Authoritarianism, Fear, and Bigotry from Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm

Kathleen O'Brien WilhelmRemember Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm? She’s the Deer Sign Lady. I try to check in on her from time to time to see what she’s ranting about. It is always a real eye-opener. Most of us living in the real world are not aware of much that is going on in Right Wing Nutjob World. But all you have to do is read a Wilhelm column and you’ll learn what is Big News in that alternate reality.

Voter Fraud

On 13 March, Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm offered us, America’s Vote. She starts by proposing the reasonable, but simple minded idea of making election days national holidays. But she’s against allowing multiple days to vote. Why? “We appear to have no problem with jobs, plans and all that is life when it comes to December 25.” Or rather: she has no reason. She just thinks it is wrong to give people “four to fifty days” to vote. But that’s okay, because she thinks that making elections a national holiday will solve all our problems, because, you know, no one works on national holidays.

But extended voting days (or lack thereof) is not really what her article is about. There have been a few cases of people accidentally voting twice by voting absentee and in person. In general, these were just mistakes made by confused people. But there is one case where a woman may have done it on purpose. Of course, the reason we’re hearing about these things is that this is a form of voter fraud that is always caught. In other words: it isn’t a problem. But this stuff is getting a huge amount of attention on right wing websites and Fox News. And Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm, who seems to only get her news from Fox, certainly got this story from them.

Grand Statements, No Facts

As usual with her articles, she makes grand statements that are not only undocumented, they are untrue. Consider:

Voter fraud is not new, and it is becoming more. It’s often a laughable cliche that many dead people vote in Chicago. America’s vote has become tarnished? It was bad when women and Blacks were prevented this right, but the US Constitution resolved this injustice. It is time something be done to protect America’s vote.

There is absolutely no evidence that voter fraud is getting worse—in fact, it looks like just the opposite. The Constitution did not resolve the injustice of white-male-only voting; the Constitution had to be amended to resolve this injustice—and in the case of African Americans, the Constitutional change did not actually allow them to vote in many places for a century. But note the underlying argument here: if one person votes who shouldn’t, then the entire system has been tarnished. When a rightful voter is denied, that doesn’t tarnish the system at all.

The more I read Wilhelm, the more I think she is just a bigot. Here she is again (1) using right wing sources without quoting them; (2) stating things as fact that are not true; and (3) showing intense fear for “the other”:

Voting has become marred with Black Panther’s threatening voters, and a great deal of voter fraud. Illegal aliens, nuns, the educated, those unregistered, and dead people—all voting many times, many days.

Scary black people: check! Scary Latinos: check! College kids: check! Nuns?! Oh, bqhatevwr! (Note: if you search for “nuns voter fraud” you will, of course, find the right wing blogosphere buzzing about a case!)

Gay Rights

On 17 March, Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm again delighted us with, Government, Get Out of America’s Way! I thought it was going to be more Tea Party pseudo-free market babbling. How wrong I was! I think. It actually isn’t at all clear what she is talking about. But I’ll give you my best guess. If I’m right, it is by far the most stunning piece of writing we have seen from Avon Patch Savant.

How will we ever trust Rob Portman again? He has voted consistently against gay rights and now he says he’s for marriage equality. The government should just stay out of the way of the people “to be as good as he or she works and aspires to be.” Allowing same sex marriage is the government getting in the way by (!) changing the way that the government has traditionally gotten in the way.

To sum up:

It’s not pick on Portman day, but a reminder to Americans that government has ulterior motives beyond moving America forward. Government works for us and must be accountable. Government collects freebies, benefits, healthcare, stock tips, and more at the expense of taxpayers. Too many government hires are stamping on the US Constitution and making laws to their advantage not Americas.

Can’t you just feel the Tea Party passion: something is wrong and although Wilhelm doesn’t know what it is, she feels very strongly that something ought to be done about it. This is prima facie evidence of why the Tea Party has been such a useful tool for the rich. Situation: they are angry about the rich being bailed out with TARP. Resolution: they push the government to lower the taxes of the rich.

Gun Rights

On 21 March, Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm applied her usual white and black moral reasoning to an issue that gets far too much serious and careful discussion, Americas 2nd Amendment Must Never Be Compromised—Ever! (That’s right: a grammar error in the headline.) This was especially fun because gun rights is an issue that I have very complex thoughts about. And those thoughts do not fit into any simple box: I side with conservatives on some things and I’m far more extreme than liberals on other things. Avon Patch Savant, of course, makes everything very simple:

  1. Something must be done to stop bad guys from harming good people.
  2. Lucky we have police who are always right.
  3. Sometimes police are not around to kill the bad guys.
  4. We must have guns so we can kill the bad guys.

Deer CrossingShe again goes back to her deer sign point: “‘No gun’ signage is on most schools, malls, banks. Criminals do not seem to read as guns continue to be part of crime.” Now, I understand that as with the deer sign article, she is trying to be cute. But her entire argument is that “bad guys” have guns; all will be well if “good people” are armed so that they can kill the “bad guys.” This goes right long with what seems to be Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm’s guiding philosophy of life: everything is simple. She does not allow that maybe people can’t be neatly categorized as good and bad. Or that a “good guy” with a gun might get mad over something small and end up killing another “good guy.”

Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm Is Typical of the Tea Party

All of her writing reminds me of a 2011 paper from the American Sociological Association that looked at the beliefs of those in the Tea Party movement. The researchers found that Tea Partiers shared four cultural and political dispositions:

  1. Authoritarianism: respondents believe that obedience by children is more important than creativity, and that deference to authority is an important value.
  2. Libertarianism: respondents believe there should not be regulations or limitations on expressions such as clothing, television shows, and musical lyrics.
  3. Fear of change/ontological insecurity: respondents sense that things are changing too fast or too much.
  4. Nativism: respondents hold negative attitudes toward immigrants and immigration.

Wilhelm demostrates three of these tendencies in the articles here. She doesn’t exhibit libertarianism. But I question just how seriously the Tea Partiers are about libertarianism generally—especially given the way the study defines it. They may well associate these kinds of limits with schools and might answer very differently if a Republican were in the White House. Regardless, Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm comes off like a frightened child who wants a grown-up to protect her. And what frightens her: just the modern world with all those people coming into it. Of course, the problem is not that Wilhelm is the way she is; it is that there are tens of millions of people just like her. The more I read her, the less I find her amusing. Now she makes me despair for our society.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Authoritarianism, Fear, and Bigotry from Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm

  1. Who is Black Panther, and why is he threatening voters all by himself? Is he deluded, or extremely powerful? Enquiring minds want to know. This person frightens me.

    I know some ostensible libertarians, and where they’re coming from makes ostensible sense. They loathe liberals as hypocrites (fair enough) and conservatives as neo-Fascists (even fairer.) So they see libertarianism as a rational middle ground.

    Except that it isn’t. The second we acknowledge that I cannot dump poison into my land to kill annoying gophers if your land is right downriver, we’ve left libertarianism behind. Obviously just because I have a gopher problem and you don’t doesn’t give me the right to poison your water. The proper way to deal with this gopher issue is through a mutually accepted system of conflict resolution — or, in simpler terms, government. That’s what government is. It’s an agreement to decide disputes without my raising more peasants to fight you than you can raise peasants to fight me.

    Also — above and beyond Ms. O’Brien Wilhelm’s (pick one; are you Irish or German?) gruesome mangling of grammar (I do the same, but I am not paid by anyone to be a spokesperson for my views) — her headshot is just creepy beyond the telling. It’s nice to try and stay appealing as we get older, but usually that involves keeping ourselves reasonably fit and well-groomed for the SOs who put up with our shit. That photo is like an awful Tammy Fae Baker thing, reeking of desperation and infomercial ploys to convince straight Christian women that their closeted-gay husbands still love them. If they only buy the better new lipstick and get the best new hairdo, they’ll get hubby back into the priapic mood.

    Fucking yuck, ick, ooky.

  2. @JMF – Ouch! You really got on a roll there. I have nothing to add, except that it was amusing.

    As for libertarians, they would claim that they do in fact have a right to pollute anywhere and everywhere. If it affects you, then you can sue them. This is the biggest problem I have with libertarianism: they substitute a reasonable government regulatory system with an unfunded legal system. In practical terms, all it will do is allow the rich and powerful to be above the law.

    Objectively, the best argument against libertarianism is probably the barbarians at the gates. If you have the shining city on the hill, the people living in the mud will eventually make spears and come and destroy your shining city on the hill. I’m sorry, but your bake sale army (because taxes are tyranny) will not be able to save you from Genghis Khan.

    As long as libertarians are high minded college students, they are kind of charming. The moment adult politicians start spouting such crap, it loses all of its charm and becomes nothing but the pernicious garbage it always fundamentally was.

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