Tom Ridge, first Director of the Office of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, has just published a book entitled The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege . . . And How We Can Be Safe Again. In it, he charges that the Bush Administration—well aware that the president’s approval ratings rose significantly during times of perceived threats—manipulated the use of terror alerts for political gain.
Of course, it’s Ridge’s book, and he manages to make himself look somewhat innocent—if not faintly heroic—as one who resisted pressure from on high to raise the alert level for no valid reason on the eve of the 2004 elections.
Naturally, other officials of the previous administration deny these allegations by a former Republican Congressman, governor, and cabinet member. Ridge’s story, however, is entirely keeping with what we know about the win-at-any-cost philosophy of the Bush-Cheney-Rove administration.
To manipulate and control people through fear is terrorism. While psychological terror tactics are different in kind and degree from the use of snipers and bombs, I submit that morally, they fall into the same category. This kind of psychological warfare has been a major weapon in the arsenal of the GOP (General Opposition Party) for decades. In recent months, we’ve seen many examples—from Sarah Palin ranting about “socialism” on the campaign trail to Senators alleging that “health reform” would lead to selective murder of the elderly and infirm.
The so-called public servants who use such incendiary language are well aware that a healthy percentage of the American public is gullible and naïve enough to believe outrageous lies. There are those who shrug off blatant fear-mongering as “just politics.” In politics as elsewhere, they say, it’s “buyer beware"—“fool me once” and all that.
However, deliberately using lies, no matter how absurd, to stir up public outrage is anything but harmless. Anger is a secondary emotion, following closely on the heels of fear, and those stoking the rage of the ignorant—people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and certain extremists in Congress—endanger us all by doing so.
Igniting political bonfires to create distraction (the idiotic "Birther" movement comes to mind here), halts progress by gumming up the essential work of the government. (Any lack of progress, of course, can be blamed on the Democrats, especially when Democrats are in power.) Beyond that, however, is the actual body count.
Victims of atrocities committed by right-wing extremists—from the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City to murder of a security guard at the Holocaust museum—are just as dead or traumatized as victims of Al Qaeda. For months, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which keeps track of such things, has been warning about an escalation of activity among right-wing militia groups and potentially violent extremists.
It's past time for every citizen capable of rational thought--regardless of political affiliation--to turn off FOX News and wing-nut radio and quit pretending that ends justify the means. If conservatives can't put forth ideas that stand on their own merit--regarding health care reform or any other topic worth discussing--then they need to shut up.
Someone--and the rest of us are that "someone"--needs to tell them to do that. Rather than meeting one outrageous lie after another with a plain and honest statement of the truth--an Obama strategy that hasn't been working too well lately--we need to work toward ending the kind of political correctness the prevents us from calling a spade a spade.