Cliven Bundy, the racist far-right Nevada rancher exposed by in article by Chuck Tanner published on this website, and by several articles in the New York Times, is now a Tea Party symbol of defiance against the federal government. While some politicians supported by Tea Parties--such as Senators Rand Paul, Dean Heller, and Ted Cruz--were quick to call Bundy’s racist comments “unacceptable,” the Tea Party organizations themselves have remained unwavering in Bundy’s support. Indeed, none of the national Tea Party organizations previously issuing supportive comments towards Cliven Bundy have denounced his racist comments, according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.
From April 5 to April 12, people around the country watched as Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, backed by often armed supporters, stood in defiance of federal court orders to remove cattle he had illegally grazed on federal lands since the 1990s. Bundy supporters cast the drama a David versus Goliath clash between a Constitutionally-minded rancher and an out-of-control federal government. A closer look reveals a more complex story, offering insights in to the ability of the far right to engage in armed mobilizations on behalf of activists whose federal law violations get them into legal trouble. When the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) backed off from enforcing Bundy’s long-standing grazing violations, far-rightists claimed victory for their ideas and paramilitary tactics, threatening to embolden those would use violence to advance far right political goals.
As anti-racists and human rights advocates push for justice for Trayvon Martin, they should take account of the Tea Party racists and white nationalist opposition to any form of actual justice. Readers are cautioned as IREHR presents some of the ugly rhetoric used by these racists so that it can be successfully countered in the public discussion and the cause of Justice for Trayvon can be secured.
Tea Parties Use Verdict to Further Attack Trayvon, Reproduce Racism
By Devin Burghart
The facts of the case are straightforward. Trayvon Martin was walking home when he was accosted by an armed vigilante who scuffled with the teenager and then shot him at close range. The vigilante was an unofficial “neighborhood watch” volunteer, who was advised by a police dispatcher to not give chase, but did so anyway. Despite the fact that Trayvon Martin was guilty only of “walking while black,” some Tea Party leaders had already convicted 17 year-old well before the trial, rather than George Zimmerman who shot him.
As IREHR previously noted, shortly after Zimmerman killed Martin on February 26, 2012, white nationalists and other bigots concocted false allegations, and slandered Martin. After the Zimmerman “not guilty” verdict, and particularly after President Obama publicly discussed the issue of race in the Trayvon Martin situation, many Tea Partiers used the occasion to place blame on the victim, amplify racist stereotypes of black men, and reproduce that racism in the civic arena.
For example, just hours after the July 13 verdict, the Florida Tea Party sent an email blast to supporters entitled “Black Teens Murder White Baby For The Fun Of It.” The brief, brutal story had been news from Brunswick, Georgia the previous March. But the Tea Partiers regurgitated the story in July in an attempt to deflect blame away from Zimmerman on to black men
The Florida Tea Party was not alone in this regard. Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, repeatedly weighed in during the trial with attempts to demonize the dead African-American teen. In a July 15, 2013 Tea Party Nation website piece entitled “From Sinner to Saint,” Phillips fused many falsehoods and distortions into a vicious and bitter piece of propaganda.
Trayvon Martin was well on his way to a life of crime, a life that would feature at best, the revolving door of the criminal justice system or possibly even a lifetime stay at a penal facility. Or, at worst, a shortened life, ended by someone else.
Trayvon Martin was a product of American liberal social policies. A single mother raised him. His school was more concerned about appeasing the civil rights hucksters than whether Trayvon Martin was either educated or taught basic responsibilities.
The story of Trayvon Martin’s life is not irrelevant. It is the major cause of what happened that night he encountered George Zimmerman. The left has tried to demonize Zimmerman and has tried to canonize St. Trayvon.
The truth is Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old thug who was the architect of his own demise.
That is the story that should be told. Perhaps if that story and the truth about Trayvon Martin is told, it might prevent the next Trayvon Martin.
Later Phillips wrote, “The George Zimmerman trial was a travesty to begin with. It never should have happened” and called for the head of State’s Attorney Angela Corey, claiming, “She is an individual unfit to be a prosecutor, unfit to be a lawyer and unfit for a job anymore significant that asking, “Would you like fries with that?”
It should be noted that by openly articulating the type of bigoted clap-trap that is usually said only behind closed doors, Phillips both invests these ravings with a certain legitimacy while re-establishing his own racist credentials. Indeed, Phillips Tea Party rhetoric mirrors closely the words of white nationalist demagogue Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, who wrote “Five white women and an apparent Hispanic have acquitted George Zimmerman on all counts. The facts and the law clearly required that it do so. However, this is a just conclusion only to a case that should never have been brought, and that casts a harsh and damning light on black race hustlers, crazed white liberals, and a vilely irresponsible media.”
From another angle, Lloyd Marcus, the Deltona, Florida paid spokesperson for the Tea Party Express, who describes himself, parentheses included, as a “(black) Unhyphenated American,” also chimed in. In an article entitled “Political Correctness: Bring Me the Head of George Zimmerman!” Marcus emphatically declared “I was elated upon hearing the not guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial. It gave me hope that America has not yet totally succumb to the tyranny of Political Correctness. It is refreshing that the jury was not willing to sacrifice the life of an innocent man on the alter[sic] in worship of Political Correctness enforced by the mainstream media and the Obama Administration.”
Marcus also pushed a notion that is popular in Tea Party circles that “the Obama Administration unlawfully conspired to ‘get George Zimmerman.’” As he often does, he attacked the NAACP and concluded that “had Zimmerman been sentenced to prison to appease PC, it would have been a dark day for all Americans – further empowering PC to imprison and enslave us.”
Tea Party reiterated old and tiresome attacks against the NAACP and others civil rights organizations and leaders, calling them a “racial grievance industry.” Over at the Patriot Action Network, for instance, one frequent commentator on the Tea Party site wrote, “George Zimmerman has been found not guilty by a jury of his peers. However the NAACP and the jury of the Society of Perpetual Race Baiters® is not persuaded. They will continue to hound George and use him as an example of racial injustice for decades to come; thus the tragedy of one young man’s death becomes the tragedy of character assassination and ruination of another young man’s life. So here’s our official halftime score: American Justice System 1, Race Baiting Prosecutors Acting Stupidly 0. Official Race Baiting outrage to follow.”
This kind of talk was old before the Tea Parties were invented. It goes hand in hand with the Confederate lie that slavery was good for African Americans. But when it is re-articulated in the 21st century, it renews and reinvigorates racist behavior.
Not satisfied with just defaming a dead teen, TheTeaParty.net (the same group which sponsored the .223 Day of Resistance Gun rallies in February), tried to use the verdict to attack the Obama administration (and raise cash). This group described the president the Attorney General Eric Holder as “race baiters.” They were supposedly involved in a conspiracy, according to this group. “Obama's DOJ, led by Holder, actually facilitated organized protests and rallies against George Zimmerman following the death of Trayvon Martin BEFORE Zimmerman was even brought up on charges!”
In a fund-raising pitch, the group pressed against those who believe that the Justice Department should charge Zimmerman with civil rights charges. TeaParty.Net demanded that “HOLDER MUST RESIGN AND BE PROSECUTED!”[Emphasis in original] They added, “We cannot continue to look the other way and not call out the likes of Barack Obama and Holder for being manipulative, dangerous race baiters. Their tactics are dirty. Their tactics are insulting. Their tactics are destructive for America.”
Two days later, in another fund-raising email, the group spun the conspiracy even further, announcing that “Eric Holder is declaring war on the American people and he's using George Zimmerman as cover.” Two days after that, in another fundraising email, TheTeaParty.net lambasted Obama’s remarks as “distraction, smoke screen” designed to cover up the IRS (non) scandal.
In a similar fashion, after President Obama’s remarks on Trayvon Martin, many Tea Party websites were flooded with racist comments lashing out against Martin and Obama, including fantasies about the President being killed.
For example, at the website of the 1776 Tea Party, Steven G. Elliott of Manns Choice, PA responded to the text of Obama’s remarks by comparing Obama and Martin, “One dope-head thug talking about another dope-head thug.” Linda Lee Kenney of Louisville, KY followed “I'm so sick of this jihadist trying to divide our country. He needs to go back to freakin Kenya!” Robert William Velon of Penryn, CA followed with “He needs to go back to Kenya in a box... I had hoped that his vacation to Africa would have promted[sic] him to buy a mud hut so he could move back.... Trayvon was a punk he was not the victim..... [Ellipses in original]” Jack Lamberson of Crawfordsville, IN added “He just proved he is racist and wants riots so he can declare marshal[sic] law and come after I guns. I sure wish it was him 35 years ago, we would all be much better off.” George Zornetsky of Beacon, NY also wished that the president was dead, “Too bad Obama isn't more like Martin, six feet under where that sonofabitch[sic] belongs.” There are many, many more comments like these on numerous Tea Party websites post-verdict, with scant voices challenging the racism.
Of course, this sort of guttural racism isn’t confined to Tea Party ranks or the white nationalist fringes. Conservative pundits like Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter have all used the verdict in the same manner. Racism and white privilege then are not simply a “left-over” phenomenon. It is, instead, a new and continually reproduced disease.
This horrid rhetoric provides further evidence of the depth and persistence of racism in this country. It should also serve as a wake-up call for all those who have given the Tea Party movement a free pass, and let it persist in the notion that it is simply a conservative cause concerned only with taxes and budgets. It should tell any decent hearted soul that this racist movement needs to be opposed as the bigots and racists they really are.
Remember Harry and Harriette Moore
On Saturday July 13, the NAACP will open its 104th annual national convention in Orlando, Florida. Thousands of delegates will gather, elected by their local branches to attend regional workshops, learn more about issues such as criminal justice and voting rights, and cast ballots in plenary session on resolutions that will help guide the work of the association into the future. Those who wrote the organization's obituary in the 1990s should know that the NAACP is stronger than it's been in decades, with forward looking leadership at the national level and in the state conferences.
For decades, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has been a barometer of the different political tendencies inside the right-wing. In the 1980s, Reagan administration officials and Reaganite New Rightists dominated the podium. Pres. Reagan spoke at CPAC in both 1984 and 1988. In the 1990s, culture warriors like Pat Buchanan and the Rev. Pat Robertson joined Republican regulars such as Sens. Bob Dole and Phil Gramm. At this years’ CPAC13, Tea Party leaders and Tea Party-supported politicians will dominate the proceedings. The result is an agenda filled with bigots, conspiracy mongers, and publicity hounds.
.223 Ammo and a Day of Tea Party Rallies
By Leonard Zeskind and Devin Burghart
The diameter of the .223 bullet is about a quarter of an inch. You can find them at gun shows sold in bulk. Hundreds of small pieces of lead stuffed into garbage bag-sized clear plastic containers. These bullets have to be specially weighted for hunting deer. But they are perfectly lethal when used against humans.
As military weaponry, it was first introduced with United States troops in Vietnam in 1963. Posse Comitatus farmer Gordon Kahl used .223 bullets to kill two federal marshals in North Dakota in 1983. And it has been the far-right’s ammunition of choice ever since.
Now Tea Partiers, Birchers and a host of self-described gun enthusiasts are commemorating the bullet with a “Day of Resistance” on 2/23—Saturday, February 23.
Deer hunters look askance at anyone who shows up in the woods with an AR-15 rifle and a 30-shot banana clip. Turkey hunters and duck hunters do not use assault weapons to track their prey. Sensible people who keep a weapon for home protection usually have a shotgun. The M-16 knockoffs that float around the gunners' universe have only one real function: hunting humans. And the re-emerging debate in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre is not about guns, it is about politics and the organizations who dress themselves in the Second Amendment in order to better sell arch-conservative and racist, bigoted notions of American life.
The legislative log jam in Congress has been brutal. Since the administration of President George W. Bush, the anti-immigrant establishment has stymied every attempt to enact comprehensive immigration reform. During the same period, nativists have conducted a drive in the states to re-write legislation and make Latino immigrant’s life exceedingly difficult. In the words of the state legislation’s principal author, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, its goal was “attrition through enforcement.” Translated it meant that if you made life miserable for immigrants they would “self-deport.” The archetype of this state legislation was to be Arizona’s SB 1070, written to avoid the constitutional pitfalls that had sunk California’s Proposition 187 and Hazelton, Pennsylvania’s local ordinance before it.
On Tuesday, June 5, in a hotel meeting room two thousand miles away from a recall election that was being watched coast to coast, the Washington State coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, Woody Hertzog, regaled a small group of Tea Partiers assembled in the Puget Sound town of Silverdale with tales of his recent campaigning trip in the Wisconsin trenches. Hertzog told the group that he and other Tea Party activists from across the country poured into the state, becoming a door-to-door army in support of Governor Walker. The election was still taking place half way across the country, yet it was all these Puget Sound Tea Partiers wanted to talk about. Midway through the meeting, the results from the Wisconsin special election came in. When it was announced that Governor Walker and other Tea Party supported candidates were victorious, the room erupted in cheers and applause. One older man in the back of the room commented aloud, “I guess we can put away our guns, for now.”