Saturday, March 06, 2010

Oath Keepers: Potentially The Most Lethal And Dangerous Of All The New 'Patriot' Groups

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

One of the things that happens major political parties and major media figures indulge in naked fearmongering is that -- surprise! -- a lot of people get fearful. Really fearful. Some of them become downright paranoid, and start believing in all kinds of looming conspiracies against them.

Which means you wind up with outfits like the Oath Keepers, who clearly are one of the major "Patriot" groups leading the recent surge in Patriot movement activity.

You can watch Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers' leader, at the recent CPAC conference being interviewed by the ever-friendly Bill Whittle and come away with the impression that, gosh, these are just folks who want to uphold the Constitution and apple pie. Paranoid, us?

As with all Patriot groups and their leaders, that's the schtick when the cameras are on. When the mask comes off, it becomes quite a different picture.

That's clear from reading Justine Sharrock's in-depth piece on the Oath Keepers for Mother Jones, a must-read. [Full disclosure: I am quoted in several places in this article.] As Sharrock makes clear, one of the more disturbing aspects of this group is that it has the effect of radicalizing the very people who are supposed to be upholding the law and protecting us from violent extremists:
There are scores of patriot groups, but what makes Oath Keepers unique is that its core membership consists of men and women in uniform, including soldiers, police, and veterans. At regular ceremonies in every state, members reaffirm their official oaths of service, pledging to protect the Constitution—but then they go a step further, vowing to disobey "unconstitutional" orders from what they view as an increasingly tyrannical government.
Moreover, recruiting from military and police veterans increases exponentially the lethal competence of these extremists. As we observed back in our first post on the Oath Keepers:
This is an example of why I've called the Iraq War "the Timothy McVeigh Finishing School": Inevitably, there are going to be competent killers either joining the far right from our military ranks -- especially if they've been recruited into those beliefs either before or during their service -- or enacting far-right "lone wolf scenarios," and they are going to have the ability to wreak a great deal of havoc.

... Remember, too, that there have already been concerns raised about concerns raised then by the FBI hold true in this situation as well:
Military experience—ranging from failure at basic training to success in special operations forces—is found throughout the white supremacist extremist movement. FBI reporting indicates extremist leaders have historically favored recruiting active and former military personnel for their knowledge of firearms, explosives, and tactical skills and their access to weapons and intelligence in preparation for an anticipated war against the federal government, Jews, and people of color.

... The prestige which the extremist movement bestows upon members with military experience grants them the potential for influence beyond their numbers. Most extremist groups have some members with military experience, and those with military experience often hold positions of authority within the groups to which they belong.

... Military experience—often regardless of its length or type—distinguishes one within the extremist movement. While those with military backgrounds constitute a small percentage of white supremacist extremists, FBI investigations indicate they frequently have higher profiles within the movement, including recruitment and leadership roles.
Rhodes and Whittle are eager to portray the core of the Oath Keepers' creeds -- the "ten orders" they "will not obey" -- as involving merely ordinary rights that everyone naturally would stand up for, and in a way, that's true. But only deeply paranoid people would believe there is any reason to be concerned that these rights violations might be looming.

Here they are:
  • 1. We will NOT obey any order to disarm the American people.
  • 2. We will NOT obey orders to conduct warrantless searches of the American people.
  • 3. We will NOT obey orders to detain American citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” or to subject them to military tribunal.
  • 4. We will NOT obey orders to impose martial law or a “state of emergency” on a state.
  • 5. We will NOT obey orders to invade and subjugate any state that asserts its sovereignty.
  • 6. We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
  • 7. We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext.
  • 8. We will NOT obey orders to assist or support the use of any foreign troops on U.S. soil against the American people to “keep the peace” or to “maintain control."
  • 9. We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.
  • 10. We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.
It seems not to occur to Whittle to ask how many people believe the government is about to cordon off our cities and turn them into concentration camps. Evidently, because he too shares that fear.

It's widespread among the Oath Keepers, as Sharrock makes clear -- and highly selective. That is, it's relegated largely to liberal Democratic presidents, because Republicans are people they can trust:
Pray (who asked me to use his middle name rather than his first) and five fellow soldiers based at Fort Drum take this directive very seriously. In the belief that the government is already turning on its citizens, they are recruiting military buddies, stashing weapons, running drills, and outlining a plan of action. For years, they say, police and military have trained side by side in local anti-terrorism exercises around the nation. In September 2008, the Army began training the 3rd Infantry's 1st Brigade Combat Team to provide humanitarian aid following a domestic disaster or terror attack—and to help with crowd control and civil unrest if need be. (The ACLU has expressed concern about this deployment.) And some of Pray's comrades were guinea pigs for military-grade sonic weapons, only to see them used by Pittsburgh police against protesters last fall.

Most of the men's gripes revolve around policies that began under President Bush but didn't scare them so much at the time. "Too many conservatives relied on Bush's character and didn't pay attention," founder Rhodes told me. "Only now, with Obama, do they worry and see what has been done. I trusted Bush to only go after the terrorists. But what do you think can happen down the road when they say, 'I think you are a threat to the nation?'"

In Pray's estimate, it might not be long (months, perhaps a year) before President Obama finds some pretext—a pandemic, a natural disaster, a terror attack—to impose martial law, ban interstate travel, and begin detaining citizens en masse. One of his fellow Oath Keepers, a former infantryman, advised me to prepare a "bug out" bag with 39 items including gas masks, ammo, and water purification tablets, so that I'd be ready to go "when the shit hits the fan."
And yes, they're closely enmeshed with the Tea Party movement now:
Oath Keepers collaborates regularly with like-minded citizens groups; last Fourth of July, Rhodes dispatched speakers to administer the oath at more than 30 Tea Party rallies across America. At last fall's 9/12 march on Washington, he led a contingent of Oath Keepers from the Capitol steps down to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Afterward, Oath Keepers cohosted a banquet with the hawkish Gathering of Eagles. This February, a member of the group organized a Florida Freedom Rally featuring Joe the Plumber and conservative singer Lloyd Marcus. (Sample lyrics: Mr. President! Your stimulus is sure to bust / it's just a socialistic scheme / The only thing it will do / is kill the American Dream.)
And the paranoia knows few limits, as all kinds of conspiracy theories are encouraged:
Oath Keepers is officially nonpartisan, in part to make it easier for active-duty soldiers to participate, but its rightward bent is undeniable, and liberals are viewed with suspicion. At lunch, when I questioned my tablemates about the Obama-Hitler comparisons I'd heard at the conference, I got a step-by-step tutorial on how the president's socialized medicine agenda would beget a Nazi-style regime.

I learned that bringing guns to Tea Party protests was a reminder of our constitutional rights, was introduced to the notion that the founding fathers modeled their governing documents on the Bible, and debated whether being Muslim meant an inability to believe in and abide by—and thus be protected by—the Constitution. I was schooled on the treachery of the Federal Reserve and why America needs a gold standard, and at dinner one night, Nighta Davis, national organizer for the National 912 Project, explained how abortion-rights advocates are part of a eugenics program targeting Christians.
It's a long piece, but essential reading.

Friday, March 05, 2010

'Lone Wolf' Anti-government Extremist Opens Fire At The Pentagon. But Let's Not Call It Terrorism.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Yesterday we had another act of violence by a right-wing extremist intent on attacking and harming the government, inflamed by far-right conspiracy theories about 9/11 and other supposed instances of government "tyranny":
Internet postings linked to the suspected gunman in a Pentagon subway shooting suggest long-held frustration with the government's reach into the private life of Americans.
The suspect, John Patrick Bedell, 36, died after exchanging gunfire with two police officers. He spent weeks driving to the Capital area from the West Coast, authorities said Friday.

A blog connected to him via the social networking site LinkedIn outlines a growing distrust of the federal government. The blog suggests a criminal enterprise run out of the government could have staged the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

It was the latest batch of conspiracy-laden Internet postings to surface since Thursday night's shooting.

Bedell died Thursday night from head wounds received in a volley of fire with police. Richard Keevill, chief of Pentagon police, said the two injured officers and another officer who came to their assistance fired upon Bedell at the subway entrance into the Pentagon building in Arlington, Va.

"He came here from California," Keevill said. "We were able to identify certain locations that he spent that last several weeks making his way from the West coast to the East coast."

Keevill described Bedell as "very well educated" and well-dressed, saying Bedell was wearing a suit, armed with two 9 millimeter semiautomatic weapons and carried "many magazines" of ammunition. There was more ammunition in Bedell's car, which authorities found in a local parking garage, Keevill said.
[UPDATE: Think Progress has more on Bedell's background as a right-wing extremist.]

NBC's Jim Miklaszewski assured us this morning that there was no indication this was "terrorism." Likewise, the Associated Press report had a similar assurance:
Investigators have found no immediate connection to terrorism. The attack that superficially wounded two officers guarding the massive Defense Department headquarters appears to be a case of "a single individual who had issues," Richard Keevill, chief of Pentagon police, said Friday.
Excuse me, but WTF?

It seems to be the new standard among journalists that terrorism is now defined only as conspiracy-based international terrorism. Lone-wolf domestic terrorism? That's now just "a single individual who had issues."

You remember when an anti-tax radical flew his plane into IRS offices in Austin a couple of weeks ago in an attempt to blow those offices up, the Foxite media were eager to proclaim that it was not an act of terrorism, too.

As we explained then:
This too is nonsense: There are different kinds terrorism, to be certain. There's international terrorism. Then there's domestic terrorism, sometimes conducted by a larger conspiracy, and sometimes conducted by small cells like McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and lone wolves like Eric Rudolph, Scott Roeder and James Von Brunn.

All of these acts fit the FBI's twin definition of terrorism:
Domestic terrorism refers to activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. [18 U.S.C. § 2331(5)]

International terrorism
involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.
Remember that DHS bulletin warning of a potential outbreak of right-wing domestic terrorism that so freaked out conservatives because they claimed it "smeared" conservatives? Let's recall what it actually said:
DHS/I&A assesses that lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.

[..] Similarly, recent state and municipal law enforcement reporting has warned of the dangers of rightwing extremists embracing the tactics of “leaderless resistance” and of lone wolves carrying out acts of violence.
As we explained after James Von Brunn engaged in a similar act in D.C.:
Now, here's the odd thing about "lone wolves": Right-wingers like to use the solitary nature of this kind of terrorist act to dismiss them as "isolated incidents." But in reality, the continuing existence of acts of this nature demonstrates primarily that the radical right in America is alive, well, and functioning better than it should. And the continuing -- and as we've seen this week, ultimately futile -- attempts by the right to whitewash their existence from the public consciousness have played no small part in helping that trend continue.

... A 2003 piece by Jessica Stern in Foreign Affairs described how even Al Qaeda was finding the concept useful. And she explains its origins:
The idea was popularized by Louis Beam, the self-described ambassador-at-large, staff propagandist, and "computer terrorist to the Chosen" for Aryan Nations, an American neo-Nazi group. Beam writes that hierarchical organization is extremely dangerous for insurgents, especially in "technologically advanced societies where electronic surveillance can often penetrate the structure, revealing its chain of command." In leaderless organizations, however, "individuals and groups operate independently of each other, and never report to a central headquarters or single leader for direction or instruction, as would those who belong to a typical pyramid organization." Leaders do not issue orders or pay operatives; instead, they inspire small cells or individuals to take action on their own initiative.
The strategy was also inspired by at least one "lone wolf" shooter: Joseph Paul Franklin, a racist sniper who in the late 1970s and early 1980s killed as many as 20 people -- mostly mixed-race couples -- on a serial-murder spree, and attempted to assassinate both Vernon Jordan and Larry Flynt. (Franklin was also the inspiration for William Pierce's Hunter, the follow-up novel to The Turner Diaries.)

There has been no dearth of lone wolves in the years since Beam set the strategy for the radical right: Eric Rudolph. Buford Furrow. Benjamin Smith. James Kopp. Jim David Adkisson. In 20099, we added Scott Roeder and James von Brunn to the list.

That's quite a trail of "isolated incidents," isn't it?
As we saw in Austin, far-right extremist rhetoric plays no small role in inspiring these acts. And inevitably, it is ordinary Americans who pay the price.

All I know is that if this had been a Muslim man who had walked into the Pentagon and opened fire, all the talk this morning would be about an "act of terrorism". Instead, it's just another "isolated incident." Funny how that works, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Outrageous Revisionism: Breitbart's Big Government Compares ACORN To Ku Klux Klan

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]


As Eric Boehlert notes, Andrew Breitbart has a real credibility problem, and it extends well beyond his journalistic malfeasance in the ACORN video hoax.

His website, Big Government, is similarly developing a reputation for running blatantly dishonest commentary, often in the cause of defending the videos and their makers or likewise attacking ACORN. The latest example was pointed out by Matt Tatum at AmSpec and Dave Weigel, who both called out this atrocity from "historian" Michael Zak at Andrew Breitbart's "Big Government" blog:
Democrats used the Klan to suppress their political opposition, with vote fraud and intimidation and violence. Klansmen aimed at African-Americans, nearly all Republicans in those days, and at white Republicans who tried to help them. Once threatened by the KKK, Republicans could in many cases save their lives only by publicly swearing allegiance to the Democratic Party. According to a southern governor, "Few Republicans dare sleep in their houses at night."

"The suppression of enough GOP votes could ensure a Democratic victory," wrote one historian. "There's no question that Klansmen closely watched the polls" - easy to do before the secret ballot was introduced in the United States in the 1880s. All too often, Republican ballots were not even counted.

Like ACORN, the Ku Klux Klan operated with impunity until Republican politicians and journalists sounded an alarm. In 1869, Nathan Bedford Forrest, the KKK's Grand Dragon, ordered the Klan disbanded. Why? The national organization was getting too much attention, so Klansmen would have to soldier on in state-level organizations, such as the Red Shirts in South Carolina and the Men of Justice in Alabama. Nonetheless, most members of these spin-off groups considered themselves to be Klansmen.
Good God. It's hard to know where to begin. Let's try with Weigel's observation:
The fact that the KKK suppressed and terrorized black voters while ACORN, well, doesn’t — sort of left out here.
More to the point, the entire raison d'etre of the Klan was to disenfranchise black voters, to terrorize them into submission and to ensure that they could not participate as full citizens. According to historians, they killed an estimated 20,000 people in the years 1866-1870 alone (see Philip Dray, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, p. 49). Indeed, the Klansmen of the postwar period essentially negated the war's outcome by destroying Reconstruction through a campaign of terrorist violence that encompassed massacres, white citizen militias destroying black townships, and the complete destruction of the voting franchise for black people, thereby ensuring white rule for the next century and beyond. (For more on this, be sure to read Stephen Budiansky's riveting account, The Bloody Shirt: Terror After the Civil War, which was excerpted in the New York Times.)

ACORN's very raison d'etre, in blazing contradistinction from the KKK, is to enfranchise minority voters and bring them into the American democratic system. That is to say, its very existence is about repairing the damage created by the Klan and its legacy of Jim Crow and segregation -- damage that remains with us to this day. Moreover, its established means of doing so are peaceful and democratic: voter-enrollment drives and education work, empowering minority communities to achieve economic and politic equity. That was what the Klan was devoted to preventing.

Let's also be clear about the "voter fraud" ACORN is accused of and its utter difference from the Klan's disenfranchisement of blacks. What has happened is that a handful of ACORN registrars have defrauded ACORN by turning in fake names on their voter-registration rolls; this is known as voter-registration fraud, which is completely different than vote fraud, which involves ballot stuffing, manipulation of votes or ballot boxes, and similar acts. That is, none of the fake voters on the registration forms were ever going to vote in the election (the fraud was detected by ACORN), which meant no one else's votes could be "negated" by fraudulent ballots, and so no voters were ever disenfranchised by ACORN's activities.

Compare that to the KKK method of vote fraud: outright stuffing of ballot boxes, a refusal to count Republican votes, and threatening the life and limb of any person, black or white, who showed up to vote Republican.

Oh, and one other thing: Zak makes a big show of pointing out that these were Democratic white supremacists engaged in "voter fraud" then, just as (supposedly) now, and it was Republican voters who were under attack and Republicans who stood up to the fraud.

Well, yes, that's true. But it's also true that these were progressive Republicans who were upholding democracy, and conservative Democrats who were attacking it. Zak, like so many conservative Republicans today, wants to pretend that whole "Southern Strategy" thing never happened.

As a commenter named NTS points out at Big Government:
Can we at least try to keep our criticisms within the realm of believability? Conservatives just come off as desperate and dishonest by constantly trying to compare far-left groups like ACORN and Planned Parenthood to far-right groups like the Klan and the Nazis.

And can we also stop with this nonsense about pointing out how the Democratic Party used to be associated with segregationists and the Klan? For those of you with no understanding of history -- the parties pretty much flipped during the 1960s. This is why the "solid South" used to be solidly Democratic and is now solidly Republican.
Let's put it this way: Just as Michael Zak has pretty much demolished his claims to being a "historian" in any serious sense, so has Breitbart's Big Government demolished its claim to offering any kind of serious contribution to the discourse from the conservative side.

SPLC's Annual Report Sees Explosive 244% Growth In 'Patriot' Extremism -- Thanks To Tea Parties

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It's now a fact: Whatever else the Tea Party movement may or may not have achieved, it can claim credit for at least one real phenomenon -- it has revived the far-right Patriot movement of the '90s.

We've been reporting it for the better part of a year now, and the New York Times recently confirmed it.

Now the annual report on "The Year in Hate" from the Southern Poverty Law Center has the numbers to back it up:
Hate groups stayed at record levels — almost 1,000 — despite the total collapse of the second largest neo-Nazi group in America. Furious anti-immigrant vigilante groups soared by nearly 80%, adding some 136 new groups during 2009. And, most remarkably of all, so-called "Patriot" groups — militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose “one-world government” on liberty-loving Americans — came roaring back after years out of the limelight.
The anger seething across the American political landscape — over racial changes in the population, soaring public debt and the terrible economy, the bailouts of bankers and other elites, and an array of initiatives by the relatively liberal Obama Administration that are seen as "socialist" or even "fascist" — goes beyond the radical right. The "tea parties" and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.

“We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing populist rebellions in United States history,” Chip Berlet, a veteran analyst of the American radical right, wrote earlier this year. "We see around us a series of overlapping social and political movements populated by people [who are] angry, resentful, and full of anxiety. They are raging against the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and liberal government programs and policies including health care, reform of immigration and labor laws, abortion, and gay marriage."
Mark Potok, the author of the report, went on the Dylan Ratigan show yesterday on MSNBC to discuss it:
Ratigan: Mark, have you ever seen numbers like this?

Potok: Not in my tenure doing this work. I've been doing this close to 15 years, and I haven't seen anything like this.

I mean, the comparison, of course, is to the '90s, when we saw so much activity from militias and other anti-government 'Patriot' groups. And of course that's the sector of the radical right that we're really saying has exploded over the last year.

Uh, a minor correction to what you said -- the growth in hate groups, real race-based groups, 55 percent, has been over the last decade or so. That's slowed a bit. But when you look at the whole grouping of the various kinds of groups on the radical right -- extremist nativist groups, Patriot groups and hate groups -- it's astounding. We've seen an overall growth of something like 40 percent. All together, those three strands of the radical right are really the most volatile elements out there, and they amount to something like 1500 groups. It's quite amazing.
It's also worth noting what the report itself says about how this explosion has occurred:
As the movement has exploded, so has the reach of its ideas, aided and abetted by commentators and politicians in the ostensible mainstream. While in the 1990s, the movement got good reviews from a few lawmakers and talk-radio hosts, some of its central ideas today are being plugged by people with far larger audiences like FOX News’ Glenn Beck and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn). Beck, for instance, re-popularized a key Patriot conspiracy theory — the charge that FEMA is secretly running concentration camps — before finally “debunking” it.
Yep. As we've been saying ...

Here's Potok discussing the report in more detail:

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Utah Legislator Who Wants To Criminalize Miscarriages Is A Glenn Beck '912er' And Tea Party Fan

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Nicole already weighed in on that mind-blowing piece of legislation about to become law in Utah that would make pregnant women criminally liable for "reckless behavior" that results in a miscarriage.

The man behind the law, Utah Republican legislator Carl Wimmer, appeared on CNN yesterday to defend his bill, which he claims will only be usable in the worst of circumstances.

Right. He never does explain why it treats women as presumptive criminals, and expands the definition of "illegal abortion" to include miscarriages. Nor does he explain why 93 percent of the women in Utah don't have legal abortions available within their home counties.

But that's par for the course. You see, Carl Wimmer isn't just your run-of-the-mill Utah Republican (see, e.g., Orrin Hatch). He's a flaming Tea Party fan (as his Facebook testimonial makes clear: "I am involved in the Tea Party and 912 movements."

He's not just involved in Glenn Beck's "912" teabagging movement -- he made an appearance on Beck's special "town hall" show last May promoting not just the "912ers," but Beck's wholesale embrace of the "Tenther" theories from the militia movement of the '90s.

Ironically, here's what Wimmer ranted about back then:
Wimmer: The Patrick Henry Caucus, we formed it in Utah, and the way I look at it is, it brings teeth to what the 912ers are doing. I'm a 912er. And the citizens are frustrated. The citizens are sick and tired of liberties and freedoms being destroyed, all the time. And the government doing it.

So what I decided to do, I'm sick of it, I know some of my fellow legislators were sick of it, and I know there's other legislators around the country who are sick of it. So I decided to form the Patrick Henry Caucus, which is state legislators from throughout the country who are going to unify and join together to push forward the agenda that the 912 group supports, and we're gonna do this together. The citizens can't do it together -- they can write letters, and they can organize. But they need the lawmakers, who can help repeal some of these laws, and fight back against a tyrannical federal government.
I dunno about you, but "freedoms being destroyed" and "tyrannical" seem to me like pretty apt descriptions for laws that invade women's wombs. Just sayin'.

None of this is particularly surprising. But it's interesting to see how Glenn Beck's version of "freedom" plays out on the ground when his minions put into action, isn't it?

Glenn Beck Claims Progressivism Leads To Nazism. Oh Really?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Glenn Beck's eliminiationist jihad against the progressive movement took an interesting rhetorical turn yesterday, when Beck tried to claim that the "progressive road" leads to Communism and Nazism:
Beck: It's not about Communists. Never has been about Communists, either. Really hasn't. That's guy's a lunatic fringe. Just like the white supremacists on the other side. Right here! [Points to chalkboard diagram]

This side, up and down! Communists and fascists -- those people are crazy! This is about progressivism. And most people, they're in here -- when they say they are progressive, they don't think they're headed here. But progress -- baby steps -- you are moving toward something! You are moving toward one of these.

This is why they called George Bush a fascist. Because progressives know what's at the end of the progressive road -- Nazis or Communists! Someone has to control your life. Someone will be at the controls.

Communists would like it to be them. Nazis are rooting for their side. I'm not rooting for any side! I'm rooting for this side [points to right side of diagram]. Wrong side of the scale, guy!
Now, there's at least some reason to connect progressivism with Communism, since they are both left-wing phenomena and share at least some values. But Nazism?

Let's look at some real American Nazis -- say, the folks who come out in support of Sheriff Joe Arpaio:

See anything "progressive" there? Actually, you do -- you see it among the pro-immigrant marchers the Nazis are protesting against.

But you'd have a hard time convincing anyone -- especially these neo-Nazis themselves -- that they have anything even remotely to do with "progressivism." Indeed, the very thing that animates them into barbaric bloodlust is the progressive movement -- that is, the desire to destroy it utterly.

As we've explained previously, in the context of Jonah Goldberg's fraudulent Liberal Fascism thesis -- which, of course, is the basis for Beck's lumping of fascism and communism together under the "end of the progressive road" -- what makes these people right-wing extremists is that they not only adopt right-wing political positions, they take them to their most extreme logical (if that's the word for it) outcome:
  • They not only oppose abortion, they believe abortion providers should be killed.
  • They not only believe that liberal elites control the media and financial institutions, but that a conniving cabal of Jews is at the heart of this conspiracy to destroy America.
  • They not only despise Big Government, they believe it is part of a New World Order plot to enslave us all.
  • They not only defend gun rights avidly, they stockpile them out of fear that President Obama plans to send in U.N. troops to take them away from citizens.
  • They not only oppose homosexuality as immoral, they believe gays and lesbians deserve the death penalty.
  • They not only oppose civil-rights advances for minorities, they also believe a "race war" is imminent, necessary and desirable.
And on and on. Every part of the agenda of the agenda of right-wing extremists is essentially an extreme expression of conservative positions. And that, fundamentally, is why American fascism always has been and always will be, properly understood, an unmistakable phenomenon of the Right.

Methinks Beck needs some better diagrams.

Monday, March 01, 2010

A Question For Glenn Beck: If Progressives Are The Root Of All Evil, What About The Civil Rights They Championed?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

[Note: I'll be appearing on David Sirota's radio show Tuesday at 8:35 am PST to discuss Beck and his attacks on progressives.]

It's been pretty interesting watching Glenn Beck ratchet up the eliminationist rhetoric in his attacks on progressives in the past couple of months.

The storyline, as you may have gathered, is that the "progressive movement" is the root of all evil in American politics, a "cancer" and a "virus" and a "parasite" that has "infected" both parties. Beck has been doing a lot of fake "history" reporting when it comes to these attacks -- indeed, it tells you everything you need to know that he considers Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as the presidential wellsprings of this Great Evil.

Well, as we observed some time back, there's a great deal of real history that Beck has to omit from his narrative in order to make these claims stick -- particularly the reality that progressive politics created the great American middle class consumer society that he and other right-wingers take for granted now, not to mention the conditions for average Americans before the arrival of progressive politics.

But one of the most interesting omissions from Beck's parade of progressive evils is one of the real achievements of progressive politics in the past half-century -- namely, the advancement of civil rights for minorities, beginning with the civil-rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s. These movements ended Jim Crow and made life better for millions of nonwhites, and created a more just and civil society along the way.

And you know, civil rights was a progressive cause. It still is. The opposition? It has always -- ALWAYS -- been conservatives.

Yet all the time Beck has been bashing progressives, he has simultaneously been hosting shows with audiences of black conservatives wherein they sit around and complain about how mean liberals are to them for being conservative and Beck gets to ask dumb white-guy questions like: "Why not identify yourself as Americans?"

Even more to the point, in both of these shows, Beck has glowingly quoted Martin Luther King -- who was, you know, a leader in the progressive movement.

So here's our question for Glenn Beck: If the progressive movement, as you claim, has been so relentlessly evil and has consistently taken America down the wrong path, what about civil rights?

Was Martin Luther King secretly evil too?

Should we return to pre-progressive policies -- you know, the "separate but equal" status quo of Jim Crow and segregation?

Indeed, your hatred of the "progressive movement" and its effects on American life raise a whole host of similar questions about your views on civil rights.

And we're just wondering.

Alan Colmes Asks: 'What Freedoms Are Being Taken Away?' Fox's Megyn Kelly Doesn't Answer.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Megyn Kelly wanted to talk about Fox News' latest Opinion Dynamics poll, which asked people about their attitudes on government spending and the reach and power of the federal government, with a set of questions clearly geared toward Tea Party movement sentiments, as well as a recent CNN poll -- similarly trying to gauge the Tea Partiers' reach -- that found 54 percent believe the federal government poses a threat to their rights.

So she brought on Fox's token liberal, Alan Colmes, to discuss these results, and he pointed out that at least some of those who see the federal government as a threat to their rights are people who object to the Republican-backed Patriot Act. Then he asked an interesting question of the Tea Party folks:
Colmes: I'd like to know exactly what freedom -- what freedoms are being taken away from people?

Kelly: People are worried they're going to lose their health-insurance coverage! They're worried the federal government is going to step in, take over, and they're not going to be able to see their coverage.

Colmes: I didn't see any particulars about exactly what freedoms people think are going to be taken away. I would like to know what they are.

Kelly: There is just as much in this survey about health care as there is the Patriot Act!

Colmes: Yeah, but nothing in this survey says particular health care, particular Patriot Act, it's just a general question, "freedoms". I mean, what particular freedoms. People call my radio show all the time, 'My freedoms are being compromised.'

All right, I ask them. What freedom is being compromised? What freedom have you lost under Barack Obama?

Kelly: You tell me, Alan -- do you think the Democrats on Capitol Hill are going into 2010 election thinking, 'The problem with numbers like this is the Patriot Act! It is the Bush administration policies.'

Colmes: They're also not going, 'The problem is health care. If we get health care, my freedoms are being taken away.' How do your freedoms get compromised?
Kelly tried to argue that the people who fear for their freedoms are monolithically anti-Obama Tea Partiers, and reflected somehow in the high numbers of those opposing the Senate health-care reform bill. But Colmes pointed out, accurately, that a large portion of those opposed to the Senate bill are people who want a public option.
Kelly: If you have a majority of Americans saying that the federal government poses a threat to the right[s] of Americans, those are not people who want the public option!

Colmes: Well, what rights are being -- wait a minute, you're suggesting that the public option is more government. No, it gives you greater options. It gives you greater opportunity.

I'd like to know what freedoms people think are being taken away. What particular freedom -- where in the Bill of Rights are you losing something, based on what? What have Obama or Democrats done to take any right away from you? I'd like to know what that is.

Kelly: OK, and on that note, e-mail me at and you can answer that question.
In other words: No answer from Megyn. Because she didn't have any after Colmes shot down her health-care trial balloon.

Right-wing fearmongering pundits like Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and the rest of the long list have made it conventional wisdom among the right-wing Kool-Aid drinkers that Obama somehow mysteriously are "taking away our freeeeeedoms!"

But they never can tell you exactly what freedoms are being taken away without calling out the Oath Keepers and their black helicopters, can they? Which is why the Megyn Kellys out there just say nothing.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Glenn Beck's Eliminationist Attacks On Progressives: How Long Before Someone Acts On This Violent Rhetoric?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

David Sirota observes in his column this week the really ugly nature of Glenn Beck's express hatred of progressives, embodied in his CPAC speech:
To wild applause, he labeled this alleged tumor of "community" the supposedly evil "progressivism" -- and he told disciples to "eradicate it" from the nation.

The lesson was eminently clear, coming in no less than the keynote address to one of America's most important political conventions. Beck taught us that a once-principled conservative movement of reasoned activists has turned into a mob -- one that does not engage in civilized battles of ideas. Instead, these torch-carriers, gun-brandishers and tea partiers follow an anti-government terrorist attack by cheering a demagogue's demand for the physical annihilation of those with whom he disagrees -- namely anyone, but particularly progressives, who value "community."

No doubt, some conservatives will parse, insisting Beck was only endorsing the "eradication" of progressivism but not of progressives. These same willful ignoramuses will also likely say that the Nazis' beef was with Judaism but not Jews, and that white supremacists dislike African-American culture but have no problem with black people.

Other conservatives will surely depict Beck's "eradication" line as just the jest of a self-described "rodeo clown" -- merely the "fusion of entertainment and enlightenment," as his radio motto intones. But if Beck is half as smart as he incessantly tells listeners he is, then he knows it's no joke.
What he's describing, of course, is the very subject of my last book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right:
What motivates this kind of talk and behavior is called eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.

Rhetorically, eliminationism takes on certain distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as beyond the pale, the embodiment of evil itself, unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus worthy of elimination. It often further depicts its designated Enemy as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches) or diseases, and disease-like cancers on the body politic. A close corollary—but not as nakedly eliminationist—are claims that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.

Eliminationism is often voiced as crude "jokes," a sense of humor inevitably predicated on venomous hatred. And such rhetoric—we know as surely as we know that night follows day—eventually begets action, with inevitably tragic results.
Beck actually has been engaging in eliminationist rhetoric in attacking progressives since June of last year, though he's been recently ratcheting it down to new depths.

I compiled the video above with a sampling from the past nine months. In it, you can see Beck call progressives a "cancer" (multiple times), "the disease that's killing us," a "virus," a "parasite," "vampires" who will "suck the life out" of the Democratic Party, and claim that progressives intend the "destruction of the Constitution" and will strike it a "death blow".

As Sirota notes, Beck is taking us down a certain path with this kind of rhetoric, and it always, as Beck himself puts it, "ends badly."