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Notes of a Hatriot: Thoughts on the Wrongest of the Right

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Almost half a year ago, I wrote about a select group of individuals who I thought bore the most potential damage to America’s centrist-conservative political movement over the course of the next few election cycles. One of these, Jim Robinson, the owner and chief operating officer of the Internet message board and far right powerhouse Free Republic, I found to be particularly repulsive due to his thirst for defeating moderate Republicans in environments where a Democrat would almost certainly claim victory against a more conservative challenger and his tendency to launch despicable, slanderous attacks against those who disagree with him, such as Senator John McCain. Often, Free Republic is quoted in the media as being representative of the Modern Right, which, needless to say, could not be further from the truth, as evidenced by its recent purge of members who have the audacity to support former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in his possible bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. In its own words, Free Republic is first and foremost a “pro-God, pro-life, pro-family” website, making it a perfect haven for those who have no interest in true conservatism, which revolves entirely around the idea of limited governmental interference in the lives of law abiding citizens, instead preferring to push their respective personal agendas upon others around them while masquerading as a “conservative”.

That is why I was not surprised in the least to stumble across an article published on Monday afternoon in The Examiner, which details a systemic problem of anti-Mormon bigotry amongst Free Republic’s faithful. Just how serious is said problem, exactly? According to a study conducted by the Society for the Prevention of Anti-Mormonism, from December of 2008 to February of 2010, a stunning seventy-two percent of all discussions made regarding the Church of Latter Day Saints were initiated by posters known to harbor bigotry towards it. Only seven percent were neutral in nature, and a dismal twenty-one were positive. As if this were not atrocious enough, Robinson recently disbanded the website’s longstanding LDS Caucus, moving discussions of Mormonism to the column reserved for breaking news, where they are now in a prime situation to be sabotaged. When questioned about his actions, Robinson said that he did what he did because he does not “believe a single word written by Joseph Smith or his followers when it departs from the Word of God as recorded in the Holy Bible,” and therefore is “not thrilled about people coming here to preach some false gospel”. Further detailing his rationale to another poster, he stated that it was not possible to “post offensive stuff….and expect Christians not to object to it. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to suspend or ban or deny any Christian from objecting to what he believes is the false prophecy of Joseph Smith. Whether Mormons will feel welcome here after this or not is completely up to them individually.”

I believe that virtually all self-respecting Mormons got the message loud and clear.

When I wrote of the threat Robinson and his deluded ilk posed to the image of our country’s rational center-right last July, this sort of thing is exactly what I was referring to. Also, the supposedly “Pro-God” and “Christian” nature of Free Republic is so easily proven to be total nonsense by this turn of events that one must wonder if Robinson and Co. engaged in this insanity merely for the purpose of fulfilling some low desire to attract attention to themselves. Sadly, I do not believe this to be the case, and I truly do think that the majority of Freepers — as they refer to themselves — are textbook examples of the worst element of the American Right; that which wraps itself up in the flag and carries the cross, all the while using both as a means to channel their prejudices towards those which lead lifestyles different than theirs. In the times which lie ahead, it will become absolutely necessary for the intellectual and political leaders of our nation’s conservative movement to formally repudiate these shameful beings, even at the expense of losing a portion of the much overhyped religious fundamentalist vote.

It will simply be the right — pun fully intended — thing to do.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • As someone who has been banned from Free Republic three times for expressing opinions which were viewed as too socially liberal I know exactly how bigoted the site and its owner are, and how hot headed he can be – I’ve got a ranting email about one of my posts saved somewhere.

    However, it’s just a fact that Mormonism is a ridiculous cult. You might argue that the same can be said of many Christian sects and that people have a right to worship as they choose – and I agree. But criticizing anyone who derides Mormon doctrine, which is both full of bigotry and utterly ridiculous, seems like a waste of time.

    I’m looking forward with enthusiasm to the new Book of Mormon musical which opens on Broadway next month, written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone.


  • Baronius

    “Often, Free Republic is quoted in the media as being representative of the Modern Right”

    Really? I’ve never seen it. Anyway, if true, that says more about the media than about the Right.

  • Does it? That depends on your conception of what “the Modern Right” is.

    I think you (and to a greater extent, because he’s actively involved, Dave) see it as the traditional, fiscally conservative, socially liberal bloc that constituted the original ideals of the Republican Party.

    I think that what “the Modern Right” actually is includes the Free Republic-ers, conservative Christians, moral Nazis and other control freaks, and that their ideas are dominant.

    If that’s not true, you have to explain away why red states almost invariably align with the above groups when it comes to votes on “liberty” issues like gay marriage, state/religion, sex education, abortion etc.

  • Baronius

    Dread – Please clarify what you were responding to in comment #4.

  • Baronius

    Ah, I see I created an infinite loop by asking in comment #4 what comment #4 was referring to. While I’m here, I should explain why I was asking in the first place. If Dread was talking to Cotto, yeah, he probably does see the modern Right as Dread describes it. If Dread was talking to me, though, I see the modern Right very differently.

  • Baronius, I was addressing your #2. (Should really have copy-and-pasted some of it to make that clear, sorry.)

    I’m aware that you see the modern Right differently. My point is that your perception may be an ideal, rather than what that bloc consists of in actuality.

  • Baronius

    Fair enough. Truth be told, we’re all pretty well informed around here about the composition and dynamics of each party. Dave and Cotto may see me as a member of a misguided faction, and I may see them the same way, but we understand who our rivals are. That being said, as someone in the Religious Right, I’ve never seen deference (and rarely seen reference) to Free Republic.

  • I do the hokey-pokey with the Modern Right. “I’ll keep your free-markets in, I’ll throw your foreign policy out, I’ll take your anti-abortion stance and say, that’s something… to…. think about…”

  • With respect, Baronius, although you are religious and a right-winger, I wouldn’t place you in the ‘Religious Right’, as it’s commonly understood.

  • Baronius

    Does that say more about me or about the common understanding?

  • Hard to say, B. On the one hand I only have you as an example (well, all right, Irene as well). On the other, there’s the largely Protestant-nonconformist ‘Religious Right’ as personified by many people of my acquaintance, including the clergy and congregation of the Southern Baptist church my mother-in-law goes to.

    Most of the other Christians (including Catholics) I know are liberals.

  • mntx

    If, as you stated, “a dismal twenty-one were positive”, and Mormons represent less than 5 percent of the population, it actually stands to reason that they actually have far more positive representation there than outside of there. Also, where is the rule that one can’t be critical of another’s religious beliefs? Should Catholics bite their tongue when a Mormon makes an insulting statement about their God (Jesus)?

    That’s how the interent works, people state their opinions, both positive and negative. Yip, yip, yip, yahoo. There is no rule that anything needs to be ‘fair’ or ‘moderate’.

    The SPAM group also didn’t point out that some LDS members on FR used the forum rules to proselytize by posting article after article in a ‘protected’ status that prevents any non-Mormon from questioning the statements within the article. In other words, they were using it for advertising purposes.

    This so called ‘attack’ on Mormons that you accuse Jim of was simply saying they can no longer use this protected status.

    Yes, some of the rhetoric gets heated but guess what, it is the Internet, and that site doesn’t contain namby pamby babies who bite their tongue about their opinions.

  • mntx

    By the way, Conservatism isn’t about ‘smaller’ government, it is about limited government, as in government limited to the authorized functions as stated in the Constitution. That includes protection of individual liberty, such as LIFE- so don’t dismiss social conservatives as not being allowed in your Rockefeller tent. The problem with the Rockefeller types is that you only concentrate on size and not ‘role’. If government is limited to its proper role, it naturally will be exponentially smaller. But just playing numbers games of ‘smaller’ is why it just keeps getting bigger. Maybe you should listen to those ‘ignorant’ Freepers more, preferably off your high-horse.

  • Dr. Dreadful, the “Religious Right” has so many different and at times at-odds, facets, that if EVERYONE in the Republican party called himself a Christian, the GOP would STILL be a big tent. This is what the Religious Right looks like to ME, but I’m more of a hanger-around of doorknobs than an actual inhabitant. Mine is just one more perspective–GOD ONLY KNOWS in perfect detail what’s going on in there.

    The readership of “First Things” magazine is overwhelmingly Catholic and neoconservative. It occasionally runs articles written by rabbis who therein make a full frontal assault against Christianity, but this sort of thing seems to be tolerated because the rabbis’ eschatological, Messianic beliefs (read: geopolitical goals) are in-line with the magazine’s philosophy. These are NOT fringe Catholics. The most influential Catholics in the US (the kind that sit on the Supreme Court, etc) would look like these folks.

    Now…and I’m not even anywhere NEAR the Baptist Quarters of the Big Tent yet…we come to the Calvinistic Christian Reconstructionists, which include the Dominonists. These are post-millenialists–not so concerned with “helping along” the situation in the Middle East so that Messiah comes back (now, THAT would be some of your Southern Baptists) but rather, with establishing God’s kingdom right here in the US of A, through a theocracy. They call it theonomy. I call it scary– Christian internecine contests over whose Jesus is in charge have historically been bloody and ruthless, driven by demons as much as by devotion to dogma.

    Now we come to the LDS neighborhood. How similar, and how diametrically opposed, are the goals of the Mormon (LDS) faction of the Religious Right and other theocratically-minded factions of it! They all see earthly government as the vehicle through which Christ’s heavenly kingdom will be established on earth.
    HOWEVER, Mormons see all other sects of Christianity as apostate. And Calvinists and Independent Baptists and Southern Baptists and Catholics in return, tend to have a very low view of the orthodoxy of Mormons in particular, as well as the orthodoxies of one another in general.

    How could fireworks NOT result?

    I wouldn’t worry about theocracy overmuch, given the lack of unity among those who are promoting it.

    What I’m frankly most concerned about are the CAPITAL-H HATRIOTS in the GOP–those who do not believe in God at all, but who use the right language (“pro-life” “friend of Israel”) to get the religious folk on board when they need them to promote their wars, and then kick them to the curb when they don’t need them anymore.

  • Dave, kudos for attempting to bring sanity to the Freepers. I am sorry that your time was wasted on them, but that is to be expected when the idea of minding one’s own business is presented to a group of people who have the deeply held beliefs of dinosaurs walking the earth only 200 years ago and the supernatural playing a role in the political process. As for the Mormons, I know that their dogma is quite out there, to put it mildly. However, I do not see them, generally speaking, publicly advocating and spewing hatred towards other religious groups as all too many of the Fundies do. This makes them, regardless of their zany beliefs, rather agreeable in my book.

    Dr Dreadful, while the Freepers and other crazed revisionist theocrats right consider themselves to be members of the Modern Right, at heart most are nothing more than hardcore leftists as they seek to control the lives of others as opposed to simply leaving them alone.

    Baronius, considering your postings here on Blogcritics, I do not in the least consider you to be a member of the Falwellian-Robertsonesque Religious “Right”. Just because one is a Christian conservative does not make him or her a member of that despicable clique. As a matter of fact, true Christian conservatives add to our nation’s political landscape immeasurably, and have done the brunt of the work in making this country a true shining city on a hill, for the most part.

    mntx, your shameless attempts to justify the garbage floating around on Free Republic really does say it all, and that is truly a shame. With regards to social “conservatives” and anti-women’s reproductive rights activists, no one is stopping them from joining the GOP. However, it would only be decent for them to check their baggage at the door, as it simply has no place in the mainstream of American politics.

    Irene, that was a very detailed description of the various elements which comprise the core of the Christian conservative movement, but not necessarily the Religious Right itself. Statistically speaking, the Religious Right consists of, as far as I can tell, not much other than a sizable contingent of hate-filled Fundies, most of which are Southern Baptists and Pentecostals. A few overzealous Catholics, evangelicals, and mainline Protestants may choose to form allegiances with them from time to time, but it is undoubtedly those two religions that are the heart and soul of the Religious Right. As far as the “Capital-H Hatriots” are concerned, you have their number down pat, and they are, at least in my view, the true constituency to which Free Republic plays.

  • Joseph Cotto, I don’t know much about Free Republic, but betweeen you and mntx, we are hearing both sides of the Mormon vs. nonMormon religious rivalries going on there.

    No, that’s LOWER-case-h hatriot stuff going on over at flame-wars at Freepers. The UPPER-CASE-H Hatriot stuff involves terrifying knocks on the real doors of real Middle Eastern civilians in the middle of the night, etc. etc.

  • zingzing

    “Dr Dreadful, while the Freepers and other crazed revisionist theocrats right consider themselves to be members of the Modern Right, at heart most are nothing more than hardcore leftists as they seek to control the lives of others as opposed to simply leaving them alone.”

    mmmm. blaming the wrongs of the right on the wrongs of the left.

    classy. i hope you have more to think about on the subject than that. (namely, why?)

  • Stevie-D

    Well, I can say that it might just be easier for a politically active Mormon to just form their own political blog site and go to work…It is obvious that folks who want to support Mitt Romney (yes, I have met him personally and find him to be a very politically amiable person, his wife is an absolute charming woman) want to attack those that oppose him (for whatever reason), my opposition is to his opinions on the issues and his record…And for that, according to the author of this diatribe would classify me (A FReeper since 2003) a bigot or hateful against people of a false faith…That is my opinion, just like everyone else has around here…

    So if you want to go against a person like Jim Robinson, you’d better pack a lunch, cause there are a lot of people who believe like him, but I would caution using the words “bigot” and “hateful” around a person who I would consider to be more conservative than most people who publically beat that drum…And hanging those of us who express themselves on that website are, by far, a better quality of informed citizenry of this country than those who find it easier to do things behind the anonymity of a keyboard from what I have seen here…

    To attempt to classify us (FReepers) by stating that we have some sort of crusade against a group of people who believe in God in some other way shape or form, proves yet another lame example of an effort by a few to somehow lessen our conservative effectiveness…

    My question to the author of this piece, “Is this all you have???”

    Have a nice day…

  • Frantzie

    Ha ha. Some people still think that site is a real website? Here is news for you, it is a Saudi funded parody site. Half the posters there are fake just to mock wingnuts. The other half are ignoramus who can’t see a joke if it slapped them upside the head. Hell, I know a lot of what you consider anti mormon is people pushing buttons exactly because you have your little society to prevent mormon bashing or whatever you call it. A button was found, they pushed it. The funny part is you react to the biggest phony parody site on the web.

  • Joseph, as I’ve been trying to argue with Baronius (who gets my point), I’m not disputing that the Freepers, fundies and other maniacs have little in common with basic conservative political values, and have hitched themselves to the GOP wagon for convenience.

    The fact is that they have done so, and done so extremely successfully, which makes them – like it or not – representative of the modern Right.

    To argue otherwise is like saying that the island of Britain is still Celtic and ignoring all the subsequent influxes of Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Africans, Indians and others.

    Yes, there is a portion of the Republican Party which wishes that these idiots would fuck off and go do their own Quran-burnin’, clinic-bombin’, abstinence-educatin’ thang, but as Irene pointed out in comment 14, it’s a big tent. Just because Joseph Cotto is a fiscal conservative and social liberal doesn’t mean that Joseph Cotto represents what the modern American conservative movement is or thinks.

    To change the perception, you’re either going to have to expel the fundies, work with them, wear them down, or leave and start your own party.

  • Baronius

    to Cotto – It seems you’re arguing in a circle. The RR is composed of hateful evangelicals, hateful Baptists, and the occasional hateful other people. I can’t be a member of the RR because I’m not hateful. No wonder you hate them! They sound like an awful bunch.

    to Cotto and the visiting Free Republic posters – Debates about who the “real” conservatives are remind me of the SCTV bit, “The Man Who Would Be King of the Popes”. I don’t care who makes the best claim on the title “conservative” or “Republican”. I’m more interested in who’s right on the issues. We should take a page from the liberals/left/progressives who change their names every third week.

    Yes, it’s important to get your ideology right. That’s the foundation for your policy prescriptions (although your policies will also be influenced by prudential judgements). But we’re not debating ideology or policy. We’re debating over name tags. This seems silly.

  • Well, re-reading my #14, I am reminded of the old observation that when a finger is pointed, three more are always pointed back at the accuser. Listen to me! Oh, I’m on the Religious Right, kind of, sort of, but UNLIKE all those neoconservative Catholics, Southern Baptists, Independent Baptists, Pentecostals, Calvinists, I know precisely WHICH social issues to be conservative on and which to be liberal on, and I know when a war is just and when it ain’t, and if a Christian has ever made a big mistake in determining that a war is just (due to the evil influences of a capital-H Hatriot of course), then they and their periodicals are on my crap list forevermore. Tch.

    Ideally, politics is more than finding a place to stand, using one leg to obstinately dig in a heel and the other leg to kick everyone else out of the conversation. It’s about talking, listening, and moving around to find the best way forward, together.

  • Baronius

    to Dread – I don’t want to be fussy, but the Free Republic doesn’t “represent” the modern Right (or for that matter the Religious Right) in the sense of being shield-bearer. If you took a cross-section, you’d have to include it, but you’d have to include Cindy’s anarchists in a snapshot of the Left. Free Republic seems to stem from the part of the brain that takes over just before you pass out from car exhaust: frantic, confused survival instinct.

  • Indeed, Baronius. All of this, of course, is symptomatic of the American mindset which insists that every choice has only two alternatives. It’s why third parties in US politics either rapidly disappear into obscurity, or absorb and replace an existing second party.

  • zingzing

    “All of this, of course, is symptomatic of the American mindset which insists that every choice has only two alternatives.”

    i don’t think that’s quite true, but you may choose to disagree. however, if you do so, i may give you a list of options of where to stick it. it will be quite extensive. or maybe it won’t be. or maybe i’ll think of something else to do.

    “If I had a boat
    I’d go out on the ocean
    And if I had a pony
    I’d ride him on my boat
    And we could all together
    Go out on the ocean
    Me upon my pony on my boat.”

    words to consider, from an american master, who calls into question all that you think is true.

  • paa

    Those who criticize the religious faith of others reflects more on the inherent weaknesses of the critic than on the religious faith he or she is attacking. It demonstrates a simple lack of ability to understand, a close-mindedness, and a diminished ability to have empathy or understanding. I have no desire to associate with the so called “Free Republic” group, or for anyone else who is bigoted towards the religious beliefs of others. A case in point: the first poster’s admiration of the likes of Parker and Stone demonstrates his level of maturity.

  • paa: As a sceptic of the theist conjecture, I don’t have any lack of ability to understand, nor close-mindedness but do have an enhanced empathic ability compared to many.

    I criticise faith and faithists for simple reasons. There is no evidence for the existence of any deities at all, just a lot of ignorance, superstition and fear.

    To point that out is to love and respect humanity; to endorse dangerous and unsubstantiated ideas, to say nothing of acting out on them, is a serious danger to us all.

    If this god was real, it wouldn’t be possible to reject it; as it is possible, it almost certainly isn’t real.

    Furthermore, we as a species are over 200 times older than the concept of the monotheistic god, which is only about five or six thousand years old, possibly making us more divine…

  • JL Fuller

    I am right and you are wrong and God will punish you for being wrong because he hates you for not knowing.

    Now, you people can decide which church I go to.

  • coltakashi

    Just as a practical matter, since American religion is so diverse, no one is going to put together a voting majority to elect a president without including people who have religious beliefs that seem ridiculous or at least questionable to you. Therefore, people who want to exclude people from their political movement on the basis of religious belief are playing at political suicide.

    Remember: American government under the US Constitution was specifically designed to avoid giving power to that Federal government to control religious organizations or the religious beliefs and actions of citizens. That is why Article VI prohibits a religious test for any Federal job, including elected ones like the President. Anyone who is trying to establish some kind of theocratic government in the US will be violating the US constitution big time before they can get there.

    For those ignorant folks who think Mormons seek a theocratic government in the US, let me point out that such an idea is specifically contrary to fundamental teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon commitment to religious freedom for all is one of the 13 Articles of Faith articulated by LDS Church founder Joseph Smith, and it is articulated at length in official LDS declarations like Doctrine & Covenants Section 134. Even more foundational in Mormon doctrine is the principle of freedom and rejection of coercion, especially in religious matters. That teaching is all through the Book of Mormon. The only way Mormons could dominate the US government would be if a majority of voters were Mormon, and it would be a simple expression of democracy. At 2% of the population, concentrated in a few western states, such political domination is not going to happen in the 21st Century. Any notion that a 2% minority could ever exercise political dominion over the USA is akin to the fantasies of anti-Semites about Jewish power that fueled Hitler’s exermination of Jews.

    The only way that Mormons can achieve any kind of political objective on a state or national level, it is through joining in coalitions with other people whom they agree with. That is how the majority was formed that voted for Proposition 8 in California. Mormons made up only a small part of that majority. The fact that violent people disappointed at their loss in that referendum have targeted the Mormons, rather than the black and Hispanic voters who were a far larger part of the majority, shows that the opponents feel safe in physically attacking a poorly understood religious minority that other people will not identify with. The fact that vandalism against anyone, based on political disagreement, is tolerated by any large part of American society, demonstrates that the willingness to see people who are different as less than fully human, less than fully American citizens, which led to travesties like the imprisonment of 100,000 American citizens for three years without trial or any hearing whatsoever, is still alive in the American citizenry. The fact that any American could think that such prejudice is consistent with their claim to be Christian shows that many churches are failing to transmit the teachings of Christ, from the Parable of the Good Samaritan to the Sermon on the Mount, to their congregants.