Saturday, December 29, 2012

Political violence and apocalyptic thinking

Fernando Garea, Rubalcaba acusa a Rajoy: "El país se le está yendo de las manos" El País 26.09.2012

The examples of violent political groups just kept on coming in 2012. This week, a group of soldiers were in court in Georgia on a murder case in which the motive is alleged to be keeping the violent plans of their militia group secret. (See: Russ Bynum in U.S. Prosecutor: Ga. Murder Case Uncovers Terror Plot 08/27/2012; John Cook, Leader of Army Plot to Assassinate Obama Apparently Attended the 2008 Republican Convention as a Page Gawker 08/27/2012; Jim White, Deadly Isaac Was at 2008 Republican Convention emptywheel 08/28/2012; John Hudson, Soldiers in Anti-Obama Plot Wanted to 'Give the Government Back to the People' Atlantic Wire 08/28/2012. A Reuters report called one of suspects, Isaac Aguigui as the funder of "the anarchist militia FEAR, or Forever Enduring Always Ready." (Jonathan Kaminsky and David Beasley, Soldier accused of leading militia plot was suspect in wife's death 08/30/2012)

They sound like a nasty group of fanatics. They supposedly have tattoos that looks like an anarchist symbol, whatever that means. But it would be interesting in its own right to know. It's possible that someone would go from McCain/Palin in 2008 to Bakunin/Kropotkin in 2012. But seems more likely this group were rightwing kooks. Murderous ones.

The current political environment is a bizarre one for any kind of discussion of violence in politics. Fans of the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America routinely say that everyone needs guns to protect us from, among other things, government tyranny. The NRA's board of directors includes washed-up rocker Ted Nugent, who has distinguished (?) himself by suggesting in public that assassinating the current President might be a good idea. It also includes Christian Right favorite and Iran-Contra bagman Oliver North; Larry "wide stance" Craig; professional militarist John Bolton; actor blowhards Chuck Norris and Tom Selleck; Ken Blackwell of the dubious Ohio voting machines; former anti-Clinton Congressman Bob Barr who "pal'ed around" with white supremacists; and, Roy Innis, chairman of the present-day Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The NRA's own biography page on Innis includes this:

Under Innis, CORE has instead advocated for economic competition with whites while stating that "integration as an end in itself is as dead as a doornail." In the words of Mother Jones, "CORE is [now] better known among real civil rights groups for renting out its historic name to any corporation in need of a black front person. The group has taken money from the payday-lending industry, chemical giant (and original DDT manufacturer) Monsanto, and ExxonMobil."
To the NRA, the Mother Jones piece evidently sounds like praise. The article they cite is Tea Partiers' Next Target: The Climate Bill by Stephanie Mencimer 11/10/2009.

So, in addition to Nugent, the NRA's board indludes Oliver North, who became internationally famous for selling US weapons to the Islamic Republic of Iran and using the proceeds to fund a brutal bunch of anti-democracy terrorists in Nicaragua, the Contras. And John Bolton, who may be more of a Cheney-style nationalist/militarist than a neoconservative, but he sure loves war and the threat of war as a routine tool of American foreign policy.

The NRA is treated with active reverence by the Republicans and more passive reverence by the Democrats. So it's safe to say that the vague, 30,000-ft. level declarations by rightwing gun nuts about the need to have guns to defend against some hypothetical gubment tyranny is more-or-less perfectly respectable.

Now, when African-American rap musician and long-time Law and Order SVU star Ice-T took the same position, Rush Limbaugh sneered at him. "The right to bear arms is because that’s the last form of defense against tyranny", Ice-T said on British TV. And he said it was "Not to hunt. It’s to protect yourself from the police." (Patrick Gavin, Ice-T: Guns are 'last form of defense' Politico 07/23/2012)

Surely it couldn't be that "Second Amendment" conservatives are jumpy about an African-American agreeing with their abstract arguments about guns?

But even the NRA 20 years ago was upset that Ice-T did a song whose lyrics sure seemed to agree with their position. As Gavin reports:

Ice-T (real name: Tracy Marrow), who calls himself the "Godfather of Gangsta Rap," has a career sprinkled with gun talk. He came under fire (pardon the pun) for his 1992 song "Cop Killer," about a criminal getting revenge on racist cops. The National Rifle Association and police activist groups protested against the album on which it appeared, "Body Count."
In point of fact, in every state, so far as I'm aware, people have some kind of legal right to defend themselves from immanent bodily harm with deadly force. They would apply to people defending themselves against police if the cops were acting illegally. In practice, there would be a heavy assumption by other cops, the courts and most juries in favor of the cop and against the defender.

But when NRA gun enthusiasts talk about using guns to defend against tyranny, it makes no sense unless these big talkers were ready and able to use their guns against cops and soldiers and federal agents, because presumably any American tyranny would employ cops and soldiers and federal agents to exercise said tyranny.

As the negative conservative reaction to Ice-T's comment shows, the blowhard talk about defending against tyranny is mostly just that, blowhard talk. But it's blowhard talk, backup up by high-powered lobbying against restrictions of firearms and ammunition and mixed with various paranoid conspiracy theories and lies ("Obama's planning to confiscate your guns!"), that creates an environment where some of these Bubbas organize themselves to kill people. Which is apparently what happened in the case of yet another group prosecuted in Florida, as reported by the AP's Russ Bynum in U.S. Prosecutor: Ga. Murder Case Uncovers Terror Plot 08/27/2012.

Chip Berlet has some important observations on politics, religion and violence in Violence, Demonization, and Apocalyptic Aggression Talk to Action 08/22/2012.

Most mainstream media discussions about the recent wave of violent attacks dismiss the idea that political, cultural, or economic hierarchies and tensions, when coupled to the demonization of an "Other," can encourage violence. When the Right demonizes the Left and the Left Demonizes the Right, sometimes an individual or group decides to take action to stop the evildoers before it is too late.

This type of apocalyptic aggression can be carried out by people who are legally sane or insane; and whose political ideas come from the Left or Right or somewhere outside of rational thought.

I oppose acts of violence or terrorism to achieve political goals. My analysis of vilification, demonization, and apocalyptic rhetoric in the United States today, however, compels me to conclude that it comes overwhelmingly from the Right, especially apocalyptic rhetoric from the Christian Right. Nevertheless, we need to pay more attention to the linkages of demonization, apocalyptic aggression, and violence, no matter what part of the political spectrum employs this dynamic ... wittingly or unwittingly. [my emphasis]
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