The 10 Most Ridiculous Right-Wing Outrages of 2011
Call them nontroversies, poutrages or pseudo-scandals. Since the 2008 elections, the conservative media have peddled a seemingly endless series of trumped-up non-stories, pitched as scandals rivaling Watergate, to their loyal rubes in an attempt to paint liberals, the media, scientists, Democrats and Obama – and other enemies of the Wingnut State – as perfidious, dishonest or downright treasonous.
A few of them have borne some remote resemblance to reality, but many of their pseudo-scandals featured no more substance than the bizarre right-wing emails your crazy uncle credulously forwards around to friends and family. Yet, with a dedicated conservative media headed by Fox News, many have been mainstreamed on the right, with some spurring calls for investigation by the GOP-led House. Those calls, in turn, then become stories for Fox News and other conservative outlets -- it's a feedback loop full of crazy.
We decided to take a look at the 10 shakiest mythological scandals of the past year. Of course, the list isn't comprehensive, because there's a new one every week.
1. Islamic Menace Soiling Our Pure American Turkeys
It's been a typically weird year for dark conspiracy theories about Muslims. Noted Islamophobic nutjob Robert Spencer told us that “the Leftist/jihadist alliance has been on abundant display during the Occupy protests.” We also learned that the Muslim Brotherhood has “infiltrated every level of our government,” and we were shocked to discover that even that yuppie stalwart, Whole Foods, was promoting radical Islam. Or something.
But the cake was taken by none other than Pam Geller, nuttiest of the nutjobs, who has in the past accused Dunkin' Donuts – and the Food Network's Rachael Ray – of promoting jihad and argued that the Arabic language itself “is the spearhead of an ideological project that is deeply opposed to the United States.”
How does one top that kind of crazy? Let's let Geller explain:
A citizen activist and reader of my website AtlasShrugs.com wrote to Butterball, one of the most popular producers of Thanksgiving turkeys in the United States, asking them if their turkeys were halal. Wendy Howze, a Butterball Consumer Response Representative, responded: "Our whole turkeys are certified halal."
In a little-known strike against freedom, yet again, we are being forced into consuming meat slaughtered by means of a torturous method: Islamic slaughter.
She then launches into a description of “Islamic slaughter,” which sounds exactly the way animals are slaughtered under Kosher law.
And then finishes with a flourish...
Why should we be forced to conform to Islamic norms? It's Islamic supremacism on the march, yet again.
2. And They're Taking Over the Conservative Movement
Staying on the theme, we get to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the biggest wingnut gab-fest of the year. This year was special because, according to the fever swamps, we learned that CPAC's organizers were in the bag not only for Islamic extremists – they're everywhere, after all – but also the gays, because a gay Republican group called GOProud was allowed to attend this year's shindig.
Roy Edroso braved the wingnut blogs to bring us the tale of how jihadists infiltrated this important event.
The accusations of jihad-friendliness were spurred by the presence at CPAC of Arab Indian-American former Bush Administration official Suhail Khan, whom some rightbloggers claim is a member of the militant Muslim Brotherhood -- a charge Khan has denied, which denial Frank Gaffney dismisses as "a bit of taqiyya (lying for the faith)."
Khan took part in a CPAC panel called "The Importance of Faith and Religious Liberty." "Islamic Rights Promoted At CPAC," Judicial Watch warned the nation. "Muslim Brotherhood supporters and sympathizers promoted Islamic tolerance."'
Two ardent anti-Muslim rightbloggers with their own CPAC panels were outraged. Pam Geller said the whole event had been "corrupted and compromised by the Muslim Brotherhood... look at the panels, they're either clueless or complicit." David Horowitz of NewsRealBlog told his CPAC auditors Khan was "sponsored by his longtime patron Grover Norquist," implying the former Bush official was in on the whole dirty Islamicist deal.
A flyer denouncing "Grover Khan" was circulated at CPAC; suggesting this two-headed beast was trying to "boil the Conservative frog slowly" so "he'll stay in the pot till he's cooked."
In 2009, the Department of Justice sponsored a conference in a swanky Washington DC hotel that charged $14.29 per attendee for a breakfast of fresh fruit, coffee and muffins, and “rental fees for the workshop space and conference rooms." That's not exactly an exorbitant fee, but in September, when the DOJ's inspector general issued a report – later corrected – suggesting that the department had paid $16 per muffin, “Muffin-gate” was born, a symbol of wasteful government spending that the right latched onto like … well, like a right-winger latches onto a faux scandal involving the Obama administration.
In what may be the most “meta” conspiracy theory of the year, Fox's Steve Doocey suggested that the only reason the network's endless parade of half-cooked scandals never caught on was the mainstream media's hopeless liberal bias. But when Huffington Post's Sam Stein looked at the media's coverage of Muffin-gate, he found that of 223 news stories that mentioned the “$16 muffins” from September 20-28, only 37 attempted to correct the record.
4. Mussolini Also Leaned on Ford
In 2011, Ford ran an ad featuring a customer saying that he'd chosen not to buy a car from one of the company's bailed-out Detroit competitors because, “I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose, or draw.” The company planned on airing the ad for four weeks, and did just that – not much of a story.
But then a Detroit News opinion columnist, citing no sources whatsoever, wrote that, “Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy.” Ford denied the charge, repeatedly, but as you might imagine, a right-wing meme that will probably be with us forever was born.
5. Holidays Bring Out the Crazy
Holidays can be stressful, and some people go a bit batty when they roll around. But at Fox News, which basically invented the right's laughable “war on Christmas” (derived from the fact that retailers tend to wish their diverse customers "Happy Holidays”), everyone goes crazy, year in and year out.
They took it to new heights of madness in 2011. Sean Hannity decried the casualties incurred in the “war on Easter.” On Fox and Friends, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade told us all about the “all-out assault on Halloween” (with schools across the country “doing everything from banning costumes to even removing the holiday because it may offend immigrants”).
Right-wingers also freaked out when Obama gave a three-minute Thanksgiving Day speech without mentioning "God." They also lost it when the White House announced that the Obamas were taking a 17-day vacation in Hawaii to mark the season. (As Media Matters noted, “President Reagan took a 25-day vacation in August 1983, and President George W. Bush took 27-day and 25-day vacations in August 2001 and August 2002, respectively.”)
Because Obama was scheduled to be out of town on December 20, the first day of Hanukkah, the White House threw an early party to mark the occasion, and the date then became “Hanukkah-Gate,” which was offered as further evidence that the administration “hates Jews.”
But don't laugh. This is actually tragic stuff. Gretchen Carlson is terrified that, with the way things are going on the Christmas War front, soon she won't even be able to display a nativity scene in her own home.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is some serious liberal fascism.
6. Movie Reviewers Have a Liberal Bias
Because they are always the victims of some dastardly plot, the brethren have a hard time accepting that American movie-goers don't necessarily have the ideological zeal required to shell out $12 for an unwatchably crappy film.
In April, when the much-anticipated (by wingnuts, anyway) Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 opened to dismal reviews, conservatives saw another liberal conspiracy afoot. Never mind that it was panned by several conservative reviewers who love Ayn Rand but thought the film was a stinker.
Roy Edroso captured some low-lights of the ensuing nontroversy as seen from the right-wing blogosphere:
"The reviews that I'd read by the so-called professionals who review movies, panned it," said Diary of a Mad Conservative. "The dialog was contrived, they said... Yadda yadda yadda: elite critiques from the nose in the air 'professionals'... They don't live in the same world that I do so they have no basis to make judgements for me."
"It's about INDIVIDUALS working for their own best interest. It's about government getting its foot OFF the neck of the producers." And you know if there's anything film critics hate it's producers -- look how they treated Darryl Zanuck!
"My movie-going friends all know that stellar critical reviews are the kiss of death," said Fox News. "If you see a movie with great critical reviews, it might still be worth watching, but best to read the reviews by bloggers, because they are a bit more trustworthy."
Then, when Undefeated, the excruciatingly dull Sarah Palin biopic sporting a zero rating on Rotten Tomatoes opened in theaters, Fox Nation reported, “Palin Film Opens Strong, Theaters Packed.” Only problem: the film averaged about 60 people per screen in its opening weekend. When the Atlantic's Conor Freidersdorf (a libertarian, by the way) reported attending a midnight showing with nobody in the audience, this quickly became evidence of a conspiracy, with leading right-wing bloggers wondering whether the August Atlantic Monthly had staged the empty screening in order to report on it and take down the political juggernaut that is Sarah Palin.
7. Zombie ACORN Lives (And It's Running Occupy Wall Street)
Matthew Vadum, author of Subversion, Inc.: How Obama's ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers, can't seem to accept a great conservative victory. Years after the right, using some wildly dishonest selective editing, destroyed ACORN, Vadum insists that the community group is still alive and well and draining federal funds.
But leave it to Fox to combine ACORN-phobia with its endless attempts to smear the Occupy Wall Street movement. In a series of “reports,” Fox's Jana Winter, relying on unnamed “inside sources,” insisted that ACORN – which she claimed has been reincarnated as New York Communities for Change (NYCC) -- had been behind the whole thing from the start.
She detailed how they'd planned it out for months before the first occupation began and shredded documents to cover up their role. The interesting thing, NYCC organizers say, is that while there is often some kernel of truth behind such myths, in this case the whole story was completely false, from beginning to end.
But that didn't prevent Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., from calling for a congressional investigation.
Dave Weigel, who accused Fox of “trying to pass on a stupid story to some rubes,” offers more detail here.
8. Planned Parenthood Subsidizes its Abortion Mills with Sex Trafficking!
Less successful than right-wing provocateur James O'Keefe's takedown of ACORN was an attempt by his ertswhile protege, Lila Rose, to catch Planned Parenthood in a similarly nefarious sting.
Here's what happened: right-wingers visited Planned Parenthood offices in 11 states, said they were running a sex-trafficking ring, complete with undocumented immigrants (icing on the cake), and asked about getting health-care services for their prostitutes.
Planned Parenthood immediately informed federal authorities, and that should have been the end of the story – a failed sting.
But that's just reality, which has a well-known liberal bias. The fact that the organization immediately dropped a dime on the “sex trafficking ring” didn't stop the Fox News crew from playing up the story for all it was worth.
9. A Nontroversy That Will Never Die: The New Black Panthers
The “New Black Panther Party” is a fringe group of racist black nationalists who number in the dozens nationwide, and many on the right are absolutely obsessed with them. Among the many heinous crimes the hate-filled political theater troupe hasn’t committed, the Panthers are most notorious for what the right considers to be a serious case of voter intimidation. It went down when a single member stood outside a Philadelphia polling place in 2008 with a nightstick. (A second member of the group was present as well, but it turned out he was a registered poll watcher.)
The problem with the story is that no voters reported being intimidated. The cops escorted the guy away from the polling place and the DOJ sued three members of the group, but it didn’t file criminal charges against the organization or send any of its members to Gitmo. This has outraged many right-wingers, who accused Obama's Justice Department of refusing to prosecute the Panthers because it's staffed by Kenyan socialists. (Or, as Rush Limbaugh put it, because Attorney General Eric Holder “doesn't believe” in pursuing crimes committed by African Americans against Real Americans®.)
A non-story, except it has everything a Fox News segment producer could want. As Media Matters noted, Murdoch’s crew “hyped the manufactured scandal more than 100 times” during just one six-week period last summer.
Perhaps you're wondering why this tale from the 2008 election is included in a list of contrived outrages from 2011. Well, earlier this year, the Department of Justice released the results of its internal investigation, which unsurprisingly found that the case hadn't been pursued because there was no case to pursue.
And this gave the wingnuts an excuse to revive the oft-debunked narrative! As Media Matters noted, “there is little hope that the right-wing bitter-enders who have been pushing this story will accept the conclusions of OPR. Last week, the foremost proponents of the New Black Panthers conspiracy, J. Christian Adams and Hans Von Spakovsky, began claiming that the 'fix is in' because Adams' sources at DOJ had said that [its investigation] would find no wrongdoing on the part of the attorneys who overruled Adams and his trial team.”
10. The Faux-Controversy of the Year: Solyndra
We will no doubt hear about Solyndra for years to come.
Because he is a genuine moron who can't even keep his right-wing talking-points straight, Rick Perry described it thusly:
“I’m for pulling all of those tax credits, or subsidies or however you refer to them out of the energy industry,” Perry said….
“No greater example of it than this administration sending millions of dollars into the solar industry, and we lost that money,” Perry began. “I want to say it was over $500 million that went to the country Solynda.”
Nice try, Ricky. Actually, Solyndra was a solar energy company based in California which went bankrupt in August. But it had received a $500 million federal loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, so this provided all sorts of wingnut storylines about green energy advocates, perhaps even validating reports that Al Gore is fat.
The loan was originally pushed by the Bush administration; it represented 1.3 percent of DOE's portfolio.
As Time magazine noted, “This is sure to play out as a scandal, but based on what we know so far, it shouldn’t be.”
Private loans go south all the time. ... The Obama administration has made bets on hundreds of clean-energy companies in dozens of clean-energy sectors; some of those bets in its portfolio are bound to go bad, just as Richard Branson picks an occasional lemon. It’s legitimate to question whether the government should have made this particular bet, or whether it overplayed a weak hand, or whether it should be making bets in the first place. But if we’re going to have a clean energy industry in this country, this kind of thing is going to happen. It doesn’t mean anyone cheated.
But the foundation of the story was based on who had invested in Solyndra. As Dave Johnson explained, “The typical conservative-outlet story follows a template of Glenn-Beckian accusations that someone 'connected to' Obama has 'ties' to something. When you hear the phrasing 'has ties to' you should understand this as code-speak for 'has nothing to do with but can be made to appear to have some sinister involvement if you twist the wording a certain way.'"
In this case, the “connection,” according to the conservative media, was George Kaiser, a big-time Obama donor. The problem is that George Kaiser didn't invest a dime in Solyndra. The nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation did. As Dave Johnson points out, “One of the areas of focus of the foundation is the National Energy Policy Institute, so Solyndra was a natural investment for the Foundation.”
But there was a large donor involved: the conservative Walton family, of the Wal-Mart fortune, invested in the company through their firm, Madrone Capital. Johnson added that, unlike the Kaiser Foundation, “at the time that the Bush administration started pushing the Solyndra loan [the Waltons] were in a position to personally profit from this investment. If any accusation of an expectation of personal enrichment obtained from political connections should be investigated, it is this one.”
If you're waiting for a congressional investigation into that angle, I'd recommend breathing in the interim.