Saturday, August 28, 2010

Beck is no MLK, Jr.

Think Progress does a quick 'compare and contrast' of Glenn Beck, who is using the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous 'I have a dream' speech for his own nefarious purposes today with Martin Luther King, Jr. himself. Bottom line is that there is no comparison. Suffice it to say, King's approach to Christianity is one I find every bit as consistent with my own value system as I find Beck's to be wildly inconsistent. I'll stick with the original any day. Ignore the sham wannabe. Here's the original speech for your consideration:

Grassroots or astroturf?

Let's just say that all the "tea party" hoopla is essentially the latter. It is in fact the Beck spectacle can be characterized as "the best “grass roots” protest that a billionaire’s money can buy."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Speaking of our unhealthy culture

Koran-Burning Pastor: We Want To Send A 'Clear, Radical Message' - a follow-up to my post on this same pastor earlier this week.

Not a healthy political culture

I typically measure the health of a nation's political system by the extent to which its extremists are taken seriously. In the case of our nation, we're in deep shit. One might quibble a bit with Matt Taibbi's analogy, but there is little doubt that something is seriously wrong:
In fact if you follow Fox News and the Limbaugh/Hannity afternoon radio crew, this summer’s blowout has almost seemed like an intentional echo of the notorious Radio Rwanda broadcasts “warning” Hutus that they were about to be attacked and killed by conspiring Tutsis, broadcasts that led to massacres of Tutsis by Hutus acting in “self-defense.” A sample of some of the stuff we’ve seen and heard on the air this year:
  • On July 12, Glenn Beck implied that the Obama government was going to aid the New Black Panther Party in starting a race war, with the ultimate aim of killing white babies. "They want a race war. We must be peaceful people. They are going to poke, and poke, and poke, and our government is going to stand by and let them do it." He also said that "we must take the role of Martin Luther King, because I do not believe that Martin Luther King believed in, 'Kill all white babies.'"
  • CNN contributor and writer Erick Erickson, on the Panther mess: "Republican candidates nationwide should seize on this issue. The Democrats are giving a pass to radicals who advocate killing white kids in the name of racial justice and who try to block voters from the polls."
  • On July 6, the Washington Times columnist J. Christian Adams wrote an editorial insisting that "top [Obama] appointees have allowed and even encouraged race-based enforcement as either tacit or open policy," marking one of what would become many assertions by commentators that the Obama administration was no longer interested in protecting the rights of white people. "The Bush Civil Rights Division was willing to protect all Americans from racial discrimination,” Adams wrote. “During the Obama years, the Holder years, only some Americans will be protected."
  • July 12: Rush Limbaugh says Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder “protect and represent” the New Black Panther party.
  • July 28: Rush says Supreme Court decision on 1070 strips Arizonans of their rights to defend themselves against an “invasion”: "I guess the judge is saying it's not in the public interest for Arizona to try to defend itself from an invasion. I don't know how you look at this with any sort of common sense and come to the ruling this woman came to.” That same day, Rush says this: "Muslim terrorists are going to have a field day in Arizona. You cannot ask them where they're from. You cannot even act like we know where they're from. You cannot ask them for their papers. We can ask you for yours. Not them."
  • July 29: The Washington Times asks “Should Arizona Secede?” and says the Supreme Court "is unilaterally disarming the people of Arizona in the face of a dangerous enemy” with the aim of creating a “socialist superstate.” The paper writes: "The choice is becoming starkly apparent: devolution or dissolution."
  • July 29, Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy continues the Radio Rwanda theme, saying, "If the feds won't protect the people and Governor Brewer can't protect her citizens, what are the people of Arizona supposed to do?"
There’s nothing in the world more tired than a progressive blogger like me flipping out over the latest idiocies emanating from the Fox News crowd. But this summer’s media hate-fest is different than anything we’ve seen before. What we’re watching is a calculated campaign to demonize blacks, Mexicans, and gays and convince a plurality of economically-depressed white voters that they are under imminent legal and perhaps even physical attack by a conspiracy of leftist nonwhites. They’re telling these people that their government is illegitimate and criminal and unironically urging secession and revolution.
 h/t naked capitalism

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Crossing the line

We've by now read and heard about the young man who appears to have attacked a cab driver with a knife. The cab driver's "crime"? He admitted to being Muslim.

Although I suspect we'll be learning more about the attacker and his background in the coming days and weeks, I think a few points can be safely made now. One is that reducing the attack as merely the product of too much booze is a cop-out. Intoxication may have been a factor in reducing the attacker's inhibitions. That said, what was being inhibited in the absence of booze?

Another point is simply that our words have consequences. That's something I've said repeatedly over the last several years with regard to eliminationist rhetoric aimed at Hispanics and African-Americans by various hate groups. Recently we've witnessed a great deal of virulent anti-Muslim rhetoric that has grown more strident and more violent over the last few weeks. I cannot help but wonder what the likelihood of a crime like the one that happened last night in NYC would have been in the absence of the violent rhetoric. I'm willing to wager that it would have been much less probable without the near-constant stream of hate-filled messages about a group of people based on their religious preferences and ethnicity. The haters will no doubt take issue with my assessment, just as they have with similar assessments. That's to be expected. I will still offer that the rest of us with some semblance of rationality need to stand up and say enough is enough, and to call out the perpetrators in our mass media of the speech that may well have fueled this particular attack.

So, what could possibly go wrong?

Pastor says armed militia to protect church during Quran-burning event. The plan is to convene a bunch of crazed paranoid bastards with loaded guns to 'protect' another bunch of crazed paranoid bastards for their planned hatefest. Given the violent rhetoric spewed in right-wing circles, I'll refrain from my usual gallows humor.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The hypocrisy of manufactured outrage: Mosque madness edition

Just a real short note: It strikes me as crass for someone who uses terms like "Judenrat" to be saying much of anything about the alleged antisemitism of others.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mosque madness ad nauseum

Report from ground zero (h/t PULSE):

At first, I thought it was just me. I'd witnessed dozens of far-right demonstrations over the years, but this was the first which literally sent chills down my spine.

I spoke to a few activists who'd effectively made attending, confronting, and exposing these sorts of things into their life's work, and had witnessed hundreds of events staged by all manner of racist groups, from the National Alliance and the Minutemen to the Teabaggers and the National Socialist Movement.

"I've never seen anything like this before", one said, as another nodded his head in agreement. "The rhetoric, the music, everything... it was just... overwhelming. Did you see the effigies? I don't even know what to say."

I didn't either. I'd spent the first hour or so listening for amusing quotes from the speakers to broadcast via Twitter. Then I began paying closer attention not only to the increasingly strident words emanating from the podium, but to the tone, the gestures... and to the response from the crowd.

It stopped being funny.

By the time I arrived home, having had a bit more time to process the experience, I wasn't even the slightest bit surprised to see a YouTube clip of an African-American construction worker at the rally, mistaken for a Muslim (apparently on account of his hat), being harassed and nearly assaulted by the crowd. The whole event was beginning to feel more and more like the pre-game show for a televised lynching. It hardly mattered if the victim was a real Muslim or not.


For every incendiary statement from the podium came an even more vitriolic response shouted from one location or another within the crowd, back and forth, with the orators seemingly drawing strength from the crowd and projecting it back in magnified form.

And there had been music, of course, after every speaker. Booming, overpowering. The generic patriotic musical interludes were easy to scoff at, but the instrumentals seemed to gather, solidify, and animate the tension in the air.

Then there were the visuals. I'd missed the effigies, but every variety of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sign I'd ever seen was well-represented, some waved by small children from their fathers' shoulders. Lots of flags, mostly American, a handful of Israeli. One JDL shirt with "Gush Katif Forever" emblazoned on the back.

I'd gotten the impression that that despite the shirt and the flags and the one family I overheard speaking Hebrew, I was actually one of very few Jews here. I wondered if there had been more before I got there, who perhaps felt something unsettling about the atmosphere and decided to leave.

There had been a definite tension between various types of people that the rally had attracted. A handful of people in the crowd apparently made some limited effort to diffuse the episode with the African-American consruction worker. Others had mildly chastised the man shouting that "Mohammed was a pedophile": "That's not helpful", they said.

There was clear disagreement on what constituted the most appropriate means of expressing xenophobic bigotry. Some attendees seemed genuinely uncomfortable with what they were seeing, like a cat startled by its own reflection in a mirror.

These, unfortunately, were apparently the extreme minority. Most seemed thoroughly enthralled and invigorated by the moment, reveling in the sense of shared outrage and collective determination to do something about it.

It became increasingly clear what I'd found so disquieting about the experience of bearing witness to this. I'd been able to write this phenomenon off as a lunatic fringe movement before. It was certainly no more sane as a result of my having been there, and there had been no more than five hundred to a thousand people in attendance, but I could no longer simply write it off. I'd stood in the heart of it, surrounded on all sides by a teeming sea of hate, and felt its potential. It was utterly terrifying.

The rhetoric of national humiliation, of "us" and "them", of the enemy within, of the state as the vehicle for asserting the supremacy our way of life, and the need to sieze control, in one way or another, should the state continue to be an obstacle to realizing these grand dreams.

I'd never experienced this so directly before, only through multiple levels of abstraction. Only through newsreels.

Despite this deep sense of dread, and the queasiness I feel when playing those newsreels over in my mind, I find one thought reassuring:

These echoes from the past originate from a period before that movement had passed the point of no return, when ordinary people still had the power to stand up and prevent things from going any further.

It wasn't too late then, and it isn't too late now, to say...

¡No Pasarán!
Hopefully you don't mind the lengthy quote. I simply thought it was worth passing along. The passage reads like a scene from the film V for Vendetta, where a character recollects the increasingly unsettling national mood as right-wing nationalists became ever more bellicose in the months leading up to the installation of a fascist state.

While we're at it, PULSE reminds us that with all of the bile spewed by the perpetrators of mosque madness, sometimes other pertinent information gets ignored altogether.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A potential consequence of Mosque Madness?

Columnist Frank Rich seems to think the jackals who are howling about the proposed Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan (which is neither at "Ground Zero" nor truly a mosque) will end up doing more harm to their precious war in Afghanistan over the long run. Maybe. What they will do is expose themselves as bigots who care more about needless fearmongering for the sake of political gamesmanship than any legitimate security concern. Of course these yokels are going after not only this particular Islamic center, but any other Islamic cultural center or mosque throughout the US. Never mind that these same folks will say nothing about all the Christian churches being built or established - some of which are themselves genuine hotbeds of terrorist activity (you know, the ones that encourage their followers to show up at Congressional town hall meetings with firearms or who advocate the assassination of physicians who perform abortions, for example).

Said it before and will say it again: I will be very happy when August is over with.