Politics of fear & hate, part II

The Tea Party and Sarah Palin’s response to the criticism in the wake of the Gifford shooting seems to be a case of “wunt me gov’nur” or “you started it by calling Bush a big fat meany!”. They’ve denied any blame for the shooting because the guy who did it wasn’t a member of the Tea party. Yes, all political assassins declare they’re party affiliations before opening fire, just like all super villains give secret agents a ten minute PowerPoint presentation of they’re evil plans, before leaving the room while the secret agent is executed by a hapless minion, whom he easily overpowers and escapes (I think the problem here is too many in America don’t realise that movies are made up….as increasingly is the case for the News they see on US TV). The fact is that the poisonous political atmosphere the Tea Party has created has to be blamed for this incident. Spreading ridiculously outrageous stories such as Obama having some sort of secret plan to turn America communist & fascist (at the same time!) and then start a new holocaust against WASP’s, well obviously you start saying that sort of stuff 24-7 on Fox News and someone who doesn’t speak Crazy or Paranoia (such as this shooter) is going to take it seriously and do something stupid. Passing the buck at this point clearly means they just don’t get it.

The fact is, I’ve heard lots of politicians this side of the Atlantic say nasty things about each other, but not since the era of the Fascist regimes have I heard any politician here call another a traitor or questioned whether or not they were natural born citizens. The Tea party have debased the political system and they have to accept that such actions have consequences, notably in the past when such tactics of spreading fear & hate were used there was an upsurge in political violence.

A little history lesson, the attack journalism techniques (or Swiftboating as we call them these days) used by the Tea Party were originally pioneered by the media baron and politician William Randolph Hearst. His newspapers were well known for concocting ridiculous stories about his political opponents, going on and on about a made up issue for days. These tactics lowered the tone of US politics considerably and they ultimately brought down Hearst’s political career. At one point he suggested that President Mc Kinley was so bad someone should take a shot at him – unfortunately someone did. Again as in Tucson this assassin had no direct link between him and Hearst, but the media and the American people at the time rightly blamed him and his newspapers for creating this poisonous atmosphere which had led to a presidential assassination. Hearst would ultimately fail in his attempts at high office (he hoped to become major of New York and even go for the presidency), a sobering lesson for the Tea party.

The story of the Fascist regimes, where as Hitler put it “if you’re going to tell a lie about you’re opponent say it loudly and repeatedly, and eventually it will be reported as fact”. The inevitable violence and destruction this led to speaks for itself. A more directly applicable example however would be that of Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch Neo-Fascist. If anything the language he used was pretty mild compared to what’s been coming out of Sarah Palin’s mouth, but it still got him assassinated by a left wing extremist. And this is the point the Tea Party need to realise, lower the tone of politics to this level and the lesson of history is that it will provoke violence (from both sides). If the Tea Party still don’t understand this point then they are ineligible for high office.

There is also a point about diplomatic decorum here. I won’t let a dog in my house unless I knew he’d been house trained (i.e he showed he knew not to shit on the carpet, or drink out of the toilet). Similarly the use of undiplomatic language by Sarah Palin and others in the Tea party suggests they should not be allowed into the diplomatic chambers of the world as they will inevitably say the sorts of things that one shouldn’t say and get the US and the West into all sorts of trouble. This is particularly important as after Bush, the patience of world leaders (the Russians and Chinese in particular) for abrasive, unilaterally acting US presidents is somewhere between slim and zero. And as Bush used up what political capital the US has left (post cold war) with his pointless war in Iraq (found those WMD’s yet George?), the ability and likelhood for these other country’s to punish America (and the West) for such behaviour is quite high. Obviously the lack of understanding by Sarah Palin as to what the term “blood Libel” means, suggests she and her supporters are clueless as far as international relations are concerned (it also means she’d best not be counting on the Jewish vote because I think she just blew it!)


One possible solution to the attack journalism tactics of certain news media in the US (notably Fox (faux)news) is to do what we do in the scientific community, use peer review.
It works like this, suppose I want to print a story suggesting that Sarah Palin is in fact a soviet spy who swam over from Siberia in the cold war and is now working on a plan to bring victory to the Soviet motherland by acting as some sort of Manchurian candidate. I would submit this story, along with my research notes and references to peer review. Another journalist at another news paper or TV channel would then anonymously review this story and give me feedback…in this case most likely saying “that’s a bigger load of Bullshit that a cow with Dysteryia!”

Even with that review, there’s nothing to stop me publishing it anyway, if the network or newspaper is okay with, thought the reviewers comments would have to be included with the publication (which would reduce the possibility of anyone taking it seriously). Also, if it ever came to a lawsuit, my chances of winning would be greatly reduced if my story failed to make past peer review.

Another point would be to make journalists publish their sources. So rather than the all too often used phrase by Fox/Sky news “some people say, that Obama is a Terrorist” they would have to state “I / the bloke at my local klan meeting, says that Obama is a Terrorist”. Obviously there are situations where journalists want to hide they’re sources identify (whistleblowers, etc.), but even then “a well placed white house source” should suffice.

Similarly any retractions by journalists should get the same air time as the original story. So if you repeat a load of bull for 5 minutes on the hour every hour and it is then shown to be false, you have spend 5 minutes on the hr every hr next day retracting it. Similarly newspapers should be required to give equal page space to explaining how they were completely wrong about a particular story…..or just skip a day’s publication and give everyone a free voucher for the Guardian!


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