In response, Mark Steyn quips, “Don’t Fire Until You See The Whites of Their Cassocks:”
When I first saw the headline, I assumed it must all be a little less obviously bone-crushingly stupid or at any rate more nuanced once you got into the story. But I invite you to look at the accompanying poster for the Equal Opportunity training brief issued by the Army Reserve in Pennsylvania. It lists “extremist” groups, starting with “Evangelical Christianity” at Number One, “Al Quaeda” (misspelled under any Roman rendering of Arabic) at Number Five, “Hamas” at Six, and “Catholicism” rounding out the Top Ten.
Think of the number of people involved in the creation, printing and distribution of this graphic – and along the way not one of them stopped to say, “Hey, this is totally dumb.”
Shades of then-New York Times editor Bill Keller’s screedy meltdown in 2011 when he initially claimed that Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann believed in “fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity,” when the former is a Catholic and the latter a Lutheran.
The London Daily Mail has closeups of the images from the Army Reserve’s presentation to recruits and adds:
A slideshow presentation shown to US Army Reserve recruits classifies Christians, including both evangelicals and Roman Catholics, as religious extremists, placing them in the same category as skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan, Hamas and Al Qaeda.
The presentation also warned that members of the military are prohibited from taking leadership roles in any organization the Pentagon considers ‘extremist,’ and from distributing the organization’s literature, whether on or off a military installation.
The opening slide warns that ‘the rise in hate crimes and extremism outside the military may be an indication of internal issues all [armed] services will have to face.’
Citing a Southern Poverty Law Center report as evidence that extremism is on the rise, the Army Reserve presentation blames ‘the superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories,the changing racial make-up of America and the prospect of 4 more years under a black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country.’
The Southern Poverty Law Center you say? In the latest edition of the Weekly Standard, Charlotte Allen has a lengthy read-the-whole-thing profile of “The King of Fearmongers:”
This leads to yet another SPLC irony: Its severest critics aren’t on the conservative right (although the Federation for American Immigration Reform, another “hate group” on the SPLC’s list, has done its fair share of complaining), but on the progressive left. It may come as a surprise to learn that one of the most vituperative of all the critics was the recently deceased Alexander Cockburn, columnist for the Nation and the leftist webzine CounterPunch. In a 2009 article for CounterPunch titled “King of the Hate Business,” Cockburn castigated Dees and the SPLC for using the 2008 election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president as yet another wringer for squeezing out direct-mail donations from “trembling liberals” by painting an apocalyptic picture of “millions of [anti-Obama] extremists primed to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of Mein Kampf tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other.” Cockburn continued: “Ever since 1971 U.S. Postal Service mailbags have bulged with Dees’ fundraising letters, scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America, in dire need of legal confrontation by the SPLC.”
Cockburn was following on the heels of Ken Silverstein, who in 2000 wrote an article for the reliably liberal Harper’s magazine titled “The Church of Morris Dees.” Silverstein accused the SPLC of manufacturing connections between the “hate groups” that it highlighted in its numerous mailings—back then the groups on the SPLC list tended to be mostly fringe militia organizations—and the Columbine-style school shootings and a wave of black-church arsons during the 1990s that were a staple of the SPLC’s direct-mail panic pleas. “Horrifying as such incidents are, hate groups commit almost no violence,” Silverstein wrote. “More than 95 percent of all ‘hate crimes,’ including most of the incidents SPLC letters cite (bombings, church burnings, school shootings), are perpetrated by ‘lone wolves.’ Even Timothy McVeigh [perpetrator of the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people], subject of one of the most extensive investigations in the FBI’s history—and one of the most extensive direct-mail campaigns in the SPLC’s—was never credibly linked to any militia organization.”
Silverstein followed up with more of the same in a 2007 blog post for Harper’s: “What [the SPLC] does best . . . is to raise obscene amounts of money by hyping fears about the power of [right-wing fringe] groups; hence the SPLC has become the nation’s richest ‘civil rights’ organization.” In 2001 JoAnn Wypijewski wrote in the Nation: “Why the [SPLC] continues to keep ‘Poverty’ (or even ‘Law’) in its name can be ascribed only to nostalgia or a cynical understanding of the marketing possibilities in class guilt.” Silverstein had already noted in his 2000 Harper’s article that “most SPLC donors are white.”
What has infuriated the SPLC’s liberal critics is their suspicion that Morris Dees has used the SPLC primarily as a fundraising machine fueled by his direct-mail talents that generates a nice living for himself (the SPLC’s 2010 tax filing lists a compensation package of $345,000 for him as the organization’s chief trial counsel and highest-paid employee) and a handful of other high ranking SPLC officials plus luxurious offices and perks, but that does relatively little in the way of providing the legal services to poor people that its name implies.
In contrast to all of the above, back in 2011 on his Captain Capitalism blog, Aaron Clarey spotted the National Guard actually promoting religion. Well, religion of a sort:
As the late Michael Crichton observed in 2003, “I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form.” The above National Guard image flips the century-old “Progressive” notion of “the moral equivalent of war” on its head; as I asked at the time when I linked to Aaron’s post, “Does this mean that concurrently, the Peace Corps will be tooling around in heavily armed Abrams tanks, just to offset the absurdity?”
But back to the original topic at hand. As Rush Limbaugh recently noted, “We are living in a dying country.” Evidently, the Army — or at least some branch of it — has decided to accelerate the process. Linking today to the post on the Army labeling Evangelicals and Catholics as religious extremists, Kathy Shaidle responds, “Is America worth saving?”
Our elites don’t seem to think so. (See also: Obama, Barack.) Aaron’s new book is titled Enjoy the Decline; he posits that decline is exactly what America’s ruling class and low-information voters both want; there’s little the rest of us can do to change this collective death wish; we might as well have some fun before the lights go out. (Perhaps literally.)
Good night America, drive safe; it’s been fun!