Friday, August 03, 2007

Hate's incidental victims

It's hardly a secret that American neo-Nazis are not exactly the most competent people on the planet. Combined with their viciousness and propensity for violence, that often means that innocent bystanders -- and not just the targets of their rage -- wind up getting hurt too.

An ugly example of this occurred recently in Toledo, where the National Socialist Movement wants to march again in hopes that they can recreate the rioting and violence that occurred the last time they brought the show to town. Toledo officials have been adamant in making sure it doesn't happen again, and the mayor has clamped down on the range of their activities.

So the NSM decided to target the mayor by posting his home information online and generally threatening him. Problem is, they posted the wrong address:
It's a case of mistaken identity. A neo-Nazi group that had been blasted by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner took the addresses and phone numbers of the mayor and his spokesman, Brian Schwartz, and posted them on a web site to get members stirred up. Thing is -- they posted the wrong Brian Schwartz.

The American National Socialist Workers Party announced last week it planned to visit north Toledo later in August. When Mayor Finkbeiner's office issued a press release announcing the mayor's intention to limit the actions of the group, the group announced its plans to sue to be able to walk the streets and distribute fliers. The web page contained information about the verbal barrage back and forth, and listed the personal information.

"I guess you don't have to be a member of Mensa to be a Nazi because these Nazis have got the wrong Brian Schwartz to target," said Brian Schwartz, the mayor's spokesman. "They should leave everybody alone."

"I thought, 'Well this isn't good. This isn't good at all,'" said Brian Schwartz of Sylvania, telling his reaction when he got the call from the mayor's spokesman Brian Schwartz alerting him to the situation. The Nazi web page lists the mayor's information correctly, but gives the Sylvania Brian Schwartz's address and phone number.

In a normal world, you'd be able to sue these crackers for every last thing they've got for this. But one suspects -- given their competence level -- that a suit brought against these guys would probably only produce the last pot they had to piss in.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My new job

I thought I should let everyone know that I am the new assistant editor of Crosscut, a new Northwest regional online news source, which just began publication earlier this year. I'm very excited to be aboard; it's the kind of publication that right's up my alley, and I think you'll see us making some waves in the online world in the coming year.

If you visit now, you won't see much of my content; I'm only working part-time, and I'm largely handling news-editing duties currently. As I settle in, though, you'll start to see some of my writing there.

In fact, expect to see some dispatches from Chicago there this weekend, as I'll be attending YearlyKos, that great convocation of haters. Both Sara and I will be in attendance, and we'll be talking to folks and posting both here and at Crosscut.

Speaking of Sara and new gigs, I hope everyone's noticed by now that she's now a regular at The Group News Blog, which is trooping on in memory of the old News Blog's founder, Steve Gilliard.

I'm hoping you'll see a positive change at Orcinus in the coming year because of these changes. I'll certainly be more active, and covering a broader range of topics, because my information sources just expanded exponentially. On the other hand, I probably won't be able to post quite as much as I'd like because of time constraints. I'm hoping that, in general, what you'll see will be more engaging and insightful, at the very least.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Conservative fascism

-- by Dave

We've known for some time that Jonah Goldberg is on the verge of publishing a tome titled Liberal Fascism, though its original subtitle has apparently been pushed around a bit -- it's now "The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods" -- along with its actual publication date, as Roger Ailes has duly noted (Slate's Timothy Noah has more). Of course, it's an absurdly oxymoronic title, a hilariously doomed project from the start, and a brilliant example of conservatives' projection strategy.

Indeed, Goldberg delivers the real proof of that particular pudding today with a Los Angeles Times column arguing for a fitness test of some sort before citizens be allowed to vote.

The subhed pretty much sums up the illogic at play here:
We test immigrants before they can go to the polls; why not everyone else?

Actually, we test immigrants not merely before they go to the polls, but before they can become citizens, with all the rights that entails. And among the foremost of those rights is the right to vote.

The ensuing inanity of Goldberg's argument -- leaping over whole categories of logic to find some reason why we should limit voters' access to the polls -- is crystallized in his closing paragraphs:
Maybe the emphasis on getting more people to vote has dumbed-down our democracy by pushing participation onto people uninterested in such things. Maybe our society would be healthier if politicians aimed higher than the lowest common denominator. Maybe the opinions of people who don't know the first thing about how our system works aren't the folks who should be driving our politics, just as people who don't know how to drive shouldn't have a driver's license.

Instead of making it easier to vote, maybe we should be making it harder. Why not test people about the basic functions of government? Immigrants have to pass a test to vote; why not all citizens?

And who, exactly, gets to decide who is fit to vote and who is not? What's a passing mark on Goldberg's fitness test?

But that's only scratching the surface of what's wrong here. What Goldberg conveniently omits from his argument is that this sort of thing has been tried before. They called them literacy tests, and they were used throughout the South and other states as a way to deny African-Americans the right to vote after the Civil War. They were a fundamental component of the so-called "Jim Crow" laws that were only overturned in the 1960s, and a complement to the reign of eliminationist terror that kept blacks oppressed and impoverished for more than a century after they were freed.

Moreover, one would think a Republican would understand voting is the fundamental aspect of citizenship in a Republic -- it's the source of a citizen's franchisement within that Republic. It isn't merely a privilege, such as obtaining a driver's license. It is a right endowed to every citizen, and it is only revoked for reasons of criminality. Indeed, it is one of the defining rights of citizenship. Goldberg is essentially arguing for disposing of people's rights as citizens if they fail his test.

Creating and enforcing a fitness test on citizens before they can be allowed to vote can be described in no other term than as fascist.

You'll recall, perhaps, that scholars of fascism such as Robert O. Paxton and Roger Griffin have remarked on the fascist's insistence that he represents the true national identity; this becomes part of the complex of rage and violence by which others are deemed unfit to enjoy the rights of citizenship and polite society and then, gradually, eliminated.

Goldberg's proposal would be a clear first step in that direction, since its essence is to deny voting rights to those deemed uninformed enough to count. That it resembles so closely the political program of the old postwar Ku Klux Klan -- identified by Paxton as the original fascist organization -- is not mere coincidence.

Conservatives are becoming desperate. Probably mass disenfranchisement is their only hope for retaining much of the vestiges of power after 2008, so Goldberg conveniently floats a balloon like this.

Too bad it has a little smiley face with a Hitler mustache on it.

[P.S. Can someone explain to me why the editors of the LA Times editorial page thought the above photo was an appropriate illustration for Goldberg's piece?]

[Hat tip to Ray C.]

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bill O'Reilly, hatemonger

-- by Dave

So Bill O'Reilly is supposed to go on air this afternoon to "destroy" Kos. Or, as he put it on his show:
Now at this point, it should be obvious to every American the far left is out of control and doing damage to the nation. If I have to shock you to get that across, I will. And on Monday you'll be shocked.

Now remember, the next president of the United States may be speaking before a group that allows and encourages the lowest form of discourse, threats, defamation, rank hatred. Never before in our country's history has this happened and the reason it is happening is because much of the media sympathizes with the far left and legitimizes its extreme hatred.

Well, it may interest O'Reilly to know that the people whose work it is to monitor hate groups in this country -- the people who find and track the activities at genuine hate sites -- use fairly clear and simple criteria to determine what is and what isn't an actual hate site or hate group. From the Southern Poverty Law Center's guide to hate groups in America:
All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.

What distinguishes hate groups from ordinary, mainstream groups who may attract fringe actors is that their entire rationale for existence is predicated around the demonization of entire classes of people living in America. When you visit a real hate site, it isn't hard to find fairly naked expressions of hatred and bigotry.

Hate groups aren't simply about defending a particular interest group (in most instances, "white" culture) -- they're about tearing down, demonizing, and oppressing targeted minority groups. The insistence on the inferiority of "out" groups is also a standard feature, as well as a fetish about the supposed ill effects of those groups on "decent" (read: white) society.

O'Reilly really should go to any number of genuine "hate" sites -- say, Stormfront, where his reportage is often cited, or David Duke's site, or any of the voluminous Klan sites, or something from the skinheads or National Socialist Movement -- to get the flavor for this. Certainly he's cited their existence in comparing them to DailyKos, but there's no evidence that he actually understands the kind of material that's posted at those places.

Because, by any reasonable or even farflung standard, DailyKos does not fit the description. The vast majority of posts at the site are about political networking and strategy, about factual political issues, and they're about media misbehavior of the kind O'Reilly frequently indulges. There is nothing even remotely resembling the typical hatemongering -- particularly not the ugly demonization of minorities that are the grist of every "hate" site worthy of the name -- at DailyKos.

There are occasional hateful comments, as there are at any site. What you'll especially notice about DKos is how robust the traffic there is; there are literally hundreds of posts from regulars and diarists going up every day, and literally thousands of comments to go along with them. The comments that one could describe as genuinely hateful are so tiny in number that they are statistically neglible. (Moreover, it's impossible to calculate just how many of these are produced by right-wing "trolls" hoping to make the site look bad; certainly, we've had such creatures show up in the comments here.)

The same cannot be said, of course, of sites such as O'Reilly's own forum, which is a limited venue available only to paying subscribers. As John Aravosis has observed, there is no shortage of hateful commentary from the fringe actors at O'Reilly's site, which one would assume would be an easier matter to moderate.

But let's stipulate, just for the sake of reasoned discussion, that O'Reilly's standards are bogus: A site can only be judged on, at most, a secondary scale by the quality and nature of the comments it attracts. Certainly there are sites -- Little Green Footballs springs to mind -- where the comments are so consistently vile that it isn't hard to see them being encouraged by the site's owner. However, even the law is clear that site owners are not responsible for comments posted to their site, and the broadly accepted ethos of the blogosphere -- Michelle Malkin notwithstanding -- runs along similar lines.

Ultimately, the only real test of a site's quality is the nature of the posts by that owner or his or her editorial staff. And by that standard, there's been nothing presented by O'Reilly to date (we'll have to see what he dredges up today) that even remotely suggests that Markos, or mcjoan, or Kagro X, or Meteor Blades, or any of the other rotating cast of regulars who have populated DailyKos over the years -- the regular posters writing the posts that the site is about -- have indulged in any of the "hate" talk that O'Reilly wants to wave like a bloody shirt. Everything he's produced so far has been from the comment threads.

Let's say, simply for the sake of argument, that the "hate" that O'Reilly is decrying is not just racial/religious/sexual hate of the kind the SPLC monitors. If instead we substitute O'Reilly's description of the left blogosphere -- "the lowest form of discourse, threats, defamation, rank hatred" -- we're left with the same point: None of this discourse is coming from the site owners themselves.

The same cannot be said, however, of Bill O'Reilly himself.

If one were to search for some prime examples of "the lowest form of discourse, threats, defamation, rank hatred," there are plenty readily available on the mainstream right, ranging from Ann Coulter to Rush Limbaugh to Michael Savage. But Bill O'Reilly is something of a special case in this regard, if for no other reason than that he reaches such an immense audience.

O'Reilly likes to often pose as a reasonable sort, a straight talker, someone who sticks up for the little guy, but it's all pose. The underlying tone of his broadcasts is all about scapegoating -- finding someone to finger for whatever is wrong with the world that day -- and O'Reilly often reveals a truly ugly face when he goes on the attack.

Sometimes, he tosses out ugly threats and then says he was just joking:
GIULIANI: You know, when I look at the primary in Iowa, I think that was part of maybe what happened. Edwards stayed out of doing that, and...

O'REILLY: Absolutely. It hurt -- it hurt Dean.

GIULIANI: I think it hurt Clark.

O'REILLY: It killed Clark. Once Jennings nailed him with the Michael Moore thing, deserter...

GIULIANI: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: ... it killed him.

GIULIANI: Yes, yes. I mean where the -- and I think with people even that dislike the president, they kind of -- they still feel...

O'REILLY: Right.

GIULIANI: ... this is too much, desertion is a crime punishable by death. Let's get real. I mean...

O'REILLY: Well, I want to kill Michael Moore. Is that all right? All right. And I don't believe in capital punishment. That's just a joke on Moore.

As I noted at the time:
Why do we get the sneaking suspicion that O'Reilly isn't really joking regarding his real feelings about what he'd like to see happen to Michael Moore? I mean, well, did you laugh at the "joke"? After all, neither O'Reilly nor Giuiliani did.

Sometimes, the old bigot persona that underlies so much of his "opinion," but which he usually keeps in check, comes popping out at odd times:
O'REILLY: Oh, I am with you there. You've got to get the high-tech stuff there.

But I'll tell you what. I've talked to the commanders, and they tell me, look, you deploy us down there, we stop the drug traffic dead, we stop it dead, all right. They're not even going to try.

We'd save lives because Mexican wetbacks, whatever you want to call them, the coyotes -- they're not going to do what they're doing now, all right, so people aren't going to die in the desert.

At other times, as in his notorious shoutfest with Geraldo Rivera -- over, in fact, a little bit of hatemongering in which O'Reilly had indulged -- the public can see the "regular guy" mask ripped away. Possibly the most noteworthy of these was the time he verbally abused and cut the mike on an antiwar protester named Jeremy Glick, whose father had perished on 9/11 and who took out an ad attacking the invasion of Iraq:
O'REILLY: All right. I don't want to...

GLICK: Maybe...

O'REILLY: I don't want to debate world politics with you.

GLICK: Well, why not? This is about world politics.

O'REILLY: Because, No. 1, I don't really care what you think.

GLICK: Well, OK.

O'REILLY: You're -- I want to...

GLICK: But you do care because you...

O'REILLY: No, no. Look...

GLICK: The reason why you care is because you evoke 9/11...

O'REILLY: Here's why I care.

GLICK: ... to rationalize...

O'REILLY: Here's why I care...

GLICK: Let me finish. You evoke 9/11 to rationalize everything from domestic plunder to imperialistic aggression worldwide.

O'REILLY: OK. That's a bunch...

GLICK: You evoke sympathy with the 9/11 families.

O'REILLY: That's a bunch of crap. I've done more for the 9/11 families by their own admission -- I've done more for them than you will ever hope to do.


O'REILLY: So you keep your mouth shut when you sit here exploiting those people.

GLICK: Well, you're not representing me. You're not representing me.

O'REILLY: And I'd never represent you. You know why?


O'REILLY: Because you have a warped view of this world and a warped view of this country.

GLICK: Well, explain that. Let me give you an example of a parallel...

O'REILLY: No, I'm not going to debate this with you, all right.

... O'REILLY: Man, I hope your mom isn't watching this.

GLICK: Well, I hope she is.

O'REILLY: I hope your mother is not watching this because you -- that's it. I'm not going to say anymore.


O'REILLY: In respect for your father...

GLICK: On September 14, do you want to know what I'm doing?

O'REILLY: Shut up. Shut up.

GLICK: Oh, please don't tell me to shut up.

O'REILLY: As respect -- as respect -- in respect for your father, who was a Port Authority worker, a fine American, who got killed unnecessarily by barbarians...

GLICK: By radical extremists who were trained by this government...

O'REILLY: Out of respect for him...

GLICK: ... not the people of America.

O'REILLY: ... I'm not going to...

GLICK: ... The people of the ruling class, the small minority.

O'REILLY: Cut his mic. I'm not going to dress you down anymore, out of respect for your father.

We will be back in a moment with more of THE FACTOR.

GLICK: That means we're done?

O'REILLY: We're done.

As he demonstrated with Glick, it has been in dealing with people who have dared to question this war that O'Reilly has been particularly vicious. Even before troops landed, he warned antiwar protesters:
Americans, and indeed our foreign allies who actively work against our military once the war is underway, will be considered enemies of the state by me.

Just fair warning to you, Barbra Streisand and others who see the world as you do. I don't want to demonize anyone, but anyone who hurts this country in a time like this, well, let's just say you will be spotlighted.

Shortly afterward, he went on a jihad against Peter Arnett, leading a torch-bearing mob that succeeded in getting the longtime CNN correspondent fired. O'Reilly's argument was the same -- he was a traitor:
O'Reilly: Arnett said the war plan is failing. That gives encouragement to an army fighting against coalition forces, false encouragement because Arnett was wrong, he's a dunderhead, but encouragement nonetheless. That could be conceived as aiding and abetting.

And as the war went on, O'Reilly became even uglier, as he did with Jeremy Glick. In his role as a prominent cheerleader for the invasion, he even offered up strategy to the military, which had a decidedly genocidal flavor, as when preparing for the invasion of Fallujah:
O'REILLY: I don't care about the - colonel, I don't care about the people of Fallujah. You're not going to win their hearts and minds. They're going to kill you to the very end. They've proven that. So let's knock this place down.

COWAN: Let's get out of the way and let Iraqis knock it down, so we don't lose any more American lives.

O'REILLY: I don't believe - I absolutely don't believe they can do it. General, how do you see it?

VALLELY: Well, we've got to do it together. We've go to do it quickly. We've got to sanitize that whole city. And keep in mind, Bill, you set an example when you go in there to do that. And when do you that, you get respect. And that's why you go to be tough.

O'REILLY: All right, general, is there any.


O'REILLY: You know it, the colonel knows it. The colonel and I are disagreeing on the tactics, but we know what the final solution should be. Why hasn't the U.S. command done this? And why do they continue to absorb the level of terror that is coming out of -- this isn't a big town. We're not talking about Cincinnati here. Right? It's not a big town?

He's even argued that his fellow Americans deserve to die at the hands of terrorists if they're not on board with every aspect of government policy regarding the war, such as military-recruitment efforts. Talk about unhinged:
Hey, you know, if you want to ban military recruiting, fine, but I'm not going to give you another nickel of federal money. You know, if I'm the president of the United States, I walk right into Union Square, I set up my little presidential podium, and I say, "Listen, citizens of San Francisco, if you vote against military recruiting, you're not going to get another nickel in federal funds. Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead."

And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.

Later, as the conflict dragged on, he also became fond of comparing the advocates of withdrawal with Nazi apologists:
These pin-heads running around going, "Get out of Iraq now" don't know what they are talking about. These are the same people before Hitler invaded in WWII that were saying, "He's not such a bad guy.' They don't get it.

Of course, O'Reilly's ferocious attacks on war critics are only a piece of his larger narrative as a "culture warrior." He similarly attacked liberals and others in his campaign against what he called "the war on Christmas":
I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. And we have succeeded. You know we've succeeded. They are on the run in corporations, in the media, everywhere. They are on the run, because I will put their face and their name on television, and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it. There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together. There is no reason on the earth that we can't do that. So we are going to do it. And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me.

O'Reilly sells himself to the public as defender of ordinary joes, but it's difficult not to notice that his populism is decidedly selective: he only supports white right-wing populists, such as the Minutemen, who he praised effusively:
"So three cheers for the Minutemen. Like their ancestors in Concord and Lexington, they're making a statement. And we all should respect that."

Conversely, when it comes to minority organizations, O'Reilly is among the first in line to smear them. He was one of the media figures a few years back hawking the smear of MEChA as a "hate group".

But then, we already know that O'Reilly, perhaps more than any major media figure (except perhaps Lou Dobbs), has made a habit out of reinforcing the themes, ideas, and agendas of the white supremacist movement, even going so far as to repeat one of their favorite claims:
Bill O'Reilly: But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right.

Indeed, when it comes to spreading hate, one needn't simply spew vile imprecations; as one can see from surveying hate sites, one of the more common ways to do so is to spread false stories that have the effect of smearing a minority group. These stories may report the spread of disease, or crime, or other horrendous social costs, and they are almost always poorly grounded.

That in a nutshell was what O'Reilly himself did recently with his bogus reportage on pistol-packing gangs of lesbians now roaming urban streets and attacking men. Even worse, his bogus "correction" only served as an opportunity for O'Reilly to pretend that the story had any legitimacy at all.

You do have to hand one thing to O'Reilly: He has a lot of balls. Because that's what it takes to go on a rampage accusing his critics of fomenting "hate" and coarsening the political discourse, when it's abundantly clear from watching him over the years that this is almost purely a matter of projection.