Tea Party, Liberal Elite, & Conspiracy Theories

I was having a discussion (in the comments of an Amazon.com book review) with someone who seems fairly conservative but who says they aren’t Republican.  This person’s views of liberals, however, seem traditionally conservative and this person didn’t make any statements that would contradict mainstream Republican views.  The review in question was of a book by Cleon Skousen who has been popularized by Glenn Beck.  So, it’s likely this person is either a Beckhead or a Tea Party protester… or maybe they just heard of Skousen through the conservative grapevine. 

The 5,000 Year Leap.jpgSkousen is representative of the far right in his association with the John Birch Society.  The John Birch Society was so far right that the staunch conservative Buckley kicked them out of the conservative movement.   Skousen was mostly a forgotten name until the recent rise of the Tea Party (or rather its recent promotion by Fox News).

My understanding is that the Tea Party was originally inspired by Ron Paul’s libertarian movement. 

The Republicans saw Ron Paul as competition because he is closer to traditional conservatism than they are.  Beck helped undermine Ron Paul’s movement, but later apologized after Beck had become the de facto leader of the Tea Party.  Beck is a dissatisfied Republican who has turned to conservative thinkers such as Skousen who have been kept outside the Republican fold for decades, and apparently now that Buckley is gone those outside the fold are trying to get back in again.  There is a weird struggle going on between the Republicans and the Tea Partiers, but unfortunately no matter which side wins the libertarians will be the losers.  I saw a poll that showed Republicans considered libertarians only slightly less negatively than liberals.

I can see some attraction to libertarians such as Ron Paul and I sympathize some of the Tea Party’s complaints (even if not the ideological targets of their complaints).  Even so, I just can’t stand Glenn Beck.  I partly just don’t like Beck’s lack of intellectual depth (along with his fear-mongering and race-baiting), but more annoying is that Beck works for Fox News.  Fox News is headed by Roger Ailes who has for decades been one of the major players in the Republican party (much credit can be given to him for the success of movement conservatism).  I think Fox News’ interest in the Tea Party is a Republican ploy to take over this movement of dissent… which would mean the genuine complaints would get lost in talking points of Republican campaigning. 

Despite the loony wingnuts, my sense is that there probably are quite a few reasonable and maybe even moderate people within the Tea Party movement.  A while back, I posted a video (several videos in fact along with my own commentary) of someone who seemed reasonable and was complaining about what happened to the Tea Party once it was popularized (and practically taken over) by Fox News.  Here is the video in question:

According to a Pew poll, the demographic that is the most loyal Fox News audience are rich white men… which also happens to be the demographic of those who run Fox News (how convenient).  So, I don’t think Fox News actually has the average Tea Party protester’s best interests in mind nor do I think Fox News is genuinely promoting the complaints that drew many people to the Tea Party movement.

I may be a liberal, but I have libertarian leanings and I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy.  During Bush’s administration, the liberals and libertarians joined together to protest the Iraq war.  What did Fox News do?  It (meaning the Fox News pundits such as Beck) defended the administration, ridiculed the protesters, dismissed the 9/11 families, and categorized Truthers as loony conspiracy theorists.  Ron Paul was against the Iraq war which is a major reason he attracted the ire of Republicans and Fox News.  The Peace Protest movement was even larger than the present Tea Party movement.  Republicans and Fox News thought protesters were the scum of the earth, but when a Democratic president was elected based on a populist message of hope by a majority of Americans all of a sudden Fox News overtly started advertising for and generally promoting the Tea Party protests.  Fox News was fine with the Patriot Act and only now do they worry about the government having too much power?  Pardon me if I think this is a bit disingenuous.

So, Beck has been doing his best to popularize conspiracy theories and make them respectable once again for the conservative movement.  The problem is that, in becoming dissatisfied with the GOP, Beck just went even further right.  I prefer my conspiracy theorists to be equally critical of both the left and the right.  Forget Beck.  Give me Alex Jones.  Compared to Beck, Alex Jones’ theories seem quite reasonable to me.  Alex Jones truly stands outside of the mainstream and doesn’t pull any punches.  It’s easy to see the biases of Alex Jones, but Beck is different as he works within mainstream media.  Considering that Beck paid by the rightwing spin machine (otherwise known as Fox News), I can’t even know to what extent he is being honest or, even if he does genuinely try to be honest, to what extent he is being manipulated by his corporate handlers.  Fox News is run by News Corp which is one of the wealthiest and most powerful transnational corporations in the world.  If there is a worldwide conspiracy, I’m sure News Corp is one of powers behind it.

Better than Alex Jones even, give me Robert Anton Wilson or Art Bell.  Robert Anton Wilson made conspiracy theories truly entertaining.  Art Bell, of course, is one of the greatest libertarian talk show hosts to ever be on air and he is a true libertarian… a “live and let live” kind of guy with a strong dose of openminded curiosity.  Art Bell said Fox News sucks for its treatment of Ron Paul.

I started listening to Art Bell back in the 1990s.  I wasn’t even all that interested in politics at that time.  I suppose I’ve always been fairly liberal in my predisposition, but it’s only been in recent years that I’ve researched politics enough to have any clear opinions.  I don’t remember exactly when I started getting more interested in politics.  I remember attending some political meetings at the University, but other than sating my curiosity I didn’t care too much about any of it.  I saw OutFoxed when it came out and that was my first awareness of blatant media bias and political spin.

The one and only time I voted for a president was for Nader in 2000.  The reason I voted for Nader was because I heard him speak.  It was the only time in my life when felt convinced that a politician genuinely believed in what he was doing.  Nader seemed like a truly moral person.  My voting for him wasn’t an ideological decision but was instead based on an assessment of his character.  For whatever reason, not even Obama inspired me as much.  Obama made inspiring speeches, but Nader inspired me simply for what I sensed about who he was.  I have no desire to vote for the lesser of two evils and I refuse to play the rigged two-party game… not that I dislike Obama (I actually do like him as a person to some extent) and I can think of many people who would make much worse presidents (ahem, Palin).

The only political movement I ever was involved with was the Peace protests.  At the University of Iowa, students and locals had set up a Peace Camp and they were there for quite a while.  I hung out at the camp almost every day even when it was cold.  It was the first time I felt like I was a part of something that mattered.  Bush, of course, was the worst kind of politician.  I’m drawn to pacifist idealism, but more importantly it seemed obvious to me how the Bush administration was lying.  I still don’t understand why Bush’s lies weren’t questioned much at the time even by supposedly liberally-biased mainstream media.  Even today, many conservatives still believe some of Bush’s lies that have been disproven for years.  It truly bewilders me.  And the Patriot Act… my God!  The Patriot Act almost made me lose all hope.

It was funny that at the time when everyone was blaming Nader voters for Bush’s election.  I knew Bush was bad news, but I had a theory about how good might come out of it.  Even before Bush was voted into office, I knew he would be one of the worse presidents and I thought that it likely could lead to inspiring liberals to put forth a truly progressive presidential candidate later on.  It turns out that I was more or less correct in that Obama’s progressive message indeed did get popular support after the horrors of the Bush regime.  However, I didn’t predict how the horrors of Bush would linger on even after he was gone (Patriot Act, Guantanamo, etc).  I didn’t believe in Obama’s hope hype, but I did want to believe that change was actually possible.  I’m open to the hypothetical scenario that Obama might live up to his own progressive speechmaking, but going by his record so far it doesn’t appear all that likely.  This is one time when I wish my cynicism would prove wrong.

These days, I’m not involved in politics at all other than writing about it.  Obama and Bush, Republican and Democrat… it all seems the same to me or not all that different anyways.  I just think of myself as a curious observer.  I still listen to Art Bell’s show but now it’s hosted by someone else.  Over the years, I have at times noted the wide spectrum of the audience of Coast to Coast AM.  The callers and guests consist of liberals, new age gurus, pro-drug activists, Wiccan priestesses, Satan worshippers, Catholic preists, libertarians, conservatives, conspiracy theorists, cranks of various sorts, and even time travellers from the future.  The slant of the show, since Art Bell started it, has always seemed socially liberal and politically libertarian.  Art Bell himself used to be married to a Wiccan and he was the prototypical independent-minded libertarian.

I’ve recently been thinking about Coast to Coast AM in terms of the Tea Party.  Art Bell was a supporter of Ron Paul.  I suspect that libertarians and Tea Partiers probably represent a significant portion of Art Bell’s fan base.  I’m also a fan of Art Bell, but I’m always wary of conservative libertarians adoration of Ayn Rand and I’m even more wary of the Beckhead Tea Baggers.  On the other hand, I don’t think of myself as a Democrat.  Many Democrats hate Nader voters like me as much as Republicans once hated Ron Paul supporters.  I feel like I’m in a weird niche.  The closest I come to finding a view that I identify with might be Noam Chomsky, but I recently met a Chomsky fan who was a rabid atheist and I don’t much like rabid atheists.

Part of me wishes I could be a libertarian, but in the US the libertarian movement has been taken over by pro-capitalists and the religious right.  Of the conservative libertarians, I’d prefer the pro-capitalists because at least some of them are socially liberal.  I read Ayn Rand in college.  I liked her fiction somewhat, but then I read her nonfiction and it really turned me off.  I just don’t understand the proseletyzing of free market idealism.  As I see it, a free market has never existed and probably never will.  Yeah, it looks good in theory… many things look good in theory.

Maybe I should just forget about all of the various movements and just think of myself as an independent. 

I think I was happier when Republicans were in power.  Republicans are just blatantly evil in how they abused power.  Democrats in some ways just seem more sneaky.  Plus, with Democrats in power, the libertarian movement has become even more conservative because of all the people no longer wanting to identify with the failed and failing GOP. 

It pisses me off.  I’ve been a critic of mainstream politics for much of my adult life.  I’ve always been attracted to conspiracy theories about secret societies, alphabet soup agencies, the military-industrial complex, the Federal Reserve, and the One World Government.  I can’t say I necessarily believe in any given conspiracy theory, but the general attitude appeals to me.  I can’t stand that the likes of Beck has become the mainstream representative of conspiracy theories.  Beck may be mainstream, but he is more whacko than some of the cranks that I’ve heard Art Bell inteview.  I’m sure Beck means well and all.  It’s just that he seems like a dupe.  Maybe I’m being overly critical.  Am I wrong to mistrust the change of heart of a supporter of Bush and the Patriotic Act?  Beck says he leans towards libertarianism, but I’ve never heard him criticize imprisoning American citizens as enemy combatants or criticize the torture of suspects that may or may not be terrorists.  If that is leaning towards libertarianism, I’m sure glad Beck isn’t leaning away from libertarianism.  How can Beck be considered the voice of populist dissent, the defender of constitutional rights?

Okay… there was a point to all of this.  My thinking was partly incited by the discussion I mentioned at the beginning of the post.  The person (who I shall call “he” from now on) I was debating seems like a typical conservative in seeing liberal bias everywhere.  He mentioned the documentary Indoctrinate U which is available in it’s entirety on Youtube.

The person on Amazon.com seems reasonably intelligent and capable of critical thinking to some extent, but his views of liberals is rather simplistic… maybe he hadn’t been exposed to many liberals besides encounters with strangers on the internet and portrayals of “libruls” on Fox News.  I assume that this documentary represents his own views as he seemed to be using it to support his arguments.  This is the type of conservative that befuddles me.  He says he isn’t a Republican even while espousing very conservative views.  He seems somewhat moderate in his attitude all the while saying he wants to read Skousen who represents extreme conservative bias.  All in all, he seems be in the general vicinity of the audience of Fox News (which apparently exists in an alternative dimension from the one I happen to occupy).

I’m fine with criticisms and disagreement.  I’m not one to denounce Beck or the Tea Partiers for feeling that the government doesn’t represent them.  I agree with their general sentiments.  I agree that there is a bias in the media and in education and in the mainstream in general, but what is up with seeing a conspiracy everywhere which is led by some kind of liberal elite (be they Socialists, Communists, Marxists, or Nazis… or, even worse, maybe all of them combined).

I found some decent critiques of Indoctrinate U.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/14/yet-once-more-political-correctness-on-campus/

http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2008/03/indoctrinate_u_was_it_fair_an.html

http://www.campusprogress.org/soundvision/1562/campus-con

I did end up watching the entire documentary.  Basically, it’s a conservative version of a Michael Moore production but not quite as entertaining.  Many examples are presented with little context.  In response to one of the reviews, the maker of the documentary admitted to being biased and thought it unfair for someone to criticize his bias.

Why is it so hard for people to look at the real sources of oppression and propaganda?  What is the point of blaming one party or another, one president or another, one mainstream news source or another?  One group wants to blame big government and the other group wants to blame big business, but a little bit of research shows that there isn’t any great distinction between the two.  The family and financial connections, the revolving door, the inherited wealth and social position… power is power.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

Conservatives buy guns in fear that the liberal elite are going to destroy democracy or something, but who are they going to point the gun at?  When the oppressive forces come (assuming they aren’t already here and haven’t been here for a long time), they’ll come for conservatives and liberals alike.  Anyways, I doubt even the gun-toting paranoids will see them coming because the new form of political oppression probably won’t come by overt force. 

There is no liberal propaganda scheme to brainwash the children of conservatives.  The professors and news reporters really aren’t all that liberal (compared to true socialists and progressives) and anyways most of them are just as deceived (or more so) than the rest of us.  The conspiracy (whatever it may be) is systemic to our entire society.  This is why someone like Derrick Jensen probably is closer to grasping the actual conspiracy than any outright conspiracy theorist.

Why are conservatives so afraid of the government now with Obama in Washington?  Obama hasn’t even come close to passing anything as scary as the Patriot Act.  Obama is no more a Communist than any other president.  I just don’t get all of this paranoid fear-mongering.  Yes, there are real things to be afraid of, but I don’t see much point to all of this blind rage and righteousness, all of this ideological warring.  Many, many people have been warning about conspiracies for decades… yet we’re all still here and the political game continues.  What is behind this sudden sense of urgency?  Is it just the economic downturn that gets conservatives all riled up?  Mess with their jobs, their money, their houses… and there will be a revolution.

Okay, whatever… good luck with that.

6 thoughts on “Tea Party, Liberal Elite, & Conspiracy Theories

    • Thanks for sharing those links. I’d heard about the FBI files on Skousen, but I hadn’t seen them. I want to study the history of rightwing movement and the FBI files are probably a good starting point. I know the FBI were very interested in the KKK as well. I’d like to know more about how these various groups and people are interconnected.

      There seems to a particular set of beliefs that has been central to the conservative movement for the last century. I was surprised to learn of the central tenets of the KKK because they are basically the same as what the far right still hold. White supremacy isn’t all that different than the “white culture” even many mainstream Republicans support. Also, the white supremacy of the KKK was only one part of their belief system. They gained popularity because of patriotic nationalism during WWI and “traditional” Christian values.

      How does the belief system stay the same for a century even as the various groups that support it come and go in popularity? Most conservatives probably have negative opinions of the KKK because how it is portrayed in the media. Most people on the far right probably don’t realize they share the same beliefs as the KKK. I wonder if it would bother most rightwingers that they support the beliefs of the KKK?

  1. Well, lowest-common-denominator reasoning can get all of us into trouble.

    For example: many decent, honorable, principled conservatives (such as Barry Goldwater) opposed the 1964 civil rights act because of principled arguments concerning federalism — i.e. what should be the limits of federal government intrusion into state affairs. Their opposition was not because of any animus or hostility toward minorities. Rather, they objected for legitimate philosophical reasons which had to do with what they considered the limits of federal powers. These folks had nothing but contempt for the KKK and similar groups.

    Obviously, ALL white supremacists objected to the civil rights legislation of 1964 and 1965 — but they did so because of their bigotry and their unwillingness to accept African-Americans as citizens who deserved their full Constitutional rights.

    But people who engage in lowest-common-denominator reasoning will focus exclusively upon opposition to civil rights legislation as “linking” the two types of individuals described above — when the reality is starkly different.

    • I agree.

      My mentioning of the KKK is that I’ve seen a resurgence of the KKK belief system about what it means to be a “real American”. However, not all conservatives can be lumped together. A recent post of mine was partly looking at the differences between mainstream conservatives and libertarians.

      From what little I’ve learned about Goldwater, he seems like a good example of a true conservative. He helped create movement conservatism, but I think I’ve seen comments that he made against religion being mixed with politics. Also, Buckley in supporting Goldwater tried to free the conservative movement of the extremists.

      As I understand it, the beliefs of the KKK weren’t always associated with the Republican party as they are now. Prior to the Southern Strategy, the Republicans were at times in direct conflict with the KKK.

      I’m against lowest-common-denominator reasoning, but some people within the conservative movement have promoted it. The KKK and it’s present equivalents do promote the linking between issues of race and issues of the limiting federal power. What I’m seeing is that these lowest-common-demoninator conservatives are trying to take over the GOP.

      I think the religious right is undermining the beneficial message of true conservatives. The religious right seem obsessed with “white culture” and race-baiting. And the “principled arguments” of “decent, honorable, principled conservatives” are being lost in the noise.

  2. A 3rd party will not be successful. It never has been; read a history book. Dr. Utopia is consistently disassembling this nation piece by piece and were out here suggesting songs to the stria? It is absolutely, vitally important that tea partiers, reasonable conservatives, whatever we wish to call ourselves, TAKE BACK the GOP.

    • A 3rd party will not be successful because the system is corrupt, the game is rigged.

      Take back the GOP from whom? If you go by voting records and actual policies, both parties have been for big government for at least decades. Even “government is the problem” Reagan spent a lot of money and created a huge deficit. Also, your idol Palin wasn’t reistant to accepting federal money for her own state.

      If the Tea Partiers follow neo-con’s like Palin, they’ll simply align themselves with the corrupt GOP. You can’t beat the system within the system. Any given person may win a few bucks, but the Casino always wins.

      I’d suggest you take your own advice. Read some history… about populist movements.

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