Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fear-based politics: Fear it

I'd prefer not to give him more publicity than he deserves, but Tom Tancredo recently aired an ad that had a simple message: Immigrants (all the “Islamist” ones, anyway) are bad and they will kill you. BOOM! I didn’t make up that last part; the ad ends with an uncannily large explosion. After taking you through a mall.

And thus we have another entrant in the “Freak OUT! They’re all gonna kill us!” competition to activate the reptilian brain in all of us.

How long will this work?

As long as you let it.

Here’s how afraid we are: We let the TSA take four ounces of shampoo away from us in airports, but three ounces is okay. Enough of us are so afraid, we think it’s okay that in 2002, AT&T actively helped the NSA to read our e-mail exchanges and listen to our phone calls. Enough of us are so afraid, we’ll pay nearly anything for a barrel of crude. Enough of us are so afraid, we see anybody wearing a turban as a threat to national security.

Enough of us are so afraid that Donald Kerr, our new deputy director of national intelligence, was empowered to say this in a speech at a symposium in Dallas:
Anonymity results from a lack of identifying features. Nowadays, when so much correlated data is collected and available – and I’m just talking about profiles on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube here – the set of identifiable features has grown beyond where most of us can comprehend. We need to move beyond the construct that equates anonymity with privacy and focus more on how we can protect essential privacy in this interconnected environment.

Protecting anonymity isn’t a fight that can be won. Anyone that’s typed in their name on Google understands that. Instead, privacy, I would offer, is a system of laws, rules, and customs with an infrastructure of Inspectors General, oversight committees, and privacy boards on which our intelligence community commitment is based and measured.
If you haven’t met your masochism quota for the day, you can see the full text here. A powerful New York Times commentary on this provides further analysis.

Well, along with other myths like WMD and fighting terrorism over there (yadda, yadda, yadda), this one is equally stupid and won’t stand up to even mild scrutiny.

Think of the example in terms of customers finding out their personal information is being indiscriminately handed out to the highest bidder, and the logic starts to fall apart. Customers revolt or leave in droves, the company becomes synonymous with Big Brother, and folds. That, and I really can’t picture L.L. Bean or J.C. Penny sending a recon team to rip me out of bed for a trip to Guantanamo at three in the morning because I might have disagreed with their return policy.

Religion could be the bridge that crosses political boundaries sufficiently to produce hysteria on both sides of the political aisle. Most people in this country are religious - many consider themselves to be Christian, whether Protestant or Catholic. And although it may be hard for conservatives, especially theocons, to believe it, a lot of those Christians are Democrats.

The doctrine here — generally speaking, of course; I don’t pretend to be a religious expert — is that you’re a sinner, but you’ll be forgiven in the afterlife and reach heaven if you sincerely ask to be forgiven and then repent in whatever manner your specific sect requires.

To each his own; no judgment from me regarding your particular religion. But here’s the twist: When a church official says you’ll go straight to hell if you vote Democratic, pro-choice, or (heaven forbid) merely your own conscience, he removes the personal experience from the spirituality.

Now you don’t merely have an incentive to behave well while you’re in the corporeal world, you have an obligation to jump the wall separating politics and religion because your clergy is telling you your soul is in peril if you don’t.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t want my church to aim God at me like a loaded Glock while I’m in the voting booth.

If fear is your guide, you will never be able to think clearly. This administration understands that — it’s been counting on it since September 12, 2001 — and it has the infrastructure to peddle fear into every available soul.

But they can only succeed if you let them.


Anonymous Jim said...

Sometimes the best way to counter fear is with a laugh. Here's my spoof of the Tancredo ad.

November 17, 2007 12:35 PM  

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