Spyhopping the Right.
David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. He is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000. His freelance work can be found at Salon.com, the Washington Post, MSNBC and various other publications. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara Robinson has worked as an editor or columnist for several national magazines, on beats as varied as sports, travel, and the Olympics; and has contributed to over 80 computer games for EA, Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other companies. A native of California's High Sierra, she spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver, BC in 2004. Her lifelong interest in the social effects of authoritarianism have most recently led her to pursue the MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. She's also a student member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and member of the Accelerated Studies Foundation advisory board on social and cultural issues. For fun, she raises kids and travels. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Sara's recent series:
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Intro: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
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"The Rise of Pseudo Fascism": An essay
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Original posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.
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Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
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[In HTML: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV. See explanatory note.]
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Orcinus Principium No. 1
Orcinus Principium No. 2
Saturday, January 22, 2005
So the Washington Times' Tony Blankley thinks Seymour Hersh should be investigated for espionage for revealing that the Bush administration has been conducting secret military missions inside of Iran:
- 18 United States Code section 794, subsection (b) prohibits anyone "in time of war, with intent that the same shall be communicated to the enemy [from publishing] any information with respect to the movement, numbers, or disposition of any of the Armed Forces ... of the United States... or supposed plans or conduct of any ... military operations ... or any other information relating to the public defense, which might be useful to the enemy ... [this crime is punishable] by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life."
Subsection (a) of that statute prohibits anyone "with ... reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates ... to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any information relating to the national defense, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life."
I am not an expert on these federal code sections, but a common-sense reading of their language would suggest, at the least, that federal prosecutors should review the information disclosed by Mr. Hersh to determine whether or not his conduct falls within the proscribed conduct of the statute.
Well, if anyone should know about irresponsibly publishing information that can be used by the enemy in a way that directly harms national security interests, it's the Washington Times.
Recall, if you will, that it was the Washington Times that, back in the fall of 1998, published a little tidbit of information that let Osama bin Laden slip through our grasp.
I've mentioned this a couple of times before, most recently here. As I wrote then, this information appears in Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon's The Age of Sacred Terror:
According to Benjamin and Simon, the turning point when al-Qaeda became America's greatest enemy was not on Sept. 11, 2001, but rather on Aug. 20, 1998 -- the day President Clinton launched missile strikes against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda operations in Afghanistan and the Sudan, the latter being a pharmaceutical plant at al-Shifa that was being used to develop chemical weapons. First, there's this, on pp. 260-261:
- For a brief moment, the operation appeared to be a qualified success. Al-Shifa was destroyed. Six terrorist camps were hit and about sixty people were killed, many of them Pakistani militants training for action in Kashmir. The Tomahawks missed bin Laden and the other senior al-Qaeda leaders by a couple of hours. This in itself was not a great surprise: no one involved has any illusions about the chances of hitting the target at exactly the right time. The White House recognized that the strike would not stop any attacks that were in the pipeline, but it might forestall the initiation of new operations as the organization's leaders went to ground.
The months that followed, however, were a nightmare. The press picked apart the administration's case for striking al-Shifa, and controversy erupted over whether Clinton was trying to "wag the dog," that is, distract the public from the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The Washington Times -- the capital's unabashed right-wing newspaper, which consistently has the best sources in the intelligence world and the least compunction about leaking -- ran a story mentioning that bin Laden "keeps in touch with the world via computers and satellite phones." Bin Laden stopped using the satellite phone instantly. The al-Qaeda leader was not eager to court the fate of Djokar Dudayev, the Chechen insurgent leader who was killed by a Russian air defense suppression missile that homed in on its target using his satellite phone signal. When bin Laden stopped using the phone and let his aides do the calling, the United States lost its best chance to find him.
Now, I'm not an expert on U.S. Code 18, section 794, either. But it certainly strike me that this behavior also fully constitutes disclosing in a way that it can be read by the enemy "supposed plans or conduct of any ... military operations ... or any other information relating to the public defense, which might be useful to the enemy." Call me old-fashioned, but it sounds like treason to me.
For that matter, where was Tony Blankley when it came to the outing of Valerie Plame as an overseas CIA operative by Robert Novak, acting as a conduit for yet-unknown figures inside the White House? Oh, that's right: back in September 2003, he was busy minimizing it, and predicting the scandal would produce a media feeding frenzy that would blow it completely beyond any proportion:
- The second rule is to not underestimate how heinous the media and the public will come to regard small, seemingly insignificant, perfectly justifiable facts. Trivial actions or non-actions by good and decent friends and co-workers will take on the proportions of mortal sins. It will seem ludicrously disproportionate to the conduct in question. But it will happen that way. It always does. Read the memoirs. Talk to the old hands.
The search dogs will find not only the fox for which they are hunting, but other assorted game, which will be publicly presented before the dogs have gone to kennel for the night. In other words, the investigative process will stumble on other embarrassing facts and leak it to the press. Count on it.
Good thing we didn't count on it, because those dogs look like they're still sleeping on the porch. Certainly John Kerry never awoke them. But those noted liberal rags, the Washington Post and the New York Times, have hardly uttered a peep about the case since it first erupted.
Of course, that deeply nursed persecution complex that comes with the conservative brain package these days is part of Blankley's complaint against Sy Hersh, too:
- The Washington political class is suffering from a bad case of creeping normalcy. We are getting ever more used to ever more egregious government leaks of military secrets.
Gosh, I wonder why.
The meaning of SpongeBob
Sometimes the religious right caricatures itself in a way that you can't help but laugh a little. Like the earlier claim by Jerry Falwell that Tinky Winky was a Trojan horse, so to speak, for homosexual behavior, the recent brouhaha over SpongeBob Squarepants raised by James Dobson of Focus on the Family seems pretty laughable on its face.
Unfortunately, there's a deadly serious undercurrent to it that no one seems to be noticing.
Maybe that's because Dobson's remarks are being largely played as similar to Falwell's -- an attack on SpongeBob for allegedly engaging in gay behaviors. (Well, there is that hand-holding thing with Patrick, after all.)
But that's not what Dobson said, or continues to say. What he's saying is actually a real cause for concern.
Check out the original remarks:
- Addressing members of Congress at the "Values Victory Dinner" in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night, Dobson asked the power brokers, "Does anybody here know SpongeBob?"
Dobson went onto decry a toon-town remake of the 1979 Sister Sledge disco hit, "We Are Family," in which the frolicsome Bikini Bottom dweller appears alongside Barney, Big Bird, Clifford and other fictional stars of children's TV.
The music video, produced by the non-profit We Are Family Foundation, is to be distributed on DVD to 61,000 public and private elementary schools on March 11. Its stated aim is to promote diversity; its stated agenda is to have future March 11s declared National We Are Family Day.
But according to the New York Times' accounting of Dobson's remarks, what's unsaid is that the "We Are Family" project is a "pro-homosexual video."
Dobson based his charge on a "tolerance pledge" found on the We Are Family Foundation Website. The two-paragraph statement seeks "respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own."
"...Their inclusion of the reference to 'sexual identity' within their 'tolerance pledge' is not only unnecessary, but it crosses a moral line," a statement from Focus on the Family says.
Over at Focus on the Family's Website, this argument is made clearer:
- Dr. Dobson is concerned that these popular animated personalities are being exploited by an organization that's determined to promote the acceptance of homosexuality among our nation's youth.
It's hard to say exactly which organization he's talking about. If you go over to the We Are Family Foundation -- the immediate object of Dobson's wrath -- it's pretty hard to find anything that even remotely mentions homosexuality. Moreover, if you click on the link to the "Tolerance Pledge" that Dobson says is the source of his allegation, you'll see that the pledge is actually the product of Tolerance.org, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In other words, Dobson appears to be attacking the SPLC by proxy. That should give people a little clearer picture of what we're really talking about here. Dobson isn't just condemning cartoon characters, he's attacking the basic concept of secular tolerance as a democratic cornerstone. That is, he's actively promoting the tolerance of intolerance. There's a simpler word for that: hate.
The form of the argument Dobson and his cohort are making is made clearer in an excellent piece by Bill Berkowitz in Working for Change examining the "SpongeBob controversy":
- Lurking beneath an attempt to celebrate diversity amongst young children, Vitagliano has spotted something nefarious: "A short step beneath the surface reveals that one of the differences being celebrated is homosexuality," he writes.
"The [WAFF] website is filled with pro-homosexual materials," Vitagliano charges. "A 'Tolerance Pledge,' for example, created by Tolerance.org, part of the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center, encourages signees to pledge respect for homosexuals and work against 'ignorance, insensitivity and bigotry.'"
Perhaps we should take a step back here. Anyone familiar with the SPLC's work is aware that it is not a specifically "leftist" organization. Its allies, as well as the people who depend upon its work, include not just civil-rights and minority organizations but business and law-enforcement groups, as well as a broad swath of religious interests. Clearly, it is opposed primarily to right-wing extremism; but it counts among its friends and supporters many genuine conservatives.
Moreover, what it combats is hate, in a very specific sense: that is, the violence and fear inflicted upon people who, for whatever reason, are victimized simply for who they are, as an act of terrorism intended to "send a message" of intimidation to all people like them.
We all know about the kinds of people the SPLC works against, because we've all known them since we were little kids ourselves: Bullies. And when they grow up, they become haters.
It's worth remembering that the work of the SPLC's Tolerance.org is aimed primarily at having an effect on people when they are young, before the attitudes that form the basis of so many hate crimes and acts of intolerance become embedded. Nearly the entirety of its work involves providing materials for enhancing curricula and school environments to produce people who are more inclined to tolerate (and indeed celebrate) differences. In many regards, this work is closely associated with the work to prevent school bullying, which should not be a controversial effort.
Indeed, most of its mission should be not only acceptable but embraced by any conservative concerned about the demise of traditional values in our schools, because it actively promotes some of the oldest of these: respect, fair play, fundamental human decency. It focuses on helping educators and communities foster these values among young people.
Fairly typical in this regard is the "Respect Policy" formulated by officials at Mariner High School up the road in Everett, cited by Tolerance.org as a model of its efforts:
- "Respect is the cornerstone of all our interactions and behaviors," it begins. "We acknowledge the dignity and worth of one another, and strive never to diminish another by our conduct or our attitudes."
What is happening here, though, is that for some people, "traditional values" are only about respect, fair play, and fundamental human decency for people who are just like themselves. To be fair, this is a "traditional value" of sorts as well, but over our nation's history, it has been responsible for many of our worst atrocities, from slavery to the genocide of Indians to the internment of Japanese Americans.
In this case, religious proscription of homosexuality (scriptural evidence for which is not, incidentally, nearly as abundant as those prohibitions regarding divorce) are being touted as the source of the "traditional values" under attack from the forces of tolerance. This is not terribly surprising. After all, the Scripture has in the past been cited as the source of such "traditional values" as slavery, lynching, and segregation, as well as laws against miscegenation.
In other words, the efforts of secular democratic society to promote its own best interests -- particularly equality of opportunity and participation, enabled by embracing diversity -- have run headlong into an age-old enemy: bigotry wearing the guise of religious belief and claiming the mantle of traditional values.
Of course, if there's anything a bigot hates, it's being identified as a bigot. (That's why the Scripture ruse is so popular.) Thus Donald Wildmon complains (in the Berkowitz piece):
- "Most Christians are now aware of what those code words mean," said AFA's chairman Don Wildmon. "If you are a person who accepts the homosexual lifestyle, then you are tolerant," he said. "If you don't, then you are a bigot who is motivated by ignorance and hate."
This is a revealing formulation of the argument, because it is identical in form to the complaints of others who use religious arguments to justify their desire to discriminate freely against members of a minority group. Wildmon's contention is not significantly different than that used by anti-Semites who use Scripture to explain why they hate Jews, or of Christian Identity believers who do likewise to rationalize their bigotry against blacks and other "mud people."
In essence, that argument comes down to the charge that the forces of tolerance are themselves being intolerant of people's legitimate religious beliefs. It is an old argument, made by the likes of Robert Miles and David Duke over the years. The question becomes: Should we tolerate intolerance?
Still, it deserves a fair answer, and there is a simple one: Tolerance and intolerance -- whatever its rationale -- are mutually incompatible. There is no reason why a society that embraces tolerance as an essential value would simultaneously embrace intolerance. Embracing one, by its nature, means rejecting the other.
Now, it's important to understand that tolerance, unlike James Dobson's misapprehension, does not connote promotion. That is, promoting a tolerance of gay and lesbian people no more promotes homosexuality than urging tolerance of blackness or Jews promotes blackness or Judaism. It merely creates the space where they are allowed to participate as full members of society.
That includes, of course, people whose religious beliefs oppose homosexuality, or Judaism, or for that matter nonwhiteness. They're permitted to believe as they see fit. No one is demanding that people's children make friends with gays, if that runs counter to their belief system. What advocates of tolerance insist upon is that their children not beat up on gays and their children, verbally or otherwise, nor actively discriminate against them, just as we insist on the same treatment for Jewish and black children. This shouldn't be too much to ask.
Of course, it's important to recognize and respect people's private religious beliefs. But when those beliefs run counter to the basic mutual respect that makes a democratic society function, then it's incumbent on that society to stand firm. There's no more reason for educators in our schools to "compromise" on tolerance for gays because of individual religious beliefs than for them to do so regarding tolerance for other minorities.
Otherwise, making an exception for one kind of intolerance -- to condone it, for example, in our schools -- simply opens the floodgates for all the other kinds of hatred that are out there making the same kinds of rationalizations. There is, after all, only the thinnest of veneers between one kind of hatred and another. If we go down that road, we begin heading for the morass.
This was driven home the other day on Michael Medved's afternoon talk show on our local right-wing talk shop, KTTH-AM. Medved was discussing the SpongeBob controversy, and defending Dobson (correctly) because much of the ensuing discussion micharacterized what Dobson actually said. However, it didn't seem to occur to Medved that what Dobson actually said was in truth far more troubling than the caricature of it -- that it was an attack not on SpongeBob but on the principles of tolerance and fair play.
That point was made, in a unintentional way, by one of his callers (from, evidently, the Seattle area). The caller accused Medved of not wanting to be upfront about what was really at work in the SpongeBob video -- namely, the secret conspiracy of Talmudic Judaism to destroy Christian America. The caller went on to cite a Portland anti-Semitic preacher named Rev. Ted Pike, whose work has earned plaudits from many other quarters of the white-supremacist universe. Pike's antipathy to hate-crime laws is noteworthy too, since it rests on arguments similar to those raised by Dobson in this case.
Medved dismissed the caller as a conspiracy theorist and moved on. Unfortunately but perhaps predictably, he did not pause to reflect on the similarity of the views of his caller -- whose beef was with Medved, who is Jewish (and thus part of the cover-up, you see), not Dobson -- and those of the people who are attacking Tolerance.org. Because those attacks are not solely against tolerance of gay people but tolerance as a principle.
When you justify one kind of intolerance on religious grounds, you open the field for a regular freak show of haters waiting in line to make the same claims. Medved's caller illustrated this reality rather neatly.
SpongeBob is just a caricature. For Dobson and Co., he's a handy symbol -- not of gays, but the mere concept of tolerating them. And when we no longer have to tolerate gays and lesbians on the basis of religious beliefs, it will only be another half-step before we no longer have to tolerate non-Christians on the basis of religious beliefs. Muslims or Jews: take your pick as to who will be first in line. I'd guess Muslims.
After that, well, there's a long list of People Who Are Not Just Like Us. And an even longer line of haters eager to cross them off.
A little emergency
Friday, January 21, 2005
My 3-year-old daughter Fiona had an appendicitis attack yesterday and had an appendectomy in the early evening. She's recovering well (it wasn't perforated).
I'll be spending most of my time in her hospital room over the next several days. I have no idea whether I'll be able to post, but it may not be easy. So I'll have to ask for everyone's forbearance.
UPDATE: We brought her home this evening [Friday]. She's recovered extremely well, and may even be back in school on Monday. She was their "model patient" on the surgery ward. We're relieved and happy beyond words to have her back home. We'll be spending a quiet weekend at home, so maybe I will get some writing done after all.
Thanks to everyone for your kind thoughts and wishes.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Speaking of the "Christian nation" ...
Listen carefully to President Bush's inauguration speech today. It's nearly certain you'll hear not just the usual effusive references to God and faith, but a distinctive view of the role of religion in politics.
UW communications professor David Domke (whose work I've cited previously) makes an interesting observation about this in an op-ed in the P-I:
- No other president since Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 has mentioned God so often in his Inaugurations or State of the Unions. The closest to Bush's average of six references per each of these addresses is Ronald Reagan, who averaged 4.75 in his comparable speeches. Jimmy Carter, considered as pious as they come among U.S. presidents, had only two mentions of God in four addresses. Other also-rans in total God talk were Roosevelt at 1.69 and Lyndon Johnson at 1.50 references per Inaugurals and State of the Unions.
God talk in these addresses is important because in these ritualized occasions any religious language becomes fused with U.S. identity. This is particularly so since the advent of radio and television, which have facilitated presidents' ability to connect with the U.S. public writ large; indeed, Inaugurals and State of the Unions commonly draw large media audiences.
Bush also talks about God differently than most other modern presidents. Presidents since Roosevelt have commonly spoken as petitioners of God, seeking blessing, favor and guidance. This president positions himself as a prophet, issuing declarations of divine desires for the nation and world. Among modern presidents, only Reagan has spoken in a similar manner -- and he did so far less frequently than has Bush.
Some of my regular commenters have expressed doubt that religiosity like this (or that voiced by Clarence Thomas or right-wing theocrats) represents anything new or troubling. I think they're being taken in by the window dressing and not listening to what's really being said.
Just the facts, ma'am
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
I've been buried in copy-editing Strawberry Days, but be sure to check out the nifty job of real journalism that Carla at Preemptive Karma has been producing this week regarding the Washington gubernatorial election, following up on her nice job of fact-checking the right-wing blogosphere last week.
She's mostly been debunking the shaky work at Stefan Sharkansky's Sound Politics, most notably with a post further debunking claims of hanky-panky in the mailing of military ballots, as well as an earlier post with more data on the subject.
Commenting in the thread at the previous post, Stefan responded thus:
- I know you're a skeptical journalist. Perhaps if you applied the same skepticism to King County government that you apply to others who question it, we'd all learn something.
Skepticism is healthy, especially for journalists or those who attempt to practice it. What's not healthy is leveling charges of criminal behavior against otherwise respected public officials without any evidence to support those accusations (and I'm talking specifically about charges of fraud here). That's not being skeptical. It's being irresponsible.
Extreme right resonance
Monday, January 17, 2005
You know, it's bad enough when media figures and televangelists spout far-right theocratic propaganda as truth, something that happens nowadays with great regularity. But it's really a pretty dire sign when national and state officials start spouting talking points that originate from the extremist right -- and everyone shrugs.
I'm not just talking about Clarence Thomas, though he obviously is a big part of the equation. It goes beyond that.
The incident this time arises around a swearing-in ceremony for Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker, the protege of Judge Roy Moore, whose campaign to "defend" the Ten Commandments monument he had placed in an Alabama courthouse attracted a bevy of neo-Confederate and other extremist supporters and eventually brought about his removal from the bench.
According to news reports of the ceremony:
- Many stood and applauded former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore as he walked to the stage to administer the oath to Parker. Moore's action was ceremonial, since Parker took his formal oath of office Thursday before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in Washington. Parker said Thomas told him a judge should be evaluated by whether he faithfully upholds his oath to God, not to the people, to the state or to the Constitution.
This is a deeply troubling remark on several levels, all of which indicate it is yet another notch forward for the ongoing stealth campaign to install theocratic rule in America. At least, it indicates that their fundamental tenets are now accepted at the highest levels of government.
Ignatz points out the constitutional problems this position suggests, especially if Justice Thomas indeed holds this view:
- But -- if this quote is accurate -- Justice Thomas does not purport to have such a jurisprudential view, but instead he recognizes that there is a difference between a judge's fidelity to God and his or her fidelity to the constitution; that is the meaning of the assertion that you will be evaluated by your performance as to one rather than the other. Which does he choose? I think it fair to assume that a person who says that God will evaluate you on such-and-such, will try to do what he thinks God wants, right? So -- again if this quote is correct -- Justice Thomas has essentially admitted that he will make rulings based not on any view that they are correct as a legal matter, but because they are what God wants.
Beyond the jurisprudential concerns, though, these remarks resonate with an even deeper problem: the spread of extremism into the conservative mainstream, and by extension the corridors of power.
If Justice Thomas indeed endorses such a position -- and it's by no means clear he does -- this is a monumental problem, because it means extremism has taken root at the highest level of federal power. Even if he doesn't, though, it should be noteworthy all in itself that Judge Parker would so clearly endorse such a view.
Of course, it's probably not a surprise. Not only is Parker the protege of Moore, he argued during the just-finished campaign against repealing racist provisions of the state constitution -- a position a majority of the state's voters wound up endorsing.
But Parker is also a Republican in good standing with the national party, and so far no one from the GOP has uttered a peep about these remarks.
The really striking thing about this is that the religious worldview Parker (and supposedly Thomas) wishes to advance, in fact, is a kind of religious right-wing extremism. There is nothing mainstream about this position.
Specifically, Parker's remarks are drawn almost verbatim from a belief system called Theocratic Dominionism, also known as "Christian Reconstruction." These are the people who not only claim that this is a "Christian nation," but that church-state separation is "a myth." More specifically:
- Reconstructionism argues that the Bible is to be the governing text for all areas of life--such as government, education, law, and the arts, not merely "social" or "moral" issues like pornography, homosexuality, and abortion. Reconstructionists have formulated a "Biblical world view" and "Biblical principles" by which to examine contemporary matters. Reconstructionist theologian David Chilton succinctly describes this view: "The Christian goal for the world is the universal development of Biblical theocratic republics, in which every area of life is redeemed and placed under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the rule of God's law."
More broadly, Reconstructionists believe that there are three main areas of governance: family government, church government, and civil government. Under God's covenant, the nuclear family is the basic unit. The husband is the head of the family, and wife and children are "in submission" to him. In turn, the husband "submits" to Jesus and to God's laws as detailed in the Old Testament. The church has its own ecclesiastical structure and governance. Civil government exists to implement God's laws. All three institutions are under Biblical Law, the implementation of which is called "theonomy."
Thomas' supposed exhortation to Parker closely mirrors one by reconstruction founder R.J. Rushdoony:
- The law is therefore the law for Christian man and Christian society. Nothing is more deadly or more derelict than the notion that the Christian is at liberty with respect to the kind of law he can have.
Jay Rogers, a noted Reconstruction advocate, spells out the agenda even more clearly:
- You may ask, In a biblically reconstructed society: Who will be able to vote? Who will be able to rule? Elections will still be determined by popular vote of the people and legislation will still be voted on by representatives. Communities will have been reconstructed through personal regeneration so that the majority of the electorate will be Christian or will hold to a "Christian philosophy." Therefore, the only people qualified to rule will be professing Christians who will uphold the moral law of God. This may be called a "theonomic representative democracy" or a "theocratic republic."
... We recognize that the only standard for civil law is biblical law. Civil law must has some standard: either it is human autonomy (what man sees as right in his own eyes) or it is biblical law (what God declares to be right in His Word). Again, take your pick!
Some have objected that this would lead to the mass stoning of homosexuals and incorrigible children. Reconstructionists must emphasize that what we want is not strong rule by the federal government in determining these matters, but the freedom for individual Christians, families, churches, and local community governments to rule without interference from a centralized state. We believe that Reconstruction is from the ground up. Mass regeneration must precede Reconstruction. As more are converted to Christ, more individuals become self-governing. This leads to stronger families and churches and the ability of local communities to govern their own affairs. Thus the total numbers of cases of sodomy or of uncontrollable children would grow less and less. The state would rule in fewer and fewer cases.
Other forms of right-wing extremism share similar views about the supremacy of "God's law" (especially in contrast to "man's law"), most notably Christian Identity:
- Since Identity followers believe that the Bible commands racial segregation, they interpret racial equality as a violation of God's Law. If Christian ministers advocate racial equality, they are advocating breaking God's Law. Identity and the Christian Republic The creation of a white Christian republic in the United States is a shared goal within the white supremacist movement, from the hard-core neo-Nazis of the Aryan Nations to the many Christian Patriot groups. The Identity movement provides a theological justification for this racism and breach of the constitutionally- mandated separation of church and state. For example, William Potter Gale, an influential Identity leader who died shortly after being indicted for conspiracy to kill IRS agents, wrote:
- "The Church is composed of the many-membered body of Jesus Christ. This Republic was founded as a Christian Republic. The government is nothing but an expansion of the Christian church! It was founded by a compact...know as the Articles of Confederation, Perpetual which have their source in the Holy Bible. Since the Constitution was lifted from the Articles of Confederation, the source of the Constitution is the Bible."
For all their religiosity, though, the Reconstructionists are openly willing to embrace deception in order to win their war. Specifically, they advocate (among themselves, at least) using the openness of America's democratic institutions -- specifically, the doctrine of religious liberty -- to bring about a regime that in fact ends religious liberty. This was made explicit by another significant Reconstruction figure, Gary North:
- So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.
And lest there remain any illusions about their ruthlessness, keep in mind how Jay Rogers explained their end game:
- Simply put: either we will have man's law or God's law as a standard for civil legislation. We are not looking for a "voice a the table" nor are we seeking "equal time" with the godless promoters of pornography, abortion, safe-sodomy subsidies, socialism, etc. We want them silenced and punished according to God's Law-Word.
If that sounds fascist to you, it should. Fritz Stern, a famed scholar of European history, recently raised the issue of religion as a key component of fascism in a report from the New York Times' Chris Hedges on an address Stern gave recently at the Leo Baeck Institute:
- In his address in November, just after he received a prize presented by the German foreign minister, he told his audience that Hitler saw himself as "the instrument of providence" and fused his "racial dogma with a Germanic Christianity."
"Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics," he said of prewar Germany, "but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas."
... "There was a longing in Europe for fascism before the name was ever invented," he said. "There was a longing for a new authoritarianism with some kind of religious orientation and above all a greater communal belongingness. There are some similarities in the mood then and the mood now, although also significant differences."
HE warns of the danger in an open society of "mass manipulation of public opinion, often mixed with mendacity and forms of intimidation." He is a passionate defender of liberalism as "manifested in the spirit of the Enlightenment and the early years of the American republic."
"The radical right and the radical left see liberalism's appeal to reason and tolerance as the denial of their uniform ideology," he said. "Every democracy needs a liberal fundament, a Bill of Rights enshrined in law and spirit, for this alone gives democracy the chance for self-correction and reform. Without it, the survival of democracy is at risk. Every genuine conservative knows this."
Somehow, I doubt that Clarence Thomas and Tom Parker were listening.
UPDATE: Atrios has posted the verbatim quote from Parker, and it is considerably different than its garbling by the reporter:
- PARKER: "Just moments before I placed my hand on the Holy Scripture, Justice Thomas soberly addressed me and those in attendance. He admonished us to remember that the worth of a justice should be evaluated by one thing, and by one thing alone: whether or not he is faithful to uphold his oath _ an oath which as Justice Thomas pointed out is not to the people; it's not to the state; it's not even to the Constitution, which is one to be supported, but is an oath which is to God Himself."
I agree with Atrios that this largely lets both Parker and Thomas off the hook, since this sentiment is relatively benign. However, I also agree with Atrios as to the continuing relevance of the concern at issue here: Namely, a worldview that exhorts judges to put their religious beliefs before the law -- a worldview with extremist origins -- has been gaining wider acceptance in the right-wing mainstream, including the judiciary.