A Fresh Hell: Hyping an Angry Base with LiesPosted: September 27, 2012
We’ve seen an incredible amount of lies, distortion, and bigoted memes aimed at the most frustrated and ugly part of the Republican base. These racist dog whistles (see the am post by BB) have been so bad that I can’t believe that any dog in america has been sleeping. Ralph Reed’s group has been trotting out its usual set of over-the-top rhetoric too. The Romney camp is desperate, and desperate angry people do desperate angry things.
A mailer blasted out by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a nonprofit group spending millions of dollars to mobilize evangelical voters this November to help Mitt Romney’s campaign, compares President Barack Obama’s policies to the threat posed by Nazi Germany and Japan during World War II. It also says that Obama has “Communist beliefs.” A copy of this so-called “Voter Registration Confirmation Survey” was obtained by Mother Jones after it was sent to the home of a registered Republican voter.
The Faith and Freedom Coalition is the brainchild of Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition who was once hailed as “the right hand of God” and who is now tasked with getting out the evangelical vote for Romney. In the mid-2000s, Reed was ensnared in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Reed was a longtime friend of Abramoff’s, and he took payments from Abramoff to lobby against certain American Indian casinos. Reed once ran a religious-themed anti-gambling campaign at the behest of an Abramoff-connected Native American tribe to try to prevent another tribe from opening a competitor casino. His current efforts for Romney are something of a political rehabilitation for Reed.
We’ve seen the President of the United States called “foreign”, “not really American”, and deemed an apologist for radical Islamists and communists. We’ve now got conspiracy theories about his birth, his education, and the mainstream public polls. What positive outcomes can come from hyping up a base that tends to be filled with militia groups, dooms day-oriented religious followers, and old school, KKK-like racists? What possible outcomes might happen if these groups decide they should save their country from the outrageous stereotypes built around a democratically elected leader? This is a questions explored by Josh Holland at Alternet.
It’s an exceptionally dangerous game that the right-wing media are playing. If Obama wins – and according to polling guru Nate Silver, he’d have a 95 percent chance of doing so if the vote were held today – there’s a very real danger that this spin — combined with other campaign narratives that are popular among the far-right — could create a post-election environment so toxic that it yields an outburst of politically motivated violence.
A strategy that began with a series of rather silly columns comparing 2012 with 1980, and assuring jittery conservatives that a huge mass of independents was sure to break for Romney late and deliver Obama the crushing defeat he so richly deserves, entered new territory with the bizarre belief that all the polls are wrong. And not only wrong, butintentionally rigged by “biased pollsters” – including those at Fox News – in the tank for Obama. (See Alex Pareene’s piece for more on the right’s new theory that the polls are being systematically “skewed.”)
Consider how a loosely-hinged member of the right-wing fringe – an unstable individual among the third of conservative Republicans who believe Obama’s a Muslim or the almost two-thirds who think he was born in another country – expecting a landslide victory for the Republican might process an Obama victory. This is a group that has also been told, again and again, that Democrats engage in widespread voter fraud – that there are legions of undocumented immigrants, dead people and ineligible felons voting in this election ( with the help of zombie ACORN ). They’ve been told that Democrats are buying the election with promises of “free stuff” offered to the slothful and unproductive half of the population that pays no federal income taxes and refuses to “take responsibility for their lives” – Romney’s 47 percent.
They’ve also been told – by everyone from NRA president Wayne LaPierre to Mitt Romney himself – that Obama plans to ban gun ownership in his second term. (Two elaborate conspiracy theories have blossomed around this point. One holds that Fast and Furious – which, in reality, is much ado about very little – was designed to elevate gun violence to a point where seizing Americans’ firearms would become politically popular. The second holds that a United Nations treaty on small arms transfers (from which the United States has withdrawn) is in fact a stealthy workaround for the Second Amendment.)
And they’ve been warned in grim, often apocalyptic terms of what’s to come in a second term. The film, “2016: Obama’s America,” offers a dystopian vision of a third-world America gutted by Obama’s supposed obsession with global wealth redistribution. His re-election would bring something far worse than mere socialism – it would be marked by Kenyan anti-colonialism, in which America’s wealth is bled off as a form of reparations for centuries of inequities between the global North and South.
We’ve seen undercurrents of this already in the Tea Party Movement. We’ve also seen actual acts of terrorism–like the bomb found along a parade route in Washington State–that indicate that many elements of the right are taking these things seriously. We also see that legitimately elected politicians repeat and spin these same paranoid memes. Republican Reps Steve King (R-Iowa), Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Allen West (R-Florida), and others have been repeating complete nonsense and legitimizing it by asking for congressional investigations. The media also gives these folks air time to spew what amounts to tin foil hat hypotheses. Remember the judge in Texas that was preparing for all out civil war based on an Obama re-election?
The rest of the news media has been too sanguine about calling a spade a spade, too timid about calling out this epidemic of hate. Even in the recent shootings, as Riddhi Shah points out in a Huffington Post blog post, the news media attention to the Aurora, Colorado murders was way more prominent than the coverage of the Sikh temple massacre. Similarly, when Rep. Peter King (R-NY) held hearings on supposed radicalization of American Muslims last year, very few analysts in the news media pointed out the vastly greater prevalence of right-wing terror in America.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has done yeoman’s work on tracking violent groups, notes that “Currently, there are 1,018 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others. And their numbers are growing.” The Center’s data show that hate groups have increased by 69 percent in the last decade. And the so-called “Patriot” groups have increased nearly 800 percent since Obama became president.
Their closely observed conclusion for this startling increase:
“This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president”
If the news media and political leaders were told there were a thousand violence-prone Muslim groups operating in the United States, can you imagine the reaction? Yet, apart from the glancing attention given incidents like the Sikh temple massacre, the national discourse about terrorism focuses almost exclusively on Muslims.
Scholars call this “framing” — the predisposition of the news media (and others) to see events in a certain way, using a cognitive frame that then leads to certain perceptions and conclusions. The cognitive frame for understanding domestic political violence in this country is the Muslim threat, reinforced powerfully by the 9/11 attacks, of course, even though that atrocity was not committed by domestic terrorists. (The biggest act of domestically organized violence is the Oklahoma City bombing, a right-wing endeavor.) The “Muslim threat” meme has so overwhelmed the discussion of political violence, however, that the actual topography of terrorist groups in this country is neglected.
Watch carefully the next time an act of political violence is committed against, say, an African-American church or Planned Parenthood or a mosque. You won’t hear many condemnations from Sean Hannity or Eric Cantor or indeed Mitt Romney. The burning of the Joplin mosque, which is the second attack this summer on that house of worship, earned no rebuke from the establishment right, including Romney.
The hyping of outright conspiracy-oriented lies that are meant to be Republican GOTV efforts have never before seemed so based on inciting hatred. This is perhaps why you’ve seen so many polls show that Hispanics, Blacks, and single women are moving en masse towards the Democratic Party. Have we gone back to this?
Author Tim Wise lists 30 examples of blatant conservative race-baiting. You can follow the links if you want to see the actual evidence.
It is quite another to suggest that that president is really a foreign imposter: over, and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. And to accept no proof, no matter how extensive, that he really is an American after all.*
Or to suggest that he is a secret Muslim who wishes to see Sharia Law imposed in the United States, and who is working to usher in just such an outcome, and that he and his wife engage in “terrorist fist jabs” as their preferred form of greeting.
Or a Manchurian Candidate, bent on destroying America, or at least deliberately destroying the economy so as to pay whites back for slavery and racism, and insisting that he only appoints people to his administration if they hate whites, and that he only received the endorsement of Colin Powellbecause he’s black.
Or that he’s the equivalent of an “African colonial despot,” who is “more African” than American, and who chose to go by the name “Barack” rather than “Barry” specifically as a way to thumb his nose at America, and who “hates this country” and is trying to dismantle it “brick by brick.”
Or that his political model is Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, and that soon he, like Mugabe, will be confiscating white people’s farms. Or that, even worse, he is just like Hitler, that his administration is a throwback to the Nazis, and his calls for national service and volunteerism are tantamount to the creation of a new SS.
Or that he uses the New Black Panther Party as his personal “army of thugs”, that he stands by while they intimidate white voters (despite the evidence that utterly contradicts that conclusion), and that his Department of Justice has targeted whites for oppression just like blacks were oppressed in the 1950s.
Or that he’s an “Indonesian Muslim” and a “welfare thug”.
Or a vampire, sucking the blood of American businesses, who deserves a stake through the heart.
Or maybe even the anti-Christ.
Or that he isn’t a real American because he didn’t sufficiently gloat over the killing of Osama bin Laden, and because he didn’t desecrate bin Laden’s body the way a real American presumably would have.
Or that he’s a “third worlder,” who is “appeasing his Islamic overlords,” who wants to put Jews on trainsto extermination camps because he is an “evil” anti-Semite, who is responsible for “Kick-a-Jew day” hate crimes at certain schools.
Or arguing that his health care reform bill, which will of course amount to literal “armageddon,” is really just about getting “reparations for slavery,” and portraying him on anti-health care reform signs, or mass e-mails, as an African witch doctor with a bone through his nose.
Or to claim that his presidency causes black kids to beat up white kids on school buses.
Or that he plans to put whites in slavery.
Or that his proposal to impose a small tax on visits to tanning salons is a racist imposition on whites who comprise the bulk of such customers.
Or that he looks like a “skinny ghetto crackhead,” who by virtue of meeting with an African leader from Gabon, and inviting rapper Common to a presidential event, is hosting “hoodlums in the hizzouse”, and whose drinking of a pint of beer in an Irish pub when visiting that country is derided as “chugging 40s”, as in 40-ounce bottles of Malt Liquor.
Or implying that he didn’t really deserve to get into Columbia or Harvard Law School and that he may have been admitted as an affirmative action case, and that he was “involved with a crack whore” in his youth.
Or wondering whether we should still call the presidential residence the White House at all, given the family that currently lives there.
Or insisting that Obama needs to “learn how to be an American,” as Romney surrogate John Sununu suggested last month, and that he is taking us down a course that is “foreign” in the words of Romney himself.
Or suggesting that the president doesn’t, for some unspecified (and surely not racial reason) “fully appreciate” the “Anglo-Saxon heritage” shared between the U.S. and the U.K., and that he had a bust of Winston Churchill removed from the Oval Office because of his anti-colonial hatred for the West.
Or that he is a “revolutionary” who believes in creating economic hardship as a way to atone for the nation’s founding, which he naturally views as “illegitimate” and “unjust.”
Or portraying him as a slavemaster, whipping a white taxpayer.
Or insisting that he doesn’t have a life story that “has much in common with anybody in this country,” (in part because he didn’t grow up in the Midwest) and that he “cannot relate” to the “American Experience.”
How many times, one is left to wonder, must a person be called un-American before it’s accurate to claim that he’s being accused of being foreign, and a danger to the nation? A cancer to be excised from the body politic?
How many times can a man be the butt of racist humor, or likened to black dictators, or accused of seeking racial revenge upon white people, before it is no longer outrageous or the playing of some mystical, magical race card to assert that, indeed, the people doing these things are really just race-baiting white nationalists in conservative garb?
Frankly, I wanted to believe that we had gotten past all of this back when I was a kid. I saw things like the Maddox interview in my history classes. It was hard to believe that that happened in the country about 10 -15 years before the time I sat at those school desks. I can only imagine what today’s children think as they watch this crap unfold concurrently on their TVs.
Frankly, I’d prefer to think of our kids growing up knowing that Ellen is a great person who just happens to be a lesbian and that Michelle Obama is a caring first lady who just happens to be black.