07 March 2010

The terrorist specter -- thuggery and treason

At some point in the last few weeks, it became clear to me that the greatest threats of violence and terrorism against our country now come from within. Foreign jihadists have not struck at our land since September 11; whatever the reasons are for this, those reasons will likely continue to operate. Internally, however, it's now clear that the American people's verdict in the elections of 2006 and 2008 have prodded awake some frightening demons which we thought we had put to sleep forever a decade ago.

There was the Tiller murder; there was the Austin attack, imitating (intentionally?) the method of September 11, though on a smaller scale; now there has been the Pentagon shooting. Much worse, I'm now convinced, is coming.

For starters, check out "Repent Amarillo" (more here), a Christian self-styled "army" infesting that north Texas city, whose agenda can be summed up in a line from my most recent video of the week: "Kick the shit out of people who are not like you". In this case, such people are gays, pagans, abortion-rights supporters, people who have sex outside marriage, those who like "demonic" music, and anyone else whose beliefs, behavior, or tastes do not conform to the barbaric taboos of the Bible.

These thugs are not exactly terrorists, although the harassment they have been inflicting on citizens of Amarillo is shocking. They are more analogous to the Brownshirts or the Saudi religious police. Their mission is to suppress all activity and expression that deviates from a particular ideology; in this case the ideology is Christianity rather than Nazism or Islam, but the principle is the same.

(One wonders why the good people of Amarillo put up with this. What happened to that Texas spirit of armed disdain for bossy busybodies?)

Next, we have the "Oath Keepers" (found via here), a movement dedicated to spreading sedition within the US military, although it's not clear to me how many of its supporters are actually current military personnel. It seems part of the Orwellian character of the far right to declare itself to be the opposite of what it is actually doing; just as whole herds of haters and bigots call themselves "patriots" while displaying that symbol of the vilest treason against the United States, the Confederate flag, so the "Oath Keepers" con-stantly invoke the Constitution while denying the legitimacy of the government duly elected by the American people in accordance with the procedures mandated by that very same Constitution. They wallow in fantasies about martial law and mass arrests and shootings of Americans, in which they would emerge as heroes of resistance -- visions that seem to be more rooted in video-game scenarios than the real world.

To be fair, far-rightists are not the only people who do this. During the Bush administration there were some people on the left who called Bush a "fascist" and imagined that he would contrive some pretext to cancel the 2008 election and continue in power as an open dictator. I recall having several exasperating arguments with such delusionals.

But those people were not stockpiling weapons and wallowing in lurid fantasies of violent "resistance". At worst, a few implausibly threatened to emigrate if Bush were re-elected in 2004.

It's hard to avoid a feeling that, for groups like the re-emerging "militia" far right, the gun fetish and violent fantasies are the main point; the details of the persecution complex, which forms the pretext for these things, are incidental. If bogus "questions" about Obama's birth certificate weren't available, there would be some other pretext for declaring the government to be illegitimate and casting it in the role of the video-game monster against which to deploy all those cool things that go boom.

Of course Obama is not going to declare martial law and put people in camps, but that doesn't mean the seditionists aren't a potential threat. If they look hard enough for a reason to fight, they will find it, whether it's really there or not.

What's really going on here? In my personal opinion, what we're seeing is a growing and violent panic at what are fundamentally cultural changes. Over the last half-century, white supremacy, male dominance, and above all Christianity with its toxic stew of bigotry and taboos, have slowly but steadily been displaced from their former position as defining traits of our society. Blacks, women, and more recently also gays and atheists have demanded to be recognized as equal citizens with equal rights; instead of the married-with-kids model being the only option for everyone, a broad range of lifestyles is increasingly accepted as the norm; the promise of a pluralistic society is being fulfilled. To people who were more comfortable to the old culture built on lies and silence and intimidation, these changes feel profoundly disturbing, even threatening; and the eviction of conservatives from political power in 2008 was the last straw.

Mix those feelings with a gun-fetishizing subculture and a religious ideology which believes it is the only path for everyone and has the right to dictate how everyone should live, and you're going to see an explosion.

We're going to see an explosion.

The bright side is that the width of the gulf, or rather spectrum, separating rational conservatives from the armed crazies and their inciters is now so vast that a total breach seems inevitable. It's true that there are crackpots out there (even a Congressman or two) arguing that the terrorists and crazies have some sort of legitimate point, but I'm seeing more mainstream conservatives aggresively trying to disown them. Our society is healthy enough to beat this infection. But I think there will be more violence -- on the scale of Oklahoma City or worse -- before it finally does.


Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

This was interesting for me to read this morning, kind of weird that I knew NOTHING of this, and live in North Dallas at that. But all this over some couple's swinging? Isnt that a bit much? Amarillo is one of them small cities you just never hear about much, stuck up in the panhandle, and would be easier to pick on them folk's, however .... actually visiting Houston and whining over the new Mayor is a lil suprising to me. The question is (this may sound dumb, which I am on "some" thing's) what would you see as a worthy approach to retalite against this type of movement, if say you lived in Texas? Just curious .... I mean .... it hasnt hit Dallas "YET" but if their homebased or just hangin out in Texas .... rest assured .... Dallas has quite a bit of so called "sin", they must be drooling thinking about this town. How can a local here try to convince a god fearing person (not a xtian fanatic, but just a believer) that these who call themselves disciple's or warrior's sent by Jesus for instance, that these folk's are a big threat to our region?

Your opinion is appreciated
Thank You Sir .....

07 March, 2010 07:16  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Another thing I am curious about is .... wouldnt or could some of this fall into some kind of "hate crime" federal law category? This is a form of harassment based on "religion" .... is it not? I mean .... I must be missing something here .... and am not real updated on federal law's on this type of ordeal. I do know that if these white seperatist's do similar they are attacked in a heartbeat by fed's .... what would exempt these type's?

This really suck's is what I am thinking .... of course you live in Oregon, so you dont have to worry much, but I think it's safe to say Texan's do. It's common to have someone on the street corner handing out Jesus pamphlet's or such with a smile .... but it's not common to get approached by a militia, is what I am saying ... or having them camp out at your home or business.

07 March, 2010 07:37  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

RC: I don't know about hate-crime laws, but some of the "Repent Amarillo" thugs' behavior certainly violates laws against harassment by any reasonable interpretation. I think the problem is that their most abusive harassment has been aimed at people engaged in extra-marital sex, who tend to prefer to keep it quiet and thus avoid the publicity which forceful legal retaliation would bring.

Stuff like shutting down activities by invoking technicalities about permits is legal, even though it's an abuse of the law. My guess is that there are people in the local police and judicial establishment who sympathize with these goons and go along with their tactics.

As for what to do about it, I'd say people in Amarillo need to get organized and seek legal advice about how to push back. That's what I'd be doing if it were happening here. I suspect it will happen there. The different target groups need to join forces. Swingers and pagans don't have much experience in organizing to fight back against sustained campaigns of harassment -- but gays do. There are gay national groups that could provide help. There's experience with this kind of thing out there, if people are smart enough to tap into it.

07 March, 2010 08:08  
Blogger tnlib said...

There are some groups organizing to fight the Repenters, but they've just begun. I didn't mention them because of space and because they have so far been ineffective. Plus I really wanted to focus entirely on this nut group.

I think it goes beyond "taking the law into your own hands" and can grow into domestic terrorism if allowed to continue.

07 March, 2010 08:35  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Thank You for your response on this Sir. Even though Amarillo is over 350 miles north of Dallas ... it still concern's me. Texas is a spread out state, being that cities such as Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, Austin are a culture a tad different than what you find in rural Texas cities, I've been all over the state, it is large in land .... and some small town's are almost out of complete touch with mainstream Texas in a way. I know that Amarillo does have gay/ lesbian bar's, and scene for instance, but very small (only a quarter million in the ENTIRE metro area population, compared to say DFW area's 6.5 million or so), I am not sure how strong of a defense they would have against a gang ( I say gang, because that is all the Hell they are .... warrior's of God my ass, just thug's) like this, I feel like other Texan's as well should get involved in some of these area's to assist. I almost feel that this is another reason for Texan's to ... well ... stockpile ammo/ gun's in a way, what if we have to battle, here or anywhere's else in America? .... I mean .... say ... you became a target (and my heart sincerly goes out to them adult's in the video who are targeted, saying they dont know if their car will start or blow up for instance) .... and due to response time of 911 .... your back was against the wall, and these folk's came on your property, I dont know what else to do but try to defend yourself and shoot it out, if necessary .... but that's just me ... I wouldnt know what else to do? I am going to assume that also as you said .... they have support within local gvmnt as well as law enforcement too, never put that past any of these. But thanx again .... because I am going to try to learn a lil more about what in Hell is going on here since the local Dallas news I havent heard this in, perhap's I just missed it .... I havent been reading the paper's as much these day's, and just catching news on radio in the car or public transit earphones, or CNN, etc online. I do know that these MF's arent going to go with out a fight if they continue. I aint against folk's preachin, known christian folk all my life ... just not these particular type's. But many of us (even believer's) dont like it at our doorstep is all, that's what goddamn churches are for .... to keep it there, and your own home is all.

Actually I'm fixin to drive up to Wichita Falls(TX) (work/ Business)toward's Amarillo, in a couple hour's, about 120+ miles northwest of Dallas .... same direction .... just Amarillo is about 360 miles or so I reckon.

Later Guy ...........

07 March, 2010 09:06  
Blogger Holte Ender said...

Fundamentalist foot soldier of all stripes have one thing in common, ignorance.

From the American perspective, the apocalyptic view of the world they hold is unwavering and some sort of confrontation is becoming inevitable. Which ever side the media takes will decide the outcome.

07 March, 2010 09:16  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

TNLib: Glad to hear people are fighting back. That's the spirit!

RC: I almost feel that this is another reason for Texan's to ... well ... stockpile ammo/ gun's in a way, what if we have to battle, here or anywhere's else in America?

Well, there's that too. Legal channels don't always work with this kind of thing. The "experience in organizing to fight back" to which I referred also includes Stonewall and White Night. I'm not a Christian and I don't believe in the "turn the other cheek" crap. If these Bible-waving bigots keep tormenting people, some of them need to be put in the hospital. Or the cemetery.

HE: The apocalyptic world-view makes a peaceful resolution very difficult. People who consider you a political opponent may be willing to reason and negotiate with you, but when they consider you a servant of Satan.....

I think that in the internet age the conventional media have lost much of their ability to shape perceptions and outcomes, though -- certainly since Rathergate. Now, everyone is the media.

07 March, 2010 10:09  
Blogger Grung_e_Gene said...

Conservatives have embraced Terrorism to achieve their political goals. The use and threat of violence to effect political change.

Conservatives are Terrorists.

07 March, 2010 13:21  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

GG: Well, not all of them. Elected officials ought to know better, though.

07 March, 2010 14:40  
Blogger TomCat said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In small demonstrations against the war in the mid 1960, where there were only a few of us on a street corner, it was quite common for s to be physically attacked by passers by. Might does not make right. But the right are too devolved to understand that.

08 March, 2010 08:31  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

And things seem to be escalating steadily.....

08 March, 2010 15:26  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

VF: This is true, and it's a concern -- not only on the far right even, but the internet allows many kinds of groups of like-minded people to interact mostly among themselves and hear only ideas that they agree with.

But I think this has always been true to an extent. There have always been fringe elements with their own newsletters and social groups. Thugs and criminals with ideological pretentions have always had fans (Bonnie and Clyde did.) Part of what's different now is that it's more visible to the mainstream society, since anyone can see almost anything that's on the internet.

By far the worst outbreak of extreme-right violence and treason happened long before the internet -- in 1861-1865, in fact.

And pluralistic societies like mainstream America seem better at exploiting technology like the internet and other modern communication tools than insular, frightened monocultures do. The technology offers new avenues for the FBI and other law-enforcement groups to infiltrate, undermine, and break up potential terrorist groups.

09 March, 2010 03:11  
Blogger magpie said...

If I can have a small rant and focus on one particular facet...

I totally agree with you about the cultural shifts and you sum it up far better than I could... but there wouldn't be this specter of treason and atrocity if it were not for the racism that festers at the core of the Right wing, and slithers around every stupid word they say.

Had Hillary Clinton won the primaries and the election and was doing everything Obama is doing right now, and saying all the same things... would there still be this much of a shadow.
I doubt it.

The other month my brother in law went on a business conference in Belgium and met some people from the American branches of his company, who blithely said:
"Y'know we can't really be all that cool with having a black family in the White House".

My brother in law opened and closed his mouth several times and then decided to keep the conversation work-related.
He has more self-control than me.

As Bill Maher said the other week "they have been itching to say this word that starts with N and ends with R".
Only their self-serving instinct for personal political survival stops them from screaming it.

Except when they think they are talking to a disinterested Aussie in Belgium.

09 March, 2010 04:29  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Magpie: It's actually the common opinion on the left here that racism is the primary (if unacknoweldged) driver of the apparently hysterical opposition to Obama and the Democratic agenda. I disagree. Racism is certainly there, and sometimes blatantly manifests itself, but I don't think it's the main problem. The main problem really is religious fundamentalism.

I'm quite certain you're mistaken, for example, about how they would be reacting if Hillary had become President. I think it would be pretty much the same as what they're directing against Obama. Before Obama emerged as a big force in the Democratic primaries, when Hillary was the most prominent personality on the left, she was demonized in similar ways to how Obama now is -- and remember, this was when even the prospect of her becoming President was a hazy possibility a couple of years in the future. If she actually were President, it would be worse.

It's hard to see how "Repent Amarillo" has anything to do with racism -- it sounds more like Dominion Theology in action. The "Oath Keepers" actually reject racist elements.

The basic problem here is one I've written about before: The American left is overwhelmingly secular and has a lot of trouble understanding religion and the religious mentality. Confronted with a religious phenomenon, it tries to re-interpret that phenomenon in terms of something else which is more familiar -- taking religion not as the actual motivator but as a cover for something else.

This is why, for example, most American leftists don't understand Islamic terrorism -- they think in terms of historic grievances, colonialism, Israel, and so forth, and can't grasp or can't believe that the real roots of the problem lie in Islamic religious doctrines (as the American atheist Sam Harris has pointed out, American fundamentalists ironically understand the jihadists better than American leftists do, because their ways of thinking are more similar). In the same way, leftists tend to re-interpret the Christian Right in terms of things like racism or economic factors, which are more familiar and which they're more comfortable talking about.

I think people from other Western countries, which lack any powerful home-grown equivalent to our Christian Right, tend to mis-interpret our political scene the same way, for the same reason.

Racism is certainly there, but if Obama were white, I think we'd still be seeing basically the same problem.

09 March, 2010 05:25  
Blogger magpie said...

I’ll defer to your opinion as to what really motivates your more unhinged citizenry, Infidel, even if I say that’s not how it looks to me. You’re a lot closer to it than I am, obviously. I was venting rather than analyzing.
Nonetheless I don’t see many images of Right wing militias that feature anything other than white Americans.

One of the things that fascinates and puzzles me most about extremist thinking in America is the hostility to government.
I really don't get that....

The notion that I need to be armed in case my government turns on me is just plain weird.

In the end they (the government) are people just like me - who also need to go home at night, check their bills, watch football and help their kids with their homework. What's in their interest is - broadly speaking - exactly the same as what's in mine.

Moreover if they piss me off with incompetence or misdirected policy they will answer for it at the ballot box.

Yet these militias act as if they were in an occupied state, and their government is exclusively made up of purple people-eaters from Mars.

10 March, 2010 04:36  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

The vast majority of non-white Americans favor the Democratic party, not because they're liberals necessarily, but because it is more aligned with their interests economically. Pretty much any far-right-wing gathering, of any stripe, would be made up almost entirely of white people. That doesn't mean that they would necessarily be motivated by racism, though.

Also, while I don't think racism is the main driving force on the far right, there's enough of it there to make most non-white people feel uncomfortable about showing up, even if they agreed with the other aims.

The suspicion of government probably has to do with the way this country became independent (a long, bloody war against Britain, which Australia and Canada didn't have), and the tradition of aggressive personal independence, which people treasure as part of their self-image even if it has considerably eroded in reality.

10 March, 2010 06:46  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Note: The comment by "VF" to which I responded above has been deleted at the poseter's request.

11 March, 2010 05:48  

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