Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bullies, sadists, and the right-wing

It’s still difficult for many on the left to come to terms and fully understand the hijacking of their country by right-wing zealots, even after three decades of lies, misinformation, and the ever-present shroud of fear that now blankets the nation. Max Blumenthal has written a guidebook for you and anyone else that would like to get at the true root of what ails America.

Terry Gross interviewed Blumenthal about the new book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, a week ago. I highly recommend that interview as a starting point, although I’m hoping ultimately that those that really care about changing the direction of the country will buy the book. Heck, wouldn’t it be nice if Blumenthal’s book woke people from their slumber and stopped the downhill slide to the right once and for all?

It’s interesting to hear Blumenthal speak (during his interview with Gross) and tick off details that constitutes a who’s who of right-wing Republicanism, many of them born-again evangelicals, and their strangely twisted theology and personal mistreatment of scripture. One of these figures is Sarah Palin. Blumenthal writes about going undercover at gathering at a small house, with members of the Wasilla Assembly of God, the church where Palin was baptized and spent 20 years as a member. Blumenthal is there when Thomas Muthee visited the group. Blumenthal actually feigns speaking in tongues to get inside and get a bird’s eye view of the bat shit crazy fringe element that is part and parcel of who Palin really is (quite funny, really and worth finding on the Fresh Air clip, around the 31:00 minute mark). Strangely, while this information was available briefly, it never gained much traction, or was widely disseminated even by the “so-called liberal media” during the presidential campaign of 2008, when Palin came close to being vice president of the U.S.

Blumenthal talks about “fringe elements,” which control large portions of the AM dial, talkers like Alex Jones, who spews conspiracy theories so whacked that it really makes me wonder whether or not we haven’t descended into a kind of bipartite seperation in the U.S. between not right and left, but sane and insane.

Jones warns listeners that President Obama is going to “create concentration camps for right-wing dissidents,” and “implement massive gun seizures,” which Blumenthal contends is all designed to create fear and mobilize grassroots opposition to all things Obama (like healthcare reform) support for far right Republican causes, and fill the coffers of right-wing organizations that have become depleted during the eight years of GW Bush.

While both Blumenthal and others use the term “fringe” to describe many of these elements of the right, they are, however, not unpopular. Talk radio figures like James Dobson, Michael Savage, and even Jones, command enormous audiences of several million Americans, and regularly influence mainstream reporting on news and aspects of the Obama administration, and the Democratic party.

Blumenthal delves into the psychology that is part and parcel of the right-wing playbook and in fact supports its framework. Jane Smiley’s review of Blumenthal’s book gives considerable space to this element of the book, and I think it is an important aspect of understanding how all the various elements and the vast network of seemingly disparate organizations connect.

From Smiley’s review:

Blumenthal does two things that no one else I have read manages to do–the first of these is that he organizes the network. He shows how Ted Bundy is connected to James Dobson is connected to Gary Bauer is connected to Erik Prince is connected to Ralph Reed is connected to Jack Abramoff is connected to Tom Delay is connected to Tony Perkins is connected to David Duke is connected to Mel Gibson, and so forth, and in the course of tracing these connections, he informs us, or reminds us, of the crimes and misdemeanors these people have committed.

It appears that Blumenthal deftly connects the dots and ties this “vast right-wing conspiracy” (sorry, couldn’t resist Hillary’s terminology on this) to the Christian Dominionists, a group that almost no one on the left knows anything about, but wield power and influence, followers of the late RJ Rushdoony, and Gary North.

More from Smiley’s review regarding this movement, which Blumenthal details in his book, whom he equates with the Taliban, quite accurately, I might add:

Many of the Evangelicals Blumenthal discusses are Christian Dominionists–that is, they differ from the Taliban only in their choice of doctrine. Their uses of that doctrine (to dehumanize women and other groups, to never share power, to control every aspect of every life within their power, and to create society as a steeply hierarchical structure with them at the top) are those of the Taliban.

It’s an eye-opener to read about R.J. Rushdoony, son of Armenian immigrants who fled the Armenian genocide of 1915. You would think that a man whose family escaped mass murder would go on to espouse peace, love, and understanding, but Rushdoony went the other way, taking literally the 613 laws in the Book of Leviticus. In his book, The Institutes of Biblical Law, he advocates capital punishment for “disobedient children, unchaste women, apostates, blasphemers, practitioners of witchcraft, adulterers,” and homosexuals. Gary North, the Presbyterian Christian Reconstructionist, is his son-in-law, and, while not backing down on the mass death penalty, advocates stoning rather than burning at the stake, because stoning is cheaper (and of course that is a factor, because there would be a lot of people to exterminate). As for who would be doing the killing (of you and me, if they could catch us), well, Christians would, but not because they wanted to. Ever unable to accept responsibility, they assign agency to God, who wants us killed, who will beat us until we “crumple” on his “loving” breast, a God who has given us all sorts of talents, skills, and interests, but is, like these Christian Dominionists, interested only in power. I believe his motto is “Adore me or I will hurt you.”

I think one reason that the right continues to gain support and that those who don’t subscribe to their doctrine underestimate their staying power, is that they have never been up close and personal to this craziness and succumbed to its power, even for a short period, like I have.

Having seen its darkness, and been in its clutches, and broken free, might be one of the reasons why it concerns me so much and continues to motivate me to warn others.

I’ll be picking up Blumenthal’s book sooner, rather than later. I urge others to do the same.


RedWhiteBlue in Wasilla said...

Liberals like you think Blumenthal is some kind of hero.

He's a creep. He sneaks around with his camera, ambushing patriotic Americans like Sarah Palin. She doesn't sneak around like Blumenthal does. She tells it like it is and she's not afraid to call herself a Christian.

We need more Americans like Sarah, and less like Blumenthal.

Jim said...

I don't think Blumenthal is a hero, but I do think he's a damn fine investigative journalist, something in short supply in our land.

I don't really know what being "a Christian" in the Sarah Palin mold is. Actually, I got a taste of that kind of religion years ago and I exclaimed, "no thanks" to this nationalistic brand of theology.

I'm pleased that Blumenthal is looking at these figures and portraying them for what they really are, a band of theocrats who desire a Christian state.

Unfortunately, the fact civic education has languished for decades in the U.S., people like RedWhiteBlue (is that the flag you are draping yourself in?) in Wasilla know little about their government, how laws are made, and why the separation of church and state is a good thing.