Friday, July 22, 2011

This Is America

The story in Norway is just breaking, but it appears as if Islamophobic far-right gunmen have killed scores of people, possibly in retaliation against a Liberal Norwegian government.  I just finished listening to a great bloggingheads dialogue between Farhana Khera and Aziz Huq, a fascinating albeit depressing discussion on the continuing rise of Islamophobia, eclipsing even that of early post-9/11, and largely fueled by Tea party/et. al. political opportunism of ’10 and recession populist demagoguery.

However, upon entering the comments forum for the dialogue, I bore witness to a stunning descent into ugly, Islamophobic Muslim-bashing by the right-wing commenters there – who are generally much more reasonable than your garden variety conservative.

I just watched This Is England last night, which I highly recommend to those who have not seen it. It’s the story of a young, poor English kid who loses his Dad in the Falkland Islands war, and finds support in a group of non-racist skin head misfits. However, a schism in the group develops when a racialized skin-head comes back from prison, and begins agitating for far-right English Nationalism, and to lead the skin heads in racial violence against the”Pakis”, the Muslims, and generally the foreign, brown-skinned invaders.

It occurred to me during one particularly brutal scene where he’s ranting against foreigners and the threat they pose against English sovereignty, that were you to merely remove the racist nouns, it wouldn’t be a far cry at all from what is becoming more and more mainstream in American political rhetoric.
It is the same exact paranoid, conspiratorial, fuzzy logic bullshit that has always motivated right-wing nationalist hatred. There are obviously degrees, and certain people have their particular bogeymen, whether it is the “illegals” or Muslims, or various forms of non-”real” Americans. But that seed still lurks, and its scary. The bloggingheads forum was filled with evidence of the kind of thinking that follows. (And these are usually the more reasonable conservatives).

I’m not sure what to call it. I’m not even sure what it is. Is it a feeling that then creates false-cognitions? Is it false thinking that creates these feelings, which then lead to even worse logic? With Muslims, people who should know better, liberals who understand quite well things like racism and patterns of cognitive bias, get caught up in Islamophobic Muslim-bashing. Heck, I just finished Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape, and he seriously raised the possibility of Europe falling to a new Caliphate. His desire to attack religion overwhelmed his ability to reason, in a freaking book about the ways in which reason gets blindsided by emotion!”

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