Legislating Paranoia

Image of Patrick Anderson

One of the first kooky pieces of legislation to get introduced for the next session of the Oklahoma Legislature is a typical and unoriginal conservative rant against the United Nations.

State Sen. Patrick Anderson, an Enid Republican, has introduced Senate Bill 23, which, if signed into law, would prohibit Oklahoma from adopting any recommendations from Agenda 21, a United Nations’ nonbinding measure focused on fostering sustainability and decreasing poverty. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1992 at its Conference on the Environment and Development in Brazil and endorsed by then President George H.W. Bush, also a Republican.

Agenda 21 has no power of law, but tell that to Anderson. This is from his bill:

This state and all political subdivisions shall not adopt or implement policy recommendations that deliberately or inadvertently infringe or restrict private property rights without due process, as may be required by policy recommendations originating in, or traceable to "Agenda 21" adopted by the United Nations in 1992 at its Conference on Environment and Development or any other international law or ancillary plan of action that contravenes the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of this state.

Let’s be clear: Agenda 21 could never contravene the Constitution of the United States because it merely recommends policies. It would definitely take government action within the United States and by United States’ citizens to “restrict property rights without due process.” Any claim otherwise is simply ludicrous and ridiculously paranoid.

Anderson told the media he’s worried how Agenda 21 could dictate federal policy when it comes to land use in Oklahoma, but that’s simply impossible or too generic in any legal sense to make any sense. For example, Agenda 21 promotes walkable communities. Oklahoma City has been building sidewalks and promoting walking. Federal money was recently used to build sidewalk ramps here. Does that mean the city, helped by the federal government, has adopted an Agenda 21 policy?

The anti-Agenda 21 movement backed by the floundering Tea Party—Anderson is definitely NOT being original here—has already reached several states, including Kansas and Alabama, which have passed similar legislation. The John Birch Society, an ultra-conservative organization, has a Stop Agenda 21 project, which claims the measure “seeks for the government to curtail your freedom to travel as you please, own a gas-powered car, live in suburbs or rural areas, and raise a family.”

The organized movement against Agenda 21 is similar to the birther movement that claims President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Both are based on paranoia, fantasy and ideology. Some of their most fervent adherents should be considered mentally ill. I’m not saying that about Anderson, but one birther activist, Field Searcy, told a group of Georgia legislators that “Obama and the U.N. are using ‘mind control’ to implement Agenda 21 and [.. .] the alleged plot was similar to genocide programs promoted by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Chinese leader Mao Zedong.” Does Anderson believe this? Don’t count on the Oklahoma corporate media to hold him accountable.

Don’t Anderson and his fellow Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature have better things to do than to engage in fantastical conjecture? Anderson’s legislation is frivolous and inane. Its real intent is to promote needless paranoia, as if it needed more, among the GOP base here.

The legislative session begins Feb. 4. If Anderson’s bill is any indication, we’re in for another bizarre spectacle.