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Peddling Fear of Financial Collapse for Profit and Politics

Shocking news! By mid-October, President Obama plans to destroy the United States by creating federal regions that eliminate individual states.

Even in the overheated conspiracy world of the antigovernment Patriot movement this claim stands out as outlandish. “California to be absorbed into Mexico by October” is the headline on the advertising e-mail sent out this week by the Townhall website on behalf of Wall Street Daily, a financial publishing company. The far-right Internet tabloid WorldNetDaily sent out a similar e-mail titled “The America you know and love could look completely different in a matter of weeks.”

Townhall is a popular website where Tea Partiers and the Patriot movement intersect with conservative celebrities, media pundits and Republican Party operatives. WorldNet Daily is generously described as in a similar orbit, but the outlet typically features the more zany right-wing conspiracy theories.

The theme of the e-mails and the accompanying video is that as soon as mid-October the federal government will have a total financial meltdown with catastrophic consequences, including food riots and anarchy in the streets. The video features several experts interspersed with snappy text boxes sporting alarmist messages such as:

  • “When the Bubble bursts, the Feds will seize your retirement and savings accounts.”

  • “If anarchy prevails, grocery stores only have three days of food on the shelves.”

  • “The federal government has already scheduled 16 states for termination.”

In the video, Floyd Brown, the ultra-conservative political operative and co-founder of Citizens United, claims he “was pulled into an office on Capitol Hill where they showed me this map, and they told me about the plans that the United States already has for emergency procedures.” According to the video, the secret plan is to abolish individual states, divide up the United States into regions, and jettison financially unstable states, including California, from the Republic.

Brown is best known as the architect of the infamous Willie Horton television ad used to attack Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis in his 1988 campaign against George H.W. Bush – an ad condemned by civil rights groups as overtly racist. In 2010, Citizens United, the group he co-founded, won a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned the government’s ban on corporate spending intended to influence political campaigns.

It’s all very confusing and difficult to tell what is actually being predicted in the video and online messages. Despite repeatedly referring to 16 states in text, 17 are shown on the map as being “eliminated” or “terminated” by the secret federal plot: Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Virginia and Wisconsin. Apparently, all except Hawaii are to be merged into larger regional entities. Hawaii is cast adrift. How California supposedly ends up joining forces with Mexico is not explained. Anyway, the set of maps is available to those who pay $49 to subscribe to Wall Street Insider’s daily update.

The scary video achieves two purposes: It attracts subscribers to the Wall Street Daily online publications and other fee-based financial information services, and it increases the already-palpable fears of right-wing Tea Party activists and others in the Patriot movement that the impending congressional budget deadline confrontation in mid-October is a pivotal moment in saving America from treachery.

The suggestion that California will merge with Mexico rings bells for those who believe in the conspiracy theory that claims the United States, Mexico and Canada will form a North American Union similar to the European Union. A clever numismatist even minted a series of Amero coins mimicking the Euro coins. The video could also trigger fears of the creation of a new Aztlán, an independent nation to be carved out of the states of the U.S. Southwest. Although an actual historic Chicano cultural reality, the idea of impending secession exists only in the conspiracy theories of anti-immigrant nativists. Some in the target audience will see a racist subtext of getting rid of Southwestern states with large populations of Latinos and other people of color. All of the “terminated” states are described as parasitic freeloaders on the national economy in the video.

The U.S. map featured in the video is similar to various federal regional planning maps that for decades have been fodder for right-wing conspiracy cranks who warn of a plan to split up the United States and destroy state sovereignty. This is sometimes portrayed as a step toward imposing tyranny and installing the dreaded New World Order – usually featuring jack-booted United Nations troops arriving in black helicopters. This was a major fear of the armed militia movement of the 1990s and has been revived in recent years as the Patriot and militia movements have reemerged since the election of Obama. According to the video narrator, “What you’re seeing is a post-collapse America …where following [a] default by the federal government not every state is able to survive.”

The video begins with a black helicopter sequence followed by scenes of rioting and looting.

October is just around the corner, so we will find out soon enough. And if the apocalypse doesn’t come to pass, will the Wall Street Daily issue a correction? Stay tuned.

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