I saw references to the Agenda 21 boogieman first on Facebook, in updates from a college acquaintance whose shop had been destroyed by the tornado last year. She was all up in arms about how the UN was gonna steal everyone’s land, and FEMA was in on it, and it was a giant plot, and RON PAUL RON PAUL RON PAUL WILL SAVE US, etc.
I wrote her off as a crank. Now it seems increasingly clear that some elements on the right, or within the Tea Party, are absolutely spreading these weird misconceptions about loss of local sovereignty as a means of riling up their base against projects designed to preserve green spaces, increase bike usage, and other completely reasonable steps generally seen as increasing livability and decreasing pollution. The point is not so much to preserve the status quo (though that’s surely part of it) as it is to distract the Tea Party dingbats from something that might actually matter, like lobbying.
Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy. They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation routes and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities.
Many are suspicious of environmental initiatives. Ed Elswick, a county supervisor, voiced criticism at last month’s meeting. They are showing up at planning meetings to denounce bike lanes on public streets and smart meters on home appliances — efforts they equate to a big-government blueprint against individual rights.
In Maine, the Tea Party-backed Republican governor canceled a project to ease congestion along the Route 1 corridor after protesters complained it was part of the United Nations plot. Similar opposition helped doom a high-speed train line in Florida. And more than a dozen cities, towns and counties, under new pressure, have cut off financing for a program that offers expertise on how to measure and cut carbon emissions.
It’s the same weird song-and-dance I saw on Facebook, writ large. Some doofus went to Tuscaloosa spreading this bullshit last spring, and hooked lots of scared people in the wake of the tornado, as part of an overall strategy of (as MeFi put it) getting people to worry about the wrong things. It’s classic misdirection, craven and cynical at its core, and unfortunately very, very effective with unsophisticated voters.
Since that’s most American voters, we are, of course, completely fucking doomed.