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Posts Tagged ‘Fearmongering’

For much of the last decade, the Republican line about liberals has been that whenever we downplayed the urgency of the so-called terrorist threat (or dared to criticize then-President Bush for that matter) we were somehow emboldening the terrorists.

For example, during the 2004 campaign, John Kerry was annihilated by the Dick Cheney wingnut right when he said, “We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.”

Oh holy hell! Kerry said what?!

He was exactly right, of course, both strategically and rhetorically. The senator was outlining how we ought to be simultaneously destroying al-Qaeda and, in the “home of the brave,” we ought to be acting like grown-ups rather than a nation of scared little pee-pants infants frightened of unseen toe monsters lurking under the bed.

Cheney and others, in response to Kerry, were very clearly implying that terrorism was always going to be a serious and existential threat to America — that we have every right to be both terrified and terrorized — therefore we absolutely have to torture people, undermine the rule of law, preemptively invade sovereign nations and, naturally, elect Republicans in order to be safe.

What the far-right has never grasped, however, is that the whole point of a terrorist attack isn’t necessarily to kill people. The point is to terrorize. Scott Shanes in the New York Times quoted a former Homeland Security and CIA official:

“We give comfort to our enemies,” said Charles E. Allen, a 40-year C.I.A. veteran who served as the top intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security from 2007 to early last year. Exaggerated news coverage and commentary, he said, “creates an atmosphere of tension and fear, and to me that’s exactly the wrong way to go.”

Fareed Zakaria spelled it out even further this week:

The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn’t work. Alas, this one worked very well.

In the case of the Underpants Bomber, by collectively losing our shit and inflating a minor fracas out of proportion — by acting as though this was a major bloody attack and subsequently acquiescing to full body scans and further violations of our civil liberties, we’re handing al-Qaeda an easy victory. The attempt was a failure, but the overreaction in its aftermath turned it into an easy win for al-Qaeda.

Good job, Republicans. Good job, Fox News.

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The Republican record on terrorism is pretty damn terrible. Naturally, this hasn’t stopped them from milking whatever remains of their purely cosmetic tough-guy reputation in order to fear-monger the failed Underpants Bomber incident irrespective of their lengthy history of failure, cowardice and stupidity on the issue.

I think we all understand and begrudgingly accept that Americans have a short attention span, and an even shorter memory, but the Republicans are really counting on it as they exploit the post-underpants freakout.

For example, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) said the other day:

I’m hopeful that the president will become forceful, that we will return back to the direction where we are prosecuting the war on terror

I know. It doesn’t read very well, but the senator was suggesting that we go back to the way the Bush/Cheney team ran the “war on terror” — that the previous administration’s strategy was much more effective. Another attempt to sell the inaccurate notion that shit-kicker boots, a southern drawl, a waterboard and hillbilly bumper-sticker justice succeeded in knocking al-Qaeda into oblivion.

Wrong.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new threat assessment from U.S. counterterrorism analysts says that al-Qaeda has used its safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border to restore its operating capabilities to a level unseen since the months before Sept. 11, 2001.
A counterterrorism official familiar with a five-page summary of the document — titled “al-Qaeda better positioned to strike the West” — called it a stark appraisal. The analysis will be part of a broader meeting at the White House on Thursday about an upcoming National Intelligence Estimate.

This wasn’t some sort of early, post-9/11 assessment that can be scapegoated on the Clinton administration. If you recall, this NIE was released to the press in July of 2007. A year and a half before President Obama was elected, six and a half years after Bill Clinton left office, and six and a half years into the Bush presidency.

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Republican Caller Tells Limbaugh: “You’re A Brainwashed Nazi” (AUDIO)

Huffington Post- Jason Linkins

April 7, 2009 at 05:21 PM

Media Monitor Cathy Talbot tipped us off to an on-air smackdown that transpired today between Rush Limbaugh and one of his callers, who criticized the talk radio host for hurting the Republican party’s fortunes and supporting the practice of torture. The caller, Charles, identified himself as a Republican and a veteran, who “really didn’t want to see Obama get in office.” From there, he let loose, especially on the torture issue, telling Limbaugh, “We’re not supposed to be torturing these people. This is not Nazi Germany, Red China, or North Korea.” He then added, “I hate to say it…but I think you’re a brainwashed Nazi.”

This did not go over well, at all! Limbaugh shot back with a brainwashing accusation of his own, and blamed Charles and people like him for Obama winning the election. “I didn’t vote for him,” Charles protested, “I voted for McCain. I voted Republican.” No matter. Rush signed off by saying, “Charles, Barack Obama is president of the United States today because of stupid, ignorant people who think like you do. You pose — you and your ignorance are the most expensive commodity this country has.”

Media Matters has the audio, so, judge for yourself:

LISTEN AND TRANSCRIPT HERE

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Glenn Beck went on Neil Cavuto’s Fox News show yesterday, and Cavuto, after the usual niceties, rather bravely called out Beck on his fearmongering. (Though he put it a little more softly than that.) In return, Beck accused Cavuto of intentionally fluffing up his newscasts:

Cavuto: But when you — and great show, of course I’m going to say that, because I love you dearly — but you also bum me out. You bum me out, because you say in 2014, I think you said there will be like three people working and the Dow will be at 27.

Beck: Noooo. Neil, you know I have profound respect for you. Do you know that? You don’t know that?

Cavuto: Well, I don’t know, you scared me.

Beck: Listen to me. Neil Cavuto, I don’t know if you know who this man really is. You may watch him on television — do your homework on Neil Cavuto. You are an amazing man. Amazing.

Cavuto: That I know. [crosstalk]

Beck: You and I have a fundamental disagreement on something.

Cavuto: You think we’re going to hell in a handbasket.

Beck: You believe that it is your responsibility to make sure that you say, ‘Hey-hey-hey-hey everybody!’ I believe you’re playing music on the deck. I’m saying, ‘Get into the lifeboats!’

Cavuto: No, no, no. I am a realist and I look at it — No, no no no. You are scaring people. And here’s what you’re doing –

Beck: I’m not scaring! I am letting them –

Cavuto: I am a big enough appreciator of history to know that we always get through these things. Now the government cannot –

Beck: And I believe that too.

Cavuto: Then why are you doing this stuff in 2014 we’ll all be eating lead?

Beck: [Looking skyward] Because when the market hit 14,000 I said, ‘Get the hell out of the market!’ And when –

Cavuto: You, you will say — people watch you in droves. Your ratings are through the roof. You’re radio rock star. So everything you say, when you say it, they’re gonna say, ‘Gee, well, Glenn just said, you know, we’re all gonna be dead.’

… I just think that you’re scaring people. I love you dearly, because you are a rock star. I’m just saying, I look at it, I watch it in my office as I’m getting ready for my Fox Business show … and I watch, and I’m saying, ‘Man, Glenn is scaring me.’

Beck: I watch you in my office. I watch you –

Cavuto: One night affected my appetite. I didn’t get dinner. So you’re actually good for me losing weight.

Beck: And terrible for me. I watch you and I get frustrated. Because I think you’re putting on such a happy face.

Cavuto may be a corporate suck-up, but evidently even he can see some problems in where Beck wants to take us. After all, the torches-and-pitchforks crowds often go after wealthy Republicans too …

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For the first time in nearly a decade, we have a chief executive who isn’t a raving coward.

And not a second too soon. President Obama made it clear on Tuesday that America is no longer in the business of selling-out the legacy of our Founders and the mandates of the Constitution for the sake of a little bit of extra security. From the president’s inaugural address:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. […] Our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

In short: the national security of the United States is no longer going to be conducted by raving cowards. Not anymore. Contrast those historic words against the viral cowardice — the frightened pee-pants dance of the men who somehow infiltrated our highest levels of political power:

“You have no civil liberties if you are dead.” –Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS

“None of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead.” –Senator “Big John” Cornyn, R-TX

“Our civil liberties are worthless if we are dead! If you are dead and pushing up daisies, if you’re sucking dirt inside a casket, do you know what your civil liberties are worth? Zilch, zero, nada.” –Rush Limbaugh

Never mind that you can’t “suck dirt” if you’re dead, either. But we’ll let that one slide because it was a figure of speech, and because Limbaugh was probably stoned at the time and hallucinating a trio of dirt-sucking zombies named “Zilch”, “Zero” and “Nada” wandering through his studio in search of brains. Regardless of how the remarks came about, they fully exemplify the national security policy of the old crowd: the guiding theory that a frightened population will and should acquiesce to the slow dissolution of civil liberties in the face of ambiguous threats from faceless (and mostly brown-skinned) villains.

As we’ve all observed, the easiest solutions — the most “expedient” solutions, as the president underscored in his inaugural address on Tuesday, are the most despotic ones. One of the most disturbing trends of the Bush years was the pervasive willingness at all levels of American life to abandon not just our liberty, but also our national reputation, in exchange for the illusion of safety.

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