Neo-Bircher apocalyptic politics harms the people who embrace it

Got distracted and derailed a bit this week, so I won’t have a chance to check in with Buck Williams and his thrilling rescue of Tsion from Zion. (In other words, no Left Behind Friday this week.)

Here, instead, is a news item from yesterday that underscores the sad influence of the Left Behind novels and their whole silly form of fright-peddling: “Texas to Tea Party: No, the Alamo Won’t Fall Under U.N. Control.”

The Alamo will not fall under United Nations control if it is named a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Texas Land commission assured Texans on Wednesday, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

In a statement Wednesday Jerry Patterson, the Texas land commissioner, called rumors that the U.N. might manage the Alamo and other Spanish missions in Texas “horse hockey.”

“The people of Texas own the Alamo now and in the future. Nothing is going to change that,” Patterson said at a gun rights rally at the Alamo on Oct. 19.

“Bible prophecy scholars” like Tim LaHaye and San Antonio’s own John Hagee are obsessed with the United Nations, and thanks to their hard work, millions of their followers are obsessed with it too. LaHaye’s major “contribution” to dispensationalist ideology was his grafting in of old John Birch Society legends, simply replacing their dishonest paranoia about a Communist one-world government with fears of an Antichrist one-world government instead.

This is the main difference between the tea party of the 21st century and the Birchers of the 1950s and ’60s. Take any Bircher pamphlet from 1960 and replace “Communism” with “Antichrist” and you’ve got a usable 2013 tea party pamphlet. The same fright is being peddled, it’s just been re-branded and re-packaged.

An angry white man uses the American flag as a weapon of violence at some point in the 20th century. (Photo by Stanley Forman)

The tea party has the same political effect that original Bircherism had — making good and necessary things harder to do. And it has the same human effect — ensnaring the gullible and the fearful in a miserable cocoon of falsehood, fright, indignation and baseless resentment.

The latter is often more troublesome, at least on a personal level. Jen Senko’s documentary The Brainwashing of My Dad covers familiar territory for many of us. Like most of us, Senko isn’t mainly concerned that her brainwashed dad is voting for the opponents of the people she’s voting for. Her main concern about her dad is that he is angry all the time, desperately unhappy, and filled with a bitter hatred toward people he didn’t hate before.

Yes, I’m concerned about the political effect of the tea partiers and the rest of the neo-Birchers politicized by hate media and the hateful heresies of Tim LaHaye and John Hagee — particularly when their politics literally results in taking food off the table of hungry families. But it’s never only about politics. The political misery these folks are spreading is a kind of collateral damage to the misery they’re fabricating and ingesting themselves.

Here are a bunch of recent stories reflecting this misery. The politics are pernicious and harmful, but in every case there’s also a grave harm being done to the very people promoting that politics:

• “This is the New World Order Obama health reform. The reform includes a microchip implant to citizens in 2013. …”

• “She’s railing against immigration reform, citing her belief that it will lead to an identification system indicative of biblical End Times.”

• “Hedke said the [anti-sustainable-development] measure was motivated by complaints from constituents who think there is an insidious attempt to create new layers of government through groups like the Regional Economic Area Partnership in Wichita.”

• “Melissa Wilson, wife of state Rep. Kenneth Wilson (R), told the committee earlier this month that she was certain that gun records had been shared with the federal government as a part of a United Nations initiative called Agenda 21, which some conservatives believe is a conspiracy to ‘transform America from the land of the free, to the land of the collective’ through ‘a mind-control’ tactic called the Delphi technique.”

• “The study … uncovered that belief in the Second Coming of Jesus reduced the probability of strongly supporting government action on climate change.”

• “Among the dire warnings these commissioners heard during the process were allusions to the Oath Keepers’ oft-stated belief that the NDAA creates the legal pretext for federal authorities to begin rounding up right-wing citizens and placing them in concentration camps, or that they might begin labeling tea party leaders ‘enemy combatants’ and start assassinating them.”

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Our politics is hobbled by a determined, motivated, vindictive bloc of voters driven by fear, ignorance and resentment of the Other. That’s a problem for all of us and it’s a big reason why we can’t have nice things. It does real harm and causes real pain to those it demonizes and targets — usually vulnerable outsiders and poor people.

But scared, dumb and hateful is no way to go through life. And some of the people infected with this fever are people we love and care about — parents, relatives, coworkers, friends, neighbors. Watching their downward spiral into a nasty, angry misery is unpleasant. It hurts us to see them hurting others and hurting themselves.

 

  • James Forrester

    I can appreciate your hostility. But I think, intentionally or not, you come of as bad as the people you decry for their racism.You seem to expect some racial purity, legal recognition to be Irish and if they move away then ‘poof’ no longer Irish. Or they must wholly adhere to what you consider to be the hallmarks of Irish culture. You sound bad in all this but maybe I’m taking in the wrong way. Conversely, what gives you the right to say they cannot claim their Irish descent and use it as they wish? How have they mocked it? By who’s standard? The ‘great great grandfather’ that you speak of would have been reviled when he first came to America. Often depicted as apes in political cartoons, they were considered little better than blacks that they competed with for jobs, often associated with and intermarried with. In a generation this changed – Given the choice to be ‘down’ with the lowest class (African American) or shake off some of their Irish culture and rise to working class whiteness they choose the latter. I think this was the understood context everyone else is speaking of in this thread. That at one time Irish immigrants and African American’s shared a common bond and a common community. And then to see the great great grand children of these immigrants fighting to keep blacks out of their community is tragic.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    A few points.

    I don’t decide who is and who is not Irish. My government does. My people do. The Oireachtas does not recognise Americans of Irish descent without citizenship as Irish, and neither do I.

    If you had read my argument more carefully, you would have noticed that the first criteria for being Irish is being born in Ireland. So it doesn’t matter where you move. You’re Irish. Your children, however, are not. If you think differently, try having an Irish American vote in the next election. Which means your whole ‘poof’ argument is a straw man, because that’s not what I am suggesting. We’re talking about Irish Americans, not immigrants.

    I don’t expect any racial purity. Irish is not a race. The children of Nigerian immigrants born in Ireland are as Irish as I am.

    I defy you to go to any St. Patricks Day parade in America and tell me we are not being mocked.

    The idea that Irish immigrants were heavily and systematically discriminated against in America is a myth. The lack of persecution is well documented. It’s a myth sustained by white Americans with a persecution complex.

  • EllieMurasaki

    If the lack of historical persecution of Irish people in the US is well documented, then surely you have an armful of citations you’re just itching to give us.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    No Irish Need Apply: A Myth of Victimization, by Richard Jensen. In addition to the complete lack of any historical anecdotes involving prejudice against the Irish on account of their nationality. There were no NINA signs, very few anti Irish statements, and most of the supposed persecution was targeted against Catholics of all types, not the Irish.

    We were persecuted in Britain, and brutalised in our homeland. But not in America, despite the whining of the Irish Americans.

    See also ‘Irish Society: Sociological Perspectives’ by Patrick Clancy and ‘The History and Topography of Ireland,’ ny John Joseph O Meara.

    Sorry sweetheart.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, I’ve heard Jensen’s name before. Anybody else think it’s well documented, or just him?

    And don’t you fucking dare call me ‘sweetheart’.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    Jensen is peer reviewed and cites legitimate historical sources. His work is accepted and supported by Trinity College Dublin and other academic institutions.

    I see you completely ignored Clancy and O Meara. You’re not doing so well.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Where did you mention Clancy and O’Meara? Because if it was in an edit, it’s not that I’m ignoring you, it’s that I’m interacting with Disqus by email and Disqus never sends email notifs of edits.

    Anyway, searching my local library system for ‘clancy and o’meara’ is coming up utterly blank. Ditto ‘richard jensen no irish need apply’. I ain’t spending money on this.

  • JoK

    He has not mentioned the other two names thus far, and I am on via browser.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh goody.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    They were mentioned in my original comment to you.

    If you’re unfamiliar with the works I cited, that’s not my problem or my responsibility. It’s off topic any way. My original point stands. Don’t link my people to white Americans of Irish descent by calling them Irish.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Your first comment to me, quoted in full, note the absence of Clancy and O’Meara, and FYI you don’t get to be the identity police:

    No Irish Need Apply: A Myth of Victimization, by Richard Jensen. In addition to the complete lack of any historical anecdotes involving prejudice against the Irish on account of their nationality. There were no NINA signs, very few anti Irish statements, and most of the supposed persecution was targeted against Catholics of all types, not the Irish.
    We were persecuted in Britain, and brutalised in our homeland. But not in America, despite the whining of the Irish Americans.

    Sorry sweetheart.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    Well, in that case, I’ll just start calling myself Nastia Liukin, and don’t you dare tell me I’m not a Russian gymnast.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh, I wouldn’t dream of arguing with your self-identification. I might look at you sidewise if you’ve no Russian ancestry and never took gymnastic lessons, but you see, I don’t get to be the identity police either.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    “See also ‘Irish Society: Sociological Perspectives’ by Patrick Clancy and ‘The History and Topography of Ireland,’ ny John Joseph O Meara.”

    Bottom of my original comment. Check again.

  • Eric Boersma

    That’s understandable. I’m not saying that every single person who doesn’t post about politics does so due to problems with epistemic closure, just that in my experience, the people who are politically active and then suddenly decide “I’m never going to post about politics again!” and very publicly advertise that fact are usually (a) conservative and (b) having difficulty reconciling that there are other world views beside their own.


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