I took Zari with me to a meeting of the Chattanooga Tea Party tonight. It was educational and informative. One of my opponents, Ron Bhalla, was also in attendance. Like I’ve said before, I like Ron and much of his platform, and since independents can vote in primaries in Tennessee, I will probably vote for him in the Republican primary.
Tonight’s meeting opened with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance–we’ll get back to that. After explaining the mission of the Tea Party (“The Chattanooga Tea Party is a grassroots-initiated non-partisan outcry against the deliberate, irresponsible, and unconstitutional policies resulting from the growth of our Federal Government’s size and power.”) and making some announcements, including the announcement that the Chattanooga Tea Party will be hosting Rick Santorum on February 25th, and announcing an Education and Training Summit from Common Sense Chattanooga, the speakers for the evening were introduced. Don Casey and Ken Freeman lead the Alliance for Citizens Rights (ACR), an Alabama-based group focused on the evils of “Agenda 21,” sustainable development, and comprehensive planning. I can’t remember if it took two or three slides for them to lose me.
Reductio ad Hitlerum (a.k.a. Godwin’s Law)
From Wikipedia: Reductio ad Hitlerum is an ad hominem or ad misericordiam argument whereby an opponent’s view is compared to a view that would be held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party. It is a fallacy of irrelevance, in which a conclusion is suggested based solely on something’s or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning. The suggested logic is one of guilt by association. Sometimes, in online use, this is called Godwin’s Law, where the argument is ended and the person making the Hitler/Nazi claim is automatically declared the loser. Your opponent may be doing something you find absolutely morally reprehensible, but if he’s not pushing people into gas chambers, he’s not someone you should be comparing to Hitler.
One of the first three slides showed a picture of a crowd making the Nazi salute. To quote Willy Wonka, “You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!”
Agenda 21 is the final report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also called the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. I am far too familiar with this document, as the Earth Summit was the subject of my final course at USC. (I got an A in the course, mostly by demonstrating how easily a sufficiently motivated actor, in my team’s case OPEC, could derail the conference. Our mock conference succeeded in passing a ban on whaling–trivial in comparison to what actually happened in Rio.) According to the ACR website, Agenda 21 “is a plan that calls for the international control and regulation of virtually every aspect of human activity that might impact the environment, which is essentially everything humans do.” According to my knowledge of the document and study of the issue–that isn’t remotely what the document says. What Agenda 21 did was provide a framework for states to cooperate on environmental issues.
Some of what the ACR people said was correct: As a result of Rio, groups created international standards to help national, state, and local governments address environmental problems. In some cases in the U.S., governments have used eminent domain to acquire property for environmental purposes. In other cases, governments have passed regulations mandating more environmentally friendly business practices. And yes, sometimes these actions have gone too far. This wasn’t the main theme of the ACR presentation though.
In short, environmentalists are anti-Christian Socialists who are working to replace God with Mother Earth by brainwashing children with a “Pledge of Allegiance to Earth.” Below is the video they showed:
I don’t disagree that making children recite a pledge to the Earth is brainwashing, but, frankly, so is the Pledge of Allegiance we make children recite in school each morning. You may approve of one more than the other, but if the children don’t truly understand what they are pledging to–and I don’t think many six- or seven-year-old children truly understand the definitions of “pledge,” “allegiance,” “republic,” “indivisible,” or “liberty”–then it’s brainwashing. I do strongly believe in teaching children to be patriotic, and maybe the Pledge is a way to do that. Personally, I’d wait until the kids were a bit older before asking them to recite it. I’d also like to remind people that the Pledge was originally written by a Socialist…
Over the course of the presentation, I heard the speakers state that supporters of sustainable development “make fun of” Christians, are against Christian principles, and that the Endangered Species Act is “anti-Christian” because it puts animals and plants on the same level as people. The attendees, almost entirely elderly white Christians, blurted “Amen!” often enough that I thought I might have mistakenly walked into a revival. By the time the presentation was over, I was glad Zari was getting restless, because I was ready to leave so I could clear my head of the conspiracy theorist mentality that was pervading the room.
If you had told me last week that I would find myself agreeing with Chattanoogans Organized for Action more than the Chattanooga Tea Party, I would have thought you were crazy. I’m willing to bet that no one at the meeting tonight voted for a Tea Party candidate for President in 2008, and I’d be surprised if any of them voted for anyone but McCain/Palin. I did vote for the Boston Tea Party ticket in 2008. I am strongly in favor of taking power from the federal government and giving it to state and local governments or the people. If I could have a federal government that stuck to defending individual rights and creating and maintaining the infrastructure needed for a strong economy, I’d take it in a heartbeat. For all the claims of being non-partisan, I felt that at the Tea Party meeting I was around more Republicans than when I attended the 1988 California College Republicans Convention.
I really, really, really wanted to like the Chattanooga Tea Party. It saddens me that instead of sticking to their stated goal of reducing the size of the federal government they have deviated toward black helicopterism, climate change denial, and adopting the platform of the Christian Right.