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I Was the Target of a Fox News Hoax

When I was asked to address a conference at Brandeis, a right-wing shock jock created a hoax to stir up the right. Then Glenn Beck ran with it.

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I was part of a group of scholars asked by the History News Network to review Jonah Goldberg's book, Liberal Fascism, and all of us thought the claims and analysis in the book were unsubstantiated, and contradicted the majority scholarship.

The discussion of the role of angry middle-class right-wing populist movements intersecting with opportunistic politicians and media demagogues to facilitate the formation of fascist and neo fascist movements is well studied in scholarly literature. But hyperbolic claims from the political Left that the Tea Party movement itself is a Nazi movement flow from deeply inaccurate and superficial perceptions about the nature of fascism and the actual attitudes within the Tea Party movement.

There is, however, a set of dynamics that the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as " Rage on the Right," that involves the Patriot Movement, the Militias, Anti-immigrant groups, and the Ultra Right including neonazis.

In recent months a number of progressive scholars and journalists have opened up a discussion about these dynamics, most recently Noam Chomsky, but preceded by Sara Robinson, David Neiwert, author of The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right.

This is not the same as denouncing the Tea Party movement as Nazis. It is a comparative analysis of the role of right-wing populist movements in Germany during the Weimar regime, and the role they played in the decision of elite faction in Germany to give power to Hitler to solve the "crisis;" but also to block the growing power of socialist and communist parties and movements.

That's not the situation in the U.S. today. The Tea Party movement is not on the verge of joining the tiny "groupuscule" of neonazis in our country. It is far more likely they will pull the Republican Party further to the right -- chased by the Democrats led by deluded spin doctors who apparently control what passes for Democratic Party strategy built around snidely deriding the Tea Party activists as ignorant and lunatic "wing-nuts."

Of course like all populist social movements on the right or left, the Tea Party could collapse in a few months, or merge into a revitalized Republican Party, or splinter into segments built around libertarianism, xenophobic anti-immigrant activism, Gun Rights, anti-Muslim fears, and the Christian Right gender-drive social agenda of pushing gay people back into the closet and forcing women into back alleys for abortions. Nobody knows for sure.

Shock Jock Graham apparently missed the parts of my presentation dealing with why a comparative analysis of how the Tea Party, Town Hall, and Militia movements interact in a dynamic way with the Republican Party on one side and organized insurgent ultra-right movements on the other side. He might have picked up one of the diagrams I distributed at the conference, but if so, he apparently missed the point. (this version is from 2009, as it shows how long I have used this analytical lens mentioning the reformist and dissident Tea Party movement as situated between the reformist Conservative Right and the Insurgent Ultra Right including neonazis.

I have also explained the dynamic of how angry right-wing populism can lead to aggression and violence, especially against people of color and immigrants, on Religion Dispatches, and in the Progressive magazine in a February cover story titled Taking Tea Partiers Seriously."

Since Graham apparently has not bothered to actually read any of my work, or else he simply ignores its content. So here is the text from the end of my Brandeis conference paper:

...Fascism exploits anger and frustration and directs it into demonization and scapegoating; creating a potential for aggression and violence that in the worst case scenario can end in genocide.

 
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