The right-wing media have been aghast at the unpleasant realities being reported about all those shouters and disruptors at town-hall forums -- namely, that their anger is being ginned up by corporate interests using right-wing populists to derail their political opponents; and that their ranks are riddled with extremists.
And to the extent that the critics of these protesters try to portray the scenes as purely a product of corporate machinations, they have a point. There is real anger out there, and the anti-reform interests are successfully tapping into it.
But the anger they're tapping into is not a new thing; in fact, it's been around a long time. It's a larger anger at the federal government, stoked (as we've seen in the health-care debate) by a combination of real grievances and a pathological belief in explanations for those grievances that are provably untrue, wrapped in paranoid conspiracy theories about government officials and a conspiracist view of history.
In the 1990s, they called themselves militias or "Patriots." Nowadays, they're organizing around the so-called "tea parties" and now the health-care town halls. These are the wellspring of the anger at these meetings -- but this faction has a long history of being motivated by anger anyway.
This is not to downplay the vital role behind the scenes being played by ostensibly mainstream conservative operations, fueled by corporate money. Adele Stan at AlterNet has a thoroughly devastating expose of the machinations behind the protests, beginning with Dick Armey's FreedomWorks operation all the way down to the Birther nutcases who are bubbling up at these shows.
Indeed, Stan gets what the rest of the media are missing: Not only are business and conservative interests ginning up these protests, but they're doing so by empowering far-right extremists from the fringe.
We've been reporting steadily on this phenomenon as it's been happening. Perhaps the best signifier of this empowerment and energizing of the far right on the behalf of the mainstream right is the fact that every single right-wing extremist organization and forum -- ranging from far-right hate groups and white supremacists, such as Stormfront.org, to "Patriot"/militia organizations such as the Militia of Montana and the Constitution Party, to Bircherite conspiracists like Ron Paul and his followers -- are avidly advocating involvement in the "tea parties" and the health-care protests.
And these folks, frankly, are beginning to talk openly of armed revolt. This is something that used to be relegated strictly to the fringes of the far right; now, it's being openly discussed at WorldNetDaily,, which ran a poll with the following headline:
SOMETHING IN THE AIR
Is America on the verge of revolution?
That's right: Fully 95 percent of WND's readership believes we're on the verge of revolution -- and openly welcome it, with mildly varying rationales.
There is a lot of anger out there. There's also a lot of fear. Both are manifested, I think, in the video I found above at YouTube, titled, "Are Red State Americans Ready for War?" You can see the answer, set to the dulcet tones of "Redneck Rampage." I've interspersed it with outtakes of news reports about the ongoing ammo shortage out there in rural America.
So when Glenn Beck starts urging his audience not to indulge in acts of violence, the most disturbing fact is that it's not only necessary to issue such warnings, it's probably futile. Indeed, the pleading -- such as it is -- in the end probably just winds up giving them ideas.
It's true that people like Beck and the rest of the Fox crew are an important cog in the machinery that sets these protests in motion. But we also need to be aware of just who they're setting in motion, because that will have a profound effect on the outcome.