"Conflation occurs when the identities of two or more individuals, concepts, or places, sharing some characteristics of one another, become confused until there seems to be only a single identity — the differences appear to become lost. In logic, the practice of treating two distinct concepts as if they were one does often produce error or misunderstanding — but not always — as a fusion of distinct subjects tends to obscure analysis of relationships which are emphasized by contrasts." -- Wikipedia.
Steven Thomma of McClatchy News Service has written another example of extreme conflation syndrome here entitled "Secret camps and guillotines? Groups make birthers look sane."
He rightly takes on disinformation loons like Ted Gunderson but then conflates Tittering Ted with organizations like Oathkeepers. Go to the link if you want to read the whole story. Here is the offensive portion to me:
In another ominous warning, a group called the Oathkeepers boasts that it wouldn't cooperate if the government orders dissidents locked up. "We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext," the group says in its list of top principles. Oathkeepers is built around the idea that its members — active and retired military, police and firefighters — all have taken an oath to defend the Constitution, not the federal government. Whether inspired by the group or not, the message of loyalty to the Constitution has been heard in many of the angry protests in town hall meetings this summer against a proposed health care overhaul — often side by side with the suggestion that the health care proposal is unconstitutional.
In a story three days ago here, entitled "Anger toward Obama, government isn't just about health care," Thomma said this about Oathkeepers:
Also, a group of active and retired military, police and firefighters called Oathkeepers has stated that it "will not obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext." The group, which says it doesn't advocate violence or an overthrow of the government, met on the April 19 anniversary of the Revolutionary War battle of Lexington and Concord , and of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City . One of the keynote speakers that day, Richard Mack , summed up his thinking about the federal government on his Web site. "The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists," he said. "It is our own federal government. If America is conquered or ruined it will be from within, not a foreign enemy."
Now this is the Thomma official bio:
E-mail Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Thomma covers the White House, his second assignment there since coming to Washington in 1987. He joined what was then the Knight-Ridder Washington bureau as a regional reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and became the bureau's National Political Correspondent in 1994. He was assigned to cover the White House for the first time in 1997 and was named Chief Political Correspondent in 2001. He assumed his current White House duties in November 2008. He received the Aldo Beckman Award for distinguished White House coverage for his campaign work in 2000, and the National Press Club's award for best regional reporting in 1994. Before coming to Washington, he worked for the Pioneer Press in Minnesota, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette in Indiana and City News Bureau in Chicago.
Well, this business offended me so much that I wrote him a little response and copied it to Stewart Rhodes so Thomma could follow up and at least ACT like a reporter. Here it is:
Subject: You need to seek treatment for acute conflation syndrome.
Date: 8/31/2009 1:29:18 P.M. Central Daylight Time
While I share your derision for the disinformation peddlers such as Ted Gunderson, and have long publicly denounced the goofy rumors such as the guillotine canard, I wonder why it is, as a journalist, you wrote this in your latest story:
In another ominous warning, a group called the Oathkeepers boasts that it wouldn't cooperate if the government orders dissidents locked up. "We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext," the group says in its list of top principles. Oathkeepers is built around the idea that its members — active and retired military, police and firefighters — all have taken an oath to defend the Constitution, not the federal government.
Why -- as a journalist, mind you -- is this an "ominous" warning? Presumably you have some personal interest in seeing that the First Amendment is upheld. The Oath is as old as the Republic and has sustained it, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights since that time. It is a reminder to our soldiers, police and office holders that they do not owe allegiance to a man or a regime -- or, indeed, that no one owes allegiance to them -- but to the idea of the Founders' government of limited powers -- to the rule of law, not the rule of man.
You might reflect upon the fact that the worst abuses of law have only occurred when the government, military and police have forgotten their oaths. The innocent Japanese who were herded up in World War II were done so by soldiers who forgot their oaths, ordered by politicians who forgot theirs' in the hysteria of the moment. The local and state policemen of the South who cracked heads and stood by grinning at Klan lynchings did so at the expense of violating their oaths. The shootings at Kent State University in 1970 happened because of a breakdown of command and control certainly, but it also was a failure of the Oath.
So how, as a journalist. is this "ominous" to you? It is my experience that people who are frightened by Oathkeepers fall into one of two categories. Either they have never taken an oath to a cause larger than themselves, and thus are bound only by their own cravenly self-interest, or they see the Oath as an obstacle to their own tyrannical desires. Do you fall in either of these categories? If not, then why do you see Oathkeepers as "ominous"?
If it was you who was being rounded up, for whatever alleged "just cause," would you want a soldier who was given those orders to remember his Oath or not? And remember, as a journalist, you are the most vulnerable of all God's creatures to tyrannical regimes. Regimes do not like the free press, even those who generally agree with them, for they still can ask inconvenient questions.
The PATRIOT Act (like the 1996 Counter-Terrorism Act before it) gives any President the ability to throw your butt in jail on the flimsiest of reasons without habeas corpus. And if you think that something even you would recognize as tyranny cannot come to America, you're whistling past the graveyard of history.
And when, not if, that time comes around on the wheel of history again, you'd better pray to the God of Abraham, Joseph, David and the Christ, that there are still men and women in this country who remember their Oaths and who keep them. For THAT will be the only thing that keeps you from a camp with a sign that says, "Arbeit Macht Frei."
To conflate Oathkeepers with loons such as Gunderson is not only intellectually dishonest, it is an offensive stench in the nostrils of those who value the truth. I note that you apparently didn't even try to interview Stewart Rhodes of Oathkeepers. Willing to take SPLC's word on him, are you? What kind of "journalism" is that? And gratuitously throwing in a reference in an earlier story to the Oklahoma City Bombing and linking it to Oathkeepers? Despicable. Absolutely despicable.
A "journalist," as defined in the dictionary, would never find someone who is determined to honor his Oath to be "ominous." I guess that makes you just another propaganda flack for a discredited, lying bunch of tyrant-wannabes.
I can see why McClatchy picked you to be a "White House correspondent." They like toothless, loyal lap dogs in D.C. Always have, always will.
PO Box 926
Pinson, AL 35126
LATER: Thomma replies in one short sentence:
"The ominous thing was the threat of government camps."
To which I fired back:
Subject: To quote the Irishman in Braveheart, "Answer the fooking question(s)."
Date: 8/31/2009 2:12:20 P.M. Central Daylight Time
Why would you put the mention of Oathkeepers' meeting in Lexington Mass in the same breath with the OKC bombing?
Again, what is "ominous" about Oathkeepers "Ten orders we will not obey," only one of which mentions detention camps? And if Alcee Hastings has a bill providing for camps, then how is it paranoia for Oathkeepers to mention them? The idea is on the table. A liberal Democrat put it there. Now, do I believe in "detention camps" disinformation as pimped by Gunderson, et. al? Hell no, and neither does Oathkeepers. To insinuate that it does, or to call it "ominous" is dishonest. Stewart could have told you that, if you'd had the nads to ask him.
Finally, why DIDN'T you interview Stewart? Do you think that parroting SPLC's "expert opinions" is a reasonable facsimile of honest reportage? It isn't -- not by a country mile. SPLC has its critics from all across the political spectrum. Google "SPLC criticism" and see what pops up.
If you are looking for the one guy in academia who has actually studied things like the constitutional militia movement for 15 years or so, get Professor Robert Churchill's book To Shake Their Guns in the Tyrant's Face (University of Michigan Press, 2009). He criticizes SPLC and ADL for warping and conflating disparate facts into what he calls "The Narrative of 1995" and "the Second Brown Scare."
IF you are actually a reporter, you should try to get your facts right, and not be SPLC's pet parrot. For the undertone of their every screech is "send us more money!" Is that the deal? Did you take on the task of helping those professional liars raise money?
They've used and abused reporters before, you know. Ask around.
STILL LATER: Thomma responds . . .
I didn't quote the Southern Poverty Law Center on the Oathkeepers. If you saw a version of my analysis that suggested I did, then that was edited in after the story left here. I only quoted the center on the Ted Gunderson talk about guillotines because it was an SPLC analyst who got a copy of that Gunderson report and heard him say it at a Florida conference.
If you think I was parroting the SPLC on Gunderson and do not think their reporting on his guillotine comments was accurate, please show me how I erred and we will correct that.
On the broader point of this story, the threat of goverment camps, I found no evidence anywhere that the government is preparing detention camps for dissidents, or that it might order people to lock up people in those camps.
To which I replied:
Subject: Re: May I suggest a way out of this conflation business for you?
Date: 8/31/2009 4:05:55 P.M. Central Daylight Time
Why don't you explore the subject of Oathkeepers? Do a story on them, all by themselves. Do an honest examination of the issues they raise. The toads at SPLC have slandered them and you have conflated them in the minds of your readers with loonies like Gunderson. Give Stewart a chance to respond. Are you that frightened of the truth that you will not explore it?
C'mon, the President has extended his vacation. You've got the time. Have you got the guts? You know. if you mix acute conflation syndrome with cognitive dissonance, your brain could explode of its own accord. A messy end, by all accounts. ;-)