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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara's recent series:
Cracks in the Wall: Parts I, II, and III.
Tunnels and Bridges: Parts I, II, III, and IV, plus a Short Detour.
Dave's recent series:
The March of the Minutemen
Intro: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Other books by Dave [limited availability]:
"The Rise of Pseudo Fascism": An essay
Available in Adobe PDF format here
Support independent journalism:
Suggested $5 donation
Original posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.
"The Political and the Personal"
"Bush, the Nazis and America":
Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
[Suggested $5 donation]
[In HTML: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV. See explanatory note.]
[Also available in HTML, and with art, at Cursor.]
Orcinus Principium No. 1
Orcinus Principium No. 2
No, Nazis, No
Friday, February 24, 2006
Wow! The response to the "Say No To Nazis" fund-raiser has been phenomenal. I'm touched and honored.
The tally, after just two days: over 120 donations totaling more than $2,500. That more than doubles the total after more than a week of regular fund-raising.
To say it's heartening is understating it badly. The breadth and depth of the response tells me that not just the regional community, but the larger blogging community, understands the importance of standing up to the cancer of racial hatred.
As if to illustrate the character of the people we're dealing with here, the very same group that named me (along with Sarah of OlyUnity) a "race traitor" went and made the local newscasts with their antics in the Olympia area.
Seems they were leaving Easter eggs containing pornographic images and obscenities on neighborhood lawns. Maybe it was part of their Kiddie Outreach program:
- Words of hate and pornographic images are circulating in a most unexpected way in Thurston County.
Plastic Easter eggs loaded with obscenities have landed on lawns in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater.
"Every house had two or three," said Tumwater resident Steve Newbon, who picked up several from his own lawn in a residential neighborhood.
At first, he thought Easter had come early. Then he got a closer look.
"It upset the living bejeezus out of me," he said.
Dozens of eggs like this one, with hate messages on them, were found in Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater, Wash.
Police say a neo-Nazi type group spread the eggs and flyers. The containers held obscene images, slurs against homosexuals and slurs against certain minorities. Newbon's most concerned because his young son gets on the bus close by.
He also has an adopted grandmother from another country and both English and Spanish are spoken in his house.
Police say the eggs have shown up on lawns all over the area including Olympia and Lacey. An officer found more than 40 in Tumwater alone.
I watched this report when it was broadcast, and it was unfortunately marred by a hyperbolic lead-in by the anchors that referred to the egg laying as "neo-Nazi attacks," as well as some not exactly accurate information:
- But despite the messages, police say the only crime is littering.
"At this time, we really don't have much. We have littering. They have a right to free speech. There's not much we can do … We don't have any suspects," said Tumwater Police Det. Jennifer Kolb.
This is contrary to some of what we've been told: If there really were pornographic images, then there certainly may have been charges related to that, since these were left on families' lawns. It's not a free-speech right to distribute pornography to minors.
There also was some confusion among the interviewees chosen for the "man on the street" portion of the report:
- While police look for suspects, neighbors hope they're caught before they hatch more hate.
"They shouldn't be doing the eggs. That's not right at all," said Shirleyann Westman.
"That's not first amendment rights, that's bigotry," said Newbon.
Actually, bigotry is part of Americans' First Amendment rights. People who hold such beliefs do, for better or worse, have every right to voice them in a lawful fashion. Hate speech becomes a hate crime only when it enters the criminal realm: that is, when it becomes a threat, intimidation, or criminal incitement.
Which is why counter-speech -- standing up to them -- is so absolutely essential. Bad speech cannot be countered by silence; people like these only interpret the silence as implicit endorsement. They thrive on the illusion that they represent the silent wishes of the white majority, and shattering it is the only effective means of defanging them.
So the outpouring of support this week has been especially gratifying. I think we made a powerful statement that every hateful move they make will only be turned to strengthen our side. Every threat, implicit or explicit, will only stoke our fires higher.
I'd especially like to thank the following bloggers for stepping up and directing readers this way, and pat them on the back for locking arms:
Crooks and Liars
Steve Gilliard's NewsBlog
Voice of a Native Son
Steve Sailer Sucks
Thanks to all these folks, and to the many donors. I really was looking more for sheer numbers of donations by way of making a statement, and we certainly achieved that; but many went well over and beyond the call of duty in how much they donated. I'm very grateful. A special thanks in that regard to Asher, Joseph, Kay, Nadia, Devon, Steven, Marianne, Robert, Christopher, Adam, Mr. SJ, Steve Gilliard, and The General.
Stay tuned throughout the year.
Faith of the faithful
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Dwight Meredith wrote in recently in response to my post on the conservative movement as a political religion, which he said "reminded me of a letter to the editor I saw recently from The Salt Lake Tribune:"
- Bush the Messiah
Right-leaning conservatives seeking political domination need not fret over the seculars kicking God out of our country.
When President Bush presented himself as the Messiah of world democracy and was re-elected, we assured ourselves that ours had finally become a faith-based government. The voters' message was that we trust the president as a man of faith.
We trust Him to do the right thing. We trust that under His command, our government will spy on those needing to be spied upon, torture those who are in need of torturing, start wars wherever wars ought to be fought, bomb those who need to be blown away, and castigate as evil those who are of Satan. God bless Him.
Salt Lake City
Dwight notes: "I see no evidence that the letter is satire although it would be good satire if so intended."
Having been born in Salt Lake City and raised in southeastern Idaho, I'm pretty sure the letter was meant quite seriously.
In the meantime -- as I continue to gather my thoughts on all this -- be sure to read Mahablog's continuing discussions along these lines, notably a terrific post on nationalism and a followup on hate speech.
Also, be sure to drop over to Dwight's place and plug in some nickels for the Koufax Awards. They recently had an emergency fund-raiser, and could always use the help.
UPDATE: Several commenters have pointed out that several of Mr. Holstein's previously published pieces were decidedly anti-Bush. I think it's clear that the letter was intended satirically. But it's also obvious that Holstein knows his neighbors well.
Now there's a marriage made in hell: Minutemen leader Jim Gilchrist is teaming up with Swift Boater Jerome Corsi to write a book about how illegal immigrants are part of a Mexican conspiracy to trash America:
- Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the Minuteman Project, and Jerome Corsi, Harvard Ph.D. and co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry," have teamed up to write a shocking account of the endless flow of drugs, terrorists, and economic refugees at America's borders -- and to expose the Mexican government's open complicity in this full-fledged crisis. The to-be-titled book will be published by World Ahead Publishing and available in bookstores nationwide this July.
The Minuteman Project is a volunteer-based organization that gained national prominence last year for organizing a citizen watch along the nation's southwestern border to report suspicious activity to authorities. While denounced by politicians in the nation's capital -- including President Bush -- over-worked Border Patrol agents privately praised the Minuteman Project volunteers for their efforts.
"Illegal immigration is bankrupting states along the border, but this is about more than economics -- we're placing our national security at risk," says Gilchrist, who along with other Minuteman Project volunteers has come under fire while on patrol and carrying nothing more than binoculars and cell phones. "Drug lords and violent gangs like MS-13 are streaming into the U.S. from Mexico. Terrorists are also walking in unopposed; our southwestern border is littered with Arabic papers and Islamic prayer rugs."
[Note how Arabs are equated with terrorists. Never in the mind of someone like Gilchrist could a terrorist be white.]
- "Politicians who believe that illegal immigration can be ignored must realize that Mexicans and others are dying every day along our nation's borders," adds Corsi, whose book "Unfit for Command" played a key role in convincing the American people to reject John Kerry's 2004 presidential bid. "These economic refugees are often abandoned and left to die by the human traffickers and Mexican soldiers who smuggle them across the border. It's nothing less than a tragedy."
I don't know about you, but it just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy outside to see Corsi waxing sensitive about the deaths of illegal immigrants on the border. After all, last year marked a record number of deaths on the southwestern border. Many of them were the result of people being forced to attempt more dangerous crossings because of the presence of the Minutemen in less dangerous spots.
But then, we know all about Corsi's ethnic sensitivity, since he is the same fellow who penned the following lines over at Free Republic:
- Islam is a peaceful religion as long as the women are beaten, the boys buggered, and the infidels killed.
So this is what the last days of the Catholic Church are going to look like. Buggering boys undermines the moral base and the laywers rip the gold off the Vatican altars. We may get one more Pope, when this senile one dies, but that's probably about it.
Isn't the Democratic Party the official SODOMIZER PROTECTION ASSOCIATION of AMERICA -- oh, I forgot, it was just an accident that Clintoon's first act in office was to promote "gays in the military." RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters -- it all goes together.
Not that Gilchrist is any better:
- Less than a year ago, Jim Gilchrist's vision of the future was plainly apocalyptic. The country, he predicted to one newspaper reporter, will have "100 tribes with 100 languages," a situation from which "mayhem" will result. "I see neighborhood armies of 20 to 40 going out and killing and invading one another," he said. Too many immigrants, he added, could even result in a full-scale civil war -- a situation he suggested might be avoided by inciting a revolution in Mexico.
"Illegal immigrants will destroy this country," Gilchrist said last May. "Every time a Mexican flag is planted on American soil, it is a declaration of war."
By late August, Gilchrist wasn't talking like that any more.
... Gilchrist, conceding that Gov. Wallace "was probably a bigot," insists he is no racist. But he is a close friend of Barbara Coe, who routinely describes Mexicans as "savages" and recently said she was a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a hate group which opposes "race-mixing." Gilchrist also is a member of Coe's California Coalition for Immigration Reform, another hate group.
Coe is a real piece of work who is a member of the Council of Conservative Citizens and who regularly refers to illegal immigrants as "savages."
Together, they all make just one cozy little right-wing sensitivity seminar, don't they?
[Hat tip to Matt Stoller.]
Killer whales at large
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
I'm sort of celebrating my return to print journalism today with a cover story on orcas for Seattle Weekly. It examines, among other thing, the impact of the recent endangered species listing for the Puget Sound's southern resident killer whales. As I report, that impact could reach as far as the hotly constested dams on the Snake River that are choking off the Columbia spring chinook runs.
Rereading the story, I realize that I neglected to point out one important aspect of the orcas' impact for people on the Wet Side of the mountains: whale watching has become a multi-million-dollar industry here. The whales probably mean more to the local economy than either the Seahawks or the Mariners. So their symbology is more than just skin deep.
Say No to Nazis
Following the recent outbreak of neo-Nazism in my own neighborhood, I've become even more acutely aware of the silent tide of white supremacism that's creeping back into our lives, if that's possible.
It's one thing when it happens elsewhere, as I usually find myself documenting. But having it in your own back yard drives home the reality in a particularly pungent fashion.
And it does continue to manifest elsewhere too, in nearly identical fashion: Until they unfurl their flags and don their costumes, today's white supremacists dress, talk, and comport themselves like normal people. They present their ideas as though they were simply normative, rather than the hateful aberrations they've been widely considered to be over the past half-century.
They see the current political environment as ripe for their return. So they constantly stress the need for movement followers to blend in and appear normal. They often call themselves "ghost skins" because their skinhead beliefs are often invisible. As Margaret Kimberley at the Black Commentator explained:
- The ghost skins eschew goose stepping and rioting, and proclaim their intention to blend in with their neighbors. They are skinheads, but kinder and gentler in their approach, hence the ghostly aspect of their movement. The ghost skin who distributed the most flyers denouncing "the Oregon cesspool of Niggers, Spics, Kikes, Faggots, Ragheads, Chinks, Gooks, Roaches & leftist communist swine," received among other prizes, 1,000 white power songs as a bonus for work well done.
Alina Cho at the Anderson Cooper blog recently wrote about her own experiences in dealing with these folks:
- I met Jarred Hensley, a Ku Klux Klan member, six months ago while working on a story about racial tensions in Ohio. I remember being struck by his age: At 23, he was -- and remains -- the second most powerful Klansman in the state.
Hensley told me the Klan was growing younger and larger, information we later verified with the Southern Poverty Law Center. I asked Hensley if we could attend one of his Klan meetings. He told me non-members are not allowed. But he eventually agreed to videotape the meeting for us. His tape arrived a few months later.
After reviewing the tape (only portions of the meeting were filmed), I went to Ohio to interview Hensley. He told me there was an increase in Klan membership after 9/11. He also said the Internet is the Klan's number one recruiting tool.
Skins, Klansmen, and neo-Nazis will often talk openly to white reporters like myself, but it can be very difficult for anyone of color to work on these stories. As Cho explains:
- Personally, this has been a hard story for me to report. As an Asian-American journalist, I found it difficult at times to listen to his views objectively. At one point in the interview, he told me I should leave the country.
Some people have asked me why we are giving the Ku Klux Klan a platform. I respond by saying there is clear evidence the white supremacist movement is on the rise in this country and around the world. This story cannot be ignored.
Neo-Nazis often express these ideas -- particularly their repugnance of minorities -- to white reporters as if they should be naturally understood. The leader of a group of white supremacist skinheads in Pennsylvania, described in a recent piece in News of Delaware County, talked exactly this way:
- However, according to a member of the Pennsylvania skinhead movement, the organization is not what people perceive it to be.
"It's about love of your people and love of your country," said Ron, a self-proclaimed white nationalist and a college student who grew up in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
Ron -- who did not want his last name released -- has been an active member of the skinhead movement for about one-and-a-half years and believes that white nationalists have received a bad rap.
"Everyone to a certain extent prejudges people," Ron said. "White nationalists are just more open about it.
"It's not about blind hatred, just wanting the best for myself and my country. There are people in our country that are hurting it," Ron said.
The new resurgence of skinheads can be attributed to the fall of other hate groups and the skinhead music industry, according the head of ADL's Philadelphia Office, Barry Morrison.
The skinhead music industry creates passion for young people to gravitate to, according to Morrison. Teardown, a Pennsylvania-based group on the label Final Stand Records is a favorite among white nationalists, according to Ron.
While the old skinheads' cachet used to be with rebellious young thugs, selling themselves as "normal" is a big part of their schtick now:
- Many of the new skinheads are young, impressionable, undisciplined and violent, according to Morrison.
"To be a skinhead is to be violent," Morrison said. "They have a great tendency to engage in criminal activity."
Ron, who is not a member of KSS but insists he does frequent their functions, agreed that many of the new members are in their 20s, but added that violence and crime are not characteristics of the skinheads.
"We're definitely not violent ... these people just care seriously about protecting their family," Ron said. "If one of us goes to jail, we're useless to the movement."
He added that the notion that members of the skinhead movement are uneducated is far from the truth.
"These people [skinheads] are very well educated," said Ron -- who is a junior and college and said he intends to go to medical school, or work as a financial analyst.
Public image makeover notwithstanding, it doesn't take long for these skinheads to start peddling the same old hate that's always been their raison d'etre:
- Although skinheads are misunderstood, according to Ron, he echoes ideas of complete racial separation that have been championed by other "hate groups."
"This country was meant for white Christians," Ron said. Adding that members of the movement advocate for non-whites and non-Christians to return to their homes of origin and begin a government like white Christians did in America.
"Black people should be given the opportunity to return to their homeland and do the same thing," Ron said. "There wouldn't be anymore interracial crime.
"Asians ... I don't have any problem with them," Ron said. "I [just] think it would be better if they stayed in their land and we stayed in ours."
Got that, Alina Cho? Oh, and you too, Michelle Malkin.
Fortunately, there aren't many indications that this tactic is succeeding any more than previous mainstreaming efforts. Certainly, as the Stranger reported, there weren't exactly a lot of eager recruits to be had at the Fremont rally.
Still, what they represent is so poisonous, and their dark intent so undying, that is warrants eternal vigilance. So you can count on this blog and others to continue to monitor and report on their activities.
In that spirit, please welcome to my blogroll Olympia United Against Hate, which is doing a marvelous job of tracking this local band of neo-Nazis.
Both of us were recently named "race traitors" at the Website of the regional National Socialist Movement outfit (sorry, I won't link to it). There is an innate threat in such a listing, of course, but it's one I'm accustomed to, not to mention well prepared to deal with.
Still, it underscores the potential problems that lie in wait for anyone publishing a blog like this. In addition to the harassment that comes with these things (the NSM folks kindly urged their followers to dump hate material in my comments, which I've been very easily deleting), there's always the potential for these things to trickle over into your private life. The NSM is a tiny contingent, really, but all of these groups attract unstable and violent followers, and they are an actual threat.
I recently wrapped up my regular fund-raiser (I raised over $2,000, and will report in a separate post on that). But I've decided to run a supplemental fund-raiser, based on a campaign of refutation for this kind of intimidation.
What I want is to be able to turn their campaign against them: For every post and threat they make, people can donate to the cause of keeping Orcinus afloat.
I'm asking folks to toss a fiver (or whatever amount you like) in the PayPal kitty at the upper corner (or write me at P.O. Box 17872, Seattle WA 99107), and designate it with the phrase, "Say No to Nazis". I'll report on the fund's progress in the coming weeks.
Here's hoping we can hoist them on their own petard.
Swimming in Coulter's cesspool
Sunday, February 19, 2006
I suppose we should take it as an encouraging sign that a lot of voices -- including many on the right -- have been raised in objection to Ann Coulter's bit of performance theater at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference last weekend, wherein she uttered the now-infamous line:
- "I think our motto should be, post-9-11: 'Raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.'"
The ethnic bigotry couldn't have been more naked. And that, unsurprisingly, is what everyone has focused on.
But there's a deeper problem that Coulter's comment represents -- indeed, it's only the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg. With similar potential for real disaster.
Coulter's remarks -- which included an assassination fantasy about Bill Clinton -- were received with warm applause from the CPAC. And folks on the left, of course, jumped all over them. That's how Coulter's routine always has worked. What's noteworthy is that this time, she crossed a line.
There seems to have been a realization on the right -- long, long overdue -- that Coulter had gone too far. Sure, she can wish aloud for Tim McVeigh to blow up the New York Times Building all she wants, but even they could see that using an ethnic slur was beyond the realm of acceptable discourse.
But it wasn't so much the slur itself, as how it might reflect badly on the rest of the conservative movement. (I think everyone's favorite remark on the right was that "she isn't helping anyone.") After all, reassuring all those middle-class voters that they aren't the Party of Bigots has been an important talking point for them in recent years.
That seemed to be the main concern at places like Right Wing Nuthouse and Outside the Beltway. There was little reflection on the ugliness that these kinds of remarks reveal not just in someone who is a major spokesperson in the media for the conservative movement, but in a movement that would lionize her. She wasn't up on that stage by accident.
Others, like Shape of Days and Jonah Goldberg, were content to dismiss it as just part of Coulter's "schtick," as if she were just a naughty child who got a little out of hand. It's not that she thinks such things; it's that she had the bad form to voice them in public:
- I don't think Ann does anybody but herself any good when she jokes about killing presidents, Supreme Court justices or uses terms like raghead. I don't think she should do it and I don't think conservatives should applaud it.
There were some honest expressions of revulsion, like that from Tom Briggs ("I think I'm going to be ill"), and Sean Hackbarth at The American Mind offered a harsh assessment of her rhetoric. On the other hand LaShawn Barber just thought it was "much ado about nothing." Ta-ta.
The refrain heard most, though, was like that from Michelle Malkin, who after lightly slapping Coulter's wrists -- she called the remarks "spectacularly ill-chosen and ill-timed" (words like "reprehensible" or "unacceptable" or "unhinged" seem only to be in her vocabulary with people from the left) -- and worrying about how the remarks would go down with young conservative Muslims, got down to her real problem with the remarks:
- Ann's comment gives cover to smug liberals in denial about their own pervasive bigotry (I'll show you 100 liberal hate mails and blog posts referring to me as a "gook" or a "chink" or a "filipina whore" for every 1 "raghead" controversy on the right.)
Glenn Greenwald's response to similar whining about mean lefties from Glenn Reynolds was direct and to the point:
- Republicans have been playing this game for years. They wildly inflate the importance of fringe, extremist figures and then -- every time one of those individuals makes an intemperate remark or comment that can be wrenched out-of-context and depicted as some sort of demented evil -- they demand that Democrats ritualistically parade before the cameras and either condemn those individuals or be branded as someone who is insufficiently willing to stand up to the extremists "in their party."
... Unlike, say, Ward Churchill, Ann Coulter is not some fringe, obscure figure for the right-wing crowd. To the contrary, she is one of the most popular and influential pro-Bush speakers around, which is exactly why she was invited to be one of the featured speakers at one of the most significant conservative events of the year. And Glenn Reynolds, just like Coulter, was also an invited speaker at this event.
So, Coulter isn’t just the leader of a substantial faction in Reynolds’ political party (although she is that), but they also have the nexus of both being invited speakers at the same event. Put simply, Coulter’s importance is infinitely greater than Ward Churchill’s (or Harry Belafonte's or Barbra Streisand's or any other left-wing bogeyman), and Reynolds’ connection to Coulter is far more substantial than all of those Democrats who never even heard of Churchill before and yet, according to the sermonizing Reynolds, nonetheless somehow had a compelling obligation to denounce him.
The comments Coulter made during her speech were reprehensible in the extreme. And those comments prompted not condemnation from the audience but its opposite -- what one observer described as a "boisterous ovation." Certainly under the denuncation standards that have been applied to Democrats for years, every attendee at that event, and anyone pledging featly to the "conservative" cause, has an obligation to say what their views are of Coulter generally and to address specifically why she was invited to be a featured speaker and why she plays such a prominent role, and commands such popularity, in the Bush movement. Although her comments were extreme, they are neither new nor surprising, as she has a long and documented history of urging violence against her political opponents and making comments quite similar to those she made at the CPAC.
Coulter's prominence on the right-wing scene is matched only by her long record of similarly hateful and eliminationist remarks, often in the guise of "jokes". As Jenna K. at The Girl Gets Away adroitly observes, Coulter's jokes just ain't funny, except as a way to vent some genuinely hateful beliefs.
Let's face it, Coulter has been spewing hate -- ethnic and otherwise -- for a long time under the guise of "political humor." In terms of poisoning the public discourse, just how much worse is an ethnic slur than calling for us to invade Muslim nations and forcing them to convert to Christianity? Or, for that matter, wishing for the bombing of the New York Times Building? Calling liberals innately "treasonous," and calling for their oppression? Disenfranchising women? Extolling the benefits of "local fascism"? Fantasizing about shooting the president?
Considering that Malkin devoted an entire chapter in her book Unhinged, to decrying supposed left-wing assassination fantasies, you'd think that the frequency of the latter (inclduing an appearance in this latest speech) from Coulter would earn almost as much ire from Michelle Malkin as an ethnic slur. But of course, Malkin makes no mention of it in her rebuke.
That's par for the course. As I pointed out a bit ago regarding Malkin's treatment of Coulter:
- Has Malkin ever spoken up about this kind of extremism? It doesn't appear so. A quick Google of her site reveals plenty of references to Coulter -- but they're all adulatory and approving; many are about painting Coulter as a right-wing martryr.
As Greenwald points out in his post, the same is true of Glenn Reynolds, who boasts a similar Google record despite claiming that he "mostly ignores" her. Across the board, would-be mainstream conservatives behave the same: they invite her onto their talk shows, book her for their conferences, and buy (and promote) her books by the bushel. Then, when she says something outrageous, either simply pretend it didn't happen or sniff that no one takes her seriously.
Conservatives, in fact, have been happily swimming in the Coulter cesspool for a long time and have not only failed to notice the stink, they've positively extolled its virtues.
However, it's also important to give credit where it's due, and Glenn Reynolds, nearly alone on the right, correctly identified the real problem with Coulter's remarks:
- [H]er ongoing treatment of Muslims has followed this general pattern of fostering alienation. The result of this sort of behavior is aid and comfort to the enemy.
To win this war, we need to kill the people who want to kill us. But we need to win over the rest. The terrorists of Al Qaeda want to polarize things so that it appears to be a war of Christianity against Islam, of America and the West against all Arabs and Muslims. With remarks like those, she's helping their cause, not ours. Call it "objectively pro-terrorist."
This point has, of course, long been a core operating principle at this blog:
- Those who foment war against Islam are objectively furthering the agenda of Osama bin Laden, and are thus an effective Al Qaeda 'fifth column.'
Osama bin Laden wants you to make this into an Islam-vs.-the-West conflict. That was the explicit purpose behind 9/11.
The more that conservatives make the rest of Islam culpable for 9/11, the more they make enemies of our allies in the Islamic world. These include such major strategic partners as Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Their own Republican president has been working hard not to allow this to turn into an anti-Islamic crusade. Yet their own ignorance about the nature of Islam is nonetheless increasing the chances that the "war on terror" could explode into an uncontrollable global cultural conflict.
Remember that shortly after 9/11, bin Laden told his followers, "Tell them that these events have divided the world into two camps, the camp of the faithful and the camp of infidels. May God shield us and you from them." Bin Laden's larger strategy behind 9/11 is to create such a large conflagration that Western society cannot contain it, and it is his religious belief that God will eventually grant Muslims the victory.
Rhetoric like Coulter's poses a real danger to us all. Because rather than keeping the conflict contained to a handful of radical terrorists -- which was our best hope for winning, before Bush's heedless Iraq incursion -- she would have us take on all of Islam in a massive world war. No doubt, given her previous remarks, she would not consider it a victory short of "killing all their leaders and converting them to Christianity." Talk like this plays directly into bin Laden's hands.
What's genuinely troubling is that Coulter loves to be on the cutting edge of right-wing ideology, and so her clarion call for a revival of open bigotry against Muslims -- which is the only realistic interpretation of pointedly featuring a naked ethnic slur in her remarks -- is almost certain to be picked up. At the same time, she also has a history of rather slyly tuning into the right-wing dialogue that's occurring just beneath the surface. The truth is that she's hardly the first right-winger to call them "ragheads," nor will she by any means be the last.
In fact, one of the really disturbing trends of the past year is the extent to which you see conservatives conflating radical Islamists with mainstream Muslims -- not merely conflating, but essentially identifying and failing to make any distinction between them whatsoever. The festering capital of the use of "ragheads" is of course the Free Republic, but you can also find it present throughout the right blogosphere, at sites ranging from Little Green Footballs to Jawa Report to Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler to Dr. Sanity to Ace of Spades to RedState. These all are sites where conservative Muslims are consistently identified with Islamists -- and identified as the Enemy. The comments at these sites are particularly vicious, and rife with the use of "ragheads."
And, perhaps not surprisingly, they are all on the blogrolls of Glenn Reynolds and Michelle Malkin and all those other supposedly mainstream conservatives horrified by Coulter's remarks. Consistency would suggest they would be as ready to denounce the steady patter of rhetoric that plays into the hands of our very real enemies coming from throughout the conservative movement.
But no. They've all been too busy making hay by denouncing the behavior of the Islamic cartoon rioters -- and linking to all these sites in the process. And committing, by extension, the same mistake.
There's no doubt the cartoon riots are yet another example of the violence that can be wielded almost at will by the forces of fundamentalism, and are deeply disturbing for that reason alone. No doubt, there are serious free-speech issues at play, and I think the ramifications could be profound for Europeans especially.
Yet one thing you'll notice that's decidedly absent in all the right-wing horror at the riots is any recognition of the power relationship that is the real context in which they are occurring. There seems to be no recognition that we're talking about a people -- namely, Third World Muslims -- who've suffered a century and more of economic and political deprivation, a setting that has made them ripe for exploitation by fundamentalist demagogues.
Of course we don't riot or engage in violence when someone is disrespectful of our culture and our beliefs; we Westerners have been perched in the catbird seat for some time now and can afford to ignore it if we choose. That's not how people on the bottom rung, though, are likely to respond to high-handed mistreatment and disrespect. Making fun of the high and mighty and privileged and powerful is an honorable thing, even if not very profitable. Making fun of the downtrodden -- especially from a position of privilege -- is a despicable thing ... but it sure is easy.
Muslims are rioting because the Danish cartoons that sparked the anger have come to symbolize the ethnic arrogance of Europeans and Americans, typified by ethnic slurs like "ragheads," that they blame as the engines of their dienfranchisement, and from which they now believe they are finally able to rise up and restore their societies. Certainly the way that Westerners on both sides of the Atlantic have responded to the riots -- holding them up as evidence of innate Muslim barbarism -- has only served to deepen that anger.
The American voices who have joined in this chorus have almost certainly not gone unnoticed. Just today, Muslim rioters in Indonesia (another one of our Muslim allies) targeted an American embassy, though it's hard to tell if this is a product of the Iraq war or just the general sense of American complicity in the spread of the supposedly sacrilegious cartoons.
Yet we have to be extremely careful and measured in how we respond to this. The thousands of rioters, for all their ugliness, are almost certainly ordinary fundamentalist Muslims and not radical Islamists. Yet it's also clear that they are being manipulated by fundamentalist clerics whose sympathies appear well in line with the cause of Al Qaeda.
Certainly, they are being pushed into bin Laden's arms. After all, bin Laden has, like the Wahhabists generally, scapegoated the West (and the USA in particular) in the process of trying to stake a claim to representing the true Islam. Recall that immediately after 9/11, he cast the coming "war on terror" as one involving all of Islam rising up against the West: "What America is tasting now is only a copy of what we have tasted. Our Islamic nation has been tasting the same for more than 80 years of humiliation and disgrace, its sons killed and their blood spilled, its sanctities desecrated."
He also has warned: "Every Muslim must rise to defend his religion." And so, it seems, they are beginning to heed him. That this is occurring is bin Laden's dream, and our worst nightmare.
People like Ann Coulter, and the thousands of little Freepers and wingnuts who are part of the "raghead" chorus, and their cartoon-drawing counterparts in Europe, have not only been swimming in their own little hate-filled cesspool, they are slowly dragging the rest of us into it with them. Not just the nation, but the world.
They drive ordinary Muslims into the waiting arms of bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi even as they convince more Americans that their enemies really are those same ordinary Muslims. In the process, they help bin Laden realize his strategy exactly as planned.
Coulter's book Treason, it will be said in the years to come, really was just a classic piece of right-wing projection.