The Times' handling of some of the AFA's most incendiary rhetoric is puzzling. Here's an organization whose most visible representative, radio host Bryan Fischer, spouts blatantly racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-gay rhetoric. But, hey, while some people call that hate speech, there's always two sides of a story, right? Like "Adolph Hitler was a homosexual and that the Nazi Party was largely created by 'homosexual thugs.'" That, in the Times piece, is a "disputed theory," rather than a conspiracy theory made up by anti-gay zealots.
For real. The Times quote in full reads: "Mr. Fischer trumpets the disputed theory that Adolph Hitler was a homosexual and that the Nazi Party was largely created by 'homosexual thugs'— evidence, he says, of the inherent pathologies of homosexuality." Fischer has since gone even further, stating that today's gay rights activists are "literally" Nazis, who are waging a SS-style campain to crack down on dissenters. That's no surprise because both of those theories stem from the same book, The Pink Swastika, which posits that gay rights organizations in the United States are the intellectual heirs to the Third Reich and are attempting to use Hitler's repressive tactics to advance their radical agenda.
The problem is that the facts do not support Fischer's theory, and so inasmuch as we care at all about facts, his theory has not been "disputed," it has been "rejected" or "debunked." Ron Rosenbaum has published a pretty thorough takedown of the "gay Hitler" thesis—but his takedown is targeted at a reputable, relatively disinterested historian—which the The Pink Swastika's authors are not.
In reality, gays were targeted for extermination by Hitler, not recruitment. Bob Moser, who notes that somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 gays were arrested during the Third Reich, finds this quote from Heinrich Himmler, Hitler's security chief: "That wasn't a punishment, but simply the extinguishing of abnormal life. It had to be got rid of, just as we pull out weeds, throw them on a heap, and burn them." That is literally what the Nazis did to about 10,000 gay men.
The much larger problem here is that the question of whether or not gays are Nazis—and whether or not that argument is worth condemning—has somehow become a partisan issue. When the Southern Poverty Law Center classified the American Family Association and a handful of other social conservative organizations as "hate groups" earlier this year (on account of their frequent promotion of such debunked charges) the reaction from high-profile Republicans was swift. Dozens of congressmen, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) signed on to a letter of support for the organizations:
This is intolerance, pure and simple. Elements of the radical Left are trying to shut down informed discussion of policy issues that are being considered by Congress, legislatures, and the courts. Tell the radical Left it is time to stop spreading hateful rhetoric attacking individuals and organizations merely for expressing ideas with which they disagree. Our debates can and must remain civil - but they must never be suppressed through personal assaults that aim only to malign an opponent's character.
On the one hand, conservatives accuse gay rights activists of reprising the worst tactics of the Third Reich. On the other hand, liberal groups call them out on it. See, both sides do it!
On Saturday morning, Texas Gov. Rick Perry joined Christian religious leaders at Reliant Stadium in Houston for a day of prayer and fasting for America. "With the economy in trouble, communities in crisis, and people adrift in a sea of moral relativism, we need God's help," Perry explained in a YouTube spot promoting the event. "That's why I'm calling on Americans to pray and fast, like Jesus did, and as God called the Israelites to do in the book of Joel."
Joel 2, the specific Old Testament chapter Perry is referring to, has a special meaning for many evangelical Christians—and more specifically among a small but growing movement called the New Apostolic Reformation. Its adherents believe the nation has become unmoored from its moral foundations, and that our present misfortunes are a direct consequence. They believe it will take a new push by modern-day apostles—messengers who've received their instructions directly from God—to put things back on course. And the apostles, as the Texas Observer's Forrest Wilder has detailed, believe Perry is one of them.
But things didn't go as planned. What was once seen as a dramatic coming-out party for a latter-day Moses, in which Perry would emerge as a bona fide leader of the Christian right against the big-government "Pharaoh" (to use Perry's Exodus metaphor), is looking more and more like a flop. Just 8,000 tickets were sold by Friday—not enough to fill a high school football stadium in Texas, let alone a 75,000-seat professional one. Of the 49 other governors Perry invited to attend, just one, Kansas Republican Sam Brownback, said he'd show up (a few others, like GOPers Paul LePage of Maine and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, issued proclamations). Texas Monthly's Paul Burka, the dean of Texas political analysts, is calling the event an "utter failure."
The last time a social conservative organization unveiled a marriage pledge for GOP presidential candidates, it was kind of a disaster. (And by kind of, we mean "totally.") Frontrunner Mitt Romney denounced the pledge as "undignified"; Tim Pawlenty took a pass as well. That's what happens when you include language asserting that black families were more stable during slavery.
But on Thursday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM!) released its own marriage pledge, and this one is off to a noticeably smoother start. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, and—notably—Romney are all on board. Here are the key points of the pledge, per the release:
Support and send to the states a federal marriage amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman,
Defend DOMA [the Defense of Marriage Act] in court,
Appoint judges and an attorney general who will respect the original meaning of the Constitution,
Appoint a presidential commission to investigate harassment of traditional marriage supporters,
Support legislation that would return to the people of D.C. their right to vote for marriage.
That presidential commission on the harrassment of traditional marriage supporters should be a blast. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty hasn't weighed in yet, but he'll be joining NOM next week for the Values Voters Bus Tour through Iowa, so it'd be a little awkward if he just left them at the altar on this one. Also tagging along on the tour? Santorum, Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and—schedule permitting—Bachmann herself.
Via Adam Serwer, New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie delivered some much-needed real talk on Islamophobia on Wednesday. For months, he's been taking heat from conservative groups over his appointment of a Muslim, Sohail Mohammed, to the state superior court (here's Pamela Geller's characteristically calm reaction). With no factual evidence to support their claims, many conservatives fear that Muslims are stealthily forcing a radical strain of Islamic Shariah law on unsuspecting Americans—and Mohammed's appointment, in such a key position, would no doubt speed up the process.
But Christie, who has been known to speak his mind from time to time, has had enough of it:
Shariah law has nothing to do with this at all. It's crazy. It's crazy. The guy's an American citizen who has been an admitted lawyer to practice in the state of New Jersey, swearing an oath to uphold the laws of New Jersey, the constitution of the state of New Jersey, and the Constitution of the United States of America…this shariah law business is crap. It's just crazy. And I'm tired of dealing with the crazies. It's just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious backround.
It's a reasonable bet that International Baccalaureate, the international advanced placement system for high school students, will not be much of an issue in the Republican presidential race. But you never know.
As I reported this morning, International Baccalaureate actually plays a supporting role in a conspiracy theory hawked by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and many of her boosters back in Minnesota—one that helped kick-start her career when she was a home-school parent in Stillwater. Bachmann got her start in politics in the late 1990s by partnering with a group called the the Maple River Education Coalition to warn Minnesotans about the imminent "state-planned economy" that would turn the state into a mini-Soviet Union. MREC believed, absolutely, that the federal government was in league with the United Nations to create a new global order built on an ideology of radical environmentalism (which is what led then-Gov. Jesse Ventura, no stranger to conspiracy theories, to jest that they "think UFOs are landing next month"). As these conservatives saw it, "sustainability," and more specifically a little-known United Nations agreement called Agenda 21, was the catalyst for a globalist takeover.
What does this have to do with International Baccalaureate? Well, if your goal is to bring the world together under one banner, it obviously helps to indoctrinate the children. These right-wing critics argued that IBO was quietly weaning kids off the antiquated notion of national sovereignty and American ideals and pushing them to become world citizens. (This, among other reasons, is why conservatives were so irked by Obama's statement that he considers himself a "citizen of the world"). IBO students would be taught to revere the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and embrace a doctrine of moral relativsm that values gay rights, redistribution of wealth, and the notion that the earth itself is a living organism (think Avatar, I guess).
Bachmann has been silent on the International Baccalaureate part of the conspriacy. But in 2006, then-EdWatch president Julie Quist did testify before Bachmann's state senate education committee to urge the body to strip all funding for IBO programs. As she explained:
Dr. Ian Hill, Deputy Director of IBO, has said that the goal of IBO is the promotion of world citizenship. [http:/www.ibo.org] Either United States citizenship or world citizenship must have priority in our education program. Which will it be? IB gives priority to world citizenship...
Amendment X of our Bill of Rights assumes that the rights in our Bill of Rights are inherent and inalienable, as is directly stated in the Declaration of Independence. For that reason, IBO is contrary to Amendment X of our Bill of Rights, and therefore undermines all ten amendments that make up our Bill of Rights.
All ten amendments—even the Third! World citizenship, anyhow, is not literally a thing that's in competition with national citizenship, inasmuch as it is impossible to get a "world passport" or pay "world taxes" or vote for a "world president" or compete on the world Olympic team. But a few weeks later, Quist and EdWatch showed up at the GOP nominating convention for the Sixth Congressional District. Bachmann won the nomination with their help, but there was another order of business for the group: They also pushed through a resolution formally opposing IBO. (Minnesota's governor, Tim Pawlenty, supported the program.) Quist and another EdWatch alum, Renee Doyle, went on to take jobs in Bachann's congressional office.
Bachmann frames her education activism and work with Maple River Education Coalition as that of a concerned parent who was worried schools were dumbing down her kids. But the actual fears that she and her allies outlined at the time went much, much deeper than that. For some more thoughts on Bachmann's early career—and why conservatives don't seem to care—read Noah Kristula-Green.