Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why Right-Wing Domestic Terrorists Are Our Big Blind Spot: Let's Start With The Media

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Some of our readers have been wondering why C&L, of all places, jumped on the speculative bandwagon that presumed early on yesterday that the terrorist attacks in Norway were the work of Islamic radicals -- speculation that turned out, of course, to be dead wrong. After all, we have been warning for several years now that assuming that terrorism is the sole realm of brown-skinned Muslims is a recipe for disaster.

But the reality is that we, like everyone else, only published "is it Islamists?" speculation because that was the only speculation available from the so-called "terrorism experts. (And for what it's worth, we only posed it as a possibility with a question mark, and declined to speculate about the meaning of it in terms of Muslims.)

And the reason for it is that everyone in the press acted like a mindless pack in broadcasting the first bit of "expert" information that came along -- even though the "expert" in question was in fact completely wrong, and working from dubious information in the first place.

Benjamin Doherty at Electronic Intifada has the complete story of "How a clueless 'terrorism expert' set media suspicion on Muslims after Oslo horror", setting out the whole sequence of pack behavior:
The New York Times originally reported:
A terror group, Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami, or the Helpers of the Global Jihad, issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, according to Will McCants, a terrorism analyst at C.N.A., a research institute that studies terrorism.
In later editions, the story was revised to read:
Initial reports focused on the possibility of Islamic militants, in particular Ansar al-Jihad al-Alami, or Helpers of the Global Jihad, cited by some analysts as claiming responsibility for the attacks. American officials said the group was previously unknown and might not even exist.
The source is Will McCants, adjunct faculty at Johns Hopkins University. On his website he describes himself as formerly “Senior Adviser for Countering Violent Extremism at the U.S. Department of State, program manager of the Minerva Initiative at the Department of Defense, and fellow at West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.” This morning, he posted “Alleged Claim for Oslo Attacks” on his blog Jihadica:
This was posted by Abu Sulayman al-Nasir to the Arabic jihadi forum, Shmukh, around 10:30am EST (thread 118187). Shmukh is the main forum for Arabic-speaking jihadis who support al-Qaeda. Since the thread is now inaccessible (either locked or taken down), I am posting it here. I don’t have time at the moment to translate the whole thing but I translated the most important bits on twitter.
The Shmukh web site is not accessible to just anyone, so he is the primary source for this claim. McCants stated from the beginning that the claim had been removed or hidden, and on Twitter he even cast doubt on whether it was a claim of responsibility at all.

... McCants later reported that the claim of responsibility was retracted by the author “Abu Sulayman al-Nasir.” Furthermore, according to McCants, the moderator of this forum declared that speculation about the attack would be prohibited because the contents of the forum were appearing in mainstream media. It does seem more than a little bit odd that genuine “jihadis” would post on a closed forum that a former US official and “counterterrorism expert” openly writes about infiltrating.
The result was that the NYT's bad reportage gave a green light to every other TV journalist and every so-called "terrorism expert" who only seemed to have information about Islamic terrorism to run wild speculating that this was a product of Muslim radicals. This was especially the case, of course, at Fox News, where Greg Burke quickly declared from his seat of expertise in Rome that "this looks like the work of Al Qaeda," as well as Fox "terrorism expert" Peter Neumann, who agreed wholeheartedly (with an assist from the network's chryon writer, too).

Moreover, as Doherty observes, none of these folks will ever pay the price for being dead wrong. After all, Steve Emerson -- who infamously led the American journalistic pack down the same dead end in 1995 by declaring the Oklahoma City bombing likely the work of Muslim radicals -- is still peddling his snake oil:
Disseminating false, unverifiable information should be a blemish on McCants’ credibility, but what is more likely is that his failure will harm other communities elsewhere before it harms his career.
Moreover, you have to wonder when the media will wake up and realize that their operative paradigm for understanding terrorism is broken. As we observed this morning about the attacks:
It's also a sobering reminder that, while we've been obsessing nationally over the supposed threat of Islamist radicals -- embodied by Peter King's haplessly myopic hearings on domestic terrorism -- the reality remains that right-wing extremist terrorism remains the most potent domestic-terrorism threat in America as well. Indeed, the number of violent domestic-terrorism incidents has been steadily rising for the past two years, but the threat has gone largely ignored. Indeed, the Obama administration has kowtowed to right-wing complaints by gutting our own government's intelligence-gathering capacities in this area.
Charles Pierce has a piece in this month's Esquire describing how, indeed, "the truth is, the overwhelming majority of our terrorism has always been homegrown. And it is times like these — times of anger and disaffection — when we turn on ourselves, and kill" (and he gives our work a nice shout-out, too):
At the beginning of this year, not long after they'd found the bomb on the bench in Spokane, a journalist named David Neiwert put together a list of nearly thirty acts of right-wing political violence that had taken place, or had been foiled, in the United States since the summer of 2008 — or roughly since Barack Obama's presidency began to be seen as a genuine possibility. The list began with Jim David Adkisson, who killed two people in a Unitarian church in Tennessee because he was angry at how "liberals" were "destroying America." It included two episodes in April 2009, one in Pittsburgh and one in Florida, in which men who were sure that Barack Obama's government was coming for their guns opened fire on law-enforcement officers who had come to investigate them on other matters.

Some of the crimes on the list were briefly sensational — Scott Roeder's murder of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, or Joseph Andrew Stack's flying his small plane into a building in Austin in protest of the Internal Revenue Service, or the incoherent array of violent crimes committed by the "Sovereign Citizens Movement." But most of them barely made the national radar at all. In December 2008, a woman in Belfast, Maine, named Amber Cummings shot to death her sleeping husband, James, who'd been savagely abusing her.

Upon arriving at the Cummings home, investigators found Nazi paraphernalia and a stash of chemicals indicating that James Cummings was preparing to make a "dirty bomb" that he planned to detonate at Obama's inauguration. Except in the local media, that aspect of the case disappeared completely. James Cummings and his bomb had nothing to do with Scott Roeder's handgun or Joe Stack's airplane.

It is a fertile time for such things. The country elected a black president with an exotic name. The economy, wrecked by a rigged game at the highest levels, continued to grind through a jobless recovery. The national dialogue grows coarser and wilder, and does so at a pace accelerated by technology. People sense the fragmentation — things are falling apart — even while they take refuge in those fragments of life that seem safest and most familiar.
Charlie is a great writer, so be sure to read the whole thing.

Here is the whole list, and an interactive map with links to each of the stories we've assembled.
(It's actually in need of a brief update, which I hope to get to in the next few days.)

It might actually be a good idea if Peter King wants to hold hearings on domestic terrorism. But it needs to tackle the whole threat, and not just the one our xenophobic myopia readily identifies.

Hm. Notice How The Fox Talkers Aren't Claiming That The Weather Proves There's No Global Warming Now?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Have you noticed how all those Fox talkers like Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto who like to make global-warming jokes when heavy snowfalls arrive in the winter are utterly silent on the subject right about now, when the nation is enduring what could prove to be a historic heat wave?

Shauna Theel at Media Matters noticed too:
Over the past week, Fox News has not mentioned human-induced climate change or global warming while reporting on or discussing the current heat wave, according to a search of Snapstream video and Nexis transcripts.

The Washington Post reported that this "long duration, widespread heat wave continues to bake virtually the entire central U.S" and "969 daily high temperature records were either tied or broken in the country" through July 16. The Post further reported:
Climate change research indicates that manmade emissions of greenhouse gases may already be increasing the likelihood of extreme heat events like this one, including the 2003 European heat wave that killed tens of thousands. Also, recent studies have projected much hotter summers beginning as soon as just a few decades from now as the climate continues to warm. However, it will take months if not years for scientists to determine whether climate change has played a role in turning up the heat so far this summer, and in this heat wave specifically.
NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt told Media Matters it's "very probable that any particular heat wave happening now will be shown to have become more likely because of global warming," adding: "Of all the different extreme events that can happen, the partial attribution of heat waves to ongoing climate change is one of the easier connections."

Schmidt explained that there are a number of questions to ask when considering whether global warming may be contributing to extreme weather events:
1) A sniff test - does it make any sense that this effect might be linked? (this doesn't mean that non-obvious things can't happen, but the burden of proof is higher).

2) Are there analyses in the scientific literature that indicate that models do in fact show a change in this extreme as a function of increasing global temperatures? Are these analyses credible? (this will depend on the scale involved, etc.), do all models show the same thing?

3) Have we seen increases in the data already? (this can be hard since the data on extremes is not very extensive).

4) Are the expected changes in the statistics commensurate with what has been seen? (i.e. if models predict a 10% increase but the increase has been 100%, then it's not clear we have understood what is going on).
In the case of heat waves, the answer to each of these questions is yes, Schmidt said.

The National Research Council explained in a recent report that heat waves are expected to become "more intense, more frequent, and longer-lasting" in the United States and around the globe as a result of human-induced climate change.
Not that any of this will ever be reported on Fox News.

Norway Terrorist Breivik Was An Ardent Subscriber To Theories Of 'Cultural Marxism'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

We're starting to get a clearer portrait of Anders Breivik, the right-wing extremist whose rampage in Norway yesterday took at least 95 lives, the vast majority of them young people attending a youth camp.

The picture that's emerging is of an ordinary right-wing man stoked into anger by theories about "Cultural Marxism" that originated on the anti-Semitic far right but have in recent years been spreading into more mainstream venues, promoted by the likes of Andrew Breitbart, among others.

You can read for yourself Breivik's postings to the Norwegian site Document.No (application/pdf - 211.61 KB) (translated here), which should give you a clear enough picture.

Chip Berlet, who specializes in analyzing right-wing extremism,
has been going through them, and here are his initial thoughts:
Based on online posts apparently by Anders Behring Breivik circulated in Norway, the alleged terrorist opposed multiculturalism and Muslim immigrants in Norway. Breivik championed opposition to "Cultural Marxism," a right-wing antisemitic concept developed primarily by William Lind of the US-based Free Congress Foundation, but also the Lyndon LaRouche network.

... The idea is that a small group of Marxist Jews who formed the Frankfurt School set out to destroy Western Culture through a conspiracy to promote multiculturalism and collectivist economic theories. A key "Cultural Marxist" guru William Lind spoke at a Holocaust Denial conference, and worked at Free Congress Fdn. which sponsored a former Nazi collaborator, the late Laszlo Pasztor. See Bill Berkowitz article on Cultural Marxism for Intelligence Report at SPLC website .
Bill Berkowitz reported on "Cultural Marxism" as a far-right organizing concept for the SPLC back in the summer of 2003:
At the core of the far right's concept of cultural Marxism are the Jews. Lind made this plain in June 2002, when he gave a speech on the subject to a Washington Holocaust denial conference hosted by the anti-Semitic journal, Barnes Review.

Although he told his audience that his Free Congress Foundation was "not among those who question whether the Holocaust occurred," he went on to lay out just who the cultural conspirators were: "These guys," he explained, "were all Jewish."

Like Jews in general, the Frankfurt School makes a convenient antagonist — one that is basically seen as antithetical to all things American. The school, says social psychology professor Richard Lichtman of the Berkeley-based Wright Institute, is "a convenient target that very few people really know anything about.

"By grounding their critique in Marxism and using the Frankfurt School, [cultural conservatives] make it seem like it's quite foreign to anything American. It takes on a mysterious cast and translates as an incomprehensible, anti-American, foreign movement that is only interested in undermining the U.S.," he said. "The idea being transmitted is that we are being infected from the outside."

Not everyone who uses the cultural Marxism construct sees Jews in general at the center of the plot. But a 1998 book by California State University-Long Beach evolutionary biologist Kevin MacDonald — one of just two witnesses to testify on behalf of Holocaust denier David Irving in a famous 2000 libel trial — makes plain that Jews in general are implicated in what is seen as an attack on the West.

In The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Social Movements, MacDonald says that while all Jews are not guilty, the movements he attacks are indeed "Jewishly motivated."
In a chapter devoted to the Frankfurt School, MacDonald suggests that Jews criticize non-Jews' desire to form "cohesive, nationalistic, corporate gentile groups based on conformity to group norms" — with Frankfurt School principals painting this desire as a psychopathology — while they hypocritically pursue cohesiveness in their own group.
As Berlet explains:
The trope of Cultural Marxism combines this view of political economy with a narrow view of Christian superiority and an ethnocentric White Nationalism. In both sectors--Christian superiority and ethnocentric White Nationalism--there is a great fear of Muslim immigration.

Among right-wing Christians who fear Muslims there are some that see Islam as the false religion of the Antichrist in the End Times in their idiosyncratic reading of Biblical prophecy. This apocalyptic view is widespread in some areas. For example a poll found that 15% of Republicans in New Jersey though President Barack Obama might be the "Antichrist" who is Satan's chief henchman in the End Times. Another 14% were convinced Obama was the Antichrist. Whether it is based on religious or secular themes, the idea of a vast longstanding conspiracy of Cultural Marxists to destroy Western Culture creates apocalyptic aggression, in which believers in the conspiracy theory decide to act first against the named enemies.
The concept has been mainstreamed in recent years, promoted -- in a form stripped of its anti-Semitic elements -- by a number of supposedly mainstream conservatives. We knew we had heard the phrase bandied about the past couple of years on Fox News, and went looking in Google to find out where we had heard it.

Originally we thought the chief culprit would be Glenn Beck, who has indeed made a fetish out of Marxism on his show. But the chief promoter of the concept of "Cultural Marxism" on Fox News was none other than Andrew Breitbart:

Breitbart has made a number of attacks on "Cultural Marxism" as a liberal phenomenon -- such as his insistence that "political correctness is Cultural Marxism". Indeed, Breitbart has made something of a fetish about using the phrase. Likewise he has made something of a fetish out of "Frankfurt School" theories.

And as you can see from the above video, he got a nice national platform to promote the concept back in 2009 on Sean Hannity's Fox News show -- twice. This is a classic form of what acting as a "media transmitter," repackaging ideas that originated on the racist/anti-Semitic Far Right and injecting them into the mainstream.

This is not to suggest in any way, of course, that Breitbart is connected directly to the Norway terrorist attacks nor even that he is by any means responsible for them. It's clear, however, from Friday's events that the ideology he promotes radicalizes people and indeed ultimately invites and inspires extremist violence. Considering his legion of right-wing fanboys in America, that's cause for concern.

Striking The Blind Spot: Norway Terror Attacks That Killed 80 Carried Out By Islamophobic Right-Wing Extremist

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It looks like everyone's first guess (including ours) about the perpetrators of yesterday's terrorist attacks in Norway that killed 80 people -- that it was Islamist radicals -- was dead wrong.

Devin Burghart at IREHR has the wrapup
Shortly before midnight on Friday, July 22, police arrested a 32-year-old Norwegian man who allegedly went on a murderous shooting spree at a Labor Party youth camp on the island of Utoya and may also be responsible for the horrific bombing in Oslo earlier in the day.

The man arrested for the attack has been identified as Anders Behring Breivik. Norwegian TV2 reports that Breivik belongs to "right-wing circles" in Oslo. Sources in Norway tell IREHR that Breivik has been known to write posts in right-wing internet forums in Norway, where he has described himself as a “nationalist” and has also written numerous screeds critical of Muslims.
The Associated Press reports that Breivik has a Glock pistol, a rifle and a shotgun registered in the Norwegian gun registry. According to his Facebook page (since taken down), in 2009 Breivik established a business called GeoFarm, which he claimed to be engaged in the cultivation of vegetables. Such a business would give him access to large amounts of fertilizer, which could be used in the making of explosives.

According to witnesses in Utoya, the gunman was dressed as a police officer and gunned down young people as they ran for their lives at a youth camp. Police said Friday evening that they've linked the youth camp shooting and Oslo bombing. Late Friday, police also tell Reuters that the killings are of "catastrophic dimensions", and that the total number dead from the attacks may rise above eighty, just on Utoya. Seven people are currently reported dead from the Oslo bomb blast, though that number may climb.
William MacLean at Reuters reports that the attack signals an intensification in right-wing extremist activity in Europe, which was already rising significantly in recent years:

A report that Norway's bomb and gun rampage may be the work of a far-right militant confronts Europe with the possibility that a new paramilitary threat is emerging, a decade after al-Qaida's Sept. 11 attacks.

One analyst called the attacks possibly Europe's "Oklahoma City" moment, a reference to American right-wing militant Timothy McVeigh who detonated a truck bomb at a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.

Police forces in many western European countries worry about rising far-right sentiment, fueled by a toxic mix of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant bigotry and increasing economic hardship.

But violence, while sometimes fatal, has rarely escalated beyond group thuggery and the use of knives.

That may have changed in Oslo and on the holiday island of Utoya on Friday. Seven people were killed in a bombing in the capital — Western Europe's worst since the 2005 London al-Qaida-linked suicide attacks that killed 52 people — and at least 80 in a shooting rampage by a lake.

Independent Norwegian television TV2 reported on Saturday that the Norwegian man detained after the attacks had links to right-wing extremism.

Police were searching a flat in west Oslo where he lived, TV2 said.

"If true this would be pretty significant — such a far-right attack in Europe, and certainly Scandinavia, would be unprecedented," said Hagai Segal, a security specialist at New York University in London.

"It would be the European/Scandinavian equivalent of Oklahoma City — an attack by a individual (with extremist anti-government views, linked to certain groups) aimed at the government by attacking its buildings/institutions."

"The next key question is whether he was acting alone, or whether he is part of a group."
James Fallows has a tart reminder for those who, like Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, took that ounce of speculation and tried making a ton of speculative anti-Islamic hay out of it:
No, this is a sobering reminder for those who think it's too tedious to reserve judgment about horrifying events rather than instantly turning them into talking points for pre-conceived views. On a per capita basis, Norway lost twice as many people today as the U.S. did on 9/11. Imagine the political repercussions through the world if double-9/11-scale damage had been done by an al-Qaeda offshoot. The unbelievably sweeping damage is there in either case.
It's also a sobering reminder that, while we've been obsessing nationally over the supposed threat of Islamist radicals -- embodied by Peter King's haplessly myopic hearings on domestic terrorism -- the reality remains that right-wing extremist terrorism remains the most potent domestic-terrorism threat in America as well. Indeed, the number of violent domestic-terrorism incidents has been steadily rising for the past two years, but the threat has gone largely ignored. Indeed, the Obama administration has kowtowed to right-wing complaints by gutting our own government's intelligence-gathering capacities in this area.

We shouldn't assume that this is a problem isolated to Europe -- especially given the track record of right-wing extremists in the USA in recent years.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The New McCarthyism: Oregon Tea Partiers Invade Quiet MoveOn Picnic, Break It Up With Threats -- And Boast About It

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Probably the most disturbing aspect of the multifarious effects of Fox News' right-wing propaganda machine and its Tea Party offspring is the way it has utterly taken over the lives of so many senior citizens, who lap up every word as the gospel truth and have become increasingly radicalized by talking heads like Glenn Beck.

Even as they project their own intentions onto the likes of the unions, the Fox acolytes and the Tea Partiers have effectively become a brownshirt corps of mean-spirited, vicious thugs. It's deeply disturbing to watch people in our parents' generation viciously attacking liberals with increasing venom and violence.

The latest example took place last weekend in the quiet little retirement town of Roseburg, Oregon. It's a pretty little burg on the I-5 corridor in western Oregon that is mostly populated with senior citizens of various stripes. Via Carla at Blue Oregon, we happened upon this story in the local paper:
A small political gathering of about 18 liberal thinkers at River Forks Park Sunday afternoon erupted in conflict when about 35 members of the conservative tea party intruded upon the meeting, waving flags and holding signs accusing the rival group of being communists, Marxists and socialists.

The liberal group — organized by — decided to leave the park and move its potluck to a nearby home. Members of the conservative group followed, parking at the entrance of a private lane leading to the home to continue their protest.

Roseburg Democrats Dean and Sara Byers said Monday they told tea party members who followed that they were not welcome to drive down the lane to their home.

The Byerses said they got out of their car to stop vehicles from entering the driveway and one tea party member almost ran them over.

Sara Byers said she was so shaken she called 911. She said a Douglas County deputy called about an hour and a half later and said he had been unable to respond because of other incidents. Byers said she was still considering filing a criminal complaint against members of the tea party for harassment.

A leader of the tea party group, Rich Raynor of Roseburg, disputed the liberal group's version of events.

“They are liars,” said Raynor, director of Douglas County Americans for Prosperity. “That is what communists do.”
The latter confrontations were not videotaped, but the Tea Partiers themselves proudly posted the video of their invasion of the MoveOn picnic. Moreover, it clearly documents how they effectively broke it up -- by threatening the attendees with intimidating speech and making it clear they wanted the group to clear out. What it doesn't show, of course, is that they followed these folks to someone's private home and tried to invade the gathering on private property as well.

Here's the script the proud authors of the video provided:
Self professed communist Van Jones teams up with to promote the American Dream Project, aka I want what you have worked for. Promoted here by the Douglas County Democratic Central Committee members. Challenged by Americans who love freedom!

I have an idea. Let's end class warfare. If you want more, get up earlier and work harder. It works wonders for your self-respect.

We had to disable comments. They were vile, vulgar, threatening...typical Chicago thuggery stuff.
One thing that's clear from both the script and from the video is that what has the Tea Partiers especially exercised about MoveOn is the fact that Van Jones is now working with them to promote his Rebuild the Dream project. The Tea Partiers kept repeating "Van Jones!" "Van Jones!" almost mantra-like, and then calling MoveOn a bunch of "communists."

This is the New McCartyhyism at work, thanks in no small part to the effective work of Glenn Beck during his misbegotten tenure at Fox News -- the apotheosis of which was his successful attacks on Van Jones.

We discussed this at length with Jones himself recently. And while he's right that we can't let these kinds of smears deflect or distract us from what we're trying to achieve, there's no doubt he also understands that they need to be knocked down fiercely and effectively.

And the claim that Van Jones is a Communist is simply a baldfaced lie. Maybe every MoveOn member is now going to have to equip themselves with the words of Jones' attorneys, in their letter to Fox News, on this matter:
Mr. Jones is not a member of any Communist Party or Marxist organization whatsoever, and has not expressed any support for any form of Communist or Marxist ideology for many years. In the same 2005 article in which he Mr. Jones discussed having had such notions as a young man, he also talked about his growth away from those views.
Mr. Jones has repeatedly clarified that his economic views are firmly pro-market, in numerous speeches, televised interviews and in the Huffington Post. In fact, Mr. Jones is known as a leading champion of free-market solutions to current environmental problems. His best-selling book, The Green Collar Economy (2009), advocates government policies to promote private-sector innovation. The World Economic Forum itself has repeatedly honored Mr. Jones' work. He has been called the "Green" Jack Kemp, because he shares that GOP leader's commitment to entrepreneurship as a cure for poverty.

The allegations that Mr. Jones is an "unrepentant Communist," "is a Communist," "is a Communist guy," and "is a revolutionary" are thus demonstrably and unequivocally false. Clearly these statements were calculated to, and do, injure Mr. Jones in his professional and community standing and lower him in the estimation of the American public. They are actionable as a matter of law.
Liberal organizers have taken for granted far too long the toxic effects of these kinds of lies and smears -- because they are exactly the kinds of smears that have always provided the bedrock of right-wing extremism and xenophobic scapegoating. And it's especially remarkable that we're seeing it happen with so many supposedly "conservative" mainstream and often elderly people lapping up the lies.

This was clear from the report on the confrontation:
Roseburg resident Lillen Fifield, 70, called the group's actions an “act of domestic terrorism” and said she was appalled that a peaceful gathering — mostly of women older than 65 — was interrupted.

“It is not OK to go around and intimidate and threaten people. That is not acceptable in a polite society,” Fifield said.

Conservative organizers defended their actions and said they will continue to protest similar gatherings.

“We were there to find out what they had to say and to bring a notice to the public that this kind of thing was going on. Quite honestly, if they have it again, then we are really going to make it well known,” Raynor said.

Raynor said the group believes is a communist front and said he would not stand for America becoming a fascist nation.
It's unsurprising that these Tea Partiers thus replicate Jonah Goldberg's fraudulent scrambling of the meanings of "fascism" and "communism", something that was avidly promoted on Fox by Beck and others as well.

Likewise, it's unsurprising that this obliteration-of-meaning-by-Newspeak would result in thuggish behavior remarkably like that deployed by brownshirts historically. The only strange thing was that it involved a bunch of senior citizens and middle-aged folks. It was obvious, for instance, that these people were hoping to provoke an angry response resulting in violence that they could then trot out as proof of liberal "thuggishness." (That's an old brownshirt tactic.)

Fortunately, this particular gathering of progressives was smart enough to avoid that trap. As we see more of these attempts to provoke violence, though, I'm not so sure that's going to continue happening.

It's all very disturbing. As Carla puts it:
Clearly the fine details of what took place are in dispute. What isn't, however, are the overt attempts at intimidation and bullying perpetuated by Raynor and the others that showed up to shut down a tiny, peaceful group who chose to meet to talk. Last I checked, that's still allowed in the US. And while MoveOn is decidedly NOT communist, socialist or Marxist--it shouldn't matter if they are. People in the United States are allowed to discuss and promote those ideas if that's what they really believe.

Why are Raynor and his ilk so desperately frightened? Are their own ideas and beliefs so weak that they can't stand up to a miniscule group even having an opposition discussion about them?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Right-Wing Union-Bashers Trying To Turn Ordinary, Legal Organizing Tactics Into 'Thuggery'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Ever notice how conservatives love to preach to everyone else about the virtues of responsibility and accountability, but really, really hate it whenever anyone holds them accountable?

When they get called out for destroying the economy, they shift the blame to minority lending. When their underlying racism comes bubbling up and people point it out, they run to shout "bloody shirt" and turn the victims into demagoging perpetrators, declaring that liberals are the real racists. When it's pointed out that they coddle far-right extremists within their ranks, they claim they're just being smeared. When some far-right extremist indulges in some act of extreme violence inspired by their insane rhetoric, they claim that mean liberals are just trying to silence them by pointing out the connection.

And when organized labor tries to hold corporate CEOs and banking executives responsible for the economic havoc they have wreaked on working people, they call it "thuggery."

Michelle Malkin was on Fox earlier this week promoting the anti-unionists' latest smear campaign against SEIU, claiming that a union members' handbook they just discovered -- even though it has been generally available for a long time, and certainly was not a secret -- somehow coaches union "thugs" in various tactics of "intimidation."

They trotted out footage of that protest held by the SEIU in May 2010 where they went to the home of Bank of America lobbyist Greg Baer to ask him to speak with some of the people whose homes were being foreclosed upon. Malkin and the Fox host tried to make this out to be some unspeakable horror, claiming that Baer's teenage son was alone in the house and had to hide in the bathroom.

In reality, Baer himself was out on the lawn of the house, mingling with the protesters:
Not surprisingly, neither of them talked with us. In fact, Gregory Baer from Bank of America initially tried to blend in with the crowd and, instead, let a family member answer the door. When one of his neighbors pointed him out to us, he announced he "didn't have time for [us]," and went inside.
Police at both events described the proceedings as entirely peaceful and cordial. That, of course, didn't stop Nina Easton, Baer's next-door neighbor, from describing them in her Fortune column as "a mob." That might have some thing to do with the fact that Easton's own husband has close business ties with Bank of America. (We're also acutely aware of Easton's deep compassion for the unemployed.)

Malkin was actually just teeing off a Vincent Cernuccio column in the Moonie Times, claiming that the handbook they "uncovered" gives union members all kinds of tips for thuggish behavior.
SEIU is in federal court defending itself against charges of racketeering and extortion filed by one of its unionizing targets, the catering company Sodexo Inc.Sodexo's court discovery recently revealed an SEIU “Contract Campaign Manual” on “Pressuring the Employer.” Union pressure is nothing new, but what SEIU recommends is not limited to organizing drives and strikes. Rather, the pressure takes the form of a so-called corporate campaign, whereby the union allies itself with outside third parties to raise intimidation to a new level.

SEIU’s manual details how “outside pressure can involve jeopardizing relationships between the employer and lenders, investors, stockholders, customers, clients, patients, tenants, politicians, or others on whom the employer depends for funds.” The union advises using legal and regulatory pressure to “threaten the employer with costly action by government agencies or the courts.”

It details the use of community groups to “damage an employer’s public image and ties with community leaders and organizations.” SEIU recommends going after company officials personally. Not mincing words, SEIU states, “It may be a violation of blackmail and extortion laws to threaten management officials with release of ‘dirt’ about them if they don’t settle a contract. But there is no law against union members who are angry at their employer deciding to uncover and publicize factual information about individual managers.”

The “dirt” includes charges such as “racism, sexism, exploitation of immigrants or proposals that would take money out of the community for the benefits of distant stockholders.” SEIU recommends “[l]eafleting outside meetings where [targeted managers] are speaking, their homes, or events sponsored by community organizations they are tied to are some ways to make sure their friends, neighbors, and associates are aware of the controversy.”

Putting this into practice, in May SEIU drove 14 busloads of protesters to the quiet suburban home of Bank of America’s deputy general counsel, Greg Baer. Fortune magazine’s Washington bureau chief, Nina Easton, Mr. Baer’s neighbor, reported on the “hordes of invaders” shouting into bullhorns and waving signs. Ms. Easton wrote that “a more apt description of this assemblage would be ‘mob.’ Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise.”

Only Mr. Baer’s teenage son was home. Terrified, he locked himself in the bathroom, pleading with Ms. Easton, “When are they going to leave?”
Obviously, lying without compunction is simply these folks' bread and butter.

You see, it absolutely terrifies right-wingers that the captains of industry who underwrite their paychecks might be held to account for their misdeeds. The very idea that corporate CEOS might be held accountable for breaking environmental laws, or labor laws, or creating unsafe working conditions, or any of the other many issues that unions wind up confronting them about -- well, that just completely freaks the lot of them out.

So the prospect that unions might actually support whistleblowers who will bring down the weight of the law -- not to mention public disapproval -- on them for their unethical and illegal activities is instead transformed, in their depiction, into a campaign of union "thuggery" and "intimidation".

Well, you can read Chapter 4 of the manual -- the section that has them all worked up in a tizzy -- for yourself here (application/msword - 808.5 KB).

As you can see, it actually just outlines ordinary organizing tactics, including work stoppages, strikes, and whistlebowling activity -- all perfectly legal tactics, and which have nothing whatsoever to do with "thuggery". Yes, CEOs might find these tactics "intimidating" -- as well they should.

Mind you, a Tea Partier showing up at a health-care town hall with a gun strapped to his waist is not intimidating in the least. That's just standing up for your Second Amendment rights.

Those First Amendment rights, meanwhile, are evidently too much for them -- and their shills in the media -- to handle.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wealthy Fox Pundit Stuart Varney Reminds Poor People Just How Much Better Off They Are Nowadays

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

I'm always amused when wealthy TV talking heads -- people whose six-figure-and-better incomes pretty much ensure that they can afford whatever they want in terms of household appliances and other necessities of modern life -- try to pretend that they're just ordinary folks who understand what "middle America" is thinking.

Even more hilarious, in a twisted way, is when they take it upon themselves to lecture those same Americans about the virtues of poverty -- or to explain, as Fox's Stuart Varney did yesterday, just how much better off poor Americans are now than they used to be.

In fact, according to his guest -- Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, who has assembled his damned lies and statistics in a single report at their site, America's poor people have a better standard of living than your average European. Right -- if appliances were any accurate measure of your standard of living.

This is just one of those pleasant reminders from our corporate masters that you're never as bad off as you think you are. Why, Varney and Rector seem dismayed that today's poor in America don't live off dirt floors. If you keep pushing for taxes on the rich, that may be what you'll get!