Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two completely different takes on the militia movement...

... and both are worth serious examination.

The first, from Dave Sirota, argues that the GOP is now seeking its future in mainstreaming rightwing extremism:

In my book, The Uprising, I have a chapter on the Minutemen that's called "Mainstreaming the Militia." I think between the media coverage of yesterday's Tea Parties and the national Republican Party effectively coming to the public defense of right-wing extremist groups against the Department of Homeland Security, that mainstreaming has gone into overdrive.

I'm not saying everyone - or even a majority - of those who attended the Tea Parties are violent extremists. But I am saying that there is a very calculated and coordinated campaign to mainstream extreme right-wing politics - and this shouldn't be surprising. The uprising that I reported on last year has only intensified since I reported the book, and as I noted at the time, that uprising is both a left and right phenomenon.

Indeed, the battle for the future of the country will be a battle between the left and right uprisings - a battle to see who can out-organize the other in the fight for the hearts and minds of the country. The Obama campaign's stellar organizing success clearly shows there's a progressive majority ready to be organized, but the right's counter salvos these last few weeks shows that if Democrats keep handing over trillions to Wall Street, there will be an opening for conservative populism.

So while we can (and should) ridicule the Tea Parties, we should also recognize that they A) highlight very real anger out there at government giving away the store to Corporate America and B) preview a long battle over economic policy that will unfold over the next few months and years.

I like that slippery slope of equating rightwing extremism to the concept of the Tea Parties by ... not quite equating them.

But I think that Charlie LeDuff's profile of a Michigan militia group more accurately captures the sense of impotence at the bottom of the alienation which so often can lead to violence:

The militia held its annual field day on Stasa's farm, about a 20-minute car-drive west of Flint, and threw in a tea party and tax revolt for good measure. The militia's party included hamburgers, sausages, soda pop and a .50 caliber carbine rifle and a firing range. Kids were admitted free.

With the economic meltdown, the complaints of the militiamen are beginning to sound less like paranoia and more like the topic of Manhattan cocktail parties: a socialized economy, a ballooning debt and wars on two fronts.

"What are we leaving the children?" asked Rob Soldenski, a 49-year-old unemployed delivery driver from Warren. "A legacy of debt and an infringement on their civil liberties. We got to push back when the time to push comes."

"I've seen a 35 percent reduction in pay," said his ex-wife Cyn Soldenski, who brought along their 7-year-old daughter Tessa. "I bought a house 18 months ago. The interest rate is going to reset and I'm so far underwater I'm going to drown. We've got to take the stupid government and throw it out."

If you listen to this group you begin to realize that they cannot take over the world; they probably couldn't take over their brother's trailer payments. They are a restless and frustrated group: a hodgepodge of ex-farmers, ex-military, ex-truck drivers, ex-factory workers, wipers of other people's bottoms. Many are firmly among the state's 20 percent unemployed or underemployed.

They turn to the Bill of Rights, though most people here could not recite those 10 amendments. They prepare for a war to defend them. No one can say -- not even the militia members themselves -- how many people sympathize with their movement.

And LeDuff notes that there is no particular love for Dubya over Obama:

Still, the picnic goers railed about George W. Bush, too. In fact they believe there is little difference between a Democrat and a Republican. Bush, Clinton, Obama. Stick them in a bag. Shake it up. And the same rapacious thing crawls out: a creature from a smoke-filled backroom.

"They're all the same thing," Cyn Soldenski said. "Corporate tools."

Are these rightwing extremists? Certainly they are--by many standards of the day--people with unlovely views on immigration, race, gay rights....

But what emerges is reading this portrait (read it all: wouldn't want to be guilty of cherry-picking) is people clinging to their guns, their beliefs, and each other not because they are bitter, but because they are scared, and falling further and further behind at everything....

And the current political dynamic of let's trash the other side so we can defeat them is not going to help make things any better.


Tyler Nixon said...

Well observed. Spewing poison at people struggling to survive and feeling utterly disenfranchised only reinforces their worst fears or even paranoias.

I suspect this is really what the screaching anti-right/prObama juveniles want to incite and inflame.

Many are so vicious and obsessive in their assaults on real or perceived opponents of their ongoing majoritarian coercion franchise, it is as though they want violence or actual extreme acts to take place.

Irrespective of the real stakes and real lives this might hurt, it would convenience their own absolutist world view and further their mania to destroy, politically or otherwise, anyone who doesn't share it in chorus.

a most peculiar nature said...

So many people are so very stressed out right now, it is no wonder they try to find ways to feel as if they have even a little bit of control over their lives, as everything seems to have spun out of control.

Both "sides" in the media world are feeding this; it almost seems to be a sort of gleeful, malicious frenzy.

I don't watch the famous "talking-head" shows on either side of the spectrum. Just reading the news makes me depressed enough.

I don't know what can be done about this, as everybody needs their media ratings. I wish people would try to have a better understanding of each others' hopes and fears.

But I think that is probably just too much to ask. The dialogue has just become too contentious. It's sad, because we're really all in this together as a country.

Until such point in time that it is every man for himself.

Delaware Watch said...

"I like that slippery slope of equating rightwing extremism to the concept of the Tea Parties"

I saw a poster yesterday at the Wilm teabaggery with words to this effect: "What we used to do to those who taxed us," beneath which was a sketch of man being hanged.

I didn't see one African American at the tea baggery yesterday. Some lamented that fact. Not me. Given the inflammatory and hateful temperament of some of the people I talked to I would have feared for an African American's safety.

The slippery slope was well eroded yesterday in Wilm, DE.

a most peculiar nature said...

I'm wondering if some people were even at the same event I was, LOL !

Hube said...

Dana, come on. There are loonies in all sorts of protests. I know you wouldn't be happy with people labeling ALL the anti-war protests from the mid-decade as "lunatic" and "fringe" due to the minority of those who had similar signs as the one you saw, just about Bush, et . al.

Anonymous said...

The republicans have no answer. The Democrats have a President who is still on his honeymoon. Even progressives (not liberals), are concerned about Tim Geithners economic plan. We know the bankster are in collusion with Congress/Senate of both parties.They are actively working against citizen interests, domestically and internationally.

There are "fringe" groups on the right and left.

Unfortunately on the right, the rascists like KKK, Birchers, White Supremes, and right wing anarchists are a large contingent and they are more interested in a civil war. With them its still black vs white.

We also have those poor and middle class citizens who dont follow history or even news. They are just pissed and when they do watch news, its probably Fox.

There were also progresives at these events because they were Ron Paul supporters, wanting to close down the fed,worried the economic package is a failure, worried about the Patriot Act, spying on americans, torture and other reasons. They know that both parties are in pocket of the multi nationals and banksters.

It was a mixed bag. What is the message?