How The Right's Latest Conspiracy Theory Might Unleash a Wave of Domestic Terrorism if Obama Wins
In a somewhat desperate attempt to maintain morale among a Republican base that disdains its standard-bearer, a number of conservative media outlets are pushing an alternate reality in which Mitt Romney is leading in the polls by wide margins and American voters have a decidedly negative view not of the challenger, but of Barack Obama.
It's an exceptionally dangerous game that the right-wing media are playing. If Obama wins – and according to polling guru Nate Silver, he'd have a 95 percent chance of doing so if the vote were held today – there's a very real danger that this spin -- combined with other campaign narratives that are popular among the far-right -- could create a post-election environment so toxic that it yields an outburst of politically motivated violence.
A strategy that began with a series of rather silly columns comparing 2012 with 1980, and assuring jittery conservatives that a huge mass of independents was sure to break for Romney late and deliver Obama the crushing defeat he so richly deserves, entered new territory with the bizarre belief that all the polls are wrong. And not only wrong, but intentionally rigged by “biased pollsters” – including those at Fox News – in the tank for Obama. (See Alex Pareene's piece for more on the right's new theory that the polls are being systematically “skewed.”)
Consider how a loosely-hinged member of the right-wing fringe – an unstable individual among the third of conservative Republicans who believe Obama's a Muslim or the almost two-thirds who think he was born in another country – expecting a landslide victory for the Republican might process an Obama victory. This is a group that has also been told, again and again, that Democrats engage in widespread voter fraud – that there are legions of undocumented immigrants, dead people and ineligible felons voting in this election (with the help of zombie ACORN). They've been told that Democrats are buying the election with promises of “free stuff” offered to the slothful and unproductive half of the population that pays no federal income taxes and refuses to “take responsibility for their lives” – Romney's 47 percent.
They've also been told – by everyone from NRA president Wayne LaPierre to Mitt Romney himself – that Obama plans to ban gun ownership in his second term. (Two elaborate conspiracy theories have blossomed around this point. One holds that Fast and Furious – which, in reality, is much ado about very little – was designed to elevate gun violence to a point where seizing Americans' firearms would become politically popular. The second holds that a United Nations treaty on small arms transfers (from which the United States has withdrawn) is in fact a stealthy workaround for the Second Amendment.)
And they've been warned in grim, often apocalyptic terms of what's to come in a second term. The film, “2016: Obama's America,” offers a dystopian vision of a third-world America gutted by Obama's supposed obsession with global wealth redistribution. His re-election would bring something far worse than mere socialism – it would be marked by Kenyan anti-colonialism, in which America's wealth is bled off as a form of reparations for centuries of inequities between the global North and South.
These kinds of fringe views aren't relegated to the fever swamps of the right-wing blogosphere – they're often reinforced by elected Republicans. Reps Steve King, R-Iowa, Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, Louie Gohmert, R-Texas and others warn that the Obama administration has been infiltrated by Islamic Extremists. An elected judge in Texas advocated a tax increase – yes, a tax increase! – in order to better arm local sheriff's deputies whom he claimed would serve on the front-lines of the civil war likely to come should Obama be re-elected. “I’m talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator,” he said.
They've been hammered with the idea that while these facts are obvious for those whose eyes are open, the media is covering it all up. Rather than a Democrat with whom people tend to connect running a good campaign against a flawed Republican candidate, many on the far-right will see an illegitimate president colluding with an array of perfidious forces, both foreign and domestic, to deny them the right to finally 'take their country back.'
Obviously, there's no need to fear a massive rebellion from millions of engraged Glenn Beck fans in their Hoverounds; rather, the danger is that in the aftermath of such an election, a small number of dangerously unstable anti-government extremists will take matters into their own hands -- and even a small number can do significant damage.
After the 2008 election, there was a run on weapons and ammunition, and gun sellers are expecting another bonanza if Obama wins a second term. We've seen a dramatic wave of right-wing domestic terrorism since Barack Obama's election. Recently, four active-duty soldiers – and five others – based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, were arrested after murdering two compatriots they suspected of betraying their plot to assassinate Obama. The group had been “stockpiling weapons and bomb parts to overthrow the U.S. government.” With $87,000 in weapons and explosives -- and combat training courtesy of Uncle Sam -- this was a potentially devastating plot. Just think about the havoc that a few heavily-armed men with military discipline were able to wreak in Mumbai in 2008.
It's a real threat, but political correctness keeps it in the shadows. At a senate hearing last week, a former Department of Homeland Security official named Daryl Johnson testified that “the threat of domestic terrorism motivated by extremist ideologies is often dismissed and overlooked in the national media and within the U.S. government.” He continued:
Yet we are currently seeing an upsurge in domestic non-Islamic extremist activity, specifically from violent right-wing extremists. While violent left-wing attacks were more prevalent in the 1970s, today the bulk of violent domestic activity emanates from the right wing.... Since the 2008 presidential election, domestic non-Islamic extremists have shot 27 law enforcement officers, killing 16 of them.
That the “unskewed” polls show Romney heading towards a blow-out win is likely to lead more disturbed people to see themselves as victims of a dark plot to undermine America's “traditional values.” It's not the only iteration of the alternate universe that the right has conjured up in recent years – just ponder, for a moment, that the creator of “Conservapedia” – a hilariously inaccurate right-wing version of Wikipedia – has undertaken to write a distinctly conservative version of the Bible (one in which Jesus presumably inveighs against taxes and regulation dragging down job creators, and doesn't constantly blather about the poor).
But while those efforts are often laughable, the unintended consequences of offering the hard-right a Bizarro World analysis of the 2012 election may prove deadly serious if Obama pulls out a win.