Treatment for a first episode in bad made-for-TV miniseries:
It's 2011. As credits roll in the opening, scenes of lines at soup kitchens, tent cities, a radio newcast voiceover describes a food riot in Miami, survivalists in a firefight with mobile marauders in the Northwest, another voiceover editorializes about the failure of the Obama administration's economic policy.
Opening Scene: Pakistan, room in a walled compound in middle of bustling city. Bin Laden is talking to his closest advisors: he exults in having succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He talks about his attack on 9/11 as the match that set the played-out American system ablaze like a California forest fire in August. He sees now that 9/11 gave the the corrupt infidels running the American system all the slack they needed to rob the country blind and to run the country into the ground. This would reveal to the world America's true face. This is what he hoped for, but he admits to those he's speaking to, he could not have imagined that it would be so easy.
Second Scene: Oklahoma City--A heavily armed militia group with about 168 members has just invaded and taken over the rebuilt Federal Building. They've evacuated all the workers, and now the building is surrounded by FBI attempting to negotiate their surrender. Their leader gives an interview to Fox News in which he gives a long speech about how Obama is a communist who seeks to destroy everything that is pure and true about America. Fox News analysts debate the legitimacy of his ideas. Limbaugh on his show condemns the takeover, but makes it clear that these are misguided patriots who are speaking a truth America doesn't want to hear.
The militia men have set explosives all around the building, so that if any SWAT Team attacks, it will trigger the destruction of the building. They want the building to be blown up, they want to die, and they want the symbolism to be clear to everyone--the Federal Government is the enemy. They want their martyrdom to heighten the contradictions, as the leftists used to say, they want to start a nationwide insurrection that will provoke the government to declare martial law, suspend habeas corpus, and posse comitatus. They want this to be the Fort Sumter of the Second American Civil War.
Third Scene: White House Situation room--Obama and advisors debating. Obama makes it clear that he doesn't want these people to be martyred. Everything must be done to capture them alive and to prevent the building from being blown up, even if it means waiting several weeks.
Fourth Scene: A rogue national guard unit led by Lt. Gen. Terry Doykin from a nearby military base in collusion with the the militia rolls into the city, forcibly pushes aside the FBI, and attacks the building causing it to disappear in a fireball. The TV footage shows the American military attacking and causing the conflagration, right-wing radio erupts blaming the Obama administration for ordering this attack. Republican senators denounce the rash acts of a bloodthirsty president who seeks to violently eliminate his political enemies.
Fifth Scene: Quick Cuts to scenes around in the south and mountain west: In a coordinated actions, militia and rogue national guard units move in and take over government buildings that symbolize federal power.
Jonah Goldberg on The Daily Show claims he predicted this kind of fascistic behavior in his 2008 book. Andrew Sullivan on the Maher show demands the Obama government restore order. Greenwald on the Maddow show has a brain freeze and is speechless. Olbermann gives an incoherent 20-minute special comment that nobody can understand.
Sixth Scene: Situation Room-- Some members screaming for the imposition of martial law. Others argue against. Obama listens. Joint Chiefs head cannot say who in Northcom is loyal and who sympathizes with the militias. White House Counsel Craig argues that the executive must use his powers to preserve the government. Secy. Clinton notes the irony that Obama might be forced by the vast right-wing conspiracy to use all the tools created by the Bush administration to become the autocrat the left feared would emerge from the right.
To be continued--end of miniseries episode 1.
Unlike the writers at "Lost", I haven't figured out how this series is going to end. I'll leave it to a real screenwriter to finish the job.
UPDATE: I see that Greenwald has a post up by coincidence today talking about militias and civil war. Must be something in the water. I wasn't aware of the Glenn Beck nonsense earlier this week until reading Greenwald's blog Sunday afternoon.
How seriously should we take these people? I'm not sure, but I think we cannot just shrug them off as fringe cranks. Greenwald gets it right. The mindset that has these people in its grip has been around since forever, and Hofstadter talked about them 45 years ago in his book The Paranoid Style in American Politics. The difference now is that even though they are still a minority, they are well funded, well organized, and they have a media megaphone they didn't have fifty years ago.
I seriously doubt that a scenario like the one I depicted above will ever happen, but we are foolish to underestimate the threat these true believers pose, especially in an economically stressed environment. Do they have grievances that can be sanely adjudicated? I don't know how they can be. They are like a Taliban-like religious cult that wants not just to be left alone, but to dominate in the American political sphere.