April 19, 2009

The favorite right-wing theme these days is an outgrowth of a meme we heard during the campaign, but sharpened and hardened: Barack Obama, we are now told, is a radical socialist/fascist/Marxist who hates American values, wants to radically transform the nation and destroy capitalism, and enslave future generations with socialist handout schemes.

It isn't just Glenn Beck who's been saying this, though of course Beck has been one of the more prominent voices. But it's everywhere, particularly among the populist Tea Party crowd.

The effects of this kind of rhetoric, as we saw in the 1990s with the militia crowd, is especially toxic. It has a radicalizing effect on people who believe it -- because the situation, as they see it, is now so dire that radical action (or more properly, reaction) is required.

But this time around, it isn't just Bo Gritz and John Trochmann and Mark Koernke and Norm Olson -- the men who led the militia movement in the 1990s -- spewing this stuff, which is where one most frequently heard it in the 1990s.

Now, we're hearing it from mainstream Fox News pundits. From former Republican Senators. From all kinds of people who should know better.

Above, you can watch former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum tell a Fox anchor that Obama is "contemptuous of American values." The other night, Sean Hannity was on the same tack, asking: "Is there anything that he likes about this country?"

Over on Michael Savage's radio show, his fill-in -- a Washington Times commentator named Jeffrey Kuhner -- said to his audience, addressing Obama: "You are a traitor to your country."

As this stuff filters downward, it grows even more toxic. For an example, check out Then there's returned veteran Pat Dollard:

Every day, it becomes clear that American capitalism, and by necessity the American Constitution, are under assault from a neo-Marxist revolution launched, as it only could be, by a madman, a hate-filled (thank you, Pastor Manning), narcissistic psychopath who is a liar par excellence (thank you again, Pastor Manning), possessed by whatever demons possessed those in whose footsteps he follows. Hitler, Stalin, Hussein et al. Insert your favorites. I don’t know what fucked this two-bit punk up, or when, and I don’t really care, I’m just going to see to it that he is stopped. I’d like you to join me.

Or even more disturbing, perhaps, are videos like this one:

The radicalization is happening across a broad spectrum. It's amazing how many people now take it as a matter of faith the Obama is a fascist. Gee, thanks, Jonah Goldberg. It was a prominent sentiment at the Tea Parties:


But this kind of rhetoric, as the "liberal fascist" meme suggests, actually is originating at a high distribution level: among mainstream conservative pundits. Goldberg, Beck, et al., are only the beginning of how widespread it is.

I received the below e-mail last week from the Conservative Book Club folks. It's actually a promotion for Human Events magazine, but check out the narrative:



It actually almost perfectly encapsulates the emerging narrative for mainstream conservatives, like a handy set of talking points all put together in one place.

And you can't tell me there's no relationship between this kind of rhetoric and the even crazier talk coming from the radical right. Because unlike the armchair right-wing pundits who indulge this stuff because it's a useful way to bestir the troops but couldn't act to save their asses, some of these other people, the radicals who hear this talk and then pump the irrationality even farther, to its illogical extreme, are perfectly capable of acting upon it.

And to listen to them talk, they are primed for action -- thanks to the irresponsible wingnuttery of the mainstream right.

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