Monday, May 31, 2010

Fwd: None Dare Call It Sedition ANS

Subject: None Dare Call It Sedition  ANS

this one is pretty heavy.  It's about sedition: overthrowing our government.  Is that what the GOP is doing now?  Read what Sara Robinson has to say about it. 

None Dare Call It Sedition
Tuesday, April 06, 2010

-- by Sara

Sedition: Crime of creating a revolt, disturbance, or violence against lawful civil authority with the intent to cause its overthrow or destruction -- Brittanica Concise Dictionary

Well, finally. It's high time somebody had the guts to say the S-word -- sedition -- right out loud.

When the indictments against the Hutaree were unsealed last week, the S-word was right there, front and center, in Count One. The Justice Department accused them of "seditious conspiracy," charging that the defendants "did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and other persons known and levy war against the United States, and to prevent, hinder, and delay by force the execution of any United States law."

This is very serious stuff. But the Hutaree are getting nailed for sedition only because they crossed the line with inches to spare. They're by no means the only ones. Advocating, encouraging, and sanctioning sedition is the new norm on the conservative side.

We saw it again last Thursday, when the Guardians of the Free Republics -- a Sovereign Citizen group that believes that the oath of office taken by state governors is invalid under their twisted Bizarroland interpretation of the Constitution -- sent letters to most or all sitting state governors telling them to either a) take what they consider to be a legitimate oath of office; b) stand down; or c) or be removed "non-violently" within three days. The FBI, rightly, regards this as a potentially seditious threat against the governors.

These two events are a wake-up call for progressives. They're telling us that it's time to openly confront the fact that conservatives have spent the past 40 years systematically delegitimizing the very idea of constitutional democracy in America. When they're in power, they mismanage it and defund it. When they're out of power, they refuse to participate in running the country at all -- indeed, they throw all their energy into thwarting the democratic process any way they can. When they need to win an election, they use violent, polarizing, eliminationist language against their opponents to motivate their base. This is sedition in slow motion, a gradual corrosive undermining of the government's authority and capacity to run the country. And it's been at the core of their politics going all the way back to Goldwater.

This long assault has gone into overdrive since Obama's inauguration, as the rhetoric has ratcheted up from overheated to perfervid. We've reached the point where you can't go a week without hearing some prominent right wing leader calling for outright sedition -- an immediate and defiant populist uprising against some legitimate form of government authority.

Moderates and liberals are responding to this rising threat with feckless calls for "a return to civility," as if all that's needed to put things right again is a stern talking-to from Miss Manners. Though that couldn't hurt, the sad fact is that we're well past the point where it's just a matter of conservatives behaving like tantrum-throwing spoiled brats (which they are). When a mob is surrounding your house with torches and telling you they intend to burn it down, "civility" really isn't the issue any more.

At that point -- and we're there -- criminal intent and action become the real issues. Progressives need to realize that the right began defiantly dancing back and forth over the legal line, daring us to do something about it, quite some time ago. And it's high time we called it out -- and, where appropriate, start prosecuting it -- for exactly what it is.

What is Sedition?
Before we start throwing around inflammatory terms like "sedition," it's essential that we understand the strict definition of the word -- and use it carefully and precisely, lest it lose all meaning.

(That's what happened with the word "fascism," which has been distorted into meaninglessness by hyperbolic overuse on the left and willful redefinition on the right. Once a word is abused and distorted this way, it's very hard to recapture it and restore its original meaning. And that's no small thing, because losing the word makes it functionally impossible to even discuss the political idea the word represents. Worse: as Orwell told us, when we no longer have the language to describe what we're dealing with, we also lose our ability to deal effectively with fascism at all. That's a real danger with loaded words -- so, please, let's be extremely careful about how we brandish this one.)

Here's the defining line we need to hold on to. People who promote subversive ideas, no matter how dangerous those ideas might seem, are completely protected under the First Amendment. Even calling for the overthrow of the government is protected (though not benign, as we'll see later, because it creates justification, permission, and incitement to seditious acts). That's why the conservatives have been safe -- so far.

It's only when those people start actively planning and implementing a government rebellion that it turns into criminal sedition. In this case: the weird rantings on the Hutaree website -- not seditious. The group's allegedly operational plans to assassinate a police officer, ambush the resulting funeral, and thus bring on a national militia uprising -- absolutely seditious, if the charges stick.

This bright-line distinction, which has been part of American sedition law for the past 50 years, parallels closely the line drawn by terrorism analysts in sussing out which groups are benign and which ones are headed for trouble. As I've noted before, one of the cardinal signs these experts watch and listen for is a fundamental shift in rhetoric. In the early stages of dissent, groups establish the lines of conflict by obsessively focusing on their enemies and loudly denouncing their essential evilness. You hear this kind of talk in politics all the time these days. It's always ugly, but not inherently dangerous.

But in the latter stage, the talk turns overtly eliminationist, and the group starts expressing its clear desire and intention to eradicate specific enemies. When they shift to that second stage, it's a sign that they've made the mental commitment to violent action -- and are more likely to be acquiring arms, selecting targets, and getting ready to act in the near future. When a group starts actively planning an attack on government offices or officials, it's officially crossed the line into sedition.

Sedition on The Right
Openly advocating acts of sedition has become the conservatives' main political stock in trade over the past year. (The SPLC offers a strong summary here.) You hear it everywhere from Rush to Glenn to Michelle Malkin to Michelle Bachman. Everybody on the right is now roundly convinced that the fairly-elected President of the United States isn't even a citizen. He's a Muslim, and thus in treasonous league with terrorists. The main goal of his administration is to turn the country over to the One World Government. He's a socialist. He's a fascist. All of these are direct attacks on Obama's fundamental legitimacy and authority to lead the country -- and thus a deliberate incitement to revolt against his administration.

These narratives are coupled with a rising us-versus-them blaming of progressives for all the problems of the country. These days, the screeds sound eerily like free-market fundamentalists freebasing Hitler: they're clouded over with the typical eliminationist vitriol that reduces liberals to subhuman vermin that must be violently exterminated from the body politic in order to restore the virtue of the country. (For those who groove on that sort of thing, there's even a slight dash of anti-Semitism in the mix.) This is dangerous stuff. And in the context of the conservatives' longstanding effort to delegitimize the government, it's also an open invitation to sedition.

This seditious intent is obvious in the increasingly overt firearms displays at right-wing events. The media took to their fainting couches, aghast, when a small handful of people showed up packing heat at last summer's Tea Party disruptions. Now, we've advanced the point where not one, but two, 100% gun-toting marches on Washington, DC are planned for this coming April 19. Their organizers are hoping the marches will draw tens of thousands of armed protestors. Get used to seeing guns in the streets wherever the law allows -- because the conservatives have told their base explicitly that they need to be "exercising their rights" on this front to the fullest extent. Carrying guns in public is now an essential symbol of how the the right defines freedom. It also expresses just how afraid they are, and what they're planning to do about that fear.

These escalating armed demonstrations, accompanied by belligerent sloganeering, are a clear signal that these folks are done talking -- and, worse, have already decided that democracy is futile, and taking up arms is the only appropriate response to the threats we now face. They're carrying weapons to scare us weak-kneed girly libs into submission, and to show us they mean business. Growing up in gun country, I was taught at my daddy's knee that when someone says they're going to shoot you, it's always smart to take them at their word and handle yourself accordingly. Right now, I think that's good advice for anybody in America who considers themselves a member of the reality-based community.

But it's not just armed individuals. They're also busily forming armed groups, which are gearing up for a fight. For the past five years, armed Minutemen have been usurping the job of the US Border Patrol. And within the past year, according to the SPLC, the number of right-wing militias has more than doubled to over 500, many of which present themselves as alternative law-enforcement posses that are adjunct to the ones staffed by the county sheriffs.

What these groups are telling us is that they no longer recognize the government's sole franchise on the use of force; and they're actively organizing to seize and exercise at least some of that power for themselves.

Most alarming of all: some of these right-wing warriors have advanced to the point of actual target acquisition. This should worry us, because law enforcement and terrorism experts know that when groups like this get to where they're settling on specific targets, they've reached the final stages of gearing up for violent confrontation.

When Bernard Goldberg wrote a book listing the "100 people who are destroying America" -- which included some government officials -- he was writing a target list with seditious intent. (And at least one guy took him up on it, in his own deranged way.)

When the "spiritual warriors" of the Transformations movement proudly announce that they've mapped every town in America -- literally creating target maps of "demonic activity" that pinpoint government offices, non-Evangelical houses of worship, clinics, theaters, Indian mounds and sites; or even just households with Muslims, neo-pagans, Goth-baby teenagers, or Obama stickers on their cars -- they're putting us on notice that they've identified the specific people and places that need to be "cleansed" in order to purify their communities. According to researchers Rachel Tabachnik and Bruce Wilson, these "transformation" attempts have already become government-level issues in New Jersey, Arizona, Texas, and Hawaii.

At present, they claim that they're only mapping their neighborhoods so they can pray over us all; and their attempts to take over local government are being done by purely democratic means. But, as has often happened before (yes, the Nazis started out just this way), the day may come when they'll decide that mere prayer and organizing is not enough. Like any street gang, they've taken proprietary responsibility for a piece of turf; and they believe God is holding them accountable for everything that happens there. The resulting performance pressure is a perfect setup to justify more aggressive cleansing tactics if they can't convert the town by peaceful means.

And some of these groups have already effectively crossed the line, in spirit if not in prosecutable fact. When the Christian dominionists train up " Joel's Army" by sending their sons to the US armed services so they can get the combat experience they'll need to set up a worldwide theocracy, that's evidence of an active plan to effect an armed government takeover. When senior US military officers put their commitment to Jesus ahead of their commitment to uphold the Constitution and regard the military as God's force in the world, we should be very afraid.

For years now, we've dismissed all of this as crazy talk, the rantings of a loony fringe that will never get enough traction to become a material threat to our democracy. But we're well past the point where it's no longer quaint and funny, or an embarrassing breach of democratic etiquette that polite people should just ignore.

It's time to confront the sobering fact that the entire right wing -- including the GOP establishment, which encourages, endorses, and echoes these sentiments almost every time its officials appear in public -- is now issuing nearly constant invitations to criminal sedition. They're creating a climate and using language that lowers their base's inhibitions around violence -- and irresponsibly eggs on the handful of sociopaths in their midst who are already primed to kill. They've given their newly-expanded corps of flying monkeys permission to brandish their guns in public, empowered their militias, promised them glory, and are now telling them explicitly which targets to hit.

We'd be idiots not to regard this as an overt threat. Especially when they keep telling us, very explicitly, that they mean it to be. When somebody says they're going to shoot you, believe them.

We need to start talking about this for what it is, and calling it out whenever it happens. Leonard Zeskind points out that the feds have never been able to make a sedition charge stick against a right-wing group (if the Hutaree are convicted, it'll be a first); but the first step in stopping sedition is making sure everybody knows exactly what it is when they see it. And that means calling out the S-word every time we see the conservatives defiantly flinging their hands and feet out over that line to score a few cheap political points.

The challenge I once threw down on the conservatives still stands. Do they want a civil war? Are they out to overthrow the US government?

If this is just political grandstanding to energize the base, they're playing with fire, and they need to bring this incendiary campaign to a screeching halt. Right now. This Mickey Mouse pussyfooting around, play-acting at sedition is criminally dangerous chickenshit politics that puts the short-term needs of the Republican party ahead of the long-term viability of the American democracy they've sworn to uphold. In case the party leaders haven't noticed, their base has taken them as seriously as a heart attack -- and they're genuinely making ready for armed revolt.

On the other hand, if they're actually serious about seditious rebellion against the US government, then let them stand up, follow through, and face the charges. They're either Americans, committed to working in good faith within the democratic process to create our common future; or else they're seditionists in intention or fact -- and thus enemies of the state, plain and simple.

For the good of the country, we cannot continue to let them have it both ways. They need to choose whose side they're on: America's, or their own.

11:20 AM Spotlight


[]   Greg[]
"Moderates and liberals are responding to this rising threat with feckless calls for "a return to civility," as if all that's needed to put things right again is a stern talking-to from Miss Manners." 
Actually, no. It's a recognition that polarization has been part and parcel of the conservative strategy, and that raising the fear level on all sides creates the conditions for and improves the chances of violence. Right wing authoritarianism flourishes in a climate of fear, and lowering the temperature allows people to step back from the rhetoric. Creating and prmoting civil discourse isn't a strategy. It's a tactical response that changes the terrain to one more favorable for progressives who are not themselves authoritarian. It recognizes that it's much harder to demonize someone you actually know socially. 
Will this calm down the "open carry" folks? No. But it will - and does - create an environment in which they are seen as outside the mainstream and support for their position becomes less likely. 
I don't disagree with most of your analysis - and totally agree that when someone says they want to shoot you, take it seriously. But taking it seriously does not mean blinding yourself to the degree which a reduction of tension lowers that person's ability to do so.
2 days ago, 2:42:00 PM
[]   Mrs. Robinson[]
I don't disagree. In fact, I think it would be excellent to have progressive groups turning up en masse to gun ranges and gun shows, mingling and partying and forming personal relationships -- and at the same time serving as a quiet reminder to the folks on the right that a shooting war may not be quite as one-sided as they like to assume. This could be quite salutary. Too bad our side is generally too elitist to recognize why this might be a good idea -- let alone agree to do it. That failure is ours, and we're going to pay for it by and by. 
But I'm very concerned that the appeal to civility appears, at the moment, to be the only tactic coming from our side. And, frankly, the only way it's going to be respected is if conservatives believed that failure to cooperate comes at some material cost to them. Talking softly is so much more likely to work when you're holding a nice big stick. 
My point is that focusing on civility seems to have blinded us to the fact that more and more, what we're dealing with is incipient (and increasingly, actual) criminality. We can be civil, and still call sedition out for what it is. Those laws exist, and they may be a useful big stick.
2 days ago, 3:04:56 PM
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2 Guests
[]   Bilejones[]
When was the last time there was a "terrorist threat" in the US that wasn't a bunch of patsies riddled through and driven by the FBI. Here's a clue. The FBI guys are the ones not wearing a prison jumpsuit in the mugshots.
2 days ago, 4:09:01 PM
[]   Sam Holloway[]
I agree with your prescription, Mrs. Robinson.  I've periodically talked with my wife about going to a gun range to get some shooting practice in.  Gun ownership is a bit problematic here in Chicago, but that is apparently beside the point.  I'm no fan of guns, but I am increasingly seeing the futility of coming to a gunfight armed with hopey-changey, 'civilized' rhetoric.  Not to get too far off track, but as long as Obama and the Democrats continue to push pro-corporate, neo-liberal domestic policies, self-identified liberals and progressives will have to understand that their civility and good intentions are going to be falling on an increasing number of deaf and enraged ears. 
So I would amend my agreement to suggest that right now liberals and progressives should elect better Democrats (or vote Green wherever possible) while arming themselves.  In other words, we need to get out there and prove that we are just as pissed as the right wingers; and we need to show these elimination-minded ones that, yeah, we're liberals, but we ain't going to be sitting ducks.
2 days ago, 4:57:57 PM
[]   Mrs. Robinson[]
This "it's always FBI instigators" crap is the big talking point on the right-wing boards. It's not unfamiliar to anybody on the left who remembers COINTELPRO, or even DHS surveillance of Quaker peace groups around the time of the Iraq invasion. The appropriate response is: Yeah, that happens. And it's wrong. And it 
The fact they're eliding is: the best FBI instigator cannot lead people in a direction they're not already predisposed to go. People who are so blinded by their rage and hate that they can't recognize where they're being led -- by the FBI or the GOP or their own leaders -- deserve everything they get when they get there. The reason DHS couldn't make anything stick on the peace groups is that the members of those groups were impervious to instigation. They weren't going to turn violent, no matter who was pushing them. That's clearly not the case on the right these days. 
Reverting to mom gear: If the neighbor kid jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too? (And if little Timmy McVeigh blew up 168 people, would you make a bomb, too?) At some point, we've all got to take responsibility for our own choices. Contrary to populist belief, it's not OK just because you're a Republican.
2 days ago, 5:48:15 PM
[]   lawnorder[]
I doubt you will get any answer to your open challenge. The way things stanr right now  is a win-win for conservatives, they get to have a fervently loyal fanatic base and they also get to be part of the serious political discourse. It is up to us to deny them the right to fake "civility" while cradling gun toting whakos in their midst.
Alas, like you say, it is to late for Miss Manners. Some people will die. What it remains to be seen is how many need to die till the people who do not want a civil war wake up and shun this entire seditious party.
Sometimes I think the right wing envied the muhjaheddin and decided to create their own local brand. With suicide bombers included. Witness the guy who wanted to kill Pat Murray.
Yesterday, 7:00:01 AM
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[]   brantl[]
"Too bad our side is generally too elitist to recognize why this might be a good idea -- let alone agree to do it." Being moral and being elitist are not the same thing. You dufus.
Yesterday, 9:00:58 AM
[]   Mrs. Robinson[]
We're in deeper shit than I thought, apparently. The Jesus in my Bible was all about blessing those who curse you -- but apparently that's not "moral" enough for Branti.
Sorry. I don't see the "immorality" in getting to know your neighbors, and seeing them as human beings, and allowing them the chance to see you as a human being, too. I don't see the crime in participating in the life of the community -- which in most of America, includes gun ranges and gun shows. Liberals tend to think they don't belong in those places, but they're dead wrong about that.
If your "morality" doesn't comport with that, you're out of step with pretty much every major (and most minor) religion on the planet -- but hey, whatever. 
Just keep your "moral" judgments off the rest us, mm'k?
Yesterday, 9:44:29 AM
[]   Realist[]
It's worth remembering that gun control laws were created in fear of a revolutionary uprising. Given the direction that the schsim could take, it may be time for Progressives to reclaim the 2nd Amendment Right.
Yesterday, 12:13:40 PM
[]   Azkyroth[]
"It's worth remembering that gun control laws were created in fear of a revolutionary uprising."
As far as I'm aware they were created in response to the predictable effects of too many individual children, both chronological and moral-intellectual, playing with them
Today, 9:20:42 AM
[]   Azkyroth[]
 "The Jesus in my Bible was all about blessing those who curse you -- but apparently that's not "moral" enough for Branti."
<a href="">What the</a> <a href="">HELL are</a> <a href="">you talking about?</a>
"If your "morality" doesn't comport with that, you're out of step with pretty much every major (and most minor) religion on the planet -- but hey, whatever."
And you figure that positing that morality means following some religious doctrine rather than seriously considering the effects of your actions on other people is helpful to or consistent with our exactly?
While I agree with your overall point, being right for the wrong reasons only goes so far.
Today, 9:26:08 AM
[]   Azkyroth[] parsing of HTML hyperlinks.'ve got to be kidding me...
Today, 9:27:05 AM
[]   Glenn I[]
Thanks, David, for the long post informed by your years of investigation into rightwing violence. That the mainstream Republican Party is integrating this into the stuff into their method is deeply discouraging. Sympathies were long suggested but a Miss Manners-esque cover of civilty kept the Repubs from an outright embrace. That cover is thinner and holier ... holier than thou, I suppose.
Today, 10:05:51 AM
[]   Enlightened Layperson[]
<i>In fact, I think it would be excellent to have progressive groups turning up en masse to gun ranges and gun shows, mingling and partying and forming personal relationships -- and at the same time serving as a quiet reminder to the folks on the right that a shooting war may not be quite as one-sided as they like to assume. This could be quite salutary. </i> 
If by that you mean meeting gun owners and convincing them that liberals are human too, I'm all for it.  If you mean stockpiling our own arsenals, training our own private armies, and preparing for war with right-wing militias, this is the last thing we need.  Escalating polarization and normalization of political violence is how democracies die.  Biting fingers off was bad enough.  Rival militias gearing for civil war is a sign that democracy is in the terminal stages.
Today, 10:22:42 AM
[]   Alan[]
There are plenty of signs that our democracy is in its terminal stages.  The minute I have a few hundred bucks to spare, I plan to start purchasing firearms. I fully expect a violent coup attempt in the near future and if any God-damned Republicans try to come after me, I plan to shoot them in the head and walk away whistling a cheery tune.
Today, 3:16:32 PM

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