Fringe extremists on both the left and the right tend to be pretty similar, embracing conspiracy theories and irrational ideas with a fervency that is frightening. The left certainly has its share of such people, from anti-vaxxers to environmental extremists who spike trees and animal rights nuts who send bombs to scientists. But on the right, the nuts are more and more being embraced by the mainstream and even winning elected office. John Avlon writes about this phenomenon.
This week in Missouri, state legislators voted to cut funding for the state’s divers license bureau because it had been tasked in 2003 with also overseeing concealed-carry permits. The wife of state Rep. Kenneth Wilson explained – in the words of the Columbia Tribune – that the bureau “was part of a plot to impose United Nations policies in this country. ‘I have been doing some study on U.N. Agenda 21,’ Melissa Wilson… told the committee. ‘With this information going to the federal government, I feel that I will be a target. With Agenda 21, I will be someone who will be put on a watch list.’” She added that Agenda 21 is being pushed through in part because of a mass brainwashing known as the Delphi Technique.
This is shadowy conspiracy theorist stuff, but this theory isn’t just isolated to a few folks in Missouri. Last November, the conservative head of the Georgia state legislature invited his conference to a four-hour briefing on Agenda 21. The invitation read: “How pleasant sounding names are fostering a Socialist plan to change the way we live, eat, learn, and communicate to ‘save the earth.'” The presentation was MC’d by a local Tea Party activist who is also a 9/11 Truther, and a Birther…This sickness is starting to infect the halls of Congress. Friday, Congressman Louie Gohmert couldn’t resist telling WND radio that, “This administration has so many Muslim brotherhood members that have influence that they just are making wrong decisions for America.”
That remark came just a day after Republicans Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jason Chaffetz of Utah held a hearing “to examine the procurement of ammunition by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General.”
This has been the most obvious trend on the right for some time now. William Buckley famously managed to expel the John Birch Society types from the conservative movement in the 1960s, but that has now been almost entirely reversed. In today’s conservative movement, legislators and opinion leaders seem to be locked in a fierce competition to see who can be the most extreme and outrageous. Sane, intelligent Republicans like Jon Huntsman are the ones who find themselves ousted, not people like Michelle Bachmann, Louis Gohmert and Ted Cruz.