Monday, September 13, 2010

Got -Milk- Hate?

Volksverhetzung (German: "incitement of popular hatred") now has become a cottage industry in the Land O'The Free and the Home O'The Stupid. And yet, this land of intermarriage provides us with a Dumbo/Teabagger celebrity who is married to a Muslim! Nonetheless, free speech be damned! The Dumbos and the Teabaggers howl at the moon and their howls are a new form of pollution. If this is a (fair & balanced) call for mass-glossectomies, so be it.

[Vannevar Bush Hyperlink — Bracketed NumbersDirectory]
[1] "Manufacturing Hate" — Professor Teresa Ghilarducci
[2] "GOP Islamophobia" — Joltin' Joe Conason

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[x Cronk Review]
On Manufacturing Hate: Remembering 9/11
By Teresa Ghilarducci

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On the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and 50-some days before the midterm elections, hate-filled rallies at the World Trade Center site, and elsewhere, were staged against the “Ground Zero mosque.” The New York rally was organized by right-wing blogger, author of Obama Adminstration’s War on America. And the keynote speaker was Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders who supports banning the Koran and elsewhere has described Islam as not a religion, but as “the ideology of a retarded culture.” Nice memorial to 9/11 victims, right?

Media Matters gives a longer, depressing litany of intolerant quotes from anti-mosque commentators, and their intention is clear. They are exploiting 9/11 to create political advantage in the upcoming fall elections, based on fear during this time of great economic upheaval. Fear and hate is a tested and sadly, all too often, effective tactic that wins elections.

All of the usual distortions were part of the rallies:

1. Misrepresentation of facts (it is not a “mosque,” but a cultural center; it is not “at” Ground Zero but several blocks away, in an area currently shared with pizza parlors and porn shops).

2. The invocation of closed-minded absolutist religious views—the certainty that their version of Christianity is correct, as well as their distorted views of Islam.

3. Their explicit desire to break down one of America’s greatest political historic achievements—religious tolerance. (This is an achievement that always needs protecting—among many, many examples, Georgetown University was formed because Catholics were not admitted to Harvard and Yale.)

These 9/11 rallies add hate to fear: hate towards Muslims or those who support their exercise of constitutional rights, and fear evoked by the 9/11 terror.

These spectacles are a part of a larger ideological assault. Recently, Glenn Beck held a religious festival at the Lincoln Memorial to simultaneously take over the memory of both Abraham Lincoln (who recommended behaving “with malice towards none, with charity for all”) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (who supported national health care, massive reductions in military spending, and redistribution of income to the poor). Beck held off on his usual invective for that one day, but returned to form the next day, presenting his own distorted interpretation of Obama’s religious and political beliefs, and then claiming “It's a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it.”

As I watched this theater of fear and hate; I remembered a day when I felt deeply patriotic. In August 2009, after Senator Edward Kennedy died, his coffin was flown from Boston to Washington for burial at Arlington Cemetery. The funeral cortege stopped on the way, at the U.S. Capitol, where the public and hundreds and hundreds of former Kennedy staffers had gathered on the steps of the East Front to pay their respects.

It was broiling hot that day in D.C., and the funeral procession was very late in arriving; you could see people affected by their sweat and fatigue. Surprisingly, you could hear coming from the staffer crowd a muffled, then loud and clear “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful.” I confirmed from my friend who was there that the song just started somewhere among the group, and within a few lines, everyone was singing. My friend felt good singing, moved by the powerful emotions, but later angry that Senator Kennedy’s patriotism—as well as that of liberals and progressives—was, and are still, attacked by conservatives. “I’m sick of these right-wingers lecturing me on how to be patriotic,” he fumed.

So on this day after 9/11, memorialize the people who died on 9/11 —Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and others. And work hard to defend a tolerant and diverse America: a core value at the beginning. George Washington memorably described it in a letter to a Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, envisioning an America where “every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Washington’s words challenge the hate and division on view yesterday and throughout the campaigning: “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.” Ω

[Teresa Ghilarducci is Professor of Economics and holds the Bernard L. and Irene Schwartz Chair in Economic Policy Analysis and teaches economic-policy analysis at the New School for Social Research. Her books include When I'm Sixty Four: The Plot Against Pensions and the Plan to Save Them. Ghilarducci received both an A.B. and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California-Berkeley.]

Copyright © 2010 The Chronicle of Higher Education
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Why The GOP Embraced Islamophobia
By Joe Conason

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Only a few years ago, an angry political demonstration at ground zero on September 11 would have been deemed an unthinkable offense not only to the bereaved families of victims and responders but to the nation. Yet this anniversary featured a raucous and highly partisan rally, as well over a thousand protesters gathered to show their opposition to the Park51 Islamic center — and to listen to tirades from Republican politicians and commentators against the Obama administration.

More than a flaky Florida pastor’s cancelled threat to burn the Quran (or the actual scattered torchings that took place the same day), the ground zerio rally answered the question posed repeatedly over the past few weeks: Why are millions of Americans suddenly caught up in a torrent of fear and fury over Islam so strong that both the president and the commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan have warned of deadly consequences? What motivates the outpouring of rancor against Muslims, especially in the conservative media? How did they escape until now?

The answer is that until the advent of the Obama presidency, Republicans had no reason to scapegoat Muslims or demonize Islam — and indeed, they could not have inflamed those prejudices without damaging their own leaders, especially George W. Bush.

Evidence of the blatantly partisan character of the current anti-Muslim campaign can be found everywhere — on Fox News Channel, cable channel of the GOP; in the latest excrescence of Newt Gingrich and David Bossie; and in the roster of speakers at Saturday's "no mosque" rally, which featured a video message from John Bolton, the Bush administration’s former ambassador to the United Nations.

The presence of Bolton is telling because he served a president who articulated precisely the same benign view of Islam — which Bush famously described as a religion of peace — as his successor. But the political and cultural messaging that Republicans and conservatives accepted quietly from Bush is today considered tantamount to treason when promoted by Obama.

Certainly the years since 9/11 have seen a growing hostility to Islam on the right, not only among evangelicals and Christian Zionists but in other wings of conservatism as well. From time to time, the issue of Muslim influence within the United States and on American foreign policy has been debated among conservatives. Books denouncing Islamist aggression — and conflating "Islamofascism" with the faith itself — have reached a broad audience on the right. But the expression of those views was usually muted or ignored by the most important institutions and media organizations on the right until January 2009.

Consider the case of Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, lobbyist and organizer who has long been among the most influential figures on the American right. As long ago as 2003, Norquist (who is married to a Muslim woman) became the target of harsh criticism by conservative defense analyst Frank Gaffney over his connections with American Muslim leaders, including some accused of links with foreign terrorist groups. The most troubling accusation made by Gaffney and echoed in National Review and elsewhere was that Norquist had compromised the Bush White House and the Republican Party by introducing extremely unsavory Muslim leaders into their midst.

Norquist denied those charges and accused his critics in turn of racism and bigotry, expelling Gaffney from the fabled weekly meeting of powerful conservative and Republican leaders that still occurs every Wednesday in his Washington offices. (In fact, his reputation suffered much worse damage over his close association with crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff than over his supposed truckling to Islamists.)

Back then, Gaffney admitted that Norquist was only a minor player in the Bush White House and its alleged sympathy toward what he identified then as “Wahhabist” or radical Islamist elements both in the United States and abroad. “I think the role that [Norquist] has played personally in this effort of behalf of Wahhabi-sympathetic and supported institutions is an important one, but it’s a bit role,” he said. Norquist was a side show, according to Gaffney, while the “main show” was the Bush administration’s continuing engagement with Muslim groups that he and others had identified as jihadist or radical.

Gaffney’s challenge to Norquist received attention on the right, but his critique of the Bush White House was essentially ignored. Norquist continued to play a powerful role on the right — hosting a debate between candidates for Republican National Committee chair last year, for instance. And the Muslim-bashing faction that had attacked him was relegated to the sidelines, notably when Pamela Geller, impresario of yesterday’s anti-mosque demonstration, was barred from hosting an official panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Three years ago, very few conservatives would have worked with her or echoed her message.

All that has changed since the inauguraton of a president whose middle name is Hussein and whose father was Muslim, because he provides a central focus for a politicized campaign against Islam. Since January 2009, Norquist has again become a target of critics on the right. Bush himself has remained silent, perhaps preferring not to revive the dormant controversy over his own relationships with the Saudi kingdom and with Muslim groups here. Figures such as Bolton and Gingrich, who never spoke out about Islam during the Bush administration, have discovered that Muslims pose an existential threat to Western civilization.

Paranoia and prejudice have long been instruments of right-wing politics in America, from the Red Scare and McCarthyism to the Nixonite Southern strategy. The current outbreak of Islamophobia represents the latest product of the same old manufacturing process. It is irresponsible and dangerous as well as cynical precisely because we face deadly adversaries whose movements profit from every rift between the West and Muslims. Ω

[Joe Conason writes a weekly column for Salon and the New York Observer. Conason received a B.A. in History from Brandeis University in 1975. He then worked at two Boston-based newspapers, East Boston Community News and The Real Paper. From 1978 to 1990, he worked as a columnist and staff writer at The Village Voice. From 1990 to 1992, Conason was "editor-at-large" for Details magazine. In 1992, he became a columnist for the New York Observer, a position he still holds. Conason's latest book is It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush (2007).]

Copyright © 2010 Salon Media Group, Inc.

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