One disturbing feature of extremist rhetoric is how it creates such a heated environment that the only way for people to get quickly noticed is to ramp up their own extremism. This creates a vicious feedback loop in which extremism constantly fuels more extremism and extremist rhetoric itself exacerbates people's actual feelings and attitudes. I think this is what we are seeing among Republicans and conservatives today.
I'm pretty sure that they weren't quite so insane a few months ago, though the potential was surely there. Now, though, their own rhetoric is causing them to get worse and worse. The latest examples are of one conservative Republican saying that Barack Obama is an enemy of all humanity and another conservative Republican strongly suggesting that the military launch a coup against Barack Obama. Tell me again, who were the people suggesting not too long ago that even disagreement with the president qualified as treasonous, unpatriotic, and unAmerican?
It's a sad day when Arizona Republican Congressman Trent Franks' statement that conservatives "need to realize" that Barack Obama is an "enemy of humanity" is actually the "good" news. I guess that up till now conservatives have been uncritically supportive of Obama? It's a sign of just how bad things have gotten, though, that saying Obama "has no place in any station of government" can't qualify as surprising or shocking. Conservatives have invested so much time and effort into arguing against Obama's legitimacy that saying he doesn’t belong in government is practically expected.
Just what sort of enemy of humanity is Obama, anyway? That's not clear, but given the sorts of arguments and positions adopted by conservatives in recent months it's not hard to come up with some ideas. It must be a "threat" to humanity when someone who isn't white holds a position of power, when traditional racial and gender privileges are undermined, when principles of equality are promoted by more than just empty words, and when basic moral values are applied to everyone rather than just one's "in-group."
Identifying Barack Obama as an enemy of humanity is hard to portray as anything other than an attempt to target him for violence. When someone is an "enemy of humanity," that just isn't a person who can be negotiated with, treated decently, respected, obeyed, or anything else. An enemy of humanity is a person who must be stopped, with force if necessary, in order to prevent them from causing more harm. An enemy of humanity is a person who must be forcibly detained at the very least, possibly killed.
And if the "enemy of humanity" somehow managed to reach the office of President of the United States, why wouldn't some people start thinking about removing and replacing him?
The Coup Will Be Blogged
John L. Perry, a prominent right-wing columnist with NewsMax, wrote that Barack Obama was seriously risking a coup — that "America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the “Obama problem"." Perry insists that a coup in America would be "civilized," apparently because America's military officers swear an oath to the Constitution and this ensures that any illegal, violent, forcible seizure of power would be entirely "civilized" an in our best interests.
Perry tried to insist that he wasn't advocating a coup in America, just expressing his concern that a coup might occur, but it's hard to square those post hoc rationalizations with his words:
So, if you are one of those observant military professionals, what do you do? ...Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility?
Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.
Perry says that we shouldn't dismiss the possibility of an attempted coup as unrealistic and, frankly, he has a point. Violent far-right groups, including especially racist groups that are actively preparing for a race war, encourage members to serve time in the military to develop necessary skills, recruit new members, and make connections with people who have access to weapons, government installations, and secure areas. America's military also has a serious problem with extremist Christianity — credentialed ministers and high-ranking officers blending Christianity, violent nationalism, and apocalyptic visions of the future.
So, as a general matter, I don't dismiss as unrealistic the possibility of current and past members of the military who are right-wing extremists thinking that they can or should take over the government. I don't completely dismiss the possibility that some might even try to seize power for our own good, hoping to impose a racist and/or theocratic vision on the nation (as well as racist and/or theocratic wars on the rest of the world) in the name of God.
I don't think they would get very far, but that doesn't necessarily deter extremists, does it? The hatred of and opposition to Bill Clinton wasn't nearly as strong as what's being directed at Barack Obama, but it was under Clinton that we saw the growth of a violent militia movement. It was the militias — extremist, racist, and theocratic — that gave birth to Timothy McVeigh and the worst terrorist attack in the United States before Al Qaeda's 9/11 strike.
It's not hard to see why Perry's coup-column was quickly pulled from the NewsMax site — American conservatism hasn't slipped so far down into the morass of violent extremism that they are ready to stand by this sort of rhetoric openly. Yet. I'm actually surprised at that and suspect that we aren't too far from the time when such material will be pushed without apology on Fox "News."
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