Today's Wall Street Journal tells me that the Tea Party gang -- they don't mention "birthers," Palinites, Limbaugh lovers or Fox "News" faithful -- are creating problems for the Republican Party in its efforts to rehabilitate itself and retake Congress in 2010.
I don't believe a word of it.
The Republican base IS the Tea Party Gang -- and the birthers, Christicans, Foxies and their ilk. Among the assets they bring to their party, besides a zealot's passion and a lemming's mob mentality, is an uncanny ability to use the internet to turn blatant lies into widely accepted "truth."
Breathes there a soul who did not receive the e-mail about how Ollie North, testifying in the Iran-Contra hearings, warned the country about Osama bin Laden and put a Senate questioner, John Kerry, in his place while doing so? There were two little flaws in this: North, long enshrined in the litany of right-wing saints, never said any such thing; and Kerry was not a member of the Senate committee that questioned St. Ollie.
What's now going around is an e-mail purported to have been written by David Kaiser, a reputable historian and member of the faculty of the Naval War College.
It's a screed, pure and simple, sounding very much like a list of talking points from Limbaugh and Michael Steele. The friend who forwarded it to me asked, "What if he's right?"
"He" is not right and "he" is not David E. Kaiser, who posted the following on his website, "History Unfolding:"
"People are still arriving here because they have received an email attributed to myself comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler. They are also still calling my home, contacting the public affairs office of the Naval War College, and deluging another David Kaiser with emails. I did not write, and do not agree with, that fraudulent email."
There was the Jane Fonda lie intended to add heroic dimension to John McCain's stoicism as a Prisoner of War. The fellow POW to whom it was attributed denied having written it.
The birth certificate lie got its first legs through internet forwarding of messages often attributed to reputable sources who had to issue denials.
I can't count the number of internet forwards -- not all of them political in nature -- that I've checked out and found to be fraudulent. Most of the political frauds come from the far right and they have been inordinately effective -- "death panels," forced enrollment in government-run health plans, Obama as socialist, Obama as Muslim, Obama and the birth certificate.
The Base disttributes these lies and The Base believes them. A recent poll conducted in rural, fundamentalist Tennessee disclosed pluralities who believed the socialist, Muslim and birther lies.
The First Amendment right to free speech must not be weakened, although, as the Supreme Court ruled in Schenk v. United States, it is not absolute. In his majority ruling, Justice Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr., wrote:
". . .the most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic."
In my view, the right-wing internet liars are shouting fire in a very crowded public place. Are they causing a panic? They're sowing fear, which is panic's first cousin.