Between now and the Nov. 4 election there will be a lot of talk about “freedom.”
Many right-wing groups use it in their names, including Freedom Works, Faith and Freedom Institute, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Freedom Federation, Freedom March, Freedom Works, Freedom Watch and many others.
Here in Washington we have the Freedom Foundation. You may have heard of it. I certainly have. In 2012, I donated funds to Democratic candidates after which the Freedom Foundation became involved in the illegal recording and distribution of videos from Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment that were heavily edited and posted online.
Two people who illegally disseminated the pirated videos admitted to editing the originals in two separate courts of law. One of the two lost a lawsuit and was ordered to pay more than $600,000 in attorney’s fees and costs.
The Freedom Foundation still continues to petition the courts to post more of these videos online. It has certainly used its freedom to attack me. But I’m just one of many citizens in Thurston County and Washington state on its list of people it opposes.
I’m an easy target. I’m a public person who donates to Democrats like Mary Hall, the first Democratic auditor in Thurston County in 71 years. In the 2012 election, she defeated a Republican candidate backed by the Freedom Foundation.
There is a common thread that runs through the Freedom Foundation and similar ideological groups, including:
• Freedom from taxes for corporations and wealthy people.
• Freedom from regulations so industry can pollute our air and water.
• Freedom to oppose the minimum wage.
• Freedom to attack the voting rights of minorities.
• Freedom to misrepresent the Affordable Care Act.
This is nothing new. What we are seeing in Thurston County today echoes recent history. The book, “Dallas 1963,” examines right-wing groups that conspired to oppose President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago. The New Yorker magazine noted that the same right-wing terms from 1963 are in use today:
“Now, as then, there is said to be a conspiracy in the highest places to end American Constitutional rule and replace it with a Marxist dictatorship, evidenced by a plan in which your family doctor will be replaced by a federal bureaucrat.… There is also the conviction, in both eras, that only a handful of Congressmen and polemicists (then mostly in newspapers; now on TV) stand between honest Americans and the apocalypse, and that the man presiding over that plan is not just a dupe but personally depraved, an active collaborator with our enemies, a secret something or other, and any necessary means to bring about the end of his reign are justified and appropriate.”
In the 1960s, Claire Conner’s parents were the leaders of the Chicago branch of the John Birch Society. In her book, “Wrapped in the Flag: What I Learned Growing Up in America's Radical Right,” Conner writes that modern right-wingers promote the same agenda as those who revered Senator Joseph McCarthy and other right-wing stalwarts.
In a book review, the Tampa Bay Times noted “today's tea party is the modern-day rebirth of the John Birch Society. They share a worldview, (Conner) says. The same paranoid distrust of government. The same desire to protect the rich. The same cruel streak that blames the poor for their poverty and seeks to deny government help on that basis. The same willingness to believe all manner of bizarre claims against political leaders they don't like.”
If right-wing groups like the Freedom Foundation called themselves the John Birch Society II, it would be cause for alarm. By wrapping themselves in the American flag and shouting “Freedom!” they seek to soften their agenda by making it sound patriotic.
Here in Washington, the Freedom Foundation’s tactics of attempting to intimidate its enemies – opposing the SeaTac minimum wage, opposing working people who join labor unions, drowning the IRS in paperwork, promoting voter ID laws to make it harder for minorities to vote – isn’t patriotic; it is destructive.
Thurston County and Washington don't need their brand of “freedom.”
JZ Knight is president of JZK Inc., corporate umbrella for Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, established in 1988 in Yelm.