Archive for the ‘Right wing’ Category

Like the Taliban but Whiter and Way More Guns

July 2, 2010

If Rand Paul ever makes it to the White House, I think we all know who he'll be tapping for Vice Prez...

“New Study Shows That Majority Of Americans Want Their Warlord Leaders To Focus More On Economic Issues.” That headline was a Tweet from The Onion today as part of it’s future-headlines series: #NewsIn2137

Unfortunately, it looks like we could be dealing with warlords in this country a lot sooner than 2137. The hot trend in right-wing campaign ads this season seems to be gun fetishism (surprise!). Touting the NRA’s seal of approval is certainly nothing new for the GOP, ads like this one from Arizona’s Pamela Gorman take it to a new level of absurdity.

Now, unlike many lefties, I’m not a big fan of gun control. How are we supposed to celebrate weddings, mourn at funerals, or pass the time when we’re bored without shooting guns in the air? OK, there are actually much better reasons for supporting the second amendment, like not wanting the State to have a monopoly on firearms, but for Republicans to act like this is the most important issue facing out country right now is stupider than Forrest Gump at a nitrous party.

After all, the Supreme Court just ruled in favor of gun rights this week and Obama hasn’t done anything to suggest that he’s about to take away our ability to purchase weapons that could turn an armored car into Swiss cheese, so why are the Tea Partiers’ all getting their star-spangled panties in a twist?

Here are two explanations to that question:

1)    It’s easy. In US politics, guns symbolize the brand that these kinds of politicians want to associate themselves with. Tough, “law and order”, no nonsense, old fashioned, etc. These are the associations that conservative voters have with leaders who flaunt their firearms. Plus, by focusing on guns (and the brainless, never-ending mantra to cut taxes), these politicians can ignore the complexities of real issues facing us today. If Pamela Gorman tried to talk seriously about an issue that’s actually a major threat to our country like the need for transparency in the derivatives market, her supporters – most of whom I assume are constantly drooling anyway – would probably either fall asleep or start playing with whatever shiny object is closest.

2)    These people want to live in a fantasy world where they get to play the patriotic militia leader Rambo role and rise up against the New World Order and the “antichrist” black president. Media Matters just posted a great summary of how all the right-wing radio hosts are now proclaiming that we’re on the verge of a civil war. Many of these people are already living in a loony tunes universe where the Earth is only 6000 years old, abstinence-only education actually works, and Jesus will be coming back any day now riding a unicorn made of Bibles. The formerly fringe culture of survivalists has gone mainstream (with “crisis garden” commercials running on the number one-rated cable news network – FOX) and upscale (with next generation bomb shelters designed to look like luxury cruise liners).

Yeah, like the zombies really won't be able to find you down there.

Now, I’m not saying that the government isn’t totally messed up at every level and that it is doing and proposing lots of scary things, like an “emergency kill switch” for the Internet. But electing politicians based on the caliber of weapon that they’re stroking in their campaign ad isn’t the way to make things better – unless you want Congressional hearings to look like the climax scenes in Quentin Tarantino movies…

Although Dale Peterson does make a pretty convincing case about the Facebook thing…


But what the hell is this? It looks like a cross between a Tea Party wet dream and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure…

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‘Shop Off Their Heads!

June 24, 2010

"Wait. So you're telling me this isn't real?"

When Joseph Stalin began into his Axl Rose-like descent into maniacal paranoia, he had comrades who “betrayed” him not only murdered, but wiped from the pages of history, as well. His propaganda squad would use literally erase Stalin’s ex-henchmen from photographs in an attempt to purge even the memory of his enemies from the collective consciousness.  Of course, Russians drink so much vodka that resorting to this crude revisionism was probably unnecessary, but I guess Uncle Joe was kind of a dictator about stuff like that.

So, flash-forward a few decades and look who’s taking an exacto knife to the history books now: the anti-smoking crowd. According to the UK’s Daily Mail, a British museum features a giant poster of Winston Churchill above the main entrance – but his iconic cigar has been Photoshopped out! Not only is this unsavory from a historical standpoint, but now Churchill looks like Dick Cheney. (If Dick Cheney wasn’t a draft dodger.)

According to the article, the origin of the Photoshopped image is “a mystery,” but this isn’t the first time that the anti-smoking lobby airbrushed a famous stogie. On the cover of a British school textbook, a cigar was removed from the mouth of a renowned engineer to avoid “offense.” Now, I’m not trying to stand up for the tobacco industry – I would be totally fine if BP used the bodies of Big Tobacco execs to stuff up the oil geyser in the Gulf. However, let’s leave revising historical record to psychotic totalitarians, shall we?

“He who controls the Photoshop controls the future.” –George Orwell

“Why are you trying to chop off history’s dick?” –Sigmund Freud

Speaking of creepy fascists (what a coincidence!) The Washington Times ran a Photoshopped photo of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan wearing a turban today. This fraudulent picture was apparently meant to illustrate neo-con Frank Gaffney’s conspiracy theory masquerading as an op-ed involving Shariah law, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wall Street bailout. The only thing that makes less sense to me than the logic of this article is the fact that Gaffney – who previously tried to blame Saddam Hussein for the ’93 World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings – somehow runs a “think tank.”

Nice job, right-wingers. I could have done it better with safety scissors and a glue stick.

Teapublicans Want You to Bomb the Capitol Building (Metaphorically, of course)

April 25, 2010

The new face of the Republican Party is pretty creepy... but its definitely an improvement over Dick Cheney.

Ever since the election of America’s first black president, Republican leaders and pundits have been invoking some pretty dubious role models. Texas Rep. Pete Sessions compared Republicans to the Taliban. Sean Hannity called a gathering of Tea Partiers “a bunch of Tim McVeigh wannabes” and they responded with wild applause. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman organized an anti-health care reform rally on Guy Fawkes Day last year, where she described her followers as “insurgents” and urged these “freedom fighters” to storm the Capitol building to “scare” members of Congress.

Now, some might find it hypocritical for Bachman, a woman who has received more than $250,000 in welfare checks (in the form of corn and dairy subsidies for her family farm), to choose Guy Fawkes as the mascot for her anti-government crusade. Fawkes, after all, was a “terrorist” who was executed for attempting to detonate 36 barrels of gunpowder beneath the UK Parliament with the King and all the noble aristocrats inside.

Guy Fawkes: Hero of the Left or Paleo-Teabagger?

However, Bachman did resign from a school board over controversy involving the movie Alladin promoting “witchcraft;” belonged to a church that thought the Pope was “the anti-Christ;” and recently advocated armed revolution in response to Obama’s energy policy, so the Fawkes thing actually rates pretty low on the Bachman Wack-o-meter.

Anyhoo, getting back to the point, the Republican Governors Association just unveiled a new campaign called “Remember November” that not only rips off its title from the Guy Fawkes legend, but uses the famous “V” logo created by Alan Moore for his Fawkes-inspired comic book “V for Vendetta” (the “V” is subtly inserted into the word “NoVember” at the end of the video.)

Are they serious? It was silly when RNC chairman Michael Steele was co-opting dated rap lingo to sell an “off-the-hook” “hip-hop makeover” for the GOP, but this is just ridiculous. I knew that RGA President and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was looney tunes when he said that not mentioning slavery in a proclamation about Confederate History Month “doesn’t matter for diddly,” but now he’s running a campaign that’s culture-jacking from Alan Moore – a vegetarian, anarchist pagan?!

Alan Moore: Serpent-Worshipping Hermit or the Next Karl Rove?

Plus, people dressed up like the “V” character were a staple at anti-Bush rallies for years. Republicans can’t steal this from left-wingers – that would be like if progressives started wearing tri-corner hats at street protests or if Glenn Greenwald wore a bow tie during his next MSNBC appearance. Some lines you don’t want to cross.

And, frankly, this is unfair. Right-wingers have so many action heroes to choose from. They made Arnold Schwarzenegger a governor. Chuck Norris was Mike Huckabee’s body-guard/confidant. Sylvester Stallone has recruited a whole horde of washed-up ‘roid-heads for a new anti-Hugo Chavez movie. Besides the blue guy from Avatar and Matt Damon, what kind of ass-kickers do the left have? Emma Goldman?

Instead of co-opting V for Vendetta, here’s a list of movies that I think would be more appropriate for the Teapublicans to use for their next campaign:

Grumpy Old Men
Why: Self-explanatory.

The Wrestler
Why: I think a lot of Tea Partiers should be able to relate to Mickey Rourke’s character: a creepy, over-the-hill white guy who is addicted to pain-killers (like Republican patron saint Rush Limbaugh).

300
Why: The violent, xenophobic nature of… actually, forget it. I don’t want to any super-sized wingnuts running around in loincloths and capes.

Groundhog Day
Why: Because Republicans always make the same mistakes over and over again (failed imperial military adventures; driving up the Federal budget after the say they’re going to “shrink government”; passing “family values” laws and then getting busted for gay affairs and/or soliciting sex workers; etc.)

A Day Without a Mexican
Why: I don’t think they would like the actual movie, but the GOP’s widespread support for Arizona’s new law that makes having brown skin probable cause for arrest indicates that most Republicans are supportive of this concept.

Road Warrior
Why: Mel Gibson, ultra-violent militias and everyone is obsessed with fossil fuel. ‘Nuff said.

OK, since I’ve given all this free advice to the Republicans, I really owe at least once suggestion to the Democrats. If the Dems decide to base a new campaign on movie, I think it should be…

The New Star Wars Trilogy
Why: It didn’t live up to the hype, it was hard for fans to follow the plot, and it didn’t close Guantanamo, just like the Obama Administration, so far…

"Yeah, I know I said I was going to ban corporate lobbyists from working in my administration, but if you don't quit bugging me about that I'll slice your arm off!"

Anarchists + Tea Party = Black Tea Party?

April 4, 2010

Not Likely

A call to disrupt Tea Party protests scheduled for April 15 was recently posted on Infoshop.org, a popular anarchist news site and forum. Once right-wing Web sites found out about the anarchists’ plan to invade their rallies, the cyber-insults and threats quickly piled up like clogged assembly line. That is to say, there was a lot of cookie-cutter trash talk from both sides, but it didn’t lead to productive results*.

Most of the anarchists’ online comments were little more than slight variants of the over-generalized description from the initial Infoshop article, which described the Tea Party movement as “a coalition of conservatives, anti-Semites, fascists, libertarians, racists, constitutionalists, militia men, gun freaks, homophobes, Ron Paul supporters, Alex Jones conspiracy types and American flag wavers.”

Most of the Tea Partiers’ comments involved at least one of the following three themes:

  • “I hope anarchists really do try to confront us so I can shoot them / attack them with my dog”
  • “All anarchists are smelly idiots/confused college students/entitled bums/narcissists/undercover provocateurs/fascists/liberals/Democrats”
  • “I’m confused. I thought anarchists were anti-government. Why do they want to fight us in order to protect government programs?” (This theme is in response to a line from the Infoshop article that says “If the tea party movement takes over this country they will really hurt poor people by getting rid of social programs like food stamps, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, student aid, free health care, etc.” Frankly, I wouldn’t expect Tea Partiers to up-to-date on the somewhat paradoxical nature of modern anarchist theory, so I can’t really blame them for being flabbergasted by what would seem to be a major philosophical contradiction. But I’m not going to get into that.)

OK, so that’s a quick and admittedly over-generalized overview of the situation so far. What will happen next? I’m no Miss Cleo but here’s my prediction:

On April 15, groups of anarchists confront larger groups of Tea Partiers. There will be screaming and name-calling along the lines of “You’re a fascist!” “No, you’re a fascist!”. There might be some minor skirmishes, but a lot of cops will be on hand to prevent anything too crazy. The cops will probably arrest a few anarchists. Both sides will go home confident that they “won” and spend the next few weeks re-hashing their triumphs. The animosity will continue to simmer.

Maybe next time, a few months from now, somebody will really get hurt. A Vietnam vet will re-assert his patriotism by pumping a bullet into some kid wearing black clothes and a black bandana over his face. Or maybe an anti-capitalist revolutionary will hurl a brick into a crowd and it will crack some old lady’s skull. Maybe the next level of violence will be instigated by an undercover government agent. That last option is just about the oldest trick in the book when the government wants to crack down on a movement – or two.

Either way, more government “attention” on both of these groups would be the inevitable next step in this utterly predictable sequence of events. History as well as current events informs us that the Feds are already keeping close tabs on organizations at both ends of the political spectrum. Moles and provocateurs are common.

This surveillance is understandable with situations involving violent factions like the Hutaree militia, who were arrested last week for plotting a mass murder, or animal liberation groups that send mail bombs to scientists. However, well-documented revelations of illegal spying and infiltration of totally peaceful anti-death penalty and anti-war groups like the Raging Grannies in recent years proves that if the government wants to spy on you, they will, whether you’re violent or not.

The point is that it could get much, much worse.

First they came for the Raging Grannies...

While I’m neither an anarchist nor a Tea Partier, I share some principles advocated by both sides. Resistance to unjust, unconstitutional invasions of privacy and anti-democratic policies is at the top of that list. In a nutshell, I don’t think the government should be allowed to violate people’s rights.

There are obviously irreconcilable differences between Tea Partiers and anarchists. I’m not naive enough to advocate for any kind of Tea Party/anarchist coalition (“the Black Tea Party”?). But as a confrontation that would seem to have no potential for a positive outcome draws near, I worry that these two movements will squander energy that could be focused on legitimate, mutual concerns involving serious threats to freedom that are rapidly emerging because they’ll be too busy arguing with each other.

Here’s one example: The government and corporations are teaming up for a massive crackdown on Internet freedoms.

Check out “Cyberwar Hype Intended to Destroy the Open Internet” for a great overview on a growing push by the military-industrial complex (including telecom and tech corporations) to “re-engineer the Internet.” According to a new Wired article, former national intelligence director and current Booz Allen Hamilton VP Michael McConnell is “talking about changing the internet to make everything anyone does on the net traceable and geo-located so the National Security Agency can pinpoint users and their computers in retaliation if the U.S. government does like what’s written in an e-mail, what search terms were used, what movies were downloaded.”

There’s already a Senate bill that would give the President “emergency powers” to take over the Internet and a bill in the UK that would outlaw open Internet connections, so some of these crackdowns could be right around the corner. While there are some cyber-activists organizing against this, a few groups like the nonpartisan Electronic Frontier Foundation are shouldering much of this burden (and there are lots of easy ways to plug into their campaigns to protect online freedoms).

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Tea Party movement for people on the left – and why it’s hard for anyone from mainstream Democrats to the crustiest anarchist to take their movement seriously – is that they waited until now to get angry. They certainly weren’t in the streets showing any concern when there was a white Republican in the White House violating the constitution, expanding executive power and driving up the national deficit to record levels. But now they’ve emerged as the biggest populist movement in recent history… and the only reaction from the left so far seems to be mockery and unfocused scorn (some of this is well-deserved), but it can’t be the only response.

Of course racist elements within the Tea Party are inexcusable and must be exposed. Regarding the Tea Party’s supposed platform of fiscal responsibility, their commitment to cut government spending would be a lot more believable if they focused on the most bloated and costly source of government expenditures, defense spending, instead of obsessing over welfare programs with budgets that are pocket change compared to military costs.

Along with “less spending,” the other vague pillar of Tea Party economics is “small government,” which has been the code language for irresponsible deregulation since the Reagan-era. In practice, “shrinking the government” is usually just a Trojan horse for exploiting people by, for example, lowering labor and environmental standards, and siphoning wealth into already deep pockets. However, the Tea Party has also made questioning the government and demanding accountability a top priority, and that streak of anti-authoritarianism is promising.

Even the wild-eyed hysteria and fact-challenged, paranoid hypocrisy spewed by demagogues like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh occasionally contains kernels of truth. Regardless of your political persuasion, even if you’re the most mainstream, middle-of-the-road centrist, there are tons of legitimate reasons to be really angry at the government. This much we should all be able to agree on.

I just hope this anger isn’t wasted on anonymous online pissing matches and street corner posturing. There are more productive ways for groups that disagree with each other to “confront” each other – ways that aren’t as likely to end with poor results for both sides.

[*Since I started writing this post, I’ve started to see some more thoughtful analysis, like “Tea Parties & The White Working Class” by Andrew Epstein, so hopefully that signals a shift towards less knee-jerky rhetoric.]

I Know Why the Caged Tea-Bagger Screams

March 23, 2010

Tea-Paine: White Gangsta Rap

In the final hours before the House passed the health care bill yesterday, the right-wingers protesting outside the Capitol became increasingly frothy and deranged. As the Democrats trudged closer to victory, the atmosphere of the Tea Party mobilization evolved from status quo hysteria to Russell Crowe-in-a-barfight angry. Oh, that’s right, they don’t believe in evolution.

OK, well, it wasn’t just a deep feeling of emptiness and disappointment, like watching an entire NASCAR race with no crashes that washed over the crowd. It was more like if at the end of a NASCAR race, the winning driver took off his helmet… and it was Barack Obama! That was the level of bewildered fury.

Anyway, so how do people who are normally red-faced and always screaming like the whole world was their deaf grandmother and waving Hitler-mustachioed signage express that they are even more pissed off than usual?  Obviously, the less media-savvy patriots hurled racial and sexual orientation slurs at some of the more non-conformist members of the House who chose not to be straight white men.

This whole scenario was entirely predictable. What would the Tea Party movement be without uncorkable, ignorant rage?

However, in the events that followed, a truly flabbergasting opinion was voiced. Criticizing an Ohio congressman who denounced “these teabagger protesters,” Debbie Gunnoe, a Tea Party organizer from Florida, told Politico that “[calling the Tea Partiers ‘teabaggers’] is a denigrating word with negative connotations. It’s as bad as calling a black person the N-word.”

Let’s all take a deep breathe before responding.

First, I could write a book about why this is one of the dumbest things anybody has ever said, but nobody reads long blog posts, let alone books. Plus, I’m sure most people don’t need to be convinced.

Second, it’s actually not that surprising that people in the Tea Party are identifying themselves as an oppressed class, despite being white and mostly middle class. The fetishization of victimhood so enthusiastically embraced by the Right since Obama took office has manifested itself so thoroughly in the spongy brains of Tea Partiers that the most privileged people in the entire fucking world now see themselves as… America’s new n_gg_rs.

Hopefully, the police start feeling this way, too. Hey, cops, give black people a break and beat up some Republicans!

Black Power!

Like Florida in 2000, but With Fire

June 14, 2009
Wait your turn, buddy – I’m next in line to give this cop a noogie!

Wait your turn, buddy – I’m next in line to give this cop a noogie!

If you’re looking for the most convincing argument that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s win over challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi was rigged, check out Juan Cole’s article “Top Pieces of Evidence that the Iranian Presidential Election Was Stolen.”

This potential election fraud would indicate that the conservative, Islamic hardliners have attempted to strengthen their already formidable stranglehold on Iran’s theocratic government by undemocratically crushing the more liberal/reformist opposition.

There’s really nothing funny about this situation, but I’m the type of person who responds to bad situations with humor. I guess it’s a personal defense mechanism to keep from going crazy as I’m constantly confronted by scenes of death and despair in the media and in the world around me. Some people retreat into a psychological cocoon, some go postal, others immerse themselves in booze, mindless entertainment, religion, or some combination of all those above to numb the pain. I crack jokes.

Anyway, if you’re not in the mood for serious analysis right now and you just want to see some amazing photos from the ongoing riots in Iran accompanied by smart ass captions, keep on scrolling.

Down with Ahmadinejad, Up with the Village People!

Down with Ahmadinejad, up with the Village People! C'mon everybody, you know what time it is..

This guy clearly slammed some Mountain Dew before hitting the streets.

This guy clearly slammed some Mountain Dew before hitting the streets.

One more thing about this situation. American neo-conservatives – the folks who pretty much want to nuke everyone who disagrees with them and build tax-free corporate free trade zones on the ashes – have actually been saying that they hope Ahmadinejad wins! This is like saying that you hope the neighbor you hate doesn’t move away, because then you’ll have nobody to angrily shake your fist at. For an insightful look at why the people who thought invading Iraq was a great idea are now rooting for “the Hitler of our time,” read Rachel Weiner’s article “Right-Wing Neocons Rooting For Ahmadinejad Win” and/or check out this video from Rachel Maddow’s show:

If Muslims are the New Nazis, Does That Make Republicans the New Gypsies?

June 11, 2009
Is this the new face of the white supremecist underground?

Is this the new face of the white supremacist underground?

Crazy people are everywhere. There are crazy lefties who think that Dick Cheny was the mastermind behind 9/11. There are crazy conservatives who think that Obama is the antichrist. There are crazy Christians who think Jesus wants them to gun down doctors, crazy Muslims who think that Allah wants them to blow up fancy hotels, and even crazy college Republicans who think it’s OK to rap about Ayn Rand.

But these people aren’t representative of the larger groups to which they belong—they are nut-job extremists. So even though it’s convenient to condemn a whole group for the actions of some of its fringe “members,” it’s not really fair.

However, it’s totally reasonable to examine how leading voices of these movements respond to extremists in their midst and draw limited conclusions based on those responses. And while most high-profile pundits in the right-wing media and blogosphere have been quick to denounce the disgusting actions of James Wenneker von Brunn, the man who murdered a guard (R.I.P Stephen Johns) at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC today, Debbie Schlussel’s analysis of this incident is just too bonkers not to be called out.

According to Schlussel, the people who should really be blamed for today’s pathetic shooting spree carried out by a 89-year-old white supremacist who had previously written a book praising Adolph Hitler are… MUSLIMS!

“Mr. Von Brunn has been on this planet for 89 years, and he didn’t feel comfortable shooting up a Holocaust museum until now—this new era of ‘tolerance,’ in which we must tolerate the most extremist Muslim behaviors and sentiments,” Schlussel wrote. “Make no mistake. Muslims created this atmosphere where hatred of the Jews is okay and must be ‘tolerated’ as a legitimate point of view.”

Obviously, there’s no need to explain why this argument has more holes than a Osama bin Laden target at gun range in Texas. However, before getting to the really crazy part (just wait), it’s worth mentioning that Schlussel’s articles have been published in the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, The Jerusalem Post, and, according to her bio, “Her online fan club is the Internet’s second largest for a political personality—behind only Ann Coulter.” The point being that she is not an obscure blogger, but a pundit whose voice is heard and legitimized by a large and influential audience.

Now, here’s the really, really crazy part of her arguement:

“Moreover, not only do White supremacists and neo-Nazis work with Muslims in many, many documented cases and investigations*. But they are basically one and the same. The only difference is that one guy is named James and the other guy is named Ahmed.”

There you have it, folks: Muslims are the new neo-Nazis… the neo-neo-Nazis. Oy vey.

*No, she doesn’t cite any examples, because I don’t think there are any.

By the way, if you ever wanted to see a couple of Tucker Carlson wannabees bustin’ mad flows about the capital gains tax rate, here ya go:

Conservatives Worried Sonia Sotomayor Want to Judge Them Long Time

June 6, 2009
"Apparently if you're not white or male, it really doesn't matter what your racial or ethnic identity is. They're all interchangeable. You're just Other." -Feministing

"Apparently if you're not white or male, it really doesn't matter what your racial or ethnic identity is. They're all interchangeable. You're just Other." -Feministing

I frown on generalizations. They are usually dehumanizing and inaccurate. For example, all cops are not “pigs”. Everyone who is favors stricter immigration policies is not a racist.

However, sometimes the origins of stereotypes become painfully clear.

There is a perception among many people, especially people of color, that a segment of the white population that can be crudely lumped together under the “conservative” banner doesn’t really respect “brown” people (to put it lightly).

Would the United States be willing to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq if those on the other side of bullets and bombs had white skin? Probably not.

Is a justice system where young African-Americans are 6 times more likely to end up behind bars for non-violent drug offenses than whites, even though whites use just as many drugs, really fair?

So you can understand where this stereotype comes from. It is usually conservatives pushing these policies that result in what can fairly be called systemic racial injustice.

Although the term “white supremacist” certainly conjures up extreme images, it’s an accurate description of people who, deep down, really do consider the white race to be superior to all others. Now, I certainly don’t think all conservatives are hardcore racists. That would be a ridiculous generalization. However, when a conservative institution like the National Review publishes a cover like this already-infamous image of Sonia Sotomayor — the first Latin@ to be nominated to the Supreme Court — this stereotype is justifiably strengthened.

By portraying a Puerto Rican-American as an Asian… the magazine seems to be implying that the two ethnicities are interchangeable. What’s the difference between folks from an semi-colonized island a thousand miles from Florida and those other brownish people from across the Pacific that we napalmed in the 70’s? Ha ha, get it?

This cover is pretty astonishing. I’m not outraged, because it’s always been obvious that the editors at the National Review are racist, I’m just surprised that they have revealed their ignorance so blatantly. And especially in such a tacky way. I mean, the execution of this cover makes about as much sense as this video…

Not the Good Kind of Extreme

May 8, 2009
Jeff Schoep, head of the National Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi group in the U.S., told USA Today, “Historically, when times get tough in our nation, that's how movements like ours gain a foothold. When the economy suffers, people are looking for answers… We are the answer for white people.”

Jeff Schoep, head of the National Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi group in the U.S., told USA Today, “Historically, when times get tough in our nation, that's how movements like ours gain a foothold. When the economy suffers, people are looking for answers… We are the answer for white people.” (Image: Latuff)

When the Department of Homeland Security released the report “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” last month, right-wing bloggers, media and politicians went completely bonkers.

The report suggested that racist extremists might use the election of the nation’s first black president to recruit members and that the recession “could create a fertile recruiting environment for right-wing extremists and even result in confrontations between such groups and government authorities similar to those in the past.”

Predictably, conservatives were flabbergasted by the notion that there could really be the threat of another crazy whitey out there like Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, and denounced the report as politically motivated propaganda. There was literally no consideration that anything in the report could be valid. Instead, Republicans lashed out at Obama (despite the fact that the report was initially commissioned under Bush) and DHS Chief Janet Napolitano.

A statement made by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) on April 22 accurately captures the tone of his party’s outrage: “Singling out political opponents for working against the ruling party is precisely the tactic of every tyrannical government from Red China to Venezuela.”

Strangely, instead of standing behind the report Napolitano apologized. Things settled down for a bit, then on Wednesday House Republicans “filed a resolution of inquiry that would give Napolitano 14 days to provide Congress with materials detailing how the Department of Homeland Security arrived at the conclusions contained in the report.” (via RollCall)

Why Napolitano didn’t fight back to defend the DHS report in the first place is baffling, because there is much credible evidence to back up concerns about right-wing extremists. The part of the report that infuriated its critics most was the warning that vets returning from the Middle East could play a role in these militias, and this is the claim that Napolitano seemed to back down from fastest. Yet, way back in 2006 Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report revealed that “alarming numbers of neo-Nazi skinheads and other white supremacist extremists were taking advantage of lowered armed services recruiting standards and lax enforcement of anti-extremist military regulations by infiltrating the U.S. armed forces in order to receive combat training and gain access to weapons and explosives.”

Another SPLC report released in 2008 quoted a freshly unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment titled “White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11” to provide evidence of this trend: “Sensitive and reliable source reporting indicates supremacist leaders are encouraging followers who lack documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and overt racist insignia such as tattoos to infiltrate the military as ‘ghost skins,’ in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement.’” [I emphasize: That sentence is from an FBI REPORT.]

The SPLC article, “Evidence of Extremist Infiltration of Military Grows” by David Holthouse, cites several examples of white nationalists discussing plans in online forums to use stolen weapons and explosives training gained in the military to instigate a race war. Far from anonymous cyber-swagger, the FBI Assessment explains that coordinated plots to steal military supplies for this very purpose have already been identified.

The FBI Assessment describes how there was “probable cause” to believe that a soldier stationed at Fort Hood inTexas “had participated in a white extremist meeting and also provided a military technical manual 31-210, Improvised Munitions Handbook, to the leader of a white extremist group in order to assist in the planning and execution of future attacks on various targets.” Shockingly, the investigation of the soldier involved in this incident was called off by “higher ups” in the military after a single November 2006 interview.

Evidence obtained from the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division through a Freedom of Information Act request by Columbia University’s Matthew Kennard found that “Army commanders repeatedly terminated investigations of suspected extremist activity in the military despite strong evidence it was occurring.” In other words, there are plenty of similar cover-ups happening out there.

Without even taking into account the historical precedent that many extremist militia members have come from military backgrounds, the findings suggesting that military officers are turning a blind eye to white nationalists using their time in the service to train for domestic terrorism operations and even use government materials to carry out these attacks should would seem to have provided Janet Napolitano some ammo to fire back with… so why didn’t she?

I have no idea, but I hope her response to the Republicans’ inquiry draws a bit more critical attention to this issue than last time around.

Fear and Gardening in the USA

April 24, 2009

survivalseeds1

Could the emerging trend of conservative survivalism provide fertile ground for dialogue?

Scanning The Savage Nation Web site, the online home of far right talk show host Michael Savage, I noticed a picture that seemed strangely out of place nestled amongst the Drudge-on-steroids headlines.  This cheery photo featured a smiling farmer, squatting proudly next to a wooden bushel overflowing with plump, red tomatoes. Upon noticing the text accompanying the photo, my confusion vanished. “New survival seed bank lets you plant a full-acre crisis garden,” the ad promised. “Provides enough seed to feed friends and family for years to come in the event of a crisis or meltdown…”

The unifying theme that anchors the many incoherent ramblings of Michael Savage – and most other conservative pundits, for that matter – is fear. The message of the Survival Seed Bank ad with the happy farmer and his bounty of tomatoes struck right to the core of this fear.

Clicking the link, I was misdirected to the site “foodshortageusa.com.”  This simple Web page is formatted to look like an urgent news dispatch, even featuring a headshot of the author, “Consumer Reporter” Mike Walters and the mysterious time stamp “Thursday, 8:37 a.m.” beneath the headline “Why almost everyone is wrong about how to survive any food shortage or crisis!”

When I took a job as a marketing assistant a few years back, my new boss told me on the very first day that “greed and fear are the two qualities that motivate people to action more than any other emotions – always remember that.” The marketing team behind “foodshortageusa.com,” clearly subscribes to this school of thought. Nobody in their right mind would spend $40 on what this site is actually selling: an instructional DVD two-pack on how to can and jar food. Just go to the library, a different Web site, or ask most grandmas if you want to get this information for free. However, promoting a “new food storage system” with DVDs that hold invaluable, possibly even life-saving, “Food Storage Secrets” necessary to survive the nation’s impending collapse to paranoid, right-wingers exemplifies a marketing campaign that understands its target customer base.

Beneath the first few fear-mongering paragraphs, an ominous photo of riot cops with the word “Policia” across their backs is accompanied by the caption “Will Canadian Troops be guarding U.S. food supplies this winter?” This bizarre query is neither contextualized nor elaborated upon within the main “article.” Who has time to worry about Spanish-speaking Canadian riot cops when we’re facing “the very real possibility of empty shelves during the first year of the new administration”?

Just in case you’re not sold by the promise of learning how to preserve 39(!) different kinds of meats, the site also links to several more “articles” underscoring the need for Food Storage Secrets by explaining that if you don’t have the inside tips on must-have skills like hiding your food stash from your neighbors, you’re practically begging for your family to die of starvation. Not wanting to offend the generous Christian sensibilities of their primary target audience, many of whom would likely be discomforted by the thought of letting their neighbors perish in the upcoming famine, Food Shortage Secrets offers the following anecdote to justify this troubling lapse into moral relativism: “In the depression some spoke of having a small dog that would go through culverts and flush out rabbits while the large dog at the other end dispatched the rabbit as it ran out. Sporting? Perhaps not…but if it comes to eating or not, how ethical will you be after not eating for 4 days?”

Impressed by the emotional imagery of sales pitch, I decided to track down my originally intended destination, “suvivalseedbank.com,” to see if the agrarian solution to the food crisis was being sold as vehemently as the canning DVDs. It may be hard to believe that an advertisement for seeds could make apocalyptic visions of rodent hunting seem tame in comparison, but the pitch for survival seeds is framed in such starkly dystopian terms that it made sharing rabbit meat with a large dog sound like a Sunday picnic.

“You don’t have to be an Old Testament prophet to see what’s going on all around us,” the site warns, with a knowing wink. “A belligerent lower class demanding handouts. A rapidly diminishing middle class crippled by police state bureaucracy. An aloof, ruling elite that has introduced us to an emerging totalitarianism which seeks control over every aspect of our lives.”  Soon, things will really start to go downhill, leading to the inevitable question: “Could you and your family get off the grid and survive in a panic?”

The solution is survival seeds, of course, but just like Jack and Beanstalk, these are no regular seeds. They have been “grown in remote plots, far from the prying eyes of the big hybrid seed companies… by small, fiercely independent farmers” and some of these seeds are even “up to five times as nutritious as hybrid varieties.” Once you harness the power of these explicitly non-GMO seeds “you’ll have confidence knowing that you and your family will be able to eat if the Insiders trigger some huge meltdown.” And, just in case this looming food system collapse/totalitarian coup has you feeling a bit paranoid, the site offers the comforting advice that your “Indestructible Survival Seed Bank Can Be Buried To Avoid Confiscation.”

As someone with politics of the far left persuasion, I initially found this apparently emerging trend of conservative survivalism sort of frightening, but mostly amusing. I don’t think the economy is suddenly going to go “back to normal” (nor would I want it to), but I don’t think supermarkets are months away from collapse either and I sure don’t consider spending $129 on a tube of seeds that could be found at any gardening supply store for a fraction of the cost to be a wise investment (“no discounts, even to FEMA or military personnel”).

However, as I reviewed the urgent, emotional messages being employed by the purveyors of Food Storage Secrets and Survival Seed Bank, I was struck by how many of these arguments, removed from their ideological setting, would resonate equally well with, well, people like me. The motivation to purchase these items is very intentionally driven by the fear of a bleak future and a deep skepticism that the government, mainstream media or big corporations would be our allies if the shit goes down, but the real promise here – the end goal – is empowerment. That premium on self-sustainability – it’s long been a core value of both extremes on the political spectrum. Is it a good thing that it seems to be raising its profile among more moderate citizens, as well? I haven’t done the research, but it seems safe to assume that we’ll see more and more people planting gardens and doing things like sewing old clothes back together instead of shopping for new ones and generally finding more creative and sustainable ways to be self-reliant.

Over the past few years, we’ve all seen how Hurricane Katrina illustrated the ineptitude of a government response to even a relatively minor crisis (and that was before the bubble popped).  The media failed miserably to warn us of the financial meltdown. It could go without saying that anger and cynicism towards the captains of industry is drastically more intense now than any other time in recent history. These are the facts where many on the right and left can find common ground. Could gardening provide another mutually agreeable topic? Is this fertile territory for breaking out of our comfort zones, at least temporarily, to discuss these issues instead of remaining firmly entrenched in our ideological bomb shelters? Perhaps. Just don’t ask those conservatives to share their food, especially if they’re eating rabbit.

[Note: The SuvivalSeedBank Web site has been updated since I wrote this a few days ago.]