14 August 2017

Thoughts on the Far Right

I originally wrote this in September of 2009. At first I didn't share it here to avoid the association it might give the Baha'i Faith to a political ideology. After the white nationalists killing someone in Virginia this weekend, my thoughts went back to this, and now I feel compelled to share:

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Today is my last day of 12 weeks working in Redmond, OR, and exactly 8 years after I woke up to the radio telling me that the tower had just fallen in New York. As I sit here waiting for ice to contract my thigh tissue and heal a pulled muscle, my thoughts keep going back to the rise of the right over the last few years.

Three years ago I went from attending the largest university in Oregon, surrounded by hundreds of well-educated people my age that shared common views of the world, to working at a company where the average employee is 56 and lives outside of a big city. The transition took me from discussions about development and sustainability to discussions about how the government wants to take away our guns and tax us more.


Going through the presidential campaign in the company was another eye opener. In Portland I would see Obama signs in every yard for blocks and blocks, and hear people make comments like, "How could anyone not vote for Obama." Then I would hear others at work wonder, "How could anyone vote for Obama?"

After the election, though, there was a change in tone. A coworker couldn't attend something and explained that it was to attend the Tea Party on tax day, and he very seriously told me that, "This could be one of the most important days of my life." I found that incredibly odd, and later driving together he explained in cryptic words about the 9/12 movement. A quick online search revealed the source as Glenn Beck, one of several radio hosts that also have FOX evening programs.

When I started working, I started listening to NPR. I noticed that every once in awhile they had a slightly left/liberal bias in how they report stories, but generally pretty good. Moving out to Redmond, I decided that I should start listening to the station that plays Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh on the radio, since this was what most people listen to east of the Cascades. I was quickly horrified. The level of outright lying and manipulation was staggering. I can hardly listen a minute without catching some kind of distorted contemptible half-truth. I heard Glenn Beck talk about his "movement" of protesters as if it was a growing militia that he was leading to save the country from internal enemies that have "abandoned the rule of law." I heard Rush Limbaugh say that Obama was, "actively working in opposition to the constitution." I heard Laura Ingraham say that ACORN is a "criminal organisation." I heard Sean Hannity tell everyone that the health care bill is "a total lie and deception on the American people", that it's a Nazi policy, and that it will have death panels killing people off to save the government money. They defended the right to torture. They encouraged listeners to rise up in creative ways in opposition to the government. They said that Obama has a "deep seeded hatred for white people."

But the king of them all is Rush Limbaugh. His show is the highest-rated talk radio show in the US, with over 15 million listeners a week, followed by Sean Hannity, followed by Glenn Beck. During the primaries last year, Rush announced "Operation Chaos", and encouraged his listeners to switch to the democratic party and vote for Hillary Clinton in an attempt to increase division in the party by keeping the primaries going all the way to convention. He later announced that he hopes Obama's presidency fails, and played a song on his show called "Barack the Magic Negro" to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon". His show is constantly attacking and distorting anything related to Obama or liberalism, and building them up as something to fear.

You know the old saying, "follow the money"? Another surprise for me was that the commercials for all these shows were gaining from fear. Their primary sponsor was selling gold, and the ads were spouted directly from the hosts themselves, while they talked about the national debt and inflation. Another common ad was for identity theft and credit protection. Another was selling home security systems. Every single ad that I heard was profiting from people being afraid of other people.

Is it such a surprise then that Congressmen meeting with constituents were shouted down and asked, "Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy, as Obama has?"

If you saw Hotel Rwanda, you heard the Interahamwe radio announcer constantly encouraging the killings. While they're not encouraging murders, and probably never will, the way Rush and Sean and Radio Rwanda communicate to listeners are almost identical: they abuse media power to incite hatred, their listeners are generally less educated, and their power comes from having an enemy.

To emphasize the point, the most recent phenomenon was a string of people bringing hand guns and semi-automatic rifles to protests where Obama was speaking. There is a quote from Thomas Jefferson that goes, "From time to time, the tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of tyrants and patriots." A man with a pistol strapped to his hip held a sign that read, "Now is the time to water the tree of liberty." These people were then hailed by the conservatives as patriots exercising their constitutional rights.

I had to search deep to decide whether there was any credence to the revolutionary ideology being encouraged. My conclusion was: absolutely not. Any perception of totalitarianism only came from half-truths or outright lies. Assuming that these radio hosts are mildly intelligent, I've come to the conclusion that they have essentially intentionally manufactured a crisis for three reasons: money, power, and ego.

In pilgrims' notes from visiting Shoghi Effendi, Ramona Brown noted,
"Americans are exposed to great dangers. Today the power of America is in the hands of the masses. There is a terrific power in the press and the people are swayed by it."

Glenn Beck's 9/12 project was supposed to culminate on September 12th, which is tomorrow. He and tens of thousands of listeners are going to converge on Washington DC, the day after the anniversary of the attacks, and protest against taxes, government, socialism, and the perception that Obama is a fascist who wants to take all their guns away and implement an Orwellian government. At least one of my coworkers will be there. They will continue the protest until Monday, because otherwise nobody will be at work to watch them protest.

The situation will only worsen. The US political system is intentionally divisive. It relies fundamentally on competition and cannot heal its rifts within its constitution. The rise of an angry and emboldened right, convinced by daily rants on the evils of government, will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. They want something to fight against.

The issues with the conservative right are only symptoms of more fundamental problems in society. The system of government needs drastic reforms that can't be accomplished from within. America will need shock medicine to purge it of a distaste for cooperation. It is the excesses of liberty and civilization, and institutionalized partisanship that are causing animosity and aggressiveness.

I believe the world will be united and balanced someday. The absence of a world government is the root of many of society's problems today, and just as a storm will continue until the imbalance that created it is corrected, society will continue to suffer and churn until its institutions and morals are corrected and aligned with God's plan for humanity today.

We live in such an interesting world.

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