Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Council For National Policy Loses Its Mojo

The Council for National Policy (CNP) is one of those shadowy secret organizations that makes great fodder for internet conspiracy theorists. It is a private conservative organization that meets three times per year to discuss issues affecting the Christian supremacist movement in the U.S. In an effort to maintain an open atmosphere where all of the participants can speak their minds, the membership lists of the organization are secret, and no records are released regarding the discussions that take place (although some of the keynote speeches have been posted on the CNP website). However, as might be expected, persons attending the conferences will often speak to reporters anonymously about what was discussed. From these anonymous leaks, it is known that such right wing movers and shakers as John Ashcroft, Jerry Falwell, Alan Keyes, Oliver North, Pat Robertson, Ken Starr (!), James Dobson, Phyllis Schlafly, and Donald Wildmon are all members. The CNP exerts quit a lot of sway within the Republican party; George W. Bush received the group’s official blessing at a meeting in 1999 prior to his declaration as a candidate for president. So it was with great glee that I read in a recent New York Times article that the CNP is quit despondent over its lack of influence over the current field of major Republican candidate for president. The two major contenders, Rudolph Giuliani and John McCain, have both had major run-ins with the religious right. Giuliani is pro-choice, supports gay rights, and has been married three times. McCain favors a guest worker program for illegal immigrants, and once referred to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as being “agents of intolerance”. Mitt Romney, while supported by some CNP members, was at one point pro-choice, and supported civil unions for gay couples. He is also a Mormon, which probably doesn’t play well with this type of protestant fanatic. All of the other Republican candidates are currently scoring so low in opinion polls as to not be considered to have a credible chance of getting the nomination. The only potential candidate who might win the CNP’s endorsement and have a real chance of getting the nomination is Newt Gingrich, a man who might truly be deserving of the term “unelectable”. It appears even if the GOP’s candidate prevails in 2008, he will have little to thank the CNP for, and the group will not have nearly the amount of influence it had over the current president. For those of us who support a secular U.S. government, this is of course happy news.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Yet Another Reason To Never, Ever Give Money To The Southern Poverty Law Center

As a lad I often donated money to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), considering it to be a valuable source of information on the racist right as well as a positive social group working to curtail the activities of extremist groups in the U.S. As I grew older and progressively more cynical, I began to see the SPLC as an extremely biased organization that engaged in questionable fund raising practices such as greatly exaggerating the threat posed by white supremacists as a way to scare yet more donations out gullible white liberals. At some point I may write a sweeping indictment of the SPLC as a whole, but for now I will satisfy myself with pointing out one example of the group’s rank hypocrisy. The SPLC worships the non-violent civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s while of course decrying the violent tactics of terrorist groups like the KKK. This is of course all well and good until you realize that the SPLC’s definition of what a terrorist is seems to vary depending on if the acts of violence in question are committed by right or left-leaning persons. Take Bill Ayers. This guy was a member of the Weathermen in the 1960’s and took part in actions such as the bombing of the U.S. capital building. After his girlfriend was killed during a botched bomb-making project, Ayers went underground. He emerged years later and ended up becoming a professor of education at the University of Illinois. If Ayer’s doesn’t qualify as a terrorist, it’s hard to see who would. Yet Teaching Tolerance, the SPLC’s educational wing, saw fit to publish a fawning interview with Ayers on the issue of social justice in education in which they make only a passing reference to his “60’s radicalism”. I guess some people at the SPLC are nostalgic enough for their own longhaired past that they are able to overlook a bombing here or there. The SPLC is still does a great job of digging up the dirt on white power people. I just don’t think I’ll be cutting them any checks anytime soon. Oh, and by the way, if you believe the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to own firearms, the SPLC says you’ve fallen victim to a bizarre militia legal theory. So there.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The IWW Liberates Landmark Theaters

A couple of months back, a journalist from libertarian magazine Reason attended a protest being held by the IWW (aka the Wobblies) outside of a Landmark Theater location in Berkley, California. The purpose of the rally was to support a drive by the IWW (an anarcho-syndicalist union) to organize the theater workers at that location. The Landmark Theater chain is a small business that specializes in showing independent and foreign films, and hardly seems a prime example of corporate greed. Despite this, the protesters decried the “exploitation” being inflicted upon the theater’s workers and called for an end to the wage system. Predictably, the libertarian author had quite a bit of fun in the resulting article mocking the protestors as they compared the sufferings of the Landmark staff with those of Joe Hill and the other labor martyrs of the early 20th century. The article is in general is a stinging and amusing attack on the overwhelming stupidity that permeates the contemporary anarchist movement in the U.S. The anarchist website Infoshop reprinted the article on their page, describing the author as an “infiltrator” working for the interests of the capitalist class. I usually don’t recommend reading the comments section of these sorts of postings, as they usually consist of nothing but poorly spelled insults and arguments riddled with logical fallacies. In this case, however, the Infoshop comments are a riot. Some of Reason’s readers caught wind of the anarchist posting and wrote in, defending the libertarian position and pointing out the absurdity of the anarchist position in this case. The anarchists respond with comments that would be laughable if they weren’t so sad. One such comment follows:

"This seems like a good idea to quote Gandhi:

First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you
then they repress you
then you win
obviously the US movement has reached stage 2 -- the advance guard of capitalism (the right-wing "libertarians") are trying to mock us. Good -- shows us they are worried."

To which as libertarian replied, in a manner that could speak for most of us:

"Uh, it might make you feel good to think that libertarians are worried about the kind of folks described in the article. But, trust me, they're really only laughing."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

When Satire Comes Full Circle

A couple of weeks ago, The Onion posted an article on their website entitled “Today's Neo-Nazis Have No Respect For Tradition”. The article itself was pretty funny, and was of course meant to be taken as a satire of the neo-Nazi movement in general. But what was really interesting about this piece was how knowledgeable the author seemed to be regarding the white supremacist underground. He mentions obscure historical figures like George Lincoln Rockwell and Matt Koehl, as well as events like the march in Skokie, IL. In fact the author was so knowledgeable on his subject and so strait-faced in his presentation that some white supremacists, while knowing that the article was a fake, considered it to contain many worthy points and commendable ideas. Perhaps I’ve read too much of this white power stuff myself, but I would tend to agree that with a few minor changes this piece could have been posted on a legitimate racist site such as Stormfront or Vanguard News Network. Authors might take this episode as an interesting and instructive lesson on the limits of satire. Given that sarcasm does not translate well in print to begin with, the author should be careful when writing such pieces to ensure that he or she does not unintentionally come to advocate an ideal that they originally intended to lampoon.