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10 right-wing conspiracy theories that have slowly invaded American politics

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10 right-wing conspiracy theories that have slowly invaded American politics

Paranoia is in our bloodstream. And with the emergence of social media, we're more misinformed than ever before

I am going to post one of "Their" articles, LOL

Mark Potok and Don Terry, Southern Poverty Law Center

http://www.salon.com/2015/11/12/10_right_wing_conspiracy_theories_that_have_slowly_invaded_american_politics_partner/

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America, as the historian Richard Hofstadter famously noted in 1964, is a place peculiarly given to “the paranoid style” of politics — the idea that history is no accident, but rather the outcome of a series of conspiracies. The surface of events is never what it appears, but instead hides deep, dark and destructive forces.

What Hofstadter called “movements of suspicious discontent” have targeted imaginary threats ranging from the Illuminati, Freemasons and Jesuits of long ago all the way to the Communist infiltration alleged by Joseph McCarthy and the John Birch Society in the mid-20th century. And since Hofstadter’s seminal essay, the list of alleged evildoers has kept on growing, especially on the far right, where global elites are today seen as secretly laboring to build a totalitarian “New World Order.”

Although it is difficult to make valid historical comparisons, it is hard to avoid feeling that our country is drowning in an even larger ocean of conspiracy theories now than in decades or centuries past: President Obama is a Kenyan and a Marxist bent on seizing the weapons of all Americans; Common Core educational standards are part of a plot to impose communism on the U.S.; military exercises in Texas this summer are actually a first step toward martial law; and on and on and on.

One factor fertilizing such beliefs is the proliferation of alternative forms of media, from cable television and talk radio to social media and a seemingly endless number of websites. Almost any belief that a person has, no matter how far out or disconnected from the facts, has some kind of “news” source to back it up.

But what may be even more important in the highly polarized political environment of the United States in recent years has been the willingness of large numbers of politicians — either because they really believe or because they are willing to pander shamelessly to the extremists in their bases — to legitimize the fairy tales. Whether or not Texas Gov. Greg Abbott truly believes that a military exercise this summer was a prelude to martial law, he acted as if he might.

These kinds of words have consequences. When Sarah Palin accused the president of organizing “death panels” as part of his health care plan, the debate veered from the serious to the ridiculous. When hundreds of thousands of Americans swallowed the claim that Mexican, U.S. and Canadian elites were secretly planning to merge the three countries, it helped to derail any hope for enacting comprehensive immigration reform. When politicians allege a global conspiracy behind a United Nations sustainability plan, preserving the planet becomes even harder.

Conspiracy theories, in other words, are destructive to democracy; they substitute ignorance and suspicion for knowledge and reason, and make it that much harder to deal with the many problems before us. As Francis Bacon suggested almost four centuries ago, conspiracy theories are a way for weak minds to deal with a complex world — and to wreck any chance for finding real solutions.

What follows are 10 key conspiracy theories that have made their way from the margins of our society to often shocking levels of acceptance in the political mainstream. In addition to describing the theories, their origins and the reality of the situation, we take on some of the chief enablers of these destructive tall tales.

1. Common Core – The Plot Against Our Children 

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that outside groups like churches couldn’t provide religious instruction in public schools — the first of a series of court decisions meant to ensure such schools would be genuinely secular — far-right forces in America have increasingly rejected the very notion of public education, attacking it as part of an anti-God, socialistic plot to poison our children’s minds.

The latest and most virulent example of that is the rapidly spreading idea that the Common Core State Standards, an ambitious effort to lift student achievement across the country, is actually a dangerous conspiracy to indoctrinate young people into “the homosexual lifestyle,” communism and globalist ideology, all the while collecting detailed and highly personal information about millions of citizens.

In actuality, the Common Core is a set of standards for math and language arts/literacy developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and released in 2010. It does not mandate any particular curriculum or readings, although it does offer “exemplar” texts as examples of the books students should be able to understand at various grade levels. Although tests are not mandated by the Common Core, two federally funded consortia have been developing examinations that could ensure the standards have been met.

At their most benign, attacks on the Common Core have portrayed the standards as either a key step in a federal takeover of public education or yet another reform attempt that overemphasizes testing and standardization. But in the hands of radical groups like the John Birch Society and a whole array of far-right groups and politicians, the proposed program has morphed into what former Fox News host Glenn Beck characterized as “Communism. We are dealing with evil.”

Forty-five states adopted the initially uncontroversial standards in a bid to improve the competitiveness of the American work force. But the brouhaha has had consequences: Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina have withdrawn from the standards, and at least a dozen other states have seen similar legislation introduced.

Virtually all the radical claims about the standards are false. They do not mandate any particular texts — other than the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. They do not promote homosexuality. They are not critical of Christianity, nor do they promote Islam. They do not require the collection of individual data that will then be sold to private interests. They don’t push the idea of global warming or hector students about “social justice” or being good “global citizens.” They are not part of a plot to impose a global government known as the “New World Order.”

Although more and more outlandish conspiracy theories are part of mainstream American political culture, wildly untrue claims about the Common Core have far more “mainstream” proponents than most. Politicians from around the country and all levels of government, pundits, a large number of Christian Right and anti-LGBT groups, and many others are part of the paranoid chorus.

David Barton, a discredited Christian “historian,” claimed the Common Core “is not education, it’s political indoctrination.” Troy Towns, the minority outreach director for the Alabama Republican Party, said, “When I heard the word ‘common,’ the first thing I thought of was communism.” He described the standards as helping the government “tak[e] over everything, contro[l] the way you think, what you do, education, health care.” Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the right-wing Eagle Forum, decried the Common Core’s “active promotion of gay marriage.” Another Eagle Forum leader, Christina Michas of Palm Springs, Fla., linked it to Nazism and the “ultimate goal” of setting up “internment or reeducation camps.”

A senior fellow at the American Principles Project, founded by Christian Right thinker and law professor Robert George, said that the standards are part of “utopian, grandiose planning for a managed global economy” sought by “socialists.” Jane Robbins added that they “advance the model of a command economy.”

Right-wing commentator Michelle Malkin denounced “collectivist agitators” who have “chipped away at academic excellence in the name of fairness, diversity and social justice” and claimed that through Common Core, “Washington meddlers” are gathering data on children that the government will sell to “the highest bidders.” Never one to mince words, Glenn Beck headlined one recent piece “Common Core: A Lesson Plan for Raising Up Compliant, Non-Thinking Citizens.”

And the politicians have chimed in, too. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called the standards a “dangerous new curriculum” and joined with seven others to sponsor legislation banning any federal funding for them. U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) said they are “much like socialism.” Wrapping it all up, Tea Party activist Terry Bratton last year told an Alabama Senate committee that the Common Core standards are simply “anti-Christian, anti-Catholic and anti-American.”

 

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