Saturday, November 21, 2009

Countdown on the 'Fearmonger in Chief': 'We cannot just dismiss him'

-- by Dave

Every time we run a Glenn Beck post, someone trolls into the comments and asks, "Why bother with this guy? We should just ignore him! Post more videos on [insert name of preferred progressive figure here]!"

We'd like to refer them to this week's special report from the ADL on the rise of populist anti-government rage, the one that officially dubbed Beck our national "Fearmonger in Chief".

Keith Olbermann invited Arianna Huffington onto Countdown to discuss the report last night:

OLBERMANN: It would be nice to think of Glenn Beck just as a joke, as fodder for this show and the “Daily Show” and others that point out how stupid some of this stuff is. But this report, you know, suggests something else, this is—fearmonger-in-chief term is frightening.

HUFFINGTON: It is frightening. Well, I would say the fearmonger-in-chief title should still be reserved for Dick Cheney, even in retirement. But barring that, there is something that we need to really pay attention to with Glenn Beck. We cannot just dismiss him. Because the truth of the matter is that there is a good reason why we have an exemption to the free speech protection by the first amendment when we say you cannot shout fire in a crowded theater.

And he's doing that every night. He's basically using images of violence to bring together with all that he's accusing the Obama administration of, which varies from racism to communism, Nazism and everything else in between. So, all that has definitely an impact. I believe words matter, language matters and he's using it in incredibly irresponsible ways night after night.

OLBERMANN: What do you say to the argument that this country has always self corrected, that whether Father Coughlin on the radio in the ‘30s or Bo Carter (ph) who was a newscaster who presented literally stuff that was made up on the hour in CBS News in the ‘30s or the columnist Westbook Pegler or Senator Joe McCarthy? All these people a finale in which they exited the stage and suddenly. What is to say that that‘s not going to happen here?

HUFFINGTON: Well, I hope it's going to happen, but it's not going to happen without people pointing out what Glenn Beck is doing.

Indeed, since the report was issued, Beck seems to have turned up the Wingnuttery Dial all the way 11.

We put together a compendium of Beck's finest fearmongering of just the past year on Fox, inspired largely by the instances cited by the ADL -- with a few of our own favorite moments thrown in for good measure.

As Arianna says, confronting the Becks is vital to keeping our discourse healthy -- because he is polluting it daily with the toxic garbage of disinformation, paranoia, and scapegoating.

We discussed this recently in the matter of Lou Dobbs:

[I]t's one thing to hold a contrary opinion ... It's quite another to irresponsibly demagogue and demonize an entire bloc of the American population with provably false information and paranoid conspiracy theories derived in large part from hate groups whose entire purpose is to poison the well of our national discourse.

Dobbs wasn't in trouble with the public merely for attacking Latino immigrants or peddling conspiracy theories -- the public sought his removal because he had become a major conduit for right-wing extremism in the mainstream of our discourse.

The free press, and free speech, are indeed vital to the functioning of our democracy, precisely because they are the only means by which the citizens of a democratic society can obtain the information they need to function effectively.

What this means, however, is that the people in the press who dispense that information have an incredible responsibility not just to their readers, but to democratic society, to report accurately, truthfully, and responsibly.

And when they fail in those responsibilities, the public has not just the right but the obligation to demand accountability. Purveying false information is in itself fundamentally irresponsible; so is reporting with the intent to demonize people and target them for elimination; and the combination of the two is particularly toxic, because it almost inevitably has violent consequences.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Copenhagen: Getting past the urgency trap

-- by Sara

Note: Some of you have wondered where I went. Starting October 1, I went on a much-needed blogging sabbatical to work on my thesis. The current plan is to be back blogging at least weekly starting the first week of January. I had no idea how much I needed the rest. Really.

(Thanks for all the lovely notes enquiring about my disappearance -- I do feel well-missed. And my health is not just good, but robust.)

The article below appeared earlier this week at Grist.

Copenhagen’s still three weeks away, but climate activists are already voicing their enormous disappointment about everything that’s not going to get done there. The heat is rising, and we’re all feeling the overwhelming urgency to get a strong global agreement that will get the laggards off their butts and launch the structural reformations most of us know we need to fix the problem. A lot of us, it seems, loaded all our highest hopes onto this one conference, wanting desperately to believe that this would finally be the moment the long-awaited Grand Transformation would occur.

But the hard truth of the matter is this: change of this magnitude never happens with a single conference, a single treaty, or even a single disaster. The structural changes required to get us off carbon and onto a truly sustainable footing challenge the economic assumptions that humans have lived by for 2500 years. Change that wide and deep will be the work of an entire century, maybe two. (If we’re smart and lucky, our grandchildren may live to see it mostly done.) All of us are well aware of the precarious time crunch we’re under here; but humans change only as fast as they change, and forcing the issue isn’t likely to help. And it may even hurt us in the long run.

We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and we’re not going to get out of it in one dazzling planetary stroke of universal enlightenment, either.

The good news: big, deep changes like this one tend to proceed in a fairly predictable order. If we understand the whole arc of that process, we can have a little more patience with where we are, and think a little more strategically about what comes next. Various theorists on the subject of change disagree on the number of stages in the process—I could bore you with theories that posit anywhere between four and 17—but they all describe more or less the same progression. For our purposes, we can think of it in six stages:

Stage One begins when a small subgroup of people realizes that there’s a problem, and then figures out just what that problem is. In this case, it was the climate scientists who noticed the first hints of a problem over a century ago, and spent the next several decades accumulating overwhelming evidence that it was a monster threat that couldn’t be ignored.

Stage Two is in many ways the very hardest one: getting everybody else in the group to see the problem, admit it’s a problem, and agree that it needs to be fixed. Note that there are no solutions proffered at this stage; right now, you’re just getting people to crack their minds open wide enough to accept the present truth and future implications of the matter.

This battle for hearts and minds is never a small victory—and those of us in the fight for climate change have already substantially won it. The deniers keep trying to take it away from us; but like the tobacco companies in the 1960s, they’re on the defensive and in the minority now, and they’re well aware that time is not on their side. Creating a broad global consensus around the basic idea that climate disruption is happening and needs to be addressed was one of the longest, hardest, most important battles of the whole revolution, and it’s very nearly over. Just getting to this point has been an enormous global victory for the movement, and we deserve to let ourselves claim it and savor it.

From here, it’s on to
Stage Three, in which the group tries to see if tweaks to the existing system will fix the problem. This is where we are now: what’s coming out of Copenhagen will probably be, in essence, a laundry list of tweaks.

This isn’t an irrational step. After all, as we go through life solving problems, tweaking something does in fact fix things better than 90 percent of the time. It’s very natural for people—especially people who are more change-averse than your average climate activist, which is about 90 percent of everybody—to comfort themselves with the belief that we just need to do a little of this, a little of that, and it’ll all be better.

We are now at Stage Three not just with climate change, but the economy and health care, too. Everybody knows we need change; not everybody understands yet just how thorough the overhaul is going to have to be. And large-scale change won’t happen until they figure it out themselves, on their own time, in their own way.

There is no avoiding this stage of the process. It’s frustrating for the foresighted people who’ve already figured out that mere tweaks aren’t going to do it this time; but the bitter truth is that there’s no way through this stage but through it. You cannot skip steps, and you cannot rush people through their process. Everybody’s got to go through all of them, on their own schedule.

In fact, trying to rush people through this phase tends to create more problems than it solves. Change agents have two clear choices here: enter the discussion, engage the crowd, and position themselves as clear, calm, credible leaders on the issue; or get out too far ahead of the laggards and snark and whine at them to catch up. The latter strategy pretty much guarantees that they’ll only resent you—and later on, when they get finally serious about change, your name won’t be on the list of credible people who are qualified to make the really transformative decisions. No matter how much you know about the subject, you won’t be at the table when the ultimate choices finally get made—which leaves those choices in the hands of people who want to shape the future for their own ends. Over the long haul, failure to exercise a little restraint and gentle patience while people are catching up almost always carries potentially fatal credibility costs on the back end.

As we approach the end of Stage Three, the process begins to accelerate rapidly, as people’s heightened awareness of the problem makes them more willing to connect external events to the climate change issue.

Stage Four will be a reckoning, still to come (but almost certainly closer than anyone currently expects) that proves beyond arguable doubt that those hoped-for small tweaks have not been enough, and that the only remaining option is an immediate and thorough overhaul of the whole system. This is the tipping-point event that moves the whole population through several stages in the space of a few days or weeks, catching everybody up (or at least a critical mass of everybody—you need at least 70 percent of the population really on board by this point) and leveling the field for change.

The good news is that by the time you get this far along, everybody who matters really understands the issues at stake, accepts that tweaks won’t do it, and can visualize the kind of structural change that’s needed. The earlier stages have mentally and emotionally prepared them to drop their last remaining resistance, and move ahead with solutions that are truly revolutionary. And those experts who haven’t squandered their authority by whining and bitching their way through Stage Three emerge here as the natural leaders of that revolution.

Stage Five, the changes happen—a process that almost always also changes you forever. We may be the foresighted ones, and the natural leaders; but there’s a lot that happens at this stage that can’t possibly be foreseen. We must be prepared to have a lot of our cherished beliefs and core assumptions melted away in the heat of the transformation. Some of our dreams will be incinerated, too. But others will come true beyond anything we could have imagined, due to opportunities we never could have anticipated. Such is the nature of the process.

Stage Six is the wrap-up phase. The revolution is over, the change is mostly accomplished (though the little tweaks and upgrades will go on for a long while), the newly rebuilt systems are coming online, and the new regime becomes the new normal. If it’s done well, people feel good about what happened—or, at least, are fairly well convinced that they’re better off than they would have been without the change.

Given the current climate, it’s tempting to deride this perspective as “incrementalism,” which has become the epithet du jour. But everything we know about change says that the deep civilizational shifts we’re looking for will not happen any other way.

There are other forces at work, too. Climate change (like gay rights) has turned into a generational issue that pits older people, who are deeply economically and emotionally invested in the status quo, against younger generations who are convinced that the status quo is untenable and that their own futures depend on creating something new. With every passing year, the power and influence of those younger generations grows, increasing the momentum behind the push for change.

At the same time, if we’re right about this thing, climate-related events are going to increase; and as the change cycle spins forward, people are going to become more willing to identify them as such.

We have to trust the process, and understand where we are in it. The forces are gathering, and the process is accelerating—it’s just not easy to see the deep currents yet, because they’re still well below the surface. While it’s tempting to see Copenhagen as some kind of Last Best Chance, it’s probably more accurate to view it as the first of a series of efforts that are going to come faster and thicker now as that generational momentum and general understanding of the issues continue to build.

Copenhagen, for better or worse, is still the next step forward, and we’ll accept it with greater equanimity if we accept that the resulting tweaks are a natural and necessary phase the world’s more conventional thinkers have to work their way past before they’ll accept the need for a more wholesale transformation. If we’re serious about leading on this issue, we need to take the long view—which means respectfully meeting people where they are, and then gently bringing them along through the next stage, then the next, then the next. That’s what real leaders do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ADL report on tide of anti-Obama rage calls out Glenn Beck as 'fearmonger in chief'

-- by Dave

It's nice to know that we're not alone in raising concerns about the increasingly unhinged nature of the kind of rhetoric right-wing talkers are unleashing in the name of their jihad against President Obama -- in no small part because such rhetoric inevitably produces acts of horrific violence.

Yesterday, the Anti-Defamation League confirmed that these concerns are anything but groundless, with a devastating report titled "Rage Grows in America: Anti‑Government Conspiracies":

Since the election of Barack Obama as president, a current of anti-government hostility has swept across the United States, creating a climate of fervor and activism with manifestations ranging from incivility in public forums to acts of intimidation and violence.

What characterizes this anti-government hostility is a shared belief that Obama and his administration actually pose a threat to the future of the United States. Some accuse Obama of plotting to bring socialism to the United States, while others claim he will bring about Nazism or fascism. All believe that Obama and his administration will trample on individual freedoms and civil liberties, due to some sinister agenda, and they see his economic and social policies as manifestations of this agenda. In particular anti-government activists used the issue of health care reform as a rallying point, accusing Obama and his administration of dark designs ranging from “socialized medicine” to “death panels,” even when the Obama administration had not come out with a specific health care reform plan. Some even compared the Obama administration’s intentions to Nazi eugenics programs.

Some of these assertions are motivated by prejudice, but more common is an intense strain of anti-government distrust and anger, colored by a streak of paranoia and belief in conspiracies. These sentiments are present both in mainstream and “grass-roots” movements as well as in extreme anti-government movements such as a resurgent militia movement. Ultimately, this anti-government anger, if it continues to grow in intensity and scope, may result in an increase in anti-government extremists and the potential for a rise of violent anti-government acts.

Just as we have frequently remarked here, this rage is being fed to a remarkable extent by mainstream media pundits on the right, particularly Glenn Beck, who has a long history of promoting extremist ideas and rhetoric:

Though much of the impetus for anti-government sentiment has come from a variety of grass-roots and extremist groups, segments of the mainstream media have played a surprisingly active role in generating such segment. Though a number of media figures and commentators have taken part, the media personality who has played the most active role has been radio and television host Glenn Beck, who along with many of his guests have made a habit of demonizing the Obama administration and promoting conspiracy theories about it. Beck has acted as a “fearmonger-in-chief,” raising anxiety about and distrust towards the government.

It devotes a whole section to exploring this:

The most important mainstream media figure who has repeatedly helped to stoke the fires of anti-government anger is right-wing media host Glenn Beck, who has a TV show on FOX News and a popular syndicated radio show. While other conservative media hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, routinely attack Obama and his administration, typically on partisan grounds, they have usually dismissed or refused to give a platform to the conspiracy theorists and anti-government extremists. This has not been the case with Glenn Beck. Beck and his guests have made a habit of demonizing President Obama and promoting conspiracy theories about his administration.

On a number of his TV and radio programs, Beck has even gone so far as to make comparisons between Hitler and Obama and to promote the idea that the president is dangerous.

The ADL report was issued that same day as Sam Stein's devastating examination of the extremists Beck has historically promoted on his programs:

The Huffington Post took a look some of the bombastic host's past guests and found names steeped in controversy. Beck has hosted, and even occasionally praised, a renowned white supremacist, a devout southern secessionist, a defender of slavery, and a 9/11 skeptic.

... If Beck were a self-avowed journalist -- which he's not -- these guests could be chalked up as an effort to foster intriguing debate, whether about immigration policy, constitutional principles or the strength of the dollar. But, taken as a whole, the roster reflects the host's partiality to an ideology that is far-right if not outright extremist.

Of course, this is a subject C&L readers are well familiar with. But the evidence keeps piling up: Glenn Beck is perhaps the foremost conduit for extremist belief systems and ideas to infect our mainstream conservative in the history of the mass media.

And he's just getting started. God only knows to what effect.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

CNN parachutes in to Michigan to interview militiamen

-- by Dave

CNN's Jim Acosta this morning filed the first part of a three-part report on the return of the militia movement, something we've been tracking regularly here at C&L.

The piece, unfortunately, is like a lot of mainstream reportage on the movement -- that is to say, reporters "parachute" in to a location (in this case, southeastern Michigan) and provide a facile report that's about toe deep in content. As with so many such reports, it's typically susceptible to swallowing whole the mythology that militia members like to toss up for mainstream consumption.

In this case, Acosta willingly transmits the main purpose of the militia movement -- which is to say, remaking genuinely extremist belief systems as mainstream and legitimate. Lee Miracle, the Michigan group's leader, is portrayed as just a gee-shucks ordinary guy concerned about his constitutional rights.

But then there were the other members, and it was clear there was the usual undertow of unhinged paranoia present -- along with clear statements that they were motivated by fear of a Democratic president, and particularly Obama:

ACOSTA (voice-over): Training for what depends on who you ask, but this militia member, who didn't want to give his last name, worries the government will eventually take away his gun rights.

"BRIAN", SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN VOLUNTEER MILITIA: Well, any time we get a Democratic president in the office, people become concerned, including myself and we get a resurgence out here.

ACOSTA: Others just don't like President Obama. So, you don't trust him?

MICHAEL LACKOMAR, SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN VOLUNTERR MILITIA: In short, I think he could be dangerous for the nation.

While overall it gives a pretty warm and fluffy view of the militias, it's not a thoroughly bad report; it at least manages to quote the SPLC's Mark Potok, who points out how they are driven by a combination of anti-liberal animus and wingnutty paranoia:

MARK POTOK, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: The truth is, is that these groups are popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Earlier this year, Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center put out a report warning of a surge in militia activity that came with the election of President Obama. Since that report was issued, Potok says his staff has counted 100 new militia groups across the country.

POTOK: There really is this kind of terrible fear mixed with fury about the idea that President Obama is somehow leading a kind of socialistic, you know, takeover of America.

In Acosta's on-air segment after the report, he talked it over with John Roberts and Kiran Chetry, and noted that, as it was in the 1990s, the militias are being driven by fear about both gun rights and Obama generally:

ROBERTS: All right. Is it all about gun rights then?

ACOSTA: A lot of it is about gun rights. A lot of it is about distrust. They just don't trust this president. They think he is out to peel back rights and the gun issue is their big ones. You know, we should mention that the gun control issue specifically is really unrealistic in many ways. Because the Obama administration knows and Democrats know that it will be political suicide for them to go after gun control measures. In fact, the attorney general indicated just recently that he's not even going to go back to the assault weapons ban that was enacted during the Clinton administration.

Then they ran one of their phone-in polls:

CHETRY: We also want to know what you think. Are militia members patriots or are they extremists? And o you think that your rights are slipping away or do you think that these militias go too far? Join us tomorrow and we're going to have part two of Jim's piece.

At the CNN/amFix blog, Acosta described what the next two parts will look like:

Not to worry, says the group's leader Lee Miracle. A military veteran and postal worker, yes postal worker, Miracle says he urges respect for the president.

He's out to change the way the world views militia groups. We get an up-close look at his family in part two of our series. A family Miracle refers to as "Lee and Kate plus eight plus a gun rack." That's because they have eight kids and 22 guns in the house. And the kids take part in militia day.

In part three of our series, we go to Las Vegas to go behind the scenes with an organization called "Oathkeepers." It's a group of ex-law enforcement officials and military veterans who say they've sworn an oath to the Constitution, not the president. The president they're referring to, of course, is Mr. Obama.

The ADL released a report today about the growing rage in the American landscape, of which the militia movement is a significant part:

While anti-government anger has certainly spurred the rapid growth of these groups, modern technology has also played a role in the ability of militia groups to form and recruit, especially the use by militia groups of social networking sites such as MySpace to spread their message and recruit new members (and inspire new groups to form). One result of these developments, though, is that the 2009 version of the militia movement is more loosely organized than its predecessor, and many of the individual groups are considerably smaller. Many militia groups have no more than around 10 regular members. Some groups are essentially “Web only” and conduct little real world activity.

In addition to the groups, there are increased numbers of people who identify with the militia movement, and may even attend various trainings or events, but do not officially belong to any particular group. These unaffiliated members now make up an important part of the movement.

The militia movement is a major source of anti-Obama and anti-government hostility, and a major audience for the extreme conspiracy theories revolving around FEMA, martial law, and gun confiscation. Because the militia movement has had a fairly strong association with criminal activity, especially related to illegal weapons and explosives, or conspiracies to use them, the resurgence of this movement is a matter of some concern to law enforcement.

It's not a surprise that militias are ordinary-seeming -- that is, after all, their entire purpose. CNN needs to do a report that scratches beneath this surface.

I described the underlying dynamic in my 1999 book, In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest,:

The focus at Patriot meetings varies according to who’s talking, usually revolving around the keynote speaker. At Richard Mack meetings, the emphasis is on gun control and recruiting law-enforcement officers to the Patriot cause. Gene Schroder and Gary DeMott sessions revolve around ``constitutional law’’ and the ``common law’’ courts. And at MOM meetings and others like them, the emphasis is on confronting the New World Order by forming militias.

In all of them, though, the message remains essentially the same: The world is rotting at the seams. The American way of life, embodied in the Constitution, is threatened by forces conspiring to enslave the world. Only by forming an armed Patriotic resistance can their plans be thwarted.

By challenging the mainstream view -- that the world is essentially a safe place, that the nation is, in general, functional, even if it has problems -- the Patriots persuade their followers to place themselves outside the rest of society. Simultaneously, they offer a social structure of their own, drawn together by a Patriot sensibility that informs every aspect of the followers’ lives: legal, religious, even business behavior becomes an expression of their beliefs.

This is how people are drawn into the alternative universe of the Patriots, a world in which the same events occur as those that befall the rest of us, but all are seen through a different lens. Anything that makes it into a newspaper or the evening broadcast -- say, flooding in the Cascades, or the arrival of U.S. troops in Bosnia -- may be just another story for most of us, but to a Patriot, these widely disparate events all are connected to the conspiracy. Believers tend to organize in small local groups. They all have similar-sounding names -- Concerned Citizens for Constitutional Law, Alliance for America, and the like. They play host to the touring Patriots, the local leaders nervously introducing their admired guests. These groups operate out of the public limelight, on a low-level communications system: a combination of mailings, faxes and even Internet postings all advertise the meetings locally and regionally. Rarely does an announcement make the local mainstream press.

Most of the Patriots’ real recruiting takes place before the meetings, by word of mouth. It usually works like this:

John, a Patriot, tells Joe, a co-worker at his plant who’s going through a divorce, that he can find out ``what’s really going on’’ by attending a militia meeting. The Patriots, Joe is told, have answers to the moral decay that’s behind the way men get screwed in divorce cases.

Joe attends. He thinks the New World Order theories might be possible. He buys a video tape, maybe a book. It all starts to fit together. So this is why he hasn’t been able to get ahead in the world economically, he tells himself. He attends another meeting. Pretty soon he’s getting ``Taking Aim’’ in the mail.

Joe tells his neighbor Sam about the Patriots. Sam is dubious, but he’s been having a hell of a time paying his taxes, and Joe passes on what he knows about the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve from the Patriot literature he’s read. Sam is intrigued. He reads some of Joe’s material. He goes to the next meeting with Joe. A month or two later, Sam starts drawing up papers to declare himself a ``sovereign citizen.’’

Sam goes to a picnic outing at his parents’ house. His older brother Jeff, an engineer at Boeing, asks Sam about the ``sovereign citizen’’ stuff. Sam explains. Jeff, too, is dubious, but he also happens to be a gun collector and sometime hunter, and he’s received mailings from the National Rifle Association that lead him to wonder if there isn’t something to this whole militia thing. When Sam starts talking about how the government is out of control, passing unconstitutional laws like the Brady Bill, Jeff tunes in. A month later, he, too, sits in on a Patriot town-hall meeting.

One by one it builds. Any of a number of vital issues -- land use, property rights, banking, economics, politics, gun control, abortion, education, welfare -- can serve as a drawing card. In many cases, they are deeply divisive, polarizing matters that the mainstream fails to adequately address.

Once recruits pass through any of these gateways into the Patriot universe, they are drawn further, inexorably. What once seemed like a screwed-up government has become monstrously, palpably evil. Then they learn about Patriot legal theories from people like the Freemen or from Schroder and DeMott:

* The Federal Reserve is bankrupt, a front for a phony system, run by private corporations, of printing money that really only helps keep rich bankers awash in cash.

* The Internal Revenue Service is illegal. Federal taxes actually are strictly voluntary.

* You can exempt yourself from paying federal taxes by filing a statement declaring yourself a ``sovereign citizen.’’ This ostensibly frees you from obligation to the United States -- which Patriots say is just an illegal corporation based in Washington, D.C. -- by nullifying your participation in the federal citizenship status established by the 14th Amendment.

* This distinction, arguing that only the 14th Amendment extends federal citizenship to minorities, forms the basis for the Patriots’ contention that only white male Christian property owners enjoy full citizenship under the ``organic Constitution.’’

* In fact, the only valid U.S. Constitution is this ``organic Constitution’’ -- that is, the main body of the Constitution and the first ten amendments, or the Bill of Rights. Patriots believe the remaining amendments either should be repealed or were approved illegally anyway. In any case, they would end the prohibition of slavery (13th Amendment); equal protection under the law (14th Amendment); prohibitions against racial or ethnic discrimination (15th Amendment); the income tax (16th Amendment); direct election of Senators (17th Amendment); the vote for women (19th Amendment); and a host of other constitutional protections passed since the time of the Founders.

* Establishing ``sovereign citizenship,’’ or ``Quiet Title’’ (which similarly declares a person a ``freeman’’), exempts a person from the rules of ``equity courts,’’ which means you don’t have to pay for licenses, building permits, or traffic citations, not to mention taxes.

* The only real courts with power are the ``common law’’ courts comprised of sovereign citizens, which have the power to issue rulings and liens against public officials they deem to have overstepped their bounds. If these officials fail to uphold the common-law courts, they can be found guilty of treason, and threatened with the appropriate penalty: hanging.

It is at this end of the Patriot universe that much of its deeper agenda is revealed. When Patriots talk about ``restoring the Constitution,’’ what they often have in mind is a campaign to roll back protections embodied in a wide range of amendments, as well as establishing a reading of the Second Amendment radically different from the one traditionally accepted by the U.S. court system.

It also is at this end of the universe that the charges of divisiveness and racism often leveled at the Patriots take on some weight. Plainly, the constitutional rollbacks would return the American system to a time when racial justice was not a considered concept. Not surprisingly, this is where the Patriots most closely resemble, and arguably are directly descended from, openly racist and anti-Semitic belief systems like those found in the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations, and the Posse Comitatus.

Most of these views are often dismissed by the mainstream legal profession as simple nonsense promoted by crackpots. And for the most part, the Patriots’ legal theories completely disintegrate when factually examined in the cold light of day. Nonetheless, the movement’s ranks continue to grow, and the mainstream courts, particularly in rural jurisdictions, now are faced with a sudden deluge of ``common law’’ documents that throw an already overburdened system into a tangle.

All the same, there is no law against being a crackpot. Otherwise, hundreds of Elvis sighters and UFO abductees would be rotting in prison cells alongside the Patriots, most of whom also are quite free to spread their conspiracy theories. The concern, rather, is what happens when the agenda of the Patriots, constructed out of an insular, paranoiac view of reality, tries to assert itself in the mainstream world. If their form of ``republic’’ comes to be, most of society’s current protections against racial injustice would vanish. Believers’ attempts to effect this agenda is certain to come into real conflict with mainstream Americans. Moreover, when Patriots begin to threaten public officials with hanging and other kinds of bodily harm, the potential for violence enters into the picture.

``What is going on in our society when somebody can come up with an idea like this, and a package of materials like this, and attract 200 people to a community meeting?’’ wonders Ken Toole, director of the Montana Human Rights Network. Toole has attended many of the sessions.

``To me, it's almost like a canary in a coal mine, and it's very indicative of how negative and hostile we've become about ourselves -- that somehow these people have managed to objectify the government at all levels, blame it for all kinds of things, and look for a way to kind of focus that anger.’’

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Teabaggers punk'd by anti-racists who get them to cheer rant against European-American immigrants

[Video from BlueStemPrairie, at their YouTube page.]

-- by Dave

The teabaggers are getting ready for the next round of wingnuttery against the Obama administration. It sure looks like they lost on health-care reform, but they have already been organized for a long time around the issue of immigration, so they are ready and rarin' to go careening off the far-right cliff.

This weekend, the nativist right-wingers at ALIPAC and the National Policy Institute organized a series of "Tea Parties Against Amnesty.

However, at the rally in Minneapolis, the demonstrators got punk'd by a young man who called himself "Robert Erickson".

"Erickson" got up and delivered a rant against European immigration. At first the crowd was whooping and hollering as he talked about the rights of "real Americans" -- but then it gradually tapered off as he went on and they realized they'd been had.

Here's the speech:

Hi, my name is Robert Erickson and I’m really excited to be here. Its people like all of you, and events like this that make our country great! Give yourselves a round of applause!

I just want to talk about a couple themes this afternoon because I love this country and I want to see America be the best place it can be.

Mr. Gutierrez is getting ready to propose an immigration bill in just a few short days, and we have to make sure he knows that we want a bill that's tough on immigration. Now is the time for us to stand up and make our voices heard!

In Minneapolis, where I’m from, we have a huge immigrant population that’s been causing a number of problems. With the economy in recession, and so many people getting laid off, and unable to find work, immigrants should not be competing for the few jobs that are out there. It's just not fair to the folks who have a claim to this land and the right to be here. All across America, they are contributing to the flooding of our job markets making it hard for Americans to find jobs. Well, I'm fed up, and it's time to let our politicians know that enough is enough, and we're not gonna take it any more!

We need to secure our borders to protect our country. We need to restore order and put an end to the anarchy that's sweeping the nation. We need tougher immigration laws to make sure that we send these people back where they came from. We need to protect the sovereignty of the real Americans. We need to hold our politicians accountable.

It's no secret that with an invasion of immigrants comes waves of crime. We see them involved in massive theft, in murder, and bringing diseases like smallpox, which is responsible for the death of millions of Americans. These aren't new problems, though -- they have been going on for hundreds of years, and continue to this day.

I say it's time for us to say enough is enough! Are you with me? Are you with me? Let's send these European immigrants back where they came from! I don't care if they are Polish, Irish, English, Italian, or Norwegian! European immigrants are responsible for the most violent and heinous crimes in the history of the world, including genocide and slavery! It's time to restore the sovereignty of people native to this land!

I want more workplace raids, starting with the big banks downtown. There are thousands of illegals working in those buildings, hiding in their offices, and taking Dakota jobs. Let's round them up and ship them out. Then we need to hit them at home where they sleep. I don’t care if we separate families, they should have known better when they came here illegally!

If we aren't able to stand up to these European immigrants, who can we stand up to? We need to send every one of them back home, right now.

Thank you very much, and we'll see you in the streets!

Columbus Go Home! Columbus Go Home! Columbus Go Home!

Not surprisingly, the organizers were pissed. Sally Jo Sorensen at BlueStemPrairie was there to watch, and she reported that some of the nativists started getting violent:

Most of the MINN-SIR supporters were slow to catch the satire, and so the cheering from that side of the crowd took a while to subside. As they realized they'd been punked, they stood in a cold, stunned silence, while the 30 or so counter-protesters urged Columbus to go home.

Unfortunately, some of the pro-MINN-SIR audience made up for what they lacked in humor through the use of violence. Both Danielson and I saw middle-aged men attack young protesters, knocking one off a bike before he started throwing punches at the young man.

Just as shocking was the reaction of the state police working the rally, who pushed back those being attacked, rather than those attacking the counter protesters.

Neither of us have ever witnessed violence at rallies and events we've attended in the past. The attacks formed a sharp counterpoint to Hendrycks' shrieked claims from the podium that MINN-SIR "patriots" had "respect" while the young protesters were rude.

I've been warning for awhile that there is a violent element already involved in the immigration debate, and when they become empowered by the "tea party" types, it's going to get ugly. Looks like the debate hasn't even started yet, and it already is.

If you thought the town-hall teabaggers went nuts over health-care reform, just wait.

[H/t Matt Ortega.]

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chuck Norris indulges violent eliminationist fantasies about liberals if he ran for office

--by Dave

Fresh off warning us that President Obama intends to create a "one world order," Chuck Norris went on Sean Hannity's show last night on Fox and described his eliminationist fantasies if he ran for office:

Hannity: Why don't you run? No no no, there's a solution -- why wouldn't you -- Chuck Norris could be governor of Texas one day.

Norris: You know why? Because I'd be sitting here with my opponent, and debating, and then he would start attacking my character, and I'd jump over there and choke him unconscious.


Hannity: You have more control than that!

Norris: I don't! That's the problem, you know. I have a thin skin. It was really tough in the film world. And in the political world, you know, I'd be killing half the people.

Because, you know, nothing bespeaks personal character like the volatile use of violence on your opponents.

He goes on to explain why he wouldn't fit well in political arenas like the Senate:

Norris: You know, with all the senators, you can't get anything done. You know, it's always right and left --

Hannity: No, no, you can, I disagree with you. You can.

Norris: Well, what I'd have to do, I'd have to choke out all the Democrats.

Hannity: [laughs] Well, it's a good start.

He also describes one of the eliminationist "jokes" in his new book:

Norris: One of the "facts" there [in his book] is America is not a democracy, it's a Chucktatership. And if it was, I said I would go to Congress, I'd line up every member of Congress, and I'd have Ron Paul, who I believe is one of the, probably one of the more honest ones there, I'd say, 'Ron, point out the honest ones' --

Hannity: I like Ron Paul. He's nuts.

Norris: Yeah, I know. That's why I like him. But anyway, I'd choke out the dis -- every dishonest politician that's up there.

Evidently, that would perforce include "all the Democrats." And any non-Paulbot Republicans. Which is most of them.

Well, paranoia and eliminationist violence often go hand in hand. And eventually, for the paranoid, the violence ceases to be a mere fantasy.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

Glenn Beck gets to ask dumb white-guy questions to a room full of black conservatives

-- by Dave

It is hard to explain to white people like Glenn Beck why their "innocent" questions about race actually just reveal their ignorance and their false assumptions about people of other races and the nature of race relations.

But Beck is so blitheringly un-self-aware that he decided to give it a go anyway yesterday on his Fox News show. As you might expect, it was a serial embarrassment.

Beck, you see, was careful to hand-select his audience, people "the media claim don't think exist" -- black conservatives! Not that he ever actually explains this to the viewing audience -- you have to figure that out for yourselves as the show goes along, like the moment when he asks the audience if they think we're headed toward socialism (they all raise their hands) or are accused of being not "black enough" if they are conservative (again, a unanimous show of hands).

And it let Beck lead exchanges like this, with Beck regular Charles Payne and talk-show host Lisa Fritsch:

Beck: How many people here identify themselves as African Americans? (About a third raise their hands) OK -- Why?

Payne: It's interchangeable.

Beck: But wait, wait. Why not identify yourself as Americans?

Fritsch: Well, people can look at you and tell you're black. You can't escape that.

Beck: Yeah, but I don't identify myself as white, or a white American.

Will Brown of the New York Republican Community Coalition points out, adroitly, that "African American" is an "evolution" from the "N word" -- and certainly is preferable. Moreover, it wasn't black people who invented the "N word" or the segregation from enjoying the full fruits of American citizenship it represented -- it was white people. "African American" represents the recognition of their dignity and their rights as Americans.

But this point sails right over Beck's head, because he's too ignorant to appreciate the implications. Had Beck even a smidgen of American history, particularly pertaining to civil rights, he'd know that white Americans for most of the decades of the past century used the word "American" and "real American" almost exclusively to refer to white people -- and that this motif lingers even today (see, e.g., Sarah Palin's references to "real Americans" during the campaign -- speaking before small-town, all-white audiences).

This historical and cultural ignorance just kept manifesting itself:

Beck: Because one of the problems that I have -- and I have to tell you, as a white guy, as a white guy, I'm just being real honest with you, as a white guy, I think white people are uncomfortable sometimes saying, 'You know what, Martin Luther King' -- and then quoting Martin Luther King, because, it's almost as if society says -- 'No no no! That's our guy! Not your guy!' And it shouldn't be that way. And so Martin Luther King, wasn't the dream that we're all judged by the content of our character?

Beck doesn't understand why it's idiotic of white people to quote King -- namely, King was speaking in defense of black people whose civil rights had been systematically and violently denied for over a century, and his words were spoken in that context. They weren't intended to be spoken in defense of advantaged white people who want an excuse to keep stereotyping black people.

The black conservative talkers he had on weren't a whole lot better. Perhaps the most outrageously ahistorical remark came from Fritsch:

Fritsch: The only way black people were ever able to triumph is because of conservative values, which is directly linked to Christianity. Had we been liberals, during the Civil Rights movement, nobody would have done anything!

Um, Ms. Fritsch, you need to avail yourself some history books too. It was conservatives who argued for maintaining slavery before the Civil War. It was conservatives who insisted after the war that blacks be denied the full rights of citizenship, and who erected the system of Jim Crow, who led rope-bearing lynch mobs that crucified thousands of black people. It was conservatives who erected "No Black After Sundown" signs at the city borders of thousands of American towns.

And most of all, it was conservatives who fought the Civil Rights movement tooth and nail. And it was only from the ceaseless efforts of liberals -- many of them indeed Christian liberals -- in opposition to conservatives, many of them Christian conservatives -- that anything was in fact achieved during that era. Somehow, you've managed to get your history completely upside down.

This idiocy reached its apotheosis, though, when Beck played for his audience that audio tape of black Detroiters turning out for welfare assistance funds, originally promoted by Rush Limbaugh, which was nothing more than a nakedly racist bit of ugly stereotyping on the part of the radio talker, Ken Rogulski, who produced it. As King Crimson observed:

The conservo-talk reporter cherry picked through the audio booty until he found the absolute best soundbite that would most perfectly frame the city as one filled with Obama-fawning morons, black Sambos, and greedy welfare grabbers - precisely, as Limbaugh would later argue, the kind of rank idiots who would vote for someone like America's first black president.

And if you listen to the woman making the "Obama money" remarks, you can hear that she's cracking humorously on the humorless, stereotype-dependent white guy asking. He -- and Beck and Limbaugh, by extension -- are the butt of the joke and they don't even know it.

Well, we actually know where Beck thinks this talk comes from:

Beck: All right. These are the people who have been abused by the system. They've been taught they needed the government. They've been taught to be slaves, and their master is Washington! Both parties!

For some reason, those weren't the words he used yesterday. Hmmm. Wonder why not, don't you?

This is just vintage Beck, gorging himself on dumbass white stereotypes of black people and then fobbing himself off as just a colorblind white guy. As we noted before, this is his way of race-baiting:

It comes prepackaged with built-in plausible deniability, of course. It's just a coincidence, we're sure, that so many of the targets of Beck's smear jobs -- Van Jones, Valerie Jarrett, Mark Lloyd -- happen to be African American. It's just a coincidence that those videos of ACORN, one of Beck's biggest targets, primarily are of African Americans. It's just happenstance that Beck finds scary black people under every rock -- even when they're just dance troupes.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.