President Obama’s most fevered critics have been waiting for a national “aha” moment since he was first inaugurated more than 50 months ago. Coming off an electoral landslide, Obama was instantly greeted by a mob-like movement on the far right that denounced him as a socialist and a communist. Excited conservatives quickly reached for Nazi rhetoric and imagery in an effort to convey the dark threat the Democrat posed to the country.
Amplified by Fox News and a well-funded right-wing media industry, the “grassroots” revolt was portrayed as a sweeping rebuke of Obama. But in truth, the raging critics occupied the loud fringes, a fact confirmed by Obama’s easy re-election.
Still, professional detractors have held out hope that at some point Americans would come to see Obama as they see Obama; as a monster of historic proportions who’s committed to stripping citizens of their liberties and getting them addicted to government dependencies, like a drug dealer.
This week’s House Oversight Committee hearing into the Sept. 11 terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was supposed to trigger that “aha” event. It was supposed to be The Day Americans Turned On Obama. Indeed, Obama wouldn’t be able to finish out his second term because the Benghazi revelations were going to be so damaging, Fox New’s Mike Huckabee told his radio listeners. And Sean Hannity warned ominously that, “This is going to be a really defining, important week in the Obama presidency, and it’s not going to be a good week.”
But none of that happened at the hearing. Instead of being the kind of “explosive” Watergate-style hearing that Fox talkers prayed for, Wednesday’s hearing sagged under the weight of stubborn facts, and didn’t even reach the level of Whitewater hearings, which under Bill Clinton established the modern-day mark for pointlessly partisan “scandal” hearings.
Not that it matters to the media players who produced the Benghazi hearings, though. Conservatives continue their Groundhog Day charade, reassuring themselves that the hearing was a hit and that scandal “bombshells” exploded on Capitol Hill. (They did not.)
The larger, common sense question that lingers though is, why? Why keep pounding a story so far into the ground that most news consumers can’t even make sense of the convoluted allegations anymore?
I think the explanation for the durability is that Benghazi serves as an all-purpose platform that allows the most hardened critics to project their anti-Obama madness. It allows them to spin their ugliest fantasies about the president and to depict him as a heartless traitor who chose to let Americans die at the hands of Islamic terrorists. It’s a way to condemn Obama for having a “reflexive impulse to blame, rather than defend, America.”
For the last eight months, Benghazi has served as a convenient vessel to ferry around the right wing’s Capt. Ahab-like obsession. Most often docked at Fox News, which has referenced “Benghazi” thousands and thousands and thousands of times since last September, the terror attack represents a way to feed that sinister fixation about the president being a Manchurian Candidate who let Americans die in Benghazi and “sacrificed American lives for politics.”
Benghazi mania is driven by a dark obsession with Obama that’s built upon the assumption that he’s capable of the very worst and incapable of anything good or decent. That the president of the United States does not deserve to sit in the Oval Office because his loyalties (not to mention his origins) are in doubt. Which is supposedly why he would abandon Americans to die in Benghazi.
Note some of the rhetoric this week, which portrayed Obama as unfit and un-American. From Fox News’ Todd Starnes:
“If Obama won’t protect four Americans under attack in Benghazi, what makes you think he’ll protect the rest of us?”
And from talk show host Mark Levin [emphasis added]:
It’s just unbelievable that our country didn’t come to the defense of these men. It makes me sick to my stomach. It’s not a natural reaction if you’re a red-blooded American. My God, send in the military! But no, we didn’t… What the hell kind of commander in chief is that? Let me go further, what kind of an American is that?
What kind of American is Obama if he won’t protect citizens under attack?
As Marc Ambinder at The Week noted, if you follow the premise of the Republican’s vast conspiracy that suggests the White House deliberately let people die in Benghazi because they feared the political fallout of a terror attack, you’d have to assume Obama “is simply and utterly evil.” Ambinder is right, and they do believe it.
Which is to say, Benghazi as it’s debated and presented today (and will be for months to come), isn’t just about Benghazi, or the four Americans who died in the attack or the dozens more injured. It’s about Obama and a blinding, uncontrollable anger that fuels his most dedicated foes, and their relentless, futile search for the American “aha” moment.
Two decades ago, radical Republicans waged an eight-year campaign against Bill Clinton because Republicans were convinced he was a crook and a scoundrel. We’re now past the halfway mark of another eight-year Republican war against a Democratic president. This one is fueled by the belief the president, as a person, is utterly beneath contempt. (It’s one reason Fox talkers so easily, and so crassly, invoke Obama’s children when launching political attacks.)
The Benghazi narrative gives the fevered swamp denizens a ready-made framework to project their fears and hatred onto Obama and to do it in the context of “news.” And that’s why, despite this week’s hearing which didn’t advance the story forward one inch, the Benghazi narrative isn’t going away anytime soon.
By: Eric Boehlert, The Blog, The Hufington Post, May 10, 2013
A former Marine, candidate for Congress, and self-defined libertarian radio talk-show host has sparked some controversy over a Facebook event gone viral. Adam Kokesh, host of Adam vs. The Man, created an event on Facebook entitled, “Open Carry March on Washington #OpenCarry130704” to promote an individual’s Second Amendment rights. In a July 4 march from Virginia to D.C., the participants will pass Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House—all while carrying their loaded guns.
According to the Facebook page, over 30,000 people have been invited, more than 1,500 have confirmed they will attend, and nearly 1,500 have declined — and the numbers are continuing to grow.
Virginia’s lenient gun laws grant protestors the right to publicly load their guns within state lines. Since Washington, D.C. has strict gun laws, law enforcement may be able to arrest any Open Carry March participants if they cross state lines with their loaded guns.
The description on Kokesh’s Facebook page states, “This is an act of civil disobedience, not a permitted event. We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny. We are marching to mark the high water mark of government & to turn the tide. This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.”
Kokesh said that the event website needed 10,000 supporters and at least 1,000 confirmed marchers by June 1st for the march to take place. This goal was met Monday afternoon, when Kokesh posted an update confirming that he’d reached the required number. “Now that it’s undeniable that this is going to happen, allow me to make clear how. There will be coordination with DC law enforcement prior to the event,” he wrote. “Failing to provide that commitment to safety, we will either be informed that we will only be allowed up to a certain point where we would be arrested. If this is the case, we will approach that point as a group and if necessary, I will procede [sic] to volunteer myself to determine what their actual course of action with someone crossing the line will be at which point fellow marchers will have the choice of joining me one at a time in a peaceful, orderly manner, or turning back to the National Cemetery.”
Kokesh is a former Marine who received a general discharge, one step below an honorable discharge, after wearing his uniform to an anti-war protest. His radio talk show on Russia Today, a Russian-sponsored network that is critical of American policies, was canceled after he supported and fundraised for Representative Ron Paul’s (R-TX) presidential campaign. Kokesh stands for anti-government policies and his past run-ins with authorities show he is not afraid to make a statement for the sake of his political cause—in fact, two of his latest tweets include: “It’s time to abolish the US federal government,” and “When the government comes to take your guns, you can shoot government agents, or submit to slavery.”
There is no doubt that Kokesh’s views have become a bit extreme and radical—marching across Washington D.C. militia-style is just one way his ideology is sadly rubbing off on right-wing gun nuts across the country who relentlessly believe the government is trying to take away their guns. It is still uncertain if Kokesh will actually go through with the march, or if the event will achieve what he hopes. After all, arguing to uphold one law he enjoys by breaking another and triggering arrest wouldn’t make him a hero or patriot — it would make him a criminal.
By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, May 6, 2013
Out-of-control federal government. An immediate and immense Muslim threat. Gun grabbing, national registries and eventual mass confiscations. Tyranny.
The politics of the political right have become the politics of paranoia.
According to too many of them, the country is collapsing, and the government is not to be trusted. The circle of safety is contracting. You must arm yourselves to defend your own.
It is no wonder, then, that in this environment, a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday found that while 47 percent of Americans were angry or disappointed that new gun control legislation in the Senate (including the enormously popular background-checks provision) had failed to pass, 39 percent were very happy or relieved. Fifty-one percent of Republicans had those sentiments, compared with 22 percent of Democrats.
This underscores just how frightened of the government far-right Republicans are.
A Quinnipiac University poll this month found that 91 percent of Americans (including 88 percent of Republicans) said that they supported background checks for all gun buyers. But that same poll found that 61 percent of Republicans worried that if there were background checks for all gun purchases, the government would use that information in the future to confiscate legally owned guns.
Furthermore, a January Pew Research Center report found that for the first time since the question was asked in 1995, most Americans now believe that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.
According to the report:
“The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans. Currently 76 percent of conservative Republicans say that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms and 54 percent describe the government as a ‘major’ threat.”
The report continued:
“By comparison, there has been little change in opinions among Democrats; 38 percent say the government poses a threat to personal rights and freedoms and just 16 percent view it as a major threat.”
Incidentally, 62 percent of those who had a gun in their home thought the government posed a threat, as opposed to 45 percent of those without a gun in the home.
In January, the right-wing Web site World Net Daily, writing about a poll the site conducted with the consulting firm Wenzel Strategies, bemoaned:
“The seeds of a tyrannical government are present in the United States, with a citizenry happy with a heavily armed law enforcement presence and a disbelief that their government could do anything that would make them want to revolt, according to a new poll.” The poll revealed “widespread belief” that the Second Amendment “really is for self-protection and hunting, not for ‘fighting back against a tyrannical government.’”
Fritz Wenzel of the consulting firm is quoted as saying that the poll’s finding “demonstrates the downside of more than 230 years of government stability. This survey shows it is hard for many Americans to think of a situation in which their government would need to be overthrown. Of course, the last time there was a serious fight for the future of the federal government, in the Civil War, Washington won.”
And that’s just the tip of it. Last month, Glenn Beck described the makeup of what he believed was the coming “New World Order.” It did not bode well for America.
“I think you might even have some Nazi influence in the United States, unfortunately, because we’ve had it before. And it will happen there and there, I think,” Beck said, placing dots over the Northwest and the Northeast on a map.
Discussing the Muslim Brotherhood’s “influence,” Beck said:
“I think there’s going to be a slight influence in South America and Mexico and in the United States. I think it is going to be more significant than anyone imagines, and I believe that you are also then going to be co-ruled by a thug-ocracy of this part of the world. And I think it’s going to be, at least in our case, I think it’s going to be China. China will be the balance of our power. They will use Muslim, um, Islam as the real enforcers that they will then help us and whoever is in power in our country. We will be ruled by an American, but it will be a technocrat that will answer to China. And, they will stomp things out and use Islam as much as they have to, to get rid of anyone who’s standing up, I think.”
And Beck delivered this prattle in a suit jacket, not a straitjacket.
This is the constant stream of desperate drivel that has fostered a climate of fear on the far right that makes common-sense consensus nearly impossible.
By: Charles M. Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 24, 2013
Prefacing his comments by insisting he knows “how foreign affairs work,” Glenn Beck on April 18 announced that his website, The Blaze, was breaking news about the Boston Marathon bombing: A Saudi national student on a student visa and was “absolutely involved” in the Patriot’s Day blast was being deported by the U.S. government for security reasons.
Beck went further, claiming the student, or “dirt bag,” as the host described him, was “possibly the ringleader” in the bombing that killed three people and injured more than one hundred, and the government was deliberately covering it up.
Beck urged listeners to spread the breaking news via Twitter and Facebook because, he warned, the mainstream media would ignore the revelation. But the right-wing media would pick up the slack. Fox News’ Sean Hannity helped launch the story on April 17 and continued to fan it yesterday, claiming the student had previously “been involved with a terrorist or terror activity,” while a swarm of right-wing sites pushed the paranoid tale.
By making his wild allegations, Beck was asking listeners to ignore the fact that law enforcement officials had previously, and repeatedly, denied earlier right-wing media claims that the Saudi student had been taken into “custody,” or was in any way responsible for the blast.
Indeed, officials at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security both soundly denied the story, explaining that there were two different Saudi nationals: one recovering in a Boston hospital who had witnessed and been injured in the explosions but was not a suspect, and another in ICE custody who was unrelated to the bombing investigation. Beck responded by calling for President Obama to be impeached for what he considered the sprawling government cover-up that now surrounded the student, Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda.
So yeah, it was that kind of week for the right-wing media. It was a debacle.
In the same week that Pulitzer prizes were announced honoring the finest in American journalism, many in the far-right media worked to set news standards in mindless, awful behavior in the wake of the Boston attack.
Faced with covering the most important American terror news story in a decade, too many players opted to just make stuff up. Prompting witch hunts, they cast innocents as would-be killers and then couldn’t be bothered with apologies.
It was a memorable week in which the conservative media’s highest profile newspaper, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, seemed committed to getting as many stories wrong about the Boston attack as possible.
The hapless Post somehow managed to completely botch the simplest Journalism 101 fact of how many people were killed in the Patriot’s Day attack. But hey, according to beleaguered Post editor Col Allan the Post tried its best and that’s all that really matters. (It would’ve taken a “crystal ball” to get the story right, Allan now complains.) So no, there doesn’t appear to be much introspection unfolding inside Murdoch’s daily; a big-city tabloid that managed to get wrong, for days, a breaking crime story.
Yes, CNN this week was forced to concede mistakes when it reported sources had informed the news channel that arrests had been made in the case. But CNN quickly, and publicly, corrected the errors. Those unfortunate miscues happen when reporters let a be-first mindset trump the more important be-right standard. What we saw from portions of the far-right press this week however, was completely different; they almost couldn’t have gotten more stories if they had tried.
Of course Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham used the terror attacks to push her partisan agenda about immigration reform. (This, before she knew anything about the suspects.) Of course chronic Obama critics like Fox News host Oliver North attacked the president for traveling to Boston to attend a prayer service for the terror victims; to try to help comfort the rattled city. And of course Fox News couldn’t wait more than five minutes after that prayer service concluded before inviting Stephen Hayes on to criticize Obama for how he’d handled the issue of gun legislation.
That’s what anti-Obama programming looks like and Fox News saw little reason to alter that chronically caustic approach this week.
What was truly stunning though, as highlighted by irresponsible rants about the Saudi student, was the aggressive push by key conservative media players to simply concoct stories about the breaking news event.
Back to Beck:
I believe this is possibly the ringleader, this guy is absolutely involved, and we are flying this dirt bag out of the country because he has connections and we are covering up.
Keep in mind, this was after unethical right-wing bloggers had already harassed the Saudi bombing victim online, publishing his name, home address, and what they claimed were Facebook pictures of the 20-year-old Saudi national student. The same student police had cleared of any implication in the blast. (His only crime this week appeared to be his Saudi origin.)
And who led the early crusade against the bomb victim? Murdoch’s New York Post, which erroneously reported he was a “suspect” who had been taken “into custody.”
The same Post, of course, which then made headlines by irresponsibly splashing on its front page a photo of two local men at the marathon finish line, one a high school runner, and putting them under the headline “Bag Men,” strongly suggesting they were involved with the terror attack. They were not. But that didn’t stop ethically-challenged blogger Jim Hoft from referring to them six times in one report as “suspects” in the deadly blast.
“Grossly irresponsible” and “egregious” were some of the descriptions media pro’s used to explain the Post’s shocking performance this week. As one journalism professor told Media Matters, “It does appear that the Post, there is something crazy going on there.”
Trust me, it’s not just the Post.
By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, April 19, 2013
“The Crazies Just Get Crazier”: Bring Me Your Angry, Your Paranoid, Your Masses Huddled In Their Bunkers…
Independence is the new media thing. Andrew Sullivan is doing it. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are doing it. And Glenn Beck, who did it already when he got booted from Fox News and created his own internet TV … um … thing in response, is taking it even farther. Inspired by “Galt’s Gulch,” the place in Atlas Shrugged where the Randian übermenschen retreated, Beck is unveiling plans for an entire city he will build, a city to embody all that is right and good and libertarian about America, a true refuge where those who have proven their mettle by watching hundreds of hours of his programs can come and live just as the Founders intended. It’ll be called, naturally, Independence, U.S.A. Behold: http://www.video.theblaze.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=25550259
You’ll notice how right at the beginning Beck says, “You will have to literally wipe us off the face of the earth and wipe us off the map before you can erase the truth that is America.” Presumably in the regular America, the sinister forces can just come for us one by one, and before you know it America is gone, but it’ll be a lot harder if the True America is all concentrated in one city. Seems a little backward to me, but OK.
Of course this will never happen, but you can’t fault him for a lack of ambition. It isn’t enough to pay to be a member of Glenn’s web site and listen to his radio show and buy his books. He wants you to come live in a city he designed! And what’s the end point of this? Perhaps an “Eternal Glenn” program, where after your loved one dies, you mail to Beck a small vial containing some of old grandad’s blood (harvested while he was alive, of course), and in a brief but solemn ceremony, Glenn will join the blood with that of other Beck fans in a beautiful cauldron (mini-replicas available for only $39.95), merging their essences into a powerful liquid spirit, each drop a concentrated reduction of Paranoid Cranky Old White Man, bursting with America-ness and used for anointing in secret ceremonies deep within the underground temple at Independence, U.S.A. Don’t be surprised.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, January 14, 2013