Update From the Brownshirt/Libertarian Menace


Previous episodes: I, II, III, IV, V, VI.

Robert Kuttner, Washington Post, "Rage the Left Should Use":

When economically stressed and frightened people are anxious and sullen, you never know who will capture their fears and hopes. In the 1930s, economic anxiety produced leaders as different as Franklin Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler. History shows that if the reformist left doesn't offer a plausible story and strategy of reform, the lunatic right will gain ground even with an implausible one. So where are the liberal protesters? The initiative has passed to the know-nothing right […]

The remedy is not left-wing mobs to contest right-wing ones. In Germany in the 1930s, fascists tilted in the street with communists, and both were recipes for disaster.

Nina Burleigh, Huffington Post, "Aiming at Obama":

Can anyone remember what happened the last time a left-winger brought a loaded assault rifle to display in public within sight of a George W. Bush presidential event? No, we can't, because college kids with backpacks sporting John Kerry stickers got thrown in jail for their menacing presence at Bush rallies. Anyone more threatening than that was already in lockdown days before the band struck up "Hail to Chief." That was back in the good old days when gun-owning American brown-shirts felt "secure" about their "rights." […]

Now that the right wing feels its "values" threatened by a lawfully elected progressive administration that is attempting to bring America up to the global standard in terms of sane foreign policy and morally right social services, and their heroes on Wall Street have left them to fester with rage in the dying church of new cars and new television sets, the true face of American fascism is emerging. Not very pretty is it?

It remains to be seen how far the brownshirts will test their supposedly threatened Constitutional "freedoms," but I put my money on seeing more menace and more outright violence as they come to terms with losing political power and the economy in the same year.

DeWayne Wickham, USA Today, "White Racism's Convenient Target: Our President":

White racism — which was widely rumored to have been driven into remission by the election of Barack Obama is resurging precisely because of his victory. Evidence of this reaction to the nation's first black president can be found in the uptick of hateful public speech and in the growing number of threats by activists who are armed and motivated to do harm. […]

These gathering clouds should not be ignored; the price would be too high.

Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo, "Troubled History":

Let's be honest with ourselves: the American right has a deep-seated problem with political violence. It's deep-seated; it's recurrent and it's real. And it endangers the country. It just makes sense to say something the first time they hit the sauce and not wait for things to get really out of hand.

Roland Martin, Creators Syndicate, "Hate Should Not Drive Health Care Debate":

Americans deserve vigorous debate on health care. But this, folks, simply isn't it. It's just rhetorical thuggery, and the last thing we need is a lynch mob mentality dominating this critical issue.

Shaun Waterman, ISN Security Watch, "Costs of War: Paranoid Populism":

The last time the militia movement was in its ascendant was during the 1990s—and it ended with the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people. […]

The most important difference today, the report notes, is that "the federal government—the entity that almost the entire radical right views as its primary enemy—is headed by a black man," adding racist rage of white supremacists to the heady mix of militia ideology […]

And yet, when one considers the availability of firearms to protesters with an angry narrative of victimization, and the growing influence of a movement which glorifies violence against African-Americans, one can hardly avoid a sense of foreboding.

Annette Fuentes and Chip Berlet, New America Media, "Behind the Town Halls' 'Angry White Men'":

Who are these people screaming and shouting at the town hall meetings?

It's an AstroTurf campaign to fill people with scare stories and misinformation. Even if these people say, 'No one told me to come,' they are getting direct mailings telling them to go to meetings and ask questions. They are angry because they feel displaced. They feel pushed out of the way by liberals, people of color and immigrants. It's the story they have told themselves to explain why they haven't made it in America. It's racial anxiety fueled by a bad economy, a black president and disparities at a time when white people's supremacy is being challenged.

Now we have a black president, and for the most part whites didn't riot in the street. But it doesn't mean that most of us who are white men in America don't wonder what that means. They see the president as the head of a bureaucracy, and they are unsettled by the idea of having a black boss: How am I supposed to act? What am I supposed to do? Does that mean white people are losing power? The short answer is: Yeah, deal with it.

Your research links today to earlier populist movements in U.S. history. What fuels them?

For over 100 years–more like 150–you've had these movements, and they came out of the Civil War. It is a backlash against social liberalism and it's rooted in libertarian support for unregulated capitalism and white people holding onto power, and, if they see themselves losing it, trying to get it back.

For those even slightly skeptical about the narrative framing above, you'll want to bookmark three recent Jesse Walker pieces–"The Paranoids Are Out to Get Me!," "Medical Mosh Pits," and "Five Laws of the Crazy Tree"–and stay on the lookout for a longer examination of militia mythology, paranoid centrism, and government violence in the upcoming November October issue of Reason.