NYT Exposes Tea Party Extremism
I’ve been wondering why the mainstream media have been so curiously uninterested in the bad craziness of the tea party movement, but with the release of this New York Times article the grace period may be coming to an end: Tea Party Movement Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right.
This article focuses, as it should, on the influence in the tea party movement of the conspiracy theorists and militias, including the formerly marginalized John Birch Society and the Oath Keepers, and the increasing prevalence of rhetoric promoting a violent civil war.
[Pam Stout] was happily retired, and had never been active politically. But last April, she went to her first Tea Party rally, then to a meeting of the Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots. She did not know a soul, yet when they began electing board members, she stood up, swallowed hard, and nominated herself for president. “I was like, ‘Did I really just do that?’ ” she recalled.
Then she went even further.
Worried about hyperinflation, social unrest or even martial law, she and her Tea Party members joined a coalition, Friends for Liberty, that includes representatives from Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project, the John Birch Society, and Oath Keepers, a new player in a resurgent militia movement.
When Friends for Liberty held its first public event, Mrs. Stout listened as Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff, brought 1,400 people to their feet with a speech about confronting a despotic federal government. Mrs. Stout said she felt as if she had been handed a road map to rebellion. Members of her family, she said, think she has disappeared down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. But Mrs. Stout said she has never felt so engaged.
Ron Paul figures prominently, as always. When I first began covering the tea parties, readers positive toward the movement vehemently resisted the idea that Ron Paul and his army of kooks were deeply involved.
No one is resisting any more. It’s become obvious to everyone that the tea party movement is a mix of Paulian paleolibertarianism, religious fanaticism, and plain old whacked out insanity.
This kind of toxic mix is fertile ground for recruitment by extremist groups, and they’re exploiting the opportunity relentlessly.
Leah Southwell’s turning point came when she stumbled on Ron Paul’s speeches on YouTube. (“He blew me away.”) Until recently, Mrs. Southwell was in the top 1 percent of all Mary Kay sales representatives, with a company car and a frenetic corporate life. “I knew zero about the Constitution,” Mrs. Southwell confessed. Today, when asked about her commitment to the uprising, she recites a line from the Declaration of Independence, a Tea Party favorite: “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Mr. Paul led Mrs. Southwell to Patriot ideology, which holds that governments and economies are controlled by networks of elites who wield power through exclusive entities like the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations.
This idea has a long history, with variations found at both ends of the political spectrum. But to Mrs. Southwell, the government’s culpability for the recession — the serial failures of regulation, the Federal Reserve’s epic blunders, the cozy bailouts for big banks — made it resonate all the more, especially as she witnessed the impact on family and friends.
“The more you know, the madder you are,” she said. “I mean when you finally learn what the Federal Reserve is!”
Last spring, Mrs. Southwell quit her job and became a national development officer for the John Birch Society, recruiting and raising money across the West, often at Tea Party events. She has been stunned by the number of Tea Party supporters gravitating toward Patriot ideology. “Most of these people are just waking up,” she said.