Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Return of the Terror Babies!!!

(Terror babies among us! Stare into the eyes of a hardened killer.)

You thought that no elected official could out-crazy and out-bigot Texas' Debbie Riddle (as "Terror Babies Comin' for White Wimmin!") but Texas' own Louis Gohmert was up to the challenge! Unfortunately for him, so was Anderson Cooper. This really is a performance for the ages:

On the one hand, it's sorta funny, but on the other, it's really pretty disturbing. This man is actually a U.S. Congressman. This doesn't seem like just an act. And while Gohmert has said some crazy things in the past, this is the ugliest incident I know of from him. It should be career-ending or career-imperiling, but probably won't be in Texas and in the GOP. While Congress has some real nutjobs (James Inhofe), Gohmert seems to go beyond demagoguery here, bad enough as that is. Maybe his performance is just a bullying tactic, and he's unused to being challenged. But near the end of the clip, I began to wonder if he was drunk or honestly needed psychiatric help.

Anderson Cooper was very impressive, almost laughing once, but keeping his cool and keeping focused otherwise. Cutting off someone like Gohmert has its merits, but I think Cooper was wise to let him just keep ranting, giving him enough rope to hang himself with.

This is the modern Republican Party – angry, hateful, bullying McCarthyites, but more dim-witted. (Plus a ton of plutocrats.)

The Daily Show also tackled this general subject, although I hope they cover Gohmert as well later:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Meanwhile, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan started this past Wednesday, and as did Bush before him, Obama made a speech celebrating it. Obama's was quite good, and focused on religious freedom, including the building of the Cordoba House/Park 51 in Manhattan (what the far right is calling the "Ground Zero Mosque.") Predictably, Obama pointing out that "our nation is strengthened by millions of Muslim Americans" has led neocon zealots like Commentary's Jennifer Rubin to attack Obama as un-American. Never mind that religious freedom and the First Amendment is one of the defining characteristics of America. As Digby notes, after quoting Bush's last Ramadan speech, "it's a sad comment on this country that two years after Bush spoke those words and almost nine years after 9/11 that the president reaffirming religious tolerance is suddenly considered controversial."

Digby also asks, why now? I wonder, too. On the one hand, it's not as if it's been absent. Bigotry, fear and ignorance played significant, toxic roles in many of the abuses of the Bush administration since 9/11, from selling the war in Iraq, to the incompetence of running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the torture, abuse, murder or indefinite detention of prisoners, to the massive ramp-up of the surveillance state, to the presidential elections of 2004 and 2008. Right-wingers have been raging bigots and Islamophobes since 9/11 if not before, and the theocrats have declared holy war all during that time. However, the dynamics have changed. I used the photo above in a post called "Lock Up the Womenfolk, the Muslims are Comin'!" way back in April 2007, when a right-wing group was trying to chart and spy on all the mosques in the United States. Back then, bigotry, paranoia and demagoguery that extreme were more fringe. Now, as The Daily Show segment shows, outright bigotry is more widespread. Religious conservative Bryan Fischer of the "American Family Association" has called for a national ban on building any more mosques at all. Add in the immigration mania in Arizona, and it's not a pretty picture. The "terror baby" plot helpfully combines fear of Mexicans with fear of Muslims for them. I'm concerned about where this is going.

And why is it happening now? Granted, the bigotry tours of Newt Gingrich and his ilk is repulsive opportunism, not true paranoia. But people are shitting their pants almost nine years after 9/11 – and despite public opposition to staying in Afghanistan and Iraq? Why now? The most obvious reasons are that a black man was elected president, and a democrat no less. Many conservatives think Obama, who's openly and sometimes unabashedly Christian, is really a secret Muslim. And economic woes always bring out the craziness, fear and spite. I think for the far right, they've just been unleashed. But others are increasingly following their cue. Mainstream conservatives continue to stoke the flames – Palin has been stirring up paranoia and spite since 2008, and is far from alone, but now more conservatives are doing this. And the entire congressional GOP is obstructing economic recovery, screwing over the entire country for what they believe will be political gain. Sadly, our press corps is so lousy they may be right.

Still, while the far right and conservative leaders continue to be major problems, I'm most concerned about the Americans in the middle, the supposed moderates. As Americans, we should all know better. Religious freedom is a bedrock value in America. Joe McCarthy's paranoia campaign is not a secret. And the dishonest campaign to go to war, and its horrible results, are recent memory. The attacks on mosques and a Muslim cultural center in Manhattan, on religious freedom itself, is the same mentality of torture proponents – we're not safe because we haven't been savage and intolerant enough. It's completely wrong, antithetical to American values, nihilistic and suicidal – we simply can't protect our "civilization" from others by destroying it ourselves.


driouxcipher said...

I'm kind of in love with the phrase "Terror Babies"! It's so ludicrous, and they all (Gohmert,et all) say it with such earnestness. It would be comedy gold if it weren't actual and stupid.

Anonymous said...

I don't find the right-wing's anti-islamism anywhere near as frightening as the "left-wing's" (actually very right-wing)anti-semitism. These people are extremely violent, they have a total contempt for democracy and the rule of law, and are openly calling for the violent elimination of all Jews. As a leftist progressive I find them infinitely more repugnant than the Tea Party.

Porlock Junior said...

Joe Mcarthy? A trifler, an amateur, operating in a calm, decent, rational America that was aware of its traditions. To some extent. Not that I thought so at the time, but what does a kid know, anyway? Not that I thought so 10 years ago, either.

But 9/11 changed everything. Much more truth in that than we knew or wanted to admit.

Well, actually, the first really significant appearance of Fascist thugs on the scene was before that, in November of 2000 when they were imported to intimidate the people trying to get a honest counting of votes. The mob of nice well-dressed young Republican enforcers just had that smell, you know?

Put my reaction down to geezerhood, ok, that's justified against anybody who saw McCarthy live on TV. Just, please, remind me of the 1950s teabaggers and the entire network devoted to hysterical ravings taken as Serious Discourse by its competitors. Then I'll feel better.