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Fear Can Turn Us All Into 'Good Germans.'
April 29, 2002 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Fear Can Turn Us All Into 'Good Germans.' Harley Sorensen takes on the culture of fear and bigotry that's rising in the US and Israel (and other places as well), where people are willing to give up their own freedom in the name of unity, and are happy to plug their ears when an alternative opinion is expressed. Includes an amazing letter from someone who's "decided not to be Jewish" because of the attitude of his religion.
posted by Jimbob (32 comments total)

 
The formula to become a brutish leader, as Jean-Marie Le Pen proved recently in France, is a two-step process. First, you convince the masses they are in grave danger (Le Pen used immigrants as his boogie man), then you promise to save them.

That's exactly what Hitler did, and it's exactly what Bush and Sharon are doing


Riiiiight... it's not like America was attacked by insane, murderous Islamist terrorists, or like Israel was suffering from almost-daily mass-murdering suicide bombers or anything. Common dreams? Fringe delusions, more like it.
posted by dagny at 12:13 AM on April 30, 2002


Is the average American in "grave danger"? I doubt it. Can Dubya save them if they were? It's unlikely. Is it so "deluded" to suggest that, in reality, we don't actually as individuals have that much to fear. There's no need to close down the business the minute someone spots a pile of white power by the coffee machine. And there's certainly no need to let such fears erode your quality of life, freedom of choice, and attitude towards other human beings. Time for some perspective...
posted by Jimbob at 12:40 AM on April 30, 2002


Is the average American in "grave danger"? I doubt it.

I'll start doubting the very second the terror-supporting regimes of Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia fall. Thankfully Iran seems to be falling under its own weight, but the two others will need some "active encouragement".

Is it so "deluded" to suggest that, in reality, we don't actually as individuals have that much to fear.

Tens of millions of murderous Muslim fundamentalists want to eradicate America and all that it stands for; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Something to fear? You betcha.
posted by dagny at 12:47 AM on April 30, 2002


Oh gawd, we got outselves a bigoted nationalist on our hands. Someone who's scared of big bad Iran and Iraq! You really think they're after you! You've been taken hook, line and sinker, by the looks of it, especially since you're still convinced America stands for life (as long as it's American life...Africans, Arabs, South Americans, Indigenous people, the poor, they don't count), liberty (strip searches, religious fundamentalism, drug wars, corruption, police brutality, censorship, media bias) and the pursiut of happiness (more like the greedy pursuit of wealth). But there's no point arguing, you exist within a paradigm I'm glad I'm not part of. I bet you like totin' guns as well, huh?
posted by Jimbob at 12:56 AM on April 30, 2002


Dagny, tens of millions of cars are just waiting to get into with accidents and kill us.

I guess it is time to stop driving Huh?
posted by yertledaturtle at 1:26 AM on April 30, 2002


So how has fear eroded America's quality of life, freedom of choice, or attitude towards other human beings? Lay it out for me... break it down point by point, if you will. Personally, I've seen no change... Unless you count increased interest in current events and a pronounced effort to not demonize innocent cultures and peoples for what extremist islamists have done and want to do. Which are there more of in the world right now: placards that read "Death to the" 1)Americans 2)Jews 3)Arabs. And we still don't hate those ignorant, misguided motherfuckers.

There is a difference between fearing an immediate danger (there isn't much of one to the US directly as a whole) and responding to a serious threat that can't be carried out yet (they'd like to get us, but we're big, far away, and know what's up).

especially since you're still convinced America stands for life (as long as it's American life...Africans, Arabs, South Americans, Indigenous people, the poor, they don't count),

What are you implying? That the United States disregards non-Americans? Then why do we help them so goddamn much? After we overthrow all these corrupt, threatening governments, why do we spend billions of dollars rebuilding entire nations if we just don't give a fuck. WHY?

liberty (strip searches, religious fundamentalism, drug wars, corruption, police brutality, censorship, media bias)

Strip searches? Where? Taking your shoes off at an airport is not a strip search.

Religious Fundamentalism? That's religious freedom, rearing it's ugly head, bud.

Drug wars? As long as it's illegal, authorities have a responsibility to respond. You may not agree with how that's accomplished but the freely-elected lawmakers that make those decisions are the same ones that don't want drugs legalized... and yet elected they still were.

Whose police are more brutal, ours or Saudi Arabias? You're grasping at straws.

Censorship? Just because Slim Shady can't say fuck on your favorite radio station doesn't mean a vast conspiracy is afoot.

Media Bias? In this country we have the Internet and Freedom of the Press... if you don't like Aaron Brown's take, you can stir up a batch of your own media bias.

and the pursiut of happiness (more like the greedy pursuit of wealth).

So now you're making moral judgments on how other people choose to peacefully, productively spend their time. I hear the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is hiring.

You say it's "time for some perspective," Jimbob, but the perspective you've linked to seems more out of touch than most. Don't react until they're beating down your door? THAT'S what got the German's in trouble.
posted by techgnollogic at 1:28 AM on April 30, 2002


Riiiiight... it's not like America was attacked by insane, murderous Islamist terrorists, or like Israel was suffering from almost-daily mass-murdering suicide bombers or anything. Common dreams? Fringe delusions, more like it.

Hey.

You forgot to mention that *they* are also intent on sapping and impurifying *our* Precious Bodily Fluids.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:28 AM on April 30, 2002


Which are there more of in the world right now: placards that read "Death to the" 1)Americans 2)Jews 3)Arabs.

~laugh~

Oh, my...placards...those insidious weapons of mass destruction...goddamned evildoing placard-wielding terrorists....

Let's all play your ridiculous little game:

Which is there more of in the world right now...more gross U.$ bomb tonnage targeted for imminent use on other peoples, or more gross bomb tonnage targeted by those vicious placard-wielding foreigners upon the U.$.?

Lay it out for us, will you? I mean, a ton by ton comparison. And then explain again all about our benevolence, and how it has nothing to do with our interests.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:47 AM on April 30, 2002


First, you convince the masses they are in grave danger (Le Pen used immigrants as his boogie man), then you promise to save them.

That's exactly what Hitler did, and it's exactly what Bush and Sharon are doing.


And Nader. And Buchanan. And Arafat. And Haider. And Mugabe. And Mao, Pot, Marx, Tito, Mussolini, Rush Limbaugh and Martha Stewart. Rinse. Repeat. Lordy, for a minute there I thought something had changed in world affairs...

Generally speaking, people who feel fear seem willing to throw away all their morals and principles. If you don't believe that, go to the airport and watch thousands of otherwise proud people line up like sheep to be publicly humiliated in the name of safety.

If this is the worst that comes of the fear, roll over and go back to sleep. We've been lining up comme ba-bas in airports long before Bush took office.

Of course we should be wary of leaders who rise to power on the tails of fear and promises of protection. We live in complex times, with a multitude of dangers, fears for the future and the present, and a populace on edge.

But do we really need to go through this GOP=Hitler crap again? It was irritating enough in '94 when we had adorable rolly-polly Newt the Nazi (who plugged other ears, incidentally) come to destroy all that is good and loving. I'm sure Harley means well, but this is some potent hyperbole.

Jimbob: I'd suggest that waving your worldview around like a giant, overripe halibut is unlikely to Win Friends and Influence People.

as long as it's American life...Africans, Arabs, South Americans, Indigenous people, the poor, they don't count

You forgot Australians.
posted by apostasy at 4:53 AM on April 30, 2002


Gaston (Reprise)
[Maurice:]      Help! Someone help me!
[Tavern keeper:] Maurice?
[Maurice:]      Please! Please, I need your help. He's got her - he's
                got her locked in the dungeon!
[LeFou:]        Who?
[Maurice:]      Belle. We must go. N-not a minute to lose!
[Gaston:]       Whoa! Slow down, Maurice. Who's got Belle locked in a
                dungeon?
[Maurice:]      A beast! A horrible, monstrous beast!
[Patron I:]     Is it a big beast?
[Maurice:]      Huge!
[Patron II:]    With a long, ugly snout?
[Maurice:]      Hideously ugly!
[Drinker III:]  And sharp, cruel fangs?
[Maurice:]      Yes! Yes! Will you help me?
[Gaston:]       All right, old man. We'll help you out.
[Maurice:]      You will? Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!
[Tavern keeper:] Crazy old Maurice.
[Patron I:]     He's always good for a laugh...
it's all in beauty and the beast :) think of the children!
posted by kliuless at 7:50 AM on April 30, 2002


techgnollogic: As long as drugs are illegal, authorities have an obligation to respond? What sort of argument is that, exactly? "Authorities" can change the laws, given that elected officials are authorities. If by "authorities" you mean only police, well, they take their orders from above. They do, however, sometimes decide not to enforce laws too strictly, and their decisions will often receive the tacit endorsement of elected officials. Countless laws - state, federal and local alike - are not strictly enforced. Cracking down on all laws, to the maximum, would either cause too much strife or keep "authorities" distracted. It would cost too much besides.
posted by raysmj at 8:59 AM on April 30, 2002


I'm reminded of all this now because of the way we Americans blindly follow George W. Bush into battle all over the world.

Wha...? Bush got a lot of support in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, but he began to be second guessed by the press, the Dems, even members of his own party before all the fires were even put out at Ground Zero. I agree with the basic premise that we should be on our guard, especially against the sort of ultranationalists that currently occupy the White House, but I don't think it's all that, at least not yet.

Also, I call Godwin's on the title.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:01 AM on April 30, 2002


foldy: jimbob's link deals with how fear has transformed America's society into bigoted evil Arab and brownpeople haters. I was responding to that, but thanks for taking me out of context. I've already said that for whatever hatreds they may harbor for me and my country, they pose no immediate danger to the lot of us. Point being, the average arab is safer in my town than I am in his.

For the record, America is still as badass as it ever has been, and we got bomb tonnage out the wazoo, no doubt.

The Benevolence/Self Interest game is bullshit.

raysmj: Yeah, the drug game is a complicated issue and i didn't want to bust wild on it. By 'authorities' I meant law enforcement personel... Basically, if the people wanted legalization, or decriminalization, or whatever your preference, we'd have it. Maybe in the future we will, but people have to vote for it, and if your favorite mood-altering passtime isn't shared by the majority then you might have to wait a while, advocate your cause, and see what happens.
posted by techgnollogic at 9:11 AM on April 30, 2002


technollogic. An addendum: Of course, the drug laws are passed by officials who are elected by the public. Curiously, though, a couple of recent surveys (the polls are discussed about halfway through the article) showed that respondents think the drug war has been a failure. It just might be that war on drugs has not come to dominate the national discourse, or that the pollsters did not ask enough questions. In any case, it's probably safe to say that public attitudes toward drug laws are not clear-cut. And how you think officials should respond depends on whether you believe the public judges candidates on every single issue, or just the ones most important to them - or ones that the candidates addressed in their campaigns, etc.
posted by raysmj at 9:14 AM on April 30, 2002


I don't disagree... But i think your last statement means a lot. As in, it's just not that big a deal to a lot of people... They might not want or agree with the war on drugs, but they don't care one way or another enough to vote for a change, maybe? No one has produced a candidate who votes the right way on all the right issues? I guess the question is would the system respond in kind if enough people expressed a desire for a change. I think it would.
posted by techgnollogic at 9:53 AM on April 30, 2002


This thread is shit.
posted by donkeyschlong at 9:58 AM on April 30, 2002


'cept for fold. I love fold. I'm so glad s/hes back.
posted by n9 at 10:40 AM on April 30, 2002


This article is spot on, and I salute the intellectual honesty of the quoted formerly-Jewish person for recognizing the basic moral conflicts of his position and choosing to side with the truly important values.
posted by rushmc at 10:54 AM on April 30, 2002


I think it's very interesting that people are willing to make excuses and exceptions for any amount of privacy-invading, freedom-restricting, speech-denying laws and directives, when the reality is that in America more people will die from bee-stings than terrorist attacks.

Shitting yourself in fear is exactly what's needed to turn you into a passive little sheep who'll salute the government's every move unquestioningly.

The right to bear arms was founded on the idea that it would allow the citizenry to overthrow a tyrannical government.

The antidote, of course, is to make the citizenry want a tyrannical government.

The people are going to get what they deserve.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:56 AM on April 30, 2002


"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."

-- Justice William O. Douglas
posted by homunculus at 12:17 PM on April 30, 2002


besides dagny maybe, WHO THE FUCK IS SCARED??? The author invents a really lame straw man and then bitches on and on about these non-existant frightened American bigot masses. YOU delusions-of-tyranny crack monkeys are fearmongering just as much as the worst anti-muslim warhawk ultranationalist freakazoid ever will... Get a grip...
posted by techgnollogic at 12:38 PM on April 30, 2002


techgnollogic: One might say the same to you.
posted by bshort at 1:45 PM on April 30, 2002


I said it before, I'll say it again:

A lot of good people died for the things that are right about the US and I'm willing to do that too.

I am not willing to live in a place that is "safe," whatever that means, as a result of giving up the freedoms those good people died for.
posted by n9 at 2:37 PM on April 30, 2002


"The people are going to get what they deserve."

sounds like a good fugazi lyric. (which is a good thing)
posted by n9 at 2:38 PM on April 30, 2002


bshort: despite your nick, could you elaborate?
posted by techgnollogic at 3:35 PM on April 30, 2002


.... And Self-Hatred Can Turn Us All Into Victimhood-Craving Ninnies.

Gawd, it doesn't stop with condemning Zionism -- it magically finds reason to condemn all religion, amid intimations that a general principle of foreign policy is a call to silence all dissent and people who Disagree With The President have to fear for their lives, so don't even reveal their names.

These people are in a Brazil of their own minds.
posted by dhartung at 6:09 PM on April 30, 2002


this, ah, isn't the Celine novel thread?
posted by clavdivs at 7:19 PM on April 30, 2002


Offical A : ..."Bringing into disrepute the good name of the government and the standing within the community of the Department of Information retrievals internal communications systems, wasting ministry time and paper."

from - 'Brazil'

i love that line.
posted by clavdivs at 7:34 PM on April 30, 2002


sounds like a good fugazi lyric. (which is a good thing)

huh. i was just thinking modest mouse.
posted by kliuless at 6:53 AM on May 1, 2002


Celine Dion is Britany Spears for baby boomers.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:23 AM on May 1, 2002


ahem
posted by semmi at 12:16 PM on May 1, 2002


kluiless -- four fingered fishermen are all right with me.
posted by n9 at 2:22 PM on May 2, 2002


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