Every couple of years I try to explain why I take such an interest in a seemingly small group of right wing lunatics. Motivated by a request from Sammy, here's what I have to say now:
I first began to take an interest in deviant political, religious and scientific beliefs in the late 1960's. I was a university student at the time, and in the course of studying medieval manuscripts I found myself spending a good deal of time in the university's rare book collection. One day I discovered that someone had left them what was believed to be the world's largest collection of fringe literature. I started to read this material, and found myself fascinated. I made a discovery there: in the course of my studies I had taken quite a few philosophy courses, and eventually found that, when a person believes something for a rational reason, it tells you very little about the person, except that he is rational. But when a person believes things for irrational reasons, that reveals all sorts of things about not only that person, but about human nature in general, and not the good side of human nature.
As an adjunct to that reading, I discovered that I could receive at night the signal from radio station KXEL in Waterloo, Iowa, a 50,000 watt clear channel station which had been entirely religious in its content, but was in the process of developing right wing political broadcasting, with such early figures as the Reverend Carl McIntyre, Reverend Stuart Mc Burney, and the overtly political and very right wing Voice of Americanism with Melvin Munn, a show financed by the Hunt Brothers, oil men who were the sixties equivalent of today's Koch Brothers.
At the same time, I began to become involved in left wing politics. I participated in and helped to organize many marches, and was present for a couple of the big Washington protests. I saw a real movement, which could mobilize tens or hundreds of thousands of people in cities all across the country in days, with hardly any sort of backing. I felt what it was like to be a part of a real political phenomenon like that, to feel the power in the air.
Well, the days of Vietnam and civil rights protests died away, but the crazy people on the right never did. Though they represented, during the seventies, the eighties and the nineties, a laughably small group of lunatic haters, they still survived in some way. It was in the nineties that one of our political parties, seeing perfectly well what our nation's demographics held in store for them, made a devil's pact with these people, and began funelling money and professional organizational skill into their movements, in the very mistaken belief that they could control the creature they created, and bend it to their wills.
But the craziness and fanaticism proved so much stronger than the wills of the Republican political elite, and step by step, the Republican party was forced to act as though views that were in fact an abhorrent aberration were perfectly legitimate; and in far too many cases the Republicans themselves adopted these attitudes.
One of the worst of these views is not explicitly political at all. It comes from the false religion which is Evangelical Christianity, and consists in the belief that, because they are following the will of God, any tactic, no matter how disgusting to outsiders, is justified. This is hardly a view unique to evangelicals, as we can see in the Middle East today, but it is no more acceptable on this side of the Atlantic than it is there. Through this licensing of bad behavior, which the right granted itself, the malign tactics of the far right worked their way into the mainstream along with their malign views.
I continued, as the years went by, to pay what attention I could to this phenomenon, which accelerated massively when the internet came into being. Here, the most vicious racism, hatred and greed could be given a cheap veneer of rationality, so that websites proliferated that catered to the worst in human nature, very often funded by wealthy groups and individuals who would never admit their role, and who did not realize what a monster they were creating.
I took an interest in the Tea Party in particular, and began attending their rallies from the very beginning. Here is what I found: I felt not one shred of the immense power that was palpable at the great Vietnam and Civil Rights marches; instead, I saw a small, pathetic group of people who had been conned into participating in activities they did not understand, and who were serving as pawns for the financiers of their activities.
I have spent my working life in film and television production, and because of that, here is something else I saw: I saw these rallies systematically packaged to appear to be mass events, exactly the way we create illusions on the screen. I saw the result of huge sums of money spent to create the false impression that these small events were manifestations of a national movement that spoke for a large segment of the American people, when of course they really spoke for little more than the will of the rich, with nothing they said or did being more important than lower taxes and deregulation.
I saw something else, too. I saw the mainstream press, which had, through Reagan administration deregulation, come to be owned almost entirely by huge corporations, collaborate in this spectacle. Activities like the last Washington anti-war march, which attracted somewhere around 350,000 people, were entirely shut out of the news, while, for example, the pathetic spectacle surrounding the fate of Terry Schiavo, which, as far as I have ever been able to tell, never attracted more than a few dozen protesters at any one time, were for years portrayed as proof of the existence of a mass national movement, dedicated, as always, to the issues of tax cuts for the rich and deregulation for their companies- the only real goal this movement has.
The Tea Party remains, at this point, the apex of this representation of a virtually nonexistent movement as a great political force, whose desires must be honored. Yet, over and over again, as I have documented for years now, when given the opportunity to demonstrate their presence and their power, the events they hold have been miserable failures, culminating in three highly publicized mass marches on Washington in the last year to force Obama from office, none of which managed to draw more than a few hundred people.
Yet Republicans in Congress continue to cite this imaginary mass movement as an excuse to destroy our government unless it caters to the interests of the super-rich, which the movement, they claim, exists to support. And in recent years, a new phenomenon has emerged- many Republican leaders and spokesmen openly inciting violence against the government. This has come close to a mass gun battle at the Bundy Ranch, and as long as these malicious officials continue their promotion of right wing hatred, the day cannot be far off when a really apocalyptic scene will take place, which has the potential to make the Branch Dividians look like small timers. At that point, who knows what Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert and Sarah Palin will deliberately do to damage our country, but it certainly has the likelihood of being the worst thing to happen to us since the Southern treason of the Civil War.
Well, enough. That's why I take this phenomenon seriously, although I continue to demonstrate that it is not a mass movement. It is a potential rebellion financed by a few ultra-rich would be dictators, and it needs to be revealed for what it is.