What has happened in the first hundred days of the new administration? What’s the record? It’s time to reflect and take stock.
In April, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report cautioning against a rising wave of militant right-wing activism. Fueled by racism invigorated by the presence of a black man in the White House, the DHS warned that the wave was likely to turn violent and the nation should brace for and prepare against acts of right-wing domestic terror.
Of course that such was possible, possibly even likely, wasn’t news to anyone who had turned on a television, or radio, or picked up a newspaper. On the milder side of the spectrum were simply calls for things like the secession of Texas, by that state’s Republican governor.
Toward the middle we were witness to the antics of personalities like Glenn Beck who used, and uses, his television show to badger and prod his viewers into a state of paranoid rage with the implication that the United States will soon be a Communist dictatorship and that the time is now to engage in an active revolution against an incipient revolution.
"The Department of Homeland Security issued a report cautioning against a rising wave of militant right-wing activism."
And he’s getting results: In Pittsburgh, white supremacist Richard Poplawski went to the extreme. He shot and killed three police officers after fearing they were going to “take away his guns.” Where did he get that fear? From watching a Glenn Beck rant about the subject.
And it’s local, too. While Bloomington’s nascent Kristallnacht, A/K/A “Tea Party,” may have garnered national attention because one of its attending buffoons managed to misspell dissent as “descent,” there were other aspects, or rather another aspect, that was far more newsworthy.
Such as the clumsily racist sign that read “What ‘chu talkin’ about, Willis?” and the much more insidious one which read, simply: “Got birth certificate?”
“Got birth certificate?” A reference to the off-the-rails looniness of the right’s obsession with the president’s citizenship, which they insist must be anything but that of a citizen of the United States.
For what reason, other than racial, is the right so intransigent on the issue? I mean, there is nothing to suggest that Obama is any less American than any of the 43 presidents before him, other than the fact that they were white and he is black.
Oh, when pressed some will say that it’s because he has not presented his actual birth certificate, which is true but also true of all of his 43 predecessors as original birth certificates can’t be “produced,” only copies (the originals remain in the records of the issuing states for what should be obvious reasons).
One might be tempted to think that the foundational racism of the right is confined to a cohort of its least-intelligent. And, if so tempted, one would be wrong.
"The cohort identified in the DHS warning is particularly worrisome because they are particularly impressionable."
Byron York, a well-established conservative columnist who currently serves as chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner (before that he was with The National Review), last week wrote:
“On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.”
I did a double-take when I first read that. And then a triple-take.
And a quadruple-take.
Obama’s positions only appear to be more popular than they actually are. Why do they not appear as they actually are? Because the people taking the polls include the opinions of black people in the poll results. Those black people’s opinions do not represent the actual situation, i.e. the situation as it would appear if you didn’t ask black people, too.
And why it’s scary
The cohort identified in the DHS warning is particularly worrisome because they are particularly impressionable. And not only are they impressionable, but they have an almost universal disinterest in the truth of any matter -- particularly if the truth would defuse or defray their one central conclusion: that the future hosts an apocalyptic resolution.
"We were witness to the antics of personalities like Glenn Beck who used, and uses, his television show to badger and prod his viewers into a state of paranoid rage."
It’s the same constitution as the constitution of those who attacked the United States eight years ago: Apocalyptic Right-wing Religious Fundamentalism.
So when demagogues like Beck, York, Limbaugh or the whole detachment of right-wing noisemakers Make Shit Up (there’s that disinterest in the truth), the cohort hears the ring of the signs of the apocalypse -- they’re going to take away your guns, the nation is becoming a Communist dictatorship, the President is a foreigner, all of your money will be taxed and given to the lazy -- and when they hear that ring, they’re likely to act.
It’s why, when Sean Hannity ran a poll asking, “What kind of revolution appeals most to you?” the responses were: Armed Rebellion, War for Secession, and Military Coup (in that order).
The heading for this section says “And why it’s scary.” But fear is not the appropriate reaction for those outside the cohort should have, for fear is the emotion motivating and energizing those within the cohort.
No, not fear. What then? Vigilance.
Gregory Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.