Living in an age of hysteria

We are now well into full-blown anti-Muslim hysteria with every right-wing politician trying to outdo each other as to who can come up with the most outrageous suggestion. No suggestion is too bonkers if it has as its basis the idea that all Muslims and immigrants of color, however benign they may seem on the surface, are people who might well have a desire to slit your throat in the night.

Allow only Christian refugees into the country (Jeb! Bush and Ted Cruz)? Create a database of all Muslims (Donald Trump)? Create a database of all immigrants (Ben Carson)? Keep out even orphans under the age of five (Chris Christie)? Keep out all refugees and asylum seekers from predominantly Muslim countries (Rand Paul)? Sure, why not? Because as politicians have discovered, you can’t go far wrong by telling Americans that they have the right to live in a zero-risk world and that anything at all is preferable to risking the life of a single American at the hands of a foreigner, though we can be totally cavalier about the massive death rate at the hands of native-born killers. So powerful is this sense that 47 Democrats defied president Obama and joined with the Republicans in passing a bill that required essentially that unattainable guarantee of zero-risk.

The media have been of little help in fighting this. Glenn Greenwald says that the post-Paris coverage shows the hollowness of the mainstream media’s claim that it prizes objectivity by the way it treated Elise Labott, CNN’s global affairs correspondent, who was suspended for supposedly editorializing in a tweet.

But as he points out her real problem was that she expressed sympathy for refugees at a time when the national mood is to attack them. He says that the message this sends to other journalists is clear.

But there’s a more important point here than CNN’s transparently farcical notion of “objectivity.” In the wake of Paris, an already-ugly and quite dangerous anti-Muslim climate has exploded. The leading GOP presidential candidate is speaking openly of forcing Muslims to register in databases, closing mosques, and requiring Muslims to carry special ID cards. Another, Rand Paul, just introduced a bill to ban refugees almost exclusively from predominantly Muslim and/or Arab countries. Others are advocating exclusion of Muslim refugees (Cruz) and religious tests to allow in only “proven Christians” (Bush).

That, by any measure, is a crisis of authoritarianism. And journalists have historically not only been permitted, but required, to raise their voice against such dangers. Indeed, that is one of the primary roles of journalism: to serve as a check on extremism when stoked by political demagogues.

It’s not hard to envision the impact that this CNN action will have on the next journalist who considers speaking up the way Labott (very mildly) just did: they know doing so could imperil their career. In the face of the kind of emerging extremism now manifest in the U.S. (and Europe), that journalistic climate neuters journalists, renders them impotent and their function largely irrelevant, and — by design or otherwise — obliterates a vital check on tyrannical impulses. But that’s what happens when media outlets are viewed principally as corporate assets rather than journalistic ones: their overriding goal is to avoid saying or doing anything that will create conflict between them and those who wield the greatest power.

Stephen Colbert gave his own take on the anti-refugee hysteria


  1. StevoR says

    Well said and done Colbert & show.

    Also what he said as quoted by PZ Myers here :

    Plus on a more sombre note what PZ Myers powerfully wrote here :

    Never mind the fear-mongering title; HR 4038 is the act that refuses desperate Syrian and Iraqi refugees entry into the US. It is the product of shitting-their-pants cowardice. If you want to understand US foreign policy, this is it: we are terrified of ‘foreigners’, so we build up a massive military that lets us bully everyone else, but when battered, fearful men, women, and children knock on our door and ask for mercy and understanding, we blubber in fear and add extra locks.

    We’re cowards. Understand that, you understand America. … (Snip) .. when the civilians crawl out of the rubble and ask for help, we turn our back and call them terrorists.

    America, home of the craven.

    We should be ashamed.

    I guess it might surprise some of you here to read this but I really do agree with those quotes and PZ Myers among others here -- & also what Stephanie Zvan said so very well here :


    PS. Myers used to do a semi-regular round up on Pharyngula of what some of the other FTB bloggers were saying with brief summaries and links. It was a good idea and is worth doing by others I think. I’d suggest it on his blog myself but, well, sadly, I can’t.


    Pledge against Da’esh :

    You want us to be afraid? We will not be afraid.

    You want us to hate? We will not hate.

    You want us divided? We will unite more than ever.

    You want us to attack and blame the wrong people who have no link to you other than fleeing your evil? We refuse to do so.

    You want us to call you “Islamic state” and see you as “warrior” enemies? We will call you by the name you like least and think of you as what you are; vile criminal douchebags with delusions of grandeur.

    You want to be taken seriously with all your murders and atrocities? We will defeat you with the ridicule, disdain and contempt you deserve.

    You have taken some lives but you cannot destroy our freedoms or our nature or our joie de vivre.

    To all your cruel and brutal carnage against innocents, we will respond with cool and firm determination against you and warm compassion and defiant aid to all those you seek to harm.

    This we pledge. And we shall prevail over you.

  2. John Morales says

    StevoR, still spruiking your silly pledge?

    Me, I pay attention to what people do, moreso than to what they say.

    (And you really don’t see the irony in your “them vs. us” pledge?)

  3. StevoR says

    @2. John Morales : Why is my pledge there “silly” in your view exactly please?

    Also no, I don’t see why it is ironic either.

    As for #3. I’ve certainly read that this is the case and I’m not advocating an invasion.

  4. John Morales says

    StevoR, it’s silly because it both runs contrary to human nature and to reality.

    It is ironic because the very purpose of ISIL is to set up a dichotomy between them and us, and you echo that purpose in its converse. Mirrors, you ideologues are.

    (cf. “You want us divided? We will unite more than ever.”)

  5. StevoR says

    @ ^ John Morales : Could you be more specific there on that first part?

    If you mean we cannot help feeling certain emotions, well kinda but also we can consciously choose to rethink and reconsider and change them which is what the pledge is supposed to help with. We can consciously remind ourselves that these Jihadists want our fear and hatred and then strive to NOT let those emotions dominate our thoughts, responses and lives. Is that really such a bad thing to try and do? Guess its a bit like cognitive therapy for depression where you try and stop and break the patterns of thought and shift them into positive ones instead of letting the litany of negativity dominate your life.

    What would your alternative suggestion and what better course(s?) of action do you advise instead?

    I guess I can now see where you are coming from on the irony bit although that dichotomy and division was pre-existing and hard to get around it really. It pretty much is Da’esh versus the rest of the world -- even Al Quaida.

    Thanks for your link there which was interesting and made some good points although some of it -- like AQ and Iran hating and fighting Da’sh I already knew. I don’t place that much store in Da’esh not caring about what they are called especially given their previous name changes and suspect their nonchalance is a little more feigned than real. They want to claim the world “Islamic” for themselves and I don’t think we should let them. I’m no friend of Islam at all but I do think that most Muslims agree that Da’esh represents them about as well as most Christians feel the Westboro hate cult represents them.

    I think that article shows that Daesh are losing their war. We know they are losing ground – literally – see :'t-weak,-but-it-is-losing-ground/6953350

    Da’esh lost Kobane earlier this year, they’ve just lost Sinjar to the Kurdish pershmerga and the Yazidi fighters. They are being hammered by Russians and Western forces. They are loathed by almost everyone and have few if any friends and allies with even Al Quaida fighting against them.

    As that article you linked in #3 shows Da’esh are also under financial,and social pressure and the stream of refugees leaving their lands is something that’s actually hurting them and they are struggling more than it sometimes seems. I think and hope Da’esh will crumble and be defeated and imagine they are already probably losing more people than they are recruiting. I really don’t think their ideology and existence is sustainable long term and thus think its a matter of time before they are conclusively beaten and destroyed – hopefully sooner rather than later. Perhaps I’m being too optimistic here but (shrug) I don’t think so.

  6. Silentbob says

    The Muslims are a bit like the fictional Klingons — behave sycophantically and weakly and they’ll give you no respect and bully and threaten you until you’re right under their thumb and get nothing from them but derision — stand up to them strongly and you earn their respect and only then can you listen and deal with them. A strong foreign policy that is honest and firm against the Islamic nations not a soft, vacillating weak one that strives to appease them must be the go.

    Those here who advocate compromise and appeasement from the West (& Israel) thinking this will be the way to a peaceful better future where the Muslim side respects the rest of the world are showing their ignorance of Islamic culture and mindset. The way to get the Muslims to be peaceful is to earn their respect by strength and, if necessary, sometimes violence in standing up to them and showing them we’re not going to be bullied. Its a horrible, alien way of thinking to most of you , it is to me too — but that’s the simple cultural reality and won’t change anytime soon.

    StevoR — December 9, 2013 (source)

  7. Silentbob says

    Muslims, folks, would slit your appeasing throats with as much bloodthirsty joy as they’d chop my head off. hey dont care for science or athesim or compassionate humanism at all and will kill those who do.

    StevoR — April 6, 2012 (source)

  8. StevoR says

    @ ^ Holms : And your problems with my ‘Pledge against Da’esh’ in #1 are ..???

    Your alternative would be?

    @7. & #8. Silentbob : Quotes from years ago which I’ve since repeatedly apologised for and stated I no longer believe or think. Yeesh, really? I ‘spose if I really cared to and dug deeply enough, I could probably find something bad you wrote years ago that you now totally disagree with and are embarrassed by although I’ve neither the time not the inclination to do so. Wondering why its seemingly so important for you to do that to me?

    In any case, aside from showing how much my personal views have evolved and changed over the years what relevance do either of those old comments have to do with anything I’ve written here in this thread?

    @ 3. John Morales : To clarify further, I think we should use Da’esh as much because it helps us approach and think about the issue of their terrorism and its relations with the wider Muslim community as well as they find it insulting.

  9. Mano Singham says


    I think that the reason that so many keep throwing your words back at you is that they are so horrific that people simply cannot believe that anyone would say them.

    Leave aside the calls for using nuclear weapons on countries. Take just your statement that “Muslims, folks, would slit your appeasing throats with as much bloodthirsty joy as they’d chop my head off. hey dont care for science or athesim or compassionate humanism at all and will kill those who do.”

    This was said about 1.6 billion people. No one other than an outright ignorant racist would dream of making such a sweeping and appalling statement. Are you saying that you were such an ignorant outright racist just three years ago? If so, what is it that made you see the light? And what do you believe about Muslims now?

  10. StevoR says

    @11. Holms : I hope it helps people think differently and better in their approach to this issue and what responses to make to it. Okay its not going to physically do a lot but just thinking and hoping it helps a few people rethink things more clearly and put another approach or set of thoughts out there.

  11. StevoR says

    @12. Mano Singham : What I believe about Muslims now is that they are people who hold a diverse set of common beliefs. They are people and there are many forms of their religion most of which are no worse or better than Christianity or other belief systems.

    I think a few years ago I didn’t sufficiently distinguish between the minority of Jihadists and the majority of Muslims who are not. That was wrong of me and I did get carried away in the heat of the debate and say stuff like that without thinking enough about it and the implications. of what I was saying.

    What made me change my mind? Well, it wasn’t any one single thing but a combination of many over time.

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