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If you Google the phrase “FEMA camps,” the first several links that come up will be websites like far-right conspiracist Alex Jones’ InfoWars (“Because there is a war on for your mind”) and the United American Freedom Foundation (“Providing International News From An Extreme Right Viewpoint”). Click around a bit and you’ll find a bevy of far-right outfits fretting that, any day now, federal agents will start hauling off law-abiding, God-fearing Americans to secret “concentration camps” run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
But if you search long enough, you may notice something strange: The theory – which began almost three decades ago with a warning from the extreme-right, anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus that “hardcore Patriots” would be imprisoned in FEMA detention camps – is no longer solely the province of the radical right.
On Dec. 14, Camille Marino, who runs the hard-left animal liberation website Negotiation is Over (NIO), posted on her website an “Alert” titled “Military Now Recruiting Guards for FEMA Domestic Detainment/Internment Camps.” The article, which first appeared on a conspiracist website called “End the Lie,” features the usual warnings about the end of civil liberties along with the announcement that the U.S. Army (supposedly) is looking for a Few Good Totalitarians to herd dissenters into camps.
End the Lie is a clearinghouse for conspiracy theories of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, whose adherents want to end the Federal Reserve, drastically shrink the government, and put most power in the hands of county-level officials, and who believe that civilian militias will be essential for keeping order after society collapses. End the Lie posts numerous articles citing Alex Jones, the chief propagandist of the FEMA camp meme. Among the “Alternative News Sources” it suggests are American Free Press, an anti-Semitic weekly founded by Holocaust denier Willis Carto; Oath Keepers, a Patriot group consisting of conspiracy-minded former law enforcement officials and military veterans who profess to be “guardians of freedom”; and blogger Wayne Madsen, who is a principal source for adherents to the obscure “Obama is Gay” conspiracy theory. End the Lie also suggests that readers check out the progressive blog Crooks and Liars (whose managing editor David Niewert has contributed to Hatewatch) – though it warns the site has a “heavy liberal bias.”
Oddly, no “heavy Nazi bias” accompanies the American Free Press link.
With the exception perhaps of Crooks and Liars, this is not the sort of material you would expect someone like Marino to associate herself with voluntarily.
According its website, NIO “strives to be an instrument of defiance, disruption, disobedience, subversion, creative & aggressive grassroots action, and a catalyst for revolutionary change. Total liberation – human animals, nonhuman animals, and the earth – will not happen by politely asking abusers to be decent. Emotion and passion drive action … not sterile debate.” Marino describes violence against animal researchers as “extensional self-defense” – a term coined by University of Texas (El Paso) Philosophy Professor Steve Best that rationalizes violence against “animal oppressors” by saying that “since [animals] cannot defend themselves … humans must act on their behalf” – using violence, if necessary.
Interestingly, Best has also drunk the FEMA camp Kool-Aid. Since at least November, the leftist professor, who portrays himself as a courageous truth-teller at the vanguard of liberation ideology and recently released a YouTube video titled “Fuck the Law – Riot Now,” has been linking on his own website to articles about FEMA’s supposedly nefarious plans – including the End the Lie piece Marino posted. Responding to a commenter on his site who asked which groups he expected the government to target, Best wrote, “[I]f your [sic] protest you are a terrorist, if you are a vegetarian you are a terrorist!! They have exceeded anything Orwell could have imagined on a bad trip.”
Speaking of which, Best’s comment about vegetarians exceeds anything that the highly imaginative Alex Jones (who complained in August that the government was rebranding veterans, gun owners, farmers, and whites as “terrorists”) could have imagined on a bad trip of his own.
Which brings us full circle.
Sometime in the last month, Marino added to her website a direct link to Jones’ vastly popular Infowars, the website on which he spins his paranoid tales.
Moreover, FEMA camps aren’t the only rightwing theme Marino has picked up of late. An entire section of her website is now devoted to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which publishes Hatewatch. Her list of grievances is drawn from a grab bag of disparate sources, including one describing the SPLC as “Cultural Marxist poison.” Cultural Marxism, of course, is a term beloved on the right. It began as a conspiracy theory with an anti-Semitic twist, based on the idea that a group of (mostly Jewish) thinkers had developed a perverted form of Marxism intended to undermine traditional Western values.
Given Marino’s aggressive demand that humans renounce their “speciesist” ways and embrace animals as their equals, one would imagine she would either shy away from this term or self-apply it proudly. Best, in fact, is an admirer of the school of thought whose ideas underpin so-called Cultural Marxism and its offspring, the twin bogeymen of “multiculturalism” and “political correctness.”
In an E-mail to Hatewatch following her October interview (whose transcript she reviewed and approved), Marino said she did not wish to be written about in the same blog that covered “the most contemptible groups of racists, bigots, madmen, and hatemongers.” Now, in adopting their language and conspiracy theories, she has voluntarily associated themselves with the very people she claims to despise.