By Pamela Troy
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
[Part 1 in a 4-Part Series]
His blood carries not honor, and honesty,
rather criminality, fraud, hypocrisy, lies, the lust for defilement, and
the lust for murder ... a race that has drives toward the unnatural and
toward criminality cannot recognize natural moral laws. -- Julius
Streicher, on the Jews
... the Democrats – far too many of them – are evil, pure and
simple. They have no redeeming social value. They are outright traitors
themselves, or apologists for treasonous behavior. They are enemies of
the American people and the American way of life. -- Joseph Farah,
"Baghdad Bonior," Worldnet Daily 10/8/02
Liberalism is a mental disorder that has undermined our families, our
society, and our national security … -- Michael Savage,
Newsmax.com interview 2/1/03
Look up the name “Julius Streicher” in the index of most recent books
on the Third Reich and you’re likely to be referred to one or two brief
mentions. He was a lout whose anti-Semitic newspaper, Der Sturmer,
was so crude that he’s sometimes called “Hitler’s pornographer.” He is
usually described as a squat thug with a paltry talent for harnessing
the combined power of ignorance and malice, someone who intelligent people
could safely ignore with a contemptuous laugh.
Many of those who watched the rise of the Third Reich as it happened weren’t
that dismissive. In 1936 Time Magazine referred to him as "One
of Nazi Germany’s Most Dangerous Clowns." Hitler himself considered
Streicher’s ability to mobilize the masses to the cause of Nazism invaluable
and Himmler was quoted in Streicher’s newspaper Der Sturmer, "In
times to come when the story of the reawakening of the German people is
written, and when the next generation will be unable to understand how
the German people could ever have been friendly with the Jews, it will
be said that Julius Streicher and his weekly newspaper were responsible
for a good part of the education about the enemy of mankind."
The tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945 agreed. Part of the indictment against
In the early days he was preaching persecution. As persecution took
place he preached extermination and annihilation and, as millions of
Jews were exterminated and annihilated, in the Ghettoes of the East,
he cried out for more and more.
The crime of Streicher is that he made these crimes possible, which
they never would have been had it not been for him and for those like
For the past twenty years, Streicher’s voice has been most faithfully
echoed in the pronouncements of people like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage,
Ann Coulter and countless other less well-known "clowns" who
frequent cable TV, talk radio and the Internet. Like Streicher, they are
often dismissed as so obviously ridiculous that they’re barely worth the
attention of well-informed citizens.
And while they are not anti-Semites and their rhetoric is unlikely to
lead to the mass murder of those they target, it has, like Streicher’s,
made mindless hatred not just acceptable in the minds of many people,
but downright virtuous.
There’s a saying about the sleep of reason and what it produces. For far
too long, thinking Americans have treated the irrationality steadily bubbling
up from the far right as if it were a harmless amusement, unlikely to
impact ordinary citizens. We have been unwilling to look at the extent
to which the mediums of right-wing talk radio and the Internet have popularized
the agenda of influential people who are not stupid, but who are willing
to foster and use stupidity and hatred as a means to an end.
“Undesirable Impulses” and The Tactic of Delegitimization
The relatively recent successes of New Left ideas in law and legislation
have only been made possible because their proponents were able to capture
the cultural institutions--e.g., the media, academia, publishing houses,
advertising agencies, Hollywood--some years earlier … We will not try
to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them,
and eventually destroy them.-- Eric Heubeck, The Integration of
Theory and Practice
Substituting contempt for reason is not a new phenomenon in this country,
nor is it a vice confined to the far right. A thorough search of the Internet
will uncover leftist sites containing gross, sometimes threatening statements
about conservatives. This kind of mindless garbage has always to some
degree been present in political commentary in every time, belief, and
nation. It only becomes truly dangerous when it mirrors the aims and tactics
of powerful interests.
In the years immediately preceding the Third Reich, political violence
by right-wingers and left-wingers was a fact of life on the streets of
Berlin. Unlike their leftist counterparts, however, the Nazis came to
enjoy widespread, if often tacit support of wealthy industrialists and
influential members of the military, many of whom, as educated people,
saw Hitler’s more outrageous statements as a form of political theater.
“In fact to a certain extent, Hitler succeeded because he was dismissed
as being more ridiculous than dangerous,” write James and Suzanne Pool
in their 1978 book, Who Financed Hitler:
The man who shouted crude anti-Semitic slogans in public could, to
the amazement of those who met him in private, discuss complex political
and economic issues with logic and penetrating insight. He was able
to convince his financiers that he was not a rabble-rouser at heart
but had to act that way to attract the masses away from the Communists.
The resulting infusions of financial support to the Nazi Party helped
make Streicher more than an individual crackpot ranting from a soapbox
on a street-corner. He was a hatemonger promoting a political party that
had generous financial backing and friends in very high places. Whether
or not it was taken seriously by most Nazis, Streicher’s language of dehumanization,
by sheer repetition, ceased to shock Germans and helped prepare the ground
for the policy of annihilation Hitler enacted not only against Jews, but
against all who opposed him.
By the same token, Coulter, Savage, and other such commentators are not
merely obscure bloggers or occasional posters to Internet bulletin boards.
They are commentators who have been given greater access to the media
than most leftist pundits, and thus greater leeway when it comes to outrageous
statements. It would be hard to find a writer for a prominent liberal
publication who had, for instance, suggested that the Bush twins should
be executed, as John Derbyshire did about Chelsea Clinton in the February
15, 2001 issue of National Review Online.
There are, of course, differences. Streicher embraced the notion of Jews
as genetically evil, so inherently corrupt that their moral "taint"
could be spread through rape. So far no prominent modern American right-winger
has claimed that a conservative woman who has sex with a liberal man is
"irredeemably lost" to conservatism, as Streicher claimed about
Gentile women who had even nonconsensual sex with Jewish men. The National
Review has stopped short of claiming that liberals drink the blood
of conservative children in unholy rites.
But the similarity in language remains. If they don’t present liberalism
as an inherent genetic taint, they do present liberalism – or even membership
in the Democratic Party – as an irrefutable sign of an inherent moral
or mental malaise. “"Liberals are in my estimation, just not bright
people. They don’t think deeply, they don’t comprehend, they don’t understand
…" said Republican Congressman Dick Armey in 2002. “They don’t seem
to have a fundamental understanding of good versus evil in the world,
and the need to destroy those that would otherwise destroy innocent life,”
said Sean Hannity on Pat Robertson’s "700 Club." In short, to
be a liberal is to be “evil,” “not bright,” afflicted with a “mental disorder.”
And as with Streicher’s propaganda, whether or not everyone who uses this
kind of language actually believes it is beside the point. In 2001, an
essay appeared online that briefly garnered attention on the Internet.
“The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist
Movement” was written by someone named Eric Heubeck for the Free Congress
It’s important to note that the Free Congress Foundation is not merely
an obscure right-wing blog but a well-funded conservative think tank headed
by right-wing strategist Paul Weyrich. An article about Karl Rove in the
April 30th, 2001, issue of Time Magazine (“The Busiest Man in
The White House” by James Carney and John F. Dickerson) mentions the influence
the foundation wields:
Each Wednesday Rove dispatches a top administration official to attend
the regular conservative-coalition lunches held at Paul Weyrich’s Free
Congress Foundation … When Weyrich heard a few weeks ago the Bush’s
budget slashed funding for a favorite project called the Police Corps,
which gives scholarships and training to police cadets, he complained
to the White House. To Weyrich’s surprise, Rove called back. “We’ve
taken care of it,” Rove said. "The problem is solved." Weyrich,
who says his memos to the Reagan and Bush Sr. White Houses were rarely
read, was impressed. "That," he gushes, "is what it means
to have friends in the White House."
Heubeck’s essay outlines a strategy for a grassroots movement of “cultural
conservatism,” one that, as Heubeck put it, “must channel undesirable
impulses to serve good purposes.” An example of these “undesirable impulses”
can be found in the following quote:
We must always operate based on this cardinal principle: Leftists
are never morally responsible for the evil they commit; but we as conservatives
are morally responsible for not having done more to prevent them from
committing that evil. We must learn to treat leftists as natural disasters
or rabid dogs.
One does not debate natural disasters or rabid dogs, or even treat them
as if they were capable of framing an argument. Both are problems to be
prevented, if possible and if they occur, contained or destroyed.
This is not to say that Heubeck and others like him relish the idea of
liberals being physically destroyed. It is to say that they would like
to destroy any rational public discourse on the subject of anything they
label as “liberalism.” They want any liberal or anyone labeled as such
to be dismissed out of hand no matter how valid their arguments might
be, denounced as mad, stupid, or evil.
That an inevitable byproduct of this approach is a significant number
of people believing that liberals are the equivalent of natural disasters
and mad dogs and relishing the idea of liberals being physically destroyed
is apparently unimportant to them.
The tactic of delegitimization promoted in Eric Heubeck’s piece has been
echoed in Bush administration statements, most notably those made in the
wake September 11th. One of the most well known of these is then Attorney
General John Ashcroft’s comment at a press conference, in which he both
implied that administration critics were irrational or dishonest, and
equated dissent with giving aid and comfort to America’s enemies.
… to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty,
my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode
our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to
America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends. (December 6, 2001)
Even opposition within the context of an opposition party is increasingly
depicted as illegitimate. Not content with control of both the Executive
and Legislative branches, the Republican Party has attacked some of the
most basic tools of dissent within government. The judicial filibuster
has been denounced by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist as “radical. It
is dangerous and it must be overcome.” This kind of language, the use
of terms like “dangerous” and “radical” to describe a tactic that Republicans
– including Frist -- have used in the past, should be at least startling
to Americans. Unfortunately, the quality of modern political rhetoric
has been so lowered that it doesn’t seem that unusual. Compared with some
of the comments about Democrats and liberals heard regularly on Fox, CNN,
and MSNBC, it seems downright benign.
If reasoned debate is eliminated as the way to deal with dissenters, even
those who dissent as members of the opposition party within the halls
of government, how does one respond to those who refuse to be silenced?
How does one deal with the “problem” of those liberals and Democrats who
are, with increasing frequency, being referred to as dangerous, radical,
as traitors, lunatics, rabid dogs, and haters of America?
[To be continued ... This is Part 1 of "Dangerous Clowns,"
presented as a 4-part series.]
by Pamela Troy
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS