Wednesday, February 17, 2010

These were the eliminationists you were warned about

See NYT's coverage of the Tea Partiers. A few clips:
Online, they discovered radical critiques of Washington on Web sites like ResistNet.com (“Home of the Patriotic Resistance”) and Infowars.com (“Because there is a war on for your mind.”).

[snip]


Tea Party gatherings are full of people who say they would do away with the Federal Reserve, the federal income tax and countless agencies, not to mention bailouts and stimulus packages. Nor is it unusual to hear calls to eliminate Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. A remarkable number say this despite having recently lost jobs or health coverage. Some of the prescriptions they are debating — secession, tax boycotts, states “nullifying” federal laws, forming citizen militias — are outside the mainstream, too.

[snip]


In the inland Northwest, the Tea Party movement has been shaped by the growing popularity in eastern Washington of Ron Paul, the libertarian congressman from Texas, and by a legacy of anti-government activism in northern Idaho. Outside Sandpoint, federal agents laid siege to Randy Weaver’s compound on Ruby Ridge in 1992, resulting in the deaths of a marshal and Mr. Weaver’s wife and son. To the south, Richard Butler, leader of the Aryan Nations, preached white separatism from a compound near Coeur d’Alene until he was shut down.

Local Tea Party groups are often loosely affiliated with one of several competing national Tea Party organizations. In the background, offering advice and organizational muscle, are an array of conservative lobbying groups, most notably FreedomWorks. Further complicating matters, Tea Party events have become a magnet for other groups and causes — including gun rights activists, anti-tax crusaders, libertarians, militia organizers, the “birthers” who doubt President Obama’s citizenship, Lyndon LaRouche supporters and proponents of the sovereign states movement.

[snip]


Mr. Paul led Mrs. Southwell to Patriot ideology, which holds that governments and economies are controlled by networks of elites who wield power through exclusive entities like the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations.

This idea has a long history, with variations found at both ends of the political spectrum. But to Mrs. Southwell, the government’s culpability for the recession — the serial failures of regulation, the Federal Reserve’s epic blunders, the cozy bailouts for big banks — made it resonate all the more, especially as she witnessed the impact on family and friends.

“The more you know, the madder you are,” she said. “I mean when you finally learn what the Federal Reserve is!”

[snip]

One local group represented at Liberty Lake was Arm in Arm, which aims to organize neighborhoods for possible civil strife by stockpiling food and survival gear, and forming armed neighborhood groups.

[snip]

A popular T-shirt at Tea Party rallies reads, “Proud Right-Wing Extremist.”

It is a defiant and mocking rejoinder to last April’s intelligence assessment from the Department of Homeland Security warning that recession and the election of the nation’s first black president “present unique drivers for right wing radicalization.”

“Historically,” the assessment said, “domestic right wing extremists have feared, predicted and anticipated a cataclysmic economic collapse in the United States.” Those predictions, it noted, are typically rooted in “antigovernment conspiracy theories” featuring impending martial law. The assessment said extremist groups were already preparing for this scenario by stockpiling weapons and food and by resuming paramilitary exercises.

[snip]


But Tony Stewart, a leading civil rights activist in the inland Northwest, took careful note of the report. Almost 30 years ago, Mr. Stewart cofounded the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations in Coeur d’Alene. The task force has campaigned relentlessly to rid north Idaho of its reputation as a haven for anti-government extremists. The task force tactics brought many successes, including a $6.3 million civil judgment that effectively bankrupted Richard Butler’s Aryan Nations.

When the Tea Party uprising gathered force last spring, Mr. Stewart saw painfully familiar cultural and rhetorical overtones. Mr. Stewart viewed the questions about Mr. Obama’s birthplace as a proxy for racism, and he was bothered by the “common message of intolerance for the opposition.”
“It’s either you’re with us or you’re the enemy,” he said.

Mr. Stewart heard similar concerns from other civil rights activists around the country. They could not help but wonder why the explosion of conservative anger coincided with a series of violent acts by right wing extremists. In the Inland Northwest there had been a puzzling return of racist rhetoric and violence.
Mr. Stewart said it would be unfair to attribute any of these incidents to the Tea Party movement. “We don’t have any evidence they are connected,” he said.

Still, he sees troubling parallels. Branding Mr. Obama a tyrant, Mr. Stewart said, constructs a logic that could be used to rationalize violence. “When people start wearing guns to rallies, what’s the next thing that happens?” Mr. Stewart asked.

Rachel Dolezal, curator of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene, has also watched the Tea Party movement with trepidation. Though raised in a conservative family, Ms. Dolezal, who is multiracial, said she could not imagine showing her face at a Tea Party event. To her, what stands out are the all-white crowds, the crude depictions of Mr. Obama as an African witch doctor and the signs labeling him a terrorist. “It would make me nervous to be there unless I went with a big group,” she said.
And yes, you can find some relatively sensible conservatives who not only find the elements comprising the Tea Partiers as extremist, but who truly get just how far off the rails these folks are:
It’s become obvious to everyone that the tea party movement is a mix of Paulian paleolibertarianism, religious fanaticism, and plain old whacked out insanity.


This kind of toxic mix is fertile ground for recruitment by extremist groups, and they’re exploiting the opportunity relentlessly.
 Food for thought. See also David Neiwert's take - he knows a thing or two about right-wing extremist movements from his work on the Patriot movement of the 1990s.

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