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United States of Fear: How Right-Wing Lawmakers Will Use Absurd Terrorism Conspiracy Theories to Curb Your Freedoms

Republican members of the incoming Congress are looking for terrorism in ever more startling places.
 
 
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There are some things to be thankful for.

The woman who puzzled over Hispanics in her audience of high-school students and suggested they looked “Asian” was defeated in her run for the Senate in Nevada. The guy who called Islam a cult was knocked out of the Tennessee gubernatorial race. The bizarre candidate who threatened to “take out” a reporter was brushed aside in his bid for the governorship of New York.

Despite the electoral failures of Sharron Angle, Ron Ramsey, Carl Paladino, and a host of others inhabiting what used to be America’s political peripheries, the next Congress will have a decidedly fringy tone. No wonder the wilder types already there are looking forward to the January 2011 legislative session with such relish: so many investigations crying out to be launched; so many dictators and thugs still hanging on in Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela; terrorism in the streets of Portland; foreign terrorists flocking to America; secret government documents splayed across the front pages of our newspapers.

They wonder if the U.S. hasn’t simply become a pitiful, helpless giant. But the rest of us ought to wonder just what kind of politics is going to grow in the strange, rich Petri dish of the new Congress.

Consider just one area that will be a major focus of Congressional interest: immigration, an issue that will gain potency as it melds into the rhetoric of terror.

Foreigners and terrorists: Really, what’s the difference? That the nation has grown and prospered precisely because of adaptive immigration is beside the point, an obvious reflection of someone caught in the old mindset of the September 10th world. Interestingly, though, only about 8% of those who cast ballots in the 2010 election cited immigration concerns as their primary motivator. Of those who did, however, nearly 70% were Republicans.

With their new House majority, the Republicans plan to pay some major attention to that 8% of the motivated electorate. Immigration matters will play out largely in two key House committees, Homeland Security and Judiciary, and critical members of each committee told me they intend to investigate past actions of the Obama administration “fully and completely,” block any kind of comprehensive immigration reform, expose supposed lax enforcement of immigration laws and inadequate resources devoted to -- as one Judiciary member put it -- “boots on the ground.” Terrorism will play a key role in hearings on virtually all these topics, most dramatically, no doubt, in focusing attention on what Republicans view as a shadowy Latin network of terrorist infiltrators seeking to exploit the U.S. failure to protect its own southern border.

Most people are probably blissfully unaware of a burgeoning conspiracy in which Cuba and Venezuela are reputedly assisting African and Middle Eastern extremists as they slip into the United States and fan out across the country. That lack of awareness will not last long, however, if the new Republican majority in the House has anything to do with it. Key representatives are already promising to pound the drums ever more loudly and so expose this supposed burst of clandestine activity over the next couple of years. More on that in a moment.

Peter King, vocal New York Republican opponent of the Lower Manhattan Islamic cultural center, aka the mosque at Ground Zero, will soon become chair of the Homeland Security Committee. He has made it all too clear that he intends to “investigate” with abandon and continue to birddog that dreaded Manhattan “mosque.” King’s focus will serve to keep the specter of imminent terrorism directly before the country, infusing all manner of issues with claims and insinuations about bombs, plots, and massive threats.