In a new intelligence report, the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Thirty key leaders of the American radical right. Their list includes “anti-government activists, racist neo-Nazis and propagandists who promote falsehoods about Muslims and the LGBT community” who have “emerged over the past decade as the radical right has changed in major ways. These extremists are making headway by exploiting anger over the nation’s ailing economy, non-white immigration and the shrinking white majority.”
The last decade has seen major changes in the American radical right. What was once a world largely dominated by a few relatively well-organized groups has become a scene populated by large numbers of smaller, weaker groups, with only a handful led by the kind of charismatic chieftains that characterized the 1990s.
Forearmed is forewarned: these are names liberals and progressives must be aware of as we battle through a tide of hate to Election Day. And we must know not only these names but what they represent, for each of them has followers. All of these people are scary; some more than others. SPLC reports that “Most dramatically, so-called ‘Patriot’ groups — which, unlike most hate groups, see the federal government as their primary enemy — have grown explosively in just the last three years, going from 149 groups in 2008 to 1,274 last year. As a result of all these developments and others, a new crop of leaders has come to the fore. Some are longtime activists of the radical right, but others have become active only in recent years.”
The more diverse (religiously and ethnically) and socially liberal America becomes (in matters of abortion and marriage equality, for example), the more extreme they become in reaction, the more extreme their tone, the more violent their rhetoric (see Michael Fumento’s account of his break with the extreme right at Salon).
Take a gander at SPLC’s list:
There are some familiar names on this list, people we have looked at here on PoliticusUSA, including David Barton, David Duke, Lou Engle, Joseph Francis Farah, Bryan Fischer, Frank Gaffney and Pamela Geller.
The scary thing about David Barton is that he has the ear of so many. He is a former co-chairman of the Texas Republican Party, a one-time consultant to the Republican National Committee, and an adviser at various times to Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee. Last year, Huckabee said he wished all Americans could be “forced — forced at gunpoint no less — to listen to every David Barton message.” Former Fox News conspiracy-monger Glenn Beck uses Barton to teach history at Beck’s “university.”
At least as scary is that so few liberals and progressives are aware of who Barton is and what he represents, even though, as SPLC reminds us,”In 2010, Barton joined the battle to bowdlerize the Texas social studies curriculum for public schools, supporting efforts to excise Martin Luther King Jr. and 1960s farmworker activist Cesar Chavez from textbooks. As reported by Washington Monthly, Barton said King didn’t deserve to be included for advancing minority rights because “[o]nly majorities can expand political rights.”
It is hardly coincidental that neither King nor Chavez were White Evangelicals like Barton.
Lou Engle, “a senior member of a radical Christian movement called the New Apostolic Reformation, which seeks to unite Protestants, vanquish demons, and evangelize the planet,” was mentioned here just the other day in my examination of fundamentalism’s Satan-obsession. SPLC says of Engle:
In recent years, thanks largely to his leadership of TheCall Ministries, Lou Engle has become one of the more prominent players on the American religious right. A zealous opponent of abortion and LGBT rights, he has called homosexuality a “spirit of lawlessness,” suggested that it should be criminalized, and spoken at a highly controversial rally in Uganda where speakers backed a bill authorizing the death penalty for gay men and lesbians in some circumstances.
Engle also has some political clout, namely in the form of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who, significantly, was the only governor to rush to Rick Perry’s side at his extremist prayer rally in Houston, The Response. He is a big player in the anti-Muslim movement: “He’s also taken time out from his core issues to suggest that Muslims are ‘fueling the demonic realm’ and in the thrall of “spiritual dark powers.” Last November, as Leah Burton profiled here, Engle held an anti-Muslim Detroit prayer rally (more a hate fest) so that ‘”the love of Jesus would break in on Muslims all across this area.'”
Notable on the list is a man many of us like to mock (admittedly, he makes it easy to do), Joseph Francis Farah:
Conspiracy theory buffs need an endless supply of fuel to keep chugging along. And no one out there seems to provide more of that than Joseph Farah, the archconservative and slightly mad publisher/editor of WorldNetDaily (WND). From obsessively attempting to debunk the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate to stoking anti-Muslim fear that Shariah law is about to topple the Constitution, Farah is the supermarket tabloid publisher of the radical right.
Farah is of course a die-hard Birther and as the SPLC notes, he even questioned the “birth of Sen. Marco Rubio in early 2012, when the Florida Republican was mentioned as a possible vice-presidential candidate. ‘Rubio is not eligible,’ Farah told Fox News host Sean Hannity.”
Farah is so hard-line in certain views that he’s perfectly willing to turn on fellow ideologues of the far right. In 2010, when right-wing raver Ann Coulter agreed to speak at a gay GOP group’s event, he attacked her. In return, Coulter called Farah a “publicity whore” and “fake Christian” — what may be some of the few truly accurate phrases to ever come out of Coulter’s mouth.
Bryan Fischer should be at the top of any watch-list. His extremist cred is nearly unparalleled. Even Newsweek noticed, in January 2011 calling him “the media’s new poster boy for right-wing extremism.”
Just look at some of what SPLC’s has to say about this bigot-king:
Bryan Fischer, a nationally syndicated Christian radio host, has a long history of anti-gay activism. In 2009, he began garnering national attention after he was hired by the American Family Association (AFA), which the Southern Poverty Law Center listed as an anti-gay hate group in 2010. Since joining the AFA as director of issue analysis for government and public policy, Fischer has used the group’s website and its radio network to promote outrageous and false claims about LGBT people, Muslims, Native Americans and African Americans. Despite Fischer’s extreme views – like blaming gay men for the Holocaust, calling for the criminalization of homosexuality, and calling for the banning of Muslim immigration to the U.S. – prominent conservatives continue to appear on Fischer’s radio show.
The horrific event that propelled him onto the national stage was the November 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, in which Major Nidal Hasan shot 12 people to death. In response, Fischer called for the U.S. military to ban Muslims. His statements landed him soon after on former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person” list.
Since then, Fischer has called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S., said that inbreeding may have affected Muslim intelligence and sanity, and claimed that the Bill of Rights grants freedom of religion only to Christians. He has also continued his virulent anti-gay propagandizing, calling for the regulation of homosexuality in the same manner the U.S. regulates cigarettes, and said that homosexuality should be as illegal as IV drug use, and that, “Ultimately we need to get to appropriate sanctions for the act [of gay sex] itself.”
Because of his hate-filled rhetoric, Fischer has found himself a major influence over Republican politicians. As SPLC observes, “none of his antics have stopped the stream of notable conservative guests from appearing on his show. His guests have included a number of high-profile politicians, including Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Haley Barbour and Newt Gingrich.” Pawlenty, Bachmann and Gingrich all campaigned for the office of President of the United States. Americans should pay close attention to who these people are talking to and associating with.
But so often liberals and progressives shrug and say, “what does it matter what he/she thinks?” or “Why are we talking about this?” or words to that effect. We are talking about these people because they have political clout. They are influencing Republican politicians, some of them at the highest level, and are driving the hate and bigotry that has come to embody the GOP. It is not only important that we talk about these people, it is essential. The danger they pose is real. It is easy to laugh at them and to joke at their expense, but people once laughed at Hitler too, and it was Hitler who was later able to say, “Those who were laughing then are not laughing now.”
No, they weren’t. And I for one would like to be the one doing the laughing later, which means taking them seriously now. SPLC published this watch list for a reason: they understand the threat posed by these thirty extremists. I hope all liberals and progressives will wake up and recognize that threat as well.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.