What is it about President Obama's inaugurations that bring out the craziest of the right-wing crazies?
Four years ago, Obama's historic swearing-in sparked months' worth of teeth-chattering paranoia, trumpeted by the conservative media, about how the new Democratic president posed a mortal threat to America and that drastic action might need to be taken.
In 2009, a far-right Newsmax columnist determined that a “military coup ”to resolve the 'Obama problem'" was not “unrealistic.” That's about the same time Glenn Beck used his then-new program on Fox News to game out bloody scenarios for the coming civil war against the Obama-led tyranny. Note that the armed rebellion rhetoric was uncorked just weeks after Obama's first cabinet had been confirmed.
Now, four years later as Obama's second swearing-in approaches, the same misguided insurrectionist pageantry is back on display. (The fringe John Birch Society is probing the likelihood of "armed resistance" against the government -- “an unlikely prospect, for now at least.”) And this time, Adolf Hitler stars in a leading role.
In fact, there's a disturbing collision now underway featuring two signature, conservative paranoid fantasies. One holds that Obama is like Hitler; that he's a tyrant ready to undo democracy at home. The other is that Americans need access to an unregulated supply of assault weapons in order to fight their looming insurrectionist war with the government.
In the last week we've heard more and more conservatives try to tie the two wild tales together: Obama's allegedly pending gun grab will prove he's just like Hitler, which will demonstrate the need for citizens to declare war on the government.
Ignoring nearly 250 years of our democratic history, conservative voices across the media landscape have been nodding their heads in agreement suggesting it's only a matter of time before the United States resembles a tyrannical dictatorship that will be either fascistic or Stalinist in nature (or both, if the rhetorician feels no obligation to historical accuracy).
So much for the notion of American exceptionalism -- “the conviction that our country holds a unique place and role in human history” -- that conservatives love to preach.
The latest round of right-wing Obama panic was prompted by the Newtown, CT, school massacre. In its wake, Obama is reportedly ready to initiate efforts to curb gun violence, including possibly using executive orders. Simply the idea of instituting common sense gun reform, among other public policy issues, has sparked violent rhetoric about war and sedition early in the new year.
Fox's Todd Starnes warned there would “a revolution” if the government tries to “confiscate our guns.” Fox News contributor Arthur Herman declared the U.S. is “one step closer” to a looming “civil war,” while fellow contributor Pat Caddell claimed the country was in a “pre-revolutionary condition,” and “on the verge of an explosion.”
And on his syndicated radio show last week, Sean Hannity speculated that tates will move to secede should the “radicalized, abusive federal government” continue on its current path, and that they'd be justified in doing so.
Who's to blame? Obama and Hilter.
Fox News' Dr. Keith Ablow insisted history's filled with examples of leaders who confiscated guns as a precursor to “catastrophic abuses” of power: “One need look no further than Nazi Germany.” Fox's Judge Andrew Napolitano made the same connection, while a Kentucky radio host compared firearm regulations to Nazi “yellow star” laws.
Then there was this from Matt Drudge:
That's the hook for the latest insurrectionist rants: If Obama's going to act like Hitler, then of course right-wing gun owners are going to wage war.
Appearing on Piers Morgan Tonight last week, and after admitting he didn't know that Ronald Reagan had supported an assault weapons ban, Breitbart.com editor Ben Shapiro stuck to his claim that the gun debate in this country is really about “the left and the right” because the right understands Americans have to arm themselves with assault weapons to defend against the United States government [emphasis added]:
SHAPIRO: I told you, why the general population of America, law abiding citizens, need AR-15s.
MORGAN: Why do they need those weapons?
SHAPIRO: They need them for the prospective possibility for the resistance of tyranny. Which is not a concern today, it may not be a concern tomorrow.
MORGAN: Where do you expect tyranny to come from?
SHAPIRO: It could come from the United States, because governments have gone tyrannical before, Piers.
MORGAN: So the reason we cannot remove assault weapons is because of the threat of your own government turning on you in a tyrannical way.
The right is stockpiling weapons because the U.S. government might go Nazi and declare war on a portion of its own people. And when the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines unleash their unmatched firepower on citizens, “the right” intends to be fully armed with AR-15s to fight a war within the U.S. borders.
That is the reason the Second Amendment exists? It's not for everyday self-defense, or to protect the rights of hunters and gun enthusiasts, , but to enable citizens to go to war with the U.S. government? To fend off a “tyrannical” turn at home. At least according to Shapiro's keen take on history.
That's what was “debated” on CNN last week. Not once but twice.
From conspiracy professional Alex Jones and his CNN harangue on January 7:
Hitler took the guns, Stalin took the guns, Mao took the guns, Fidel Castro took the guns, Hugo Chavez took the guns!" Jones ranted. "And I am here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!
We already knew from 2009 that far-right voices were fretting about the need for a citizen's militia to stop Obama's destructive ways. Now four years later, with gun control initiatives pending, the frantic rants have escalated and Obama's fiercest critics are rationalizing their insurrectionist chants by comparing the president actions to those of Hitler. The comparison isn't just offensive, it's also inaccurate: the Nazis actually loosened restrictions on private gun ownership (except for Jews and other persecuted groups).
That kind of ugliness not only pollutes our public dialogue, it also gives comfort to gun radicals who embrace the rhetoric. In early 2009, fearing what a friend described as “the Obama gun ban that's on the way,” conspiracy nut (and Alex Jones fan) Richard Poplawski lured three Pittsburgh policemen to his apartment, then shot and killed them at his front door.
All the right-wing chatter today about how Obama's following Hitler's lead by allegedly voiding the Second Amendment only adds fuel to an unwanted fire.