Right Hook

Stop that gay-promoting SpongeBob! Fear CIA "mutineers" leaking secret neocon moves to Sy Hersh! Beware the coming Latino jihad! And more advice from the right wing as Bush retakes office.

By Mark Follman

Published January 22, 2005 12:24AM (EST)

Move over, Tinky Winky, there's a new twinkle-toed villain on the scene. Even if he's only two-dimensional.

Just as the Rev. Jerry Falwell once feared that the Teletubbies' purple Tinky would turn the toddler set into a Romper Room of little Liberaces, so are right-wing Christian groups now mobilizing behind Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, to take down the wildly popular children's cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants.

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" Dobson asked guests at a black-tie dinner in Washington on Tuesday for members of Congress and Bush supporters. According to the report by the New York Times, Dobson went on to say that SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appears alongside other children's television icons like Barney and Jimmy Neutron. The makers of the video, Dobson said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

That's some scary-sounding indoctrination, indeed. Apparently Dobson and company are a little confused, though, about the product's inception. From the Times:

"The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit 'We Are Family,' said Mr. Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Mr. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video to teach children about multiculturalism. The video has appeared on television networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity. The pledge, borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video and is available only on the group's Web site. Mr. Rodgers suggested that Dr. Dobson and the American Family Association, the conservative Christian group that first sounded the alarm, might have been confused because of an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called 'We Are Family,' which supports gay youth."

A spokesman for Focus on the Family, Paul Batura, responded to the Times that it's "a classic bait and switch," and that the video is "an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids."

Foreign policy begins at home
Just ahead of Bush's re-inauguration this week was an awful lot of renewed chatter about potential war on Iran. National Review contributor and former Bush speechwriter David Frum offered some related advice for the president at the outset of his second term. Frum pummeled Seymour Hersh's report in the New Yorker about secret U.S. operations aimed at military action against Iran, deeming the article the latest perilous wave of partisan "mutiny" in the U.S. intelligence community.

"Read Seymour Hersh's latest piece in the New Yorker with a yellow marker in hand," he huffed. "Can you count how many vital national security secrets -- secrets that could potentially get US personnel killed -- have been betrayed in just this one article by serving and former agents of the Central Intelligence Agency or by serving or senior and former military officers?"

Frum points to Hersh's assertions that the Bush administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to identify nuclear, chemical and missile sites, possibly to be targeted for commando strikes. Exactly why this particular information constitutes high treason, Frum doesn't say. (News flash: U.S. is attempting to collect intelligence inside the borders of its adversaries! In fact, one could argue that every piece of information leaked in Hersh's report about intelligence gathering inside Iran supports the hawkish agenda by putting the mullahs on notice.)

Frum stays focused on what he believes to be the handiwork of rabid partisans out to get the "neocons" and warns that the Bush White House better deal with the problem and get all the spooks marching in lockstep before things get even more out of hand.

"Three years of sly rhetoric aimed at certain subordinate members of the administration are now exacting their cost: Some CIA officials seems to have convinced itself that the information that teams of brave commandoes are risking their lives inside Iran is not a national security secret of the United States, but only a private concern of Paul Wolfowitz's that no other official need respect.

"And it must be added that the administration as a whole has done a very poor job of preserving the kind of united front that might have taught those rogue officials that when American lives are at risk, all Americans must lay aside their personal vendettas and stand together. In the first term, administration policymakers again and again failed to agree on a coherent policy, failed to explain that policy to the public, and failed to impose it on the bureaucracy. Disunity at the top invites selective disloyalty below. And disloyalty below has emerged as one of the gravest threats to the nation's security."

Disloyal senior intelligence officials like the ones quoted by Hersh, claims Frum, are perfectly willing to help America go down before its enemies.

"The fact is that considerable elements of the national security apparatus have gone into open mutiny against this war. If the only way to stop it is to drive the country to defeat, then they will welcome -- and indeed hasten -- that defeat."

The trickle-down party effect
Much of the inauguration hype this week concerned the $40 million spent on Republican partying in D.C. Even though the money was privately raised (as opposed to coming out of tax dollars), a full three-quarters of the American public, according to an L.A. Times poll, felt that the lavish tab was tacky in light of the Iraq war and South Asian tsunami disaster, and should've been scaled back.

Amy Ridenour, president of the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research had a different take, offering that the Bush bash would help the little guys -- the happy benefit of a sort of supply-side party-nomics, courtesy of the bigwig spenders.

"Though I am oversimplifying in the service of brevity," Ridenour wrote on her blog, "there is more truth than fiction in the notion that money spent on inaugural festivities represents a transfer of wealth from big corporations and individuals of decent income to men and women who work for caterers, restaurants, hotels, the D.C. convention center, security firms, limousine services and printers, or who are taxi drivers or police officers on overtime.

"What do critics of inaugural spending cited by the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the New York Times and others have against working people earning a decent living?"

There may even be some benefit, she says, for the currently drained government coffers.

"Besides, those who can't stand wealth transfers within the private sector could cheer the fact that the government is taking a nice slice of the private money being spent on the aforementioned services though sales and income taxes."

Beware the Latino jihad
While Ridenour sees an upside to the ritzy Bush bash for working stiffs of America, Joseph Farah, editor of the right-wing Web tabloid World Net Daily is quite displeased with President Bush's guest-worker initiative, legislation that would legalize some of the estimated 8 million undocumented immigrants in the United States by granting them temporary worker status. Farah denounces the Bush plan as a "danger at the door," declaring, "It is beyond silly for a nation at war with an enemy whose greatest goal would be to sneak a nuclear weapon inside the U.S. to leave its porous borders insecure."

Farah doesn't say whether he thinks smuggling nukes is the greatest goal of Latin American immigrants dreaming of a life north of the border. But in a follow-up piece culled from his "exclusive intelligence news service," Farah gets into the nitty-gritty of what he believes to be a grave new national security problem.

"What would happen if criminal gangsters, revolutionaries and Islamic terrorists all got together in a common goal of overthrowing governments of America's neighbors and smuggling operatives into and out of the U.S.? Some senior police and intelligence sources tell Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, the weekly, premium, online intelligence newsletter published by WND, that is just what is happening in Central America today.

"Senior police and intelligence officers combating violent crime gangs in Central America believe now more than ever, outside forces such as brands of left wing ideologies, national revolutionaries and militant Islam, are involved in the terror style attacks committed by crime groups."

If you're having a bit of trouble deciphering that assessment, Farah offers some further details regarding the anticipated Latino jihad quietly brewing in... Honduras.

"According to the report, Honduran police recognize the potential for a Middle East terror connection in their midst. They have begun 'monitoring of small immigrant communities, predominantly of Middle Eastern background, regarded as more high risk than others. One observable fact is a mujahedeen drive motivated by the silent blessings of sympathizers to convert gang members to Islam. Although the small Arab community of Honduras and other Central American countries opposes extreme moves, a hard core of mainly Lebanese Shiites and Syrian Sunnis is working systematically to gain the gangs' trust.'"

Even though America relies on an army of cheap labor to pick our produce, stock our shelves, cook our meals and change our hotel bed sheets, the Farahs and Pat Buchanans would have us believe that legions of Latino immigrants are coming to hijack our planes. "Given the fact that there is a virtual army of gang members operating in Central America," says Farah, "some 36,000 gang members in Honduras, 14,000 in Guatemala, 10,500 in El Salvador, 1,100 in Nicaragua and 2,600 in Costa Rica -- the regional threat and the risk it poses to U.S. national security is high."

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Read more of "Right Hook," Salon's weekly roundup of conservative commentary and analysis here.

Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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2004 Elections Cia Immigration Iran Middle East Terrorism