Weeding out those racists
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
There's a perfectly simple reason that white supremacists and far-right extremists keep popping up in the immigration debate: the anti-immigrant right is just talking their game. They're naturally drawn to the cause because it is their cause.
So that's why you'll be seeing a lot more instances of mainstream talking heads drawing up well-established talking points created by the white-supremacist right years ago: Michelle Malkin ranting about the 'Reconquista' theory, or Bill O'Reilly nattering about defending the "white power structure", or most recently, Lou Dobbs citing the CofCC as a reputable source in discussing the "Aztlan" claims.
Steve Gilliard notes that Dobbs' report includes a presumption that the "Aztlan" theory is a legitimate one, and makes a particularly vicious characterization of Vicente Fox's current visit to the States:
- WIAN: You could call this the Vicente Fox Aztlan tour, since the three states he'll visit, Utah, Washington, and California, are all part of some radical group's vision of the mythical indigenous homeland -- Lou.
As we've pointed out numerous times, the only "radical groups" making these claims are white supremacist groups.
Digby, as always, nails it:
- When these things happen nobody, it seems, are aware of the CCC's views. I am sure that Lou Dobbs will say the same. He's only a credentialed journalist, after all. You can't expect him to have nose for racist propaganda.
This certainly does bring up an interesting question for me, however. I never thought of the CCC as being a white supremacist organization in the mode of say "Stormfront" or something like that. It's a neo-confederate group which is certainly racist but organized explicitly around hatred of African-Americans. The fact that they are touting the ridiculous Aztlan "threat" puts the lie to any claims that this immigration debate isn't being fueled by racism. (Not that that's a big surprise.)
No, it's not. Neither is it a big surprise that the leading anti-immigrant enterprise, the Minutemen, is constantly being infiltrated by neo-Nazis, or that so many of their spinoff groups are riddled throughout with extremists and racists, some going so far as to ally themselves with neo-Nazis.
The Minutemen, of course, make much ado about their efforts to "weed out the racists," though of course the reality is that their success is mixed at best.
What nobody seems to ask, though, is why they have to "weed out the racists" in the first place. If the core of their appeal isn't racial in nature, then why do they draw so many people for whom it is?
This is not a problem for most liberal groups -- say, the ACLU, or MoveOn.org. This is a problem largely on the right, and it's particularly pronounced among the nativist right in the current immigration debate.
Down in Alabama, a Minuteman leader made news by publicly drumming out a white supremacist:
- An activist who distributed copies of a white supremacist newspaper at a rally against illegal immigration was banned from future events by the group that helped stage the rally, a leader of the organization said Wednesday.
Mike Vanderboegh, a spokesman for the Alabama Minutemen, said a woman he identified as Carolyn Edwards wasn't welcome at future demonstrations by his group, which helped put on a rally Tuesday in Birmingham during a national caravan against illegal immigrants.
Vanderboegh identified Edwards as a longtime activist with the white supremacist Christian Identity movement.
People like Vanderboegh serve a useful function to groups like the Minutemen: they avidly try to expell white supremacists and loudly publicize it when they do so, even though their efforts amount to a finger in the dike.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has more on Vanderboegh:
- After spending parts of October patrolling the border in New Mexico, Mike Vanderboegh and the two or three others who made up his Alabama Minuteman Support Team decided they'd had enough. Despite the presence of an alluring array of military toys -- "night vision devices, global positioning systems, portable seismic intrusion detectors and ham radios" -- the men, all once associated with the militia movement of the 1990s, decided to call it quits. Apparently, their citizens' patrol, aimed at keeping illegals out of America, proved less than thrilling.
As of Nov. 1, the tiny group gave itself another name -- the Alabama Minuteman Surveillance Team -- and the mission of making life miserable for any business that hired undocumented workers. "We hereby put exploitative employers and crooked politicians on notice," Vanderboegh declared after ending the patrols and deciding to return to Alabama to concentrate on the situation there. "We intend to make it toxic for anyone doing public or private business to use illegals. If I were a politician in Alabama right now, I'd start getting REAL careful about who I accepted money from. Because we're fixin' to flip on the light switch."
Vanderboegh makes a useful illustration of this PR-driven sleight-of-hand, because he performed almost exactly the same function as a member of the militia movement in the 1990s:
I remember Vanderboegh vividly as a bellicose fellow who decided he was going to drum the racists out of the militia movement. At one point, he got into a very public Usenet spat with Kirk Lyons, who was fresh off a victory of sorts in helping negotiate an end to the Freemen standoff in Montana.
Lyons, you see, was closely associated with a number of racist-right figures, and was also the attorney for one Andreas Strassmeier. Because he was a sometime resident of the white-supemacist enclave Elohim City in the Ozarks -- a place Timothy McVeigh was believed to have stayed in during the runup to the Oklahoma City Bombing -- Strassmeier was linked by a number of conspiracy theorists to the bombing as well.
One of the first of these was Vanderboegh, who operated an anti-SPLC Web site for awhile called Dees Watch, and at one point was a spokesman for Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. Vanderboegh had been affiliated early on with the Gadsden Militia, and then formed his own branch.
It was from there that he launched his attacks on Lyons. Vanderboegh had a special spin on the Oklahoma City tragedy: that it had been a government setup, using Strassmeier and a gang of bank robbers in an arcane plot to frame the militia movement. So when Lyons posted on a Usenet forum devoted to militias, Vanderboegh wrote a polemic denouncing Nazis' presence in the militias and insisting they be run out. A portion of it:
- I'll leave it to the gentle readers to decide who, and what, you represent. Nazi or Nazi snitch? It matters only to your inlaws, your "clients" past and present, your paymasters, and to the juries that will judge you, here and in the Hereafter. It's crimes I'm concerned with, Kirk. Specifically, a certain mass murder in Oklahoma that you and your client(s) know a hell of a lot more than your "little ole me?" manner wants to admit.
As Dan Yurman reported at the time, much of Vanderboegh's fulminations formed the basis for an actual cottage industry in conspiracy theories about Oklahoma City.
Vanderboegh's schtick, really, hasn't changed. He's every bit as impotent in terms of effectively driving the racists and extremists out of the Minutemen as he was in the militia movement.
Part of the reason is that Vanderboegh -- protests notwithstanding -- is pretty clearly an extremist himself, prone to conspiracy theorizing and violent talk about armed uprisings. As the SPLC report notes:
- Vanderboegh has consistently portrayed himself as a moderate, first in the militia world and now in the anti-immigration movement. But he hasn't always sounded that way. Back in the mid-1990s, he wrote a document entitled "Strategy and Tactics for a Militia Civil War" in which he discussed the utility of snipers using "violence carefully targeted and clearly defensive: war criminals, secret policemen, rats (Pitcavage take note)."
But the larger problem is that the Minutemen's core appeal is not to freshly awakened post-9/11 concerns about border security, but rather deliberately fomented racial fears about preserving "white culture" [see: privilege]. This has always been the racist right's bailiwick, so of course they're going to come swimming around when the water is rich with familiar scents, as sharks are wont to do.
That was certainly the case with the militia movement as well. Perhaps more tellingly, the common dynamic was for seemingly "normal" conservatives to be increasingly radicalized by the movement, to the point of becoming outright extremists.
The clearest example of this is a fellow named Matthew Ramsey, who back in the mid-1990s ran a militia-oriented TV show on public-access cable in Snohomish County, just north of Seattle. He called himself "Jim Ramm" on air and adopted a bellicose anti-government stance, but seemed a normal guy.
My friend Scott North at the Everett Herald wrote a feature on him in 1996 (not online):
- Young, college educated and articulate, Matthew Ramsey doesn't fit the stereotype of an unsmiling militiaman.
But neither does his public access television show.
"Militia TV" has a low-tech, campy feel that Ramsey agrees may best be described as the "patriot" movement meets "Wayne's World," the fictional program produced by two Aurora, Ill., teens with their own public-access show.
Ramsey's show has been airing for about two months, every Monday at 4:30 p.m., on Viacom, Channel 29, said Kay Deazy, the cable company's director of community relations.
Ramsey, 32, of Snohomish, is a member of the Washington State Militia. He said his show tries to present a different perspective on militias.
"They've not really been represented properly in the media," he said. “There has been a lot of misrepresentation. I feel there are two sides to every coin, and their side has not been properly explored. There are a lot of pissed off people out there, dude."
In a typical show, Ramsey goes into his home studio, dresses in camouflage, and rails against gun control or the ban on manufacturing assault-style weapons.
He also plays portions of videotapes from the Militia of Montana, detailing the alleged New World Order conspiracy, and music videos from far-right rocker Carl Klang, whose songs warn of coming combat between armed citizens and oppressive government.
As the program airs, the telephone number for Washington State Militia headquarters in Whatcom County repeatedly flashes on the screen.
John Pitner, the group's executive director, said he's proud to see a member of his organization going on cable.
"We are trying to get the message out," Pitner said. "We don't want our children growing up in a bankrupt police state."
Pitner claims nearly 6,000 militia members in the state, roughly 1,500 in Snohomish County alone. Some of those members are organized in secret "squads," he said.
Ramsey said he joined the militia about nine months ago after coming across a militia business card while attending a gun show at the Snohomish County-owned Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe. He said he has participated in militia exercises, including basic marksmanship and orienteering.
During his broadcasts, Ramsey uses the stage name "Jim Ram," and takes steps to obscure his identity, including wearing sunglasses, putting on camouflage face paint and using tape editing techniques, such as "colorizing."
Ramsey said he is serious about the program, and has 26 episodes already on tape, enough shows to air without reruns for six months.
The offerings include reports about recent Washington State Militia meetings in Mount Vernon and Fife. He's also prepared shows that stir strong emotions among self-styled patriots, including alternative theories about last year's Oklahoma City bombing and the deadly 1993 standoff involving members of a religious sect and federal agents at Waco, Texas.
What viewers won't see is material advancing racism, Ramsey said. He's solidly against groups such as Idaho-based Aryan Nations, whose members he describes as "traitors."
I remember Scott telling me that he offered Ramsey clear evidence of white-supremacist involvement, and vowing he would do his best to run them off.
What became of Ramsey?
Well, within a few years, he was organizing Aryan Nations events in northern Idaho, and had moved to the Portland area. There, he set up shop as the Tualatin Valley Skins, a neo-Nazi group, and claimed to a reporter that he had a wife and family when, according to his mother, that was not the case.
OlyUnity has much more on Ramsey.
Most recently, "Jim Ramm" has been organizing neo-Nazi rallies in Olympia and Seattle. His neo-Nazi Web site (NukeIsrael.com) features a collection of vile racist material and also names your humble author a "race traitor".
And of course, the central theme of several of Ramm's recent neo-Nazi rallies has been ... immigration.
The arc of Jim Ramm's career is fairly typical of True Believers drawn to the extremist right. And one of the most disturbing aspects of the Minutemen, and the nativist right generally, is how they're creating a whole new generation of them.
Especially with the media portraying their views as mainstream.
Under those circumstances, you can no sooner stop the tide of racism within the anti-immigrant right than you can hold back a river swollen with rain and fear.
You know, I think I was just talking about how the anti-immigration movement is increasingly drawing its material from the white-supremacist right ...
From Liberal Oasis:
- CNN Cites White Supremacist Group As Source
Today on "Lou Dobbs Tonight," CNN ran a graphic sourced to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group deemed to have a "white supremacy" ideology according to the Anti-Defamation League.
During a piece about illegal immigrants in Utah, reporter Casey Wian said, "Utah is also part of the territory some militant Latino activists refer to as Aztlan, the portion of the southwest United States they claim rightfully belongs to Mexico."
Crooks and Liars has the video. More at The Great Society.
More later. In the meantime, there's more at this site about the "Aztlan" (or "Reconquista") conspiracy theory, as well as more on the Council of Conservative Citizens here, here, here, and here.
Young Christian soldiers
Digby brings our attention to the recent "Battle Cry" rally in Philadelphia, where a crowd of about 25,000 -- mostly teenagers and young adults -- pledged their fealty to a vision of a theocratic Christian nation. This pledge was obtained, mostly, by scaring the crap out of them,
That was clear from this account on DKos:
- But BattleCry Philadelphia was more than just a vulgar carnival designed to suck donations into the coffers of Ron Luce's corporation "Teen Mania". Indeed, it had a point, to recruit the future elite "warriors" in the coming battle against the separation of church and state. It turned dark and frightening on Saturday afternoon. After Franklin "Islam is a Wicked Religion" Graham came out to thunder against the evils of homosexuality and the Iraqi people (whom he considers to be exactly the same people as the ancient Babylonians who enslaved the tribes of Israel and deserving, one would assume, the exact same fate) we heard an explosion. Flames shot out on stage and a team of Navy Seals was shown on the big TV monitors in full camouflage creeping forward down the hallway from the locker room with their M16s. They were hunting us, the future Christian leaders of America. Two teenage girls next to me burst into tears and even I, a jaded middle-aged male, almost jumped out of my skin. I imagined for that moment what it must have felt like to have been a teacher at Columbine high school. 10 seconds later they rushed out onstage and pointed their guns in our direction firing blanks spitting flames. About 1000 shots and bang, we were all dead.
Perhaps most disturbing, the rally included an endorsement from President Bush, as Sunsara Taylor reported:
- It began with fireworks so loud and startling I screamed. Lights and smoke followed, and a few kids were pulled up on stage from the crowd. One was asked to read a letter.
This was the letter that opened the event. Its author was George W. Bush. Yes, the president of the United States sent a letter of support, greeting, prayer and encouragement to the BattleCry event held at Wachovia Spectrum Stadium in Philadelphia on May 12. Immediately afterward, a preacher took the microphone and led the crowd in prayer. Among other things, he asked the attendees to "Thank God for giving us George Bush."
On his cue, about 17,000 youths from upward of 2,000 churches across America and Canada directed their thanks heavenward in unison.
Taylor filed an earlier report at Counterpunch, and likewise noted Battle Cry's ties to the White House, including the appointment of founder Ron Luce to the White House Advisory Commission on Drug-Free Communities, and extending to Bush's circle of contacts with the religious right:
- Behind their multi-million dollar operation that sends more than 5,000 missionaries to more than thirty-four countries each year, are some of the most powerful and extreme religious lunatics in the country. Their partners include Pat Robertson (who got a call from Karl Rove to discuss Alito before the nomination was made public), Ted Haggard (who brags that his concerns will be responded to by the White House within 24 hours), Jerry Falwell (who blamed September 11th on homosexuals, feminists, pagans, and abortionists), and others. Their events have been addressed by Barbara Bush (via video) as well as former President Gerry Ford. This weekend's event will include Franklyn Graham who has ministered to George Bush and publicly proclaimed that Islam is an "evil religion."
I first noticed BattleCry when they held their San Francisco rally a couple of months ago. After reading up on them and listening carefully to their rhetoric, I think Taylor's labeling of them as "fascist" is not exactly correct. Rather, I think they're a classic case of pseudo fascism:
- Unlike the genuine article, it presents itself under a normative, rather than a revolutionary, guise; and rather than openly exulting in violence, it pays lip service to law and order. Moreover, even in the areas where it resembles real fascism, the similarities are often more familial than exact. It is, in essence, less virulent and less violent, and thus more likely to gain broad acceptance within a longtime stable democratic system like that of the United States.
- The familial resemblance of fascism's architecture is unmistakable, but it is not fully fleshed out. It is like a hologram, a skeletal outline, of fascism.
Fascism is not a single, readily identifiable principle but a political pathology, best understood (as in psychology) as a constellation of traits ... Taken individually, many of these traits seem innocuous enough, even readily familiar, part of the traditional American political hurly-burly. A few of them are present throughout the political spectrum -- but definitely not all of them.
It is only when taken together in sum does the constellation become clear. And when it comes together, it is fated to take on a life of its own.
The main component of fascism that is missing from Battle Cry is the real, beating heart of fascism: its eliminationist violence. There's plenty of pretend violence, and certainly plenty of demonization of the "enemy," all of which build toward the real thing. But there's relatively little talk, yet, of "crushing" or eliminating or exterminating the enemy, which is really the signal characteristic of the Brownshirt.
That doesn't mean they don't have the potential to morph into something very dangerous indeed, in large part because their message is so potent in the national environment of fearfulness that has been the core of the Bush administration's appeal since 9/11.
Recall, if you will, the description of the "exemplary dualist" mindset (also >here) on which this appeal is based, drawn from "Religious Totalism, Violence and Exemplary Dualism: Beyond the Extrinsic Model," by the sociologists Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins:
- It has been a staple of recent American cultural analysis and criticism that the contemporary United States increasingly lacks a consensual and compelling social ethic and that in consequence, the 'covenant' uniting the American people has become, in Robert Bellah's words, an 'empty and broken shell.' One consequence of the lack of an integrative ethic, we have intimated above, is a diminished capacity of parents -- who are themselves wrestling with the fragmented selves that result from the lack of an integrated ethic -- to serve as persuasive role-models or identification figures for their children, and thereby to transmit a coherent set of values. In this context parents may tend to treat their children as 'self-objects' in the sense of evaluating them in terms of tangible, purely external criteria such as their apparent social-academic-vocational 'success' or competence. This pattern enhances the anxiety over the themes of success, competence and power on the part of children, who are more likely to develop a fragmented or polarized self composed of a grandiose, all-powerful or omnipotent self which is split off from a devalued, pathetic, failed self.
Social movements with distinctly dualistic worldviews provide psycho-ideological contexts which facilitate attempts to heal the split self by projecting negativity and devalued self-elements onto ideologically devalued contrast symbols. But there is another possible linkage between these kinds of movements and individuals with split selves in the throes of identity confusion. People with the whole range of personality disorders, which utilize splitting and projective identification, tend to have difficulties in establishing stable, intimate relationships. Splitting tends to produce volatile and unstable relationships as candidates for intimacy are alternately idealized and degraded. Thus, narcissists tend to have vocational, and more particularly, interpersonal difficulties as they obsessively focus upon status-reinforcing rewards in interpersonal relations. They have difficulty developing social bonds grounded in empathy and mutuality, and their structure of interpersonal relations tends to be unstable. Thus, individuals may be tempted to enter communal and quasi-communal social movements which combine a more structured setting for interpersonal relations with a dualistic interpersonal theme of 'triangulation' which embodies the motif of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' Such movements create a sense of mutuality by focusing attention on specific contrast groups and their values, goals and lifestyles so that this shared repudiation seems to unite the participants and provide a meaningful 'boundary' to operationalize the identity of the group. Solidarity within the group and the convert's sense of dedication and sacrifice on behalf of group goals may enable him or her to repudiate the dissociated negative (bad, weak or failed) self and the related selfish and exploitative self which they may be aware that others might have perceived. These devalued selves can then be projected on to either scapegoats designated by the group or, more generally, non-believers whose values and behavior allegedly do not attain the exemplary purity and authenticity of that of devotees.
As I went on to explain (also here), 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.
As I noted, 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.
This is the basis of pseudo-fascist appeals, and any effort to confront it effectively will have to come to terms with how it arises.
Michelle Goldberg -- whose new book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, really is a must-read -- describes the depths of the challenge well:
- To write "Kingdom Coming," I traveled all over America, going to megachurches and ministries, attending rallies and conferences, and visiting some of the government-funded faith-based initiatives that, under Bush, have slowly begun to replace secular social services. I immersed myself in the literature of the movement and even took to listening to Christian radio. I began to realize that what I was encountering was as much a totalistic political movement as a religious one. What I describe as Christian nationalism is not synonymous with evangelical Christianity or even Christian fundamentalism. It is, rather, a movement that purports to have extrapolated a complete governing program from the bible, and that claims divine sanction for its campaign of national renewal. It promotes a revisionist history in which the founders were conservative Christians who never meant to separate church and state, and in which America's true Christian character has been subverted by several generations of God-hating leftists. It explicitly condemns the Enlightenment and denies that Enlightenment values had anything to do with our nation's original ideals. The movement's literature is so vast, its alternative skein of pseudo-facts so intricate, that it often seemed totally impervious to outside argument.
... By citing Arendt, I am certainly not suggesting that theocratic dictatorship is imminent in America. Rather, I'm saying that the Christian nationalist movement has a proto-totalitarian ideology and structure, and that, while it only represents a minority of Americas, it has amassed more influence than those who cherish secularism and pluralism should be comfortable with.
When we see groups like this taking shape, we need to understand that they are a warning sign that something is coming that the politics of the past may be inadequate to contain. It means we need to reach deeper and find something that dispells the cloud of fear that conservative rule has shrouded over the nation.
The 'Southwestern Strategy'
Monday, May 22, 2006
The nativist right is fond of portraying its concern about illegal immigrants coming over our southern borders as a matter of simple border security. Certainly, that was the way President Bush -- in making a play to recapture support with that crowd -- depicted it in his speech last week.
So, what does the Republican-controlled Senate do? It votes to make English the official language of the United States.
What, you may ask, does any of this have to do with border security? Well, nothing.
This, in poker terms, is the nativists' "tell": They may talk endlessly about terrorists crossing our open borders, blah blah blah, but what they're really concerned about is their fear that white culture is being overrun by a brown tide.
As the Associated Press pointed out over the weekend, the debate over English as the "official language" of the United States is actually about a great deal more:
- And just as in many other countries where people worry about protecting the mother tongue -- ironically, often from the global spread of English -- the debate here over whether English is endangered is largely about all sorts of matters that have little to do with the words we speak.
"Language is never about language," said Walt Wolfram, a social linguist at North Carolina State University. "Why should it be any different in the United States?"
That point is seconded by Tucker, an expert on language education, planning and policy at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University.
"The discussion is ... related to fears of immigration issues. I think it's related to a worry about the changing demography of the United States. I think it's a worry about who will continue to have political and economic influence," Tucker said.
This is why you can now hear Bill O'Reilly declaim on national television:
- That's because the newspaper and many far-left thinkers believe the white power structure that controls America is bad, so a drastic change is needed.
According to the lefty zealots, the white Christians who hold power must be swept out by a new multicultural tide, a rainbow coalition, if you will. This can only happen if demographics change in America.
And then there's John Gibson:
- First, a story yesterday that half of the kids in this country under five years old are minorities. By far, the greatest number are Hispanic. You know what that means? Twenty-five years and the majority of the population is Hispanic. Why is that? Well, Hispanics are having more kids than others. Notably, the ones Hispanics call "gabachos" -- white people -- are having fewer.
... To put it bluntly, we need more babies. Forget about that zero population growth stuff that my poor generation was misled on. Why is this important? Because civilizations need population to survive. So far, we are doing our part here in America but Hispanics can't carry the whole load. The rest of you, get busy. Make babies, or put another way -- a slogan for our times: "procreation not recreation."
As Alex Koppelman points out, this kind of rhetoric almost precisely mirrors the kind of talk popular with the eugenicists and white supremacists who whipped up anti-immigrant fervor against Asians a century ago:
- Gibson’s words, to be sure, are filled with the echoes of a dark past — specifically, echoes of Madison Grant's landmark racist screed The Passing of the Great Race, once used to justify eugenics, and the use of quotas in setting American immigration policy. Grant, too, was concerned about immigrants doing more than their part to populate the country:
"[L]arge families among the newly arrived population are still the rule," Grant wrote back in 1916, "... The lowering of the birth rate among the most valuable classes, while the birth rate of the lower classes remains unaffected, is a frequent phenomenon of prosperity. Such a change becomes extremely injurious to the race if unchecked."
This fetish about the birth rates of brown people compared to white people has remained a constant of the white-supremacist set for all of the past century; it was a central component of Klan activity in the 1980s, and was the centerpiece of David Duke's political career beginning in the mid-'80s. As recently as 2000, he would write:
- "We are fighting for the preservation of our heritage, freedom and way of life in the United States and much of the Western World. Ultimately, we are working to secure the most important civil right of all, the right to preserve our kind of life. Massive immigration and low European American birthrates coupled with integration and racial intermarriage threatens the continued existence of our very genotype. We assert that we, as do all expressions of life on this planet, have the right to live and to have our children and our children’s children reflect both genetically and culturally our heritage."
Likewise, the "English only" push, inextricably intertwined with racist immigrant-bashing, has been circulating on the extremist right for years. In recent years, the movement to create such a law attempted to pose itself as a legitimate organization called English USA, but it didn't take long for its racist roots to show:
- In the 20 years since it was founded by anti-immigration activist John Tanton, U.S. English has billed itself as a well-meaning group that "promotes unity and empowers immigrants by encouraging them to learn English." But the organization, which lobbies to establish English as the official U.S. language, has not been able to steer clear of controversy, especially since one of Tanton's secret memos was leaked in 1988.
"In this society ... will the present majority peaceably hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile?" Tanton asked.
... James Lubinskas, who came on as director of communications for U.S. English last spring, had been the assistant editor or a contributing editor at American Renaissance, a magazine that promotes "scientific" racism, from 1998 until at least last October. He has spoken at least once at a conference of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens and has contributed frequent articles to that group's newsletter.
In 2000, Lubinskas shared a stage with former Klan leader David Duke at a gathering of another white-supremacist group, the American Friends of the British National Party — a fact he denied in a letter to Washington Post columnist Terry Neal, who summarized the Southern Poverty Law Center's findings in an Aug. 13 article. At the same event, another fellow speaker was Sam van Rensburg, then a leading official of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
The reason for the growing conservative embrace of these longtime appeals from the extremist right is simple: their power base is rapidly crumbling under the weight of the Bush administration's ineptitude, both at home and abroad.
Most importantly, it is losing chunks of its base of support over the immigration issue, particularly as far-right appeals (such as the "invasion" and "Reconquista" claims) gain broader circulation and popularity. Rather than stand up to this extremism, the White House approach has been to mollify it with empty gestures like placing overextended National Guardsmen on the border.
Over at Blogesque, Len examined Bush's speech carefully and observed that it resembled nothing so much as an old Nixonian "law and order" speech, the kind he gave as he adopted the "Southern Strategy":
- Border security is an issue that undoubtedly needs to be addressed, but why is it suddenly such a big deal? Because it has been pushed to the forefront by a bunch of xenophobic nutjobs and their media enablers. Under pressure by the radical right, Bush's speechwriters loaded his address with carefully-selected framing, and Democrats need to be very careful not to just tapdance through that minefield.
- On the streets of major cities, crowds have rallied in support of those in our country illegally. At our southern border, others have organized to stop illegal immigrants from coming in.
Bush implies that those who rallied, if not criminals themselves, are accomplices. He also implies that those who assemble homegrown border patrols are on the side of law and order.
... An appalling number of serious national security issues under this administration have been marked by gross incompetence and opportunistic cronyism. What could possibly make people think they can get this right? Bush's embrace of the issue is merely an attempt to change the subject from his disastrous Iraq war and its attendant executive overreaches. If Bush wants to put the National Guard on the border but the National Guard is already overextended, is it so difficult to open the discussion about why they're overextended? Despite what the pundits and the strategists would have us believe, the war in Iraq has been consistently unpopular since early 2004.
Len calls this Bush's "Southwestern Strategy," though he points out that the term was actually coined by Mario at Nuestra Voice last year, in a post that was truly prescient:
- The "Southern Strategy" used code words and phrases to deliver its racist anti-African American message to bigots. The GOP was able to hide its play to the lower selves of white southerners with the words "quotas", "crime", and "welfare queens". The words may have been precise but the message was broad. The word was "crime" but the image was African American men. The phrase was "Welfare Queen" but the message was about African American women. The word was "quota" but the message was keep them out of "our" schools.
In the "Southwestern Strategy" the words are about immigrants. It may be the border that is being 'patroled' by "minute men" but we all know that it is an attack on our community in general. The words may be "border risk" and "illegal invasion" but the "Southwestern Strategy" plays at the meta level like the "Southern Strategy" and the idea is Latinos, all of us legal or not, are not welcome.
The important thing to understand about the Southern Strategy is that, while originally geared toward Southern whites, it actually proved quite resonant in other places as well -- particularly the rural and suburban Midwestern and Western states.
Digby, springboarding from a Paul Glastris piece from 2005, examined this in some detail the other day:
- This article points out that one of the big reasons for this new obsession with the evils of illegals is that the migration pattern has changed: many are settling in towns that never saw any latinos before. The culture shock is disturbing to people who aren't used to hearing Tejano music and seeing burrito stands crop up in their neighborhoods. And it's not just that they are settling in regions that are unfamiliar --- it's that they are settling in smaller towns which are by definition less cosmopolitan. This is new for them.
And, because all these things are happening in smaller towns in the south it is evoking certain anxieties and knee jerk reactions among some people --- and panic among business owners and others who are desperate to keep migrant workers in the labor pool or lose what they have. Culture meets economic necessity in places like Kentucky and it isn't an easy problem to solve.
What's missing from this analysis is that, in fact, the Latino migration is occurring in many precincts that, historically, were all-white by design. As James Loewen details (excruciatingly) in his study Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, there are literally thousands of towns across America -- relatively few of them in the South -- who for much of the 20th century forbade minorities, blacks especially, from living within their communities. Many of them placed signs at the town limits warning "Whites Only After Dark" or "Nigger, Don't Let the Sun Set on You Here" -- that all nonwhites were to be out of town by sundown. In many cases, especially suburbs, no signs were visible, but all-white covenants provided the same effect.
Most of the "sundown towns" that Loewen documents were in the Midwest and West -- the same places where we're hearing complaints about a "Mexican invasion" now. The same places where George Bush sees his base eroding.
These same "sundown towns" have, unsurprisingly, a history of following racial election appeals, including broad support for George Wallace in 1968, and Republican presidential candidates in the ensuing years, all of whom made use of the Southern Strategy's core appeal to white racial interests:
- As a result of such leadership, Republicans have carried most sundown towns since 1968, sometimes achieving startling unaninimity. ... So the "southern strategy" turned out to be a "southern and sundown town strategy," especially in sundown suburbs. Macomb County, for example, the next county north of Detroit, voted overwhelmingly for Wallace in the 1972 Democratic primary. Wooed by Nixon, many of these voters then became "Reagan Democrats" and now are plain Republicans. The biggest single reason, according to housing attorney Alexander Polikoff, was anxiety about "blacks trapped in ghettos trying to penetrate white neighborhoods." [pp.372-373]
The core appeal of the Southern Strategy, as even the GOP admits now, was all about protecting white privilege, and so its reach ran well beyond the South.
The same is true of the newly emerging "Southwestern Strategy" -- and it is one that may similarly cut across regional and even party lines.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
The fine folks at Northwest Progressive Institute are reporting tonight that Antioch Bible Church -- which meets at an Eastside public high school -- was passing out petitions for Tim Eyman's latest, and most divisive yet, intiative: a proposal to overturn the recent state legislation that expanded anti-discrimination law to include sexual orientation:
- Ken Hutcherson's Antioch Bible Church was a participant in this morning's "Referendum Sunday" petition drive to legalize discrimination against people of different sexual orientation, NPI has learned.
Sources demonstrated to NPI (see the images below) that a large folding table was set up outside of the Lake Washington High School gymnasium, where the Antioch Bible Church meets for Sunday services, to allow members of Hutcherson's congregation to sign petitions for Referendum 65 as they exited the building.
[The report includes photos of the petitions and the table where they were being distributed.]
- An organizer was also distributing petitions to congregation members for circulation, along with instructions. According to our sources, the organizer made a point of asking congregation members to sign the back of the petition, and when asked when they were due back by, was quoted as saying "We'd prefer to have them back by June 1st". (June 6th is the deadline for Eyman to collect signatures to be turned into the Secretary of State's office).
Antioch, for those interested, is one of those mega-churches whose fundamentalist congregations number in the thousands (they claim 3,500). Its pastor is a former Seahawk named Ken Hutcherson, who a couple of months ago engaged in a debate with County Executive Ron Sims on gay rights, which went about like this:
- Simply put, Sims, who is the state's highest elected black official, believes discriminating against a person based on sexual orientation is only the latest incarnation of a decades-long struggle to protect the civil rights of minorities.
While Hutcherson, who also is black -- and raised in the segregated South -- finds such characterizations an insult.
"I have never met an ex-black, but I have met many ex-homosexuals," he said, offering his familiar quip that homosexuality is merely a lifestyle choice, not to mention a sin, and undeserving of government protection.
Sims responded that religious choice is protected by law, but his words were drowned out in one of the evening's frequent shouting matches.
Of course it did, because this is precisely the point that the anti-gay right wishes to avoid confronting, namely: discrimination laws are not set up to protect people from bigotry regarding their "innate characteristics" instead of their "chosen behaviors." They're about protecting people from bigotry, period.
- Ah yes. We've heard this line before. Because being gay is a "chosen behavior," it is undeserving of civil rights protections.
It's the same reason given by many evangelicals -- and particularly black and minority evangelicals, and people who claim they support civil rights -- for not supporting gays and lesbians in hate-crime protections: "You can't compare being gay to being black. One's immutable, one's chosen."
Well, yes, this is true when it comes to race. And even ethnicity. These are, after all, two of the three main legs of anti-discrimination and hate-crimes laws.
But it's not true of the third leg of these laws: religion. Last I checked, this too was a "chosen behavior."
I wonder if the churchgoers at Antioch would be just as eager to knock down the state's anti-discrimination laws if the target were those clauses that protect their chosen behaviors -- namely, their freedom of religion.
Coulter and the haters
Fresh from besseching skinheads to act out on her behalf, Ann Coulter is now citing the leader of a hate group as a thoughtful authority on immigration:
- Also, someone must have finally told Bush that the point about America being a "nation of immigrants" is moronic. All nations are "nations of immigrants" — as Peter Brimelow pointed out brilliantly in his 1992 article in National Review on immigration, which left nothing for anyone else to say (Time to Rethink Immigration? ).
Of the "nation of immigrants" locution, Brimelow says:
"No discussion of U.S. immigration policy gets far without someone making this helpful remark. As an immigrant myself, I always pause respectfully. You never know. Maybe this is what they're taught to chant in schools nowadays, a sort of multicultural Pledge of Allegiance. ... Do they really think other nations sprouted up out of the ground?"
Brimelow then ran through the Roman, Saxon, Viking, Norman-French, Welsh and Celtic immigrant influences in Britain alone.
Instead of a moratorium on new immigration, I'd settle for a moratorium on the use of the expression "We're a nation of immigrants." Throw in a ban on "Diversity is our strength" and you've got my vote for life.
Over at Huffington Post, Alex Koppelman lowered the boom:
- The skinhead in question is one Peter Brimelow, who runs VDARE.com. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists VDARE as a hate group, and, as I've written here before, the SPLC has good reason to do so.
Reasons like Jared Taylor, a "white nationalist" who Brimelow has praised as "perhaps the most brilliant and accomplished figure among White Nationalists." Taylor runs a magazine called the American Renaissance, which the Anti-Defamation League describes as promoting "'genteel' racism: pseudoscientific, questionably researched and argued articles that validate the genetic and moral inferiority of nonwhites and the need for racial 'purity.'"
One of Taylor's articles posted on VDARE contains these lovely little sentiments:
"The reason blacks and whites do not enjoy similar outcomes despite similar treatment by society is that the black and white populations are not equivalent. ... Our government has permitted a huge influx of non-white immigrants who threaten to reduce whites to a minority by the middle of this century. In their bones, whites know this will not be a good thing. They know that an increasingly Third-World America will slip into Third-World habits of corruption, poverty, and violence."
In an e-mail exchange with Koppelman, I pointed out to him that while calling Brimelow a "skinhead" makes a valid point rhetorically, it's probably best not to confuse what a guy like Brimelow does with what skinheads do.
Skinheads are the embodiment of the thuggery latent in the extremist right; guys like Brimelow provide them with pseudo-intellectual rhetorical cover. Basically, they take the turds of racial bigotry that are the extremist right's stock-in-trade and put a nice shine on them. Then the skinheads go out and fling them.
Koppelman followed up along these lines at Dragonfire:
- I've spent the past couple weeks arguing with a friend of mine who, despite the fact that his father is Hispanic, and an immigrant, swallows and passes along the racist message passed along by O'Reilly, Gibson, Malkin and their ilk. And though he acknowledged that my previous column had proved Malkin's white supremacist ties, he's still accusing me of doing what all us crazy liberals are apparently guilty of -- playing the old race card. That's where this country is in our discussion on race today: we assume that if someone isn't wearing a hood and burning a cross, they and their rhetoric can't possibly be racist. But that's what today's cuter, cuddlier racists are counting on. Dress up the racism, make it sound nice and friendly, drop racist cartoons of dirty brown people huddling under sombreros in favor of a nice, complimentary message that the Hispanics simply are doing more than their fair share and we should lift a little of the burden, and you can put it on Fox News. Hide a hateful white supremacist inside an attractive Filipina, and she can be the country's most popular conservative blogger.
I think the bottom line is that conservatives are steadily pounding out the drumbeat that racism is dead.
Sure it is. Ann Coulter is, after all, an authority on the subject.