Last week's chaotic, tragicomic public debate at the Ross Jewish Community Center in West Boynton Beach -- "Should Jews Vote for Obama or Romney?" -- featured two distinct styles of advocacy for Jewish support of the GOP. One comes from delusional innocence, the other from calculated malevolence.
Team Romney -- retired NYC high school Principal Alan Bergstein and professional Islamophobe/self-styled defender of Western Civilization Tom Trento -- served up a menu of conspiracy-mongering and ethnic stereotyping.
Fire Ant's previous column dissected Bergstein and found him more sad sack than firebrand, a man lost in cerebral miasma. Trento is more practiced and polished, a charlatan and a fascist in the classic style -- ultranationalistic, militaristic, paranoid, and with a totalitarian worldview that filters and distorts the least glimmer of objective reality.
A well-traveled salesman of political snake oil, Trento has segued through the years from crackpot science through zygote rights to crackpot geopolitics.
Though a longtime Delray Beach resident, Trento in the early '90s headed a Denver-based outfit called Christian Research Associates, which peddled "young earth creation science" in the Rocky Mountain states and worked to restrict poor women's access to abortion.
As he grew increasingly active in Florida, where the blithering idiocy of creationism finds less fertile soil, Trento dropped the no-monkeys shtick and zeroed in on the cause of state intervention in women's medical decisions. Post-2001, Muslim-bashing became more marketable, so in 2007, CRA changed its name to Security Research Associates, and in 2010, it began to do business as the United West ("Uniting Western Civilization for Freedom & Liberty").
A good dose of Trento's current swill can be found in his "national security briefing" at a meeting of the
White Citizen's Council Highlands Tea Party at Homers [sic] Original Smorgasbord in Sebring last April. Trento predicts that if Obama wins reelection, "Islam and its irresistible force and its control of world oil within ten years will indeed control the world" and that the caliphate to come will have U.S. hq in Chicago. ("Home of who?" he asks.)
Why? Something to do with Obama's youthful indocrination at the hands of secular humanists, communists, and situational ethicists, an argument Trento bolsters with a good hour's worth of dubious factoids and far-fetched speculation and which his gullible audience devours. (As philosopher Hannah Arendt observed in her masterwork Origins of Totalitarianism, "Society is always prone to accept a person offhand for what he pretends to be, so that a crackpot posing as a genius always has a certain chance to be believed.")
1) Obama's biological father (the real one, not the one named on the phony birth certificate) was a "documented sex pervert." The story "is yet to unfold," Trento promises.
2) Obama is "a doctrinaire communist," as opposed to a "card-carrying Communist."
3) Obama is "technically a Muslim," since his father (bogus father? actual, "sex pervert" father?) was a Muslim.
4) Obama "owns the Occupy movement."
5) Obama's Harvard law degree was underwritten with money from Saudi Arabia.
6) The Democratic National Convention meets in Charlotte this year as a payoff for North Carolina's electoral votes. "All this stuff is planned," Trento assures the faithful.
Trento's website claims that he has "earned degrees in Law Enforcement and Philosophy and Theology" (whether that's two, or three degrees is unclear -- he told the Highlands Tea Party he studied at Moody Bible Institute) and that he "was awarded the Carnegie Hero Medal Award for saving a man from a burning car." The Carnegie Hero Fund claims to rigorously verify its awards.
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Trento's organization plays a shell game with IRS regulations.
Security Research Associates has tax-exempt, nonprofit, 501(c)3 status. But federal law "absolutely" prohibits such groups from "making public statements of position... in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office." Trento's anti-Obama and pro-Romney electioneering takes place in the guise of the United West, but the groups are virtually indistinguishable. The United West fliers describe the group as a Security Research Associates d/b/a and instructs contributors to make checks out to Security Research Associates.
The IRS website also notes that "As part of its examination program, the IRS also monitors whether organizations are complying with the [electioneering] prohibition." That may be, as Trento might say, another "story yet to unfold."
Fire Ant is an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite. He covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.