Saturday, July 30, 2011

'Special Report' 'Straight News' Segment Features Groundless Gun Story Concocted By Militiaman

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

We talk a lot here about how right-wing mainstream media act as "transmitters" for right-wing extremism, legitimizing radical ideas from the most violent and racist elements of the Right by repackaging them for general consumption. The inevitable outcome of this kind of transmission is what Anders Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing terrorist, represented in many ways -- but it's something that occurs far more often in the USA, and most frequently in recent years on Fox News.

David Holthouse at Media Matters has the most recent example: Fox's recent coverage of an ATF sting operation called "Operation Castaway," which Fox has been trying to depict as yet another rogue gun operation gone awry -- except that it's not:
Nothing in the more than 500 pages of Operation Castaway court documents, which are public records, indicate anything other than a textbook operation culminating in the interdiction of a large shipment of firearms bound for Honduras. Eight traffickers including Crumpler were convicted and sentenced to between two and a half and seven years in federal prison.

Despite this winning outcome, Operation Castaway is under attack from right-wing bloggers and Fox. These critics are disregarding basic standards of fact checking in their rush to link the Tampa investigation to Operation Fast and Furious, the failed ATF initiative in which agents knowingly allowed firearms to be trafficked across the border into Mexico.

In one typical example, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs branded Operation Castaway "a second version of the botched operation Fast and Furious" during his July 11 broadcast.
And who was their source for this information? Why, the far-right wingnutosphere's nastiest and nuttiest elements, of course -- a militiaman straight out of a 1990s caricature:
There is no evidence in the court files to support Dobbs' claims and he offered no original reporting to back them up. Instead, he relied on references to "new reports" and "allegations" without revealing their dubious origin--anonymously sourced blog items on conspiratorial websites.

The first of these posts appeared July 6. It was headlined "Breaking News: Source claims ATF's Tampa SAC walked guns to HONDURAS! Part of Operation Castaway?" [SAC is an acronym for Special Agent in Charge.] Citing "private correspondence from a proven credible source," the blog item reported that Tampa ATF deliberately facilitated the smuggling of firearms to Honduras "using the techniques and tactics identical to Fast and Furious."

The July 6 blog item was republished with no additional reporting by dozens of pro-militia and other right-wing websites. It jumped to Fox News in the July 8 broadcast of Special Report with Bret Baier, which featured an interview with "online journalist" Mike Vanderboegh, one of the bloggers who posted the original item. Vanderboegh was a leading figure in the 1990s militia movement who more recently led the Alabama Minuteman Support Team, a border vigilante group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Vanderboegh was also one of the first to report on the failed Fast and Furious investigation.

"Mike Vanderboegh communicates with a host of ATF agents daily on his web site," said Fox News reporter William La Jeunesse. "Agents told him Wednesday Operation Castaway out of the Tampa office, also knowingly sold guns to criminals, in this case, 1,000 to buyers for the violent drug gang, MS-13. Those guns to Honduras."

La Jeunesse gave no indication that he'd made any attempt to confirm Vanderboegh's story. He simply gave the blogger a national platform.
Some of you may remember Vanderboegh from the health-care debate: he's the fellow who urged his readers to throw bricks through Democrats' windows, and they in fact did so. One of his victims was Gabrielle Giffords, who had a brick thrown through an office window -- well before she was shot. (Wonder if they've checked that brick for Jared Loughner's DNA.)

And of course, being the sensitive and thoughtful fellow he is, Vanderboegh escalated the rhetoric when he was called on it:
May I tell you my personal motive for doing this? I’m trying to save the lives of Nancy Pelosi, and every one of these people who do not understand the unintended consequences of their actions. [...] Because they are not paying attention to the million of people across this deepening divide that politics no longer avails them. [...] We refuse to participate in the system, and we refuse to pay the fines, and we refuse arrest. Now where do you suppose that’s going but a thousand little Waco’s.
This is almost identical to the phony rationale that Vanderboegh has trotted out for publicly fantasizing about my violent death: he's just trying to wake me up to the consequences of my work, you see. As you can imagine, I'm deeply touched.

Here's Vanderboegh leading one of those open-carry "Second Amendment" rallies in the Washington area last year:

I guess it should no longer be a surprise that Fox News would treat this kind of character as a credible information source. But that's because being a right-wing propaganda channel means you don't have to actually tend to the truth, fact, or reality.

O'Reilly Slams National Council Of La Raza As 'A Pretty Radicalized Group' That 'Opposes Any Kind Of Border Security'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Bill O'Reilly cooked up another way to attack President Obama this week -- by suggesting that he was associating with racial radicals again, namely, the National Council of La Raza:
O'REILLY: But the president spoke to La Raza this week. La Raza, a pretty radicalized group. I think they're further left than you are. I mean, they don't like any kind of border security, they want amnesty for all the people here. They object to almost every kind of measure to control illegal immigration. And yet the president feels comfortable there. Do you think he's just posturing?
This is why O'Reilly enjoys about as much credibility among Latino viewers as Lou Dobbs -- which is to say, nearly zero. Because everyone who knows their way around the immigration scene is perfectly aware that NCLR is a very temperate, middle-of-the-road organization -- and in fact is frequently criticized by other Latino groups for being too safe and cautious, and for being corporate sellouts. (Your mileage may vary.)

Indeed, all O'Reilly and his crack staff would have had to do is visit NCLR's website to read this:
Unfortunately, NCLR has been called an “open-borders advocate” and the “illegal alien lobby” numerous times. NCLR has repeatedly recognized the right of the United States, as a sovereign nation, to control its borders. Moreover, NCLR has supported numerous specific measures to strengthen border enforcement, provided that such enforcement is conducted fairly, humanely, and in a nondiscriminatory fashion.
There are a whole bunch of falsehoods about NCLR -- beginning with their name -- that endure as right-wing myths. I bet O'Reilly has pretty much swallowed those whole, too.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The 'Job Creators' Myth: Our Corporate Masters Are Aiming For The Latin American Model Of Oligarchy

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Anyone remember what it was like to work in the late 1990s? The memories are fading fast as the years of persistent joblessness pile up -- years that began well before the big crash in 2008, when it was already self-evident that the Bush administration's claims that massive tax cuts for the wealthy were the sure route to full employment were an epochal load of hooey. Now even that seems like a quaint and distant memory.

In 1998, it was a workers' market: Everyone I know had a good job, and a lot of them were in the tech sector. Good benefits were a given, as were good salaries. If the working conditions sucked, there was always someone else who offered a better environment and maybe better pay too.

That was before the tech bubble burst in 2001. I spent that year working in investment journalism in a newsroom that primarily revolved around the stock market.

I remember remarking on a number of articles we published in which corporate honchos bitched bitterly about the fact that they had lost the ability to control their workers, to ignore their workplace demands, and to short-change their benefits, or whatever other steps they might take to shore up their corporate bottom lines and make their shareholders happier. I remember thinking at the time that the economic tides would inevitably turn, and the next time these folks wound up on top and it became, once again, an employer's market, they would make certain that they never found themselves in that position again.

We used to joke, back in the '90s, that a recession was the Republican way of shortening the lift lines. It's a truism that the wealthy despise having to share too much of their space with too many other people. And in the late '90s, they were having to share their space with a whole lot of freshly well-to-do people.

Well, that isn't an issue now. Problem solved. I imagine the wintertime lift lines at Sun Valley are pretty wide open these days.

Because the reality, of course, is that while the average CEO now makes (as of 2009) only 263 times what his average worker makes (down from a high of 525 times in 2000), they almost never in fact take the windfalls they reap from those huge tax breaks and actually invest the money in employing people. Instead, they ratchet up their bonuses and salaries another notch or two, buy another yacht or another condo in the Bahamas, and tuck the rest away in a tax-free account in the Caymans.

They're currently proving, by sidelining all this cash, that giving them tax breaks doesn't do a damned thing for job creation -- perhaps it does exactly the opposite.

Moreover, they continue reaping large salaries while worker payrolls are slashed. Now people just cling to whatever jobs they can, keep their heads down, and count their lucky stars if they still have work. Either that, or they join the ranks of the eternal jobless.

A year ago, the conventional wisdom was that the ongoing hoarding of large sums of cash by corporate CEOs was "not sustainable". But instead, not only have they sustained it, the hoarding and resulting joblessness have soured whatever faint signs of a recovery we saw in 2000-2010.

Another bit of conventional wisdom we keep hearing is that 9 percent unemployment may be with us for quite awhile. They seem to be institutionalizing the joblessness -- and are quite content to do so.

This was what my late friend Frank Church used to tell me:
One comment in particular, however, stands out in my mind these days. We were talking about America's future, and where the conservative cadre that was then taking over the Republican Party intended to take us. His expression darkened, and it was clear that he had a good deal of foreboding in this regard. "What I fear most," he said, "is the Latin Americanization of America."

He wasn't concerned, of course, with the arrival of Latinos on American soil (or what Pat Buchanan calls "Meximerica") except insofar as that could be manipulated to achieve this end. What he feared was that corporatist conservatives, if given free rein, would turn our standard of living into what you find in Latin America. That working Americans would one day be reduced to the level of near-serfdom that is the common way of life for millions of Latinos.

During the Clinton years, of course, this fear looked farther and farther remote -- everyone's wages were rising, jobs were being created by the millions, and our standard of living was never healthier. I began to think that we had staved off Church's specter, perhaps forever.

But then, I never imagined the Bush years, either.
The Latin American landscape is largely an oligarchy: a land ruled by the wealthy, for the wealthy, and at the expense of ordinary working people, who are left to fend for themselves for whatever scraps the ruling elite deigns to toss them.

The ruling elite in the United States like that model. That's how America used to be, after all, a century ago: eighty-hour work weeks were the norm, there were no vacations or weekends or health benefits, no workers' organizing rights. Child labor was common. There was no Great American Middle Class then, no consumer society. It was an oligarchy then.

They've even been explicit about wanting America to be driven to second-class status. Take Paul Broun the other day:
Well, Andrea, the thing is when someone is overextended and broke they don't continue paying for expensive automobiles. They sell the expensive automobiles and buy a cheaper one. They don't continue paying for country club dues. They drop out of the country club. We need to pay down the debt.
That's why they're perfectly happy to wreck the economy in the hopes it will be blamed on President Obama: It suits their ends anyway. If the oligarchy has its way, the lift lines are going to be getting very short indeed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

House Republicans Are Not Just Do-nothings -- They're Spinning Their Wheels Furiously

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Tina Dupuy has an excellent piece in The Atlantic examining how this Republican Congress is on pace to set a modern record for non-accomplishment -- while expending endless energy passing bills that have no chance of passing the Senate:
One quarter into the 112th Congress's two-year term, only 14 pieces of legislation originating in the House have become laws (12 bills and two house joint resolutions). Fourteen. Compare that with the House in the 111th, which claimed 254 laws (plus 11 house joint resolutions) over two years. The 110th had 308 (plus 10 house joint resolutions). Even the often-derided do-nothing 109th Congress's House controlled by the GOP passed 316 (with 16 house joint resolutions).

If the current House continues with this trend it will have produced a mere 48 laws by the end of the chamber's full term.

Quick math: The last three Houses have by this time in their tenure produced an average of 76 laws each.

But when House Republicans are actually in session, it's not exactly like they're doing nothing. They've made a point of passing bills that "send a message." Over and over, they've brought legislation to the floor that was doomed to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Why? To put taxpayer money where Republican congresspersons' mouths (and votes) are. Yes, the House Republicans of 112th Congress are having a love affair with the symbolic vote.
Dupuy compiled a list of the many bills that have passed the House with no chance of passage in the Senate, including the health-care repealers, defunding Planned Parenthood and NPR, ending the oil-drilling moratorium in the Gulf, and gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Of course, these are the same people demanding that President Obama devise a debt-ceiling plan ... even though that's a responsibility clearly in Congress' hands.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Piers Morgan Appears To Have Known All About Phone Hacking At Murdoch Rags

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Piers Morgan has been ardently defending Rupert Murdoch as the whole ugly Rupertgate scandal has unfolded, calling him the innocent victim of a witch hunt.

It seems maybe there's a reason for that:
Former tabloid editor Piers Morgan accused media and bloggers of being "lying smearers" Wednesday after a 2009 interview surfaced in which he appeared to admit that hacking phones for reporting purposes was tolerated on his watch.

Morgan, who edited Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World in the mid-1990s and went on to edit rival The Daily Mirror, was asked by the BBC's Kirsty Young how he felt about "dealing with people who rake through bins for a living, people who tap people's phones, people who take secret photographs."

Morgan, who replaced interviewer Larry King on CNN this past January, began his answer by saying that "not a lot of that went on," but then acknowledged that newspapers he worked for used information obtained by these methods.

"A lot of it was done by third parties rather than the staff themselves. That's not to defend it because obviously you were running the results of their work," he said in an excerpt of the 2009 interview posted on the BBC's website on Wednesday.

"I'm quite happy to be parked in the corner of the tabloid beast and to have to sit here defending all these things I used to get up to. I make no pretense about the stuff we used to do," he said.
My, what a tangled web we weave.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lyin' John Boehner's Dishonest Response To Obama: Projection's Not Just For Theaters Anymore

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

My Phony-O-Meter always starts beeping loudly whenever John Boehner comes on the tube. And last night in his response to President Obama's debt-ceiling speech, it was shrieking.

As Matt Finkelstein at Political Correction observes:
If there was anything remarkable about the speech, it was Boehner's ability to keep a straight face while accusing Obama of behavior that accurately describes Republicans, such as refusing to "take yes for an answer" and changing his demands.

But perhaps the most galling aspect of Boehner's speech was his assertion that Obama "created" the "crisis atmosphere" that has the U.S. on the brink of default. The reality is that the president inherited a projected deficit of more than $1 trillion, and the recent surge in debt is mostly the result of the fruitless Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As John already noted, it's been demonstrated that all these Republicans voted for the big drivers in creating the massive debt in the first place. Just like they voted to increase the debt ceiling with nary a twinge nine times during George W. Bush's presidency. As Finkelstein observes:
Meanwhile, the immediate crisis is that the nation might default on its debt; that can be solved in a matter of minutes with a simple vote to raise the debt ceiling. But congressional Republicans are still refusing to do that unless they get a debt-reduction package that weakens the social safety net and requires no compromise on their part. If Boehner is wants to assign blame for creating a "crisis atmosphere," he should take a hard look in the mirror.
Nah. It's much, much more satisfying to just project your own blackened psyche onto President Obama and claim that it's his intransigence that's causing the problem. Right. The only people who believe that are out sipping tea with the Mad Hatters and March Hares.

Meanwhile, it's looking like Boehner doesn't even have the votes for his own plan. The Phony-O-Meter keeps going off.

It's like I said
Where do you guys get the balls to lecture Democrats about deficit spending and the state of the economy?


The previous Democratic president -- a guy named Bill Clinton, who Republicans hounded with a meaningless sex scandal -- handed off to his Republican successor a $46 billion federal surplus after having erased the deficit for three successive years.

That surplus disappeared the first year George W. Bush was in office, even before the 9/11 attacks happened, in no small part because Bush began slashing taxes for the wealthy immediately upon taking office. And then he and his Republican allies running the Congress proceeded to ring up the deficit to unheard-of heights, thanks largely to a needless invasion of another nation under false pretenses.

Where were all these Republicans in the years 2001-2006, when they were setting new records for federal deficits and destroying the economy along the way?

O'Reilly's Outraged That Media Accurately ID Breivik As A Christian: 'No One Believing In Jesus Commits Mass Murder'

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Just as they always do, right-wingers are working furiously to whitewash out the bloodstains left by the latest act of right-wing extremist terrorism -- the horrifying attacks perpetrated by Anders Breivik in Norway. And it looks like Bill O'Reilly is going to be leading the charge.

O'Reilly has been in complete denial about right-wing domestic terrorism and its significance for some time. But then, we all remember how he heatedly attacked liberals who pointed out his own culpability in the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a clear act of domestic terrorism.

He went on the warpath last night, and it looks like he's going to do more of the same tonight:
Now, on Sunday, the "New York Times" headlined "As Horrors Emerged, Norway Charges Christian extremist". A number of other news organizations like the "LA Times" and Reuters also played up the Christian angle. But Breivik is not a Christian. That's impossible. No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder. The man might have called himself a Christian on the net, but he is certainly not of that faith.

Also Breivik is not attached to any church, and in fact has criticized the Protestant belief system in general. The Christian angle came from a Norwegian policeman not from any fact finding. Once again, we can find no evidence, none, that this killer practiced Christianity in any way.
Other, of course, than that he regularly described himself as a Christian in his writings. Hm. Guess that doesn't count.

Anyway, we're able to find all kinds of examples of supposed Christians committing acts of mass murder: Rev. Jim Jones. Eric Rudolph. The Remembrance Day Bombers. The Ku Klux Klan. And while it wasn't an act of mass murder, who could forget another guy who , who claimed to act on behalf of his Christian beliefs: Scott Roeder, the killer of George Tiller? Other than O'Reilly, that is.

Instead, O'Reilly gets psychic on us and starts divining media motivations:
So why is the angle being played up? Two reasons: First, the liberal media wants to make an equivalency between the actions of Breivik and the Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh and al Qaeda. The left wants you to believe that fundamentalists Christians are a threat just like crazy jihadists are.

In fact, in the "New York Times" today an analysis piece says that some believe we have overreacted to the Muslim threat in the world. Of course, that's absurd. Jihadists have killed tens of thousands of people all over the world. The Taliban, Iran and elements in Pakistan use governmental power to support terrorism by Muslims. But the left-wing press wants to compare nuts like Breivik and McVeigh to state-sponsored terrorism and worldwide jihad.

Again, dishonest and insane.
Those two words perfectly describe not just what preceded them, but what followed as well:
The second reason the liberal media is pushing the Christian angle is they don't like Christians very much because we are too judgmental. Many Christians oppose abortion. Gay marriage and legalized narcotics, secular left causes. The media understands the opposition is often based on religion. So they want to diminish Christianity and highlighting so-called Christian-based terror is a way to do that.
O'Reilly, of course, does not produce any evidence that this is the case. There are no pundits he quotes saying these things, not politicians uttering such sentiments. Because they don't exist.

O'Reilly's indulging classic strawman tactics, one of his faves.
The primary threat to this world comes from Islamic terrorism. Iran is a major problem. If the country gets nuclear weapons and it's desperately trying to, does anyone doubt those weapons could be used? A Muslim in Pakistan exported nuclear technology to North Korea. And Muslim suicide bombers blow innocent people up almost every day.

Yet, once again the liberal media wants you to fear Christian terrorists. And going forward when jihad is mentioned, you know Breivik and McVeigh will enter the conversation.

Sometimes I think the world is going mad. This Breivik guy is a loon, a mass murderer who apparently acted out of rank hatred. No government supported him. No self-proclaimed terror group like al Qaeda paid his bills. Breivik is just another loser who caused tremendous horror by murdering innocent people. There is no equivalency to jihad. No worldwide Breivik movement. Just another violent pathetic legacy stemming back to Cain.
That's right, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it again: He's crazy, so it doesn't mean anything.

Except, of course, that it's a lie: Anders Breivik is not insane. There is no indication of mental illness in this case whatsoever, as there was in the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, which was eagerly dismissed by the Right on those grounds, shaky as they were.

A fellow named Gurdur over at Heathen Hut actually summed it up rather well:
Let's get that out of the way again: there is simply no evidence at all at this time whatsoever to show any mental illness on the part of Anders Behring Breivik. He showed long-term planning, his behaviour was not apparent in extremeness or oddness to onlookers till he started shooting. He does not show much delusions of grandeur in the medical sense, or display much of seeing himself as the target of conspiratorial persecution. Therefore it is simply not classical clinical paranioa on his part (one of the very few mental illnesses in which the sufferer can appear rational and make long-term plans based on his illness). It is tempting and easy to see his preoccupation with Muslims as an idée fixe, but that only begs the question of how many saw and still see all real and alleged problems with Muslims in Western society as being a pressing and central concern. Just how is Breivik different from them? In no way, except that Breivik carried out actions, and made his targets those whom he saw as responsible or potentially so, rather than Muslims themselves. Moreover, Breivik was not monomanic; he not only saw Muslims as a problem, but also liberalism, multiculturalism, liberal religion, and so on - and he tentatively targeted what he saw as liberal media for his deeds as well.

So why did Breivik end up murdering teenagers? For much the same reasons as the Islamist Al Qaeda 9/11 terrorists targeted innocents in the Twin Towers, for much the same reasons as the Christian Timothy James McVeigh did not care that 19 children under the age of 6 were killed by his bombing in Oklahoma City. The victims were narcissistically seen as mere objects in the carrying out of what was a symbolic as well as a real attack; the victims were dehumanised as mere props to the narcissistic agenda.

What is the difference between Breivik and Martin Bryant, the man who carried out the speciously similar Tasmanian shootings in the Port Arthur massacre of 1996? Bryant showed deep psychological problems almost all his life, a very low IQ, and constant actual potential for violence for decades, and many self-harm episodes. There is so far no evidence at all for Breivik being similar. Bryant also left no real manifesto, and his complaint was centered around people not payng him the attention he desired, while Breivik centered his complaint around what the Labour Party was doing to Norwegian society - a very complex, abstract and non-personal complaint. Breivik is simply not in any way mentally ill in the way Bryant was.

And yet many will try claiming Breivik to be insane, despite no evidence for that at all. This is mere name-calling, non-medical and unscientific; it is also a very dangerous path to go down - the mistaken pseudo-medicalization of ethical problems.
As I explained yesterday:

Right-wing movements attract people who are likely to act out violently because they indulge so overtly and, in recent years, remorselessly in the politics of fear and loathing: indulging in eliminationist rhetoric, depicting their opposition as less than human, and aggressively attacking efforts to blunt the toxic effects of their politics as "political correctness" -- or, in the case of both Anders Breivik and Andrew Breitbart, "Cultural Marxism".

... Because we believe in freedom of speech and freedom of thought, there will probably always be haters like Richard Poplawski among us. Inevitably they will be driven by fear: the fear of difference. Because to them, difference of any kind is a threat.

And what we know from experience about volatile, unstable actors like them is that they can be readily induced into violent action by hateful rhetoric that demonizes and dehumanizes other people. And thanks to human nature and those same freedoms, we will certainly always have fearmongering demagogues among us. But the purveyors of such profoundly irresponsible rhetoric need to be called on it -- especially when they hold the nation's media megaphones.
I think Conor Friedersdorf actually has it about right:
How many people can assert such things before small numbers of the disaffected take them literally? If all that were true, wouldn't a lot of people respond violently?

Overheated, hyperbolic rhetoric must come naturally once you've immersed yourself in the hard core anti-jihadist blogosphere. Regulars there lose the conviction that words have precise meanings, and the belief that arguing with integrity requires staying within their bounds. Shortcuts are so much easier, hence the frequent descents into ad hominem, the constant reliance on hyperbole, and the crutch of playing on the civilizational anxieties of the audience, in an effort to shake them into awareness.

Jeffrey Goldberg offers sound counsel. "Free speech means free speech," he says of [Pam] Geller. "But she should be aware now that violent people look to her for guidance, and she should write with that in mind."

Quite right.

That doesn't mean that she or anyone else is at fault for the killings in Norway, or that she or anyone else should stop writing about the threat posed by radical Islam. It merely means doing so more responsibly, as any number of other writers manage to do, as a sensible precaution -- one that is onerous only insofar as it demands going no farther than the unexaggerated truth.
The problem for most of these folks is that such a burden is far too great.

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's The Scapegoating, Stupid: Why Extreme Right-wing Ideology So Often Inspires Acts Of Violence

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Much as folks on the Right seem eager to dismiss the murderous rampage of Norwegian domestic terrorist Anders Breivik as yet another "isolated incident" involving someone who was mentally unstable, a lone wolf whose views had nothing to do with his violent act -- after all, it worked so well in the Gabrielle Giffords shooting -- the story is not going to go away so readily.

First, there's the news that Breivik says there are still "two cells" in his organization out there. So the terrorism may not be over and done with just yet.

Moreover, as we sift through the discernible facts about Breivik and his motives for embarking on a murderous rampage, it's becoming increasingly evident that he was an ardent right-winger -- but decidedly not a neo-Nazi or any other kind of fascist. Breivik did not belong to any overtly racist, white supremacist or anti-Semitic organizations.

Breivik's only known political affiliation is with the Progress Party, which is functionally Norway's version of the Tea Party. Indeed, Tea Party heavyweight Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity spoke at the Progress Party's national convention in Oslo last fall. (It would be interesting to determine if Breivik was in attendance; hopefully, some enterprising Norwegian journalist will look into it.)

This has produced some interesting commentary from the sane world, and a frantic scramble among right-wingers eager to distance themselves from this madman. In the New York Times, Scott Shane reported on the significance of Breivik's right-wing politics in inspiring his rampage -- and how the sources of that inspiration included supposedly mainstream conservatives:
His manifesto, which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer, who operates the Jihad Watch Web site, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.

More broadly, the mass killings in Norway, with their echo of the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by an antigovernment militant, have focused new attention around the world on the subculture of anti-Muslim bloggers and right-wing activists and renewed a debate over the focus of counterterrorism efforts.

... Mr. Breivik frequently cited another blog, Atlas Shrugs, and recommended the Gates of Vienna among Web sites. Pamela Geller, an outspoken critic of Islam who runs Atlas Shrugs, wrote on her blog Sunday that any assertion that she or other antijihad writers bore any responsibility for Mr. Breivik’s actions was “ridiculous.”

“If anyone incited him to violence, it was Islamic supremacists,” she wrote.
At the Atlantic, Joshua Foust tried his hand at a bit of sophistry to see if the culpability for Breivik could be scrubbed away from his political cohorts and the like-minded:
Behavior, ultimately, is a product of one's environment: ideas, yes, but also social pressure, family pressure, norms, constraints, inspirations, barriers, and expectations. Sometimes, these constraints push a man to do any number of heinous things. It doesn't excuse the man himself (at the end of the day, you always have the choice and the responsibility not to react to your circumstances violently), but it makes the question of "why" terribly difficult to understand. It is deeply complex.

Focusing only on Breivik's words, as the commentariat has done this weekend, is not just hypocrisy, it misses the point. Breivik wanted us to focus on his words -- in a way, his disgusting butchery was meant to advertise his writing. We owe his victims better than that, better than playing his game. Breivik the man was more than a book-length rant on race politics. He was the product of his own environment, one we have not even begun to understand. Moving from rhetoric into action is really difficult, and it happens for reasons we just don't understand. To really answer the question of why Breivik committed such atrocity, we have to move beyond his politics and his carefully placed manifesto. Anything less would be a disservice to the children he so ruthlessly murdered.
We commend Foust for his high principle, but we have a feeling that such complexity would not be admitted if the perpetrators had turned out to be Muslim. Certainly it is rare to see such considerations be applied to Islamic radicals. Rather, what happens uniformly among the "anti-jihadist" crowd (particularly Geller, Spencer, et. al.) is that they readily leap to condemn all of Islam for the acts of a few radicals whose motivations, indeed, are never considered "beyond their politics".

Indeed, the scramble among right-wing pundits to come up with some kind of decent rationale that will let them talk about Breivik -- or better yet, blame liberals or Muslims for him -- is on, as Media Matters reports. Over at Red State, a regular contributor tied Breivik's attack to the pro-choice movement and end-of-life issues. Then there's the post over at Breitbart's "Big Peace" site titled "Anders Behring Breivik: Jihadist":
This Norwegian terrorist was not a Christian or a conservative. He acted contrary to the teachings of the Bible and conservatives from Burke to Madison. He was instead a jihadist, blinded by an ideology who resorted to violence rather than engaging in a public debate of ideas. He was a coward who planted bombs and killed innocent people. For him, violence was the only answer. He claimed to be fighting jihadists...but he actually became one. He didn't kill one islamist [sic] terrorist with his actions-only innocent Norwegians. Change the location, and he acted like so many jihadists in the Middle East. He became one of them.
In a way, he's actually onto something, a reality that right-wingers themselves don't ever admit: Islamic radicals are themselves fundamentally right-wing ultra-conservatives in their orientation.

They are devout anti-modernists who despise all things liberal. They have far more in common, in terms of their personal psychological orientations, with the anti-immigration radicals who dominate the modern Right, both in Europe and in the USA.

This is why you can put together a map of violent incidents over the past three years involving right-wing extremists in the USA and come up with 24 of them and counting, but you can't even begin to do the same with left-wing extremists because the map would be blank.

Let's be clear: Initially at least -- until it becomes condoned -- it is only a tiny subset of these movements that is ultimately inspired to violent action like this. The real question to ponder is: Why are right-wing movements so attractive to people who eventually act out violently?

This is an issue that is brilliantly illuminated by the case of Shawna Forde, the erstwhile Minuteman group leader who wound up overseeing the murders of a 9-year-old-girl and her father in Arizona:
The people who broke into her home late at night while she was sleeping with her new puppy on the living-room couch and cold-bloodedly shot her in the face while she pleaded for her life were people who did not see her, or her father or mother, as human beings. They were people who had become so accustomed to dehumanizing Latinos that they didn't care about the devastation they brought to Arivaca and the lives of this family. They were so consumed by hate that they had no humanity left themselves.

The dehumanizing language of scapegoating and eliminationism -- the naming and targeting of other humans for the supposed social ills they incur, followed as always by words urging their excision from society, if not the world -- is endemic on the American Right. And among right-wing extremists, it intensifies, grows and metastasizes into something lethal and monstrous.
One of the early and most sustainable critiques of the Minutemen was that they were doomed to descend into violence because -- while adamantly and angrily denying that they were themselves racist, and "screened" out any such influences -- their scapegoating rhetoric attracted serious numbers of people who were functionally sociopathic and violent. Shawna Forde -- a woman with an abusive upbringing, a former petty criminal and hooker who liked to tout herself as a music promoter -- was attracted to the Minutemen, and rose high within their ranks, precisely because she was attracted to dehumanizing rhetoric that scapegoated specific targets to blame for their own lousy lives. And she became the manifestation of that.

Right-wing movements attract people who are likely to act out violently because they indulge so overtly and, in recent years, remorselessly in the politics of fear and loathing: indulging in eliminationist rhetoric, depicting their opposition as less than human, and aggressively attacking efforts to blunt the toxic effects of their politics as "political correctness" -- or, in the case of both Anders Breivik and Andrew Breitbart, "Cultural Marxism".

Scapegoating is, as Chip Berlet explains "the social process whereby hostility and aggression of an angry and frustrated group are directed away from a rational explanation of a conflict and projected onto targets demonized by irrational claims of wrongdoing, so that the scapegoat bears the blame for causing the conflict, while the scapegoaters feel a sense of innocence and increased unity." Moreover, he explains, it is a constant feature of both mainstream and extreme right-wing politics, and has been so historically:
Scapegoating of immigrants and welfare recipients is used regularly by mainstream politicians to attract votes. This dynamic has a long history in the US, with the scapegoated targets being selected opportunistically-Reds, Anarchists, Jews, Catholics, Freemasons, all the way back to witches in Salem. Periodic waves of state repression are justified through conspiracist scapegoating that claims networks of subversives are poised to undermine the government. Right wing populist movements mobilize the middle class by claiming a conspiracy from above by secret elites and from below by a parasitic underclass. On the far right are the scapegoating themes of collectivist New World Order plots and Jewish banking conspiracies.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US has been exporting its media-intensive election model, which favors style over substance, argument over debate, slogans over issues. This election model facilitates the success of not only those politicians that can raise the most funds, but also demagogues willing to use scapegoating as an ideological weapon.
A similar case involving a mentally unstable killer is one I've frequently cited as illustrative of the power of right-wing politics to attract unstable and violent people -- namely, the 1986 case of David Lewis Rice, who killed a Seattle family under the delusion -- given to him by a group of right-wing McCarthyite conspiracy-mongers -- that he was ridding the world of Communist conspirators and their offspring.

Likewise, Richard Poplawski's lethal attacks on Pittsburgh police officers back in 2009 was inspired by supposedly mainstream talkers spreading paranoid conspiracy theories:
Because we believe in freedom of speech and freedom of thought, there will probably always be haters like Richard Poplawski among us. Inevitably they will be driven by fear: the fear of difference. Because to them, difference of any kind is a threat.

And what we know from experience about volatile, unstable actors like them is that they can be readily induced into violent action by hateful rhetoric that demonizes and dehumanizes other people. And thanks to human nature and those same freedoms, we will certainly always have fearmongering demagogues among us. But the purveyors of such profoundly irresponsible rhetoric need to be called on it -- especially when they hold the nation's media megaphones.
Calling out those culpable is not the same as assigning criminal blame, but it is a socially significant act similar to shaming and shunning. And because failure to do so only invites more of the same -- if right-wing pundits aren't held accountable for encouraging extremist beliefs, they not only will keep doing it, they'll become increasingly radical and exponentially irresponsible -- it is also a necessary one.

Unfortunately, it is all too clear that accountability is not going to be the order of the day among our right-wing friends and their many apologists.

Jesse Lee Peterson Leads Tea Partiers' Protest Of NAACP Convention -- With A Side Order Of Nativism

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Leonard Zeskind covered the meager Tea Party protest outside the NAACP Convention in Los Angeles this past weekend led by the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson. And as he notes, there was little mention of any fiscal issues:
Almost 100 Tea Partiers and anti-immigrant activists mounted a small and sometime languid protest of the NAACP, at the venerable civil rights organization’s 102nd national convention in Los Angeles on Sunday, July 24. The dress for the day was Tea Party casual: No colonial era garb and wigs. Several Surf City Tea jackets and some yellow “We the People” t-shirts. One large Gadsden flag, three large American flags and smaller individually hand held flags for anyone who wanted one. From the speakers there was little patter about the Founding Fathers, and just a tad more discussion of taxes and debt. The topic of the day was the NAACP, how it might once have had a “noble” purpose, but its failure to stop violence by black mobs and Latino gangs rendered it just another cog in the Obama liberal-socialist-communist machine. The principle organizer of the event, Jesse Lee Peterson, told the crowd he wanted to “end the NAACP.” He received great applause.
He also compared the NAACP to the Ku Klux Klan, as you can hear in the video above:
PETERSON: The NAACP is no different than the KKK in that the KKK harmed black Americans by their physical bodies, but the NAACP steals their hearts and minds and souls. And they kill black Americans by making black Americans or causing black Americans to hate their country, to hate what's right, to depend on the government rather than depending on themselves.
This largely in line with what Peterson told a writer for the Grio:
"That's' the problem I have with the NAACP," said Peterson in an exclusive interview with theGrio. "Their a political pawn of the liberal-elite, white, racist Democratic Party and not really for the people."
He hopes black Americans (he views the term "African-American" as a "dumb" title and unpatriotic), stop supporting the NAACP financially and with their manpower. For decades, Peterson argues, the organization has supported left-wing policies, which have created dependency on government and destroyed black families and hurt race relations. Peterson also said the NAACP is not needed and until black people stop hating "the white man", they won't be free.
Zeskind sizes Peterson up about right:
Making apologias for racism and white supremacy are his trademark response to all issues.  And this Tea Party protest was no exception.

As the SPLC notes, Peterson has quite the colorful history, including the time he thanked God for slavery:

One thing you'll note about the video from the protest: Not only are the fiscal issues that are supposed to be the Tea Parties' focus almost completely unmentioned, the hottest topic for many of the speakers -- afer abortion -- was immigration. Peterson himself cites one of the event's speakers, Barbara Coe, who is a well-known piece of work:
Vitriolic, conspiracy-minded and just plain mean, Coe routinely refers to Mexicans as “savages” and “invaders” out to destroy America. In 2003, for instance, she responded to the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, which sought to open a road to citizenship for all immigrant workers, by writing her CCIR members an urgent “Action Now!” message urging them to flood Congress and the White House with calls demanding the arrest of the riders. “These people are criminals,” said Coe. “As such, they have NO ‘RIGHTS’ other than emergency medical care and humane treatment as they are being DEPORTED! We can only wonder how many in this group of foreign invaders have robbed, raped and possibly murdered law-abiding American citizens and legal residents.”
Coe claims to have exposed a secret Mexican plan (the “Plan de Aztlán”) to reconquer the American Southwest. In May 2005, at a “Unite to Fight” anti-immigration summit in Las Vegas, she launched the kind of defamatory — and just plain unhinged — rant for which she has become infamous. “We are suffering robbery, rape and murder of law-abiding citizens at the hands of illegal barbarians,” she warned her audience, “who are cutting off heads and appendages of blind, white, disabled gringos.” She offered no proof for this wild-eyed assertion, as is her wont when attacking immigrants from Mexico. After his election in 2005, Coe attacked the Latino mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, accusing him of seeking to return Southern California to Mexico.
In 2004, Coe confirmed her membership in one of the crudest white supremacist groups, the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), while being interviewed by the Denver Post for a profile of her close friend and nativist ally, then-U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). The CCC is the modern reincarnation of the White Citizen Councils that were formed in the South in the 1950s and 1960s to resist school desegregation ordered by the Supreme Court.
Of course, these same people find it ludicrous that most people can see through the black facade being offered by Jesse Lee Peterson to see the rivers of xenophobic fear and loathing coursing through the Tea Parties.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Norway Terrorist Anders Breivik Leaves Written, Video Manifestoes To Explain His Motives: He's A Right-wing Cultural Warrior

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Anders Breivik -- unlike his 92 (and counting) victims -- is still very much alive and with us, so we will no doubt hear more from the man as his eventual trials progress to explain why he embarked on the worst terrorist attack in Norway's history on Friday.

And he is already explaining himself through his attorneys:
Breivik's lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said the 32-year-old accepts responsibility for his actions.

"He thought it was gruesome having to commit these acts, but in his head they were necessary," Lippestad said.

Breivik claimed that he acted alone, wanting to attack Norwegian society in order to change it, Sponheim said. But police say the investigation still open to the possibility that Breivik had help.
Moreover, Breivik already created an intentional record, perhaps to leave behind should he not survive the attacks, explaining his motives, as we noted yesterday in discussing his online postings.

Now there's more: namely, a pair of manifestoes. The first one is a 1,500-word document he claims he worked on for nine years, titled "A European Declaration of Independence" (application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.document - 4.45 MB). The second is a video, the entirety of which appears below the fold.

From Canada's National Post:
Written under the name Andrew Berwick but believed to have been authored by the terror suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, it calls for a violent right wing revolution across Europe “before our major cities are completely demographically overwhelmed by Muslims.”

The lengthy text, which is written entirely in English and displays a singular obsession with Muslims, is focused on European countries but also mentions Canada several times. It cites Canada as a country that uses hate speech laws “to silence infidels” who criticize Islam.

The author claims to have spent nine years and hundreds of thousands of Euros on the manifesto. “Breivik’s goal with the book appears to be to convince others of his worldview and draw others to the cause,” the U.S.-based SITE said.

The book, as well as a video in which Mr. Breivik appears holding an automatic weapon, were both titled “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence.” The white supremacist manifesto ends with a sign off that is chilling in retrospect. “I believe this will be my last entry. It is now Fri July 22nd, 12.51.”
Breivik believed his rampage was the means to "market" these ideas -- and no doubt they will gain many more readers than they ever would have. Having read and reviewed them, however, I'm fairly confident that the only thing he'll have achieved is to permanently discredit views like his -- which in fact are fairly widespread on the Right, both in Europe and in the USA.

Breivik's manifestoes remind me a great deal of the manifesto left behind by an American right-wing terrorist who tried to embark on a similar rampage targeting as many liberals as he could kill, but who was considerably less successful: Jim David Adkisson, the Knoxville church shooter, who exhorted his readers to "Go Kill Liberals". His manifesto was functionally the logical absurdio ad reductum of the hatred spewed daily by the Fox News talking heads and radio pundits whose works filled his library -- whose wording it rather closely reflected in the leadup to the exhortations to violence.

Likewise, Breivik's work is largely a regurgitation of ideas and claims that have been circulating on the Right for a long time, including mainstream sources such as Fox News and Andrew Breitbart. There's nothing original here -- except that he, like Adkisson, simply takes the "logic" (as it were) of the cultural warriors he parrots and ratchets it up the next logical step into violent action.

Chip Berlet has been analyzing the written manifesto
, and has some keen observations:
Breivik thought Cultural Marxists=multiculturalists=Islamization of Europe. This racist right-wing conspiracy theory is tied to the Islamophobic "Demographic Winter" thesis. In his online posts, Breivik considered himself a cultural conservative and condemned "Cultural Marxism." The idea of "Cultural Marxism" on the political right is an antisemitic conspiracy theory claiming that a small group of Marxist Jews formed the Frankfurt School and set out to destroy Western Culture through a conspiracy to promote multiculturalism and collectivist economic theories.
Breivik's video is really just a recap of his written manifesto:

Now comes the hard part: Convincing authorities, once again, that right-wing extremist terrorism really is a problem worth addressing adequately -- both in Europe and the USA. As the Hindu Times reports, the problem has been steadily worsening in Europe and has been largely ignored:
Europol's 2010 report, in fact, presented a considerably less sanguine assessment of the situation. Noting the 2008 and 2009 arrests of British fascists for possession of explosives and toxins, the report flagged the danger from “individuals motivated by extreme right-wing views who act alone.”

The report also pointed to the heating-up of a climate of hatred: large attendances at white-supremacist rock concerts, the growing muscle of fascist groups like Blood and Honour and the English Defence League, fire-bomb attacks on members of the Roma minority in several countries, and military training to the cadre.

Yet, the authors of the 2011 Europol report saw little reason for alarm. In a thoughtful 2008 report, a consortium of Dutch organisations noted that “right-wing terrorism is not always labelled as such.” Because “right-wing movements use the local traditions, values, and characteristics to define their own identity,” the report argued, “many non-rightist citizens recognize and even sympathize with some of the organization's political opinions”— a formulation which will be familiar to Indians, where communal violence is almost never referred to as a form of mass terrorism.

Thomas Sheehan, who surveyed the Italian neo-fascist resurgence before the 1980 bombings, arrived at much the same conclusion decades ago. “In 1976 and again in 1978,” he wrote in the New York Review of Books, “judges in Rome, Turin and Milan fell over each other in their haste to absolve neo-fascists of crimes ranging from murdering a policeman to ‘reconstituting Fascism' [a crime under post-war Italian law]”.

“When it comes to fascist terrorism,” Mr. Sheehan wryly concluded, “Italian authorities seem to be a bit blind in the right eye.”
The same could be said of American authorities, including the Obama administration, which actually cut its Homeland Security unit devoted to tracking right-wing extremism.

The problem may well originate with the media, which have steadfastly ignored the problem, thereby creating no political constituency for addressing it. That may be the place to start pushing for a solution as well -- especially before we get our own homegrown Anders Breiviks, acting out to defend white America from immigrant invaders.