Stoking Fire: Stoking Conspiracies

Eleanor J. Bader

The extreme right-wing is catching fire. And the anti-choice movement is adopting the paranoia, conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric of hate groups.

According to researchers at the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the extreme right-wing is catching fire. In fact, they report, the number of anti-government Patriot groups swelled by 244 percent last year, increasing from 149 in 2008 to 512 in 2009. Worse, militias — the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement — tripled in number, going from 42 to 127.

And the Patriot’s ideas? SPLC says that they “see the federal government as part of a plot to impose one-world government” on the country’s unsuspecting inhabitants.  This movement, SPLC continues, thrived throughout the 1990s and made a public come-back shortly after Barack Obama took office; since then, an array of conspiracy theorists—many of them influenced by Patriot paranoia–have pushed a wide range of “they’re-out-to-get-you” messages, from death panels to off granny, to the intentional eradication of populations they believe government and its allies consider expendable.

Nowhere is this more blatant than in the current work of such anti-choice groups as the Georgia Right to Life Committee, Life Dynamics, Inc., and Life Education and Resource Network (LEARN). The irony is obvious: While anti-choice groups have for three decades attempted to muster support in the African American, Asian, and Latino/a communities, it took the election of a biracial president for them to capture the attention of major media outlets and communities of color.

Their message is decidedly shrill. First, there’s Catherine Davis, the Director of Minority Outreach at Georgia Right to Life, who raised $20,000 for the posting of 80 attention-grabbing billboards in two largely-Black counties near Atlanta. In the ads, a cute Black baby is depicted. The tag line: Black children are an endangered species.

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For Davis, the fact that approximately 52 percent of Black pregnancies end in abortion proves that there is a racist campaign afoot, a campaign aimed at wiping out the African American community.  In a YouTube video produced by Stewart TV, she likens the effort to the work of Hitler and the KKK. Similarly, Dr. Johnny Hunter, national director of LEARN, calls abortion “womb lynching” and told Pro-Life TV that the 3446 Afro-Americans lynched in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968 was nothing. “That number is surpassed in three days by abortion,” he thunders.

Despite such bombast, Davis denies that the timing of the Georgia billboards has anything to do with Obama, stating that it is a coincidence that they were erected a year into his presidency. But Rev. Clenard Childress, Director of LEARN Northeast, sees things differently and hopes the billboards will sway the president. “Barack Obama became a minister of Planned Parenthood a long time ago,” he wrote in a March 2008 column. “He’s so good at carrying out their racist, murderous agenda, they gave him a 100 percent score on his voting record.”

Planned Parenthood, he continues, “has diabolically perpetrated their plot to surgically eliminate those they deem undesirable. In other words: Kill the babies of unsuspecting minority women by aborting their children…Who is used to lure children, to give credibility to its hideous plot? Barack Obama, that’s who.”

Childress, a Baptist preacher, conveys the fire-and-brimstone passion common to his calling. He is enraged, he said in a recent telephone interview, that the “highest echelons of Black leadership have capitulated to the Democratic Party.” This fury has prompted LEARN members to picket both Democratic and NAACP gatherings where, Childress says, they have distributed more than 400 copies of MAAFA 21, a full-length film, created by Life Dynamics, that slams Margaret Sanger and the eugenicists, a movement that only the most racist 21st century viewers can continue to champion.

Like many anti-choicers, Childress’ agenda extends beyond abortion and he preaches about abstinence before marriage and using the rhythm method after. At the same time, he acknowledges that “If there is a situation where people want to use [artificial] contraception, it is between husband and wife.”  If people choose “that route,” he says, “They have to let their conscience be their guide.”

Georgia RTL’s Catherine Davis focuses exclusively on abortion–sidestepping questions about contraception, abstinence, and sex ed–and sees her job as  “educating the community to the horrific number of abortions in Georgia.” She also says that she is working overtime to “make it more difficult for abortion providers to target the Black community for extermination.”  That said, she admits that it’s an uphill battle, with the number of terminations in her state continuing to skyrocket thanks to the ongoing recession.

Could this explain why anti-abortion language continues to amp up?

Surely, if the late 1980s and early 1990s—the heyday of the “rescue movement”–taught us anything, it is this: It was not a coincidence that seven abortion proponents were murdered between 1993 and 1998 by people acting on the frequently articulated injunction: “If you think abortion is murder, act like it’s murder.”

The last year not only saw the killing of Dr. George Tiller, but also saw violence directed at government. In mid-February, a man enraged by US tax policies drove his plane into an Austin, Texas IRS building. Furthermore, SPLC reports that right-wing extremists have killed six law enforcement officers since early 2009; several racist skinheads were subsequently apprehended for plotting to assassinate the president.

While there is no evidence to suggest that Childress, Davis, or other anti-abortion leaders are directly connected to the Patriots, no one knows how their conspiratorial jargon will influence their followers. Sadly, strange bedfellows are a fact of American politics.

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