Monday, August 23, 2010


Via Crooks and Liars, I see that the tea party-backed candidate for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in New York, Carl Paladino, wants to put welfare recipients into prisons converted into reeducation camps:

... Paladino laid out several plans that included converting underused state prisons into centers that would house welfare recipients. There, they would do work for the state -- "military service, in some cases park service, in other cases public works service," he said -- while prison guards would be retrained to work as counselors.

"Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we'll teach people how to earn their check. We'll teach them personal hygiene ... the personal things they don't get when they come from dysfunctional homes," Paladino said....

I don't want to downplay the significance of the "personal hygiene" remark -- that sort of thing was a staple of racist talk in my 1960s childhood, and Paladino, who's a decade or so older than I am, does have a history of forwarding crude racist e-mails.

But I'm struck by the nature of this proposal because the notion that Obama is planning detention camps is one of most widespread conspiracy theories on the right:

Is the federal government building secret camps to lock up people who criticize President Barack Obama?

Will it truck off young people to camps to brainwash them into liking Obama's agenda?

...the accusations are out there, a series of fantastic claims fed by paranoia about the government....

In one, retired FBI agent Ted Gunderson says the government has prepared 1,000 camps for its own citizens. He also says the government has stored 30,000 guillotines to murder its critics, and has stashed 500,000 caskets in Georgia and Montana for the remains....

In a second warning, the Web site says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents.

Jerome Corsi, the author of "The Obama Nation," an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress "appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany." ...

More here, here (Glenn Beck weighing in), here, and here (Michelle Bachmann expressing concern that Census data could be used to set up internment camps).

Why are so many right-wingers obsessed with this notion? Is it because, given dictatorial powers, it's what they'd want to do to their enemies? Is it just projection of their own desires? (It's not just Paladino giving voice to this desire. A GOP House candidate in Florida also proposed internment camps for illegal immigrants.)

I could ask that question about a lot of the right's current fears. How many of the people who believe Muslims want to impose Sharia law on America support a constitutional amendment mandating school prayer, or insist that America is a Christian nation, or even support Christian reconstructionism? Aren't the people who think President Obama is engaged in the most radical and far-reaching transformation of America, ever, the same people who effectively want to repeal the Great Society, the New Deal, and the Progressive Era? Aren't many of the folks who think virtually every act by a foreign within or near our borders is an attempt to slip terrorists into the country the same people who want to bomb and invade every country that looks at America crosswise?

In other words, aren't they largely saying that the people they don't like are doing the things they'd like to do?

No comments: