Are you trying to figure out whether Michele Bachmann really believes the crazy conspiracy cr*p and pseudo-religious bigotry she spouts? If so, you probably want to read a piece in this week's New Yorker magazine about longtime Bachmann ally Bryan Fischer.
Fischer's claimed that homosexuals are "more prone to domestic violence than straight people." He routinely denies that "that H.I.V. causes AIDS." He believes (as do millions of conservative evangelicals) that the Mormon religion is not a Christian religion.
And then there's Fischer's paranoid right wing conspiracy theory stuff:
(Fischer) has spread doubts about the authenticity of Obama's American birth certificate and Christian faith, and has claimed that the President's aim is to "destroy capitalism." Obama, he has said, "despises the Constitution" and "nurtures a hatred for the white man." Fischer recently accused the Administration's Department of Homeland Security of buying so much ammunition that it was causing a shortage. His source on this, he said, was a law-enforcement officer. "Who are they going to turn that ammunition on?" he asked his listeners. "They're going to turn it on us!"
That's all part Bryan Fischer's paranoid political style, broadcast to the nation. And below there's a link to a 2011 video of Fischer interviewing Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann: she says it's "an honor" to be on his program. And why shouldn't she? Fischer's gospel of craziness and hatred echoes Bachmann's own.
What does it matter that two wingnuts are echoing and complimenting each other's right wing hate and lunacy? It's disturbing to many Christian all over America that Bachmann and Fischer have been trying to identify their faith and the dictates of the Bible with nuthouse conspiracy theories and ultraright politics. But why should you worry about them if "not really into that stuff?"
Well--Bachmann and Fischer wouldn't matter much if they weren't influential. But they are influential, and their influence is conditioning political outcomes in the United States. (The hard part is getting liberals and progressives to acknowledge and act on the real degree of their impact on elections and lawmaking.)
Fischer, for example. You won't like to hear this, but the probability is that ultra right wing nut Bryan Fischer is now more influential in American politics than you or I will ever be.
The American Family Association's radio network comprises two hundred stations in thirty-five states, and Fischer's program reaches more than a million listeners a day. That's a fraction of Rush Limbaugh's audience, but as large as that of Rachel Maddow or Chris Matthews, on MSNBC. Until recently, Fischer's rising popularity escaped notice in the mainstream media, in part because his show is broadcast primarily on stations in the Southeast and the Midwest, including small cities such as Tullahoma, Tennessee, and Piggott, Arkansas. But his program is part of a parallel media universe that provides news and commentary, on everything from science to American history, from a perspective that is far to the right of Fox News.
That's the important part, that part in bold about the existence of "a parallel media universe far to the right of Fox." That part, is actually far more important than Bryan Fischer or Michele Bachmann (even though the personal political influence of these two extremist kooks dwarfs that of most sane elected officials.)
I've been writing and publishing about the "parallel media universe" of conservative evangelical broadcasting since 2003, but I still can't get my liberal and progressive allies to listen to it regularly. I'm not asking them to listen to the pre-recorded sermons; I'm asking them to listen to the political and current affairs broadcasting that goes out on the radio. That's the stuff that instructs conservative Christian audiences on how to vote in local and national elections; which politicians and policies to support and which to fear and loathe.
You'll learn a lot about why the GOP got so crazy over the past ten years or so, if you listen to that. (That's how I first learned about Michele Bachmann; listening to her appear on local evangelical radio as a local school board candidate back in the year 2000.)
How big is this "parallel media universe," run by national conservative evangelical leadership?
More than a quarter of American voters identify themselves as evangelicals, and, according to the National Religious Broadcasters association, ninety-six per cent of them tune in to some form of Christian media each month. This constituency has, arguably, become the most reliable bloc in the Republican Party. Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, who now heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition, reports that more than half of the voters in the current Republican primaries have identified themselves as evangelicals. Michael Lindsay, an expert on evangelical politics and the president of Gordon College, outside Boston, says, "No Republican has captured the White House without evangelical votes since Watergate. They're the most organized constituency in the Republican Party."
Actually, they're more than that. They're not really "in" the Republican Party; in the sense that they respond to the direction of Republican elected officials and Republican leadership organizations. They're actually a political party in and of themselves, with their own leadership--which functions outside official Republican leadership circles. They simply us the Republican brand to further their own political agenda. (They have to, because if they proceeded under their own party brand, they couldn't be nearly as powerful as they are.)
But if you read what I write, you've heard me point that out about a thousand times already. I don't expect most of you to believe now, but this New Yorker piece is a sign that professional political media are beginning to stumble into "this reality," like it or not.
You should stumble into it, too. Read the whole article if you want to find out why the Republican Party is "the way it is, now," if you want to understand the deep connection between the tea party movement and the religious right, if you want to know why the GOP is consenting to send nuts to your state legislature, if you want to know how and why Obama might lose this fall.
Focus on the statements about the movement that Fischer belongs to. Don't focus on the statements about Fischer himself. He's not "the leader," he's just "one influential representative" of a vastly more powerful party (the same goes for Bachmann.) The focus on Fischer is actually the flaw in this article; it's like doing minute focus of a single tumor when the issue is "cancer."
The conservative evangelical "party" that Fischer and Bachmann belong to is not a transient phenomenon. The "parallel media universe" that party has created is not a transient phenomenon. (They're not even recent developments, although it's clear from reading this article that the best-informed journalists in America are just getting around to discovering them.) The parallel media universe and the hierarchy that runs it--are institutional. They will withstand the ebb and flo of particular elections and administrations in the same way that the Democratic and Republican parties do.
They will be a part of your life for the rest of your life--and liberals and progressives haven't even begun to develop an effective strategy for dealing with them.
LINK: to the New Yorker piece on Fischer...
LINK: to a video Bachmann being interviewed by Fischer.