Politics (and Murder) Most Foul

From the listens and glimpses I got of the Republican National Convention a couple of weeks back, there were several efficacious speakers. Unfortunately, the theme that wove their speeches together and elicited the most spirited responses from the crowd was ad hominem assault. The Democratic National Convention, wisely or unwisely, called for unity and emphasized commonality. The Republican National Convention was simply another Neocon rendition of “it’s us against them.”

McCain often refers to himself as a “change” candidate, but his convention and subsequent campaign are obviously fashioned after the unrepentant wiles of Bush’s “Boy Wonder,” Karl Rove. Instead of attacking Barack Obama on the issues or his record, the Neocon spin machine is snidely ridiculing his background and personal style. It’s clear they want to depict him as a suspicious, menacing “other” rather than a fellow American or another rational human being with different political beliefs. It is not their intent to constructively highlight policy differences or divergent political agendas. Their goal is to create fear and contempt in their constituents, so much so that it bleeds over into the ranks of undecided voters and the resultant hysteria transforms the political process into an ideological witch hunt.

Every time a presidential election cycle comes around these days, Republicans portray Democrats as godless, immoral and unpatriotic. Conservative blowhards like Rush Limbaugh disingenuously blast away at Democratic authenticity. Evangelical fear-mongers question and besmirch Democratic morality and motives. And propagandist scamps like Rove circulate fabricated dark secrets that hint at Democratic evils and general depravity (ask McCain; when he was running against Bush, the whispers concerned an illegitimate African-American love child in South Carolina). The result is a spurious, wholesale denigration of Democratic candidates that leaves a large percentage of the American populace believing that if they don’t vote Republican, God will abandon us, Satan will be nominated to the Supreme Court and Al Qaeda or Iran or Russia or China will be handed the proverbial keys to the kingdom.

In this same vein, the Republican convention clearly laid the groundwork for vilifying Barrack Obama, and, as I watched, I kept waiting for Jim Adkisson to take the stage.

Perhaps you don’t remember him.

Adkisson was the out-of-work, Tennessee truck-driver who recently decided “liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country.” On July 28th, he walked into his former church (which he also felt had gotten too liberal) and started shooting folks who were gathered there for a children’s musical. Two people were killed and six others were wounded. A longtime acquaintance later said Adkisson hated “blacks, gays and anyone different from him.”

I sincerely doubt Adkisson came to hate liberals (et al) all by his lonesome while he was driving the byways and back roads of the American hinterland. In fact, if you retrieved his keys and went by the Knoxville Police impound and started up his truck, I bet you’d find his radio is still tuned to a channel that features the vitriol of hateful conservative talk show hosts.

Adkisson was hardly a lone gunman. He clearly had folks like Limbaugh and Glen Beck and Karl Rove whispering in his ear. And if you listen, you can still hear them: Obama is different… Obama wants us to lose the war… Obama is the Antichrist… Obama called Sarah Palin a pig… Obama wants kindergarten kids to be taught sex education…

When you characterize your opponent(s) as depraved, treacherous, evil and perverse, he becomes an enemy instead of an opponent. He becomes dangerous and destructive instead of just disagreeable or dissident. This is the essence of Neocon politics. Once they convince their constituents that Democrats and liberals are diabolic and life, liberty and way-of life-threatening, it makes them easier to condemn, slander, sabotage, character-assassinate and ultimately—in Adkisson’s case—murder. It’s a Nazi tactic that Neocons ought be ashamed of, but they feel the ends (eight years of almost absolute, unaccountable power) justify the means.

Their entire modus operandi is based on the blatantly cynical supposition that the American public is perpetually irrational and the best way to get elected is to stoke our irrational fears and prejudices.

The bad news is it’s worked for at least two election cycles. The good news is the routine is starting to wear thin.

Eventually folks will get weary of the Neocons crying wolf, or Muslim or Antichrist. Let’s just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Native Texan E.R. Bills is the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional and Nefarious and Texas Oblivion: Mysterious Disappearances, Escapes and Cover-Ups. Read other articles by E.R..

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  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on September 14th, 2008 at 12:48am #

    Actually, although this is certainly a Nazi tactic, and one used throughout time, I think its most potent and dedicated recent practitioners are the pro-Israel fundamentalists. For this crew there is no such thing as an Israeli or Jew who has ever injured another person, particularly not a Palestinian or Lebanese. Every massacre, from the Nakbah, through Qibya, Sabra and Shatilla up to Qana Mark Two in 2006 is a ‘blood libel’ against the Jews. Conversely Palestinians and Shia Lebanese are ‘terrorist societies’, intent on launching a new Holocaust, and any criticism of Israel whatsoever is prima facie evidence of ‘anti-Semitism’. Believe me, in Australia this discourse is very nearly all you will find in the mass media these days, where apologias for Israel and virulent hatred of Arabs and Moslems is almost daily reaching new extremes of hysteria.