Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy. They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation routes and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities.
They are showing up at planning meetings to denounce bike lanes on public streets and smart meters on home appliances — efforts they equate to a big-government blueprint against individual rights. ...
“It sounds a little on the weird side, but we’ve found we ignore it at our own peril,” said George Homewood, a vice president of the American Planning Association’s chapter in Virginia.
The protests date to 1992 when the United Nations passed a sweeping, but nonbinding, 100-plus-page resolution called Agenda 21 that was designed to encourage nations to use fewer resources and conserve open land by steering development to already dense areas. They have gained momentum in the past two years because of the emergence of the Tea Party movement, harnessing its suspicion about government power and belief that man-made global warming is a hoax.
It would be funny, if it weren't so serious. Of course, there have always been loons, but there seems to be far more of them these days. Much of that could be the poor economy. When times are bad, fear can drive people to complete lunacy.
But I think there's more to it than that. The Republican Party encourages this stuff, as does their mouthpiece, Fox News. And right-wing radio hosts are everywhere, each trying to stand out from the crowd by being even crazier and more inflammatory than the rest.
In January, the Republican Party adopted its own resolution against what it called “the destructive and insidious nature” of Agenda 21. And Newt Gingrich took aim at it during a Republican debate in November. ...
Fox News has also helped spread the message. In June, after President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Rural Council to “enhance federal engagement with rural communities,” Fox programs linked the order to Agenda 21. A Fox commentator, Eric Bolling, said the council sounded “eerily similar to a U.N. plan called Agenda 21, where a centralized planning agency would be responsible for oversight into all areas of our lives. A one world order.”
In effect, crazy is being used for political advantage.
Now, there aren't that many of these people, but they're loud. They're vocal and they're active. Since the vast majority of Americans are lazy (or just busy), apathetic, and ill-informed, organized conspiracy enthusiasts have an advantage that far outweighs their numbers.
And the Republican Party has a lot of experience in using loud, active, crazy people for political advantage.
At a Board of Supervisors meeting in Roanoke in late January, Cher McCoy, a Tea Party member from nearby Lexington, Va., generated sustained applause when she warned: “They get you hooked, and then Agenda 21 takes over. Your rights are stripped one by one.”
Echoing other protesters, Ms. McCoy identified smart meters, devices being installed by utility companies to collect information on energy use, as part of the conspiracy. “The real job of smart meters is to spy on you and control you — when you can and cannot use electrical appliances,” she said. ...
In some cases, the protests have not been large, but they are powerful because officials are concerned about the Tea Party.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Gingrich has called Agenda 21 an important issue and has said, “I would explicitly repudiate what Obama has done on Agenda 21.”
It's been my experience with conspiracy enthusiasts that reason is useless. If you don't see what they see, it's either because you're naive or because you're part of the "conspiracy" yourself. Well, to paraphrase Jonathan Swift, you can't reason people out of a stance they didn't reason themselves into.
But you know how gullible many people become when they hear stuff like this. There's no smoke without fire, right? And with Republicans from Fox News on down pushing the insanity like crazy, you really have to wonder what's going to happen next.
This isn't just about crazy conspiracy enthusiasts, it's also about a political party willing to use such people, no matter what it does to our country.