Casual tyranny talk
Arizona is full of gun lovers, government haters, and borderline racists; I grew up with many of them and am still friends with a few, 25 years later. There is — or should be — a wide chasm between them and the dangerous, conspiratorial hate groups tucked away in the state's vast, virtually ungoverned deserts, mountains, and forests.
But clearly, many in Arizona have closed that gap, judging not only by this weekend's horror but by the other threats and minor acts of violence against Giffords and other public figures in the past couple of years.
Boehner, Palin, and other high-profile Republican figures do not intend for anyone to pick up a gun and start shooting. Nor do popular rabble-rousers like Glenn Beck. But they have made it far too easy for the rank-and-file to move further right along the continuum.
After all, many of the extremists are merely adding what appears to be a logical course of action, based on what mainstream conservatives openly describe: that Obama and the Democrats in Congress are corrupt, venal, anti-American, and duplicitous; that they intend to yoke the citizenry to tyrannical subjugation and cede authority to international institutions, or have already done so; and that they have dislodged or co-opted the restraints of the constitution, electoral process, and media scrutiny.
The above are not obscure, hard-to-find beliefs; they are included in most of the 19 conservative screeds that have reached number one or two on the New York Times best-seller list, just since Obama took office.
And those are just the best sellers, by well-known conservative figures like Beck, Fox News analyst Dick Morris, syndicated columnist David Limbaugh, and radio host Mark Levin. A little further down the best-seller lists you'll find the birther rantings of Jerome Corsi; Dinesh D'Souza's argument that Obama acts on his "rage" against America; Stanley Kurtz's claims that Obama has been a dedicated socialist since the early 1980s; and Aaron Klein's self-explanatory The Manchurian President.
Again, these are not the fringe — these are huge-selling authors with big national publishers. They appear regularly on Fox News and other mainstream conservative outlets; they appear on stage at public events alongside top Republican officeholders.
And they are fully aware that their audience includes large numbers of people who take their most dire warnings very seriously — that's how they can sell advertising predicated on either the imminent collapse of civilized society, or the need to escape government tyranny by dropping "off the grid," in the words of one Web ad. (Investment advisors Stansberry Associates, which advertises on the hugely-trafficked site WorldNetDaily, where Corsi's column runs, predicts a 2011 "major, major collapse of our currency," resulting in "riots in the streets . . . and martial law enforced by the US military.")
This doomsaying has particular resonance in Arizona, where overbuilding has helped trigger an extraordinary economic collapse.