Monday, November 23, 2009

Is treason the new conservatism?

The billboard above was placed next to I-70 in Lafayette County, Missouri (part of the Kansas City metropolitan region). It’s an example of the increasingly aggressive and violent rhetoric of America’s far right—which includes far too many people within the Republican Party.

The billboard reads: “A citizens [sic] guide to REVOLUTION of a corrupt government.” Shouldn’t that be against? Anyway, it goes on, “ 1. Starve the beast, keep your money.” The irony of the billboard standing next to Interstate 70—built and maintained with tax money—is just too wonderful not to point out. “2. Vote out incumbents.” All incumbents, or just Democrats? “3. If steps 1 & 2 fail?” The kicker: “PREPARE FOR WAR – LIVE FREE OR DIE”.

This billboard is, at the very least, seditious: “conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state” (refusing to pay taxes and armed revolt). However, a simple, easy-to-understand definition of treason is advocating the violent overthrow of the government, which this billboard also does.

The billboard may have been placed by “a businessman” who earlier placed an anti-Obama message on the same billboard (why is it that folks advocating treason are so often afraid to reveal themselves?), but it was endorsed by the Lafayette County Republican Party. Their blog site was filled with outraged comments, but also from plenty of other folks who endorsed it, along with some from the seriously unhinged far, far right.

This billboard is just the latest example of the growing aggression among the far right. They portray the government as “corrupt” because they lost the last democratic elections and they can’t stand that. And, if we’re honest, the thing they hate most about the US government is that the president is an African American.

Some on the far right are openly calling for the president’s death through what they call “imprecatory prayer”. Basically, those are Judeo-Christian curses in which they pray that their god wreaks vengeance against someone—in this case, that it strikes down the president.

The rightwingers are using Psalm 109:8 which begins, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office” and goes on “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” The language is so violent that neither the Roman Catholics nor mainstream Protestants use it in their liturgies.

There are two problems with all this rhetoric, beyond the sedition and violence they espouse. First, and most obviously, they will encourage the legendary “lone wolves” to commit acts of actual, real violence (there’s really no such thing as a “lone wolf” actually, because the violent right is interconnected through the Internet, even if individuals act alone).

The second thing wrong with this is that the supposed “mainstream” of the Republican Party doesn’t condemn this utterly and without equivocation. They demand that liberals apologise for every loony thing that some leftist ever said, but they flat-out refuse to disavow the increasingly violent rhetoric of the right wing—folks who in most cases are members or voters of their party.

The rhetoric of the far right is increasingly becoming a clear and present danger. The Republican Party has a duty to disavow it in the strongest possible terms now, and not feign remorse after something terrible happens because of that rhetoric.

Update 7:25PM (Auckland Time): I just checked and found that the Lafayette County Republicans have removed their blog post promoting the billboard and its message. They should've disavowed it and apologised instead of just pretending they never promoted it. Still, I thought they might do this, so at left is a screen cap of the post (click to embiggen).

Hat Tip for the sign story to StopBeck, even though the linked post is now gone.


Nik said...

They haven't disavowed much yet, so don't see it happening soon.

Moosep and Buddy Rabbit said...

Thanks for the info. I didn't know about the billboard until I saw Joe My God pick up your post.

These are really scary times we live in. This billboard sounds as if the far right is preparing for a civil war.

Jim said...

Update: After someone brought up the billboard in the comment section of one of their later posts, they have removed and disabled all comments as well.

They seem to be really embarrassed.

Arthur Schenck said...

Nik: I don't, either, but as the update I posted after your comment (and the comment from Jim) show, at least it looks like the Republicans are getting somewhat embarrassed by their easy acceptance of the rhetoric.

moosep: I think that's exactly what they meant it to sound like. That county backed the Confederacy in the Civil War, not surprisingly. And that turned out so well for them…

Jim: Thanks so much for that update! I read, but couldn't verify, that they'd also removed the text in a post that praised the earlier "Obama-nation" billboard (which featured a big communist hammer and sickle, along with inflammatory text). Certainly the text wasn't there when I went to post, but I never saw it there beforehand. Still, with them pulling anything approving of the latest billboard, it wouldn't surprise me.

One thing about this saga: It's good that this "businessman" doesn't know how to employ a graphic designer: This and his previous billboard are so wordy and hard to read that it's probable that most people who see the billboard won't even be able to read its pathetic message.

Anonymous said...

treason LOL! this is freedom of speech you idiots. why do you think we have the 2nd amendment the right to keep and bare arm and the citizen militia to keep the government in check i find nothing wrong with this post in fact i find it quite patriotic. Why dont you educate your selfs on what this country was founded on WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES not we the federal government. Wake up sheep.

Arthur Schenck said...

Anonymous: I never said this incident a year and a half ago wasn't free speech. I pointed out that it was seditious (which is undeniable), but that's not the same thing as being illegal or criminal. I suggested that by some definitions, it was treasonous, but I didn't actually say it was.

As you are aware, there are limits on free speech. One cannot advocate the immediate violent overthrow of the US, for example, nor advocate that a mob go and kill an elected official. Such speech is illegal and criminal.

My point was about the propensity of the right to use violent rhetoric and seditious language, and how that language leads to violence.

There's huge disagreement over what the Second Amendment means and what, precisely, it protects. The "well regulated militia" it mentions refers to organised state militias—what we now call the National Guard. People taking part in such official militias were intended to be able to keep arms, but not everyone accepts that ordinary people who were not part of such official militias were intended to be allowed guns.

The first three words to the US Constitution are "We the people". That means that all authority contained in the Constitution and implied by it, and all the power of the federal government established by the Constitution, are derived from the people through elections. The federal government IS the people.

If you hate the US government, that is your right. You can even try—peacefully—to convince others that your viewpoint is correct and they should agree with you. However, your avenue to creating change is through the ballot box, not the ammo box.

If you don't like your representation in Congress, vote for someone else. If you don't like any of the alternatives, run for office yourself or persuade someone you admire to do so. If the power of your arguments is convincing, people will agree with you and vote as you want them to. If, however, you cannot convince others and your chosen person loses, that's the way it is in a democracy—and under the US Constitution you must accept that; THAT is what "we the people" means.

Also, just for your further education, the phrase is "bear arms"; "bare arms" is what you have if you wear a short sleeve shirt. Also, "yourself" is singular (and one word), "yourselves" is plural. If you want me, personally, to educate myself, then you meant "yourself". If you were speaking to those who disagree with you, then the correct word is "yourselves".

I tell you this because if you want your ideas to be taken seriously in a free and democratic debate, then it's always a good idea to pay attention to detail because—and trust me on this—your opponents will seize on every single mistake or unclear statement you make.