FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Governing by Scapegoat

Got a problem? Simplify and project.

When you have a country to govern and you have no idea what to do — and, even more to the core of the matter, you also have a crony-agenda you want to push quietly past the populace — there’s a time-proven technique that generally works. Govern by scapegoat!

This usually means go to war, but sometimes that’s not enough. Here in the USA, there’s been so much antiwar sentiment since the disastrous quagmires of the last half century — Vietnam, the War (To Promote) Terror — we’ve had to make war simply part of the background noise. The military cash bleed continues, but the public lacks an international enemy to rally against and blame for its insecurity.

Creating a scapegoat enemy domestically has also gotten complicated. Thugs and punks — predatory (minority) teenagers — shoulder much of the responsibility for keeping the country distracted, but in this era of political correctness, politicians have to be careful. Thus the Trump administration has turned to the immigrants. Not all of them, of course — only the ones from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. In particular, it has turned to . . . the illegals!

Why is America so violent?

“It’s pure evil,” runs the newly released Trump campaign ad. “President Trump is right: Build the wall, deport criminals, stop illegal immigration now. Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants. President Trump will fix our border and keep our families safe.”

Governing by scapegoat is more than just a stupid appeal to the base. Its cruel consequences are manifold. In essence, doing so both wrecks lives and ignores the real causes of the country’s problems. Often enough, it contributes to the social collapse at the root of the problems it purports to address.

Here’s one look at the humanity of DACA: “It meant we did not fear that today — any day — was going to be the last day we could hug our children, parents or siblings,” Dreamer Reyna Montoya writes at Truthout. “It allowed us to have inner peace, knowing that we were not going to be thrown to a country we no longer know. DACA provided safety, and that is now being ripped away.”

Leaving hundreds of thousands of lives “hanging by a thread,” as Montoya put it, strikes me as contributing to the problem, not the solution. Trump’s claim that “illegals” contribute in a serious way to American violence is totally without factual basis, but because violence has become a plague in this country, explaining its cause with scapegoat propaganda has a feel-good resonance for a lot of people. It’s so much easier to blame some designated “other” than to look within.

But consider . . .

“The governor and several people in Benton (Kentucky) said they couldn’t believe a mass shooting would happen in their small, close-knit town. But many such shootings across the nation have happened in rural communities.”

Yeah, another one, at a high school in rural Kentucky. This was just the day before yesterday, as I write. Two students killed, as many as 20 injured, a 15-year-old boy arrested. He fired a handgun into a crowded atrium at the school until he ran out of bullets. This is now minor news in America: ho hum, another mass murder. Unless the death toll is in double digits, it commands only perfunctory headlines.

Indeed, the Associated Press account of the shooting — complete with stats and data putting it into the context of similar occurrences — read almost like coverage of a sporting event. “The attack marked the year’s first fatal school shooting.”

And, oh yeah: “Marshall County High School is about 30 minutes from Heath High School in Paducah, Ky., where a 1997 mass shooting killed three and injured five. Michael Carneal, then 14, opened fire there about two years before the fatal attack at Columbine High School in Colorado, ushering in an era when mass school shootings have become much more common.

“Meanwhile, in the small North Texas town of Italy, a 15-year-old girl was recovering Tuesday after police said she was shot by a 16-year-old classmate in her high school cafeteria on Monday, sending dozens of students scrambling for safety. Police in Louisiana, meanwhile, are investigating shots fired Monday as students gathered outside their charter school.”

The agenda that Trump and his cohorts are focused on moving forward is not the one that addresses American misery, but the one that slashes corporate taxes and privatizes as much of the social infrastructure as possible. For instance, four months after Hurricane Maria, 30 percent of Puerto Rico remains without electric power. Government relief efforts didn’t go much beyond the presidential tossing of paper towels — a racist gesture if ever there was one — but now the Puerto Rican governor has a plan to privatize the island’s power utility. Appalled critics are calling this a blatant example of disaster capitalism: the use of tragedy to further a corporate agenda.

Let the rich grow richer. When that causes trouble, blame the ones who have the least.

More articles by:

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail