A view of the world from Ohio
Monthly Archives: December 2016
John Kennedy became President in 1961, as the hangover buzz from the McCarthy hearings was starting to echo through the skull of American culture.
His predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, was a military General, he led the Allies to war in Europe during World War II, and was the most knowledgable foreign policy president to hold office. He was also a Republican. And to some, a communist in sheep’s wool – yes, the Republican General who led the Americans to victory over fascism, and developed America’s nuclear deterrent.
This was the atmosphere that greeted Kennedy in office – the first Catholic elected president, a civil rights supporter, a war hero, and one loaded with personal and family baggage. The John Birch Society was at its peak, as was the crypto-right, and the conspiracy and rumor that surrounded his every step had parts of the nation gripped in paranoia, but a paranoia that looks comical next to the current state of affairs.
A month before Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, his UN Ambassador – Adlai Stevenson – was the center of a political riot that followed him from a speaking engagement in the city to the airport, with flags hung upside down as a sign of a country in distress. He was punched by a woman, and left wondering if the city suffered a psychotic episode.
Kennedy was shot a month later, after his advisors begged him not to go to Dallas. Wanted posters with his face were handed out. He wasn’t murdered by a Bircher, but by a communist – Kennedy was the ultimate U.S. Cold Warrior at the moment.
The gas went out of the extremist movement when conspiracy became realization. Oswald was no right-winger (he tried to murder former General Edwin Walker in his own home, a staunch far-right figure). But the atmosphere soon died following y the site of a young and devastated Jackie Kennedy – with her husbands blood still on her hands and clothing – standing next to Lyndon Johnson as he was sworn in, of Kennedy’s son saluting his father’s casket. The Dallas fever kill John F. Kennedy, and his death killed it, along with efforts by conservatives to banish it from their movement.
It was during this period William Buckley – owner and publisher of the conservative National Review – former Democrat Norman Podhoretz and 1964 GOP Presidential nominee Barry Goldwater met and formulated a plan to cleanse the conservative movement of the extremists within it. Buckley would do the work in the magazine, Goldwater would avoid confronting them directly, and Podhoretz would provide intellectual fire power along with Buckley. Today such a repudiation of extremists on either side of the aisle would never happen – the price paid for political bravery isn’t known, because no one has tried it in so long.
Just months after Buckley died, the Great Recession was in absolute thrall and Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president, Tea Party protests began. A grassroots middle class movement when it started, upset at bailouts for banks and a slap on the wrist given to bankers and politicians for destroying trillions in retirement funds, and millions of jobs, it was co-opted by the far right almost immediately. In Northwest Ohio, many of the Tea Party protests organized in rural areas were by local committees of the John Birch Society. The fever pitch was growing two decades before.
The Fairness Doctrine, which mandated equal time given to opposing views on radio and television, had been put to rest by Congress. Conservative radio followed, which provided a source of news for many who felt condescended to by the networks in their media capitals. But talk radio isn’t news, and quickly Rush Limbaugh began growing nationwide as Bill Clinton began his run as president. Soon followed conspiracy theories of the Clintons murdering confidante Vince Foster. The theme was carried to ridiculous ends during the 2016 campaign.
We’ve now reached the Dallas fever point – Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, when a man from North Carolina walked into a Washington DC pizza place carrying an assault rifle to investigate internet ‘claims’ of a pedophile ring. The fake story planted on Twitter, using the #PizzaGate hashtag, spread through the usual corridors of Reddit, and based on one fact – Clinton 2016 campaign chair John Podesta liked the pizza there.
During a post arrest interview, the suspect also revealed that he came to the establishment to self-investigate “Pizza Gate,” the MPD said in a statement.
As CBS affiliate WUSA reported previously, using the hashtag #PizzaGate, an imaginary story about the popular pizza shop was spread, accusing it to be the center of a child sex slave ring organized by Hillary Clinton and her former campaign manager.
As a result, the pizza place was hammered by thousands of threats, and bizarre, unsubstantiated tales about child sex trafficking.
WUSA reported that they found two women, who declined to give their names, banging on the patio at the pizza place in late November. The women were looking for the alleged tunnels used to traffic children.
Police arrested the man, no one was hurt, no one died – but it’s a near certainty someone will. Even as this story broke, the son of the would-be National Security Advisor continued to peddle the absurd and sick conspiracy theory on his own Twitter account. There are those with the moral authority like John Kasich and Mitt Romney to stand in the face of Nut Country and say, “No,” but they are out-numbered by the opportunists, and with Social Media, they wouldn’t stand a chance. When we need fact-checkers the most, our Fourth Estate is at its weakest.
When someone dies because someone else needed the ‘lulz,’ or Facebook liked its bottom line better than being a responsible company, there won’t be a Kennedy moment. The decency of the majority won’t stand a chance against the ravenous whims and sociopathy of the decadent minority, armed with “communication tools” the inventors of which don’t grasp or understand the consequences of.
Journalist and author Peter Hitchens mentioned in his book “The Rage Against God,” that Christianity, church and civic community began to disappear from England after World War I. After the war took every of-age male in some villages and towns, monuments were placed. A new religion took over in benighted worship of the military service.
This effect has reached the U.S. following the loss in Vietnam, of ill-treatment of veterans and the breakdown in faith of government institutions. To make up, the military is exalted in ways my Greatest Generation veteran relatives found extremely uncomfotable, but it hasn’t replaced religion in America, politics has. Maybe it was the Moral Majority, maybe it was the Reagan Coalition, maybe it was the abortion fight. Maybe it was the 60s left. But politics became everything, and as Goldwater once said, “Extremism, in defense of liberty, is no vice. And moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
Since that 1964 speech, extremism and vice have grown by multitudes, anarchy is in place of liberty and justice is no longer in fear of pursuit because the world is drowning in a sea of technology, ironic displacement, and the lies of the humanity’s worst.