January 12, 2005

'Fear dust. That's what it is. Fear dust.'

This magpie popped over to The Nation's website for a look-see, instead of just reading the content via RSS feeds. One of our favorite columnists, Katha Pollitt, wrote about a recent NPR story about how the US Army and compassionate Californians ensured that a young Iraqi boy received urgently needed care for injuries he suffered after he picked up a cluster bomb. The boy had picked up the bomb because it was 'round and smooth.'

Pollitt notes that the feel-good story failed to mention that the bomb was laying around on the ground because US forces have been dropping cluster bombs all over Iraq. And it didn't make any comparisons to the way that Afghani children were injured and killed by cluster bombs dropped by the Soviets during their occupation of that country.

Having made these points, Pollitt jumps off to make some important observations about how the US has changed since the '90s:

Sometimes I think America is becoming another place, unrecognizable. David Harvey, the great geographer, tells the story of a friend who returned to the United States last spring after seven years away and could not believe the transformation. "It was as if everyone had been sprinkled with idiot dust!" Some kind of mysterious national dumb-down would explain the ease with which the Republicans have managed to get so many people agitated about the nonexistent Social Security crisis--at 82 percent ranked way above poverty and homelessness (71 percent) and racial justice (47 percent) in a list of urgent issues in a recent poll--or about gay marriage, whose threat to heterosexual unions nobody so far has been able to articulate. Mass mental deterioration would explain, too, how so many Americans still believe the discredited premises of the Iraq War--Saddam Hussein had WMD, was Osama's best friend, was behind 9/11. But even as a joke it doesn't explain the way we have come to accept as normal, or at least plausible, things that would have shocked us to our core only a little while ago. Michelle Malkin, a far-right absurdity, writes a book defending the internment of the Japanese in World War II, and before you know it Daniel Pipes, Middle East scholar and frequent op-ed commentator, is citing Malkin to support his proposals for racial profiling of Muslims. And he's got lots of company--in a recent poll almost half of respondents agreed that the civil liberties of Muslims should be curtailed. Pipes's proposals in turn seem mild compared with the plans being floated by the Pentagon and the CIA for lifetime detention of terrorist suspects--without charges, without lawyers, in a network of secret prisons around the globe. Kafkaesque doesn't begin to describe it--at least Joseph K. had an attorney and the prisoner of "In the Penal Colony" got a sentence.

[...] The problem is fear. The media are afraid of looking too "liberal," intellectuals are afraid of being called "anti-American"--and they will be if they challenge too vigorously the crimes being committed in America's name--Democrats are afraid of having their remaining bits of turf plowed under and sown with salt by the Republicans, the left is afraid of looking too "secular" and not "supporting the troops," and ordinary people are afraid of being blown up by the terrorist next door.

Fear dust. That's what it is. Fear dust.

And, as Pollitt points out, it certainly does seem to be everywhere these days.

Posted by Magpie at January 12, 2005 12:41 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |
Comments

the nonexistent Social Security crisis--82 percent ranked way above poverty and homelessness (71 percent) and racial justice (47 percent) in a list of urgent issues in a recent poll

Any idea which poll that was?

Posted by: Daniel K at January 12, 2005 05:31 PM

The problem is fear. The media are afraid of looking too "liberal," intellectuals are afraid of being called "anti-American"--and they will be if they challenge too vigorously the crimes being committed in America's name

I had an interesting conversation over email with a conservative family member today. He brought out the familiar refrain of, "If the Democratic Party gets any further left, they'll be obsolete". I challenged him to explain to me exactly what makes them so far "left" already. I haven't heard back, but there's no good answer for him. Economically, Joe Lieberman is further 'left' than Howard Dean. Socially, the Democratic party's official platform on drug use, gay marriage, and alcohol is considered center-right in most of the rest of the first world. And on foreign relations, when Richard Clarke and Brent Scowcroft are on the 'left' and Zell Miller and Ed Koch are the 'right', you quickly realize that the left/right scale is about as meaningless as the upcoming Iraqi elections.

Posted by: thehim at January 12, 2005 05:55 PM

Once more I'm reminded why I am such of fan of Katha Pollitt. Definitely fear dust.

Posted by: Mary at January 12, 2005 11:22 PM