Demagogues Rising

Culture, Economy, Politics, US culture, US Economy, US Elections, US Politics

American writer and satirist H. L. Mencken wrote “The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.” Patricia Roberts-Miller in her book “Democracy, Demagoguery, and Critical Rhetoric” defined demagoguery as “polarizing propaganda that motivates members of an ingroup to hate and scapegoat some outgroup(s), largely by promising certainty, stability, and what Erich Fromm famously called ‘an escape from freedom’.” Hilter was a infamous demagogue, blaming the woes of a post WWI Germany on the Jews. Joe McCarthy looked for Communists around every corner. Today, the American financial system is in its worse crisis since the Great Depression, Americans are facing uncertainty in employment, prices are rising and savings are falling. The time is right for the rise of the Demagogues.

This is a current posting running around conservative websites

Some five million fraudulent home mortgages are in the hands of illegal aliens, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It’s not known how many of those have contributed to the subprime housing mortgage meltdown, but it has affected every state, including Arizona.

The problem began years ago when banks were forced to give mortgages without confirming social security numbers or borrower identification. As a result, illegal immigrants were able to obtain home mortgages which they could not afford.

One illegal alien was arrested this year in Tucson after allegedly using a stolen social security number to buy two homes and rack up over $780,000 in bad debt.

Good luck trying to verify this from the HUD.  It doesn’t even pass the sanity test.  5 million mortgages?  The entire immigrant community in this country would all have to buy homes to get close to that number.  But as propaganda to stir up the masses, this post is perfect.  Look at all the implied messages here.

  • This crisis is not our fault.
  • Our banks were forced to give loans to potential criminals (against their better judgement)
  • The Democrats must have made the banks do it
  • The “illegals” are to blame.

If we believe this, we can conviently ignore that we were complicit with our banks in creating a house of cards that is now falling down around us.  We were willing to borrow to buy what we could not afford, perhaps to sell to the greater fool down the road for a quick profit.  Banks were willing to lend to anyone with nothing down and no credit because they could package up the loans and sell them overseas for a nice profit.  But it’s not our fault or our banks’ because the illegals did it.

Scapegoating illegal aliens, specifically Mexicans, has been a favorite tactic of the right for several years now.  Twenty years ago, it was President Reagan, paragon of the US conservative moment, championing immigration reform, but those days of reasonable compromise are behind us.  When today’s Republican leader championed bipartisan immigration reform his position was hammered by his political rivals and he was forced to abandon his position and get in line.  Today, you can find Internet chatter blaming immigrants for illegal voting, healthcare issues, poor education, unemployment and now the mortgage crisis.  That none of these claims stands up to scurtiny doesn’t really matter.  The demagogues are out in force and logic is hopelessly out of touch.

Last night, I was listening to a radio report describing the impact of anti-immigration sentiment.

In North Carolina, many Hispanic leaders community leaders have been flooded by menacing emails, letters and phone calls since an immigration reform bill failed in Congress last year.

A lot of people have written Andrea Bezon over the years about her work with a state Hispanic organization.  She keeps the mail in an enormous three ring binder, stuffed in crackly, plastic pages.  “So here I have all kinds of letters and cards from people I didn’t even know.”  At first, Bezon says, there were notes of support.  Next came letters and emails criticizing illegal immigration. “And then, very ugly letters that initially were just about the issue, and then the community and eventually, they became personal.”  Some tell her to go back to where she came from.  Others mention her children.  But it wasn’t until this year she became worried.  Bezon gets intimidating phone calls and death threats.   She has observed people watching her house…

In North Carolina, one of the most outspoken critics of Latino advocates is William Gheen, the head of Americans for Legal Immigration.  He coordinates email campaigns, but says he has nothing to do with any threatening messages.  “But the reason that they’re getting those is because those groups are engaged in activities, political activities, that some North Carolinians feel are downright hostile and so that’s why they’re getting those types of responses, it’s because of their own actions.”

See the logic here?  If people engage in “political activities” that people feel are “downright hostile”, then they deserve death threats.  It’s “because of their own actions.”

The really bad part of this is that these tactics work.  When they are not sending threatening emails or clogging chat forums with anti-immigrant rants, they are voting for the demagogues.  As we approach the end of this contentious election cycle, the Republican candidates are reaching out to the mob.  The crowds are cheering as the Governor Palin calls Senator Obama unpatriotic.  They are yelling “terrorist” and “kill him” and Palin smiles encouragement.  We’re already well down a path that humanity has gone down before.  Senator McCain, who was championing immigration reform two years ago, has to really answer this question: “Do you really want to go there?”  There are far worse things than loosing an election and the demagogues can never really control the mob.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. sozobe  •  Oct 11, 2008 @9:31 am

    Good post, engineer…