In March 2010, right-wing blogger Mike Vanderboegh made headlines across the country after he urged his followers to respond to health care reform by breaking the windows of Democratic offices and then took credit after it actually happened.
Eighteen months later, Fox News has repeatedly featured the former militia and Minuteman leader as an "authority" on the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious.
In January, Vanderboegh was among the first to break the story that ATF agents had knowingly allowed gun trafficking suspects to take weapons across the border into Mexico. According to Republican congressional investigators, the operation was intended to allow law enforcement to identify other members of the trafficking network that for years has directed assault weapons into the hands of Mexican cartels, with the goal of bringing those cartels down.
But according to Vanderboegh, the failed operation was actually part of a secret plot against the Second Amendment directed from the highest levels of government (a theory Fox News itself has at times promoted). He has also pushed bizarre theories linking the program to Hillary Clinton not running for President and to the so-called "Cloward-Piven strategy."
Vanderboegh has been featured in two packaged reports by Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse, the most recent of which aired on September 27; the blogger was also cited by the correspondent in a FoxNews.com article earlier this month. Fox has identified Vanderboegh as an "online journalist" and an "authority on the Fast and Furious investigation," leaving his extremist past, use of violent rhetoric, and propensity for conspiracy theories unmentioned.
Vanderboegh's extremism is no secret; he was the subject of an 1100-word, front-page Washington Post profile after he responded to the passage of health care reform by writing a blog post headlined: "To all modern Sons of Liberty: THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW." In the post, he urged his readers that "if you wish to send a message that [then-Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows." As the Post reported in their profile of the former militiaman, "In the days that followed, glass windows and doors were shattered at local Democratic Party offices and the district offices of House Democrats from Arizona to Kansas to New York."
The Post found Vanderboegh "unapologetic," reporting that he told them "he believes throwing bricks through windows sends a warning to Democratic lawmakers that the health-care reform legislation they passed Sunday has caused so much unrest that it could result in a civil war." Asked about an incident in which a brick was hurled into the glass doors of a Democratic office in Rochester, NY, Vanderboegh said, "I guess that guy's one of ours. ... Glad to know people read my blog."
After the Post profile, Vanderboegh drew fire from the left, right, and center. MSNBC's Ed Schultz described him a "whacko," while colleague Rachel Maddow pointed to how Vanderboegh's "efforts to inspire violent action around the country [are] apparently derived from his belief that he leads millions of people who think the same things he does." Jonah Goldberg called him an "idiot" and a "buffoon" whose behavior "is simply wrong, reprehensible, and childish." The Daily Beast's John Avlon wrote that the "parallels, intentional or not, to the Nazis' heinous 1938 kristallnacht ... are hard to ignore."
In the past few days, jarring video of a New York police officer pepper-spraying protesters has spread across the internet and cable news.
The protesters say that the officer's action was unprovoked. Police, meanwhile, say that the pepper spray was used "appropriately." (Police have also suggested that the video may be misleadingly "edited" -- an allegation denied by USLaw.com, which circulated the video.)
Hopefully, the video evidence will lead to the officer being appropriately vindicated or disciplined. But protesters have also alleged that police are resisting the protesters' efforts to film them. According to Gothamist, "witnesses, including our own photographer, tell us that the NYPD has been specifically targeting photographers and videographers for arrest."
The Occupy Wall Street protests are only the latest flash point in the controversy over citizens filming police -- an activity that, according to an August appeals court ruling, is protected by the First Amendment.
Two months ago, the issue was also the topic of a surreal debate on the July 21 installment of Fox News' The Five.
From the September 27 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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For more Media Matters coverage of gun violence and extremism, visit our Gun Facts microsite.
Last week the media arm of the National Rifle Association (NRA) complied several segments from the NRA radio program Cam & Company into a package entitled "Obama Campaign Controversies." Host Cam Edwards interviewed conservative media figures that recycled a string of right-wing talking points on the Solyndra bankruptcy, the economy, the Democrats losing Anthony Weiner's former district and Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign. They talked about guns too, when they had time.
The NRA is theoretically a single issue organization, but their activities often blur the lines. Usually when the NRA wants to push a conservative issue they seek to veil the effort under the banner of "culture." Now the NRA is dropping the game and pushing right-wing talking points without any particular connection to anything other than attacking President Obama. During his speech Friday at CPAC-Florida, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre explained that "if NRA has anything to say about it, President Barack Obama won't get a second term."
During one an extended clip with Jim Geraghty of the National Review Online campaign blogger featured Geraghty attacking the Obama jobs plan, plugging Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert's (R-TX) American Jobs Act, making a dig at the Democrats for not holding Anthony Weiner's congressional district in the recent special election, jabbing the White House for wanting people to eat vegetables, and discussing the Solyndra bankruptcy. Eventually they weaved back to gun-related subjects.
It's hard to blame NRA News for getting off subject. How long could you listen to John Bolton talk about how the U.N. is plotting to grab everyone's guns?
From the September 26 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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For more Media Matters coverage of gun violence and extremism, visit our Gun Facts microsite.
According to National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, the Obama administration's lack of action on gun control issues only proves just how diabolically anti-gun they are.
In a speech Friday at Florida's version of the Conservative Political Action Conference, LaPierre explained how by not pushing for new gun laws, Obama actually revealed that he is engaged in a secret plan to "lull gun owners to sleep" so that they would not vote him out of office in 2012. LaPierre claimed that Obama's "strategy" is to "get re-elected" and then "erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights."
LaPIERRE: [I]n public, [President Obama will] remind us that he's put off calls from his party to renew the old Clinton [assault weapons] gun ban, he hasn't pushed for new gun control laws, and he'll even say he looked the other way when Congress passed a couple of minor pro-gun bills by huge majorities. The president will offer the Second Amendment lip service and hit the campaign trail saying he's actually been good for the Second Amendment.
But it's a big fat stinking lie, just like all the other lies that have come out of this corrupt administration. It's all part -- it's all part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country. [...]
Before the President was even sworn into office, they met and they hatched a conspiracy of public deception to try to guarantee his re-election in 2012. [...]
And Obama himself is no fool. So when he got elected, they concocted a scheme to stay away from the gun issue, lull gun owners to sleep, and play us for fools in 2012. Well, gun owners are not fools, and we are not fooled. We see the president's strategy crystal clear: get re-elected, and with no other re-elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms freedom. Erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and exorcise it from the U.S. Constitution. That's their agenda.
LaPierre did not explain in his speech why the leader of a group whose top priority is defeating President Obama in 2012 would be made privy to this secret plan. Nor did he explain how Obama planned to repeal the Second Amendment will a Congress that passes "pro-gun bills by huge majorities."
George Will recently argued that it was unconstitutional for states to set maximum hour limits for certain workers, a view that the Supreme Court took in 1905, but repudiated in 1936. Will's argument also put him at odds with seven of the nine current Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. Even Will himself once opposed the decision striking down maximum hour laws.
Now, Will has turned to attacking business regulation more generally. In today's Washington Post, without pointing to any provision in the Constitution to back him up, Will adopted the argument that "the Constitution protects the individual's right to earn a living free from unreasonable regulation." That might be all well and good in the abstract, but in practice, such a doctrine would put minimum wage laws (it would be unconstitutional to stop an individual from "earn[ing] a living" if she had decided to accept a job that pays $3 per hour), as well as child labor laws, at risk.
Vong, 47, left Vietnam in 1982, and after stops in Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong, settled in San Francisco and lived there for 20 years before coming here to open a nail salon with a difference. Her salon offered $30 fish therapy, wherein small fish from China nibble dead skin from people's feet. Arizona's Board of Cosmetology decided the fish were performing pedicures, and because all pedicure instruments must be sterilized and fish cannot be, the therapy must be discontinued. Vong lost her more-than-$50,000 investment in fish tanks and other equipment, and some customers. Three of her employees lost their jobs.
The plucky litigators at the Goldwater Institute are representing Vong in arguing that the Constitution protects the individual's right to earn a living free from unreasonable regulations. In a 1932 case (overturning an Oklahoma law requiring a new ice company to prove a "public need" for it), the U.S. Supreme Court said that the law's tendency was to "foster monopoly in the hands of existing establishments." The court also said:
"The principle is imbedded in our constitutional system that there are certain essentials of liberty with which the state is not entitled to dispense. . . . The theory of experimentation in censorship [is] not permitted to interfere with the fundamental doctrine of the freedom of the press. The opportunity to apply one's labor and skill in an ordinary occupation with proper regard for all reasonable regulations is no less entitled to protection."
Unfortunately, soon after 1932, New Deal progressivism washed over the courts, which became derelict regarding their duty to protect economic liberty.
The move to take us back to the Gilded Age started at the fringe, has moved to Fox News, and now has a prominent place on The Washington Post's op-ed page.
I'm going to do something that might be considered a waste of time: suggest a question for Fox News to ask at tonight's Republican debate.
Yes, it's Fox News and they likely have little desire to take suggestions from Media Matters. But the roiling horror of the Troy Davis execution remains fresh in the American consciousness and perhaps that can help us to transcend differences to act in the interest of the common good.
The controversy over Davis' execution makes it almost certain that there will be some discussion of capital punishment tonight, and it's my worry that the wrong questions will be asked that animates this long-shot request. So here goes:
Since 1996, as DNA testing has improved, there have been nearly 80 death row exonerations. Just two months ago, Cory Maye of Mississippi walked out of jail a free man years after an error-riddled travesty of a trial left him condemned to death. Bret Baier or Megyn Kelly or Chris Wallace should ask each candidate whether they support the death penalty, yea or nay. For each person who answers yea (and I imagine that will be quite a few), they should be asked to reconcile their faith in capital punishment with this spate of exonerations: how can they maintain confidence in a system that, as we're learning, is frequently and intractably wrong?
That cuts to the heart of the capital punishment debate. Can we support the state-sponsored execution of prisoners knowing that the judicial system operates with a margin of error?
It's a question that should be asked of all our elected leaders and explored by the press in ways that go beyond the superficiality of political wrangling. At the last debate in which capital punishment arose as an issue, much of the coverage that followed focused on the theatrics and political effectiveness of the candidates' answers.
By presenting a death penalty question in a way that makes clear the fallibility of the system that enforces a policy in which no room for error exists, perhaps Fox News can help foster a broader media discussion and forces us all to reexamine our moral calculus on the issue. Indeed, there's already momentum to build on: theWashington Post's humor blog, of all places, offered yesterday a nuanced take on death penalty morality in light of the Davis controversy.
Like I said, it's a long shot, and I don't expect Fox News to take me up on my suggestion. But as the furor over Troy Davis and the stream of innocent men walking out of death row make clear, it's a discussion that's long overdue.
Fox "straight news" anchor Bret Baier and Fox News correspondent William La Jeunesse attacked the Department of Justice's inspector general for releasing audio tapes related to the ATF's failed Fast and Furious program. At no point did Baier or La Jeunesse note that the inspector general's office says the tapes were released in order to comply with the constitutional rights of the targets of a criminal investigation.
With the departure of Glenn Beck from Fox News, Eric Bolling has been auditioning to be Beck's heir by coming up with wild conspiracy theories and making comments with racial overtones. Now Bolling is expanding his repertoire to another area. Commenting on the American hikers who were recently released from an Iranian prison, Bolling said they were spies and: "I think [Iran] should have kept them." He also criticized the United States for possibly spending money to set them free. From Fox New's The Five:
These remarks recall the widely-condemned comments of retired Col. Ralph Peters, who suggested a U.S. soldier captured by the Taliban should be left to die in order to "save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills." (Peters subsequently walked those comments back.)
Combine these comments with Bolling's long history of racist, false, and inflammatory rhetoric, along with his radical conspiracy theories, and you create a toxic television host who Fox graciously gives a platform to twice a night (once on Fox News' The Five, and once on Fox Business' Follow The Money) so he can push his fringe views.
Last week, a gun blogger going by "Eric at the Gunmart Blog" writing at ammoland.com broke with the gun industry trade association National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) over its recently made-up terminology, "modern sporting rifles."
Many of the rifles Eric discusses are modified civilian versions of military rifles, and some were classified as assault weapons under the Federal Assault Weapons ban in place from 1994-2004. But NSSF would rather the public thinks about hunters stalking game than soldiers on the battlefield. Eric isn't down with the branding effort:
Words are powerful, and choosing to use certain words instead of others (i.e assault rifle) can have a powerful influence on public opinion. But come on... lets be real... "Modern Sporting Rifle" has not been an effective choice of words.
I honestly don't know what we should choose, but I think the time has come to move on to something different. Heck, perhaps we should just embrace the term "assault rifle" and normalize its usage so that there is not a stigma attached to it anymore.
This week, NSSF launched a web assault defending its rebranding effort, comically asking, "The Term 'Assault Rifle' as Dangerous as Weapon Itself?" If you're only worried about gun sales, then the answer is probably yes.
At the well-read The Truth About Guns, they weren't buying the NSSF attack, going beyond Eric at Gunmart's critique, calling NSSF's terminology "a failed attempt at O[r]wellian language modification":
Still, when Eric at Gunmart Blog wrote an essay entitled I Dont like the Term "Modern Sporting Rifle," the NSSF felt obliged to defend their failed attempt at O[r]wellian language modification and accuse our pal of sedition . . .
We're guessing NSSF wishes it could send the whole episode down the memory hole.
National Rifle Association board member and Washington Times columnist Ted Nugent returned to the subject of last month's raid on Gibson Guitar Corporation factories in an appearance on last night's edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight. In that raid, federal agents confiscated wood, hard drives, and guitars on the suspicion that Gibson had illegally imported Indian hardwood
After declaring Dobbs the "quintessential American" and stating that he has both owned and "blown up hundreds" of Gibson guitars, Nugent offered a unique take on law enforcement procedures:
NUGENT: What they did to Gibson Guitars is so illogical, so anti-American, so contrary to the claims of creating jobs, they shut down a globally-revered American craftsman, Gibson Guitars. And you know, Lou, I'm just a guitar player, but let me know how I would have done it if I heard that maybe Gibson had some illegal wood. I wouldn't get an armed raid like I was going after some child rapist or murderers or drug runners, of course, then we'd have to arrest the ATF. What I would do is I would call Gibson and say, "Hey, can I come down and look at your receipts? I hear you got some bad wood." Can you believe the depth of abuse and the outrageous assault on freedom and positive forces in this country?
So if law enforcement believes a company is violating the law, Nugent thinks they should call the company up, tell them they are under investigation, and ask them nicely to provide evidence. Such a policy would, of course, invite those companies to destroy evidence, which is why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents instead did what law enforcement typically does in the real world -- gather evidence, present it to a judge, and get search warrants for the premises in question. That, in Nugent's mind, makes them "jack-booted thugs."
Of course, Nugent isn't so lenient with everyone. He's also said that "If it was up to me, if you uttered the word 'gun control,' we'd put you in jail," and asserted that "a kid going to a Grateful Dead concert who's caught with sugar-cube-encrusted LSD" should "get caned" and be raped in prison daily by "a huge, unclean black man."
The pattern from National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice president Wayne LaPierre is getting pretty clear: ad hominem name-calling, a slew of conspiratorial misinformation, and a call for gun owners to align with the NRA's political agenda and defeat President Obama based on those ginned-up grievances.
For months, LaPierre's been pushing interlinked false talking points on the trafficking of U.S. guns to Mexico in a variety of media formats. According to the NRA leader, requiring gun dealers to report multiple sales of rifles Mexican cartels are known to favor to the ATF is an assault against American gun owners. He's also claimed the Obama administration intentionally manufactured a crisis by allowing U.S. guns to fall into the hands of cartels to justify more gun control.
This time speaking through the NRA's many publications LaPierre gets explicit about why he's been pushing those claims: it's all about attacking President Obama. From the piece:
All of this was done to bring about Barack Obama's promised "under the radar" gun control.
Gun owners must begin marshalling our collective power to unelect not only Obama and his crowd, but to unelect his anti-gun-owner axis in Congress.
Getting back to his roots, LaPierre starts by throwing around insults, referring to people to who disagree with the NRA about the role of U.S. guns in Mexico as "ghouls":
This move by unelected bureaucrats is part of a plan that was hatched at the outset of the Obama administration with the full support of a host of media enablers. Those in the gun-ban crowd are ghouls, always in search of a "crisis" to feed on.
The scale of cartel violence in Mexico is staggering: an estimated 40,000 deaths since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and started a more aggressive campaign against the cartels. Outside of the gun lobby echo chamber everyone agrees that many of the guns fueling the violence are from the United States. But inside that lobby, pointing out the connection makes you a "ghoul."
It doesn't get better from there.
I suppose it was inevitable.
For months, right-wing bloggers have been linking the ATF's Operation Fast and Furious to a wide array of increasingly ridiculous conspiracy theories. The operation itself was a failed attempt to take down Mexican cartels that certainly deserves (and is receiving) scrutiny after many guns involved in the program ended up at crime scenes, but the right-wing media's preference for wild theories over solid facts has gotten well out of hand.
Now, they've decided that the "ultimate goal" behind the program was to -- try not to laugh -- collapse the system as part of the "Cloward-Piven strategy" and initiate a "coup de d'état." You may recall "Cloward-Piven" as the Glenn Beck-pushed conspiracy which claims that the motive force of the last forty years of progressive policy is an article written by two obscure college professors that calls for "collapsing the system" by overloading government services in order to implement new policies. After Beck repeatedly devoted his programs to attacking the surviving professor, Francis Fox Piven, she began receiving death threats.
What does that have to do with a failed operation aimed at stopping Mexican drug cartels? Pajamas Media blogger Bob Owens provides the following "speculation" (emphasis added):
Gunwalker purposefully increases social unrest (increased gun violence/destabilizing Mexico), with the possible result of overloading the U.S. public welfare system (more illegal aliens fleeing the violence in Mexico and Central America). Gunwalker's perpetrators could then use that influx to create an insurmountable constituency of poor seeking handouts from the Democratic Party. The hope of the strategy is to force a system-wide collapse of the current system, and then to rebuild the government in a variant of the strongest socialist model they think the public will accept.
Operation Fast and Furious doesn't make sense as a anti-cartel operation, but it makes perfect tactical sense as a way of implementing Cloward-Piven, something that President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano, and Secretary Clinton have long embraced as followers of those radicals and Saul Alinsky. Gunwalker is the start of a coup d'état against the republic by the very souls entrusted to guard it.
The idea that the Obama administration wants dramatically increased illegal immigration in order "force a system-wide collapse of the current system" is, of course, at odds with their record of increasing deportations and reducing illegal immigration.
(As an aside, it's interesting that Owens now has a problem with "a coup d'état against the republic," given that he previously called armed revolution the "morally-required alternative" if other efforts to repeal health care reform fail.
Fast and Furious blogger Mike Vanderboegh, who thinks that if Hillary Clinton doesn't run for president again it must be because "she's got some dirty Gunwalker underwear she doesn't want outed in public," is also highlighting Owens' conclusions.
It's almost as if these people are desperate to not be taken seriously. But that's pretty much par for the course for the right-wing media.
It's a shame that Owens is just teasing us with the reference to how Obama, Holder, Napolitano, and Clinton are "followers of... Saul Alinsky." I was looking forward to a detailed explanation of the Alinskyite tactics.
In a September 16 Washington Times column headlined, "Obama tears up the Constitution," Robert Knight used a string of falsehoods to attack President Obama as having "compiled a spectacular record of noncompliance with the Constitution" and "failed to execute the laws while using raw, unauthorized power." The first concerns the Defense of Marriage Act:
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): On Feb. 23, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that under Mr. Obama's direction, the Justice Department would no longer defend DOMA, which is under attack in several federal courts. DOMA, which was passed by overwhelming majorities in Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, defines marriage for all federal purposes as the union of a man and a woman and allows states under the full-faith-and-credit clause not to be forced to recognize unions from other states that do not comport with their state marriage laws. Forty-five states have moved to strengthen their marriage laws, with 30 enacting constitutional amendments. Mr. Obama, who has played coy with the marriage issue while aggressively promoting the homosexual agenda, is violating his oath of office to appease the gay lobby.
In fact, while they are no longer defending DOMA, Obama and the DOJ have pledged to continue to enforce the act until it is repealed or struck down by the courts. Furthermore, the president and DOJ have the authority not to defend a statute they view as unconstitutional.