April 8, 2009


David Weigel of the Washington Independent was out at a gun show in Tennessee this last weekend. If you haven't gotten a look, you should.

It's real real familiar for me. Deja vu from 1994, when I was regularly attending militia meetings, all over again: The president-bashing. The gun fetishizing. The paranoia. The unstated old bigotry. And sometimes, all of them would come together at once.

They're ba-a-a-ack. Check out the story out of Stockton, California, where the locals plan to start up an armed citizen militia to patrol the streets, since the local police are facing such severe cutbacks:

STOCKTON - A retired truck driver and Vietnam War veteran said Monday that he is forming an armed militia - mostly men with rifles and armbands, four to a car - to patrol Stockton this summer, when at least 43 police officers are to be laid off.

Alan Pettet, 66, said he has recruited 18 men, most of whom are ex-military. He said the militia will train at a firing range and "activate" if the city lays off any officer, as it intends by July 1.

But this time, there's a difference. This time, they're not just getting whipped into a paranoid frenzy by their fellow paranoids, which was generally the case in the 1990s, with a few exceptions -- namely Rush Limbaugh. In their latest immanation, the old Patriot movement is getting stoked by a whole slew of ostensibly mainstream conservatives broadcasting daily and constantly on mainstream news media.

Here's a sampler of recent-vintage wingnuttery being broadcast on supposedly mainstream venues by people who call themselves mainstream conservatives:

Eric Boehlert has the consummate discussion of this:

Beck's sure "[d]epression and revolution" are what await America under Obama, and fears moving "towards a totalitarian state." The country today sometimes reminds Beck of "the early days of Adolf Hitler." Beck thinks that Obama, who has "surrounded himself by Marxists his whole life," is now "addicting this country to heroin -- the heroin that is government slavery."

And it's not just Beck. Appearing on Fox News, Dick Morris recently made a wildly irresponsible comment that looks even worse in light of the Pittsburgh law-enforcement slayings: "Those crazies in Montana who say, 'We're going to kill ATF agents because the UN's going to take over' -- well, they're beginning to have a case."

And it's not just Fox News. Radio nut Michael Savage recently claimed that "we have a naked Marxist for president." And high-profile conservative blogger Erick Erickson contemplated the beating of politicians: "At what point do [people] get off the couch, march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?"

Of course, the right-wingers at Free Republic are way ahead of Erickson as they fantasize about Obama's assassination: "And let's face it: all the speculation about Obama being the actual Antichrist will either be confirmed or denied if someone gets off a lucky shot at the SOB."

Michael Cohen at Politico has noticed there's a problem for Republicans with this kind of rhetoric -- and even Little Green Footballs is agreeing.

John Delicath at MediaMattersAction has more details:

But charges of socialism are tame compared to some of the accusations now being hurled at Obama. Kevin Hassett, a Bloomberg News columnist, wrote a March 9 column asserting that Obama is "giving us the War on Business" and "legislat[ing] like a Manchurian Candidate." The next day, Rush Limbaugh read extensively from the column on his radio show, while Beck said on Fox: "I read an article ... that said 'the Manchurian Candidate couldn't destroy us faster than Barack Obama.' "

Hannity has called Obama "a president that is far more radical than anybody ever dreamed," and a recent promo for his show asked if Obama's budget is "a way for the government to completely control our lives." Radio host Michael Savage said that the "radical left," including Obama, "dream[s]" of "Maoist revolution" complete with "death camps." Beck claims to be unable to debunk the existence of camps, allegedly being set up by the Federal Emergency Management Administration, for the mass imprisonment of Americans who disagree with Obama's policies. According to Beck, "If you have any fear that we might be heading toward a totalitarian state, look out. Buckle up. There is something happening in our country, and it ain't good." Limbaugh has told his listeners that Obama is "an extremist tyrannical president" who "is seeking as much chaos and depression among average Americans as he can get."

And these are just some of the most prominent, national media figures. On local and regional talk radio and the conservative blogs, the vitriol is even worse.

Catherine Macivor has rustled up some similarly defensive quotes:

The first Amendment appears to be dead under the new Obama Administration. No matter where you go or what you read, if it opposes President Obama it is instantly labeled “racist” and right wing extremism and a whole host of other derogatory names.

This is a concerted effort by the left to silence all opposition to President Obama and his administration. Obama is pulling this country into the abyss of socialism and the Obamatrons are out in force all over the internet, attacking anyone that opposes Obama.

Of course, we've already tried explaining that no one's trying to silence anyone -- we're simply exercizing our own rights of free speech. Unless, of course, you consider "pointing out your idiocy/lunacy/amorality" is the same thing as "silencing you".

Nonetheless, this hasn't prevented such right-wing outbursts of anger, directed at liberal bloggers generally for having the audacity to suggest that right-wing rhetoric might have played a role in those shootings in Pittsburgh this weekend.

A fellow named Paco was especially outraged:

When a faction that holds the established social contract in contempt – including the underlying provisions (both written and unwritten) touching on the shared belief in freedom of speech, intellectual good faith in argument, and the concept of a loyal opposition - acquires influence with a major party (in this case, the Democrats), and begins to demonize those who oppose its views, then debate is rendered irrelevant, and democracy devolves into a naked grab for power, with all that that portends for our hard-won freedoms, and the very concept of a viable polity.

[Chortle. Because of course, people on the right would never dream of demonizing anyone who opposes their views.]

When I say that the Kossacks and their ilk are yet to see how thoroughly irresponsible there comments are, it is in this sense: that when the citizenry can openly debate ideas in an atmosphere of genuine intellectual tolerance, the threat of political violence is low; however, when one side decides to enforce its ideology through the shouting down of opposing voices, and succeeds in doing so though an allegiance with a major political party that has sold its soul in return for power, then it should come as a surprise to no one if a substantial portion of the citizenry ultimately declines to forfeit its historical rights and freedoms - the machinery of democratic process notwithstanding. When democracy becomes a weapon in the hands of freedom’s enemies, aided and abetted by a majority of voters, either wittingly, in the case of those who share the ideology of our would-be masters, or unwittingly, in the case of those who have sunk into a bovine complacency, then the issue is no longer, “how can we protect democracy?”, but “how can we protect our liberty?”

I am neither advocating, nor even predicting, civil war; neither am I advocating civil disobedience. I am simply pointing out that if the shooting ever does start in earnest, the blame can be laid squarely on the doorstep of those leftists whose mendacity, bad faith, criminal tactics and violent rhetoric will have contributed so much to the perversion of our democratic form of government and the destruction of our individual rights.

Is that kind of like writing out the excuse for your absence to the teacher in advance?

Because it's increasingly plain to see that these people are looking for an excuse. And that bodes ill for us all.

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