The Last Word: Hatewatch’s 4th Annual Smackdown Awards
A skirt-chasing neo-Nazi huffs about the sexual mores of “the Jews.” An infamous Fox News personality predicts that one quarter of Americans will be starving come New Year’s Day. A Southern heritage group initiates a festive commemoration of the war that left more Americans dead than any other. A woman who took a walking tour of Auschwitz six decades after the Nazis ran it describes it as a luxurious and friendly work camp. All ’round, it’s been quite a year on the domestic radical right, and our intrepid staffers have had quite a time keeping up with it all. But as we do every year, we’ve hiked up our pants, put on our wading boots, and plunged into the sewers in an effort to bring you a hair-raising assortment of the very worst of the radical right in 2010. Here, with apologies to Keith Olbermann, is a countdown of the list dredged up by Hatewatch’s 4th Annual Smackdown Awards Committee:
10. Black Kettle Award
We thought the relentless womanizing of neo-Nazi and former Klan boss David Duke was so well known, so notorious even in the white supremacist underworld, that he’d never have the effrontery to play the William Bennett of the radical right. After all, even Tom Metzger, a one-time deputy of Duke’s in the Klan, has said, “We used to tell people, ‘When Duke comes to town, make sure your wife is safely locked up and don’t let him near your daughters.” Boy, were we wrong! This November, in a caterpillar-to-butterfly morph from skirt-chasing playboy to moralizing geezer, Duke huffed and piously puffed through a video attacking “the Jews” and their “dominant role” in pornography, with a heavy focus on “Sigmund SCHLOMO Freud” (emphasis his, naturally). Although he’s gonna hate our color scheme, we just have to say it: David Duke is the sexpot calling the kettle black.
9. Most Decisive Solution to Promiscuity Award
We’re mightily sorry, of course, to concentrate so heavily on sex, but the radical right in this country seems absolutely obsessed with the matter. And so we come to the deep thinker Bryan Fischer, the wannabe historian at the virulently anti-gay American Family Association who wrote last May: “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and 6 million dead Jews.” Around the same time, Fischer came up with a solution to the pressing problem of promiscuity. Citing the biblical story of Phineas, who murdered a couple with a single spear thrust during the sexual act and so won God’s favor, Fischer said that “God is obviously looking for more Phineases in our day,” which is marked once again by “rampant sexual immorality.” But isn’t that a little, well, harsh? Not hardly, sayeth Bryan, who adds with a straight face, “I’m happy to serve humanity by increasing biblical literacy, one passage at a time.”
8. Dumbest Film Critics Award
When the film “Machete” was released last fall, most critics, despite its virtuous-Mexicans-vs.-evil-gringo-vigilantes subplot, recognized it for what it was — Robert Rodriguez’s latest kitschy and ultra-violent exploitation film, spiced up with a few cartoonish references to contemporary political reality. But not the nativist far right, which rose up on its collective hind legs in spluttering, outraged victimhood. VDARE.com’s Alexander Hart howled that the film had an “anti-white, anti-American, treasonous agenda.” The white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens barked about the “anti-white snuff film.” William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC mewed that the film might provoke “massive civil unrest,” in which case he promised to “demand that MACHETE be withdrawn from theaters.” To hound-dog conspiracist Alex Jones, it was a “pro-immigration psy-op” with “an anti-gun message.” Well, not really. As the New York Times’ Stephen Holder, recalling another grim threat identified by the right, wrote: “The only viewers it is likely to upset are the same kind of people who once claimed that the purple Tinky Winky in ‘Teletubbies’ promoted a gay agenda.”
7. Most Misguided Celebrants Award
Most Americans know the Civil War as America’s bloodiest conflict, one that cost the lives of some 620,000 soldiers and 400,000 civilians and ultimately resulted in the laying to waste of the South. But not the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), the Southern heritage organization that has been embroiled in recent years in an internal battle between racial extremists and others. The SCV last August announced that as part of its sesquicentennial commemorations it would “CELEBRATE THE BEGINNING OF THE CONFEDERACY IN MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA” on Feb. 19, 2011, with a parade up historic Dexter Avenue to the Alabama State Capitol. Yes, that’s the very same route taken by civil rights marchers in the famous 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march, but the SCVers won’t be applauding civil rights. Instead, they’re there to ensure that the Confederacy is “portrayed in the right way.” What that means can be discerned from the fact that the SCV website promoting the event includes an essay from extreme-right Louisiana pastor Steve Wilkins, who wrote in Southern Slavery, As It Was that “[s]lavery as it existed in the South … was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence.” Yep, it was pretty nice South in those days. And what’s not to like about slavery?
6. Most Pandering, Useless Law Award
The latest round of baseless attacks on Muslims began last summer with the so-called Ground Zero controversy over an Islamic center proposed for Lower Manhattan, and was fueled by the likes of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who likened Muslims to Nazis. From there, it just went downhill. In November, legislators in Oklahoma passed a perfectly useless law meant to pander to the most mindless fearmongers out there — the people who just can’t quit claiming that Islamic “shariah” law is sneaking into the American legal system. In fact, this religious code has only come into play once in the U.S. courts — a misguided New Jersey judge refused to issue a restraining order against a Muslim man who forced his wife to have sex, as shariah law says is a husband’s right — and was immediately overturned on appeal. A whole string of real lawyers and legal scholars, disputing the absurd claims of propaganda mills like the Center for Security Policy, say the law has no point at all. “Talk of shariah law taking root in our country is just a way of stirring up nativist fears,” said our own Richard Cohen, SPLC’s CEO. “It would require throwing out the entire Constitution, including the Bill of Rights.”
5. Most Prurient Suspicions Award
A specter is haunting the far right — the specter of photos of naked conservatives being ogled by the minions of Marxist/fascist/anti-Christ President Barack Obama. All the powers of the nutty extremists have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter: from Fox News’ Glenn Beck to various anti-gay propagandists. It began with Beck worrying about the Z Backscatter Van, a mobile scanning device used by law enforcement to peer into parked tractor trailers and the like, and flowered with a Beck follower's warning that any “Obama regime bureaucrat” could now end up salivating over “dozens of photos” of “you and your family, totally nude.” Then the Obama-wants-to-see-you-naked story morphed into an Obama-wants-to-feel-you-up narrative, with anti-gay activists like Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality warning that gay airport security officers will get “turned on” while patting down travelers of the same sex. The last act came courtesy of Eugene Delgaudio, a slightly mad Virginia county commissioner who concluded in December that new airport search procedures are motivated by the “homosexual agenda,” not terrorism. Delgaudio’s apparently a very brave man, facing down the sex-starved gays and all. “The Homosexual Lobby’s lackeys in the media hate me,” he whines. And about that, at least, Eugene Delgaudio is very likely right.
4. Biggest Scaredy-Cat Doomsayer Award
Ever wonder why Glenn Beck, kind of like House Speaker-Designate John Boehner, always seems to be crying? Maybe it’s because there’s so much scary, scary stuff happening out there — or maybe in there, meaning inside the nightmarish chamber that is Beck’s storm-tossed skull. Last fall, in a classic moment even for the connect-the-dots blackboard conspiracy theorist, the Fox News host warned his radio audience that he’d been talking to certain experts — he refused to identify them, but said they were “our financial advisors … stat-related guys” who are as qualified as a particular former U.S. comptroller general — who had warned him that a quarter of Americans could well be starving come Jan. 1. Then he went on to quote a bizarre little outfit that’s called the National Inflation Association (NIA) and predicts an “upcoming hyperinflationary crisis,” although virtually no serious economist agrees. The NIA says, on the basis of no one knows what, that two pounds of sugar will “soon” run you $62.21; a can of Folger’s coffee will go for $77.71; a Hershey’s chocolate bar will cost $15.50; and so on. Beck checked them out thoroughly, he reports, and has established that they are “credible people.” WAAAAH!!
3. Happiest Concentration Camp Award
That would have to be Auschwitz, which, despite what you may have heard, wasn’t really about Zyklon-B gas chambers, Dr. Josef Mengele’s twin experiments and unbelievable brutality from SS guards — at least if you believe one Caroline Yeager, a woman of apparently leaden stupidity. It seems that Yeager strolled through the Polish facility last year (more than 60 years after it was abandoned by the fleeing Nazis) and she’s pretty sure now that the tour guides, not to mention thousands of historians, witnesses and survivors, aren’t telling the whole story. Indeed, she says the camp where some 1 million Jews were murdered was really about “reform, re-education and rehabilitation.” Locals saw the place as “luxurious,” what with its “attractive red-brick sleeping quarters,” “bunk beds with mattresses,” “flush toilets,” “tree-lined” streets, cultural events, sporting facilities, and more. Yeager’s sleuthing, which also disclosed that SS guards regularly socialized with inmates and even married them after the war, came to us early this year courtesy of The Barnes Review, the infamous Holocaust denial journal. Of course, Yeager did have an attitude even before she went a-touring: She writes on her blog about how she was “drawn to National Socialism as a viable alternative [after] learning about its true nature as opposed to the lies I had been taught.”
2. Unlikeliest Gay Rights Activist Award
So you’re a group of conservative gays and lesbians in a political party that isn’t always too friendly toward you and you’re looking for a speaker. Who you gonna call? Well, if you’re GOProud, an organization that bills itself as representing “gay conservatives and their allies,” the eyebrow-raising choice turned out to be Ann Coulter, the right-wing author and mindless attack dog who indeed did speak to the group’s “Homocon” gathering last September. Yes, that's the very same Ann Coulter who infamously called then-presidential candidate John Edwards a “f-----,” prompting even reliable right-wingers like columnist Michelle Malkin to rebuke her for giving conservatives a bad name. The same one who described Al Gore as a “total f--.” The gal who implied Bill Clinton was gay and who complained last February that a particular federal education official’s “idea of a good sixth grade field trip is to take the kids to the Tony Awards,” given for excellence in theater. Not a problem, said Christopher Barron, board chairman of GOProud. “The gay left has done their best to take all the fun out of politics.” So if you must bash gays, do it like the woman who once proposed that America “kill [Muslim] leaders and convert them to Christianity,” leavening garden-variety hate medicine with a spoonful of fun “f--” jokes.
1. Sleaziest Defense of Falsehoods Award
As the year began to peter out, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report released a study that sharply criticized a number of hard-line anti-gay groups on the religious right, saying that more than a dozen would be listed as hate groups early next year. As soon as word got out, Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council (FRC), one of the groups we are listing, was invited to debate me on MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews.” When our debate centered in on the FRC’s longstanding and completely false allegation that gay men molest children far more than heterosexuals, Perkins, in the very last moments of the show, asserted: “If you look at the American College of Pediatricians (ACP), they say the research is overwhelming that homosexuality poses a danger to children.” Well, Tony Perkins wasn’t being entirely straight there. In fact, the ACP is a tiny group that broke away from the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics because that group had endorsed gay and lesbian parenting. The whole episode reminded some of us of the Ninth Commandment: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
And that brings us, once again, to the end of this year’s edition of the Smackdown Awards (earlier editions are here, here and here). We wish our readers the very best of the holidays and a joyous and healthy new year. Over the next 12 months, we promise to stay on top of the radical right and its often horrifying denizens, if for no better reason that to once again be able to bring you, next December, the best of the very, very worst of American hate.