Three Books On The Brownshirting Of America
James Bovard, the great
libertarian champion of our
freedom and civil liberties, recently shared with
readers his mail from Bush supporters (Lewrockwell.com,
October 12). For starters here are some of the
salutations: “communist bastard,” “asshole,”
“a piece of trash, scum of the earth.”
It goes downhill from there.
Bush`s supporters demand lock-step
consensus that Bush is right. They regard truthful
reports that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass
destruction and was not involved in the September 11
attack on the US—truths now firmly established by the
Bush administration`s own reports—as treasonous
As well, Bovard is interpreted as
throwing cold water on the feel-good, macho, Muslim
butt-kicking that Bush`s invasion of Iraq has come
to symbolize for his supporters. “People like you and
Michael Moore,” one irate reader wrote, “is
[sic] what brings down our country.”
I have received similar responses
from conservatives, as, no doubt, have a number of other
writers who object to a domestic police state at war
with the world.
In language reeking with hatred,
TownHall readers impolitely informed me that
opposing the invasion of Iraq is identical to opposing
America, that Bush is the greatest American leader in
history and everyone who disagrees with him should be
shot before they cause America to lose another war.
TownHall`s readers were
sufficiently frightening to convince the Heritage
Foundation to stop posting my columns.
Bush`s conservative supporters want
no debate. They want no facts, no analysis. They want to
denounce and to demonize the enemies that the Hannitys,
Limbaughs, and Savages of talk radio assure them are
everywhere at work destroying their great and noble
I remember when conservatives
favored restraint in foreign policy and wished to limit
government power in order to protect civil liberties.
Today`s young conservatives are
Jacobins determined to use government power to impose
their will at home and abroad.
Where did such “conservatives”
For all their defects, however,
neocons are thoughtful compared to the world of talk
radio, whose inhabitants are trained to shout down
From whence came the brownshirt
movement that slavishly adheres to the neocons` agenda?
Three recent books address this
question. Thomas Frank in
What`s the Matter With Kansas, locates the
movement in legitimate conservative resentments of
people who feel that family, religious, and patriotic
values are given short shrift by elitist liberals.
These resentments festered and
multiplied as offshore production, jobs outsourcing, and
immigration took a toll on careers and the American
An audience was waiting for
rightwing talk radio, which found its stride during the
Clinton years. Clinton`s evasions made it easy to fall
in with show hosts, who spun conspiracies and fabricated
a false consciousness for listeners who became
Show hosts, who advertise
themselves as truth-tellers in a no-spin zone, quickly
figured out that success depends upon constantly
confronting listeners with bogymen to be exposed and
denounced: war protesters and America-bashers, the
French, marrying homosexuals, the liberal media,
turncoats, Democrats, and the ACLU.
Talk radio`s “news stories”
do not need to be true. Their importance lies in
inflaming resentments and confirming that America`s
implacable enemies are working resolutely to destroy us.
The Republican Noise Machine lacks the insights
of Thomas Frank`s book, but it provides a
gossipy history of the rightwing takeover of the US
media. Brock is unfair to some people, myself included,
and mischaracterizes as rightwing some media
personalities who are under rightwing attack.
Brock is as blindly committed to
his causes as the rightwing zealots he exposes are to
theirs. Unlike Frank, he cannot acknowledge that the
rightwing has legitimate issues.
Nevertheless, Brock makes a
credible case that today`s conservatives are driven by
ideology, not by fact. He argues that their stock in
trade is denunciation, not debate. Conservatives don`t
assess opponents` arguments, they demonize opponents.
Truth and falsity are out of the picture; the criteria
are: who`s good, who`s evil, who`s patriotic, who`s
These are the traits of brownshirts.
Brownshirts know they are right. They know their
opponents are wrong and regard them as enemies who must
be silenced if not exterminated.
Some of Brock`s quotes from
prominent conservative commentators will curl your toes.
His description of the rightwing`s destruction of an
independent media and the “Fairness Doctrine”
explain why a recent CNN/Gallup poll found that 42% of
Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was involved
in the September 11 terrorist attack on the US and 32%
believe that Saddam Hussein personally planned the
A country in which 42% of the
population is totally misinformed is not a country where
democracy is safe.
Today, there is no one to correct a
lie once it is told. The media, thanks to Republicans,
has been concentrated in few hands, and they are not the
hands of newsmen. Corporate values rule. If lies sell,
sell them. If listeners, viewers, and readers want
confirmation of their resentments and beliefs, give it
to them. Objectivity turns listeners off and is a money
In his book,
Cruel and Unusual, Mark Crispin Miller,
professor of media studies at New York University,
explains how rightwing influence has
moved the media away from reporting news to
designing our consciousness. “The Age of
Information,” Miller writes, “has turned out to
be an Age of Ignorance.”
Miller makes a strong case. His
description of how
CNN and Fox News destroyed the credibility of
Scott Ritter, the leading expert on Iraq`s weapons,
reveals a media completely given over to propaganda.
Ritter stood in the way of the neocon`s invasion of
CNN`s Miles O`Brien, Eason Jordan,
Catherine Callaway, Paula Zahn, Kyra Phillips, Arthel
Neville, and Fox News` David Asman and John Gibson
portrayed Ritter as a disloyal American, a
Ba-athist stooge on the take from
Saddam Hussein, and
compared him to
Jane Fonda in North Vietnam.
With this, the rightwing talk radio
crazies were off and running. Anyone with the slightest
bit of real information about the state of weapons
development in Iraq was dismissed as a foreign agent who
should be shot for treason.
By substituting fiction for
reality, the US media took the country to war. The CNN
and Fox News “journalists” are as responsible for
America`s ill-fated invasion of Iraq as Cheney and
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Perle.
With a sizable percentage of the US
population now addicted to daily confirmations of their
resentments and hatreds, US policy will be increasingly
driven by tightly made up minds in pursuit of
American troops are in Iraq on
false pretenses. No one knows all the fateful
consequences of this mistaken adventure.
Bush`s reelection would be seen as
a vindication of aggression, and more aggression would
A continuing expenditure of blood,
money, alliances, good will, and civil liberties is not
a future to which to look forward.
Roberts served as
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan
administration. During the
Cold War era, he was a
member of the Committee on the Present Danger. He is
a former Associate Editor and columnist for the
Wall Street Journal
editorial page and a former contributing editor of
National Review. During 1986-87 he assisted the
French government`s privatization of socialized firms
and was awarded the Legion of Honor.
Paul Craig Roberts is the author with Lawrence M.
The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name