Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Institutionalized Ignorance

In the immediate and extended aftermath of 9/11, one thing I have to give President Bush credit for is stating clearly and repeatedly that these actions were those of a minority, and didn't represent Islam or Muslims as a whole.  Of course, that didn't stop a few in the Republican ranks from making their bigotry known -- the Steve Kings, the Tom Tancredos -- but such characters were generally sidelined and silenced by their own party establishment.

The transition to the Obama White House, however, seems to have unchained the crazies on the right, making anti-Muslim fervor reach a level of acceptance in public discourse that's alarming, to say the least.  To wit, here's TN Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, running for the Republican nomination for governor in that state, when prodded by a mouth breather in the audience who's worried about "the Muslims" invading:
You can even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, a way of life, or a cult -- whatever you want to call it -- and we do protect our religions. 
Boy, I'm sure glad he threw in that small disclaimer at the end because otherwise I might be inclined to think that Mr. Ramsey doesn't know what he's talking about.  But, of course, no one that ignorant could hold public office, right?  Right?

In that epic-length Park51 thread from a few days back, you may have noticed how it didn't take long for the usual anti-Muslim canards that have taken root on the right to be trotted out once again.  The same ones that, despite the voluminous evidence to the contrary, have become completely accepted as conventional wisdom, as proved out by Mr. Ramsey's statement to TPM when prodded for clarification:
It's time for American Muslims who love this country to publicly renounce violent jihadism and to drum those who seek to do America harm out of their faith community.
Yep.  There we go with that again.

What makes the regular deployment of tired bromides such as these so insidious isn't just their repetition, nor even their institutionalized acceptance as truisms.  Rather, it's the way they've cleared the deck to allow people like Mr.  Ramsey, as well as his fellow travelers on the crazy train like King, Tancredo, Sue Myrick, et al., and all the people who read such comments and silently signal their agreement, to launch whatever vile invective they like, and do so with their consciences clear.  

That means that a whole lot of crazies are following the implicit acquiescence of their leadership and launching a whole lot of hate without need for restraint or fear of restriction.  I don't think it's very hard at all to connect the dots between the rhetorical bombs being dropped by our ostensible representatives, and things like this.  Or this.  Or this.  So how long before they condemn the actions of their most lunatic fringe?  I have a feeling I'd better not be holding my breath.

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