Monday, January 10, 2011


In my readings last night, I found myself combing through Dave Neiwert's archives. If you haven't done so already, bookmark him. He's tracked the radical right for years, and he's been warning us for some time of what might happen if we continue to let the extremist hate speech escalate. Last month, he caught Glenn Beck uttering this nonsense...

Nonsense that now feels creepy for some reason. I wonder why.

Now he's predicting IMMINENT VIOLENT REVOLUTION led by those evil progressive radicals who hate the Republic inside the Obama administration. In case he didn't notice, the actual dynamic in Washington these days is actually just a wee bit different, since it's become manifestly clear that President Obama is anything BUT a radical revolutionary. But hey, nothing ever deters the intrepid Beck in the pursuit of his apocalyptic conspiracy theories.

Well, let's be clear: Beck has been warning about this dire imminent threat for quite awhile now. You'll recall he predicted last spring that eeevil progressives were planning a 'summer of rage' filled with violence, death and chaos.

Yeah, that really panned out, eh? Instead we got Byron Williams. Hmmmm.

This theory really is just a warmed-over version of the IMMINENT DIRE THREAT Beck has been shouting at us about since he signed onto Fox. It's become repetitive but more intensified, a manifestation of Beck's steadily creeping paranoia.

After all, he's been theorizing that Obama's band of administration radicals are planning a "global redistribution of the wealth" for a long time -- often flavored with black-helicopter militia theories about a "New World Order". He's been predicting George Soros would try to kill him, and warning that the eeeevil Left is plotting to frame the Tea Partiers for an act of domestic terrorist violence, adding that if right-wing violence does break out, it will have been provoked by Obama and the liberals.

More recently, there have been such similarly credible theories that the European Union Parliament building was intended to resemble the Tower of Babel, and that the evil Holocaust survivor George Soros is plotting to take over the world.

This is yet another reason why I was not all that surprised when my dad called me Saturday morning and told me that a Congresswoman in Arizona, along with dozens more, were shot. Sadly, this was bound to happen.

From a moral viewpoint Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is the victim of demagogues such as Glenn Beck and his allies at Fox News and in the Tea Party Movement. This is not about legal liability but abour moral culpability. This is about a nation that has lost its moral compass.

Some of us progressive writers have been warning about this dangerous trend for several years. This includes my colleagues Fred Clarkson, David Neiwert, Sara Robinson, John Amato, Adele Stan, and others. We blame right-wing demagogues like Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter and a culture that tolerates their vicious targeting of scapegoats.

Now the shootings have created a new word floating across cyberspace: "becking." To be "becked" is to be held up as such an evil and destructive person that someone, somewhere, will interpret it as a call to eliminate that problem through violence.

Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik couldn't have been any clearer in explaining how the escalating culture of "violent politics" paved the way for Jared Lee Loughner to commit his heinous crime.

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And, unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” [...]

“We need to do some soul searching … It’s the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business. People tend to pooh-pooh this business about the vitriol that inflames American public opinion by the people who make a living off of that. That may be free speech but it’s not without consequences.”

And while Loughner's exact motives for Saturday's massacre are still unclear, the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that has tracked extreme right and hate groups for decades, has unearthed some frightening clues.

At one point, Loughner refers disparagingly to “currency that’s not backed by gold or silver.” The idea that silver and gold are the only “constitutional” money is widespread in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement that produced so much violence in the 1990s. It’s linked to the core Patriot theory that the Federal Reserve is actually a private corporation run for the benefit of unnamed international bankers. So-called Patriots say paper money — what they refer to with a sneer as “Federal Reserve notes” — is not lawful.

At another, Loughner makes extraordinarily obscure comments about language and grammar, suggesting that the government engages in “mind control on the people by controlling grammar.” That’s not the kind of idea that’s very common out there, even on the Internet. In fact, I think it’s pretty clear that Loughner is taking ideas from Patriot conspiracy theorist David Wynn Miller of Milwaukee. Miller claims that the government uses grammar to “enslave” Americans and offers up his truly weird “Truth-language” as an antidote. For example, he says that if you add colons and hyphens to your name in a certain way, you are no longer taxable. Miller may be mad as a hatter, but he has a real following on the right.

Loughner talks about how you “can’t trust the government” and someone burns a U.S. flag in one of his videos. Although certain right-wing websites are already using that (and his listing of The Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books) to claim that Loughner was a “left-winger,” that does not strike me as true. The main enemy of the Patriot movement is certainly the federal government. And so-called Patriots have certainly engaged in acts like burning the flag.

Finally, I think Loughner’s reading list, although it included children’s books and a few classics, had an underlying theme — the individual versus the totalitarian state. Certainly, that’s the explicit central theme of Ayn Rand’s We the Living and Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, among others. I would argue that that’s the way Loughlin seems to be reading The Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf — as variants of a kind of generalized “smash the state” attitude.

Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates, which does similar work to that of Hatewatch, points out in a post earlier today that Loughner also makes a reference to a “second American constitution.” As Chip notes, that is commonly understood to refer to the Reconstruction amendments that freed the slaves and gave them citizenship, among other things. Chip says that “raises the question of a possible racist and anti-immigrant tie” in the Arizona shooting.

OK, so Loughner may have been dabbling in some looney tunes nonsense, possibly even including a known white supremacist hate group. What does this have to do with Glenn Beck... Or Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle for that matter? Well, it comes back to the teabaggers. The "tea party" is a sort of umbrella classification of a number of far right organizations and politicians, but there is definitely strong evidence to show that leading "tea party" figures are trying to legitimize the same extreme ideology of the extreme right that influenced past terrorists, like Timothy McVeigh.

And worse, as Glenn Beck warns of supposed "conspiracies of the left" to bring about "imminent violent revolution", and as Sarah Palin tells her followers, "never retreat, instead RELOAD!", and as Sharron Angle suggests "Second Amendment Remedies" to take care of "enemies in our own system... in the walls of Congress"...

Far too many media pundits and politicians in DC have been far too willing to simply dismiss this as "politics as usual". This is NOT "politics as usual". This is an ever escalating culture of political violence that must stop!

Again, I had feared something like this would eventually happen. Last year, I feared Harry Reid would be the victim. I had seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears the teabaggers' unplugged, unfiltered, and unfettered irrational hatred of Harry Reid... As well as President Barack Obama, for that matter. While "Tea Party, Inc." consultants in California were just focusing on building enough opposition to win an election, the opposition among many teabaggers ran far deeper.

I saw it for myself last March in Searchlight. Thankfully, I observed no violent acts there. But without a doubt, the same overheated rhetoric seen there has also encouraged violence throughout the country in the last two years. And even in the course of the last year, I myself was hearing people saying things as vile as hoping for Harry Reid's death. Some friends of mine were nearly run over by a "tea party"/Sharron Angle fan in a white truck.

But that wasn’t the only violent incident. Before the event began, about 50 Harry Reid supporters lined the sidewalk facing Haulapai with supportive signs. We were getting dozens of honks, thumbs up and waving. A few sour faces drove past, but one bitter Angle supporter in particular took her distaste for Harry Reid too far. She ran her white Toyota truck (NV license plate SCL-006 ) on to the sidewalk, nearly hitting me, a man to my left (who was disabled and had a brace on his right foot) and two women to my right. Several people chased after her and took pictures of her license plate.
Apparently the woman confronted some people in our group after parking her car because she was upset we took pictures of her license plate. I did not see her come near our group because I was consoling the women to my right who were on the verge of tears. People who were across the street were coming over to see if we were okay, and to verify if they saw what they thought they saw: a woman in a white truck (covered in “Angle for Senate”, “Dump Reid” “Don’t Tread on Me” “Nobama” stickers) drive her car onto the sidewalk and try to hit us. She in fact did.
Tire marks on the sidewalk:
Ironically, the driver (who turns out, is a school teacher) was escorted out of the forum by police just minutes before “the fight” broke out for being disruptive.
Sharron Angle has called for an armed revolt against the United Stated government should she lose this election. She has called forHarry Reid to be killed. The leader of the Republican Tea Party, Sarah Palin (who has endorsed Angle and gave the Angle campaign money via Sarah PAC) repeatedly instructs people not to “retreat” but to “reload” when faced with adversity.
The behavior we saw tonight was the result these violent provocations. I have a feeling the worst is yet to come.

Yes, that was the night of the fateful "forum" at Faith Lutheran High School in Summerlin. And yes, this actually happened BEFORE a male Sharron Angle fan started punching a female Harry Reid supporter inside!

Even while I was confident a majority of Nevadans would reject this extremism, I was also afraid of how an enraged, radicalized minority would react.

And again, this has been happening throughout the country. Andrew Sullivan reminded us again yesterday of the violent hate speech that had often been limited to fringe extremists, but has now been popularized by "tea party" icon Sarah Palin.

The point here is not that there is any connection between this random post and political violence. The point is the worldview Palin holds. It is zero-sum. It expresses itself in clear and stark violent imagery. It is constantly about attack, conflict, combat, "enemy territory", "Big Guns", battle. This rhetorical background is so deeply part of the narrative we barely notice it any more. But it is not truly the language of politics; it's the language of war.
Just look again at this ad that ran against Giffords last November. And ponder a moment:
If you are not disturbed by what it proclaims as the essence of true conservatism - a sun-glass-wearing soldier with a machine gun in his open crotch - you should be.

And again, there's a strong possibility that the revolting rants of the "Patriot Movement" fringes of the "tea party", backed up by the radicalized messaging pushed by the likes of Beck and Palin, are encouraging mentally disturbed people like Jared Lee Loughner to resort to violence.

In a series of videos, he gave a rambling account of obsessions and paranoias that appeared to be troubling him with increasing intensity up to the catastrophe. They included references to conscious dreaming, or "conscience dreaming" as he called it, a process of directing one's own dreams that he is thought to have practised. Another was a belief in the gold and silver standard of currency – a favourite topic of the rightwing of American politics that is regularly propounded by the Fox News commentator Glenn Beck.

The tone of Loughner's rantings is almost exclusively conservative and anti-government, with echoes of the populist campaigning of the Tea Party movement. "Don't trust the government listener!" he said in one video, accusing Washington of mind control and brainwashing.

The US constitution, the bible of the Tea Parties, features heavily, as does the suggestion that the federal government is acting against the text. "You don't have to accept the federalist laws. Read the United States of America constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws."

There is also a strong streak of implicit violence in the postings.

He linked to his favourite video, America: Your Last Memory in a Terrorist Country, which shows a ghostly figure burning the US flag in the desert to a heavy metal song that repeatedly chants "Let the bodies hit the floor!"

He referred to people calling him a terrorist and wrote "a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon."

So are all teabaggers terrorists? No, far from it. Are Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Sharron Angle guilty of murder? No, and I would never accuse them of that. But has the tone of the "tea party" become so enraged that it's encouraged violence? There is increasing evidence to show just that. And has the message of the "tea party" turned so hateful that the mentally disturbed take it the wrong way and take images of "take Harry Reid out", "Obamanation", and cross hairs over Gabrielle Giffords' district as a more literal call to arms? I fear so.

Enough is enough. This just has to stop.

I'll conclude with a warning from Desert Beacon.

Perhaps the notion that this act of violence was the result of a deranged mind will become popular in some circles. If this is the case then there are two problems to address. First, if this individual was, in fact, mentally incompetent to understand the consequences of his actions, when - where - and how did his family and community miss the signals that his mental health was deteriorating?  Did they attempt to seek help for him? Where mental health services available? Affordable?

The second issue is, of course, who filled that fragile mind?  Was he listening to hate radio broadcasts -- ones with fiery rhetoric replete with visions of doom and gloom for the republic? Was he watching broadcasts or reading inflammatory media which made violence an attractive option? There's a precedent for this. In April 2007 a man was arrested in California for stalking and harassing then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. [WaPo] In April 2010, Charles Alan Wilson, stalked and harassed Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) leaving messages saying "It only takes one piece of lead." His family was disturbed by the effect Glenn Beck's television show had on him.  [HP] August 10, 2010, the California Highway Patrol arrested Byron Williams while he was wearing his body armor and threatening to take out the Tides Foundation, because, as his family explained, Beck had "opened his mind." [WaPo] [SFgate]

These weren't the first incidents. In April 2009 three police officers were assassinated in Pittsburgh by Ron Poplawski, who feared, "Obama would take away his gun rights." [NDN] In July 2008, Jim Adkisson of Powell, TN, killed 2 and wounded 7 in his attack on a Knoxville church. Adkisson explained: "He felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of major media outlets," the affidavit said. "Because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement ... he would then target those that had voted them into office." [CNN] In June 2009, white supremacist and former resident of Butler's Hayden Lake, ID compound walked into the U.S. Holocaust Museum and killed the African American guard who opened the door for him. [CNN] It only took a very few individuals to bring down the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. [wik] There's an older song about all this:

"You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!
" [link, credits]


  1. While your point isn't exactly invalid, tying it to this crime is, well, an overreach.

    It turns out Loughner was also an Alex Jones fan, and believed in government brainwashing and other stupid ideas proposed by Jones. ("The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people...")

    It also turns out, surprise surprise, that he was a 9/11 truther. And I see just as many of those loonies on Market and Powell in San Fran, which is not a bastion of conservative thinking unless some lone protester goes to figuratively bang his head against a wall.

    There's a lot of Unfortunate Implications in this case: Gifford's opponent held an event where a supporter could shoot a machine gun with him, advertised as "to help remove Gifford from office." And then maybe room for debate on whether we really need 30-round clips on handguns.

    But this guy listed Mein Kampf as one of his suggested reading books, not Arguing With Idiots.

    Sure, Sarah Palin is a nimrod. But blaming her for this and ignoring this guy's much deeper, much loonier connections is missing the point. I don't know if Dems are just unaware or trying to take the moment to muzzle someone they don't like.

  2. "It turns out Loughner was also an Alex Jones fan, and believed in government brainwashing and other stupid ideas proposed by Jones"

    I was almost going to mention it in this diary, but I figured I was already getting quite longwinded here. The problem IS that the insane crap Alex Jones mouths off everyday has been trickling its way down to the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and that the radical conspiracies that used to just be confined to extreme right militia groups are now finding their way into many "tea party" groups. Stuff that was considered "unacceptable" around the time of the Oklahoma City Bombings in 1995 is now regularly found on Fox News' primetime lineup, morning drivetime talk radio, and on certain (but not all) far right blogs and message boards.

    Are there nutjobs on the left? Certainly. But do we see "mainstream voices" on the left giving tacit approval to violence? Nope. And are they inciting violence with their language? I haven't seen that.

    The likes of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin need to realize the consequences of their rhetoric. That's the point I'm making.