WASHINGTON — Is the federal government building secret camps to lock up people who criticize President Barack Obama?
Will it truck off young people to camps to brainwash them into liking Obama's agenda? Are government officials planning to replicate the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, using the guillotine to silence their domestic enemies?
No. The charges, of course, are not true.
However, the accusations are out there, a series of fantastic claims fed by paranoia about the government. They're spread and sometimes cross-pollinated via the Internet. They feed a fringe subset of the anger at the government percolating through the country, one that ignites passion, but also helps Obama's allies to discount broader anger at the president's agenda.
In one, retired FBI agent Ted Gunderson says the government has prepared 1,000 camps for its own citizens. He also says the government has stored 30,000 guillotines to murder its critics, and has stashed 500,000 caskets in Georgia and Montana for the remains.
Why guillotines? "Because," he wrote in a report obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, "beheading is the most efficient means of harvesting body parts."
In a second warning, the Web site Worldnetdaily.com says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents.
Jerome Corsi, the author of "The Obama Nation," an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress "appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany."
Another Web site, Americanfreepress.net, says the proposal "would create a Guantanamo-style setting after martial law is declared."
There's no evidence of such a plan.
In truth, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., has proposed a bill that would order the Homeland Security Department to prepare national emergency centers — to provide temporary housing and medical facilities in national emergencies such as hurricanes. The bill also would allow the centers to be used to train first responders, and for "other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security."
In another ominous warning, a group called the Oathkeepers boasts that it wouldn't cooperate if the government orders dissidents locked up.
"We will NOT obey any order to force American citizens into any form of detention camps under any pretext," the group says in its list of top principles.
Oathkeepers is built around the idea that its members — active and retired military, police and firefighters — all have taken an oath to defend the Constitution, not the federal government.
Whether inspired by the group or not, the message of loyalty to the Constitution has been heard in many of the angry protests in town hall meetings this summer against a proposed health care overhaul — often side by side with the suggestion that the health care proposal is unconstitutional.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., also is worried about the federal government and children, saying a bill expanding the AmeriCorps volunteer service could lead to mandatory camps for young people.
"There is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service," Bachmann told a Minnesota radio station.
"And the real concern is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."
ON THE WEB
MORE FROM MCCLATCHY
For more McClatchy politics coverage visit: Planet Washington
McClatchy Newspapers 2009