Friday, June 26, 2009

On apocalyptic conspiracism

Chip Berlet was on Fresh Air last week to discuss the role that apocalyptic conspiracy theories (such as New World Order) about sinister cabals of demonized, scapegoated groups play in creating an atmosphere that tends to promote "lone wolf" violence such as that of Holocaust Museam shooter James Von Brunn and alleged Tiller assassin Scott Roeder. He also explains why such violence tends to kick up when a Democrat is in office.*

Dave Neiwert, in his item noting the discussion, quotes Berlet's summation of his position

People who believe conspiracist allegations sometimes act on those irrational beliefs, and this has concrete consequences in the real world. The shooting today is a prime example of why it is a mistake to ignore bigoted conspiracy theories. Law enforcement needs to enforce laws against criminal behavior. Vicious bigoted speech, however, is often protected by the First Amendment. We do not need new laws or to encourage government agencies to further erode civil liberties. We need to stand up as moral people and speak out against the spread of bigoted conspiracy theories. That's not a police problem, that's our problem as people responsible for defending a free society.

... Apocalyptic aggression is fueled by right-wing pundits who demonize scapegoated groups and individuals in our society, implying that it is urgent to stop them from wrecking the nation. Some angry people already believe conspiracy theories in which the same scapegoats are portrayed as subversive, destructive, or evil. Add in aggressive apocalyptic ideas that suggest time is running out and quick action mandatory and you have a perfect storm of mobilized resentment threatening to rain bigotry and violence across the United States.
In addition to being highly informative of the subject matter, I would also recommend listening to the Fresh Air interview since Berlet offers thoughtful critism of the DHS report on "right-wing extremism" that freaked out so many Malkin-sphere bloggers who believed it signified they were being targeted for oppression by the Obama administration (despite the report having been written by the Bush administration and the DHS having released a few months previously a similar report on "left-wing extremism." (To avoid being cryptic ... the bulk of Berlet's criticism is that the report does not demonstrate that it has a sufficient respect for the First Amendment freedoms of thought, expression and association.)

*It plays into their sense of time running out since the sinister forces are believed to be closer to achieving their ends. I forgot to note the parallel in my post about it the other day, but recall that the Holocaust Museum shooter's murderous violence was motivated in part by his belief that President Obama is being controlled by Jews and that retired Col. Ammerman's desire to see then President Bill Clinton executed was motivated in part by his belief that Clinton was under the control of NWO Jews.

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