Probably the most disturbing aspect of the multifarious effects of Fox News' right-wing propaganda machine and its Tea Party offspring is the way it has utterly taken over the lives of so many senior citizens, who lap up every word as the gospel truth and have become increasingly radicalized by talking heads like Glenn Beck.
Even as they project their own intentions onto the likes of the unions, the Fox acolytes and the Tea Partiers have effectively become a brownshirt corps of mean-spirited, vicious thugs. It's deeply disturbing to watch people in our parents' generation viciously attacking liberals with increasing venom and violence.
The latest example took place last weekend in the quiet little retirement town of Roseburg, Oregon. It's a pretty little burg on the I-5 corridor in western Oregon that is mostly populated with senior citizens of various stripes. Via Carla at Blue Oregon, we happened upon this story in the local paper:
A small political gathering of about 18 liberal thinkers at River Forks Park Sunday afternoon erupted in conflict when about 35 members of the conservative tea party intruded upon the meeting, waving flags and holding signs accusing the rival group of being communists, Marxists and socialists.
The liberal group — organized by MoveOn.org — decided to leave the park and move its potluck to a nearby home. Members of the conservative group followed, parking at the entrance of a private lane leading to the home to continue their protest.
Roseburg Democrats Dean and Sara Byers said Monday they told tea party members who followed that they were not welcome to drive down the lane to their home.
The Byerses said they got out of their car to stop vehicles from entering the driveway and one tea party member almost ran them over.
Sara Byers said she was so shaken she called 911. She said a Douglas County deputy called about an hour and a half later and said he had been unable to respond because of other incidents. Byers said she was still considering filing a criminal complaint against members of the tea party for harassment.
A leader of the tea party group, Rich Raynor of Roseburg, disputed the liberal group's version of events.
“They are liars,” said Raynor, director of Douglas County Americans for Prosperity. “That is what communists do.”
The latter confrontations were not videotaped, but the Tea Partiers themselves proudly posted the video of their invasion of the MoveOn picnic. Moreover, it clearly documents how they effectively broke it up -- by threatening the attendees with intimidating speech and making it clear they wanted the group to clear out. What it doesn't show, of course, is that they followed these folks to someone's private home and tried to invade the gathering on private property as well.
Here's the script the proud authors of the video provided:
Self professed communist Van Jones teams up with MoveOn.org to promote the American Dream Project, aka I want what you have worked for. Promoted here by the Douglas County Democratic Central Committee members. Challenged by Americans who love freedom!
I have an idea. Let's end class warfare. If you want more, get up earlier and work harder. It works wonders for your self-respect.
We had to disable comments. They were vile, vulgar, threatening...typical Chicago thuggery stuff.
One thing that's clear from both the script and from the video is that what has the Tea Partiers especially exercised about MoveOn is the fact that Van Jones is now working with them to promote his Rebuild the Dream project. The Tea Partiers kept repeating "Van Jones!" "Van Jones!" almost mantra-like, and then calling MoveOn a bunch of "communists."
This is the New McCartyhyism at work, thanks in no small part to the effective work of Glenn Beck during his misbegotten tenure at Fox News -- the apotheosis of which was his successful attacks on Van Jones.
We discussed this at length with Jones himself recently. And while he's right that we can't let these kinds of smears deflect or distract us from what we're trying to achieve, there's no doubt he also understands that they need to be knocked down fiercely and effectively.
And the claim that Van Jones is a Communist is simply a baldfaced lie. Maybe every MoveOn member is now going to have to equip themselves with the words of Jones' attorneys, in their letter to Fox News, on this matter:
Mr. Jones is not a member of any Communist Party or Marxist organization whatsoever, and has not expressed any support for any form of Communist or Marxist ideology for many years. In the same 2005 article in which he Mr. Jones discussed having had such notions as a young man, he also talked about his growth away from those views.
Mr. Jones has repeatedly clarified that his economic views are firmly pro-market, in numerous speeches, televised interviews and in the Huffington Post. In fact, Mr. Jones is known as a leading champion of free-market solutions to current environmental problems. His best-selling book, The Green Collar Economy (2009), advocates government policies to promote private-sector innovation. The World Economic Forum itself has repeatedly honored Mr. Jones' work. He has been called the "Green" Jack Kemp, because he shares that GOP leader's commitment to entrepreneurship as a cure for poverty.
The allegations that Mr. Jones is an "unrepentant Communist," "is a Communist," "is a Communist guy," and "is a revolutionary" are thus demonstrably and unequivocally false. Clearly these statements were calculated to, and do, injure Mr. Jones in his professional and community standing and lower him in the estimation of the American public. They are actionable as a matter of law.
Liberal organizers have taken for granted far too long the toxic effects of these kinds of lies and smears -- because they are exactly the kinds of smears that have always provided the bedrock of right-wing extremism and xenophobic scapegoating. And it's especially remarkable that we're seeing it happen with so many supposedly "conservative" mainstream and often elderly people lapping up the lies.
This was clear from the report on the confrontation:
Roseburg resident Lillen Fifield, 70, called the group's actions an “act of domestic terrorism” and said she was appalled that a peaceful gathering — mostly of women older than 65 — was interrupted.
“It is not OK to go around and intimidate and threaten people. That is not acceptable in a polite society,” Fifield said.
Conservative organizers defended their actions and said they will continue to protest similar gatherings.
“We were there to find out what they had to say and to bring a notice to the public that this kind of thing was going on. Quite honestly, if they have it again, then we are really going to make it well known,” Raynor said.
Raynor said the group believes MoveOn.org is a communist front and said he would not stand for America becoming a fascist nation.
It's unsurprising that these Tea Partiers thus replicate Jonah Goldberg's fraudulent scrambling of the meanings of "fascism" and "communism", something that was avidly promoted on Fox by Beck and others as well.
Likewise, it's unsurprising that this obliteration-of-meaning-by-Newspeak would result in thuggish behavior remarkably like that deployed by brownshirts historically. The only strange thing was that it involved a bunch of senior citizens and middle-aged folks. It was obvious, for instance, that these people were hoping to provoke an angry response resulting in violence that they could then trot out as proof of liberal "thuggishness." (That's an old brownshirt tactic.)
Fortunately, this particular gathering of progressives was smart enough to avoid that trap. As we see more of these attempts to provoke violence, though, I'm not so sure that's going to continue happening.
It's all very disturbing. As Carla puts it:
Clearly the fine details of what took place are in dispute. What isn't, however, are the overt attempts at intimidation and bullying perpetuated by Raynor and the others that showed up to shut down a tiny, peaceful group who chose to meet to talk. Last I checked, that's still allowed in the US. And while MoveOn is decidedly NOT communist, socialist or Marxist--it shouldn't matter if they are. People in the United States are allowed to discuss and promote those ideas if that's what they really believe.
Why are Raynor and his ilk so desperately frightened? Are their own ideas and beliefs so weak that they can't stand up to a miniscule group even having an opposition discussion about them?