The Universal Notebook: 'Fair-skinned and Unbalanced'

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Big Mike and I were leisurely bobbing about neck-deep in the lake to stay cool when all of a sudden things started to heat up.

Mike, a retired state trooper, is my neighbor at the lake. A nice guy, hale fellow well met and all that. He calls me his “favorite liberal,” but until this particular conversation I had no idea how conservative he was. Knowing, however, that he is not a big fan of President Obama, I jokingly asked him if he’d gone to Mount Desert Island to get the president’s autograph.

Dark clouds suddenly appeared.

For the next 10 minutes, as we continued to drift into deeper water, Mike lectured me about how Obama is out to destroy America. He knows this, he said, because he watches Fox News and I don’t.

I just smiled with horrid fascination as an otherwise reasonable man insisted the Obama Department of Justice has a policy of not prosecuting black-on-white crime. He knows this because a former DOJ official named J. Christian Adams said so. The proof is that the DOJ failed to prosecute a pair of New Black Panther Party members in Philadelphia who, during the 2008 presidential election, allegedly intimidated voters outside a polling place while dressed in Black Panther paramilitary gear and carrying a nightstick.

As I had only vaguely recalled the 2008 incident, I had no idea what he was talking about. When I got home, I read up on the incident, which has been the subject of dozens of Fox News stories this summer.

Seems that two New Black Panther Party members, having been alerted that white supremacists might harass voters at a polling place in a predominantly black housing complex, took it upon themselves to provide “security ” – i.e, intimidate any would-be intimidators, not the voters, who overwhelmingly supported Obama. No voter ever complained of being intimidated by the Panthers.

Still, Fox News is obsessed with the story, so that’s what was on Mike’s mind.

But that’s not all. Someone (I’m guessing Fox, Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh) has also convinced Mike that President Obama has plans to enlist the Black Panthers as a paramilitary force to counter domestic terrorism – i.e., right-wing militias, white supremacists and benevolent Tea Party folks like himself. When that happens, the Second American Revolution will break out.

This, of course, is exactly what I meant a year ago in this column when I warned that broadcast blowhards Beck and Limbaugh “are filled with hot air that they use to inflate the sick notion that our constitutional democracy is everywhere under attack from liberals seeking to turn America into a socialist dictatorship.”

I’m not sure whether Mike believes this or not, but some hard-right conservatives are now advancing the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is orchestrating the Wall Street meltdown and the BP oil disaster in order to create the chaos necessary to effect a socialist takeover. It’s called the Cloward-Piven Strategy, after a pair of sociologists who, back in the 1960s, advocated a welfare enrollment drive as a way to overwhelm the welfare system in order to force the federal government to institute a guaranteed annual income for all Americans.

Doesn’t seem to have worked, but I guess that’s beside the point.

There are also people out there in the blogosphere who believe that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are themselves secret members of the New Black Panther Party. Now, I try to differentiate between frustrated mainstream Tea Partiers who just worry about debt, taxes and big government and right-wing wackos who believe this racist nonsense, but it’s getting harder and harder to do. Fox News, Fair-skinned & Unbalanced as it is, and conservative talk radio just keep poisoning the minds of ordinary Americans.

I mean, Mike, where do I start? You’re in way over your head. Maybe you should just stop watching Fox News for a while.

This column was edited on Aug. 6, 2010, to remove information that incorrectly suggested J. Christian Adams’ source denied telling him the Department of Justice has a policy of not prosecuting black-on-white crime.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.