Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Minuteman scam

The growing rift in the ranks of the Minutemen (first reported here) driven in part by the activities of the consulting firm responsible for Chris Simcox's remarkable makeover is now going public.

And you know that it's a serious rift when the report appears in The Washington Times, which has a long history of running article supportive of the Minutemen:
A growing number of Minuteman Civil Defense Corps leaders and volunteers are questioning the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars in donations collected in the past 15 months, challenging the organization's leadership over financial accountability.

Many of the group's most active members say they have no idea how much money has been collected as part of its effort to stop illegal entry -- primarily along the U.S.-Mexico border, what it has been spent on or why it has been funneled through a Virginia-based charity headed by conservative Alan Keyes.

Several of the group's top lieutenants have either quit or are threatening to do so, saying requests to Minuteman President Chris Simcox for a financial accounting have been ignored.

As so often happens when right-wing scamsters are caught with their hands in the cookie jar, they've continually promised to provide a full accounting and then, of course, never do:
Mr. Simcox, in an interview last week with The Washington Times, estimated that about $1.6 million in donations have been collected, all of it handled through the Herndon-based Declaration Alliance, founded and chaired by Mr. Keyes. He said the donations, solicited on the group's Web site and during cross-country appearances, included $1 million directly to MCDC and $600,000 for a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border.

But Mr. Simcox's numbers could not be independently verified, including claims in a 3,961-word statement issued after the interview that he spent $160,000 on "our last two monthlong border-watch operations."

The Minuteman organization has not made any financial statements or fundraising records public since its April 2005 creation. It also has sought and received extensions of its federal reporting requirements and has not given the Minuteman leadership, its volunteers or donors any official accounting. A financial statement promised to The Times by Mr. Simcox for May was never delivered.

And note how they dismiss their internal critics: Why, these folks are just the racists and bigots we've been trying to weed out!
Several other Minuteman members question why Mr. Keyes' organization is involved in collecting MCDC donations, saying donations to the movement should be handled by the Minuteman leadership, who could be directly responsible for it.

Mr. Keyes has financially endorsed and supported the Minuteman organization as programs of Declaration Alliance and the Declaration Foundation, another Virginia-based charitable organization that he heads. He accused internal MCDC critics of being "decidedly racist and anti-Semitic," saying they had been removed as members of the Minuteman organization.

"I personally applaud Chris Simcox for his diligent adherence to a rigorous standard that weeds out bigots from the upstanding, patriotic mainstream Americans who participate in the Minuteman citizens' border watch effort that I am proud to support," he said.

Mr. Keyes said that MCDC is in the process of applying to the IRS for nonprofit status and that those responsible are "adhering to all relevant federal regulations." He called concerns over finances and accountability "groundless," saying they were being "bandied about by members of anti-immigrant and racialist groups, and other unsavory fringe elements attempting to hijack the border security debate to further their individual agendas."

By smearing his critics without any supporting evidence, of course, Keyes is conveniently diverting attention from the substance of the questions. And well he should. After all, he is part of the same group of businessmen, headed by Philip Sheldon, that operates both Diener Consulting -- with whom Simcox has a contract -- and Response Unlimited, the mailing firm that, as I explained previously, was making use of Minutemen donors' contact information.

The Minutemen, it's clear, are becoming very profitable indeed, even if their fence projects don't go so well. For a few people, at least.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's dehumanization time

The immigration debate -- already rife with all kinds of extremist rhetoric and appeals -- took another notch downward this week when Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa compared illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to cattle:
It was prop time on the House floor Tuesday night when Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), making the case for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, showed a miniature version of a border wall that he "designed."

He had mock sand representing the desert as well as fake construction panels as C-SPAN focused in on the unusual display.

But it got really interesting when King broke out the mock electrical wiring: "I also say we need to do a few other things on top of that wall, and one of them being to put a little bit of wire on top here to provide a disincentive for people to climb over the top."

He added, "We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that would not kill somebody, but it would be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it. We do that with livestock all the time."

Of course, this is par for the course for King, who earlier published a hateful, disinformation-laden screed against illegal immigrants on his Web site. But it's worth noting how, in both cases, the rhetoric was all about dehumanizing border crossers.

The ugliness of the rhetoric in the immigration debate generally is being observed elsewhere. The recent debate in the Colorado Legislature over illegal immigrants raised all kinds of red flags among legislators regarding the thinly veiled racism that underscores so much of the right-wing response to illegal immigration.

This kind of rhetoric has all kinds of real-life consequences. In California, for instance, the total number of hate crimes declined 4.5 percent last year but hate crimes against Hispanics increased 6.5 percent.

Perhaps most ominously, the right-wing fervor over immigration continues to fuel white supremacists, who have recognized it for the opportunity that it presents to expand their base and broaden their appeal.

Recently, there were New Hampshire rallies by "White Pride" groups against illegal immigration, while the Aryan Anarchist Skins at their rally in Oregon, Ill., recently, also focused on immigration.

Of course, one can rest assured that folks like Rep. King have nothing -- no, nada, nuthin' -- to do with that.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The origins of 'eliminationism'

Well, since this blog is the first entry in a Google search of the term "eliminationism," I suppose I'm going to have to take some ownership of it. And I'll gladly do so, because its increasing appearance in right-wing rhetoric is indeed an important phenomenon.

But I will be the first to point out that I didn't invent the term. I first encountered it in Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's text Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, where it appears extensively and plays a central role in his thesis that "eliminationist antisemitism" had a unique life in German culture and eventually was the driving force behind the Holocaust.

A word about Goldhagen: In the ensuing debate over his thesis, I found myself falling more in the Christopher Browning camp, which doubted that "eliminationist antisemitism" was quite as pervasive as Goldhagen portrayed it, and that, moreover, it was as unique to Germany as he described it. Having some background of familiarity with the history of American eliminationism (particularly the "lynching era" and the Ku Klux Klan, as well as the "Yellow Peril" agitation and the subsequent internment of Japanese Americans during World War II), I agreed especially with the latter point.

That said, Hitler's Willing Executioners is an important and impressive piece of scholarship, particularly in the extent to which it catalogues the willing participation of the "ordinary" citizenry in so many murderous acts, as well as in the hatemongering that precipitated them. And his identification of "eliminationism" as a central impulse of the Nazi project was not only borne out in spades by the evidence, but was an important insight into the underlying psychology of fascism.

Reexamining the text, it's hard to find a single point at which Goldhagen explains precisely the meaning of "eliminationist," except that it is spelled out in nearly every page of the book's first hundred pages (Part I is titled "Understanding German Antisemitism: The Eliminationist Mind-set"). Probably the closest I can come to a distillation of the concept appears on p. 69:
The eliminationist mind-set that characterized virtually all who spoke out on the "Jewish Problem" from the end of the eighteenth century onward was another constant in Germans' thinking about Jews. For Germany to be properly ordered, regulated, and, for many, safeguarded, Jewishness had to be eliminated from German society. What "elimination" -- in the sense of successfully ridding Germany of Jewishness -- meant, and the manner in which this was to be done, was unclear and hazy to many, and found no consensus during the period of modern German antisemitism. But the necessity of the elimination of Jewishness was clear to all. It followed from the conception of the Jews as alien invaders of the German body social. If two people are conceived of as binary opposites, with the qualities of goodness inhering in one people, and those of evil in the other, then the exorcism of that evil from the shared social and temporal space, by whatever means, would be urgent, an imperative. "The German Volk," asserted one antisemite before the midpoint of the century, "needs only to topple the Jew" in order to become "united and free."

Of course, I'm struck in that passage by how easily one could replace "Jewishness" with "liberalism" and "liberals" in much of the current environment -- as well as a number of other targets for right-wing elimination, particularly illegal immigrants.'

I'm planning to write more on the subject soon, but I've noted previously that the eliminationist project is in many ways the signature of fascism, partly because it proceeds naturally from fascism's embrace of palingenesis, or Phoenix-like national rebirth, as its core myth. And I've also noted that eliminationist rhetoric has consistently preceded, and heralded, the eventual assumption of the eliminationist project.

This is the case not merely in Europe, but in America as well. Perhaps more germane in terms of our current milieu, eliminationism has a long and colorful -- and ultimately, shameful -- history in this country.

Halfwits and propagandists who assure us that it can't happen here are ignoring that, in fact, it has. It's buried in our hard-wiring. And the modern American right is doing its damnedest to bring it back to life.

Eliminationism? Whuzzat?

That most excellent of Morans, the one named Rick, has decided to try to tackle the growing use of the term "eliminationist" to describe right-wing rhetoric by suggesting, of all things, that it's just one of those words that means whatever we want it to mean.

As I responded in his comments:
Hilarious and pathetic.

Of course, nowhere in this post is an explanation of the actual meaning of the term "eliminationist," even though it has been given numerous times at my blog. (Nice spelling of my name, BTW. Guess it goes along with this.) So, by pretending that no such definition or explanation exists, you effectively create a nice little straw man that you conveniently set aflame. Impressive. Not.

Incidentally, go back to Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's work for more on eliminationism.

My understanding, for what it's worth, is that the concept of "eliminationism" was originated by scholars of fascism studying the Nazi phenomenon. However, it's clear that the impulse existed well before the 20th century.

I'll have more on this in the next few weeks.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The projection strategy

Kudos to Glenn Greenwald, who has been dealing this week with the latest surge in eliminationist rhetoric -- and actual behavior -- from the right-wing blogosphere.

The main focus has been on the fake "controversy" over an obscure blogger named Deb Frisch who wrote a disgusting and evidently threatening comment at Jeff Goldstein's blog, which set all the right wing -- including Fox News -- abuzz with righteous indignation over the specter of an increasingly "unhinged" and violent left.

I especially noted the his initial roundup on the Frisch matter (including the antics of the Perfesser, whose ethics we've limned previously along similar lines):
With those brilliant and elevated responses assembled before him, Instapundit -- who endlessly parades himself around as a righteous advocate of civil discourse, and who was one of those who spent the weekend lamenting the terrible language directed at Jeff Goldstein -- also weighed in on my post. He did so by approvingly linking to the very high-level responses from Dan Riehl, Sister Toldjah, and Patterico, and then shared with us: "I'm no fan of Greenwald." (Incidentally, Instapundit, who claims with great self-satisfaction to be an adherent to the privacy-protecting "Online Integrity" concept, links to Riehl, who currently has posted on his blog satellite photographs of Punch Salzburger's home along with his home address).

So that's the level of discourse that comes from right-wing bloggers, every one of whom cited here -- each and every one -- doled out solemn lectures this weekend about how terrible it is for people to write mean personal insults on the Internet, only to respond to my post today with the above-excerpted tantrums. And all of that leaves to the side the fact that they were unable to comprehend the actual arguments that were made in the post -- most of them responded to the opposite of the argument that was actually made -- an embarrassing fact which QandO's Jon Henke had to explain to them here and here. But ultimately, their whiny, ad hominem tantrums seem more notable than the lack of comprehension.

As Greenwald went on to describe today, this derangement and open adoption of extremist ideas and appeals -- especially to the most thuggish elements of the right -- may be most prominently visible in Glenn Reynolds' case (though regular readers here are well aware that this has been his MO for some time) but is in fact widespread throughout the right blogosphere:
The extremist and increasingly deranged rhetoric and tactics found in the right-wing blogosphere -- not only among obscure bloggers but promoted and disseminated by its most-read and influential bloggers -- is, indeed, "a very common disease." When it becomes commonplace to hurl accusations of treason against domestic political opponents, or when calls for imprisonment and/or hanging of journalists and political leaders become the daily fare -- all of which is true for the pro-Bush blogosphere -- those are serious developments. And they merit discussion and examination by the media.

What we're witnessing on a massive scale, of course -- as the foofaraw over Deb Frisch so amply illustrates -- is projection: the classic right-wing propensity to see in its enemies its own dark side. I've described its appearance in recent years many times here, including discussions of its subtler aspects.

The classic description of projection comes from Richard Hofstadter in his examination of "The Paranoid Style in American Politics":
The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced. The paranoid’s interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone’s will. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional).

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this enemy is on many counts the projection of the self; both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of the self are attributed to him. The enemy may be the cosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid will outdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, even of pedantry. Secret organizations set up to combat secret organizations give the same flattery. The Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to the point of donning priestly vestments, developing an elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hierarchy. The John Birch Society emulates Communist cells and quasi-secret operation through "front" groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecution of the ideological war along lines very similar to those it finds in the Communist enemy. Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist "crusades" openly express their admiration for the dedication and discipline the Communist cause calls forth.

As I noted quite awhile back, projection from the right has become such a common phenomenon that it's now a very useful gauge in guessing where the right is taking us next:
Indeed, one of the lessons I've gleaned from carefully observing the behavior of the American right over the years is that the best indicator of its agenda can be found in the very things of which it accuses the left.

Whether it's sexual improprieties, slander, treason, or unhinged behavior, it doesn't matter: if the right is jumping up and down accusing the left of it, you can bet they're busy engaging in it themselves by an exponential factor of a hundred.

For a long time, I really believed that this was simply the right acting out on its own psychological predisposition. But as it's gathered volume and momentum -- especially as the right has avidly accused the left of the very thuggishness, both rhetorical and real, in which it is increasingly indulging -- a disturbing trend began to emerge:
What is particularly interesting about this kind of projection by conservatives is that it then (as the comments indicate) becomes a pretext for even further eliminationist rhetoric against liberals -- and eventually, for exactly the kind of "acting out" of rhetoric that Van Der Leun foresees from liberals.

In other words, for a number of the right's leading rhetoricians, the projection appears to be perfectly conscious: it is a strategy, designed to marginalize their opposition and open the field to nearly any behavior it chooses.

And it is extraordinarily successful precisely because projection, as a trait, is so deeply woven into the right-wing psyche. Those who engage in it consciously set off waves of sympathetic response from their audiences because it hits their buttons in exactly the right spot.

The signal event for this, I think, was Michelle Malkin's book Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild which was a black-and-white-case of intentional projection. Indeed, as I noted further, it provided a pretext for a whole explosion of hateful, eliminationist rhetoric from the right:
Indeed, books like Unhinged actually serve a specific purpose: to provide epistemological cover for conservatives' own behavior. If those wackos on the left are wrecking America with their unhinged bombast, well, a little return fire is well earned, isn't it?

This is why, in the weeks after her book's release, we were subjected to so many instances of truly unhinged rhetoric from the right, Bill O'Reilly in particular. Within a week of Malkin's appearance on his show, O'Reilly was suggesting that San Francisco deserved to be attacked by terrorists, compared anti-Iraq war protesters to Hitler sympathizers, called all Europeans cowards, and promised to "bring horror" to his ephemeral foes in the "war on Christmas."

Did anyone on the right utter a peep? Well, no. Not even Michelle Malkin.

Of course not. That is, after all, her entire purpose in doing this. It's a strategy -- and so far, it's working like a charm.