Sunday, April 05, 2009

On Alex Jones, the Philadelphia shooter, and the red-headed step-children of the left

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
--It would be unfair to lay all of the blame for the shooting rampage of Richard Andrew Poplawski in Philadelphia this week on Alex Jones (or even Glen Beck) alone, but he and the rest of the reactionary right noise machine own a good chunk of it. It's not begging the question since the unbalanced and ignorant spree killer was an avid reader and consumer of such extremist dreck.

This wasn't about someone "getting into it" with their family over a dog urinating on a rug, it was about a sick young man with a small mind who found inspiration from right-wing demagogues, some of whom erroneously get lumped-into being part of the progressive and populist left. But Poplawski wasn't part of that political stream and had direct connections with the white supremacist "Stormfront" white supremacist group and was an avid reader of Alex Jones, among others on the rightist fringe.

While it's true that Poplawski was influenced by various texts, Jones figures highly in the story, and the role of anti-government conspiracy theories play a significant part of what led an ignorant and antisocial personality to focused and violent action.

“He was really into politics and really into the First and Second amendment. One thing he feared was he feared the gun ban because he thought that was going to take away peoples’ right to defend themselves. He never spoke of going out to murder or to kill,” said Edward Perkovic, who described himself as Mr. Poplawski’s lifelong best friend.
Mr. Poplawski’s view of guns and personal freedom took a turn toward the fringes of American politics. With Mr. Perkovic, he appeared to share a belief that the government was controlled from unseen forces, that troops were being shipped home from the Mideast to police the citizenry here, and that Jews secretly ran the country.
Believing most media were covering up important events, Mr. Poplawski turned to a far-right conspiracy Web site run by Alex Jones, a self-described documentarian with roots going back to the extremist militia movement of the early 1990s. ("Suspect in officers' shooting was into conspiracy theories," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 04.05.2009)
Thanks Texas, keep on delivering, we might just let you secede. Poplawski didn't need to "speak" about murdering or killing, as actions speak louder than words, but it's obvious that Perkovic is the same kind of flat-head, and might not be the only questionable acquaintance of the shooter.
With Poplawski gone, Perkovic himself deserves closer scrutiny. Yeah, sure, Poplawski was "into politics" alright--extremist parapolitics--which is speculative-at-best and has no academic endorsements for all the right reasons. One of the key ingredients in Poplawski's rampage was the conspiricism of the fringe right, coming directly from demagogues like Alex Jones, but also "mainstreamed" ones like Glen Beck (public opinion polls aren't reflective of the Fox News agenda). Three policemen might be alive today otherwise. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that any of this will dissuade Jones's followers since they're resistant to reason (but not Reason magazine), or any of the gun-toting nuts out there who are going to react similarly in the intervening months. Oddly, none of this is mainstream thinking, yet there it is, right out in the open.
But Alex Jones often gets a free-pass from some on the left (our red-headed step-children--put down the pipe), and he shouldn't since he was once affiliated with the far-right militia movement and his associations with people you wouldn't want over for dinner, ever. Who are they? Who is Alex Jones...really? To know someone, you need to look at their friends and their allies and how closely their public statements and views correspond.
As recently as March 24th, 2009, Jones was featured on a Fox News panel with Judge Andrew Napolitano, Ron Paul, and Lew Rockwell. ( Who is Judge Napolitano? He's a former federal prosecutor and mid-level state judge from New Jersey, avowed Libertarian, and nowadays--don't laugh--a Fox News commentator. He's also an alumni of Princeton's and Notre Dame's Law Schools, and was a "television judge" for a time on "Power of Attorney." While Napolitano is rumored to have connections of his own to white hate groups (probably through Ron Paul), he definitely has admirers in their ranks, evidence of which can be found on forums of the Aryan Front and others.
Presidental candidate Ron Paul? We know about him, and like Alex Jones, he's getting a free pass from the gullible on the left (and right, for other reasons) because he's come out against the war in Iraq and sounds vaguely populist and progressive. That's because he's smarter than the people he's been swaying since his first Libertarian candidacy for president in 1988. His views have changed little since that time and they are extremist in a profound sense. But Paul and his associates know how to repackage themselves as "populists" and how to appear "progressive" and "left," which is scary. They need to--again, the majority doesn't agree their core-beliefs. The same goes for so-called "mainstream"--an oxymoron if there ever was one--Libertarians, a group that needs to seriously reassess their party and the rest of its membership.
From the late Molly Ivins:
Dallas' 5th District, East Texas' 2nd District and the amazing 14th District, which runs all over everywhere, are also in play. In the amazing 14th, Democrat Lefty Morris (his slogan is "Lefty is Right!") faces the Republican/Libertarian Ron Paul, who is himself so far right that he's sometimes left, as happens with your Libertarians. I think my favorite issue here is Paul's 1993 newsletter advising "Frightened Americans" on how to get their money out of the country. He advised that Peruvian citizenship could be purchased for a mere 25 grand. That we should all become Peruvians is one of the more innovative suggestions of this festive campaign season. But what will the Peruvians think of it? ("Molly Ivins October 10," Forth Worth Star-Telegram, 10.10.1996)
In short, Paul is recommending that well-off Americans at that time engage in capital flight, which is hardly a "left" position, but parallel with that of the mainstream Republican Party as well as extremist tax resisters and Wall Street. It's certain that he feels the same now, and that's not a populist argument by any stretch--it favors the rich--the people we can presume he really serves. But this is really going easy on Ron Paul, so we'll get to the "meat."

There have been many accusations over the years levelled at Paul that he's a white supremacist. Some of this comes from his own connection with the militia movement, one he shares with Alex Jones and many other allies of the Austin-based parapolitical demagogue. But Paul's grandstanding on these issues begs-the-question of whether it even matters whether he believes what he says.
It doesn't matter, but Paul shows all the tendencies of the immovable American crank and the racialist throwback, as found in his open opposition to the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and much-much more in the racial arena. He appears to be a true believer of the extreme right, a curious physician.
Paul's connections to the South Carolina-based "Partiot Network," also an organ of the right-wing tax resistance movement, but really a conglomeration of anti-government gun-toting extremists with connections to the Christian Identity movement. Former KKK leader David Duke, has spoken and written kindly of Ron Paul (posts have been removed since the summer of 2007, and no comments on Paul can now be found on his site, but it's likely that captures are out there), and Paul has spoken of cross burnings in Texas (and the rest of the nation) as "protected speech." That's not reflective of the law in most parts of America, and certainly not the attitudes of the public.
And then there's the fact that GOP Representative Paul was the lone "nay" vote recognizing the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an act that not only proscribed integration of American educational institutions (and several other types), but in the workplace and in "public places."The bill itself also includes provisions that also protect white Americans, specifically regarding the protection of the rights of women generally.
Paul just knows full well that African-Americans would never vote for him so long as they were in their right mind, not a worrying issue for his core of virtually all-white, extremist, supporters. But Paul's not talking to Blacks--obviously--but to people who irrationally fear and loathe them and anyone not like themselves:
Last week, Congress hailed the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The heroic Ron Paul was the only member of Congress to vote No. Here is his statement. ~ Ed.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to explain my objection to H.Res. 676. I certainly join my colleagues in urging Americans to celebrate the progress this country has made in race relations. However, contrary to the claims of the supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the sponsors of H.Res. 676, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society. The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties. The rights of all private property owners, even those whose actions decent people find abhorrent, must be respected if we are to maintain a free society. ("The Trouble With Forced Integration," by Ron Paul, M.D.,, 07.03.2004)
These were Paul's groan-inducing statements on the floor of the House back in the salad days of the Bush II administration, when it still appeared that there could never be an African-American president. There was no other reason to do this except to pander to the racialist right. Things change in the modern world, and rapidly.
Yet, the historical record doesn't jibe with these revisionist interpretations of American history, especially with Paul's loss to every single candidate in the 2008 presidential elections, the opinions of the American public gleaned through numerous opinion polls, the stunning victory and broad mandate of Barack Obama, and the fact that Black Americans gained the right to vote from federal civil rights legislation under necessary federal protection from some of the grandparents of Paul's ridiculous supporters. We won't even go into his and their views on the American Civil War, evolution, the separation of Church and State, and so on--it ain't pretty.
But it's not as if the GOP weren't working overtime from at least 2000-on (with several lame attempts dating back between 1958-to-1981) to scuttle the voting rights of African-Americans in several key states, states populated with people whose views are similar to the "Paul" strain. Paul's viewpoint on cross burning isn't just mistaken, it's patently racist and not supported by the law as protected speech, but really a historically-proven invitation to violence meant to instill terror--everyone knows in America that burning a cross on any property is meant to intimidate its prospective victims; it's symbolic violence in its purest form.
This kind of intentional instilling of fear in a targeted population is as close to terrorism as one can get, but Ron Paul supports it, and a lot of other things that the American public doesn't accept anymore. Because of this, he and his kind have to couch their extremist beliefs in the garb of progressive populism, but it's anything but that and his coalition bears a closer resemblance to South American paramilitary groups, lynch mobs, and international neo-Nazis with a sprinkling of the gullible. Who else figures-in the constellation?
Lew Rockwell, Libertarian speaker, and all-around nutcase who worked as Paul's congressional chief of staff from 1978-1982. He and Paul both advocate secession and question the validity of a "cohesive" America as a nation state, which is decidedly extremist and runs parallel with numerous right-wing groups, notably the militia groups that Paul is associated with. Libertarian "Reason" magazine (my pals, they quoted me once--I logically fired-back abuse) has claimed that Rockwell has ghostwritten for Paul in the past.
Rockwell's support of the militia movement is still going strong, as evinced by a series on "militia organizing" by the nutcase William S. Lind, ostensibly the "director" of "The Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation," posted on Rockwell's site (where else? Ron Paul-connected sites and Fox News, disclaimers to the contrary.):
We tried in our discussions to identify and find remedies to typical militia weaknesses. One weakness seen often in militia history is that units degenerate into mere social clubs. To prevent this, all companies would participate in annual play-offs in the form of free-play exercises against other companies. The winner would advance to the next level. Our hope is that these competitions would become big deals in communities across America, spurring the militiamen on to greater efforts.
Another typical militia weakness is doctrinal stagnation. To counter this, the militia would have its own General Staff, made up of the kind of "military dinks" who have been into military history and war games since they were kids. The General Staff would oversee doctrine, training and the regular round of free-play exercises. It would not vet individual militia members, since this would create centralization, but it would have the power to dissolve companies that performed poorly, became social clubs or got taken over by MS-13 and the like. ("Organizing the Militia, by William S. Lind,", 08.11.2005)
That's great, but what would that doctrine be, and where does the urgency to organize militias emanate from? The notion that the federal government is nothing but "evil," "the problem" (a conservative argument, not a genuinely leftist or progressive or populist one), and will eventually have to be met with force, is held by Jones and many of the individuals he not only associates with, but openly allies himself with. It goes without saying that there are legitimate concerns regarding government surveillance--most notably after 9/11, but an ongoing problem from the 20th century that has had ample conservative support--and it gives demagogues like Jones and his compatriots plenty to yell about.
That their own peculiar take is calculated and wrong is a given, hence the need to make them sound vaguely populist so that their far-right extremist agenda is more palatable.
Alex Jones's public pronouncements concur with this agenda, and as stated earlier in this piece, he has roots going back to the militia movement in the early-1990s. It's all about the "New World Order," and other paper tiger arguments that have very little basis in political, let alone human, reality. But there's just enough there for them to exploit, and exploit it they do which is what makes them all demagogues. The biggest part of the problem is that ignorant progressives and antiwar activists have been falling for it and still are. This is because they're as ignorant as Poplawski and probably harbor arch-conservative attitudes of their own.
This writer makes no bones about it: I hope that this Philadelphia shooting spree brings real enforcement of existing gun laws and an expansion of them as well as downing demagogues like Alex Jones, Ron Paul, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Lew Rockwell, and all the rest. With self-fulfilling actions like those of Poplawski this week, and the gun problem along the Mexican-American border, it appears inevitable.
There's another fact about Alex Jones, Ron Paul, and Stormfront in the story of Richard Andrew Poplawski: contrary to Jones's protestations that he isn't with them, many of them come very close to endorsing him on their website. This suggest a strong ideological connection, if not outright pandering. In the case of Ron Paul, they endorse him unequivocally. But if you really want evidence that Alex Jones and his compatriots are right-wing nuts and demagogues, just read their writings and watch and listen to their media appearances. But what is Jones saying about Pittsburgh? It appears that he's saying and writing nothing so far.
But Jones wasn't going to respond to the criticisms himself, so he tapped his hack writer, Kurt Nimmo, to do it:
...In the meantime, we can expect the Obama libs [Ed.--I voted Nader, thank you very much.] to continue their demonization of those of us who not only value and support the Second Amendment – the very cornerstone of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights – but also those of us who realize government invariably plots against liberty and eventually enslaves the masses, as a glance at the last century reveals. ... It should be expected that the government will exploit the recent shootings in order further their propaganda and realize their master plan of an unarmed and helpless populace. It really is sad the liberals are helping them in this effort by offering themselves up as useful idiots. ("Lib Blogs Kick into Frothing Overdrive in Reaction to Pittsburgh Shootings,, 04.04.2009)
That's funny, I'm a philosophical socialist who voted for Ralph Nader in the 2008 presidential elections, but does that matter when you're trying to discredit your critics? It does. Nimmo and Jones like accusing their adversaries of using "Stalinist tactics," yet there isn't one mention of the fact that Poplawski was an enthusiastic reader of Jones's site anywhere in his meandering article that must be read to be believed for its acrobatics and wild leaps of logic. What do you expect in the world of the paranoiac, the demagogue? Stalin would be proud.

Additionally,Nimmo creates a straw man argument that Poplawski's comments on the Obama administration came from Edward Perkovic, when the information really came from an acquaintance named Aaron Vire. Poplawski's neighbor, Tom Moffitt, has also stated that the young man expressed comments along the same lines as the accounts of Perkovic and Vire. That's three testimonies thus far that Poplawski was afraid his guns were going to be taken from him, specifically by the Obama administratoion, with more to come.
The title of the Nimmo article should tell you all you need to know about Alex Jones and the people he calls "friend," and that these people really are dangerous to the rest of us--not that the cops appear to care since many of them share the same extremist interpretations of the Second amdendment. But somehow, they're "victims," they'll tell you...again and again, and again. Incredibly, Nimmo makes a case for government-backing of the very kinds of groups that he and his boss are ideologically-aligned with. Far be it for the radical right not to claim they're "victims" when they clearly are not. They've been in the vanguard of state repression for a very long time, and they know it.
That anyone on the left would listen to them speaks volumes about the individuals who even begin to listen to them for a minute.
To say that they're arch-conservative and not genuinely progressive, populist, or "left" should be obvious, but they suffer from the same complex as a Richard Poplawski: just enough knowledge to be a problem, a serious pain-in-the-ass. Poplawski's killing of the four Pittsburgh police officers is being called an "ambush." That it was, and with the echo chamber emanating from Jones's site and Fox News, he had ample ammunition to justify his own actions in his own small and twisted mind.
Fascism tends to come from below, not above. Welcome to stutopia. Now open a history book, stop listening to lunatics, and get a clue.

"Lib Blogs Kick into Frothing Overdrive in Reaction to Pittsburgh Shootings,, 04.04.2009:

"Stormfront Radio supports Ron Paul, Youtube, 09.17.2007:

"Organizing the Militia, by William S. Lind,", 08.11.2005:

"The Trouble With Forced Integration, by Ron Paul, M.D.,", 07.03.2004:

"Molly Ivins October 10," Forth Worth Star-Telegram, 10.10.1996:
"Suspect in officers' shooting was into conspiracy theories," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 04.05.2009:

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