What do Tea Partiers, Truthers, birthers, Birchers, militias, Pat Buchanan, Jerry Falwell, Barry Goldwater, Joe McCarthy, Father Coughlin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Ronald Reagan, Strom Thurmond, Rand Paul, Alex Jones, Orly Taitz, and Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh all have in common? Approximately nothing, but don't tell Chris Matthews.
The MSNBC "Hardball" host spent the better part of an hour last night trying to associate all of these characters with one other. Of course he did not provide a shred of evidence beyond, ironically, a McCarthyite notion that all favor smaller government, and are therefore in league, whether they know it or not, to overthrow the government. Together, by Matthews's account, they comprise or have given rise to the "New Right."
The special was less a history of the Tea Party movement than a history of leftist distortions of the Tea Party movement. As such, it tried -- without offering any evidence, mind you -- to paint the movement as potentially violent. Hence, after Matthews tried his hardest to link all of these characters, he went on to paint them all as supporting, inciting, or actually committing violence. (Videos embedded at the end of post.)
Matthews trotted out Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center to claim that "one spark" could set the militia movement off into a violent frenzy. But Matthews used the statement not to indict the militias Potok was discussing, but rather as evidence that the Tea Party movement at-large is a violent one. Set aside for a moment the fact that Potok is nothing but a partisan hack with a pathetic track record of predicting violence, the B-roll footage while the thoroughly-discredited Potok was making these predictions was footage of the 9/12 Tea Party rally in Washington.
This is what Matthews did throughout the special: splice together clips of militias firing weapons with Tea Party protesters in order to create a mental association between the groups. That there is no evidence whatsoever linking Tea Parties to militia groups, nor incidents of violence occurring at rallies, did not dissuade the former Jimmy Carter staffer. Matthews simply chose the unseemly route of trying to associate the numerous characters in his special without any evidence to back up his claims.
The only connection that Matthews managed to legitimately draw between the Tea Party and militia groups -- indeed, between any of the long list of characters mentioned above-- is their aversion to government intervention in their daily lives. That's right, in the same segment in which Matthews ragged against the late Joe McCarthy, he associated Tea Parties with the Hutaree Militia because both have a distaste for big government (the latter much stronger than the other, obviously).
By Matthews's logic, every American who has qualms with some element of capitalism is complicit in, and supports, openly or not, radical anarcho-socialist violence perpetrated at the G-8, or any other incident of leftist violence (and there have been many of late). Matthews himself has touted the wonders of the "social state." So he must support, or at least acknowledge the justifiability of folks who wish to violently overthrow the government and impose a socialist system. That is the only logical conclusion, if we accept Matthews's premises.
Such hypocrisy is rife in the special: if folks associated with the Tea Party use words like "revolution," they must be literally advocating violence, whereas when mainstream leftists literally advocate violence, they are not worth mentioning.
The special's rank hypocrisy continues right through Matthews's final monologue. "Words have consequences," he states. "You cannot call a president's policies 'un-American,' as Sarah Palin has done," he claims. Or, Matthews forgot to add, as Salon Editor Joan Walsh and Time columnist Joe Klein have done, the former on Matthews's show and the latter on another MSNBC program.
You can't "refer to the elected government as a 'regime'" by Matthews's account, unless, presumably, you are Chris Matthews or a host of other MSNBC personalities, in which case it is permissible.
Given that the special really offered no new insight into the Tea Party movement -- just the same cliches the Left has regurgitated since the fall of last year -- it is hardly surprising, though worth mentioning, that neither Matthews nor any of his cohorts seem to remember their total lack of concern over the potential for anti-government violence during the Bush administration.
A movie depicting the assassination of George W. Bush, the plethora of signs at anti-war rallies calling for his death, the litany of incidents of violence committed by leftist groups in the recent past -- none of these things were particularly worrisome for the Left throughout Bush's term.
In all of these ways, the "Rise of the New Right" special was just more of the same.