Rep. Brian Baird of Washington (whose district includes Olympia and Vancouver) has announced that, rather than run the risk of intentional disruption by the teabagging invaders at recent town-hall meetings, he is going to take another approach:
Instead of appearing in person, where "extremists" would have "the chance to shout and make YouTube videos," Baird said Wednesday, he's holding what he calls "telephone town halls" instead.
Baird said he's using the new system because he fears his political opponents may be planning "an ambush" to disrupt his meetings, using methods Baird compared to Nazism.
"What we're seeing right now is close to Brown Shirt tactics," Baird, D-Vancouver, said in a phone interview. "I mean that very seriously."
Indeed, the response from the right-wing media -- particularly on Fox -- so far to suggestions that extremists are manipulating these "tea party" protests has been to snort and roll their eyes.
Of course, these are the same right-wingers who had a conniption fit over a Homeland Security bulletin about right-wing extremism by somewhat tellingly conflating its contents to include them -- only to have those warnings come starkly true. The same right-wingers who have been doing their damnedest to whitewash out of public view the very existence of these same far-right elements.
The reality is that, in western Washington, there is very much a substantial presence of right-wing extremists with whom Baird has had to deal over the years. Including, yes, neo-Nazis and skinheads of various stripes.
More frequently, however, it's come from the far-right "Patriot"/militia movement -- descended but distinct from white supremacists -- whose presence in the region appears to be resurging in recent months. This is the same element that came surging to the fore in the last go-round of "Tea Parties" on July 4 nationally.
Along with their extremist beliefs -- including a bevy of conspiracy theories and scapegoating narratives, as well as an unmistakable racial animus -- the violent and thuggish tendencies of the Patriot movement is a matter of well-established public record. So it is not a surprise to see such behavior bubbling up whenever and wherever they are involving themselves.
A prime example of this is the video above. It's a 10-minute rant advocating a "Second Civil War" if President Obama is able to enact his "socialist" agenda, delivered by a man named Ron Ewart, a King County resident who runs an outfit called the National Association of Rural Landowners, which has been built off the bones of the organizations left behind by the late crackpot Aaron Russo.
NARLO, you see, is not only a big "Tea Party" supporter, it is also a major sponsor. It's listed by ResistNet as one of the sponsors of the Sept. 12 "Tea Party" in Washington, D.C.
In addition to calling for open, armed revolt against the Obama administration, Ewart and NARLO have produced videos such as the one below, which indulges a number of ugly racial stereotypes in attacking President Obama as "the essence of evil" and a man who intends to "destroy America."
You also get the flavor of NARLO's extremism by reading their "About" page:
Unless we organize and continue this fight, unless we get angry, unless we take action, without a doubt, the Republic that we know and love and what the founding fathers envisioned, is going to die a slow, agonizing and wrenching death. It's already showing tell tale signs. Unless we come together in a cohesive fighting unit, our freedoms and liberty shall fade into the dark chasm of socialism and radical environmentalism. Unless we come together for awhile and set aside our individualism and total independence, or our apathy and be willing to join with others who are fighting this WAR against Government excesses, our children and grandchildren will have to live in the invisible chains of the New World Order, perpetrated on all of us by internationalists who want our money and our land. Make no mistake, they are well on their way to getting it. Are we going to stop them, or are we going to just sit there and let them do it? We here at NARLO know how to stop them. Do you? If you knew what we have learned and now know, you wouldn't be able to wait to get involved.
Now, as for neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other overt white supremacists, I've seen very few indications of their presence at the Tea Parties. Nonetheless, as the ADL warned a few weeks ago, they probably are showing up and participating, but not raising their presence yet:
On Stormfront, the most popular white supremacist Internet forum, members have discussed becoming local organizers of the "Tea Parties" and finding ways to involve themselves in the events. Many racists have voiced their intent to attend these rallies for the purpose of cultivating an "organized grassroots White mass movement," with some suggesting that they would do so without openly identifying themselves as racists.
All of this tends to lead to Sara's question: Are we there yet? Are we looking at an outbreak of fascist behavior on a large scale?
My own take: Real fascism is always violent. We’re getting some light violence around the edges here, but fascism always openly embraces the ethos of violence, and that’s not present here ... yet. But we’re getting closer all the time, and the town-hall-forum hooliganism -- particularly the growing presence of right-wing extremists in their ranks -- is definitely a significant step down that road. We may not be there, but we are cruising the parking lot.