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18 April 2010

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alnval

Dr. Silverman (Col. Lang):

Thank you. The pieces have been there for a while. Thanks for putting them together.

President Clinton reminded us last Friday in Oklahoma City on the anniversary of the Murrah Bldg bombing that words do have consequences.

Secretary Napolitano tried to remind us of the problem of domestic terrorism in April of '09 but her official report was quickly distorted and laughed at. Her presentation of similar content at the Nat'l Gov. Conf in Feb of this year also appeared to have received short shrift.

As Gregory Peck said in Twelve O'Clock High, "I'm chopping but the chips ain't flyin."

A sharper axe? If we don't get something soon we really are going to run out of euphemisms.

confusedponderer

Dr. Silverman,
great post.

I have been following US right wing rhetoric over the last two years, and indeed the divisiveness and viciousness was the one thing that stood out. At the very least since (the obviously latent threat exemplified by the people like*) the guy with the assault rifles at the town hall meetings I have also told friends that it is just a matter of time until someone takes a shot at the president or other, easier to reach, democratic politicians, or proponents of the 'secular, radical far left'.

In think that the murder at Dr. Tiller, or other 'others', as in the shooting at the holocaust museum or the nutter who flew his air plane into the IRS building are merely expressions of the mindless rage that the various streaks of the American right are, each in their own way, are feeding.

I also think it is very disturbing to see the right wing undermine the authority of the state (for which their candidates run for office to ... do what?) by denouncing it as generally corrupt, tyrannical, incompetent, wasteful etc. pp. One only needs to hear Glenn Becks histrionic hallucinations about imminent government takeover of 'America as we used to know it'. In the anti government rhetoric the government isn't just flawed and needs reform of improvement - it is irredeemably doomed and must be abolished. I wonder whether they'd really like liberty, Gingrich, or perhaps Somali style (arguably a government already drowned in the bath tub).

I fully agree on the fawning reporting on the tea partiers by FOX and the like. Colbert and Stewart have made great fun of that. The bit with Hannity and the fake demonstration footage, or with Griff Jenkins' assistant organising the crowd for better footage.

Politicians aside, I think that opinion makers are key to that. People don't get such silly ideas all by themselves, just like Republicans didn't get all these, to be charitable, peculiar ideas about torture and prisoners all by themselves. I have read the term 'crowdmaster' here. I think it is very apt.

I hold outlets like FOX News and talk radio and their 'crowdmasters' like Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, or special issue movements like Army of God and their easily accessible web sites responsible. I observed a lot of copy-pasting from argument brought forth by FOX or talk radio in my few discussions with self professed American right wingers on the web.

I argue that the resurgence of radical right groups in times of Democratic rule is no accident but part of the wedge strategies of GOP strategists. I feel that the GOPers consider fanning the rage a low-cost/high-payoff strategy to mobilise if not support for their policies then the next best thing, stark raving mad opposition against a(ny) Democrat president and policy - gambling on it to yield dividends at the next elections. Reckless and irresponsible.

I think that David Frum (whom I still not have forgiven writing 'An End to Evil' which I make available to visitors on the loot) has gotten right the point that this is dangerous for the GOP, and I don't know if he says that so I will add this: That it is dangerous for democracy itself. Identity politics generate split loyalties of group and group interest over state. The murder of Dr. Tiller is one such example - a murder refusing to obey world's laws to execute what he considers God's verdict.

The point to be made is that such policies are inherently destabilising.

Add the Armageddonite rhetoric (literal and metaphorical: The end of America as your fathers knew it is at hand now that radical Nazi Leftist Communist Muslim Socialist Obama is 'changing' it) into the mix and you have thee element if unbearable imminence that can drive people to commit acts of violence. In the same way, 'Obama's radical socialist agenda' cannot just be reformed through the political process. This world is irredeemably doomed and there is no time waiting! It IMO is no accident that Rick Perry of Texas is intermittently blathering about secession.

* I argue that bringing an assault rifle to a Q&A about health care reform is about as much encouraging differing views as a neighbour holding watch over his garden with a shotgun is encouraging your children's light-hearted playing in yours. Just exercising constitutional rights? BS.

confusedponderer

As far as extremist right wing extremism goes, I remember the rather recent case of a swinger club in Amarillo with a local group going on to out patrons at their workplaces, protesting loudly in front of the establishment, approaching patrons at the parking lot, telling them their name and where they lived (after having checked their license plate). Ultimately the club went bankrupt, which was celebrated as a great success on the web page of the group.

That case was striking for me insofar as it mirrored the methods applied by anti-abortionists against abortion clinic staff and patients.

One conclusion to draw from that is that on the right the methodology has now not become mainstream but become part of the collective memory and tactics on the right fringe.

That said, it goes beyond politics of identity. It is personal. Posting personal details and address details of a person on the web, on the shelf for every and any nutter wanting to get physical means it is about politics of intimidation up to the level of personal destruction.

Inflammatory rhetoric from the 'crowdmasters' in combination posting these private informations by activist groups is making the people a target. The murder of Dr. Tiller 'the baby Killer' (as O'Reilly preferred to call him) is a point in case.

FOX must be aware of that. Which suggests they do it deliberately.

Grimgrin

David Neiwert at his blog Orcinus has done yeoman's work documenting this kind of thing in his series Eliminationism in America and Rush, Newspeak and Fascism.

A lot of his work has been exploring how the the extreme fringes of the Right were increasingly included in mainstream opinion making for the last couple of decades. It's worth reading if you want to get a sense of where the Tea Party comes from.

par4

Great post Dr.Silverman,this divisiveness predates even Lee Atwater.I believe most of it can be pin-pointed to the civil rights movement. Notice the disgraced Republican Newt Gingrich's recent statement that it wasn't worth it.

Paul Escobar


Thanks for your analysis Dr. Silverman.

Alot of intelligent folks seem to be concerned about what's going on in the American electorate.

So maybe it's not a coincidence that on the same morning I read Dr. Silverman's post, I also came across this recent interview with Noam Chomsky.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass.

“The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”

“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on.

“Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’?"

"And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.

I tend to agree with these sentiments, around the edges.

But then I look at the current UK elections, and it gives cause for some sober second-thought.

If anything, the politicos in England have messed up more than their American counterparts. The expenses scandal was so widespread & perverse...it might beg the invitation of facism to the island.

British voters have an outlet for that route, namely the BNP (perhaps the UK's version of the Tea Party).

However, the interesting thing is...the BNP isn't surging.
Instead, the surge seems to be happening around the mild-mannered third party leader: Nick Clegg (of the equally mild-mannered "Liberal Democrats").

Sidney O. Smith III

Based on three criteria set forth in this essay, Likud Zionism is one of the more glaring examples of “mainstreaming extremism into American Political Discourse”. So, imo, Likud Zionists warrant a mention with the other extremists, as their actions fall into the categories that Dr. Silverman delineated.

1. Likud Zionism is not racially motivated? Try telling that to the Palestinians.

2. Likud Zionism is not apocalyptically motivated? Then why won’t the GOI guarantee to the world that it has no intent to take the Temple Mount?

Furthermore, it is patently obvious that the GOI’s approval of the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, while settlers sing odes to Dr.Goldstein, serves no legitimate security needs. That only leaves the Gush Emunim bent of mind -- one of the extremist groups mentioned by Dr. Silverman -- to explain the GOI’s actions. Ergo, the GOI in 2010 falls into the category of mainstreaming extremism into American Political Discourse.

Martin Van Cleveld was one of the first Zionists to see this unfolding nightmare. And he has made a strong argument that the best way to protect the Israeli state is to return to the 67 borders, but it is not happening. (and not coincidentally, Van Cleveld is a pariah in Israel).

Furthermore, his 2003 interview in which he warns the world that Zionism may result in the IDF lobbing nuclear bombs all over the place strongly corroborates the catastrophe Rabbi Teitelbaum foretold.

3. And finally, Likud Zionists do not use the Congress to promote its extremist agenda? Look at how Congress just quashed the Goldstone report -- a report that concludes that the GOI was involved in extremist actions in Operation Cast Lead. If ever there was an example of extemist action, it is the GOI sanctioned policy of dropping white phosphorus on innocent Palestinian mothers and children.

J

Dr. Silverman,

I have to disagree with several points of your premise.

Clifford Kiracofe

Note the Tea Party is divided into two groups: Libertarian and Social Conservative/Fundamentalist.
Ron Paul supporters in the first, Palin in the second.

On Libertarians
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/35977.html

The radical Right/religious Right fringes are where the violence would be expected to come from.

The Libertarians are something like old Bob Taft Republicans, fiscal conservative and a bit "isolationist."

jan gleeson

I am so glad you are back, and especially discussing this topic..

If the more highly educated and affluent TeaPartiers fail to realize the degree to which they have swallowed Frank Lutz TalkingPoints nearly verbatim, targeted by their own individual fears and biases, what will be the effect on some of the angst filled, anxiety driven fragile souls...
especially driven by economic losses the like of which hark back to the great depression...

It is a very dark game that is being played...

And so many do not realize that they are merely pawns in the game..

euclidcreek

Over the decades have seen right and left wing parties come and go, from George Lincoln Rockwell's nazis, Meir Kahane's JDL, SDS, Minutemen, Nation of Islam, LaRouche, Robert Welch's JBS, etc. If any of those groups (including the OKC bombers) were not infiltrated by FBI, etc, it would be a surprise. And analysis of these groups based on the work of Eric Hoffstraeder seems to be endless, has become a feel good cliche. Meanwhile there is a low level warfare that has been going on between a subset of certain racial group and the rest of society. Thousands dead, lives ruined and yet not one word of protest. Who is the immediate threat to this country? It wasn't a teabagger that threatened to blow my MF head off. Just sayin'.

anna missed

There are some interesting comparisons to be made by looking back to the 1920's, when kkk extremism went mainstream in America. Post WWI was a time of massive industrialization into major/mostly Northern cities that drew upon both a wave of immigrants and a large African American migration from the South to these Northern cities. This triggered a reactionary response in the population that manifested itself in a nationwide embrace of kkk extremist ideology. By 1926 the klan had established itself as a significant political force within the Democratic party - to the extent that an anti-klan plank in the party platform was nearly defeated (in spite of winning a majority of the votes).
What we see now with the Tea Party is something similar, except it's the Republican party that is flirting with and exploiting extremist sentiments in the population.
If the 20's are any indication of how this current spat of irrationality will end, as it did back then, then there are several possibilities; 1) the Republican party, like the Democratic party did in 29, will publicly denounce extremist elements within the Tea Party, or sever its ties and funding of it.2)There will be a series of major scandals or exposes-es within the movements leaders or activists, that reveal ill-intent, hypocrisy, or corruption (as in the case of Indiana klan leader Stevenson being tried for rape and murder in 25). Or 3) the movement will dissipate due to most of its goals being co-opted or triangulated out of relevance by the opposition (Obama) party.
.

b

Some elder lefty seems to agree here: Chomsky Warns of Risk of Fascism in America

“I’m just old enough to have heard a number of Hitler’s speeches on the radio,” he said, “and I have a memory of the texture and the tone of the cheering mobs, and I have the dread sense of the dark clouds of fascism gathering” here at home.
...
“The level of anger and fear is like nothing I can compare in my lifetime,” he said.

He cited a statistic from a recent poll showing that half the unaffiliated voters say the average tea party member is closer to them than anyone else.

“Ridiculing the tea party shenanigans is a serious error,” Chomsky said.

Their attitudes “are understandable,” he said. “For over 30 years, real incomes have stagnated or declined. This is in large part the consequence of the decision in the 1970s to financialize the economy.”

There is class resentment, he noted. “The bankers, who are primarily responsible for the crisis, are now reveling in record bonuses while official unemployment is around 10 percent and unemployment in the manufacturing sector is at Depression-era levels,” he said.

And Obama is linked to the bankers, Chomsky explained.
...
“In 1928 the Nazis had less than 2 percent of the vote,” he said. “Two years later, millions supported them. The public got tired of the incessant wrangling, and the service to the powerful, and the failure of those in power to deal with their grievances.”

He said the German people were susceptible to appeals about “the greatness of the nation, and defending it against threats, and carrying out the will of eternal providence.”

When farmers, the petit bourgeoisie, and Christian organizations joined forces with the Nazis, “the center very quickly collapsed,” Chomsky said.

No analogy is perfect, he said, but the echoes of fascism are “reverberating” today, he said.

“These are lessons to keep in mind.”

batondor

Dear Dr. Silverman and Colonel Lang,

Thank you both for this and for those many examples of your enduring service to your fellow countrymen and those beyond our shores who benefit from your candor (whether they accept it as constructive or not - and whether you are always spot on or not - because truth-as-reality always prevails when discussed openly, honestly, and completely...).

walrus

The Tea party movement is a blatant attempt to co-opt the poor and dispossessed victims of Americas economic meltdown to the Republican cause, or any other cause, as long as it isn't the Democratic party.

It's secondary purpose is to deflect attention away from the real culprits and fasten the blame squarely on scapegoats. That ensures that pressure for regulatory reform does not build as high as it should, if it builds at all.

To that end they appeal, as Hitler did, to the community's basest and most vile emotions.

I think it was the historian John Lukacs that said "Nationalism is patriotism coupled with an overwhelming inferiority complex".

This is what we are seeing in action when one sees a jobless White person railing at illegal immigration.

To put it another way, social and racial distinctions are much more pronounced the poorer one is.

John Badalian


Dear Doc Silverman:
Like Colonel Pat, you are one fine Wordsmith! However Doctor, these right wing-nuts seem more akin to Caliban (please recall Prospero's dullard servant in the Tempest) than Taliban. Also, I'm very heartened that every 3rd or 4th member of these tin-foil militas appear to be saavy undercover ATF or FBI Agents. Which is the way it should be! The one Gang that does scare the bloody hell out of me are the supposed U.S. Legislative "PEP" members. The "PEP" allegedly stands for House and Senate "Members" of Swiss Giant UBS's "Politically Exposed People". These "PEP" "Members" (according to Ken Silverstein of Harper's notoriety) were US Representatives or Senators with Secret, Swiss, UBS Off-Shore Accounts. The thought of a US Legislator in possession of one of these no doubt significant-sized secret accounts is the scariest thing out there, for now. Best! - JB

Adam L Silverman

Walrus: I think that you have it almost 100% correct. Without a doubt identity -whether religious, political, economic, ethnic, gender - becomes much more important and much stronger under pressure. Even very weak and/or imagined identities. Zimbardo's prison studies, which were funded by the Navy, demonstrated that as did Tajfel's school studies in Britain. The only thing I'd argue is that it isn't so much "when one sees a jobless White person railing at illegal immigration" as it is seeing an employed person, White or otherwise, doing so.

J: If everyone agreed with me, I'd have no one to respectfully argue with!

Mr. Smith: I think you have to be careful on this one with the Likud thing. Certainly, American supporters of what Likud is promoting and presenting as courses of action in Israel need to be challenged about whether those make sense for the US and called to account when they use the oppositional language of the Israeli right in discussions of American foreign and security policies. That said, the real extremists would be JDL/Jewish Defense League, the American supporters of Kahane, who are essentially neo-ultraorthodox Jewish militia types. They make up a very small segment of the Jewish population in the US, and while they occasionally do something stupid and violent, its such a small bit of the larger problem.

Paul Escobar


Re: euclidcreek

"Meanwhile there is a low level warfare that has been going on between a subset of certain racial group and the rest of society. Thousands dead, lives ruined and yet not one word of protest. Who is the immediate threat to this country? It wasn't a teabagger that threatened to blow my MF head off. Just sayin'."

Are you talking about inner city African-American & Latino street gangs?

If we still lived in the time of the Black Panthers & Young Lords...yeah, you'd have some sort of point.

But in their current incarnations, they're busy slaughtering themselves in a civil war over black markets (no pun intended).

The reason we're discussing the "Tea Party" is because they want the federal government.
If you can't see why that's more important than some local turf war...

Patrick Lang

Walrus

Unfortuntely for your theory the tea partyers are white, middle class and college educated for the most part. pl

Sidney O. Smith III

Dr. Silverman

I am trying to be careful, per your instructions, but I am trying to apply your criteria to the Netanyahu coalition and am left with reasonable questions that I ask in good faith.

From what I can glean, your position is that Likud Zionism, including in particular the Netanyahu coalition, does not fulfill the criteria that leads you to conclude that a group is extremist.

In other words, you do not find Netanyahu's version of Zionism extreme.

So does this mean that you believe Congress was correct to quash the findings of the Goldstone report? Do you believe Likud Zionism is not racially motivated? Do you believe it is ok for the GOI to approve the occupation of Palestinian lands because such an occupation is justified by apocalyptic literature?

Clifford Kiracofe

I have mentioned the American Liberty League before, a 1930s-1940s organization with post WWII carry over. The right wing-fascist org had both Dems and Reps in it as well as wealthy Gentile AND Jewish businessmen.

The American Liberty League and its affiliates promoted a number of far right-populist organizations.

If one takes a look at the anti-FDR themes they used ("FDR is a Socialist" etc.) a comparison could be made to today's entertainers like Limbaugh and that blond slut and to various politicians. Then a comparison with Continental European Fascist discourse out of Italy in particular and Germany etc.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Liberty_League

In my book, Dark Crusade, I take a look at this org and its activity in pre-War and post-War America particularly with respect to the evolution of the Republican Party.

It helps to take into consideration the rise of the "New Right", the "Religious Right", and the "Neocons" and then examine how they interrelate.

As for Palin, some point to her membership in the very fringes of the Pentacostal Movement with links to the "Latter Rain" movement and so on. "Joel's Army" is linked into this fringe and so on.

Sinclair Lewis got it about right in his classic "It Can't Happen Here"...look around today.

Fred Strack

Col.

Thanks for posting Dr. Silverman's piece. In comment I would refer back to your own archives:
http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2006/12/mencken_on_idio.html

Jake

Here is my problem. When Silverman cites specifics, he cites a few individuals (not group) cases.

While the lone wolf is dangerous breed its the group(s) that can do far worse damage.

I will cite the Hutaree Militia and "parts" of the Tea Party as an example here.

The Tea Party is decentralized and without proper national leadership. Some of the Tea Party groups are fine, normal Americans voicing their opposition and some are rather not so fine.

Take the recent arrests of the Hutaree Militia in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The entire group arrested were members of the Tea Party as well. Actually the Hutaree Militia had its own Tea Party Chapter.

In Arizone John McCain is being challenged by JD Hayworth. Hayworth ( in my personal opinion) is one tree short of a hammock. So are many of his followers. Hayworth is running on the US Constitution as his platform. Rather the 2nd Amendment as the entire US Constitution.

Individuals and "groups" are backing Hayworth based on their understanding of the US Constitution, which is, in my opinion, dangerous since many people do not understand the Constitution and focus on the 2nd Amendment, forget about the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments.

I personally believe that the Tea Party will implode but I also fear parts of it might explode and that includes other so-called patriots groups.

Time will tell and to this regard I "Pray" I am wrong.

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Smith: Some parts of Likud have moved very far to the right and are extremists. However, this column was largely concerned with American groups and Likud, as both movement and party, is overwhelmingly an Israeli phenomenon. This also brings in a topic for another day and another column focusing on ideology. The reality is that how Americans understand where people and movements and ideas fit on the political spectrum is not where people in other places do. For those readers living in Europe, or who have lived there, I think one can make an excellent argument that President Obama is either just on the center (from the European perspective) if not a little right of it.

Jake: you've identified one of the most difficult problems with studying and understanding extremist behavior (and in the general sense this includes the left, what Euclidcreek was referring to were 1960s and early 1970s extremists that were inversions of legit center left movements, just as the ELF and ALF are today in regard to legitimate environmental and conservation movements). What really is going on is a divided identity dynamic. Some objectively identify with a movement, while some subjectively do so. For instance Gordon Kahl, the 1970s Posse Commitatus member killed in a standoff with Federal authorities officially/objectively belonged to this authoritarian movement. Timothy McVeigh subjectively belonged to the same movement in the 1990s, but because he never joined it was impossible to track him. He showed up, very occasionally, on the authority's radar, but tracking members of the movement wouldn't have turned him up. The same is true today. Lots of people, for monetary, political, or other gain are courting the Tea Partiers, the folks upset about immigration, etc, but not all of them belong to a specific movement in a formal way. Moreover, the real problem here is that some of the most extreme movements are basically negative representations of mainstream ones. To use the extremist left ELF and ALF example again - they are related to the legitimate environmental and conservation group, but so far removed in action and behavior that they are like a warped caricature. We shouldn't demonize the legit, mainstream movements, regardless of what side of center they're on, because of the extremist offshoots or relations. And the Loan Wolf problem has become the overall modus operandi for most movements. This includes al Qaeda. Take a good look at the 9-11 cell: started by a couple of disenfranchised Muslim ex-pats at graduate school in Germany. They decide to act, find a cut out who connects them to al Qaeda. AQ does what its designed to do: provide logistical support for training and funding, helps get these guys ready, and off they go. They were off of the radar largely because they were a Lone Wolf cell. They were motivated by the same ideology, but weren't heavily integrated into the network. And that's the real danger because folks like that are hard to track as they don't show up on anyone's network and using network analysis has become sort of a magic bullet in trying to track extremist and terrorist networks.

linda


the republicans have been feeding that 'the government is the problem' meme for decades and now are paying the price as these extremist elements dominate and destroy the party. the national political media has played its part in promoting the democrats say/republicans say -- or the ever useful 'some people say' -- that no longer requires actual fact-checking and allows the frank luntz/gop talking points to get established (the democrats have no coherent message or an equivalent (evil)genius wordsmith).

as these people are given more exposure -- like the guy on hardball last nite who felt vulnerable without his 9mm within reach -- i think(hope) the vast majority will reject their nihilism and profound disregard for democracy.

there was a wonderful quote at the end of the nyt teaparty piece that suggests that pointing out the obvious might dilute some of that teaparty enthusiasm:

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

***

along these lines, colonel, i'd be very interested in your opinion on a piece i stumbled across a few years ago:

'the origins of the military coup of 2012'

http://www.uwec.edu/sfpj/Origins.pdf

(funny how that year keeps popping up...)

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