The Hard Right Is Paranoid About the Wrong Things

By Conor Friedersdorf

As Obama weakens civil liberties in unprecedented ways, they're worried about sharia law, a rogue Social Security Administration, and the U.N.

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Why are federal agencies like the Social Security Administration ordering thousands of rounds of hollow-point bullets? I don't have an answer for you. But the subject is lighting up right-wing blogs and Web sites. Prompted by items at CNS News, the story has been picked up by Breitbart.com, The Blaze, and various far right blogs, prompting a response from a federal spokesperson.

I don't have any objection to questions being asked about this attention-grabbing purchase. I was surprised to read Ret. Major General Jerry Curry's speculation about the bullets in The Daily Caller:

What would be the target of these 174, 000 rounds of hollow point bullets? It can't simply be to control demonstrators or rioters. Hollow point bullets are so lethal that the Geneva Convention does not allow their use on the battle field in time of war. Hollow point bullets don't just stop or hurt people, they penetrate the body, spread out, fragment and cause maximum damage to the body's organs. Death often follows," he wrote. "Potentially each hollow nose bullet represents a dead American. If so, why would the U.S. government want the SSA to kill 174,000 of our citizens, even during a time of civil unrest? Or is the purpose to kill 174,000 of the nation's military and replace them with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) special security forces, forces loyal to the Administration, not to the Constitution?
He's just asking questions!

What strikes me about the spread of this story on right-leaning sites, including Fox News, and the conspiracy theories like the one above, is the strangeness of what worries the right wing and what doesn't. I realize that once you go far enough right there are people opposed to the U.S. government, full stop. But among readers of Breitbart.com, The Daily Caller, and FoxNews.com, the coverage suggests there are a lot of people who aren't particularly concerned about President Obama literally asserting that he has the authority to secretly order the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. On the other hand, a theoretical abridgment of liberty involving the Social Security Administration and hollow-point bullets is worth worrying about. You almost get the idea that if President Obama were to order them killed they'd mind it more if he did it with an agency created by the New Deal than by using a good old-fashioned Predator drone.

This is what always confounds me about National Review's Andrew McCarthy too. As he sees it, President Obama is allied with our Islamist enemy in a grad jihad against America; his national security team may have been infiltrated already by the Muslim Brotherhood, and he is doing their bidding by advancing a sharia agenda. Despite thinking all of those things, however, he is unperturbed by most post-9/11 expansions of executive power and official secrecy.

Or consider this Republican judge in Texas, Tom Head.

In remarks this week, Head called for a well-equipped force to battle the United Nations troops that he said Obama might bring in. The comments by Head, who oversees emergency planning efforts, were broadcast by CNN affiliate KJTV. He made similar remarks on radio station FOX Talk 950. Saying that as the county's emergency management coordinator he has to "think about the very worst thing that can happen and prepare for that and hope and pray for the best," Head told radio host Jeff Klotzman that he believes "in this political climate and financial climate, what is the very worst thing that could happen right now? Obama gets back in the White House. No. God forbid."

Referring to unexplained "executive orders" and other documents that Obama and "his minions have filed," Head said, "regardless of whether the Republicans take over the Senate, which I hope they do, he is going to make the United States Congress and he's going to make the Constitution irrelevant. He's got his czars in place that don't answer to anybody." Obama, Head said, will "try to give the sovereignty of the United States away to the United Nations. What do you think the public's going to do when that happens? We are talking civil unrest, civil disobedience, possibly, possibly civil war. ... I'm not talking just talking riots here and there. I'm talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator. OK, what do you think he is going to do when that happens? He is going to call in the U.N. troops, personnel carriers, tanks and whatever."
Maybe there's just no use in applying reason to the ramblings of a nut, but I find it so fascinating that the object of fear for this guy is the dread United Nations. He's a paranoid conspiracy theorist, and the fact that the executive branch is literally spying on American citizens, putting them on secret kill lists, and invoking the state secrets privilege to hide their actions doesn't even merit a mention. (Obviously I don't think the Obama Administration is not going to order U.N. troops into Texas, or that it's going to use existing legal authority to kill Judge Head. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if his private emails or phone calls have been spied upon).

The far right is ideologically opposed to the United Nations, to various federal agencies, and to executive branch czars. And until you get to the extreme fringe, the right is enthusiastic about the military, the CIA, sweeping executive power in foreign affairs, and leeway for the president any time he invokes terrorism. In today's world, the latter mechanisms are clearly the ones that most empower the president and afford any president the most worrisome opportunity for horrific abuses.

Being ideologues, they worry more about their longtime bogeymen anyway. And so a demographic that should be invested in protecting civil liberties often wastes its time on nonsense.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/08/the-hard-right-is-paranoid-about-the-wrong-things/261521/