Shock Troops of the Right Wing

Three events in the past two weeks have demonstrated how frighteningly effective and coordinated the right-wing coalition of church, state and ground-level shock troops has become.

Exhibit A, of course, is the decision by CBS not to show its biographical mini-series about Ronald Reagan on network television. From the time the New York Times first reported on the upcoming series, only 13 days elapsed until the right wing forced CBS to capitulate. The coalition included leaders of the Republican Party, conservative television and radio hosts, and individual activists.

The uproar occurred even though, according to the Times' reading of the final script, the movie "give(s) Mr. Reagan most of the credit for ending the cold war and paints him as an exceptionally gifted politician and a moral man who stuck to his beliefs, often against his advisers' urgings ."

But the right believed the script was insufficiently worshipful. CBS responded by shifting the mini-series to cable, thereby reducing by 70 percent the number of households able to watch it. That still might not satisfy the right. In any case, we can be assured that if it airs on Showtime mention of possible flaws in Reagan's performance or character will be minimized, if not excised completely.

Exhibit B is the decision by the Florida legislature to overturn the courts and order the hospital to re-connect Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. Mrs. Schiavo had been in a vegetative state for 13 years. After spending eight years by her hospital bed her husband decided to abide by what he said Terri had told him before her seizure: that she didn't want to live in that state. He asked the hospital to stop force-feeding her. A five-year court battle ensued. On Oct. 15, having exhausted all judicial appeals, the hospital was ordered to abide by his wishes.

Once again a combination of leading Republicans, conservative television and radio hosts, and individual activists sprang into action. Within days the Florida legislature passed a bill giving Governor Jeb Bush -- a man who has never met Mrs. Schiavo -- the authority to overrule the wishes of her husband. An hour later the governor exercised that authority. She is again being force-fed.

Exhibit C is the decision by Browning Construction Co., one of Texas' largest construction companies, to back out of a project to build a clinic for Planned Parenthood. A right-wing coalition of religious activists and Republican Party faithful stopped construction 30 days after it began. Leading the effort was a newly created group -- the Austin Area Pro-Life Concrete Contractors and Suppliers Association. The Association's chairman, Chris Danze, labeled Planned Parenthood, "a social movement that promotes sexual chaos, especially of our youth."

The Association's boycott of the project achieved complete success. Every concrete supplier within 60 miles of Austin refused to supply materials. Construction stopped.

These are heady times for the right. In quick succession they have demonstrated their ability to censor movies they oppose, prevent implementation of court decisions they resist, even halt the construction of a building that would house an organization they dislike.

We can expect the right, intoxicated by such successes, to redouble their efforts. Are we ready?

David Morris, a regular contributor to AlterNet, is the executive director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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