If you feel the ground shaking under your feet that is because the United States is about to be swallowed up into the bowels of Hell as the U.S. Senate takes up climate legislation.

Or so Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin would have you believe.

These and other right-wing “pundits” lost their tenuous grasp on reality in June when the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass historic clean energy jobs legislation.

They and their followers are now crusading against House members who voted for the bill; and against Senators who will take up the bill next. That’s right, they have followers – a right-wing base organized by some very familiar right-wing characters. But I’ll come back to that in a minute.

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Among the most unhinged of the commentators has been the venerable Rush Limbaugh.  According to this host, the Waxman-Markey legislation should be called “Madoff-Waxman-Markey” because “this bill is a con game.”  You can see the Dittohead in Chief bloviate here courtesy of our friends at Media Matters.

In case you think Rush was alone in being off his rocker in comparing some of America’s most visionary lawmakers with the nation’s most notorious financial crook, check out Mr. Sensitivity, Glenn Beck’s rantings.

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Beck suggests that lawmakers and the mainstream media have somehow colluded to use the death of Michael Jackson (!) to keep the public’s attention off climate change.   I promise you that we are not making this up:

“… it pays for everyone to be extra-vigilant.  Who stands to benefit from cap and trade? Why do we need to do it now? What does a ‘green banking center’ have to do with cooling the Earth?  And, most importantly, is there still a chance to stop this insanity in the Senate or will our politicians there simply wait for the next celebrity death before once again convening in the middle of the night to sell America out to highest bidder?”

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This kind of insidious attack of the undead may not have been what Michael Jackson had in mind when he recorded “Thriller,” but we certainly should thank Glenn Beck’s talent for sniffing out this shocking conspiracy.

Over in another alternate version of reality, Michelle Malkin has been huffing and puffing about the “8 cap-and-tax Republican” turncoats in the U.S. House.   For the impressionable owners of assault rifles, blasting caps and large quantities of fertilizer, Malkin also conveniently provides a classic “WANTED:  DEAD OR ALIVE”-style poster:

No word yet from Malkin on whether these Republicans will get their “fair trial” before or, more likely, after they put in front of the firing squad.  

Now members of the House who voted for the bill – and Senators who will be voting on it next – are hearing from the Dittoheads and their friends, including the “Tea Party Patriots.”

You remember them, right? The supposedly grassroots, spontaneous demonstrators who held tea-parties to protest taxes last April 15th. Yes, its coming back now – the very parties that Jon Stewart’s Daily Show pointed out were fueled by Fox News, which promoted the events and provided nationwide coverage of them. Fox’s Glenn Beck was one of the most ardent promoters of the tea party events, even holding a $500-a-plate fundraiser to support the efforts.

Anyway, Beck, Fox News, the tea-baggers and others are at it again, urging their followers to let Congress know how they feel about the climate bill. Of course, it would be fair to wonder which of those followers are actually voters, when they are just calling through the lists that national blowhards and others put on-screen on or websites.

But hey – why wonder? As Kate Sheppard reported in Grist, members of Congress would do well to adopt a very skeptical stance when taking phone calls:

“When you write or call, please make sure you are armed with a city name and zip code in the home state of the Senator you are calling. They may not want to hear from you without this information. You can decline to give further personal information.”

What other tactics might some callers try out? During a quick scan of Twitter’s #capandtax thread I came across this advice one user suggests for calls to senators: “Why call 1X when u can call 2X? or 3 or 4 times;)RT.” (RT meaning ‘retweet,’ or pass this suggestion on.)

But these kinds of shady tactics seem to be part and parcel with this lot. In fact, the “tea party” movement is not as spontaneous as its organizers would like you to think. It isn’t quite Astroturf – since the partiers are real humans, after all. But it isn’t really grassroots, either, since it didn’t crop up naturally. I think of it as a grass-sod network: right wing funders and organizations planted it and now water and fertilize it.

Chris Good explained the origin of the tea-party thing in The Atlantic when the parties first happened:

“Here is the organizational landscape of the April 15 tea party movement, in a nutshell: three national-level conservative groups, all with slightly different agendas, are guiding it. All are quick to tell you that the movement is a bottom-up affair and that its grassroots cred is real. They are: FreedomWorks, the conservative action group led by Dick Armey; dontGO, a tech savvy free-market action group that sprang out of last August’s oil-drilling debate in the House of Representatives; and Americans for Prosperity, an issue advocacy/activist group based on free market principles. Conservative bloggers, talk show hosts, and other media figures have attached themselves to the movement in peripheral capacities.”

(Don’t forget that Americans for Prosperity is a front-group funded by members of the Koch family, oil and chemical barons that have a history of funding astro-turf efforts to protect their interests. And that Koch has been actively supporting groups that attack the climate bill.) 

And guess what? FreedomWorks is still behind the movement – and clearly behind the turnout of tea party people at recent 4th of July parades.

Its hard not to notice something else – the Club for Growth is behind this as well.

So, the next time you are tempted to scoff at right-wing critics of responsible action on clean energy and green jobs, remember this: They may sound ridiculous to you, but there’s an audience out there for this malarkey. And that audience is being advised to deliberately lie about their identities in order to mislead members of Congress into thinking they are hearing from constituents. And when you look at the groups behind the effort, well … it comes back to some of the same old interests that still don’t want the US to move forward to a future with clean energy and green jobs.

This post originally appeared on Switchboard.