Friday, July 23, 2010

Our Netroots Panel On The Tea Parties Gets The Attention Of The Movement's Defenders

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

John and I have been wandering the halls at Netroots Nation here in Vegas this week, having a blast hanging out with our blogospheric friends. But we also led one of the conference's first panels yesterday morning, titled "Right Wing Populism and the Tea Parties".

It also featured our friend Adele Stan of AlterNet and the amazing Hugh Jackson of the Las Vegas Gleaner. Of course, I'm a little biased, but I thought the ensuing discussion was very good, the room was pretty full and the questions very thoughtful.

Turns out that some folks from rightward publications were there too. Susan Davis of the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire was there and filed a pretty balanced story.

However, I noticed that she also truncated not only the title of our book, Over the Cliff -- she omitted the subtitle, How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane, though that in fact was a significant theme of the panel as well -- she also truncated the quote from me as well:
“After the 2008 election we were all celebrating, but we also became complacent,” said liberal blogger David Neiwert. “The right never gives up.”

“The answer to the tea party is to activate the populist wing of the progressive movement,” he said. “We need to seize on [the public’s frustration] ourselves and channel it to our movement.”
What I actually said in full was this:
"After the 2008 election we were all celebrating, but we also became complacent. But having studied the right for many years, I can tell you: They never, ever, give up. They are relentless. Even after their ideology has been completely discredited by eight years of conservative rule, even after they have driven the country into an economic abyss, they keep going -- even if it means going insane in the process."
Oh well.

And then there was Chris Moody of the Daily Caller, who couldn't take the time to talk to any of us afterward, and wrote an even more distorted account headlined "Liberals warn: Don’t write off the Tea Party (even if they’re crazy)".

You'll note, if you read the piece, that Moody omits my explanation for why we call the Right "insane," namely this, which I said:
"We say that they've gone insane a little bit facetiously, but really, we say it because they believe things -- lots of things -- that are provably untrue. And that really is a kind of insanity. It's why we sometimes just say these people are nuts."
Moody also truncated my quote in a way that left out the really salient points:
Amato and Neiwert, who co-authored the book Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane, argued that the Tea Party movement is not a new phenomenon, but a fresh incarnation that is part of a long history of what they called “right-wing authoritarianism.”

“We’ve been studying the right for a long time, and let me tell you, they never give up,” Neiwart said. “They’re relentless.”
And then, of course, they contacted the Tea Partiers for their reaction:
It’s no surprise that the Left has not taken the Tea Party seriously, said FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon in a phone interview with The Daily Caller. The Washington-based organization has helped organize Tea Party rallies around the country.

“Most of these people who mock the Tea Party have never even been to an event,” he said. “So they think we’re a bunch of knuckle-dragging jerks who are just upset that the president is black.”
“But I want them to underestimate us,” he added. “That’s fine by me.”
Of course, we mock the Tea Parties because nuttiness always deserves a certain amount of mockery -- but that doesn't mean we don't take them seriously. We should always take the rise of mass insanity seriously because it's so damned dangerous.

And we hate to disappoint Brandon, but we've actually attended number of Tea Party events. In fact, that's why we concluded they're nuts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

'Character Assassination Without Due Process': Glenn Beck And Fox News Know All About That

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Boy, talk about projection: Here's Glenn Beck yesterday on his Fox show:
Beck: This administration is into character assassination without due process. This is what we talked about yesterday. It's how the administration does almost everything.
Well, it's certainly true that the Obama White House earned yet another white feather for its shameful firing of Shirley Sherrod. But it was because of Beck's partner in smearing ACORN, Andrew Breitbart, and his own role in promoting the story that the White House did so!

Even more remarkably, only a few moments later, Beck himself indulged in yet another of his serial "character assassinations without due process" by again smearing Obama's dead mother:

Violent, Racist Haters Among The Tea Partiers? NAACP Gets Death Threats That Pretty Much Prove Their Point

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

[WARNING: Audio not safe for work.]

It's obvious why Andrew Breitbart successfully smeared Shirley Sherrod on utterly fake grounds -- he wants desperately to prove that it's the NAACP is actually a racist organization, after its condemnation of racism within the Tea Parties. Indeed, this has been a long-running schtick of Breitbart's -- that the "real" racists are not white people, but people of color.

He was even on CNN yesterday whining that "It is un-American" that the NAACP accused the Tea Party movement of racism "absent evidence".

Um, actually, Andrew, the NAACP provided plenty of evidence of racism within its ranks.

And then, as if to prove the point, a caller who clearly is an angry Tea Partier left the following message at NAACP's Hollywood bureau:
Caller: Of course you won't answer the phone yourself. Because you're chickens--t racist n---ers. The entire black race is nothing but a have-not bunch of bums. You can't work for yourselves. All you do is suck off the white man. F--k you, motherf---er! F--k you! You want a race war, you got it, motherf---er! You want to f---ing kill our babies, and kill white people? You, you're gonna f---in' -- the streets will run red with blood. The streets will run red with your blood. F--k you!
Not only was this caller severely lacking in the logical consistency department -- first he calls the NAACP racist, then embarks on a rant about "the entire black race" (in this regard, he's a lot like the typical Fox pundit). But the reference to "kill our babies" and "kill white people" was also an obvious reference to that incendiary video Fox News ran as a way of ginning up racial hatred and resentment among its white audience.

In other words, they fully succeeded. They should be so proud.

And is it just me, or does this guy actually sound a lot like Breitbart himself? Hmmmmmmm.

[H/t Common Dreams.]

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

When Vigilantes Rule: Feds Hand Down Hate-Crime Charges For Post-Katrina Shootings In White Neighborhoods

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

A few years ago, A.C. Thompson wrote an amazing piece for The Nation describing how white militias formed in some of the more, um, blanched neighborhoods of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and were involved in some cases of outright murder supposedly in the defense of their neighborhoods.

I was especially struck at the time by this passage:
Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. "My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all--white against black--that he could participate in," says the woman. "For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy."

"They didn't want any of the 'ghetto niggers' coming over" from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as "fair game." One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who'd been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was "gleeful"--her cousin was happy that "they were shooting niggers."
It was, of course, classic white eliminationism, occurring as it often does in a time of great stress when said stress becomes an excuse for any kind of behavior, including wanton murder.

Well, now the hammer has finally come down:
A former New Orleans resident was charged Thursday with federal hate crimes for his alleged role in a racially motivated shooting of three black men in the days after Hurricane Katrina.

Roland J. Bourgeois Jr., 47, is accused of plotting to defend his Algiers Point neighborhood "from outsiders" including African-Americans, constructing barricades on public streets and using racial epithets to describe black people, according to the five-count indictment.

At one point, Bourgeois allegedly said, "Anything coming up this street darker than a paper bag is getting shot."

The indictment charges Bourgeois with doing just that when three black males walked through the neighborhood toward a makeshift Coast Guard evacuation center on Sept. 1. Bourgeois fired a shotgun at the trio, felling Donnell Herrington and wounding Herrington's two companions near the corner of Pelican Avenue and Vallette Street, according to the indictment.

Later, Bourgeois plucked Herrington's bloodied baseball cap from the ground and proudly displayed it to others, boasting that he "got one" and had shot a "looter, " according to a witness.
They say that revenge is a dish best served cold. The same cannot be said of justice -- but it must be said that it is better served cold than not at all.

Now we can wait for Fox News to declare this case another example of the Obama administration favoring blacks against whites, I suppose.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Tea Partiers Can't Just Paper Over Their Innate Nuttiness

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Last week, some Tea Partiers in Iowa put up the above billboard comparing President Obama to Hitler and Lenin. Apparently passing health-care reform is now the moral equivalent of mass genocide.

(Of course, anyone familiar with the immortal works of Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Beck knows exactly where they're getting this from.)

The next day, amid a national furor, the Tea Partiers abjectly retreated, papering over the billboard with a new one featuring a Founding Father. These guys do watch Glenn Beck a lot, don't they?

The Tea Partiers tried pretty much the same papering over this weekend when they announced they were giving Mark Williams and his Tea Party Express the boot for having revealed themselves as the rather unreconstituted racists they in fact are.

But it doesn't work that way. Because the Tea Party simply can't just paper over the movement's already clearly established record of condoning racism in its attacks on Obama -- not to mention its clear record of attracting and including and promoting not just racists but far-right extremists of all types, from tax nuts to religious nuts to gun nuts. A bunch of nuts all around, any way you cut it.

Judy Thomas has a terrific examination of this phenomenon in the Kansas City Star:
Billy Roper is a write-in candidate for governor of Arkansas and an unapologetic white nationalist.

“I don’t want non-whites in my country in any form or fashion or any status,” he says.
Roper also is a tea party member who says he has been gathering support for his cause by attending tea party rallies.

“We go to these tea parties all over the country,” Roper said. “We’re looking for the younger, potentially more radical people.”
As Thomas explains, the issue of racism within the Tea Party movement is actually a somewhat complex one:
Indeed, it’s difficult to answer the racism question because the tea party is split into hundreds of shards, and the issue of racism depends somewhat on perceptions.

Still, it’s clear that some with racist agendas are trying to make inroads into the party.
It doesn't help that Tea Parties have an, um, fairly limited definition of what constitutes racism:
For many tea partiers, racism is in the eye of the beholder.

Take Ron Wight, who stood with dozens of tea party activists at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain in April, complaining about the Obama administration, its socialist agenda and being called a racist.

Those like him who complain about President Barack Obama are accused of racism, lamented the semi-retired music teacher from Lee’s Summit.

Then he added: “If I was a black man, I’d get down on my knees and thank God for slavery. Otherwise, I could be dying of AIDS now in Africa.”

Wight doesn’t consider that comment to be racist.

“I wish slavery had never happened,” he said. “But there are some black people alive today who have never suffered one day what the people who were black went through in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Has somebody said something stupid or done something stupid? Yes, there have been incidents.

“But with everything that has been done in this country legally and socially for the black man, it’s almost like they’ve been given a great leg up.”
What's happening, of course, is that the Tea Parties are actually a manifestation of a larger mindset of which racism is only a subset: right-wing authoritarianism. We describe this in our book, Over the Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane:
As it happened, however, there was data available strongly suggesting that there was indeed a powerful connection between opposition to health-care reform and voters with racist attitudes about Obama. Marc J. Hetherington and Jonathan D. Weiler described this data for the Washington Post:

As evidence of the link between health care and racial attitudes, we analyzed survey data gathered in late 2008. The survey asked people whether they favored a government run health insurance plan, a system like we have now, or something in between. It also asked four questions about how people feel about blacks.

Taken together the four items form a measure of what scholars call racial resentment. We find an extraordinarily strong correlation between racial resentment of blacks and opposition to health care reform.

Among whites with above average racial resentment, only 19 percent favored fundamental health care reforms and 57 percent favored the present system. Among those who have below average racial resentment, more than twice as many (45 percent) favored government run health care and less than half as many (25 percent) favored the status quo.

No such relationship between racial attitudes and opinions on health care existed in the mid-1990s during the Clinton effort.

It would be silly to assert that all, or even most, opposition to President Obama, including his plans for health care reform, is motivated by the color of his skin. But our research suggests that a key to understanding people's feelings about partisan politics runs far deeper than the mere pros and cons of actual policy proposals. It is also about a collision of worldviews.
This is correlative, of course; the data doesn't indicate a cause-effect relationship. Rather, as Hetherington and Weiler explained, both sets of attitudes – racial bigotry and opposition to health-care reform – arise out of a common right-wing authoritarian worldview. The people who hold racist attitudes almost always also hold the virulent anti-government attitudes that ultimately fuel their opposition to policies like health-care reform – but not everyone who hates the government is racist, either, and certainly not everyone opposed to health-care reform is racist either. But at the same time, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone who voted against Obama because he is a black man will also be violently opposed to health-care reform.

This is what people are talking about when they remark that "the Republican Party is the home of racists." They're not arguing that every conservative Republican is a racist; but practicing racists consistently self-identify as conservatives, and many are in fact Republicans (or sometimes even farther to the right). There are always exceptions, of course, but the known pattern is clear enough.
Right-wing populism is always fueled and populated by right-wing authoritarians -- people who believe that the nation/state needs strong rulers and that it's the duty of citizens to obey them assiduously. This why they suffer so much cognitive dissonance when the nation's top authority is a Democrat/liberal/socialist/Marxist/fascist -- and why their first impulse, in such situations, is to embark on a vicious campaign of delegitimization (see, e.g., Bill Clinton). It's why they basically go insane.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

National Tea Party Umbrella Group Says It Has 'Expelled' Mark Williams' Tea Party Express After Racist Screed. Right.

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Well, now that Mark Williams dropped the mask and revealed the rotten racist core of the Tea Party movement's authoritarian base, the movement's defenders have been scrambling to distance themselves from him.

So today on Face the Nation, one of the movement's only black spokesmen -- David Webb of the National Tea Party Foundation -- and announced that Williams and his Tea Party Express have been "expelled" from their would-be umbrella organization:
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, it do-- it does seem to me that-- that-- that part of what this is about is--is he’s saying to you, you really need to police your-- your organization. And that some of these signs we’ve seen them that have shown up at some of these parties really are objectionable. What are you doing about that?

DAVID WEBB: Well-- well, we have it and that’s a very good question. We, in the last twenty-four hours have expelled Tea Party Express and Mark Williams from the National Tea Party Federation because of the letter that he wrote which, he, I guess, may have considered satire but which was clearly offensive. And that is what we do--self-policing is the right and the responsibility of any movement or organization. I denounce any acts that I see many leaders do and for Mister Jealous, to say that these elements, when millions have been out there, represent the Tea Party is blatantly false and they’re simply playing the race card.
It's hard to say just how much pull the NTPF actually has. As you can see from their press release announcing their formation last April, the outfit comprises most of the movement's heavy hitters -- which included the Tea Party Express folks.

Note that Fox particularly promoted the Tea Party Express when it was organizing that bus tour in the runup to Glenn Beck's "912 March on Washington", though CNN had a hand in it too. Funny how the Williams story is getting relatively little play there, isn't it?

Fact is, the Tea Parties can't just denounce Williams and pretend that they haven't been playing the "race card" all along. And now the NAACP is playing that card -- for calling them out? Just more up-is-down Planet Bizarro garbage from these folks.