism, eliminationism and bigoted discrimination, as well as a propensity for violence.

Does the Free Republic fit? Well, the site does transmit all kinds of extremist memes, and the site's posers frequently trade in eliminationist rhetoric aimed at liberals, as well as various kinds of bigotry, particularly anti-immigrant and anti-gay rhetoric. None of these accumulatively, and certainly not individually, amount to what could reasonably be called a "hate group", however. They're on the borderline, however, and an outbreak of violent rhetoric followed up by real-world action (which has been a phenomenon associated with Freeper activism for some years now anyway) could well tip them over.

So I was awaiting the evidence provided by the Fresno Human Relations Commission with some interest. Had the Freepers indeed threatened violence against counterprotesters? And had the HRC found evidence that the Free Republic was engaging in hate rhetoric?

Today's update in the Bee reports:
Free Republic founder Jim Robinson said Reyes has no proof that his members wrote the offending posts. And whether members did, Robinson said: "They were just joking. There were no threats made."

The posts displayed Monday by Reyes were apparent responses to a Web forum discussion of disrupting the Free Republic events. One post said members of Free Republic are anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-peace and justice, and anti-environment. "You forgot pro-gun. FR members are PRO-Gun. You guys need to remember that," the post said.

Another posting regarding the group's picnic at Woodward Park last Saturday said: "Lets see ... I got the sodas, the watermelon, fresh batteries for the stun guns, softball bats, pepper spray, my steel toed boots, arm bars, knee bars, chokes, neck cranks, wrist locks, shoulder locks ... this should be a fun picnic ... I almost hope that these uninvited guests show up."

Reyes, DeGraff and Rhodes admitted that their proof isn't solid: The postings, found on the San Francisco Indymedia Web site, are attributed to people who use monikers. In some cases, these people have written offensive words and pretended to be DeGraff, Rhodes and other community activists.

In other words, the core of Peace Fresno's claim that Free Republic was a "hate" group was that (a) it engaged in anti-immigrant and anti-gay rhetoric and (b) some frequent participants in Free Republic forums -- and likely attendees of the Freeper picnic -- made comments suggestive of violence should counterprotesters appear.

Well, as I noted already (a) is inoperative because neither of these traits, while accurate in describing Free Republic, is sufficient evidence of racism beyond the obvious exclusionism inherent in them. In other words, they contain warning signs, but not proof of racism. And (b) simply is not evidence of racism -- rather, it clearly suggests the basic thuggery that lurks behind so much of Freeper politics, and one of the reasons they are a problem. But there is nothing in this to qualify Free Republic as a "hate group."

I think the Fresno HRC was wrong to designate the Free Republic a "hate group" on these criteria. I think they owe the Free Republic an apology.

And I think they ought to deliver it the same day Jim Robinson apologizes to MEChA for the same thing.

Conservative media bias

That damned conservative media.

Everyone else (especially Atrios) is tracking the Valerie Plame matter better than I could, so I'll say little about it here.

But has anyone else noticed how slow the so-called "liberal" media have been to pick up on the story? You only have a major criminal referral against the White House itself -- the story broke on Friday night -- and it takes three days for everyone to notice?

As of Sunday night, the New York Times had no reportage about the case on its Web site. (It's making up for it today, leading the front page.)

In my local papers -- the Seattle Times and the Post-Intelligencer -- the story has been buried. The Times has carried it on its interior pages Sunday and today (in the latter case, on A6).

The P-I -- reputedly the more liberal of the two -- not only failed to give it front-page play, it has had no reportage on the story at all. (If you go to their Web site even now, you can only find a wire story by digging through the national-news section.)

I've tried calling the National Desk at the P-I to inquire how such a decision could be made. So far I haven't been able to get through, nor have I received a callback. I'll keep trying.

Of course, the letters in the Sunday P-I responding to an Al Franken op-ed were sneering retorts all reassuring us that media indeed has a liberal bias.

One could only imagine how this would have been handled were any Democratic White House -- particularly Bill Clinton's or Al Gore's -- accused of such behavior.