Scapegoating-psychology and rising xenophobia in America

Peter Beinart compares the mood in America with the hysteria that provoked the Palmer Raids in 1919 and the anti-Communist fearmongering of McCarthyism that began in the late 1940s.

Ever since 9/11, according to opinion polls, Republicans have worried more about terrorism than have Democrats. Initially, this fear translated into overwhelming support for military action abroad. But as Republicans (like everyone else) have grown tired and embittered by America’s wars, they have turned their anxiety inward, lured by the same idea that attracted Palmer and the McCarthyites: that America could guarantee its safety on the cheap by ferreting out the real threat, which resides within.

Has, we must fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here, been turned into, why fight them over there when we can fight them here?

I don’t believe the driving force here is, as Beinart suggests, a desire to guarantee safety on the cheap. Rather, this is about age-old scapegoating-psychology and the political opportunities this crude dynamic opens up.

In a period of economic depression, with high unemployment and a pervasive sense that the nation is heading in the wrong direction, many Americans are experiencing a growing sense of powerlessness. Through scapegoating, they can foster the illusion that they are reclaiming control over our own lives. They can focus their animus on a clearly identifiable enemy — Islam.

In scapegoating, by definition, the enemy must be weaker than those on the attack — which is why even at the height of the financial crisis, popular anger at bankers never became as strong as current Islamophobia. It’s the same as the way a guy who’s treated as a drudge at work then finds his “strength” by abusing his wife.

The more that Muslims can be made to feel like outsiders, the more those who have defined them as other can feel empowered.

Meanwhile, with the emerging visceral sense that American renewal can be delivered by purging this country of its “foreign” elements, a political horizon is opening for conservatives such as Newt Gingrich — a man who has no apparent compunction about harnessing popular power even when delivered from the ugliest source.

Gingrich clearly smells presidential opportunity in rising xenophobia and is channeling this into an attack on President Obama whose “foreignness” derives from his Kenyan ancestry and even the fact that he grew up in Hawaii!

Gingrich claims that Dinesh D’Souza has provided “stunning insight” into Obama, in a Forbes cover story, where the president is characterized as “a Luo tribesman.”

David Frum, a neoconservative and former speech writer for George W Bush, sees Gingrich’s perspective as now providing the foundation for the White Party’s political platform.

With the Forbes story and now the Gingrich endorsement, the argument that Obama is an infiltrating alien, a deceiving foreigner — and not just any kind of alien, but specifically a Third World alien — has been absorbed almost to the very core of the Republican platform for November 2010.

Rush Limbaugh has been claiming for almost 2 years that President Obama is bent upon “redistribution” and “reparations.” Following D’Souza, Gingrich has now stepped up to suggest that this redistribution is motivated by anti-white racial revenge. If Obama wants to expand health coverage, tighten bank regulation, and create government make-work projects it’s not because he shares the same general outlook on the world as Walter Mondale or Ted Kennedy or so many other liberals, living and dead, all of them white and northern European. No, Obama wants to do what he does because he thinks like an African, and not just any kind of African but (in D’Souza’s phrase) “a Luo tribesman.”

It is to vindicate this African tribal dream that Obama wishes to raise the taxes of upper-income taxpayers and redistribute money away from these meritorious individuals. D’Souza contends that Obama is acting to vindicate his father’s supposed dream of overthrowing the global order and ending the global domination of the white race over other peoples.

If only it were true, the anticolonialist in me facetiously says. This global reordering must surely eventually come, but I have my doubts whether Obama will have much if any role in bringing it about.

Much more significant in the current context is the fact that an event which two years ago was seen as a reflection of America’s political maturity — the election of an African-American president — is now serving as a opportunity for America to regress into some of the ugliest recesses of its past.

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Comments

  1. God “help” America…
    Actually no! Let them get what they deserve for the arrogance, ignorance and for meddling against many democracies around the globe!
    F#*.k America!

  2. Scapegoating is one aspect of the current political scene, the other is denying culpability. When the excesses of Friedman’s trickle down economics, unregulated capitalism, Wall St greed, and Reaganomics blew up, the culprits — almost all in the GOP — and their mouthpieces in the media have turned up the volume of denial to the point Americans are fleeing to take refuge in the past — the time before the falsity of these excesses caused the current problems. Like sheep, they flee to the safety of the pen, even though that’s where the wolves are waiting for them.

    “Oh, if only this was still 2006, when my financial future seemed secure!” If only this were 2003, when America appeared invincible. If only … if only … if only.

    If only Americans had paid attention to those who tried to give them a dose of reality. A society running on debt, with its best jobs sent overseas, with it’s industrial core rotting away, with the standard of living and actual value of wages in decline — needed an electorate determined to turn things around. Instead, people borrowed more and went to the mall to shop. Whose fault is America’s predicament right now? Yours, my American friends — and nobody else.

  3. David Donnell says:

    I still remember Newt Gingrich waving Alvin Toffler’s “The 3rd Wave” on the floor of the house stating that it was the reason we needn’t worry about losing manufacturing to Mexican and China because our nations work force were all going to become “Knowledge Workers”.

    I’m a 54yo unemployed Mechanical Designer who used to design gas plants, CO2 recover facilities, NG gas Compressors. I thought I was a contributing member of society but evidently I was wrong – the “infallible and incorruptible market forces” have decided my services are no longer needed.

    I’m Geographically stuck (unless I want to abandon everyone and everything) and after 1 1/2 years searching, I’ve exhausted my unemployment (thank god for the Government run VA so I still get blood pressure meds). My life is slowly slipping away selling what few possession I have that are worth anything and slowly sinking as I try to switch careers into the medical field, existing hand to mouth without a living wage job.

    Even IF the Republicans miraculously started to work with the Democrats and decided to end the tax breaks, trade treaties, and policies that have led to the loss of our manufacturing base I estimate it will take ten years to turn the tide around. And there’s still the deregulation anarchy in the commercial financial markets that’s led to world wide economic instability; and, for all intents and purposes, is still unaddressed.

    How’s that “Knowledge Worker Thingy” working out for you? Why does anyone give any credence to Gingrich what-so-ever.

  4. Beinhart was part of that NEW REPUBLIC Zionist cabal trying to have it both ways cheering Israeli killings while crying for dying children, promoting neocon “World War IV” against Islam– SOFTLY– while crying for the kids killed by our drones. It’s true he’s been soft in his propaganda but it’s really only soft porn– he’s not slick, he’s slimmy!

    Like neocons he won’t debate anyone but crazy hard (hard as Viagra would allow) neocons while peddling soto voce the Israeli Right line. There are millions of Jews we could be quoting for their moral and logical consistency so why quote a fanged camellion?

  5. Stuart Tootell says:

    Come come please.

    Do you really think that America is actually run by American politicians?

    No.

    America is run by bankers and corporations controlled by the Zionist movement, hence the rabid anti Muslim phobia that is plaguing America to the detriment of America and the world.

    It is noticeable that the Muslim world has not rattled its sabres, agreed the Muslim extremists have acted and the extremists in America have reacted too, that is but a small part of the population of the respective areas.

    The moderates are there we need to hear their voices, we need to raise our voices and act to stem the vitriolic tide of religious hatred that is coming from America sponsored by the Zionist movement and its powerful lobby.

    The West would be wise to remember that if the wheel on the stop cock is turned on its oil supply the game is over, economic warfare based on fuel supplies will be the death blow for America.

    Sadly the majority of decent Americans and the greater majority of the worlds population who are but innocent victims and pawns in the Zionist campaign to inflict their plans upon the world and its peoples seem blissfully unaware of the fate they are passing on to their children and indeed themselves too.

  6. Christianity is a scapegoat sacrifice religion based on another scapegoat sacrifice religion.

    They really think an innocent virgin male had to be ritually murdered to make them better people. And if you don’t believe this, you’ll be roasted alive for eternity for the thought crime of skeptical thinking.

    Is anyone surprised Republicans are looking to sacrifice more scapegoats?

  7. Werner Simon says:

    Beinhart is on to something; at the same time we are on to the many facets of Peter.