Friday, January 31, 2020

#2302: Steve Stockman

Stephen Ernest Stockman was the U.S. Representative for Texas’s 9th congressional district from 1995 to 1997 and for Texas’s 36th congressional district (Texas “is becoming the last bastion” of freedom in the country,” said Stockman) from 2013 to 2015. He is currently in jail.

His tenure was marked by extreme wingnuttery, in particular concering gun rights (an actual Stockman campaign bumper sticker read: “If babies had guns they wouldn’t be aborted”), combined with conspiracy theories (e.g. this one) and a generally poor grasp of reason, reality and basic decency. There is a good summary of some of his political and personal antics here. No one should really have been surprised when he was arrested and found guilty on 23 felony counts in 2018, including conspiring to use contributions designated for a charity to fund his campaign and for personal use, money laundering, as well as mail and wire fraud.

Conspiracy theories
In 1995, for instance, Stockman wrote an article for Guns & Ammo claiming that the Waco siege was a false-flag operation orchestrated by the Clinton administration “to prove the need for a ban on so-called ‘assault weapons.’” According to Stockman, “[h]ad Bill Clinton really been unhappy with what Attorney General Janet Reno ordered, he would not only have fired her, he would have had Reno indicted for premeditated murder.” A little later Stockman came under some fire for participating on a holocaust-denialist radio show run by pro-militia conspiracy theorist group called the Liberty Lobby. Stockman denied that the show was was anti-Semitic; the ADL “said that because they talk against ‘international bankers that means they’re against Jewish folks,” he told Jewish Week; “I don’t agree.” Besides, Stockman should be off the hook because his own staff included “a Christian Jewish person.”

In 2013 Stockman referred to President Obama’s re-election as a “scam” and suggested that the president won due to voter fraud in the uncontested Democratic primary.

In a letter on behalf of the National Association for Gun Rights, Stockman alleged, completely without evidence, of course, that President Obama was working with the United Nations to implement gun “confiscation on a global scale” and an “international gun registry.” Stockman famously once organized an AR-15 giveaway. Meanwhile, immigration reform is a tool “to destroy America, and the 2013 Senate reform bill a “joke” that will “destroy our country” and bring down the GOP.

In 2014 Stockman also claimed that Obama had laid the groundwork for using the Ebola outbreak to have “emergency powers to take over control of the economy and everything” and speculated that the president might intentionally slow the government response to Ebola in order to create a crisis situation that he could exploit to become a dictator. Stockman also claimed that the U.S. is faking the military campaign against IS and was instead instigating a conflict bigger than World War II, presumably for the same reasons.

Education (and conspiracy theories)
In 1995, Stockman called for a Congressional investigation into Alfred Kinsey’s 1948 study “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” after having learnt that Kinsey had used data from the diary of a pedophile for research purposes. Stockman, not really understanding how research works, believed the allegations discredited all current theories of sexual education in the United States, writing that “[o]ur children have been taught that ... any type of sex is a valid outlet for their emotions. They are taught that the problem with sex is not that it is wrong to engage in homosexual, bestial, underage, or premarital sex, but that it is wrong to do so without protection.” We are willing to believe Stockman really has no clue about what sex-ed is. Unsurprisingly, he got his information from Judith Reisman.

Stockman twenty years later apparently had no more clue about education. In 2013, he latched onto a chain email conspiracy theory about the CSCOPE curriculum, which ostensibly promoted Islam, Communism and anti-Americanism. The charges were ridiculous, but wingnuts, including Stockman, ran with it and even linked it to President Obama. Stockman’s campaign literature asked his followers to stand with Stockman “to fight stop [sic] President Obama’s radical take over [sic] of our Texas Schools.” Yes, there are two typos in his one-sentence statement about education.

Miscellaneous (and conspiracy theories)
Stockman has toyed with birtherism, based on thoroughly debunked conspiracy theories, claiming for instance as that Obama might have a “fraudulent” birth certificate and thinking that he was listed as a “foreign student” at Columbia. Perhaps the most notable element of Stockman’s forays into birtherism, were the hoops he attempted to navigate through while trying to argue that whereas Obama was ineligible for being president, he had no problem with Ted Cruz – who was actually, demonstrably and uncontroversially born abroad – being eligible (the attempts weren't that serious; Stockman doesn’t really have great concerns about consistency).

Here is Stockman talking about fascism, arguing that “we do have some fascism” in America due to “government intervention” in the economy, such as the GM bailout. He does not have the faintest clue what “fascism” means, of course. (Nor “treason”.) It may give some clue to where he is coming from to know that he also thought that a group of activists that advocate for getting rid of the influence of money in our political system and who were planning a series of sit-ins in DC in 2016 were thereby trying to “enslave an entire nation.”

Stockman has also enjoyed a bit of a career as an anti-climate-science activist. It is not particularly surprising, but remember that Stockman was, for a while, a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. As a member of the committee, Stockman complained that he “can’t get answers” on how long it would take for the sea level to rise two feet: “Think about it, if your ice cube melts in your glass, it doesn’t overflow. It’s displacement. This is some of the things that they’re talking about that mathematically and scientifically don’t make sense.” No, he doesn’t have the faintest clue how any of this works.

There is a fine Steve Stockman resource here.

Diagnosis: Proud and true gohmert. Probably neutralized, but there are plenty of deranged criminals and conspiracy theorists ready to take his place, and the good people of (parts of) Texas do seem to love them.

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