Now that it's embraced its inner right-wing populist by sponsoring all those 'Tea Parties,' Fox News is going straight for the moonshine by promoting "state sovereignty" advocates who, as we mentioned yesterday, are the "Patriot" movement activists who were promoting militias in the 1990s.
Glenn Beck featured an entire hour devoted to the subject yesterday, while Neil Cavuto warmed up the subject for him by featuring a segment on the subject as well. And both of them featured people who have been heavily involved in promoting "Patriot" belief systems for years.
The most striking, of course, was Beck's hourlong "The Civilest War" program, which early on featured Beck adapting Martin Niemoller's famous "First they came" poem -- about the Nazis and the Holocaust -- to our present-day circumstances:
I think this is the problem. First they came for the banks. I wasn't a banker, I didn't really care. I didn't stand up and say anything. Then they came for the AIG executives. Then they came for the car companies. Until it gets down to you. Most people don't see -- they are coming for you at some point! You're on the list! Everybody's on the list. You may not be rich -- as currently defined.
Because, of course, bailing out failing banks and insurance companies and auto manufacturers is just like rounding up minorities and hauling them away to death camps.
As if that weren't enough bats--t crazy paranoia, much of the rest of the hour was devoted to similarly crazy talk from his participants. A Republican Utah legislator rants about "liberties and freedoms being destroyed" and the "tyranny of the federal government." Another Republican legislator, this time from Texas, talks about how Obama and the Democrats are creating "a socialist state".
Beck also calls upon a right-wing historian named Kevin Gutzman, who even his fellow right-wingers dismiss as a neo-Confederate, obsessed with a misreading of early American history that is like so many other "constitutionalist" interpretations, based on an originalism that would destroy such innovations as the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage (not to mention nearly everything else). [More on that below.]
But everything comes into sharp focus when Beck calls on Gary Marbut -- who Beck describes as the originator of the Montana gun law that inspired all these other legislators. We listen to Marbut's wisdom and absorb his advice in this show; indeed, Beck wraps up by calling on Marbut to tell us "what we've learned."
Marbut, you see, has been a fixture on the far right in Montana for many years. He's never actually been elected to any office at all, though he has run numerous times, because Montanans are all too well aware just how radical a nutcase the guy is.
For instance, Marbut in the 1990s tried organizing Patriot neighborhood watches:
Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA), outlined the basics of his plans in an message distributed by the Militia of Montana's e-mail list. He suggested that when "patriots" form groups they shouldn't call themselves gun clubs. Instead they should adopt the label of neighborhood watch. Marbut said this title will not "raise nearly as many red flags" in communities. Neighborhood Watch could also be used for "organizations formed for RKBA [right to keep and bear arms] political-action."
Marbut, a frequent contributor to MOM's e-mail list, didn't stop with just gun issues. He said firearms, along with "communications, organizations, and supply" could also be incorporated into Neighborhood Watch. Within Marbut's concept, being a good neighbor appears to takes on a certain level of survivalist mentality. Marbut urged people to coordinate these activities with the local sheriff. Randy Trochmann, one of the militia's co-founders and the moderator of MOM's e-mail list, said Marbut's suggestions were "good advice."
MSSA has promoted several other interesting ideas over the years. In 1994, MSSA proposed an initiative to revitalize the Montana Recall Act. The act would have allowed voters to "throw the rascals [public officials] out" in Marbut's words. MSSA was trying to recall Sen. Max Baucus because of his support for a ban on certain assault weapons. Later that year, MSSA suggested Montana secede from the United States because the federal government had banned the possession of assault rifles by civilians. In 1995, MSSA supported a resolution that would have legalized "unorganized militias," another term for groups like the Militia of Montana. MSSA's public battle against Baucus returned in 1996 when it ran a full-page advertisement in the Helena Independent Record. The ad featured a picture of a saluting Adolf Hitler with the words "All in favor of 'gun control' raise your right hand" printed underneath. The ad then ridiculed Sen. Baucus, inaccurately comparing his position on gun control to Hitler's and asking readers to "Ban Baucus, Not guns."
Marbut wasn't merely involved in the militias -- he also played footsie with Christian Identity activists:
One of Marbut's columns appeared in the January/February issues of The Jubilee. The Jubilee is a white supremacist newspaper which caters to Christian Identity followers. Christian Identity, based on a racist interpretation of the Bible, holds that Jews are the literal children of Satan, and people of color are subhuman "mud people."
Attributed to the Sierra Times, Marbut's article is about Montana rejecting the Gun Free School Zones Act -- the federal law that made it a criminal offense to travel within 1,000 feet of a school while possessing a firearm. Marbut claims the MSSA drafted a successful bill declaring that the Montana Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms to all law-abiding adults thus exempting them from the federal law. Marbut writes that "the people of Montana remain protected from the silliness of the Congressional act by the intervention of the Montana Legislature." He also said the new law "pulls the rug out from under any would-be federal prosecution."
In February, a column by Marbut was published by the Sierra Times. Based in Nevada, the Sierra Times is the newest project of long-time militia activist J.J. Johnson. In the mid 1990s, Johnson was a regular in militia circles. He was the main force behind the Ohio Unorganized Militia, and, since he is African American, the militia movement uses him to deflect charges of racism.
Gary Marbut, founder of the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) and Republican candidate for Missoula's House District 69, wants people to educate themselves in anti-government ideology. MSSA now includes a link on its website to the Fully Informed Jury Association, along with a note from Marbut saying FIJA is "the last peaceable barrier between innocent gun owners and a tyrannous government." FIJA promotes "jury nullification." The concept says individual jurors can judge, not just the evidence in a court case, but the constitutionality of law. In essence, it allows jurors to ignore laws they don't like, undermining the judicial system. The Militia of Montana has sold videos by FIJA "experts" like anti-Semite Red Beckman of Billings.
Now, as I mentioned, Neil Cavuto featured a segment right before Beck's hourlong show similarly promoting these kinds of theories:
Cavuto's segment featured an interview with Charles Key, an Oklahoma legislator who has been similarly involved with Patriot-movement radicalism since the 1990s.
For instance Key was heavily involved in promoting conspiracy theories in the 1990 that claimed that the federal government was actually behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that was in reality perpetrated by an adherent of Patriot movement ideology. He even convened a grand jury to investigate the matter, and when the resulting investigation completely debunked his theory, he denounced it:
The county grand jury orchestrated by a conspiracy-minded former state legislator and the grandfather of two bombing victims has concluded that there was no evidence of a larger conspiracy in the Oklahoma City bombing.
Even before the report was made public in December, former state Rep. Charles Key was attacking the body he helped to create by leading a petition drive, claiming jurors had ignored evidence of a government coverup. The grand jury found no evidence that federal agents had prior knowledge of the plot; that members of a white supremacist compound in eastern Oklahoma were involved; or that two bombs, rather than one, were used — all key conspiracy theories.
The state attorney general and the local district attorney, who both had opposed formation of the grand jury, welcomed the results, as did the grand jury's presiding judge, William Burkett.
As it happens, these activities were underwritten by a rich right-winger who subscribed to the conspiracy theories.
Now, it's one thing to point out the radical origins of these "constitutional theories." But it's also important to understand where they want to take us -- to a radically decentralized form of government that was first suggested in the 1970s by the far-right Posse Comitatus movement.
They essentially argue for a constitutional originalism that would not only end the federal income tax, destroy all civil-rights laws, and demolish the Fed, but would also re-legalize slavery, strip women of the right to vote, and remove the principle of equal protection under the law.
Even the conservative review of Gutzman's book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, understood this:
His attachment to state sovereignty causes him to misread every signal event of our early history. He believes that the criticism of the Articles of Confederation as inadequate to the needs of the Union—the view advanced by those who desired the very Constitution that is the subject of his Guide—was trumped up. He tells us that the Constitutional Convention was attended by three groups: "monarchists" like Alexander Hamilton, "nationalists" like James Madison, and defenders of "the primary place of the states" in the Union. He then ridiculously declares that the third group won all the decisive arguments at Philadelphia and in the ratification campaign, only to have their authentic constitutionalism betrayed by the authors of The Federalist, the administration of George Washington, the early Congress, and the Supreme Courts of John Jay and John Marshall. In fact, the founders understood the Constitution to be a compact of the American people acting within their states, not a compact of the states as independent peoples or political sovereigns. On behalf of limited self-government, it divided authority between the states and the national government, but it granted states no right of nullification or secession and forbade them to make alliances without the consent of Congress. Asserting "state sovereignty" as Gutzman does would deny the Constitution any authority at all. Readers can be excused for suspecting that he does not actually like the Constitution very much. He is the true heir of the man most unstintingly praised in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution, the "Virginia philosopher-statesman John Taylor of Caroline," in truth an excitable crank whose turgid tomes on the Constitution are quietly and deservedly moldering on library shelves at our better universities.
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The Supreme Court, especially under John Marshall, is Gutzman's bête noir. Like many self-described conservatives, our author rails against the hunger for power he sees in the justices of the Court. But Gutzman wishes the Court had been more activist, not less so, throughout its history—on behalf of the states, that is, and against the national government. Gutzman's Court would have declared the national bank unconstitutional, made federal navigation laws subordinate to conflicting state laws, ruled against Abraham Lincoln's blockade of Southern ports, and outlawed conscription during World War I.
Like Thomas Woods, the author of the earlier Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (see "Mainly Incorrect," CRB, Spring 2005), Gutzman is a neo-Confederate who resents the course our history has taken since the first day of the Philadelphia Convention. In his potted constitutional history, Lincoln is a villain, Marshall is a scoundrel, The Federalist is guilty of "great confusion about the document," and Madison—Madison!—is an untrustworthy guide to understanding the Constitution. Perhaps all you need to know is that Gutzman wastes two pages arguing that we shouldn't call the Civil War "the Civil War."
And all we need to know about Glenn Beck's "Civilest War" is that it harkens to the right-wing radicals of the 1990s, bidding to revive their toxic nonsense.