Friday, August 29, 2003
I'm going to be working through this weekend finishing up the manuscript to my next book, Death on the Fourth of July: Hate Crimes and the American Landscape, which is due sometime Monday.
I hope everyone forgives my silence through Tuesday or so (that includes responding to e-mails, which I'm getting a lot of right now). I hope to begin catching up next week.
Your patience is appreciated.
What a Rush
Thursday, August 28, 2003
Hey, did I mention that "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism" -- the edited and compiled version -- is now complete in HTML on the blog? Well, it is. Whew! I've added links to each of the segments just below the PDF files.
I also have some great news about the piece: Cursor is going to be putting it up on their Web site beginning Monday, complete with art and links. I've previewed it and it looks great -- I'm very flattered, of course, because Cursor is such a good site and an attractive one too. (I'm also a big fan of their Media Transparency project.)
Fans of the "Rush" essay should check it out. A bunch of the photos are mine.
New to the blogroll
Here's a great new blog:
It has four contributors: Lambert, Leah, Tresy and farmer, the four people who took over for Atrios this summer at the irreplacable Eschaton. I thought they did a great job -- though of course, there is no one quite like Atrios, and I was happy to see him back -- and am glad they've started their own blog. I've known Tresy, online at least, for some time; she's a fellow Seattleite and frequent Table Talker, where I've been known to lurk and post. And farmer, many of you recall, provided me with invaluable material that wound up forming a significant part of "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism."
They're already off to a great start, grilling Bush over his weasel-word stance on the 10 Commandments brouhaha; the deepening qWagmire in Iraq; and the apparent duping of U.S. intelligence agencies about Iraq.
A historical note
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
For those who wonder about the historical precedents behind Roy Moore's stand over the Ten Commandments: Yes, it is true that the South has a history of defying court orders. None of them, as it happens, were for particularly noble causes.
Consider, if you will, a tale from 1906: The lynching of Edward Johnson.
Johnson was a 23-year-old black carpenter who did odd jobs for friends at the Last Chance Saloon in Chattanooga, Tenn., who had the misfortune to be chosen almost randomly for a public lynching by the local white populace. Here is a nicely succinct version of the first round of events, from a review of a book (scroll down to "Lynching in Tennessee") about the case titled Contempt of Court: The Turn of the Century Lynching that Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism:
- The story begins when Miss Nevada Taylor was accosted by an unknown assailant on a dark night while returning to her home. She was 21 years old and described as beautiful. An assailant came up behind her, put a leather strap around her neck, and told her that if she screamed she would be killed. She was raped and later testified that she could not positively identify her assailant but she thought he was black and spoke with a kindly voice.
Sheriff Joseph Shipp was a wealthy businessman, who at age 15, joined the Confederate Army as a Private and ended the war as Captain. Above all, he was a politician who was up for re-election in two months and would do whatever was necessary to be re-elected. Having no suspects, Sheriff Shipp collected a reward of $375, which was more than the average Chattanooga citizen earned in a year.
In the meantime, the two local newspapers kept up a storm of editorials in which they referred to Miss Taylor as a "white princess" and the perpetrator as a "Negro brute." The papers more than suggested that when the culprit was arrested he should be lynched and that "someone must pay."
Will Hixson, on learning of the reward, told the Sheriff that he saw Johnson in the area of the assault with a leather strap about the time of the event. It was later shown that Hixson had told others he intended to get the reward. Hixson further had indicated he did not know Johnson nor had he seen him before, but he testified he was able to identify Johnson by the light of a match that Johnson had requested from Hixson. On this dearth of evidence, Johnson was arrested. Johnson never changed his story. He maintained his innocence and said he never had any contact with Miss Taylor, and at the time of the assault, he was working at a saloon some distance away. A dozen alibi witnesses testified Johnson was with them at the time. Once Johnson was arrested, the Sheriff did not investigate anyone else, though he had several other names and leads. One lead was that a white man had been the perpetrator.
The upshot of all this was that Johnson narrowly escaped with his life when the sheriff had him quietly transported out of town to another jail shortly after his arrest; when a lynch mob gathered that same evening, it was infuriated to discover Johnson gone and rioted, scouring through the jail until it was satisfied Johnson was not there.
This was at the height of "the lynching era," that spate between 1890 and 1920 when racial violence inflicted by whites against blacks, all for the purposes of terrorizing them into submission, was not only common but positively celebrated as a form of the "popular will." Often these lynchings came at the end of spectacle trials in which blacks were swiflty convicted with flimsy or nonexistent evidence and then swept out into the public square by the vengeful mob.
Edward Johnson received this sort of "let's give 'em a fair trial afore we hang 'em" proceeding in court, swiftly convicted even though the only evidence against him was Nevada Taylor's half-hearted identification, though in fact she told police she wouldn't be able to identify her attacker positively because she did not get a good look at him. Johnson's substantial alibi evidence was dismissed. He was convicted and sentenced to death, but was whisked away to Knoxville before the crowd could stir to action.
Johnson's trial ran afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court because 20 years before, it had ruled that jury pools must contain African-Americans as well, while Johnson's jury pool excluded blacks. A courageous black lawyer named Noah Parden took up Johnson's case and pursued it all the way from state appeals courts to the Supreme Court, where he finally found a sympathetic ear in the person of Justice John Marshall Harlan, the "Great Dissenter."
On March 19, Harlan issued a stay of Johnson's pending execution and announced that the Supreme Court would hear his appeal. It announced that he was now a federal prisoner, and issued an order that he be remanded to federal custody.
But before that could happen, the mob struck. That very night -- with the collusion of the sheriff, who left only one man on duty to guard the jail -- Johnson was hauled out of the jail and lynched. They hauled him out to a bridge that had been the site of the last previous lynching in Chattanooga (in 1893). Here is how Philip Dray describes it in his profound and disturbing study of the era, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America:
- Slipping a rope around his neck, the mob demanded that Johnson confess, assuring him he had nothing to lose now by telling the truth. "I am ready to die," Johnson replied, adding:
- But I never done it. I am going to tell the truth. I am not guilty. I have said all the time that I did not do it and it is true. I was not there. I know I am going to die and I have no fear at all. I was not at St. Elmo that night. Nobody saw me with a strap. They were mistaken and saw somebody else. I was at the Last Chance Saloon just as I said. I am not guilty and that is all I have to say. God bless you all. I am innocent.
Someone fired a pistol, then a spray of bullets struck him. One shot split the rope and Johnson fell to the ground, where his body was fired into hundreds of times as it lay motionless on the ground. The mob then departed, leaving a note pinned on the corpse:
"To Justice Harlan. Come get your nigger now."
A last note: This case, as Contempt of Court goes on to explore, was at the root of the famed United States v. Shipp ruling.
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism
[Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII and XIV. See my explanatory note.]
XV: Waiting for Godwin
One of the great bylaws of the blogosphere is Godwin's Law:
- "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." There is a tradition in many groups that, once this occurs, that thread is over, and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. Godwin's Law thus practically guarantees the existence of an upper bound on thread length in those groups. However there is also a widely recognized codicil that any intentional triggering of Godwin's Law in order to invoke its thread-ending effects will be unsuccessful.
Of course, a good deal of Usenet etiquette has become the standard for debate in the blogosphere as well, and that is particularly the case with Godwin's Law.
At the very outset, as I began compiling the posts at Orcinus that would form this essay, it was fairly clear that virtually the entirety of the series was in gross violation of Godwin's Law. It's pretty hard not to mention Nazis and Hitler, at least by implication, when one's focus is a clearer understanding of fascism and how its essence remains alive in American society.
However, I wrote not so much out of ignorance as impatience with these kinds of protocols. As someone whose reportage on many occasions has been on the subject of very real neo-Nazis, the idea that I'd lose an argument just by writing factually about the undercurrents they represent is nonsensical.
For that matter, I've kind of viewed Godwin's Law, or at least its overeager invocation, as symptomatic of the larger problem I hoped to confront with this series: Namely, an almost frightened refusal by most Americans, right and left, to come to grips with the meaning of fascism, and how that blind spot renders us vulnerable to it.
When I first began seriously studying fascism some years back, one of the first things that struck me was how little I -- or anyone I knew -- actually understood what it meant, in spite of the fact that it, alongside Communism, was one of the two major political phenomena of the 20th century, both of them radical anti-democratic movements that the American system was forced to confront and defeat.
Virtually every educated person I know (and many less-educated people as well) has a relatively clear and at least semi-informed understanding of what Communism is, what its origins are, what are the basic elements of its ideology. Moreover, wariness of Communist influence is a virtual byword of the American worldview.
In contrast, hardly anyone I know understands just what fascism is. At best, they vaguely comprehend it as a kind of heinous totalitarianism, identified specifically with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. There is a great deal of confusion about its ideological orientation, embodied in the now-common conservative canard that "Hitler was a socialist." Mostly it is just flung about -- mostly by leftists and thoughtless liberals, but in the past decade by conservatives too -- as a catch-all term for totalitarianism, or worse yet, as a substitute for "police state" (which is not the same as fascism).
Hardly anyone can identify any tenets of fascism; most of the time its manifestations are understood almost as extrinsic infestations of a virulent hatred and violence, brought on by such influences as propaganda and "brainwashing." As I discussed in Part 11, though, this model is faulty; what is now clear about totalitarianism of all stripes is that it arises when certain ideologies and movements interact with personalities configured by 'totalist' predispositions. That is to say, it cannot be imposed from without unless there is concession within; its audience is not a blank slate, but people who willingly join in.
In the case of fascism specifically, the lack of an ideological core or easily recognizable signifiers (beyond, of course, such images from fully developed fascism as goosestepping stormtroopers and mass rallies) is a large part of the reason it's so little understood. This amorphousness, as I discussed back in Part 2, also arises from the fact that although fascism only arose in the 20th century as a political force, it originates in political strains that have deep historic (perhaps even prehistoric) roots, and which very much continue to be with us.
And it is this fact -- that even though we think of fascism as a distant and unlikely threat, it sits at our elbows and dines at our tables even today -- which makes a realistic discussion of fascism such an uncomfortable thing. Some of the very threads that combine to make a fascist weave are part of the everyday fabric of our own lives. It's much easier to declare an argument over when the issue of fascism arises than to confront the possibility that it lives on, even in a democratic society that we have come fondly to think of as immune from such a disease.
At the same time, I actually rather approve of the sentiment that underlies Godwin's Law. In today's context, Nazism specifically and fascism generally are most often cited by partisans of both sides not with any reference to its actual content but merely as the essence of totalitarian evil itself. This is knee-jerk half-thought. Obviously, I don't agree that the mere reference to fascism, let alone a serious discussion of it, automatically renders a point moot. But a reflexive, ill-informed or inappropriate reference -- which describes the bulk of them -- should suffice to invalidate any argument.
Without question the worst offenders are those on the left. It began back in the 1960s, when antiwar radicals came to refer to anyone from the Establishment as "fascist," particularly if they were from the police. This bled over into the later view that identified fascism with a police state. The confusion is alive and well today with peace marchers who blithely identify Bush with Hitler and compare Republicans to Nazis. The purpose of these analogies is to shame conservatives, but they instead only give their accusers the appearance of shrill harpies willing to abuse the memory of the Holocaust for cheap political theater.
Most of all, such comparisons obscure the reality of what's taking place. The genuine proto-fascists -- namely, the anti-democratic extremists of the Patriot movement, and their thuggish cohorts among the 'Freeper' crowd -- are identified with mainstream conservatives instead of being distinguished from them. That in turn gives their coalescence a kind of cover instead of exposing it.
A strategically astute left would try to drive a wedge between the two factions by raising awareness of their growing intersection, particularly in the growing phenomenon of agitation against antiwar protests. Instead, we have a liberalism that thoughtlessly identifies the conservative movement of the early 21st century with mature fascism of the 1930s, thereby only revealing how little aware it is itself of the eternal and mutative nature of fascism, and how little it can recognize it in action today.
The mainstream left has been content to make jokes about the stupidity of militiamen instead of recognizing the actual threat they represent. There has been little recognition of the way the far right is able to insinuate its ideas and agendas into the mainstream; indeed, the left's generally superior, dismissive attitude about right-wing extremists has only helped further their ability to penetrate broader society.
No doubt a large part of the reason for this is itself the degraded state of the word fascism, applied willy-nilly to virtually anyone opposed to their agenda, in much the same way that the right has debased the idea of communism. Fascism has become a black hole of a term instead of the red flag it should be. No one nowadays can recognize the genuine article when it sidles up alongside them.
Of course, as we have seen, liberals are hardly alone in abusing the term. It has become fashionable among conservatives over the past decade -- indeed, the Hitler/Nazi comparisons were particularly rampant in the identifiably proto-fascist elements of the far right during the 1990s, when they frequently compared Clinton to Hitler and government workers to Nazi stormtroopers. Likewise, the fascism comparisons have crept into mainstream conservative rhetoric -- particularly by the Rush Limbaugh and Freeper crowds -- as part of their attempt to paint liberal America as an oppressive police state.
As I observed at the outset, this kind of misuse of the term is decidedly in the mold of Newspeak, since it flatly contradicts the basic nature of its core meaning -- that is, while fascism is properly understood as essentially anti-liberal, Limbaugh and his cohorts identify it with liberalism. If the word's meaning was degraded before, this misuse has simply leveled it into meaninglessness.
The combined effect of this left-right punch renders Americans' understanding of the realities of right-wing extremism nil at a critical time when it needs to be acute. The undying forces of fascism have been creeping back into power from the ground level up, and only a clear understanding of the phenomenon will enable us to recognize how this is happening.
So these essays were written in the hopes of resurrecting a proper understanding of fascism -- what it really is, how it operates, why it is in fact very much alive and with us today. Part of my purpose, of course, was to persuade liberals to drop the inappropriate references to fascism, mostly by coming to grips with its real nature and not its imagined one.
My deeper purpose, though, was to sound a call to arms for Americans of every stripe who believe in democracy, because ultimately those are the institutions that are most endangered by fascism. Until the strands of far-right extremism that have insinuated themselves into the fabric of mainstream conservatism are properly identified and exposed, they will continue to wrap themselves around it and through it until its corruption is complete. And when that befalls us, it will probably be too late to stop it.
As the War on Terror, instead of combating the rise of fascimentalism, transforms itself into a War on Liberals; as conservatives increasingly identify themselves as the only "true" Americans; as Bush continues to depict himself as divinely inspired, and the leader of a great national spiritual renewal; as the political bullying that has sprung up in defense of Bush takes on an increasingly righteous religious and violent cast; and as free speech rights and other democratic institutions that interfere with complete political control by conservatives come increasingly under fire, then the conditions for fascimentalism will almost certainly rise to the surface.
These conditions remain latent for now, but the rising tide of proto-fascist memes and behaviors indicates that the danger is very real, especially as fascimentalist terrorist attacks take their toll on the national sense of well-being and security. It may take fully another generation for it to take root and blossom, but its presence cannot be ignored or dismissed.
European fascism was a terrible thing. An American fascism, though, could very well devastate the world.
Billlyuns and billyuns, I tell ya
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Following up on the latest atrocity from the Spawn of Lucianne, Sebastien at Sadly No conducted a Lexis/Nexis search for the phrases that Goldber specifies in his column:
- I'm busy coming up with my opinions, I have no time for facts!
From 1992 to 2000, in major newspapers included in LexisNexis, there were:
-- Zero stories with the word "Clintonophobia." (Doh!)
-- "irrational Clinton hatred?" Zero.
-- "right-wing paranoia?" 43, of which 21 were in non-American papers. If we had more time, we would count the number of times these articles had nothing whatsoever to do with Clinton. Frankly, we don't think that needs to be done anymore.
PS: "Clinton hatred" produced 25 hits, 18 from US sources, which words out to a little over 2 per year. "Dozens if not hundreds" my ass.
Sebastien also examines the rest of the claims in Jonah's column, and (unsurprisingly) finds them equally wanting. Be sure to go read it.
And while you're at it, be sure to check out SullyWatch's nice dissection of the same column.
I wondered aloud the other day how many "mainstream" Christians were going to be hopping in Roy Moore's nakedly extremist bandwagon. Well ...
Dobson Urges Support of 'Ten Commandments Justice'
- "What we have now is a perfect usurpation by the courts of our rights as citizens," Hodel said. "If the court hadn't distorted the meaning of the Constitution with regard to religion and this arbitrary, false doctrine of the separation of church and state, there wouldn't be an issue here.
"If the American people, Christians and others, don't stand up now, they won’t be able to protect these freedoms in the future. It will be too late."
Obviously, these freedoms include the right to shove their beliefs down the throats of others -- and force them to pay for it, too.
[Thanks to Tristero for the heads-up.]
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism
[Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, and XIII. See my explanatory note.]
XIV: The War on Liberals
Last summer I drove out to Kalispell, Montana, to give a talk to a community gathering there at one of the local parks. It was organized by a Flathead Valley version of the "Not In Our Town" campaign, and about 200 people showed up for the potluck dinner. Among them were the mayor of Kalispell, the police chiefs of both Kalispell and nearby Whitefish, several pastors and even a couple of local judges. I was one of about five speakers.
Most of the crowd, though, was composed of local conservationists and environmentalists from around the Flathead Valley. And in many ways, it was on their behalf that I was speaking.
Kalispell made the news last year when a militia outfit called Project 7 was broken up by local police. Its leader, a 38-year-old named David Burgert, was arrested for jumping bail on an earlier conviction for assaulting an officer and resisting arrest; when captured, officers uncovered him in possession of an arms cache of about 30 weapons and some 30,000 rounds of ammo.
What was even more disturbing was the simultaneous discovery of his plans for this materiel: To run amok in a killing spree against local authorities. Burgert had organized a team of about 10 people to target some 26 city and county officials, including some of those same police officials, mayors and judges who came out for the potluck last summer.
Burgert, who received support from the usual far-right suspects, eventually pleaded guilty to federal firearms charges in the case, and faces a maximum 10-year prison term when he's sentenced in September. But no one has ever been charged in the alleged conspiracy, partly because any evidence that the plot extended much beyond Burgert's fantasies was not very strong. He has countered by filing a lawsuit against the FBI and Montana's state Division of Criminal Investigation.
But "Project 7" was at best the tip of the iceberg for what's been happening in the Flathead Valley in the past couple of years. See if this has a familiar ring to it: A rabid right-wing radio talk-show host has been stirring up a campaign of hatred aimed at local liberals. In this case, though, the threats have gone beyond simply empty words into concrete action involving threats and intimidation.
The talk-show host in question is a fellow named John Stokes, who operates little KGEZ-AM, a radio station south of town next to Highway 93 (in fact, there are reasons to believe he bought the station mainly as a way to scam the state out of millions in condemnation proceedings, but that's another story). Shortly after Stokes took over in 2000, he began broadcasting right-wing screeds that indeed made Rush Limbaugh sound like "the voice of reason" in contrast. Stokes regularly launched vitriolic attacks on all kinds of liberals; gays and lesbians came in for special scorn (he accused two lesbian activists in Missoula whose home had burned down in an arson of setting the fire themselves), and of course Bill Clinton was a frequent target.
The primary targets of Stokes' venom, though, were conservationists and environmentalists, for whom not even the most appalling comparison nor the most groundless accusation was adequate: Stokes constantly referred to them as Nazis, and the central thrust of all his attacks was that "greens" were responsible for nearly everything that was wrong with life in Western Montana, particularly the depressed economy. Indeed, Stokes has referred frequently to Patriot conspiracy theories, and not merely on the subject of environmentalists (who are viewed by militia types as a cult intent on enslaving the rest of mankind); he's also trotted out Patriot theories on such subjects as taxation and the Constitution.
Unsurprisingly, his audience reflects this kind of proto-fascist orientation. Many of his callers have outright advocated violence against conservationists, and Stokes has encouraged them to do so.
The real-life consequences of all this talk made quite clear that this was not merely "entertainment," and that Stokes' "hot talk" was doing more than just garnering ratings. Beginning in the summer of 2001, local conservationists began receiving a series of death threats, some delivered in person, others by phone. Car windows were smashed in, tires slashed. Strange men would show up in people's yards at twilight, then run off when confronted. People's homes were vandalized. Others would be followed home by men in pickups or on motorcycles. Sometimes the teenage children of the targets were threatened.
And egging all of these people on was John Stokes. Sometimes callers would announce on his show that a local conservationist was on vacation, which would present an opportunity to "visit their home." In others, a caller would simply give the home address of an environmental activist who had just been vilified as "Satanic" on the air by Stokes.
The Montana Human Rights Network, which is run by a sixth-generation Montanan named Ken Toole -- a Toole was the state's first governor, and Toole's father was the much-beloved historian K. Ross Toole -- kept track of all these incidents and compiled them in a detailed report titled School Yard Bullies: The Harassment of Conservationists in the Flathead (which is not available online, but can be obtained by writing to them). Reading the report, the sheer volume of the harassment becomes almost overwhelming -- which is exactly what the environmentalist community in the valley has been feeling.
One of the victims of the harassment -- an ex-cop named Brenda Kitterman, whose teenage daughter also got caught up in the threats -- decided to fight back, and has been one of the prime movers in organizing the "Not in Our Town" campaign. She read In God's Country and got in touch with me, asking if I'd talk to the summer potluck gathering. (These kinds of calls are very gratifying, since this was precisely the main reason I wrote the book -- to provide an information resource for the communities that are confronted with the Patriot movement and its manifestations.) I periodically give talks like this before various civic groups where these problems arise, and the Flathead Valley is a special place. I naturally agreed.
Stokes of course heard about the Saturday event, and on the Friday before he reportedly urged his listeners to show up at the potluck with their guns, since that was what people like the organizers expected anyway. As it happened, though, he told them to go to the wrong park at a different time -- directing them, in fact, to a fundraising event for a couple of young children whose parents had recently died. There were no reports of people with guns showing up there, thankfully. And certainly none of them showed their faces at the park where we were holding the potluck, though the presence of all those police cruisers may have had something to do with that.
It was mostly an informal affair, and I am hardly a gifted (much less confident) public speaker, but it was a rewarding trip anyway, because of course I got to meet a lot of very interesting people. The gathering was filled with the kind of Westerners I have always been comfortable around, and their common-sense worldview is always refreshing.
It occurred to me, though, that what we were witnessing in the Flathead was something like what we saw eight years before, when the Patriot movement was first gathering steam in western Montana: A sort of testing the waters for a right-wing strategy that eventually would be taken to a larger national scale.
Eight years before, I had watched as a venomous attack on the government was promoted -- at literally every single militia meeting I ever attended -- primarily through a pathological hatred of President Clinton that focused on his supposed immoral nature; and among its target audience, it was a phenomenally successful strategy. I then watched as that same hatred was transmitted to the nation as a whole and culminated in the national travesty of his impeachment.
So I wondered if soon, apropos of the trend in the Flathead Valley, we would be seeing vitriolic hatred directed no longer at the president, nor even at the government per se, but at liberals generally, scapegoating them specifically for some great national malady. And I wondered if it would begin translating into threats and intimidation.
Well, unfortunately, we're starting to see some of this already manifesting itself in the fast-rising tide of jingoism surrounding the conservative movement's support for George W. Bush's war in Iraq. This means we are indeed entering some very dangerous waters that could sweep us into the dark currents of fascism.
We've been hearing for some time now, from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, that Americans who dissent from Bush's war strategy are being "treasonous," "pro-Saddam" and "anti-American," and from the likes of Andrew Sullivan and David Horowitz that liberals now represent a "fifth column" of potential traitors who would aid the enemy. Now, from the repulsive Michael Savage sector, we're also hearing that such dissenters are a threat and should be arrested. And finally, President Bush himself has intimated that opposition to his regime's war plans from neighboring nations can bring about unhappy repercussions for the citizens of dissenting nations, not from the U.S. government, but from "the people" -- a hint that has the distinct sound of loosing the dogs.
So far, grass-roots support of the pro-war faction is moderate at best, but it has grown steadily as talk-radio hosts have raised the hyperbole. The massive propagandizing of the right against liberals generally and antiwar elements specifically is an area where a number of disturbing trends are beginning to coalesce:
- -- The increasing tendency of extremist memes to appear in mainstream discourse as an acceptable version of conservative thinking, propelled especially by the now-apparent bias among most national media outlets favoring conservative propaganda.
-- Bush's purposeful projection of religious motivations for his war effort, with overt suggestions that his decisions are divinely guided.
-- The extremist right's growing identification with Bush, and their apparent willingness to use thuggish tactics of intimidation on his behalf.
-- Likewise, the Bush regime's increasingly apparent willingness to make use of such factions for their own political ends.
-- The rising demonization of antiwar liberals, complete with vicious eliminationist rhetoric.
-- The constant framing of the war in jingoistic "national renewal" sentiments, both in political and religious terms.
-- The dislocation caused by the flailing economy and terrorism fears, both of which raise the conditions under which people become willing to turn to totalitarianism.
These rivulets have been coalescing in a campaign directed against antiwar liberals, and creating a powerful undercurrent that hasn't yet broken through the surface. What hasn't happened yet is that the thuggishness has not directed itself on any kind of large scale at all (there have only been a few isolated incidents); neither has the Bush regime made any kind of open signal that such activities are viewed approvingly.
If they do signal such an alliance, however, then I am convinced that the nation is in serious danger of submerging under a tide of genuine fascism. And as I've been arguing all along, it won't be a fascism we can easily recognize. It won't be German-style or Italian-style; rather, it will be uniquely American -- probably, if history is any guide, one with a veneer of Christian fundamentalism, but underneath, one predicated on a coalescence of corporatist power with proto-fascist thuggery.
That said, even though the danger is clear, it's important to understand that we are not there yet. More to the point, we can stop this slide. We only need to be aware that it is occurring.
My advice would be nearly identical to that which I give those little community groups like the one in Kalispell: Stand up for democracy. Don't threaten and don't cajole. And don't back down.
Most people -- conservatives especially, who view analyses like mine as merely an attempt to smear Republicans -- are in denial about these trends. Even in Kalispell, there was resistance from many in the business community that even addressing the problem just gave the extremists free publicity -- ignoring, of course, the reality that trying to pretend them away just gives them a free ride. (Sure enough, there was no reportage on the Not In Our Town event from any of the local papers.)
I have been down that path myself. When I was the editor of the little daily paper in Sandpoint, Idaho, back in 1978-79, we made a conscious decision not to cover the activities that were taking place at that little nook in the woods 30 miles south of us called the Aryan Nations, believing that giving them any publicity would just help legitimize them. Five years later -- after a campaign of anti-minority harassment and general intimidation finally culminated in a series of bank robberies and murders by a gang of locals who called themselves The Order -- the paper's policy had wisely changed.
From my experience and that of nearly every community that has had to deal with right-wing extremism, the notion that paying attention to it -- covering both the leaders and the followers in the press, responding to them publicly -- only publicizes their kookery is a gross mistake. Remaining silent and refusing to stand up to them is not an adequate response. They mistake the silence for complicity, for tacit approval.
This is equally true of the shape-shifting "transmitters" who take extremist memes and inject them into the national discourse, often under the guise of providing "fiery" rhetoric. When the public starts calling them on the sources of their ideas, and exposing them for the coddlers of hate-mongers, extremists and terrorists that they are, then they inevitably scurry back and hide under the rocks whence they crawled out. This is already starting to happen with Michael Savage; it needs to begin happening with Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan and the rest.
Like all bullies, they prove cowards in a real fight. It's time for the rest of America to start fighting.
Next: Waiting for Godwin
From Paula Zahn's interview with Al Franken last night on CNN:
- ZAHN: Final question to you: is there any conservative you can name tonight that you like?
FRANKEN: David Brooks. I think he's great.
ZAHN: But some people would perceive him as making a little change along the way in his viewpoint.
Um, Paula? David Brooks is a reasonably smart conservative who is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and who has never changed his basic political worldview, as far as anyone knows.
Perhaps you're thinking of David Brock?
"If it ain't true, it oughta be!"
Monday, August 25, 2003
The Spawn of Lucianne joins in the "Bush hate is worse than Clinton hate" brigade with a freshly laid column that regurgitates Byron York's factually false tripe with a fresh topping of his own phony facts:
- It's odd since not long ago "Clinton-hatred" was a national epidemic. The New York Times, Washington Post, Time magazine and others devoted dozens, if not hundreds, of articles to "Clintonophobia" and other maladies stemming from "right-wing paranoia" and "irrational Clinton hatred."
Oh really? "Dozens if not hundreds" of these stories? Well, let's check.
A quick Google of "Clintonophobia" reveals exactly 72 hits for the word. Exactly one of these comes from a mainstream-media outlet, namely, the 1994 Time story that seems to still have their shorts in a bunch.
A search of the New York Times and Washington Post archives reveals exactly 0 hits for the word.
OoooooK, how about "right-wing paranoia"? A search of the New York Times archives reveals 0 hits. The Washington Post archive offers six hits -- nearly all of them about Russia civil war with Chechnya. None of them are on the topic of "Clinton hate."
A Google search of "right-wing paranoia" reveals 471 hits. None of them are from any of the three media outlets Goldberg mentions. In fact, none of them could be said to be from any kind of mainstream media. The most common appearance of the phrase was in NewsMax.
OK, how about "Irrational Clinton hatred"? New York Times: 0 hits. Washington Post: 0 hits. Google: Exactly 3 hits. One of them was Jonah's column.
OK, well let's just try plain old "Clinton hatred." New York Times, one hit: A Nov. 2001 story by Elizabeth Becker titled "A Nation Challenged: Hearts and Minds -- A special report.; In the War on Terrorism, A Battle to Shape Opinion". "Clinton hatred" is only mentioned in passing. Washington Post: Three hits, one of them a 2000 E.J. Dionne column discussing the degraded state of the national discourse; a 2000 profile of Hillary Clinton; and a 2003 profile of Sidney Blumenthal.
On Google, there were 307 hits. Again, none of them are for any of the three outlets Goldberg mentions. And again, none of them could be said to link to major mainstream media. Well, there is a Salon hit: Andrew Sullivan's attack on Clinton for 9/11 in which he whines about being labeled thus.
So, Jonah, dude ... About those counting skills.
Try exactly two. And one is a column, not a story.
But then, facts never did get in the way of a good story for good, dedicated true-to-their-school conservatives. It reminds me of a letter writer's response to my pointing out to him an anecdote about Clinton in a letter he sent us was false: "Well, hell, if it ain't true, it oughta be!"
[P.S. If anyone would care to Lexis/Nexis these phrases, please let me know and I'll be delighted to run the results.]
If Iraq, why not China?
The next time a conservative justifies the invasion of Iraq to you by pointing to the atrocities Saddam Hussein committed against his own people, or the oppression he practiced, or his military incursions against his neighbors, or the (now evidently phantom) weapons of mass destruction Iraq supposedly possessed, ask them:
Well, then, what about China?
My friend Tenzin Choegyal (who I now find out is the nephew of the Dalai Lama) (!) mentioned this the other day in an interview in the Seattle P-I:
- Tibet is illegally occupied by China. ... Yes, people agree it should be free. (While the United States had oil interests in liberating Kuwait in the first Gulf War), Tibet does not have something to offer. Kuwait was a factor in the heartbeat of America. But Tibet can never be that. No country has the moral courage to pick up Tibet's issue because they have so much interest in China.
Let's consider our criteria for invading a nation, at least under the precedent established in Iraq, and see how China fares:
-- Weapons of mass destruction? Check.
-- Tortures and brutalizes its own people? Check.
-- Oppresses its populace through police-state tactics and military force? Check.
-- Invades its neighbors and is a regional military threat? Check, check, check.
-- Has engaged in military confrontations with American forces? Check.
There are two substantial differences: A) China is a major American trading partner, and B) China has climbed aboard the "war on terrorism" bandwagon, nor is there any evidence of it trading with terrorists -- though its nuclear deal with Pakistan remains a significant source of concern. (Befitting China's established style of governance, it has turned the "war on terror" into a campaign of oppression against its Muslim minorities.)
Oh, and one other difference: an invasion of China would be militarily inconceivable.
The point of this exercise, of course, is not to actually argue for war with China. Rather, it's to point out the utter shallowness of the case being presented for our invasion of Iraq.
If we're going to be invading nations because they're a regional problem, and they have weapons that threaten us, and they oppress and torture and visit all kinds of horrors on their own people, then we have a big job ahead of us.
Point your friends who argue this way to the Amnesty International Web site and start making a list of such nations, because it is a fairly long one. Indeed, any number of the nations that fit this criteria are allies of ours. (You might even suggest to these friends that donating to Amnesty would be a good way of following through on their newfound concern for global political oppression.)
Because if the war with Iraq was all about fighting oppressive and troublesome dictatorships, and freeing oppressed peoples, then we need to be consistent about that. We need to be ready to attack oppression wherever it arises, and regardless of our level of commercial or political self-interest.
I'm all for attacking oppression. But the Iraq invasion, and its bollixed aftermath, and the comparative realities of a Chinese war, stand as stark examples of why military action should be our absolute last resort -- not our first.
And China, meanwhile, stands as a stark example of our national hypocrisy in rooting it out.
[Jesse at Pandagon points out that he posted the same point a few days ago. I read Jesse all the time, but honestly, I missed that one. In any case, give him due credit.]
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism
[Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, and XII. See my explanatory note.]
XIII: Fascism and Fundamentalism
Over the past two decades, the most important meeting ground for the broad range of rightist beliefs has been in the field of fundamentalist Christianity. Extremists frequently organize around an arcane brand of fundamentalism like Identity; mainstream conservatism has become increasingly identified with mainstream fundamentalism; and even ostensibly secular conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and George W. Bush pay great obeisance both to its belief system and its political agenda.
When mainstream conservatives, religious ideologues and far-right extremists coalesce, it has consequences. The former has real-world power; the latter have agendas. To the extent that connections are made, the more likely those agendas are to actually be enacted. It becomes especially problematic as extremist elements exert an increasing influence on the broader fundamentalist sector, because this means their influence is extending into mainstream conservatism.
A sort of reciprocal danger arises when someone like George W. Bush makes overt political appeals to the fundamentalist views of his followers -- particularly in portraying himself as receiving divine guidance. This gives him not only a kind of immunity from fault, giving his every step the Lord's imprimatur, but places him in a charismatic position of dual political and religious leadership. It has the effect of leading individual followers to identify their religious beliefs with Bush's political agenda. It also draws the entire fundamentalist bloc behind him politically. This includes the proto-fascist element, whose impact, as we've seen, can far outweigh their numbers. The more we hear talk about Bush leading a national political and religious rebirth, the more we approach the conditions needed for a genuine fascism to arise.
The Manichean dualism -- the cut-and-dried black-and-white worldview -- that is the essence of the totalist mindset is especially evident among fundamentalists. This has the potential to make them, in many ways, ideal footsoldiers for a kind of Christo-fascism, one which backs theocratic impulses and right-wing extremism with actual political power. In the wake of a severe social disturbance like Sept. 11, this kind of dualism's appeal is potent.
I'd earlier discussed totalism as an essential component of the individual mentality underlying right-wing extremism, drawing on the essay "Religious Totalism, Violence and Exemplary Dualism: Beyond the Extrinsic Model," by Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins, which can be found in the collection Millennialism and Violence (1995), edited by Michael Barkun of Syracuse. But as they explain, the underlying worldview has a much broader audience in the field of mainstream fundamentalism and so-called cults:
- Nine characteristics which appear to us to be shared by authoritarian personalities, fundamentalists and authoritarian cults such as Hare Krishna, the Unification Church, etc.:
(1) Separatism or the heightened sensitivity and tension regarding group boundaries. This usually includes 'Authoritarian Aggression' which entails rejecting and punitive attitudes toward deviants, minorities and outsiders.
(2) Theocratic leanings or willingness to see the state expanded so as to enforce the group's particular moral and ideological preferences at the expense of pluralism or church-state separation.
(3) Authoritarian submission entailing dependency on strong leaders and deferential attitudes toward authorities and hierarchical superiors.
(4) Some form of conventionalism in terms of both belief and practice. Apparent exceptions such as antinomian groups, for example, the Bhagwan movement of Rajneesh or the quasi-Marxist Peoples Temple of Jim Jones …
(6) Evangelism or a focus on proselytization and conversion.
(7) Coercive tendencies in terms of either punitive reactions toward internal dissidence and non-conformity (for example, exile from fellowship, shunning, harsh 'self-criticism,' confessional sessions) or willingness to have non-conformists suppressed or discouraged by the state.
(8) Consequentialism or a tendency to see moral or ideological virtue producing tangible rewards to believers. This may entail belief in a 'just world' in which the good are tangibly rewarded and the wicked undone on the human plane.
(9) Finally, groups whose members tend to score high in authoritarianism or dogmatism tend to have strong beliefs and tend to make doctrinal acceptance a membership criterion. As with 'Moonies' studied by Galanter (among whom strong belief was correlated with feelings of group solidarity and the 'relief effect'), authoritarians and fundamentalists appear to have a strong 'investment' in their beliefs.
Much of Anthony's and Robbins' work builds upon the work of sociologist Robert Lifton and his colleague Charles Strozier, whom they cite extensively:
- Both writers have explicitly linked totalism and fundamentalism. Interestingly, they tend to define fundamentalism in terms very close to descriptions of authoritarianism: for example, fundamentalist childrearing practices -- allegedly strict, repressive, corporally punitive and guilt-inducing -- resemble the familial milieux associated with authoritarian personalities. The emphasis by Lifton and Strozier on fundamentalist scriptural literalism, textual fetishism, obsession with disorder, nostalgia for a strongly ordered golden age less chaotic than the present, and emphasis on restoration keyed to inerrant scriptural texts, appears to evoke classic descriptions of authoritarian personalities.
Of course, it's worth noting that Anthony and Robbins consider the Lifton/Strozier formulation overbroad, and suggest some limits to the connection between totalism and fundamentalism. Nonetheless, the broader connection is otherwise fairly clear.
In the American context, this is significant because experts on fascism, which explicitly relies upon a totalist mindset among its following, have likewise identified religiosity as an important element of any kind of manifestation of it here. Earlier I cited Robert O. Paxton's "The Five Stages of Fascism":
- …[E]ach national variant of fascism draws its legitimacy ... not from some universal scripture but from what it considers the most authentic elements of its own community identity. Religion, for example, would certainly play a much larger role in an authentic fascism in the United States than in the first European fascisms, which were pagan for contingent historical reasons.
While Paxton concludes this mainly by surveying what passes for the "authentic" American experience, there is a historical context that fully substantiates his hypothesis. Earlier forms of fascism in America -- particularly the extremists who formed small but widespread societies built around neo-Nazi philosophies and admiration for Hitler, most notably the Silver Shirts, who were led by the crypto-fascist mystical "philosopher" William Dudley Pelley -- were explicitly "Christian" in nature.
Pelley's legions earned their name by wearing silver uniforms modeled after Hitler's brownshirts and marching through the streets on various occasions. Despite the theater (or perhaps because of it), Pelley drew large numbers of former Klansmen and other white supremacists, particularly those attracted to his anti-Semitic rantings (which included the infamous "Franklin Prophecy" hoax, whose legacy is still with us). Pelley's support was broad enough that he ran for President in 1936, though he only garnered a tiny portion of the vote. Nonetheless, he maintained some impetus through the later 1930s, especially in working-class and rural districts. A Life Magazine spread depicted a gathering of Silver Shirts in Chehalis, Washington, at a local home. The audience and the activity of the meeting resembled nothing so little as a militia meeting in the 1990s.
Karen E. Hoppes, a graduate student at Western Oregon State College, wrote extensively about Pelley in the 1980s, notably her Master's thesis, "An Investigation of the Nazi-Fascist Spectrum in the Pacific Northwest: 1924-1941." Hoppes of course addressed the Christian fundamentalism that was a significant feature of Pelley's "philosophy":
- Finally, the link with fundamental Christianity establishes the uniqueness of American fascism. The majority of fascist groups justified their existence by their desire to change the United States into a Christian society. ... The relationship between the religious identity of these groups and their political demands can be shown by a careful survey of their rhetoric. The Christian fascist does not distinguish between the application of the terms anti-Christ, Jew and Communist. Neither does he distinguish between Gentile and Christian.
Hoppes particularly notes Pelley’s sermons arguing that "Christians of the United States must put the issue of conniving Jewry above all other issues and treat with it drastically. This means a pogrom ... of colossal proportions." Observes Hoppes:
- For the Christian fascist, this up-and-coming war against the Jew would result in the founding of a new moral community -- a Christian America. This community would tie itself to Christian ethics and Christian structure, as interpreted by these Christian fascists. Thus, the link with Christianity provided a unifying element for the membership in American fascist organizations. Members not only prayed with their comrades, but fought the "Christian" battle against the anti-Christ Jew. This gave them a surpassing sense of righteousness. Most of the membership came from the evangelical styled churches, with each Christian fascist group claiming to be under the umbrella of Christian thought and action.
This uniquely American Christo-fascism was not short-lived, even though Pelley was convicted (on dubious grounds) of sedition in 1942, and by the time he emerged from prison in 1950, his Silver Shirts movement had been long since abandoned and dismantled. However, some of his associates kept the flame alive. The most notable of these was Gerald L.K. Smith, who went on to play a central role in taking over the Christian Identity movement in the 1930s and '40s and remaking it into the proudly racist religion it is today. Likewise, the Posse Comitatus movement -- which in turn spawned the Patriot/militia movement of the 1990s -- had its ideological origins in "Christian fascism"; one of its founders, Mike Beach, was a former Silver Shirt.
Through most of the intervening years, these extremists were relegated entirely to the fringe. It was easy to distinguish between mainstream conservatives and the participants in the Identity and Posse movements, and only at the edges of both sectors (see, for example, the colorful career of former Rep. George Hansen, R-Idaho) was there much exchange of ideas and agendas. Likewise, there was a tremendous gulf between mainstream Christianity, even the fundamentalist variety, and the Christian fascists.
That began to change in the 1990s, thanks to the confluence of two forces: the emergence of the Patriot movement and the growing revolutionary fervor of conservatives in their drive to dominate the halls of power. The proto-fascist Patriots represented the efforts of Christian fascism to mainstream itself, and their relative success, though fleeting, gave a surprising indication of the presence of a totalist mindset in America, particularly among conservative fundamentalists. Conservatives, looking to broaden their appeal and undercut mainstream liberalism, began adopting more ideas and memes that had their origins in the Patriot movement, thereby blurring the barriers that had once clearly delineated the mainstream and extremist right.
Fundamentalism was particularly ripe territory for this, especially since so many of the issues that attract both mainstream conservatives and extremists -- abortion, education, gay rights, taxes -- revolve significantly around organizing by conservative Christians. And as we have seen, fundamentalism is particularly hospitable anyway to a totalist worldview. In this kind of crucible, the barriers all but dissolved. The trend has continued into this decade, even as the former footsoldiers of the Patriot movement have returned to the GOP fold, which has further blurred the lines.
It became apparent, for instance, after the recent arrest of right-wing terrorist Eric Rudolph, the man who bombed the Atlanta Olympics as well as a string of abortion clinics and gay bars in the 1990s. A story in the New York Times pondered whether Rudolph should properly be called a "Christian terrorist." It included an interview with one of Rudolph's local sympathizers:
- "He's a Christian and I'm a Christian and he dedicated his life to fighting abortion," said Mrs. Davis, 25, mother of four. "Those are our values. And I don't see what he did as a terrorist act."
Both Mrs. Davis and the reporter's basic question eliminated the distinction between Identity and Christianity -- something that has become increasingly easy to do as Identity rhetoric attunes itself to the mainstream, and conservatism itself becomes increasingly bellicose and intolerant. These lines blurred even further as other media reports picked up the "Christian terrorist" idea and played with it.
The more Identity and similar extremist beliefs are identified with fundamentalist Christianity, the greater becomes their ability to influence the agenda of mainstream conservatism. This is why maintaining the delineation is important in terms of containing the forces of fascism that are abroad today.
This point was suggested in a Washington Post piece ("Is Terrorism Tied to Christian Sect"? by Alan Cooperman, June 23) that tackled the same question:
- Another expert on such groups, Idaho State University sociology professor James A. Aho, said he is reluctant to use the phrase "Christian terrorist," because it is "sort of an oxymoron."
"I would prefer to say that Rudolph is a religiously inspired terrorist, because most mainstream Christians consider Christian Identity to be a heresy," Aho said. If Christians take umbrage at the juxtaposition of the words "Christian" and "terrorist," he added, "that may give them some idea of how Muslims feel" when they constantly hear the term "Islamic terrorism," especially since the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Religiously inspired terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon, and every major world religion has people who have appropriated the label of their religion in order to legitimize their violence," Aho said.
Uniformly, those who do this name-claiming are in fact radical fundamentalists. Indeed, it is plain now that Democratic societies around the world are up against all the many faces of such extremists. Fundamentalism is, after all, an explicitly anti-modern movement. Religious scholars such as Karen Armstrong in her excellent The Battle for God: A History of Fundamentalism, like to point out that the movement arose specifically as a reaction to modernism, or more specifically, as a reaction against the many failures of modern society.
Both Islamic and Christian fundamentalism have been gaining considerable momentum over the past generation, but the ascendance of the radical segment which all fundamentalist movements host has become much more pronounced in Islam. These are popularly referred to as the "Islamofascists," the factions that would weld a Muslim theocratic worldview to state and corporate power around the world.
But as Rudolph and others (like Tim McVeigh) illustrate, the Christo-fascists are equally eager to bring down democratic society and replace it with theocratic authoritarianism. And while they trail the Islamofascists in influence, their impact on American society has been substantial, if unnoticed by the media.
Annually, right-wing extremists within our borders are responsible for a sizeable number of crimes. These range, as Mark Pitcavage of the ADL points out, from "bombings and bombing plots to assassination plots and murders to weapons and explosives violations to hate crimes to massive frauds and scams (amounting in some cases in the hundreds of millions of dollars) to the myriad of lesser crimes." Even if you totaled up several years' worth of criminal activity related to Islamic extremism, it would fail to come close to the levels produced by our own homegrown terrorists.
It's important to recall, too, that the still-unsolved anthrax attacks of October-November 2001 may well have been the work of a right-wing extremist -- perhaps not someone with any organizational connection, perhaps even an idiosyncratic type, but nonetheless with largely right-wing beliefs.
Indeed, leaders of extremist factions have been fairly explicit in advocating "piggyback" terrorism that seeks to increase the levels of chaos in conjunction with international terrorism -- creating an echo effect that exponentially enhances the psychological damage inflicted by a Sept. 11-type event. Consider, for instance, a couple of post-Sept. 11 (and post-anthrax attacks) remarks by William Pierce, the late leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
From a radio address: "Things are a bit brittle now. A few dozen more anthrax cases, another truck bomb in a well chosen location, and substantial changes could take place in a hurry: a stock market panic, martial law measures by the Bush government, and a sharpening of the debate as to how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place."
On his Web site, Pierce declared that "terrorism is not the problem," adding that the current threat is "the price for letting ourselves, our nation, be used by an alien minority to advance their own interests at the expense of ours" -- meaning, of course, Jews.
And when you consider that right-wing extremists have in fact been arrested for the anthrax hoax letters sent to abortion clinics in the same time period -- a clear-cut case of "piggybacking" -- I think it becomes clear that these extremists have not only the means but probably also the clear intention of amplifying any kind of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Al Qaeda. For that reason alone, they remain a very serious threat indeed.
It is also important to keep in mind exactly what the long-term strategy of the extremist right is: To undermine the existing government and democratic institutions to as great a degree as possible by creating as much social chaos as possible. Terrorism is central to this strategy, because through terrorist acts like Oklahoma City, they intend to make the public come to believe that their government can no longer keep them safe. They then intend to present themselves as the "strong" alternative that will make us secure again -- and although swelling their own ranks is key to this strategy, they do not worry about such niceties as seizing power by democratic means.
It boils down to this: The War on Terror, if it is to take on all forms of terrorism that genuinely threaten both American lives and our democratic institutions, is not a war against Islam. It is not even necessarily a war against fundamentalism. Rather, it is against the religious fascism that has embedded itself within the broader fundamentalist sectors of both Christian and Muslim societies.
Call it fascimentalism: a political movement that claims to represent a Phoenix-like resurrection of a true national spiritual identity, focused on building a theocratic state that receives its imprimatur from God, ultimately adopting a rule based on scriptural inerrancy, and intent on dominating and imposing its will upon the rest of the world.
In the Islamic world, this movement has manifested itself in the growth of Al Qaeda and the ascendance of such radicals as Abdullah Azzam and Omar Abdul Rahman as major influences in Islamism, as well as the entrenchment of Wahabbism as the chief political power in such states as Saudi Arabia. The consequences of this trend have become obvious to all the world since Sept. 11.
In the Christian world, the trend is much less pronounced but still present. It exists in the increasing identification of mainstream fundamentalism with its more radical components, particularly the anti-abortion and anti-gay rights extremists. It is latent in the openly theocratic approach to governance propounded by Christian Reconstructionists and conservative moralists like Antonin Scalia.
And it has gained a popular voice in the violently eliminationist rhetoric increasingly aimed at liberals, particularly those opposed to President Bush's war policies, much of it inflamed by conservative propagandists on talk radio like Rush Limbaugh. This kind of inchoate rage has always needed someone to scapegoat. This time around, it's liberals.
Next: The War on Liberals
Behind the tablets
Here's an interesting and amusing report from Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is located in Montgomery, Alabama, site of this week's excitement over the Ten Commandments:
- Just in case anyone's wondering about extremist content in re the 10 Commandments brouhaha in Montgomery:
Last Saturday, the rally for the 10 Commandments included as speakers Howard Phillips of the Constitution Party (formerly USTP), along with Jerry Falwell and Alan Keyes and a number of lesser lights. The crowd was about 50 percent neo-Confederate, with flags and such, even though organizers were supposedly turning Confederate flags away. The crowd was working class and overwhelmingly white -- a careful count by me concluded that out of a maximum 2,000 present (it may have been closer to 1,500), there were at most 20 black faces.
A funny moment came when a clueless Falwell invoked Martin Luther King, saying that Roy Moore was just like King. The entire crowd skipped a beat ... silence ... and then the most tepid applause you ever heard.
Later, Falwell compounded the error by referring to America as a land of immigrants, and actually quoted Emma Lazarus. This time, the crowd's answer was deafening silence.
Ha ha ha ha ha. You'd think by now Falwell would remember who his audience is.
- Meanwhile, in the crowd was our good friend Neal Horsley, along with his scary sidekick, Jonathan Toole. The First Freedom, Olaf Childress' patently racist (and now anti-Semitic, complete with references to the "Jew World Order") and neo-Confederate paper, was being handed out, along with a variety of radical anti-abortion tracts and even several pieces of literature attacking Catholics ("papists," etc.).
One guy had a sign that read, "The 10 Commandments or..." then, on the other side, "The 10 Planks of the Communist Manifesto." Now, there's a choice!
Overall, the whole thing has had the flavor of a New Yorker cartoon, the classic depicting a guy with a long white beard and a sign screaming "REPENT!" Lots of sackcloths and ashes, etc. Trucks with giant photos of aborted fetuses, another one painted all over with Irwin Schiff anti-tax propaganda.
Of course, the chief extremist in all of this is Roy Moore.
FYI, I would say that public opinion in Alabama (yes, Alabama) is running against Moore. You can see this in the TV coverage, the letters to the editor page, the people you hear on the street. Moore is seen as incredibly arrogant (moving the thing in in the middle of the night, etc.) and not particularly charismatic. God willing (so to speak), he has no chance to be our next governor, which is the real underlying program here. There have been a lot of arrests (30-plus), but they seem to all be of professional arrestees (that is, anti-abortion activists, most from out of state, who make a practice of getting arrested as a routine political matter.)
Mark also informs me that Hutton Gibson was in the crowd. I also gather that Flip Benham of "Operation Rescue" notoriety has been hanging out in Montgomery. Among the other extremist participants:
-- W.N. Otwell, who leads camouflage-garbed protesters at abortion clinics and who has protested "race-mixing," calling America a "white man's country."
-- Greg Dixon, the leader of the extremist Indianapolis Baptist Temple.
-- Michael Hill, president of the neo-Confederate (and definitively racist, not to mention openly secessionist) League of the South.
-- John Cripps, a noted neo-Confederate.
I wonder how many supposedly "mainstream" Christians are embracing these people's quest?