by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Brad Johnson, and Zaid Jilani
This Saturday, right-wing protesters will gather in Washington, DC for a march to oppose health reform, President Obama, “corruption,” and “an overall conversion to a socialist style government.” The event, scheduled intentionally on Sept. 12 to coincide with the anniversary of the day following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was conceived largely by Fox News’ Glenn Beck. Beck, the McCarthyite Fox News talk show host who has lost dozens of advertisers for calling Obama a “racist,” is a relentless promoter of his 9/12 Project. However, most of the day-to-day organizing has been orchestrated by a now familiar set of lobbyists and Republican operatives who have helped plan anti-Obama “grassroots” tea party events since February. In addition, a set of far-right groups are supporting the event, bringing along self-described “American mob members” to join in on the Obama-bashing.
BECK EXPLOITS 9/11: In the past, Beck has said he “hates” the families of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In 2007, Beck criticized the supporters of the Ron Paul “Revolution” who did a fundraiser on Guy Fawkes Day: “It’s really not the way I would go, tying my movement in with a historical terrorist attack, especially in post-9/11 America.” Nonetheless, Beck hosted a special program earlier this year announcing his initiative called the “9/12 Project” — an effort to ostensibly recreate the patriotic unity after the September 11 attacks. In addition to standing for Sept. 12, according to Beck, “9/12” stands for nine principles — beginning with “America Is Good” and “I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life” — and 12 values — including “Reverence” and “Personal Responsibility.” But far from calling for common ground, Beck explained that the purpose was to demonize his political opponents and declared that his movement would “surround them.” He has also implored listeners to attend the rally because they “may be the only thing that stands between freedom and slavery.” Members of the 9/12 Project have become a vocal — and sometimes violent — presence at townhall meetings and political protests. The 9/12 project website, owned by Beck’s media company Mercury Radio Arts, directs readers to his radio newsletter.
CORPORATE GOP FUNDING: While Beck and his allies in right-wing media have provided a platform of constant publicity and coverage for the event, FreedomWorks, led by corporate lobbyist and former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey, is coordinating the march and running its official website. The FreedomWorks organizers tell participants that “it is imperative” to “maintain the populist imagery,” including a logo that invokes the Black Power salute. Starting in August, Beck began directing viewers to the FreedomWorks website at the end of his Fox News show. Billed as a “grassroots” rally, the event is actually sponsored by Republican political action committees and corporate front groups. The top sponsors are the right-wing think tank National Taxpayers Union. Another top sponsor, Tea Party Patriots, is an astroturf website run by FreedomWorks staffers who have rebuffed members objecting to the march’s logo. Our Country Deserves Better — a Republican PAC that has compared Obama to Hitler — operates the Tea Party Express, a bus tour arriving in DC for the 9/12 march. Other sponsors include the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, corporate front groups that claim smoking is good for you and global warming doesn’t exist. Both organizations have received millions of dollars from Philip Morris, ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, the largest privately-held company in the United States. The American Conservative Union, another sponsor, is run by David Keene, a lobbyist for a firm that represents private health care companies, including the insurer HealthFirst. Many of these groups — each of which paid up to $10,000 to FreedomWorks to participate as sponsors — were pivotal in providing assistance to attendees of rowdy town halls in August and anti-Obama tea party protests. Part of their strategy was encouraging anger and intimidation against lawmakers supporting health care and clean energy reform was part of the strategy.
RADICAL UNDERGROUND EMERGES: The official sponsorship list of the rally reveals a subterranean, extreme element of the American right in attendance. One of the top sponsors is the extremist organization Grassfire.org, which runs ResistNet.com for “Patriotic citizens who are opposing the Obama-led socialist agenda.” Members of the ResistNet — who promote anti-semitic Nazi propaganda, claim Obama is a Muslim, and praise the assassination of doctors — are organized on Grassfire against health care reform (“Government-Run Socialized Health Care”), clean energy reform (“Cap-and-Trade Tax”), and immigration reform (“Amnesty for illegals”). Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) — who is sponsoring and speaking at the 9/12 rally — has praised Grassfire.org for its “great service to the American people.” The National Association for Rural Landowners, a bronze sponsor, references the incidents at Waco and Ruby Ridge to call for attacks on “government entities” and liberals. In a YouTube video posted in July, the group makes the case for a secession, followed by a violent civil war. Similarly, another 9/12 cosponsor, FreeRepublic, is a forum for various radical right causes. As ThinkProgress reported, the shooter at the Holocaust museum found a welcome audience for his writings on the website. Despite the inclusion of such anti-government extremists, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) all plan to attend and speak