AIG employees have been crudely vilified, they have been targets of death threats, a U.S. senator has urged them to kill themselves, protestors “tour” their homes, they have had to hire security guards and AIG has removed its name from the front of its Manhattan offices…This mass hysteria is being fueled by the government…The House passed an extraordinary piece of punitive – and unconstitutional – legislation to tax away…the bonus money. New York’s attorney general, abetted by the threat of making their names public, has gotten many of the recipients to “voluntarily” return their bonuses. Perversely, the rights of captured Islamic jihadists generate greater concern in Washington… All these actions are tantamount to rule by mob action….driven by rampant emotionalism, with no concern for facts….Mob Rule in D.C., Peter Schwartz, Front Page Magazine, 4/7/2009
In New York, we’re familiar with this kind of thing. Someone gets wind of a potentially inflammatory case being handled by the DA’s office. A rabble rowser appears on the courthouse steps, raising one the spectre of one –ism or another. The tabloids print two-inch-high headlines, presuming the guilt of the accused before there’s even been an indictment. Later, as with Rev. Al Sharpton’s infamous libel against an upstate attorney in the Tawana Brawley case, torts suits are filed, settlements made to the aggrieved party, and all that’s really happened is the very expensive, not to mention treacherous, creation of a popular fiction. In some cases, as in the conflict that arose between the Hasidim and African-Americans in Brooklyn a dozen years ago, the careless rousing of hatreds can cause bloodshed and death.
People like Al Sharpton get their power from the same place that the current government in Washington achieved its dominance, through the thoughtless hysteria of voters and readers. The saddest part of this is that this route to power has become so dependable in 21st century America. It is not, however, very new. One only has to briefly survey the hysteria in the southern states during Reconstruction, which led to the foundation of the night-riding, lynching Klan and to Jim Crow laws. Come forward a little bit to the dementia that informed anti-union politics for a century, as if every union member was a Red. This led to violent suppression and to a number of deaths. Come forward a little more to the 1960 election which was decided on the basis of a wholly fictitious issue, the missile gap between the now-defunct USSR and the USA. The sensational manipulation of media during the Vietnam war and during the 1970s brought down two Presidents who, whatever serious and minor faults they had, did nothing that their predecessors hadn’t done on many occasions. Come forward to the 8-year trashing of the Bush administration, which still goes on. It’s a periodic witch trial and burning, an American tradition as ancient as America itself.
In the politics of hysteria, real issues, such as the imminent and terrifying proliferation of nuclear weapons to North Korea and Iran, or the radical devaluation of the dollar implemented with such irresponsible Congressional acts as TARP, the stimulus, and the 2009-2010 federal budget, are wholly ignored. This is the price of ignorance for voters and for America. For the leadership in Washington, it’s the ticket to success. Schwartz suggests that this is akin to fascism. It is, but who these days really knows what that kind of politics was?