Anyone who is worried that America’s reservoirs of paranoia, vitriol, racism, and ignorance might be running dry need only click on a website called ConservativeByte.com to set their minds at ease. Just take a look at the comments below a recent article that purported to prove that Democrats “are all Marxists, or Marxist leaning….big government totalitarians hell-bent on destroying America, the Constitution, and our way of life.” “We need to change the watermellon [sic] patch to the hanging garden,” one reader declares.“Communisim [sic] is a Jewish invention,” another chimes in. “Marx, Ingles [sic] , Stalin all were Jews. This system has failled [sic] every where it been tried. So why can’t these dope heads figure this out?”
Of course all websites generate a certain amount of heat in their comment sections. Anyone who thinks the right has a monopoly on flaming doesn’t read the Daily Kos. What makes Conservative Byte so interesting is the brand of Christian right wing activism that its founder Brandon Vallorani espouses.
At first glance, ConservativeByte is a merely another news aggregator with a deeply right wing bias—sort of a low rent, reactionary Huffington Post. On its “About” page, it describes itself as “meant to give you what you need to know to counter the liberals you come into contact with….Each day you’ll be able to see the latest conservative bits from various sources that will keep you informed with where we are in restoring the freedom that our founding fathers set up in our country.”
But a little digging turns up a deeper agenda, one that hearkens back to the early 1970s and the ministries of Rousas John Rushdoony and Francis Schaefer, the two spearheads of ‘Christian Reconstruction’, which the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report defines as “the idea that the U.S. was founded as a ‘Christian nation’ and that its democracy should be replaced with a theocratic government based on Old Testament law.” Because of the associations of some prominent Republican office-seekers, Reconstructionism has been very much in the headlines these past few weeks.
Reconstructionism is also sometimes called Dominionism. “Certain journalists,” The Washington Post’s Lisa Miller recently wrote, “use ‘dominionist’ the way some folks on Fox News use the word ‘sharia.’ Its strangeness scares people. Without history or context, the word creates a siege mentality in which ‘we’ need to guard against ‘them.’” Writing in The Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg provided some of that context when she quoted George Grant, the former executive director of Coral Ridge Ministries, which has since changed its name to Truth in Action Ministries: “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ—to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness….But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice … It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time … World conquest.”
No matter what it’s called, Reconstructionism is an extreme ideology, too extreme for many otherwise right wing Christians—so extreme that even Ralph Reed, the former Executive Director of the Christian Coalition, called it “an authoritarian ideology that threatens the most basic civil liberties of a free and democratic society” in his book Active Faith, warning the “pro-family movement” to “unequivocally dissociate itself from Reconstructionism and other efforts to use the government to impose biblical law through direct political action.”
Which brings us back to Conservative Byte and its founder. Brandon Vallorani is a very busy man. For one thing, he holds a full time job as Executive Director of American Vision, whose website touts its mission as “Restoring America’s Biblical Foundation from Genesis to Revelation.” American Vision’s founder and President is Gary De Mar. In Christian Reconstruction: What it Is, What it Isn’t, a book he co-authored with Gary North, he argued that “Mosaic case laws” should provide the standard by which “individuals, families, churches, and civil governments should conduct their affairs.” In keeping with that ideal, De Mar has expressed the view that the occasional sodomite should be executed, not only because that’s the Biblically mandated punishment, but because it would have the salutary effect of driving “the perversion of homsexuality back underground, back into the closet.” De Mar has also said that one of his long-term goals is seeing capital punishment imposed on both abortionists and their patients. For these and other reasons, the SPLC designated American Vision as a hate group.
Before he went to work for De Mar and American Vision, Vallorani was the Executive Vice President of Kenn Ham’s Creationist group Answers in Genesis America, best known outside of Fundamentalist circles for its Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, which depicts cave men and dinosaurs living in harmony. Conservative Bytes isn’t Vallorani’s only sideline. He is the CEO and co-founder (with Raymond Vallorani, his father) of Tolle Lege Press, which publishes its own edition of the 1599 Geneva Bible as well as various bible commentaries, and a webstore called The Christian Read. He is the founder of Cowboy Byte, which keeps “the cowboy in all of us apprised on what the mass media does not inform us on. The effects of bills passed regarding our air, water, food supply. We need to be informed on govenment [sic] handling of our right to bear arms and protect ourselves.”
Vallorani serves on the Executive Board of the Nicene Council, whose founder, Jerry Johnson, has argued that real Christians should regard the government as the illegitimate captive of socialists and the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia as a “conspiracy” and an anti-Christian coup d’etat, in which “We the People” usurped “The Great Governor of the World.”
Another of Vallorani’s current events websites, Patriot Update: The Free Press of the Conservative Revolution, features syndicated columns from such right wing stalwarts as Michelle Malkin, Thomas Sowell, Chuck Norris, Dick Morris, Floyd Brown, and Michael Reagan, contributions from its own staff, and stories that “meet our ideals of accurate reporting and authentic journalism.” “Vicki Goes to Washington” is a collaboration between Vallorani, Gary De Mar, and the former Saturday Night Live star Victoria Jackson, who has been forging a new career for herself as a speaker at Tea Party events. Zionica.com features news stories that relate to the “trials and triumphs of Christianity” and “the advancement of God’s Kingdom on earth”; iPatriot is a social network, a kind of Facebook where rabid right wingers can forge connections and share ideas. Pit Grit.com is about stock car racing, and last but not least is Vision to America, which was co-founded by De Mar and Vallorani to “to help America return to our Founding Father’s vision for a Christian Republic.”
Vallorani’s new media empire might not amount to very much in terms of page views, intellectual content, or influence—it certainly doesn’t garner the attention that Red State, the Drudge Report, Breitbart.com, NewsMax, WorldNetDaily, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, or the National Review Online do. But both the company he keeps and the thoroughly anti-Constitutional tenor of his ideas are disquieting, not to mention the sanguinary tendencies of some of his readers. Under an August 28 post about the alleged radical Islamic infliltration of the White House, a reader who calls him or herself “I Hate Libs,” the first of more than 500 commentors, wrote “Kill them All!!!!!!”
It’s a good thing these people are Christians. Otherwise I might be scared.