Tag: fear mongering
The Party Of Fear Is Becoming The Party Of Losers

The Party Of Fear Is Becoming The Party Of Losers

Here’s a fun fact: Years ago, in the early 70’s as I recall, the Village Voice hired some kind of polling firm to determine what were the best-read parts of the paper. I’m sure it wasn’t done because the editors were thinking of covering more of the stuff that the most people read. If that was why they ran the survey, they would have probably quickly dropped the classical music criticism of the wonderful Leighton Kerner, the Voice’s critic in that area, who wrote of classical music as if he were conducting an orchestra of words in his head. No, I think the survey of readers was probably done at the behest of the display advertising department, who could then take the figures from the survey and adjust advertising prices based on how many people read the rock and roll or theater sections, for example.

Well, can you guess what turned out to be the best-read page in the paper? The letters to the editor column. The letters ran on page four, with Jules Feiffer’s cartoons across the bottom. There wasn’t any advertising on page four, but there was on page five, so they must have boosted the rates for the ads on the facing page. The letters page, of course, was the comments section of the era, when readers got their opportunity to vent, telling Voice authors what they thought of them, complaining that their favorite political issue, or their favorite entertainment venue, or their favorite playwright or artist or dance company wasn’t getting the attention it deserved.

I realize I’ve written about this before, but I got my start as a writer in the letters to the editor column of the Voice, writing cranky, rather conservative critiques of the stories I read. My first one drew counter-criticism the following week from an array of New York intellectuals that included Dwight MacDonald, Paul Goodman, and Aryeh Neier, who at the time headed up the New York office of the ACLU and went on to become a founder of Human Rights Watch. Each of them gave the upstart cadet from West Point a good political spanking, which I replied to the following week in the letters column, of course.

People turned to the letters column in the Voice first, it seemed to me, because that was where the action was – writers complaining about other writers, pissed-off old lefties lecturing new lefties who they found ignorant about the origins of this, that, or the other thing…you get the picture. The letter writers were uniformly smart, informed, and some were quite funny as they took on the established writers in the Voice.

You may recognize in the ferment of the Voice letters column a familiar ferment in our own comments section of my Substack newsletter. Although I don’t often reach into the comments and post replies, I read them with great interest. When I was on the staff of the Voice, I made it my policy not to reply to letters to the editor that criticized my pieces. I figured that I had the privilege of being in the Voice as a staff writer, and my pieces spoke for themselves. The letters column was for readers, not Village Voice writers. By and large, I treat the comments section the same way.

But for the first time the other day I posted a column opening a thread for readers, inviting them to comment generally about what was on their minds, and I also invited them to suggest areas they thought would deserve my attention. To put it mildly, I was stunned by the response. I jumped in and left replies here and there as I filled a couple of pages of a reporter’s notebook sitting next to me with a long list of suggestions for stories. Some just aren’t in my wheelhouse, as they say, and would be fine for another columnist to write about. Others, such as the one in the title of this piece, fit me like a well-made suit.

Ralph T. suggested that I consider writing about “the layers and layers of fears driving a majority of Republican voters.” Helpfully, he provided a list, which I will quote from selectively here:

Afraid of vaccines.

Afraid of voters.

Afraid of drop boxes.

So afraid of Democrats that they’re willing to believe they’re killing abducted babies in the basements of pizza joints.

Afraid to go out in public without an arsenal strapped to their flak jackets.

Afraid of LGBTQ folks.

Afraid of Black folks.

Afraid of Latin folks, especially the ones across our southern border who we desperately need in our workforce.

Terrified of Jewish folks.

Afraid of immigrants, although that’s what 98% of us are, having pretty much killed off the local natives when we got here.

Afraid of women, especially smart women.

Afraid of respectfully facing our past.

Afraid of the future.

Afraid of change.

Afraid of books, which I suppose comes from being afraid of reading, or simply not being able to read.

Ralph T. went on to list more fears many Republicans share, but that one stopped me in my tracks, and not because I’ve written books, write a column, and for more than 50 years have depended on readers in order to make a living.

Have you been in a house that has no books? No magazines, no reading material of any kind, with the possible exception of a cookbook or two? I have.

I’ve been in houses of people who were poor, perhaps too poor to afford books and magazines, but I’ve also been in houses of middle-class people who just did not read. Out in L.A., I was even in a beach house in Malibu owned by a very wealthy person in the movie business that contained no books at all. There were some very nice, and very expensive, pieces of art on the wall, but no books, not a one, not even a cookbook, and the owner was not a Republican. People in the movie business like the person from Malibu had what they called “readers,” assistants whose job it was to read books and screenplays that were being considered to be bought to make movies. I didn’t understand why these executives wouldn’t, or couldn’t, read the material they spent so much money on until I realized it was the prospect of failure that made them afraid. They needed to be told what they were supposed to have read was “hot,” that other executives in the business were after the same property so they could contend with their fear that they would spend all that money and the project would end up as a failure.

What all of the people who lived in those houses shared, including the person from Malibu, was fear. They were afraid of different things. In the deep South, I found people afraid of the future, of change, of outsiders, of people of other races and creeds, people who were simply unlike themselves. The phrase “ignorance is bliss” comes to mind, but not as a truism. Ignorance on that level is anything but blissful, bringing with it a closed off-ness that causes such a vacuum of knowledge and surrounding darkness that it’s impossible to deal with on any level whatsoever. To be without accurate and learned information is to be alone with yourself – alone with your fears, as it were.

When I lived in the deep South, I once asked a man who was overtly, openly racist why he was that way. I probed, and not very gently. Did something happen to him as he was growing up? Had he been mugged or beaten up by a Black person or Black people? Did he even know anyone who was Black in a way beyond thanking a server in a restaurant for a refill of his coffee? The answer to every one of my questions was no. It was revealed that there was no reason behind his racism. It just was. He had been raised in what you would call a culture of racism, and so it infected him in the way a virus gets into you. It was in the air he breathed. It was all around him in the lives of his friends and family members and the people he worked with and hunted with and spent holidays with. They were racist, so he was racist. There was a kind of comfort in their community of racism and the fears they shared. The rest of them were afraid to breach the barrier they had built around themselves, and so was he.

Their fears encompassed other things on Ralph T.’s excellent list. Another person in the deep South I spoke to came right out and told me he thought Black people should not have the right to vote. He was afraid of their votes, because they weren’t his votes or the votes of his white friends and neighbors. It didn’t take but a moment or two to see that he was afraid not just of Black people themselves, and Black people voting, but of living in a world in which he felt surrounded by things he did not understand, people he didn’t trust, ideas he was afraid of because to start with, he was unfamiliar with them. He didn’t want to acknowledge the legacy of slavery that was all around him where he lived in the South – the Black side of town had unpaved streets, no sidewalks, no streetlights, shack-like houses – hell, the town didn’t even run its sewage system into the Black section.

The only public thing the Black people in his town had, really, was the right to attend the public schools, and that right, in his opinion, was forced on the town and its people, its white people, by a Supreme Court and a Congress that he felt did not represent people like him, people whom the laws and the culture and the rest of the nation, in fact, had left behind. He was afraid of people who were unlike him; their ideas were unlike his, and crucially, there was nothing he could do about it, at least in part because Black people could vote.

Republicans have come up with a new catchphrase to appeal to voters like this man, and to the people in whose houses I had been who did not have books. Critical race theory. They didn’t even have to define it, to tell anyone what it meant. It didn’t need a meaning, because everyone it was intended to appeal to knew exactly what it meant. The phrase, critical race theory, has a meaning as an academic discipline, but that’s not the way Republicans are using it. In a political sense, from the politicians who conceived of the phrase as a scare tactic, they’re saying we are on your side. We acknowledge your fears. In fact, your fears are our fears, so vote for us, and we will do whatever we can to assuage them. We will put Black people, and liberals, and everyone else you’re scared of in their place.

It's beyond us against them. It’s beyond playing on their fears. It’s taking fear and turning it into a weapon.

Armies use fear as a weapon on the battlefield in wars. That’s what artillery and rockets are all about – suddenly, without warning, out of the sky comes something that will blow you up and kill you. But it didn’t work when the Germans rained down bombs and V-1 rockets on London during World War II, and it’s not working as the Russians do everything in their power to break the will of the Ukrainian people with rockets and drones and artillery shells.

Fear in politics is beginning to exhibit its shortcomings as well. “Owning the libs” was fun for Republicans while it was being driven by Donald Trump and his machinery of hate and fear, but he lost. The Republican Party, which was supposed to sweep the midterms in a red wave, even while they will control the House of Representatives with a very slim majority, is wounded.

Sure, fear works as political weapon for Republicans and they’re not going to let go of it any time soon. But the thing about fear is that it’s not fun to be afraid all the time. That’s why horror movies work: you watch them and you can be afraid for a time, but you know that the movie is going to end, and you won’t have to be afraid anymore.

The kinds of fears Ralph T. was good enough to list for us are not fun. They’re stultifying, they’re dark, and there is no way out of them except embracing at least a few of the things you’re afraid of, like reading and seeking knowledge and allowing yourself to look at what is around you with open eyes and a least a tiny crack in your closed heart.

So fear not. A corner is beginning to be turned. Donald Trump, if he is the nominee of the Republican Party in 2024, will lose again. Republicans, unless they find a way to appeal to folks who are not congenitally fearful, will see their power as a political party wane.

There is, in fact, an end result of the fears we have discussed here at the behest of our friend, Ralph T. It’s called losing.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this column is reprinted with permission.

Donald Trump

Trump Always Seeks Calm! (Except These 22 Times When He Stoked Baseless Fear)

Donald Trump admitted on Wednesday that he intentionally downplayed the threat of the coronavirus despite knowing how deadly and dangerous it was.

He defended his actions to a crowd of reporters by saying, "I love our country and I don't want people to be frightened, I don't want to create panic." However, his attempt to deflect criticism after getting caught lying to the public doesn't match reality.

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Fearful Trump Supporters Hold All Of Us Hostage

Fearful Trump Supporters Hold All Of Us Hostage

On Aug. 31, Donald Trump delivered a mind-boggling speech on immigration, striking for its anger, its mendacity, its hostility, its cruelty and its frank bigotry. Trump has once again defied the expectations of longtime political observers with behavior that sets the bar for presidential candidates ever lower, that veers wildly outside the mainstream, that competes with history’s most dangerous dictators in its audaciousness.
Even as Republican strategists have advised a more welcoming attitude toward voters of color, Trump has cemented his party’s reputation as the home of racially resentful white people. He has virtually guaranteed that the Republican Party will struggle to attract Latino voters for the next generation.
So the matter of whether the GOP nominee can “pivot” to a style of campaigning that more closely resembles the conventional — and that doesn’t scare the socks off most reasonable voters — ought to now be settled: No, he cannot. This is, in the language of his Twitter handle, the real Donald Trump. He is hateful, bullying and vile. Period.
Moreover, Trump’s noxious views will likely set back the cause of comprehensive immigration reform even further. Since President George W. Bush tried to push forward a reasonable solution to the plight of 11 million or so undocumented immigrants living in the shadows, congressional Republicans have balked, afraid of a backlash from the far-right precincts that can determine GOP primary elections. Given the way that Trump’s bashing of Mexicans and Muslims has resonated with the ultra-right, mainstream Republicans are unlikely to sanction even a mention of immigration reform.
That’s despite the fact that most Americans disagree with Trump’s proposals. According to a July CBS/New York Times poll, 61 percent of Americans believe illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship. Fifty-seven percent oppose Trump’s “beautiful” wall.
But there is a deep partisan cleavage here. While 83 percent of Democrats oppose Trump’s wall, as well as 56 percent of independents, only 27 percent of Republicans do. According to a Bloomberg poll, 73 percent of Democrats oppose Trump’s plan for blanket deportations, but only 54 percent of Republicans do. It’s no wonder, then, that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., faced with opposition from the right-wing fringe, fled from his previous support for sensible policies to legalize the illegal immigrants already here.
That cowardice hurts not only the Republican Party, but also the country. Our refusal to pass comprehensive immigration reform has cut off opportunities for countless bright, hard-working young immigrants who’d like to go to college but can’t afford it because they don’t have the papers that would allow them to get scholarships and reduced tuition. Our failure to act has stifled countless illegal workers who would like to own homes and start businesses. They are Americans in virtually every way. It makes no sense to leave them in limbo.
But Trump has managed to persuade many working-class whites that illegal immigrants destroy neighborhoods, peddle drugs, murder innocents and drive down wages. They take well-paying jobs, he says, from citizens who deserve them. (To be fair, most of those claims aren’t original to Trump. They’ve been bandied about on the right for decades now.)
Much of that is simply not true. The population of criminals among illegal immigrants is lower than the percentage among native-born Americans, according to criminologists. As for the economic competition, there is no doubt that low-wage workers can be hurt by an influx of undocumented workers. The biggest burden falls on those without high school diplomas, who may see their wages fall by anywhere from 0.4 percent to 7 percent, research shows. That is certainly cause for worry.
But the answer to that is to make those undocumented workers legal, which would force their employers to pay them a higher wage. Too many employers get away with paying illegal workers less money and placing them in dangerous conditions.
If the solutions are all too obvious to most Americans, they represent a bridge to a treacherous new world order to many Trump supporters. And, for now, we are all held hostage to their prejudices and fears.
(Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)
Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a church service, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

RNC Message: Be Very Afraid

RNC Message: Be Very Afraid

My first up-close glimpse into the enduring power of political fearmongering came through a two-way mirror in 2006.

I was watching a focus group of women in southern Ohio discussing a variety of issues, when the topic turned to terrorism. One young mother shared her fear that foreign terrorists might attack her children’s playground in their small town.

“It could happen,” she said, looking around the table. “We all know it could.”

Several of the other women nodded their heads. My notes from that evening describe one of the women shivering as she pulled her cardigan tighter and said, “Really, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before they find us.”

There was no logical reason for these women to believe that in their remote patch of Ohio, a suicide bomber from the Middle East would fly a plane into their children’s school or blow himself up on their playground. But Republican rhetoric had worked its magic, and these women lived in constant fear for their families’ lives. They also seemed likelier to vote for Republican candidates because, not remotely coincidentally, the Republican Party was vowing to protect them from this nonexistent danger. I marveled at the cynicism of it all, even as I felt utter disgust for the tactic.

Ten years later, the Republicans are still at it, bringing their doom-and-gloom show to Cleveland. In one of the more memorable moments, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who recently called the Black Lives Matter movement “inherently racist,” offered an unhinged screed. Repeatedly jabbing the air with his hands as he screamed, Giuliani declared: “The vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe. They fear for their children. They fear for themselves. They fear for our police officers, who are being targeted with a target on their back.”

The Republican Party’s platform insists that parents of gay children should be allowed to force them into “conversion therapy.” Abuse, in other words.

The platform also includes a prescriptive for Donald Trump’s long-touted war on America’s immigrants: “The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”

Because, you know, Mexicans.

The Republican Party of Trump wants us to fear the other.

If we’re straight, we should fear the LGBT community.

If we’re working-class, we should fear the poor.

If we’re white, we should fear African-Americans.

If we speak English, we should fear anyone who speaks with a foreign accent, which is any accent that doesn’t sound like ours.

We should fear Muslims, all of them, always.

In Trump’s world, we should fear anyone who is not like us. What a long, miserable list that would be.

In 1950, Eleanor Roosevelt addressed this fear of the other in a keynote speech to Americans for Democratic Action on Individual Liberty:

“Somehow we must keep ourselves free from fear and suspicion of each other. I sit with people who are representatives of communist countries, and to sit with them is a lesson in what fear can do. Fear can take away from you all the courage to be an individual. You become a mouthpiece for the ideas that you have been told you must give forth.”

Some might argue that Roosevelt spoke for a different time in our country and therefore for a different world.

Fortunately, there is no expiration date for wisdom. As a country, we are as much at risk today of letting fear rob us of the courage to think for ourselves as we were in 1950, when Red-baiting ruined lives.

I understand the seduction of fear. It can feel easier to believe the worst about our world — and rely on someone else to save us — than to take charge of our own lives. If we tell ourselves we are in constant danger beyond our control, we are also more willing to surrender our duties as citizens to those who claim to know better what is best for us. The Republicans count on this.

This fear takes its toll, whittling away at our self-esteem and rendering us timid in a country that needs our strength. It takes courage to accept the truth that though terrorism is surely a threat in the world, most of us Americans are free of danger every day of our lives. Living this truth unleashes our own powers as citizens, emboldening us to elect leaders who reflect the enduring optimism that continues to make this country imperfectly great.

A leader is not someone who reflects the worst within us, leaving us cowering in the shadows.

A leader reminds us who we are — and inspires us to try harder.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her email is con.schultz@yahoo.com.


Photo: The delegates of the Republican National Convention pose for a group photo at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar