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Confusing Malevolence With Politics

Invoking Hitler to sway public opinion is reprehensible; emblazoning the image on Solano Avenue is downright unacceptable.

If the two Larouchian activists (and I use that term very loosely--misguided souls would be a more appropriate label, as would loons) that set up shop at Solano and Cornell today were trying to get a reaction, they got one. From me. In spades.

I innocently walked past their booth (pictured here) this afternoon on my way to drop off a package, totally in my own little world. I would have completely missed their loathsome display if the woman standing there hadn't grabbed my attention by saying, "Sir, come over and help us impeach this bum."

As the word "impeach" might imply, the bum in question was President Obama. And to be honest, if all they'd done was called him a bum, my derisive look as I walked away would have been the end of it. But no, on my way back across the street, I had to notice the picture of Obama sporting a Hitler moustache. And that was that. My blood started to boil. Rage welled within me. An insultingly casual Hitler reference on MY little Albany corner? I don't think so! 

I didn't think I could be any more offended, but when I walked by, spouting something along the lines of, "Are you freakin' kidding me with that?," the woman's partner in lunacy, a man who was on the phone, responded with, "Can you be quiet? I'm on a conference call." 

Are you kidding me? You put a Hitler moustache on a picture of the just-re-elected President, set up shop on a corner in one of the strongest liberal enclaves in the country, and expect to have conference calls in peace? You're lucky a crowd of pitchfork-carrying leftists weren't burning you at the stake, buddy.

As much as I wanted to tear into the guy, my wife and two boys were waiting in the car, so I decided to return to them, but I was steamed. I drove them home, put the preschooler down for a nap while my wife went to nurse the baby, and then did some research on the topic. I found out that some barely articulate woman named Kesha Rogers (a Larouche disciple who happens to be black and claims herself as an anti-Obama Democrat) ran for one of Texas' spots in the House of Representatives in 2010 on a platform that was even more simplistic than it sounds: "Save NASA. Impeach Obama." (These words were splashed on the booth in Albany, as well.)

The NASA angle is a convoluted one that has to do with dwindling resources for the agency and a perceived undermining of our efforts to explore space, but it's worth noting that after winning (!) the Democratic primary in her election, she was trounced by her Republican opponent largely because the Democratic Party refused to give her a single dollar, saying that Larouche followers are "not Democrats." (Thank goodness for level-headedness.)

Armed with this extra insight into the history of the Larouche movement, I got on my longboard for a spirited ride to my much-desired confrontation.

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it so say there was not much agreement. And no matter how much I insisted I was not there to debate politics, but rather to call into question their incendiary tactics, they kept bringing the discussion back to the Glass-Steagall Act and other hot-button topics that, while worthy of debate, don't come close to justifying the use of Nazi imagery. And I'll be damned if I'm going to dishonor my Jewish ancestors by allowing someone to callously slap a Hitler moustache on a poster being displayed in my neighborhood for my children and their friends to see, whether that poster depicts Barack Obama, Dick Cheney or Bozo the Clown.

(I will offer that I was impressed with one facet, which was that they were willing to air these views in Albany of all places.)

Beyond the Hitler distraction (and it's a big one), the beliefs these people were spewing reminded me that this is what politics has become in this country, even on the grass-roots level--mud slinging, name calling and character bashing. And here's the kicker: I asked them, okay, once Obama's impeached, what then? Who you got in mind? The woman's answer: "Joe Biden would be okay." Seriously. That sound you hear is whatever shred of credibility they might have had spontaneously combusting.

Note to other Larouche zealots who might be reading: If you're going to go so far as to invoke the image of Hitler, at least have a viable alternate path in mind. Otherwise, keep your poisonous philosophies to yourself.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

doris February 26, 2013 at 06:59 PM
and, of course, calling one media outlet Faux News is perfectly acceptable, too, because we'd all rather get our truth from Cee No News......you're open minded, Jen, but those who don't see things as you do, are not. Albany and the Bay Area to a tee.
Dover February 26, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Right, it's me, I'M the one who doesn't understand the Bill of Rights. That's why I'm running around telling people to keep their "poisonous philosophies" to themselves. Oh wait, no, that was YOU. "Note to other Larouche zealots who might be reading: If you're going to go so far as to invoke the image of Hitler, at least have a viable alternate path in mind. Otherwise, keep your poisonous philosophies to yourself." ;-)
Tony Kontzer February 26, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Wow--I have to say, I'm really surprised by the tone of the responses to my post. Silly me, I thought outrage over an uncalled-for Hitler reference was something we could all get behind.
Dover February 26, 2013 at 07:24 PM
It's impossible for someone else to make a reasonable person sound stupid or silly. IMPOSSIBLE. However, it is very easy to out a silly/stupid person masquerading as a reasonable one. All you have to do is quote their own words back to them and watch them sputter.
Dover February 26, 2013 at 07:29 PM
Speaking of Obama and Hitler and Bush and tolerance and CNN...... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WQbNaXJ8Pw ;-)
Dover February 26, 2013 at 07:51 PM
"I thought outrage over an uncalled-for Hitler reference was something we could all get behind." Well, it looks like you thought wrong. Thankfully, some of us still understand that free speech protects the opinions we find offensive as well as the opinions with which we agree. Some food for thought: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.” ― Theodore Roosevelt “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” ― George Orwell “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an a$$ of yourself.” ― Oscar Wilde “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” ― George Washington "Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection." Neal Boortz “Because if you don't stand up for the stuff you don't like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you've already lost.” ― Neil Gaiman
Albany Adult Sports February 26, 2013 at 08:05 PM
tl;dr to all the comments. But thanks Tony for the post. My father escaped Poland, so racial history is still alive with us, barely historical yet. Yes, freedom of speech is fine, but so is your post and expressing outrage at (inaccurate and weird) hate speech.
Samplers February 26, 2013 at 08:06 PM
I'm with you, Tony. It's offensive - regardless of political affiliation, the Hitler mustache is what galls me the most. Not cool.
Jo-Anna Pippen February 26, 2013 at 08:29 PM
Tony has just as much right to voice his opinions and objections to the Larouchites as they do in comparing Obama to Hitler. Free speech goes both ways and it certainly doesn't mean we don't have the right to be angry or offended by what we consider garbage.They have the right to compare Obama to Hitler and Tony has the right to wish they would go away.
Dover February 26, 2013 at 08:57 PM
No one has said otherwise, Jo-Anna. He has every right to his opinion and every right to be offended. But he does NOT have the right to dictate their speech, tell them to shut up, make threats of violence or disallow their rights.
Dover February 26, 2013 at 09:21 PM
http://images.google.com/search?hl=en&site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1850&bih=928&q=hitler+bush&oq=hitler+bush&gs_l=img.12..0i24l5.1244.3623.0.5213.11.9.0.2.2.0.352.1449.6j3-3.9.0...0.0...1ac.1.4.img.bQEepXgqeQc
Gil Batzri February 26, 2013 at 09:32 PM
He has the right to to tell them anything he wants. Dover. you might want to read that Constitution you claim to know so much about.
Gil Batzri February 26, 2013 at 09:34 PM
Congrats on your ability to do an image search on Google. I believe the author answered your point, fairly concisely when you brought it up though.
Ross Stapleton-Gray February 26, 2013 at 10:16 PM
Dover posts for me, at least on this topic thread.
Ross Stapleton-Gray February 26, 2013 at 10:20 PM
Well, yes, he can go up to them and scream at them to "Shut up" (so long as he's not deemed to be committing some breach of the peace or something with all the noise), but he can't *shut them up*, if they choose to keep at it. That's our America, and it's a good thing.
Mr Eous February 26, 2013 at 10:50 PM
"There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or "fighting words" those that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality." — Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 1942
Dover February 27, 2013 at 12:53 AM
"Congrats on your ability to do an image search on Google. I believe the author answered your point, fairly concisely when you brought it up though." Actually, this is what he said: "And on the matter of Bush, if I had walked by a liberal demonstrator holding such a sign, I would have been equally outraged. Fortunately, it never happened." Granted, it may be true he never saw such a sign, but there is no way I will ever believe that an internet savvy/techie/writer somehow managed to miss the millions of Bush to Hitler comparisons that were plastered from one end of the internet to the other for EIGHT YEARS. More than eight years, actually, if we include the first President Bush. You really want me to believe he only reserves his outrage over Hitler comparisons for face to face examples? Sorry, not buying it! P.S. "Fairly concisely" is an oxymoron. Ya either is concise or ya ain't.
Tony Kontzer February 27, 2013 at 12:59 AM
I have no idea how or why this conversation is going this direction. I didn't tell them to shut up, nor did I try to shut them up. I told them what I thought of their imagery, asked to take home some of their materials, refused their handshake offer (which I found to be very passive aggressive), and came home to write. Little did I know that blogging about my abhorrence to seeing allusions to Hitler in my neighborhood, and essentially imploring the offending parties to find another message, is somehow viewed as violating someone's first amendment rights. Anyone can twist someone's words around to make them suit an argument. But I think any level-headed person who steps back and takes in my post in its entirety would get that I was attempting to do nothing more than share my feelings about something objectionable I encountered in our community.
Kathryn Javandel February 27, 2013 at 01:33 AM
It wasn't precisely a Bush Hitler sign, but I haven't attended the autumn harvest festivities at the Gill tract since the year I went there and the singers who were performing sang a song about how the world would be a much better place if all Republicans were sent to Mars. (I don't recall the exact words of the song but that was the gist.) I am a fiscally conservative but socially liberal Republican, and it hurt my feelings to listen to people indirectly suggesting, face-to-face, that I should be shipped off into space to a planet incapable of supporting life. I hadn't been expecting such a political attack at a community gathering promoted as celebrating the Earth's bounty. Nonetheless, I did not and would never publicly suggest that the loony, misguided singers should be harassed and prevented from peacefully using their cell phones, or that a pitchfork-wielding mob should burn them at the stake or otherwise threaten their physical safety, despite my being deeply offended by their genocidal imagery.
Ross Stapleton-Gray February 27, 2013 at 01:38 AM
You did say, "And I'll be damned if I'm going to dishonor my Jewish ancestors by allowing someone to callously slap a Hitler moustache on a poster being displayed in my neighborhood for my children and their friends to see, whether that poster depicts Barack Obama, Dick Cheney or Bozo the Clown." And yet that's what you had to do: they did it, and displayed it. And I don't think they took any sort of lesson from any response of yours, or anyone else's. I don't think you dishonored anyone, though. Like the ACLU defending the march through Skokie, we ought to take heart in the concept that free speech is a good thing, even if some of those speakers among us are idiots, or hateful, or dupes.
Art Simon February 27, 2013 at 03:33 AM
Seems like some people used their right to free speech to say something stupid and pathetic. Tony called them on it. Good for him.
Alan Eckert February 27, 2013 at 05:38 AM
I think there is a bit of confusion about the First Amendment here. The amendment says "Congress shall make no law," and this has been interpreted as any representative of government or government institution (that's not the debate here either). In this article, Tony is not trying to get the government or even the cops involved. He has every right to take any legal avenue to disallow these people from presenting this material that offends him, and quite possibly, many others. This is not a hypocritical position to take because he is a private citizen.
Ross Stapleton-Gray February 27, 2013 at 06:06 AM
Perhaps not, but the tools at his disposal are few. If the Laroucheites want to carry posters on the public sidewalk, they have as much right as, say, the Albanian who wants to protest cuts to Medicare, or to advocate for off-leash dogs at the beach. They won't likely get an Obama-as-Hitler ad into the Journal; it's another private entity, and can pick and choose whom they want to do business with. But they could rent the Community Center for a meeting. I have no problem with a big, fat bright line demarking "free speech," and don't much worry that most anything *could* be said. I worry more about the far more pervasive and subtle lies percolating in American political discourse, rather than this sort of hyperbolic ranting, given degree to which they're lapped up by too many people who actually turn out to vote.
Dover February 27, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Oh, sweet irony of life. Tony had no problem with the illegal activities (blockades, riots, vandalism) committed by the Occupy Oakland participants (other than being worried about his "friends" who participated) yet now wants to stifle those who are breaking no laws and are simply offending his tender sensibilities. Hypocrisy with a capital H.
Dover February 27, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Try reading more carefully, Gil. Then come on back.
Dover February 27, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Hey, it's a good start, Ross. ;-)
Dover February 27, 2013 at 11:11 PM
"refused their handshake offer (which I found to be very passive aggressive)" How dare they be passive-agressive! And how dare they choose passive-agression over full-on aggression, as in making a special trip to engage in a "much desired confrontation" with someone who is not practicing the mindless liberal lockstep of which you so heartedly approve. Tsk, tsk. ;-)
Art Simon February 28, 2013 at 04:09 AM
Sorry, Dover and Ross, you missed the point. Somebody said something stupid and offensive, in a public environment where they meant to draw attention to themselves. Somebody else, said "that's not cool," and pointed out that what they said was stupid. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.
Ross Stapleton-Gray February 28, 2013 at 04:25 AM
I don't think that was the real meat of the issue here. I'd again point out where Tony says, "And I'll be damned if I'm going to dishonor my Jewish ancestors by allowing someone to callously slap a Hitler moustache on a poster being displayed in my neighborhood for my children and their friends to see, whether that poster depicts Barack Obama, Dick Cheney or Bozo the Clown." Not, "...by not pointing out that what they said was stupid," but "...by ALLOWING someone to callously slap a Hitler moustache on a poster [...]" (emphasis mine) The point is, we do allow it; our laws allow it. It's a good thing that our laws allow it, as stupid as those speakers may be. And I'll again repeat, there's no dishonor here, at least not on Tony's part.
Dover February 28, 2013 at 07:17 PM
Sorry, Art, but that doesn't work on me. I missed nothing. I recognize that I do not have the right to silence or censor the opinions of others. Tony clearly believes he has the right to do those things simply because his feelings were hurt. THAT is the point. I should clarify, If you cross the line into illegal activity, such as breaking and entering, trespassing, destroying 20 years of important research and holding someone else's workspace hostage so you can pretend to be an "urban farmer" while you work out your anger towards an entity that represents your mommy and daddy issues, I sure as shooting WILL say something about how you express your "opinion." Other than that, moan away! Frankly, I hope Tony posts more Patch blog entries. He's a hoot and a half. And if he ever decides to stand in front of the Post Office with a large poster of the Republican enemy du jour adorned with a Hitler mustache, I'll nod and smile and use it as a teaching moment for my children. "Mommy, what is that man doing?" "Child, he is expressing his personal opinion. And every morning I get down on my knees and thank G-d that I was born in a country where we ALL still have the right to do so without fear of Joe or Jill Biden showing up at our door with a double barrel shotgun to haul us off to jail for disagreeing with our elected officials." Not yet, at least. ;-)

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