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“The Media Just Hasn’t Reported On It”: Why Republicans Have Gotten Away With Craziness This Year

We don’t know if Joni Ernst is going to be the next Senator from Iowa, but one thing we can say is that Democrats failed to paint her as a radical Tea Partier with dangerous ideas. (Actually, there’s another thing we can say: her replacing liberal lion Tom Harkin would have to be the widest ideological swing in a Senate seat from one Congress to the next in a long time.) The question is, why? And more broadly, why have they failed to do that with any of the GOP Senate candidates running this year? It’s not like this is a bunch of moderates. One explanation is that the establishment triumphed by weeding out the nutcases:

National Republicans managed this year to snuff out every bomb-throwing insurgent who tried to wrest a Senate nod away from one of their favored candidates. They spent millions against baggage-laden activists such as Matt Bevin, the Louisville investor who mounted a ham-fisted challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the conservative upstart who imperiled a safe seat by nearly ousting longtime Sen. Thad Cochran.

The confrontational approach—by both party committees and outside super PACs—represented a sharp departure from the GOP’s cautious strategy in the 2010 and 2012 cycles, when cartoonishly inept nominees aligned with the tea party lost the party as many as five Senate seats.

All that’s true, but it’s not just that they kept crazy people from winning primaries, they also kept primary winners’ craziness from undoing their campaigns. Ernst has managed to skate away from accountability for her more disturbing ideas, like her embrace of the “Agenda 21” conspiracy theory or her statement that she might have to start shooting government officials if they trample her rights. That’s not to mention her beliefs that there should be no federal minimum wage and that weapons of mass destruction were actually found in Iraq.

And it isn’t like Democrats haven’t tried to convince voters that Ernst is a radical. So why hasn’t she, like Todd Akin and Sharron Angle before her, gotten all kinds of negative attention for her comments that ultimately drove her to defeat?

There are many factors, like the fact that the Republican party has stuck by her, that had an impact. But I think the biggest reason is that the media just haven’t reported on it very much. Ernst’s Agenda 21 conspiricizing may have gotten attention from liberal bloggers, but it didn’t get much notice in the Iowa media, or from national political reporters. In contrast, when Bruce Braley told attendees at a fundraiser that if Republicans took the Senate, the Judiciary Committee would be chaired by “a farmer from Iowa without a law degree,” meaning the state’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley, it was huge news. The Des Moines Register, the state’s largest paper (and one that Ernst complains is biased against her) did editorialize once against Ernst’s radical and constitutionally demented views on “nullification,” but that’s the only substantive article about the topic that comes up when you search the paper’s web site (though there are a few letters to the editor that mention it). On the other hand, when I searched for Braley’s statement about Grassley being a farmer in the DMR, I got 79 hits.

While I haven’t done a systematic analysis of the rest of Iowa or national media, that doesn’t seem unrepresentative—I’ve seen the Grassley farmer thing mentioned many, many times in mainstream sources, but not Ernst’s crazier beliefs. Perhaps it’s because reporters are just tired of writing the “Republican candidate says extreme things” story. But I think it’s also that the Braley “gaffes,” whether it’s implying that farmers are not necessarily the font of wisdom in all things, or being upset when his neighbor’s chickens crap on his lawn, are personal in a way Ernst’s statements aren’t. They supposedly imply that Braley might be a bit of a jerk, whereas you can be friendly and nice and also believe the UN is coming to kick you off your land.

The trouble is that when we’re talking about electing people to the nation’s legislature, this is completely backward. The personal stuff is of only the tiniest importance, if any at all, while beliefs about the world are very relevant. Joni Ernst’s ideas about the UN, about guns, and about the legal status of zygotes will actually make a difference in how she does her job, should she win. In contrast, unless Harry Reid has his chickens crap in Bruce Braley’s Capitol Hill office just before a critical budget vote, I don’t think that’s going to really be an issue. But that’s what the campaign coverage has focused on.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 3, 2014

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Media, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cashing In On Fear”: Agenda 21, The U.N. Conspiracy That Just Won’t Die

It’s been called “the most dangerous threat to American sovereignty”; “An anti-human document, which takes aim at Western culture, and the Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions,” that will bring “new Dark Ages of pain and misery yet unknown to mankind,” and “abolish golf courses, grazing pastures and paved roads,” in the name of creating a “one-world order.”

It’s been the subject of several forewarning books and DVDs; there are organizations dedicated to stopping it and politicians have been unseated for supporting it. Glenn Beck has spent a good portion of his career making people scared of it.

Not sure what it is? You’re not alone.

The Daily Beast got a sneak peek at a new report by Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights group, which deconstructs the mythology of Agenda 21 and the organizations, individuals, and even elected officials who’ve spent years promulgating the conspiracy theory surrounding it.

Before diving into the fiction that has inflated Agenda 21 to fear mongering status, we must first understand the facts. What, exactly, is Agenda 21?

While the name might sound a bit ominous, Agenda 21 is a voluntary action plan that offers suggestions for sustainable ways local, state and national governments can combat poverty and pollution and conserve natural resources in the 21st century. (That’s where the ’21’ comes from. Get it?) 178 governments—including the U.S. led by then-President George H.W. Bush—voted to adopt the program which is, again, not legally binding in any way, at the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.

It wasn’t long after Agenda 21 was introduced that right wing opposition began to swirl. The SPLC points to Tom DeWeese as one of the first to pounce on the U.N. plan. In 1998 DeWeese founded the American Policy Center, a group based in Remington, Virginia that focuses on “environmental policy and its effect on private property rights” and “the United Nations and its effect on American national sovereignty.” The SPLC report quotes DeWeese as describing Agenda 21 as a “blueprint to turn your community into a little soviet,” promoted by non-governmental organizations that pressure governments to enforce it. According to DeWeese, “It all means locking away land, resources, higher prices, sacrifice and shortages and is based on the age old socialist scheme of redistribution of wealth.”

DeWeese has continued to deride the dangers of Agenda 21 well into the 21st Century, making appearances on Fox News and fitting in nicely with the Tea Party movement. The American Policy Center was just the first of many anti-Agenda 21 organizations to spring up in the past 15 or so years and the SPLC points out the 11 most pervasive.

To those who don’t closely follow the carryings on of fringe conspiracists, Glenn Beck might be the most recognizable face of the modern Anti-21 movement. Particularly during his reign at Fox News, Beck used his cable TV soapbox to scare his loyal viewers. “Those pushing…government control on a global level have mastered the art of hiding it in plain sight and then just dismissing it as a joke,” the SPLC quotes Beck saying around 2011 while waving a copy of the 294-page Agenda 21 document on his show. “Once they put their fangs into our communities and suck all the blood out of it [sic], we will not be able to survive.”

Never one to miss an opportunity to cash on in people’s fears, Beck published a dystopian science fiction novel in 2012 called Agenda 21, about a version of America where mating partners are arranged, children are raised away from their parents in group homes, and the book’s heroine spends hours walking on a sort of treadmill that generates energy in an apartment in a planned community. In the book’s afterword, Beck warns, “[I]f the United Nations in partnership with radical environmental activists and naive local governments get their way, then the themes explored in this novel may start to look very familiar, very quickly.”

But while Glenn Beck can technically be dismissed as nothing more than a fringe figure, a conspiratorial talking head—no matter how large his audience may be—the elected officials who have taken a similarly strong stance against Agenda 21 cannot. In the report, the SPLC points out Newt Gingrich, who said he would “explicitly repudiate” the plan if elected president during his 2012 White House bid; Oklahoma Sen. Sally Kern and Arizona state Sen. Judy Burges who both introduced anti-Agenda 21 legislation that ultimately failed; and former Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers who “organized a four-hour, closed-door anti-Agenda briefing in October 2012” during which “attendees were told President Obama was using ‘mind control’ techniques to push land use planning, and that the U.N. planned to force Americans from suburbs into cities and also was implementing mandatory contraception to curb population growth.” U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has claimed that Agenda 21 sought to abolish “golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads.”

And as recently as 2012, the SPLC writes, the Republican National Committee’s platform included the line, “We strongly reject the U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of American sovereignty.”

Several anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi groups have also jumped on the anti-Agenda 21 bandwagon, seizing the opportunity to blame the controversial document on none other than the Jews.

“Anti-Semitism is basically a conspiracy theory,” the American Jewish Committee’s Ken Stern told the SPLC. He explains how neo-Nazis have linked Agenda 21 to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a falsified document that is alleged to reveal a secret Jewish plot to take over the world. “It’s Jews conspiring to harm non-Jews, and that conspiracy explains a lot of what goes wrong with the world,” Stern said.

To be sure, not all of Agenda 21’s opponents are on the far right of the political spectrum. The group Democrats Against U.N. Agenda 21 hosted a conference on the plan in California in 2011. Its founder, “self-described lesbian feminist Rosa Koire,” wrote the book Behind the Green Mask: U.N. Agenda 21, which claims the the plan will ultimately lead to the U.S.’s economic demise.

In fact, the anti-Semitic crowd’s interest in the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory sort of explains why it appeals to all of its followers, regardless of political leanings.

“Any time you get some sort of UN program that suggests any kind of change in the way people live, even if it seems outwardly benign and even voluntary, it’s going to be taken up by people with a conspiracist bent,” Michael Barkun, a Syracuse University political scientist and scholar of conspiracy theories, told the SPLC.

At this point in the explanation, it bears asking whether any of this matters. Is the federal government—or any state or local subsidiaries—even considering implementing any of the plan’s suggestions for sustainable development? The SPLC report states plainly: “For all the agitation, it’s not clear.” 98 percent of people who responded to a June 2012 poll by the American Planning Association said they didn’t know enough about Agenda 21 to support or oppose it. Six percent said they were against it, while nine percent stated that they were in favor.

The SPLC does note that some politicians, like Chattanooga, Tennessee Mayor Ron Littlefield, have denounced the anti-Agenda 21 conspiracists as modern-day Joseph McCarthy’s who will finally tire the public with their scare tactics. Still, they write, “an enormous number of politicians, commentators, activists, conspiracy theorists and others have swallowed the story of the anti-Agenda 21 zealots making any kind of rational discussion of the environment and related issues extremely difficult.”

“And that is the basic problem,” the report continues. “Dealing with the serious problems that confront our nation and our planet becomes incredibly difficult when the public discussion is poisoned with groundless conspiracy theories.”

 

By: Caitlin Dickson, The Daily Beast, April 13, 2014

 

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, United Nations | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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