The Last Word: Hatewatch’s 3rd Annual Smackdown Awards
It’s that time of the year again, and Hatewatch’s intrepid staff is just now climbing out of the protective moonsuits needed to trawl through the year’s worst from the filth-spewing hate-mongers and fellow travelers who populate the radical right in America. Once more, we’ve done our best to go beyond the merely off-putting or revolting — the workaday nastiness that regular readers of Hatewatch already know so well — in search of the truly grotesque lowlights of the last year. While it hasn’t been easy getting here, the Hatewatch 3rd Annual Smackdown Awards Committee (earlier editions are here and here) is pleased to officially unveil its annual year-end countdown of the worst of 2009.
10. Schlockiest Neo-Nazi ‘Art’ Award
It’s not like we didn’t know that former Klan chieftain David Duke is a cad, an egomaniac who rips off his followers and chases their womenfolk whenever he isn’t busy getting plastic surgery in hopes of taking in even more people. We knew all about his neo-Nazi pronouncements on “Jewish supremacist power,” his description of AIDS as “the only disease that turns fruits into vegetables,” and his opinion that black people (not the word Duke used) “are primitive animals.” But we were grievously undereducated on one key point — it turns out that “Dr.” Duke (the Ph.D. comes from a Ukrainian diploma mill) “has a wonderful photographic and artistic ability.” That is, at least, if you’re into picture postcard-type schlock photos of places like Moscow and Salzburg, Austria (both meccas for white people, apparently), snapped by the big man himself and then retouched “to make a truly beautiful photo-artwork that will captivate and inspire you,” in the words of Duke’s pitch. The cost to collectors for prints signed by the Dukester? Just $99 a pop, or six for $500. Long live bad art for white people!
9. Whiniest Mass Murderer Award
Terry Nichols always was a complainer. Well, yes, he did help Timothy McVeigh build a bomb that left 168 people, including 19 small children, dead in the 1995 attack on the Oklahoma City federal building — but he really wasn’t all that into the bombing, he didn’t actually accompany McVeigh that day, and he only helped out because his old Army pal just wouldn’t quit hassling him. He did also help buy the bomb’s components and rob weapons from a gun dealer to finance it, but, hey, he was just trying to be agreeable and not cause a stir. Now comes Nichols, a man who failed in his Army career, his marriages and just about everything else, to tell a court that the food he’s fed in Supermax, where he’s serving a life sentence on 161 counts of premeditated murder, is constipating him. And he wants it stopped. From now on, he insisted after a cringe-inducing description of his problematic bowel movements, he requires a high-fiber daily diet of whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruit (oh, and $4.5 million for his suffering, too). But a federal judge — apparently a pawn not only of the evil government but also of the evil refined food industry — disagreed, noting that Nichols faces no immediate danger and, anyway, only objected to white bread after four years of eating it.
8. Most Intrepid Researcher Award
This category had a crowded field of contenders — especially among the host of mendacious Christian Right groups that claim homosexuals routinely rape children, “recruit” in schools, and push a hate crimes law that they say will result in pastors being sent to prison — but in the end all votes went to Ann Coulter. Sure, we all knew that Coulter had called Al Gore a “total f--,” labeled Muslims “r-------” and said that Americans should “kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” But Coulter went one better last January in her latest bestselling hissy fit, Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America, where she reported the results of her research into the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). Most of us knew the CCC as a group that has written that blacks are “a retrograde species of humanity,” run photographic comparisons of pop singer Michael Jackson and a chimpanzee, and whined about “Jewish power brokers” and “perverted sodomites.” Gosh, they even say right in their “Statement of Principles” that they “oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind.” But Intrepid Annie set us straight, revealing that despite its bad rep, the CCC has been defamed and is merely “a conservative group.”
7. Most Laid-Back Nuthouse Award
Time was, Bernard von Nothaus was the “monetary architect” of the radical right, the guy that actually did something about the much-denounced Federal Reserve — extremists commonly believe the reserve is a private corporation that operates to bring profits to a cabal of international bankers — by forming a group called the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve (NORFED). NORFED produced and sold an alternative currency (“Liberty dollars”) used by at least a handful of extremists, and von Nothaus (yes, that’s really his name) never tired to claiming that his silver-backed coin was far more stable that U.S. dollars. But in 2007, federal agents raided the group’s Indiana warehouse, seizing tons of silver and copper coins, and last spring he was indicted for illegally competing with real U.S. currency. By that time, however, von Nothaus was already into a more laid-back venture, becoming the “high priest,” in his mellow words, of the Free Marijuana Church of Honolulu, where members smoke pot before retiring to a meditation room in “serene bliss.” The church’s website lists no address, however, and at press time no members could be found who actually remembered where it was located.
6. Most Clueless Professor Award
We’ve never agreed much with Carol Swain, a black political science professor at Vanderbilt University and member of the National Council of Humanities who has argued, in essence, that America doesn’t need to reject white nationalists — it needs to start talking to them, and taking their ideas seriously. Hatewatch staff didn’t send Swain any roses, either, when she landed a paid gig as a commentator on CNN’s wretched “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” hosted by a man who regularly issued defamatory falsehoods about Latino immigrants, and who was much admired by Swain. But even so, we were surprised to hear the good professor’s ringing endorsement of a “documentary” by one Craig Bodeker, claiming the concept of racism was not real and is merely used to intimidate whites, as “outstanding” and “meticulously done.” And that surprise turned to amazement when it turned out that Swain’s much-lauded filmmaker had long posted regular comments on YouTube and a number of other websites, repeatedly describing blacks as “monkeys” and black men in particular as “EVIL monkeys [who] are DESTROYING” America, and even suggesting that a black former White House adviser be lynched, “[p]ossibly with the aid of a noose.” Told of all this, Swain continued to heartily recommend the film, with its “poignant” scenes, to “multicultural forums across the country.” Now, that’s tolerance!
5. Most Malignant Moms Award
Law enforcement officials in southeastern California carried out a major sweep of members of the racist Inland Empire Skinheads group last spring, arresting members for conspiracy to commit murder, illegal weapons possession, armed robbery, witness intimidation, and dealing methamphetamine, among other things. They seized swastika banners, framed photographs of Hitler, firearms, brass knuckles and an album of photos showing bloodied gang members after fights. But despite it all, this was a family-oriented group, no matter what certain unkind critics said. They might not be your family values, but who can question the dedication of the two female gang members who, on the day of the sweep — April 20 — induced labor to ensure that their babies would be born on Hitler’s 120th birthday? You go, girls!
4. Left Meets Right And Then Some Award
Back in 2008, when we first wrote about the Pacifica Forum discussion group on the campus of the University of Oregon, it was a tale of a left-wing organization that began to indulge in open anti-Semitism as it became increasingly critical of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians. Even then, the forum started in 1994 by pacifist professor Orval Etter had become a remarkable example of left meeting right, with a growing parade of Holocaust deniers and other anti-Semites featured as speakers. Etter and others in the group angrily defended themselves and attacked the Southern Poverty Law Center, saying that the forum was merely exercising free speech and inviting all points of view to be heard. That became a little harder this December, when a talk called “The National Socialist Movement: An Inside View of America’s Far Right” degenerated into a virtual neo-Nazi rally. When speaker and long-time forum participant Jimmy Marr invited his listeners to join him in the straight-arm Nazi salute, five people did. “Sieg heil!” they shouted. “Sieg heil! SIEG HEIL!” “You’re goddamn right I object to the Jews,” Marr noted. “They’re traitors!” Still, forum enthusiasts didn’t have much to complain about — school officials say they will continue to rent space to such groups without screening them for ideology.
3. Most Disingenuous Debunking Award
FOX News’ Glenn Beck has long been a loathsome character given to lies, half-lies and baseless but vitriolic name-calling. (President Obama is a “racist” with “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture,” and also “may be a full-fledged Marxist”; his 2008 win was a coup carried out “through the guise of an election”; a left-wing “thugocracy” is planning to kill Beck; and so on.) But Beck also engages in a particularly bizarre form of propagandizing — pushing false conspiracy theories by supposedly taking them on to “debunk” them. This was seen most clearly in his airing of a core conspiracy theory of the 1990s militia movement, the idea that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is building a set of concentration camps into which the “New World Order” will soon herd good American patriots. After ranting last spring about being in a country “that is headed for socialism,” Beck said he “wanted to debunk” the theory but was unable to. In all, Beck detailed the conspiracy over the course of three shows before finally concluding – like some chin-stroking intellectual announcing after careful study that, indeed, the world is not flat but spherical — that it was false. Wow! That's smart, Glenn. Thanks for the deep thinking!
2. Least-Missed Old Friend Award
There was a time when we used to speak occasionally to the aforementioned Lou Dobbs, whose long-time CNN show became a forum for bashing immigrants and spreading utter falsehoods about them — you know, warning him about hate group leaders he was about to put on, false conspiracy theories he was promoting, that kind of thing. And there was even a time when Dobbs seemed to listen. But that all ended some years ago, when Dobbs, taking a page from Glenn Beck, began calling us “fascists” and “commies” and that sort of thing on the air. Even after we called him out for his 100% false but oft-repeated claim that there had been an immigrant-fueled surge of leprosy in recent years, the battle for truth on the airwaves seemed to have stalled. But last summer, Dobbs apparently crossed the Rubicon when he called on President Obama to prove that he was born in the United States, seeming to take up with the so-called birthers and their racist conspiracy theory. That prompted our own Richard Cohen to write CNN President Jonathan Klein, saying “respectable news organizations should not employ reporters willing to peddle racist conspiracy theories and false propaganda.” A flood of other human rights organizations soon joined in and, in November, Dobbs unexpectedly announced he was leaving CNN for parts unknown (both FOX and CNBC denied they were talking). Cost to silence the tendentious Dobbs? A reported $8 million. But it was worth every penny!
1. Worst-Read Sheriff in America Award
Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the man who famously forced jail inmates to wear pink underwear, built a dangerously overcrowded and hot “tent city” instead of a real prison, and attracted more than 2,150 lawsuits totaling more than $50 million in claims, calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” The New York Times editorial board, saying Arpaio is a “genuine public menace with a long and well-documented trail of inmate abuses, unjustified arrests, racial profiling, brutal and inept policing and wasteful spending,” calls him “America’s Worst Sheriff.” Regardless, according to an illuminating new blog post from Phoenix New Times’ Stephen Lemons, he is certainly the worst read. In a deposition taken in a racial profiling lawsuit in federal court, Arpaio said he had never read the complaint, didn’t know the 14th Amendment (equal protection under the law), and had never read federal guidelines on the use of race in investigations. He also claimed that he had not “totally” read Joe’s Law, the 2008 book he co-authored. Asked by plaintiff’s counsel if he saw illegal immigration as a “threat,” the slippery sheriff said he didn’t call it a “threat on America per se” — this despite the fact that his book is subtitled “America’s Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegal Immigration, Drugs and Everything Else That Threatens America.” When the lawyer brought that up, Arpaio offered up this pearl: “Everybody doesn’t believe what you read in the books, right?”
And with that, we wrap up another year in exploring the dark and dank corners of the American radical right. It’s been quite a year — and seriously, folks, the growth of hate and other extreme-right groups has been deeply worrying — but we fully expect 2010 will produce another bumper crops of nuts, fruits and vegetables. We’ll be hard at work, collecting for next year’s edition of the Smackdown Awards. In the meantime, we wish all our readers a happy, productive and sane new year.