Tuesday, July 28, 2009

By Your Command: Race-baiting or Parody? [updated]

A loyal reader sent me this link. I have no clue as to the origin of the video, but it appears to be asking for the viewer to protect America from a bunch of dark-skinned lefties all funded by .... George Soros. So, I am really confused--it was so over-the-top it could either be a right wing loonie or something from the Daily Show.

Well, let's take it for what it appears to be--a warning that radicals are threatening to destroy America and they are funded by George Soros. Hmmm. Given that Soros has done more than anyone to support democracy, especially in the former Communist world, any fear-mongering here is silly and should only be done by Romanians who fear Jewish Hungarians.

Actualy, none of this stuff should be surprising. This kind of video, the Birthers, all of it. We have a perfect storm of various trends, combining to make racism, conspiracy theory, and other forms extremisms (particularly from the right side of the spectrum) not only likely but inevitable.

  1. We have Democrats in power in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House, so extremely right-wing types are very frustrated and bitter because they are, ahem, LOSERS; they are relatively disenfrachised for the next two/four/eight years; and do remember what it was like the last time around. The amount of venom spewed from the very beginnings of the Clinton Administration should have given us an idea of what would be going on now.
  2. We have the worst economy since the 1930's and this matters in two ways: a) people are hurting so they lash out and blame others (for what makes someone more or less scapegoatable, ask me about my student who has worked on scapegoatability); and b) this has led the pendulum to swing back towards government being the answer, making certain folks really bitter. Indeed, the anti-government types who wanted de-regulation across the board may be finding their ideology to be just as helpful as the Communists realized about theirs in 1991.
  3. Obama is the perfect foil for much of this hatred. It is not just his race, or his mixed race (I don't know which ones racists find more offensive), but also his intellectualism, his nuanced approaches (some may call it dithering, I call it thoughtful, even when I disagree with the outcome), his attractive and strong wife, and his ability to appeal to the moderates. We should have expected white supremacism to rise at this moment in time--an African-American President is a challenge to the beliefs of racists, so they either see that they were wrong or they re-trench.
  4. This is, in part, from the third point: the demographic shift in the US is only now becoming apparent. Whites are still the majority but not everywhere, and not forever. This is not a problem to those who don't mind multi-ethnic constituencies and coalitions (lots of literature in the field of ethnic politics to show the positive incentives this can provide to politicians--Donald Horowitz to name one). But to those who see themselves as becoming marginalized, well, they are mighty unhappy.
I was just asserting to a colleague yesterday that immigration remains one of the essential facets of the American success story (and Canadian one as well). The newcomers bring new ideas, different sets of skills, and a much more assertive work ethic than those who fear them. The US, by taking in groups from around the world, does really produce a positive melting pot or stew (pick your metaphor), as the newcomers eventually learn English, not becuase they are required by law but because they want to succeed. Despite the fears of some, these newcomers, since they come from a variety of cultures, are not going to distort American values. The Muslims will not bring Islamic law with them as they are balanced by the Catholics from Latin America. Together, they and others, have balanced out the power of the Evangelicals, whose power has been pretty destructive to the national discourse.

To sum up, the apparent increase in racist/right-wing nuttiness (and not all racists are right wing and not all right wing folks are either racists or nuts [update: see this story for right wing types rejecting the birthers]) is only natural, given the political, economic and demographic trends we face. The good news is that the political system is likely to produce moderation, as winning pluralities and majorities in most places and certainly at the national level is going to require appealing beyond one's own group.

1 comment:

Steve Greene said...

1) You've got an extra colon at the end of the link that makes it invalid.
2) Why won't you be like the "cool" bloggers and embed video?