Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Others See: The Right Fist Of Fury

Watching America is still filled with the international response to President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. I guess the rest of the world was just as flummoxed as we were by the surprising announcement. Not everyone was critical, or disgusted. In fact, many of the world's press saw the selection as an expression of hope: both for President Obama and for America.

One article, however, provided another view of America, although that view was not colored by the Nobel Prize issue. It examined the re-emergence of one of the more frightening aspects of this country. From Belgium's Le Soir (as translated by Watching America):

The violence of the attacks thrown by the extreme right at Barack Obama has assumed a hallucinatory dimension. These harsh faces, those threatening fists, those brandished placards recall the incendiary sermons of the national Catholic and anti-Semitic priest Charles Coughlin against President Roosevelt at the end of the 1930s, the heinous hunting of racists by some "riders of liberty" in the deep South in the 1950s, the hysterical attacks against John and Robert Kennedy and those who stood behind Martin Luther King for the civil rights of blacks.

In the image of Léon Degrelle, who pretended to represent the "real country" and French Action by crying out against the "Jew Léon Blum," the American far right presents itself as the "Real America," and diminishes its opponents as invaders or infiltrators. Declaring itself "pure wool," white and Christian, it drapes itself in the national banner and excommunicates those who are different. And it is all the more triggered by hate. However, the scope of the attacks targeting Barack Obama no longer reveals simply democratic uproar, but rather a call for murder. ...

The euphoria that won international opinion after the Democratic victory last November has almost made us forget that the part of America that was stubbornly opposed to Obama hasn't been won over; that it was always there, furious, aggressive, venomous and incapable of accepting defeat.
[Emphasis added]

Jean-Paul Marthoz, the gentleman who wrote this opinion piece, has provided a solid analysis of just what is behind the fury, aggression, and venom of the extreme right. He also point out why not just Americans should be troubled by those too many of us dismiss as a few whackos:

This rancorous America is in the minority, but it is far from marginal because it is anchored in the heart of the Republican party, which is put under pressure by its own extremists. Moreover, some of its most disjointed arguments take advantage of a thundering media intermediary, not only in the wild, wild west of the internet, but also in the notable television channel that thinks of itself as respectable, like Fox News. [Emphasis added]

By refusing to openly reject the positions and threats of the extreme right, the Republican Party has given those on its extremist fringe a right to claim legitimacy, a claim that is bolstered by those enablers in the media who seem intent to egg them on. And that allows existing groups to increase the violent rhetoric and to recruit new members with impunity.

Last Sunday, I posted on one such group, the Oath Keepers, based on an article I read in the Los Angeles Times which seemed intent to show that the group was composed of just "regular folks" who were a little concerned about the direction the country was taking. That bit of puffery mentioned the ten part oath taken by members, but never bothered to link to the group's web site which explicitly unpacks that oath in frightening fashion. How's that for free advertising for a militia group?

In my post I linked to a report prepared by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the reappearance of the militia movement. Since the report didn't get the kind of attention the Oath Keepers got, I recommend you go read it and the accompanying reports to get a fuller picture of just what is happening. Here's a taste:

They're back. Almost a decade after largely disappearing from public view, right-wing militias, ideologically driven tax defiers and sovereign citizens are appearing in large numbers around the country. "Paper terrorism" — the use of property liens and citizens' "courts" to harass enemies — is on the rise. And once-popular militia conspiracy theories are making the rounds again, this time accompanied by nativist theories about secret Mexican plans to "reconquer" the American Southwest. One law enforcement agency has found 50 new militia training groups — one of them made up of present and former police officers and soldiers. Authorities around the country are reporting a worrying uptick in Patriot activities and propaganda. "This is the most significant growth we've seen in 10 to 12 years," says one. "All it's lacking is a spark. I think it's only a matter of time before you see threats and violence."

Just a spark.

Mr. Marthoz is right to be worried. We all should be.



Anonymous Jim Bridgens said...

Hi Diane,
1) Oath Keepers is not a militia group.
2) What part of our Constitution do you disagree with?
3) Please don't believe all you read from the SPLC.

Thank you.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said Jim.

9:40 PM  

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