Since the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the country’s first African American president, a wave of anger, public incivility, rising conspiracy theories and a climate of fervor has swept the nation says the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in a new study.
The report, Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies finds that rumors about gun confiscation, tax policies, and extreme comparisons of the Obama administration to Nazi Germany are contributing to a toxic atmosphere of rage in America.
“In the year since we marked the historic election of the nation’s first African American president we have seen a tremendous amount of anger and hostility,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. In a press release Foxman continues, “There is a toxic atmosphere of rage in America being witnessed at many levels, and it raises fundamental questions for our society.”
Foxman points out, “While not all of America has bought into these conspiracies, they seem to be seeping more and more into the mainstream. And since many of these expressions are interconnected in some significant ways, we wanted to try and connect the dots and ask the basic questions of why the anger, why now, and where it might lead.”
This characterization of anti-government hostility is fueled by a shared belief that the Obama administration actually poses a threat to the future of the U.S., says the report. Some accuse Obama of plotting to bring socialism to the country, while others claim he is trying to bring about Nazism or fascism.
Many extremists believe Obama is instilling a sinister agenda that plans to trample on individual freedoms and civil liberties due to his economic and social policies. Anti-government activists are using the issue of health care reform as a rallying point accusing the Obama administration of implementing dark designs ranging from “socialized medicine” to “death panels.”
Some of these assertions are motivated by prejudice, but more common is an intense strain of anti-government distrust and anger, colored by a streak of paranoia and belief in conspiracies, says the study.
Such resentment and hostility, if it continues to grow in intensity and scope, may result in an increase in anti-government extremists and the potential for a rise of violent anti-government acts.
“The fact that these anti-government sentiments are coming from such a broad spectrum makes it more likely that some individuals will become so inflamed with anger that they will move farther toward the fringes,” said Robert G. Sugarman, ADL national chair. “This could result not only in the swelling of the ranks of anti-government extremist groups and movements, but might give rise to more individuals who are willing to act on their anger,” he said.
The report argues anti-government anger first became apparent in the spring of 2009 when conservative groups and local activists organized a nationwide series of rallies dubbed “Tea Parties.” A common theme that somehow Obama had “stolen” the country from Americans was universal at such events.
More evidence of similar animosity appeared in the summer when a variety of protests and planned disruptions occurred at town hall meetings organized by lawmakers across the country to discuss health care reform. Such actions became a fertile ground for anti-Obama protests and stunts with some angrily launching verbal attacks against the president. Some explicitly compared the Obama administration and its policies to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.
The rising tide of dissident gave a “green light” to anti-Obama hostility particularly when South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie!” to Obama during a live speech to Congress in September.
A large rally in Washington, D.C. against Obama’s policies displayed racist imagery and ideas that implicitly or explicitly promoted violence.
Segments of the mainstream media have also played a surprisingly active role in generating such sentiments including most notably by radio and television host Glenn Beck. He, along with many of his guests has made a habit of demonizing the Obama administration. Beck has acted as “fearmonger-in-chief,” says the ADL, raising anxiety about and distrust towards the current government.
Other troubling expressions include the “Birther” movement, which rapidly spread during and after the 2008 election, targeted at Obama himself. The so-called “Birthers” argue that Obama is not a legitimate president because he allegedly was not born in the U.S. (as the Constitution requires), but rather in Kenya.
The report details different areas of anti-government tendencies such as: leading conspiracy theorists on social networking sites alleging dark tales of the federal government declaring martial law; the resurgence of the militia movement, which has a long history of criminal activity; and government resisters, groups that are promoting implicit or explicit armed resistance that have appropriated an idealized version of the Revolutionary War history for their own purposes.
The ADL, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.
To view the entire report go to: www.adl.org