Let's twist again
By Michael Arvey
Online Journal Contributing Writer
February 5, 2005—It's happened again. This writer has received another absurd email from a stranger informing me I should pack up and depart from the hallowed shores of America simply because I exercise that right which most defines America—our right (a veritable duty) to criticize the government.
Other recent computer-gun missives have accused me of being a jerk and a dope, and yet these, by far, are the least offensive epithets. Another tells me I twist things around and that my cup is only half full. Conversely, I prefer to think I write to unravel gnarled twists.
Such emails share commonalities within the ethos of neoconservatism:
1. When you dissent and apply reasonable criticism to an out-of-control regime, the emailers brand you as a traitor and therefore as an enemy of America (a smear technique perfected by 20th century tyrants); either conform to groupthink, or expatriate. (If my accusers will first agree to enlist as fodder for Bush's policy of "just" wars—the military is currently offering a $15,000 sign-up bonus—I will seriously consider expatriation.) Uninformed rightists often mistake Hitler for a socialist from the word 'socialist' in National Socialist German Workers Party, or NSDAP, and many of the right's rhetorical strategies are reminiscent of the virtuoso hater himself. In 1934 Hitler once directed this dangerous epithet at the "red terror" and Jews: "Beasts, criminals, conspirators, traitors, well-poisoners."
2. Since the emailers, or rather flamers, cannot refute or prove wrong dissenters such as myself, their recourse is to resort to insults and cliched directives like "leave America." I challenged one such emailer to either disprove my contentions or to get lost.
He got lost.
The Problem: A Wider Context
What's even more troubling about aggressive mail is its verbal consonance with the 1930s German Brownshirt movement (SA—sturmabteilung) and its tactics. The SA would intimidate anyone with a viewpoint contrary to Nazism's. According to Stephen M. Osburn, CommonDreams Newscenter, Sept. 2, 2004: "These stormtroopers protected Hitler's rallies by driving off or beating up on the opposition. [At recent Bush presidential campaign rallies, non-Bush supporters would be asked, or forced, to leave.] They destroyed polling booths and drove off opposition party voters at the polls, stole ballot boxes, and generally brutalized any opposition." Could any of this vaguely sound familiar?
In the 2000 election, rightists stormed and disrupted the recount process in Florida, and that's merely one purposive incident. Robert Parry, Consortiumnews.com, Jan. 26, describes it this way: "On Nov. 22, 2000, in what became known as the "Brooks Brothers Riot"—named for the preppie clothing of the rioters—the Bush operatives stormed Miami's polling headquarters, pounded on doors and roughed up Democrats, leading city officials to abandon the counting of more than 10,000 ballots . . . Though supposedly a protest by local citizens outraged over how the recount was being conducted, many of the participants were identified in a photo as Republican congressional staffers and Bush campaign workers who had been sent in to disrupt the vote counts."
Disruptive elements also, for example, surrounded Vice President Gore's residence day in and out, chanting lines like "Get out of Cheney's house!"
In our present case, the hard-right's (some writers now facetiously call them the Reich Wing) rank and file like to verbally rough up the opposition vis-a-vis cyberspace at a comfortable distance.
However, the lite stormtroopers of today might avail themselves with knowledge of historical precedents of what happens to those who are considered disposable by power. On January 29-30, 1934, for example, known as the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler had SA leader Ernst Rohm and hundreds of his Brownshirts, who by then had outlived their usefulness, murdered. Hitler then supplanted the Brownshirts with Heinrich Himmler's SS, along with Reinhard Heydrich's SD, as the state's security apparatus.
Fascinatingly, journalist Phil Brennan, NewsMax, Oct.12, 2004, avoids censure while he accuses the Kerry-Edwards campaign and its supporters of being the "National Socialist Democrat Abortion Party (the new NSDAP)," mimicking the Nazi party's acronym. In Brennan's projective and twisty view, liberals are the new Brownshirts even though Nazi Brownshirts and the SS targeted Jews, gays, communists, socialists, gypsies, liberals, labor unionists, minorities and others—literally anyone who didn't support the hard-right Nazi regime. Yet the left isn't echoing the 1930s by demonizing other Americans as traitors, terrorists and enemies—the right is.
What brings Brennan to his conclusion? He cites alleged instances of Democratic violence and vandalism during the election campaign of 2004, quoting a Web columnist, Kim Weissman. Consider these projective rhetorical twists by Weissman, cited by Brennan: "Scenes such as these used to be the stuff of evening news reports about elections in foreign nations struggling to achieve liberty and representative government; but thanks to the unending torrent of hatred spewed by Democrats and leftists and magnified by the media, these events are now taking place in our own neighborhoods." Get the twist: criticism is hatred. However, election 2000 investigator Douglas Kellner in his book, Grand Theft 2000, convincingly shows how the media actually "aided and abetted the Bush camp" and its "multifaceted theft." This observation easily applies to election 2004.
Brennan then adds, "The mainstream media has not bothered to report on this widespread organized brutality. Imagine what their reaction would be if it was being carried out by supporters of George Bush." Now untwist his statement: The media did report spottily on incidents across the country, including the lawn-poster wars, yet they spanned mostly the few incidents allegedly caused by leftists—which easily could have been done by saboteurs to make the left look bad.
Brennan appears to have the typical rightist chip on his shoulder regarding what he assumes to be the socialist left. He writes, "Violence is socialism's ultimate weapon." And who is it that's perpetuating violence on a defenseless nation and people based on lies to steal their resources, privatize the country and control the region? This nonsense about violence being socialism's ultimate weapon exposes Brennan's ignorance of history. As a writer friend tells me, "The use of violence by the right, e.g., 'death squads,' goes back at least as far as the murders of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus in Rome in the third and fourth decades of the second century B.C. The disruption of the Democratic Convention in 1968 was found to be a 'police riot.' When the bonus marchers went to D.C. in 1932, Hoover sent MacArthur, Patton and the Army; when they returned in 1933, Roosevelt sent Eleanor and food."
Brennan further says, "At the root of all this is the almost total domination of the Democratic Party by self-proclaimed 'progressives,' a code word for socialists once used by members of Moscow's subservient American Communist Party to identify each other." Brennan's argument, however, is fallacious—he uses a false association, communism, to defame the Democratic Party. Ours is a social democracy. What the rightists beg to address is the extent to which socialism is proffered to the rich and to corporate America, and how the public pays for private deeds and misdeeds, which Bush has been rapidly expanding. Imputations against socialism nearly always reveal a transparent double standard.
Fair Is Foul, and foul Is Fair?
Fairness isn't a common rightist characteristic, it would seem, although certain tones are. Consider some of these article titles extracted from Jews for Morality: "We Must Destroy the ACLU" Hans Zeiger, WorldNetDaily.com; "Is It Okay to Hate Arafat?" Jeff Jacoby, Townhall.com; "Leading Senate Democrats Defend Indecency on the Airwaves" E.Fulk and Bob Cosack, TheHill.com; "Procter and Gamble Supports Sodomy Agenda" American Family Association, pgboycott.com; "Scaring Specter Straight" Robert Novak, Townhall.com.
Other tactics abound as well. Let's see what real socialist Internet site writers have to say. According to Joseph Kay, World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), Oct. 28, 2004:
"The Republican Party has announced plans to place thousands of recruits in polling places in many closely contested states on Election Day. These so-called 'poll watchers' will be tasked with challenging the credentials of would-be voters in predominantly Democratic urban centers.
"Republican spokesmen describe these efforts as an attempt to prevent voter fraud and maintain the 'integrity of the vote.' They claim that pro-Democratic registration drives, which have produced a pre-election surge in newly registered voters, particularly in black, Hispanic and urban working class centers, are riddled with fraud and illegality. They have failed, however, to produce any significant evidence to back up their charges.
"The Republican crusade for voting 'integrity' is a transparent ruse. The obvious purpose of the operation is to disqualify minority and working class voters and suppress voter turnout."
In another WSWS article, Dec. 13, 2000, Jerry White writes, "The National Association for the Advanced of Colored People (NAACP) has received hundreds of complaints, including reports of legal voters being turned away from the polls, black voters being harassed by state Highway Patrol officers outside of voting stations, and other acts of intimidation and fraud." SA wannabes or U.S. elections as usual?
The Daily Kos, Dec. 22, 2004, reports other tactics worth citing:
- Phone calls and flyers telling voters that their polling places had changed, when in fact they had not. Other reports cited people standing outside the polling places falsely redirecting some voters to other precincts.
- Intimidation efforts (such as anonymously distributed flyers) aimed directly at the minority community, implying for example that minority voters would be scrutinized for illegal activities if they were to vote.
- Longtime voters finding themselves inexplicably removed from the voting rolls, and having to cast provisional ballots, as a result of state "purging" of the rolls. In some areas, the "affidavit" lines for casting provisional, HAVA-required ballots were themselves an additional hour long, or longer, in addition to whatever time the voter had already spent in the original precinct lines; needless to say, the reports are filled with instances of voters turning away without voting.
From the 2004 election emerged a Kerry/DNC campaign guide entitled, "How to Organize to Prevent and Combat Voter Intimidation," which fostered a stir by the Drudge Report. The donnybrook was reported in some of the mainstream press, including the Rocky Mountain News. The right got a hold of the guide and claimed the Democrats were unscrupulously launching preemptive strikes against the right, wrongfully accusing them of voter intimidation. However, what the document actually says is, "If no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a 'pre-emptive strike' (particularly well-suited to states in which there [sic)] techniques have been tried in the past)." The document clearly implies that activists should target areas where, historically, there has been evidence of intimidation and to thwart it from occurring again.
DNC Communications Director Jano Cabrera explained, "Democrats are working every day to ensure that every American eligible to vote can vote. For decades, Republicans have engaged in systematic voter suppression and intimidation, from throwing minorities off the voter rolls to ripping up Democratic voter registrations. We make no apologies for fighting these tactics by exposing the dirty tricks when they happen, and helping educate local officials and activists about past Republican tactics so they can prevent them from occurring this year."
Will we ever know exactly how many votes were disenfranchised in Election 2004?
Geepers, Creepers, Where'd Ya Get Those Freepers
Aggressive emails are just one of the stealth tactics frequently used by the hard-right's foot soldiers. Other tactics are equally as odious, which former Vice President Gore honed in on in June 2004 as he belatedly took Bush to task. According to the June 24 Boston Herald, "Gore accused Bush of deliberately lying to the American people by drawing a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda in an effort to justify his administration's 'power grab.'" True enough, though the administration has adamantly denied drawing such a linkage.
More importantly, Gore said that "the administration works with a 'network of rapid response' digital Brown Shirts" who apply pressure to editors and reporters perceived as undermining support for U.S. troops. The report also says Ken Mehlman, chairman of Bush's election campaign, said Gore had delivered "'another gravely false attack.'" Yet, Gore was entirely correct. Apparently Mehlman hasn't heard of organizations such as Free Republic. Such cyber-tactics are indeed part and parcel of the right's rank-and-file loyalists.
What is Free Republic? It's an online site that, according to FlakMagazine, states its mission as being "an online gathering place for independent, grass-roots conservatism on the Web. We're working to roll back decades of governmental largesse [sic], to root out political fraud and corruption, and to champion causes which further conservatism in America . . . Free Republic is a loosely organized group of grassroots Americans who support our Constitution and look for honesty, integrity and honor from those in government." Noble aspirations, though their ideological and political tactics are often less than honorable.
Moreover, FlakMag writes, "The verb 'to freep' means to slant an online poll by voting for it from a conservative position, signing conservative petitions and filling a liberal petition with fake signatures and mocking comments, writing letters of protest to politicians or simply showing up to protest a politician personally." The outstanding feature of freeping is its rapid response tactic to polls and issues. Such "freepers" can skew and undermine online poll results, for example, through repetitive voting. This occurred in 2002 when Sen. Robert Byrd (D., W.Va) tried to halt the War Resolution and used a Charlotte Gazette poll.
Free Republic, simply put, is a ultraconservative resource for tilting polls in favor of their objectives and politicians, for one thing. Its antics subscribe to fascistic tendencies as delineated by Matthew N. Lyons in his book, Too Close for Comfort: Right Wing Populism, Scapegoating, and Fascist Potentials in US Politics: "Fascism's approach to politics is both populist—in that it seeks to activate 'the people' [recall Bush's preposterous mandate from "the people."] as a whole against perceived oppressors and enemies—and elitist—in that it treats the people's will as embodied in a select group [themselves elitist], or often one supreme leader [another elitist], from whom authority proceeds downward." Freepers seem to conform to this definition as do many other hard-right activists for whom winning is the ultimate raison d'etre, despite their hollow protestations for truth.
Another antic freepers employ is to besiege left radio talk-show hosts. Recently, for example, Randi Rhoades on Air America fended off a slew of cantankerous provocateurs.
We have to be constantly careful to pay attention to the Bush's administration's rhetoric and actions. As Richard Overy writes in his book, Dictators, the dictatorships of Stalin and Hitler "provided a legal basis and developed a formal institutional framework through which they could isolate and persecute all those defined as enemies of the people." The U.S. legally has reached that same precipice with Bush's concept of enemy combatants, and is further pursuing the legalization of torture as a legitimate construct through his attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzalez. It doesn't take a Nostradamus to see what's transpiring here, or does it?
This writer's antipathy toward the Bush administration bears no relation to who should or should not remain stateside, except in jest. Rather, it cleaves toward Mark Crispin's Miller's reference to Bush in Cruel and Unusual: "He does not speak for rational Americans, but rather is the president—the first president—of the American irrational. Our projector-in-chief, George W. Bush lives in, and is trying to rule, the malevolent dreamworld of the right. In that dominion, truth is always written off as 'propaganda,' while propaganda comes at us as 'truth.'"
Michael Arvey comments from Colorado.
© 1998-2005 Online Journal™. All rights reserved.