Tea Party Thuggery: ‘When Fascism Comes to America, It Will Be Wrapped in the Flag, Carrying a Cross’

Left: Private security thugs arrest a reporter after a Joe Miller town-hall event in Alaska – Right: News segment on leather-clad veterans physically intimidating a Democratic operative at an Allen West event in Florida.

“When fascism comes to America,” Sinclair Lewis supposedly predicted in 1935, “it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Note that the quote sets up the arrival of fascism as certain — “when,” not “if,” it comes. Watch the two videos above — both taken within the last week or so — and you may wonder if that day has finally arrived.

The tea party’s paranoia about fascism is what in psychology is called “projecting,” a defense mechanism in which people unconsciously deny their own foibles by ascribing them to others.

In the video on the left, a reporter from Alaska Dispatch has been handcuffed by a goon working for a Blackwater-style private security firm hired by the campaign of Joe Miller, Sarah Palin’s pick for the U.S. Senate seat from Alaska. The reporter was “arrested” while trying to do his job — aggressively demanding that Miller confirm or deny that he was investigated for official corruption when he worked as an attorney for the city government in Fairbanks. The city’s Republican mayor at the time has said Miller was forced to resign over ethical violations. After the incident, Miller confirmed he was investigated but denied he was forced to resign. (Here’s a update on the incident from Alaska Dispatch.)

The video on the right is a segment from a Florida NBC station about an incident in which leather-clad volunteers for Allen West, the tea bagger candidate trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Ron Klein in the state’s 22nd District, physically intimidated a Democratic tracker who was covering West’s appearance in a public park. West, whom Mormon televangelist Glenn Beck once called a “man of integrity,” was involved in incidents of prisoner abuse when he served in Iraq and is associated with the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, which is targeted by the FBI for violent crimes and attempted murder.

The threat of violence has been infused in the Republican tea bagger base nearly from the start. There were several instances last year of men showing up armed at events and rallies as well as plans for “leaded” tea party events that were eventually called off. This year, Sarah Palin released a “hit list” of Democratic candidates she wanted taken out with rifle-sight icons by each of their names, and Nevada tea bagger Senate candidate Sharron Angle was caught on tape suggesting that “Second Amendment remedies” may be necessary if tea bagger candidates lose the election in November.

In the beginning, the tea party mobs tried to differentiate themselves from the Republican evangelical base — which had lost its sway in the GOP by failing deliver electoral victories in 2006 and 2008 — by insisting that their “movement” was strictly about patriotism, or, put another way, wrapped in the flag. They said they didn’t care about the culture war, were only advocating adherence to the Constitution, fiscal responsibility and the size of government — despite the fact they were utterly silent about these issues during the six years Bush and the Republicans in Congress ran up the debt and used the Constitution to wipe their feet.

In the weeks since the primaries ended, however, the candidates the tea baggers elected have revealed themselves to be carrying a cross. In fact, five tea baggers running for the Senate advocate making big government force rape and incest victims to bear their attackers’ offspring.

Tea baggers frequently compare Pres. Obama to Hitler and policies the Democrats have enacted as authoritarian — for example, saying that health-care reform was “jammed down their throats,” when in fact it was a key campaign issue that was ratified overwhelmingly by voters who elected Democrats in 2008. As with so much else about the Republican fringe, this talk of fascism is what in psychology is called “projecting,” a defense mechanism in which people unconsciously deny their own foibles by ascribing them to others.

In that light, these recent incidents of jackboot thuggery are a troubling development. The impulse to use violent threats to stifle opposition and intimidation to silence the press is irresistible to despots and as clear a marker for fascism as exists. And that is precisely what has been happening here.

One comment

  • October 20, 2010 - 3:17 pm | Permalink

    History repeats itself. I just never thought I would see it in my lifetime. Senator McCarthy, all over, again.

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