In a world of 24-hour television news and a wide open Internet, it’s hard to separate gibberish from legitimate information. Nature, we are told, abhors a vacuum, and the most dreaded scourge of the electronic media is dead air. Something must be found to fill the airwaves. And that something must be startling enough to attract viewers away from the competition.
That’s probably why we are hearing so much from CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Conference – hosted by the American Conservative Union Foundation.
Never heard of the American Conservative Union Foundation? Neither have I. But I have heard of one group sponsoring this year’s get-together, which started Thursday in Washington DC and runs through today. It’s called the John Birch Society (illustration at right) and it’s a blast from the past.
Back then, of course, there were gate keepers in the news business. A crackpot organization like that didn’t get the kind of play it gets today. There was some consternation when the public first heard about the group, but before long most Americans realized it was more of a joke than a threat.
The late William F. Buckley dismissed Birchers as “idiotic” and “paranoid. ” If you remember Buckley, you will know he was no uppity liberal, arrogantly dumping on a bunch of solid, God fearing, Constitution loving (white) Americans. (I always thought he was a pompous egomaniac with a thesaurus, but if he were alive today, he would probably be revered as a responsible conservative).
The Birchers never came across a conspiracy theory they didn’t believe. And they weren’t shy about making up their own stories. Founder Robert Welch called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a “conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy” and warned that the U.S. government was “under operational control of the Communist party.”
One of the Birchers’ pet targets was the civil rights movement . They opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the pretext that it violated the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But we knew they were really a bunch of white-power nuts who hated non-whites and Jews. (Today, I notice from their web site, they’re focusing their hatred on Muslims, too.)
Hatred is the society’s thing. Hatred and fear.
Birchers warn against threats like “one world government,” immigrants, the United Nations, and any and all trade agreements. What are they for? As far as I can tell, they want American (white American) world domination and individual freedom to oppress their neighbors.
So why would anyone care what these loons have to say?
“They’re a conservative organization,” says CPAC organizer Lisa Depasquale, refusing to elaborate.
And listening to the “mainstream” conservative voices of today, she has a point. When John McCain and Lindsey Graham are pilloried for their “liberal” politics, you know a segment of the American population has moved far to the right in recent years – especially since the election of the country’s first black President.
And, to a large extent, it’s the fault of today’s no-holds-barred media.
The media treat nuts like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann and Dick Cheney as if they were lucid human beings. And, sure enough, they’re among the crazies calling for revolution and advocating violence at CPAC this year.
But that’s not the most troubling development at the conference.
Even people like Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (photo at right), who used to sound reasonably sane, are joining the revolutionary wave. Pawlenty not only spoke at CPAC but made a wisecrack about attacking Washington politicians. Telling conservatives to follow the example of Tiger Woods’ wife, Elin Nordgren, Pawlenty quipped:
So, she said, ‘I’ve had enough.’ She said, ‘no more.’ I think we should take a page out of her playbook and take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government in this country.
This from one a supposedly “reasonable” conservative. He thinks the Woods saga is funny, and that violence is legitimate in American politics. Why am I not laughing?