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ADL report: Rage Grows in America

The Anti-Defamation League issued an interesting special report. This is indeed a report–as it covers various sub-topics. At the end I’ll post the titles and links to the various sub-topics covered in the report, which all fall under the heading, Rage Grows In America”

(I agree its rage, and have pointed that out in a number of posts over the past 18 months. What the ADL leaves out, is something I have believed for some time: its been brought about by a strong delusion, which has affected those with hearts to receive it.)


New York, NY, November 16, 2009 … Rumors about gun confiscations.  Angry protests about the government’s tax policies, replete with Nazi comparisons.  A resurgent militia movement.  Rage at the election of a president deemed to be illegitimate and threatening.  Distrust and anger toward the government fueled by paranoia and conspiracy theories.

They are among the crosscurrents of anger and hostility that have swept certain sectors of the country since President Barack Obama took office nearly a year ago.  And they are contributing to “a toxic atmosphere of rage in America,” according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which today issued a report looking at the various sources that have given rise to a climate of anti-government fervor in the United States.

Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies examines the groups and individuals behind this upsurge in anti-government anxiety, from the “birthers” who claim the president is not an actual citizen of the U.S., to militia groups fearful that the government plans to forcibly disarm American citizens, to those who suggest that the health-care reform movement is akin to the Nazi policies that led to the Holocaust.

“While not all of America has bought into these conspiracies, they seem to be seeping more and more into the mainstream; And since many of these expressions are interconnected in some significant ways, we wanted to try and connect the dots and ask the basic questions of why the anger, why now, and where might it lead.”

From the anti-government “Tea Parties,” where protestors have made explicit Nazi comparisons or suggested that the president is subverting the Constitution, to anger-filled town hall meeting disruptions over health care, the wave of anti-government animus has manifested itself in many forms, according to ADL.  It has played out across a spectrum of groups, from mainstream groups and politicians to more extreme organizations and individuals.

“The fact that these anti-government sentiments are coming from such a broad spectrum makes it more likely that some individuals will become so inflamed with anger that they will move farther toward the fringes,” said Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair.  “This could result not only in the swelling of the ranks of anti-government extremist groups and movements, but might give rise to more individuals who are willing to act on their anger.”

The ADL report looks at various sources of anti-government anger, including:

  • Conspiracy Theories: One of the most disturbing trends in the rise of anti-government sentiment has been the resurrection and proliferation of conspiracy theories alleging dark, violent designs on the part of the federal government to “declare martial law” and end democratic government, to confiscate firearms from American citizens and to build hundreds of concentration camps to house “dissidents.”  These theories have spread far and wide on social-networking sites.
  • The Resurgence of the Militia Movement: The rise of anti-government sentiment has paralleled a resurgence of the militia movement, an anti-government extremist movement that has a long history of criminal activity and violence.  Within the past two years, the movement has almost quadrupled in size, growing to more than 200 groups in the United States.  It is the most receptive audience for the extreme anti-government conspiracy theories and their radicalizing potential.
  • Town Hall Meeting Disruptions: In the summer of 2009 a variety of anti-government protests and disruptions occurred at town hall meetings organized by senators and representatives across the country to discuss health-care reform.  These events became a fertile ground for anti-Obama protests and stunts, with some individuals angrily launching verbal attacks against the president and other office holders.  Some protestors compared the administration and its proposed health care reform policies to those of Nazi Germany.
  • Government Resisters: Since Obama’s election, an increasing number of people have urged that he and his administration must “be resisted.” Some groups have implicitly or explicitly urged armed resistance.  Many of these groups have appropriated an idealized version of Revolutionary War history for their own purposes.  ADL’s report looks at the activities of several resistor groups, including The Oath Keepers and The Three Percenters.
  • The Tea Parties: At these events and later sequels organized by conservative groups and grassroots activists, anti-government sentiments and conspiracy theories proliferated, with a common theme being that Obama had “stolen” the country from Americans.
  • Media Influence: Some segments of the mainstream media have played a surprisingly active role in generating anti-government sentiment.  Though a number of media figures and commentators have taken part, the media personality who has played the most active role has been radio and television host Glenn Beck, who along with many of his guests have made a habit of demonizing the Obama administration and promoting conspiracy theories about it.

The Influence of the Mainstream Media

Although much of the recent anti-government anger has been generated by a combination of partisan politics, grass-roots activists, and extreme groups and movements, the mainstream media has also played a role in promoting anti-government anger and pandering to people who believe that the Obama administration is illegitimate or even fascistic.

The most important mainstream media figure who has repeatedly helped to stoke the fires of anti-government anger is right-wing media host Glenn Beck, who has a TV show on FOX News and a popular syndicated radio show.

While other conservative media hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, routinely attack Obama and his administration, typically on partisan grounds, they have usually dismissed or refused to give a platform to the conspiracy theorists and anti-government extremists.

This has not been the case with Glenn Beck.

Beck and his guests have made a habit of demonizing President Obama and promoting conspiracy theories about his administration.On a number of his TV and radio programs, Beck has even gone so far as to make comparisons between Hitler and Obama and to promote the idea that the president is dangerous.

  • On an August 2009 radio program, after claiming that President Obama was lying about his health-care plan, Beck told his audience to read Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Beck said that Hitler told Germans what he was going to do but no one listened. Beck then urged his audience not to make the same mistake with Obama: “Please America…take this man for what he says.”
  • That same month, David Bellavia, a former army staff sergeant who wrote a book about his experiences as a soldier in Iraq, appeared as a guest on Beck’s TV show. Bellavia discussed the claim that President Obama was trying to create a “civilian national security force” and compared this to the efforts of Hitler and Saddam Hussein to create sinister military forces composed of political loyalists that answered only to them.
  • On a July 2009 TV show, Beck has said that President Obama is a “dangerous” man.
  • In March 2009, as a guest on another FOX News show, Beck also promoted an anti-government conspiracy theory popular among right-wing extremists—that FEMA is building concentration camps to house “dissidents.” Beck declared that he could not debunk the theory. Before introducing the topic of FEMA camps on that show, Beck claimed that the United States was “headed towards socialism, totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination.” Later, he also promoted the FEMA camps conspiracy theory on his own show. After much controversy, Beck later backed away from the FEMA camps theory. The FEMA episode, however, is a good example of Beck’s key role as a “fearmonger-in-chief,” using constant laments such as “I fear for my country” to create a sense of anxiety about and hostility towards the government in his audience.

These kinds of claims from Beck create an intersection between the mainstream and the extreme. They play an important role in drawing people further out of the mainstream, making them more receptive to the more extreme notions and conspiracy theories.

About The Anti-Defamation League: The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Now the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency, ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.

Topics covered in other sections of the report:

Part One: Anger in the Mainstream

Anti‑Government Conspiracies: A Building Anger

The Tea Parties

Town Hall Meeting Disruptions

The “Birther” Movement

Part Two: Anger on the Fringe

Alex Jones, the Conspiracy King

Conspiracy Theories Imagine Government Plots

Conspiracy Theories Prompting Action: The Iowa National Guard

Conspiracy Theories Prompting Action: Richard Poplawski

Resisting the Government

The Oath Keepers

The Three Percenters

The Resurgence of the Militia Movement

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