It's My Turn
Fear is amazing. Applied the right way it can achieve almost any result. In 1961 on the weekend after the Cuban Missile Crisis my father took me out to the backyard to lay out plans for a bomb shelter. It wasn't until Mr. Paticoff, the physicist who lived next door, convinced him that it would merely be a crematorium, that he changed his mind
In 1964, only three years later Lyndon Johnson was elected to the presidency after airing a commercial in which a sweet toddler, counting daisies, was about to be incinerated by the blast of a nuclear bomb. Everyone over fifty remembers that commercial. Goldwater and the Republicans were furious, and rightly so. Four years later we were enmeshed in an unwinnable and unjustifiable war, fought because we were told countries were like falling dominoes and we were in their path. Republicans never forgot and vowed to never againbe the victims of fear mongering. From then on they would monger that fear. Fear works and works well.
Need to invade a country that poses no immediate threat? Abe Lowenthal of the New York Times used to boast that democratic governments were the best, as they never started wars. Not a problem, just convince everyone that the bogeyman has his irrational finger on the nuke and isn't thinking normally as he aims it at you and your children. Mushroom clouds are a powerful image. Preempt! Later you can chalk it up to caution.
Need to fill people with water, apply electric shocks and use a little torture? This is not easily accomplished in a democracy, especially one that has fought countless wars to free people from just that kind of tyranny. But it can be accomplished if the image of the other person is one of an 'evildoer.' Especially valuable are pictures of the evildoers cutting off heads and blowing up innocent women and children. Think of what they could do once they arrive on our shores. Stu Mirsky admonished me in his column; '...he'd [I'd] like it even less if someone took out Rockaway with a nuke.' Good one Stu, seriously evocative. As I peered out my living room window I saw the shipping lanes filled with freighters from the East and wondered and wondered and wondered.
Want to remain in the war even as it becomes apparent it was a colossal mistake? Tell people we must fight them there so we don't have to fight them here. Convince everyone that once we leave, the next stop for the Iraqis is the IRT, Herald Square, and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. These people have no morals. They have us in their sights. They had a hand in the World Trade Center and they'll do it again.
Need to spy on journalists and the opposition party? Now, this is difficult. We threw another president out of office for exactly this thing.You'll have to convince everyone and anyone that we can save them from anthrax, smallpox, and assorted plots to blow up everything of importance. Only a strong president, one willing to act, can then protect us from certain horrors.
We will have to put the constitution on hold. Use the line, 'It's not, after all, a suicide pact.' That's good imagery. Maybe we can even get a cartoonist to show a person committing suicide while holding the constitution. If it works, we might even be able to close down and demonize opposition media outlets. Fourth amendment, first amendment, sixth, this stuff isn't written in stone... is it?
Speaking of cartoons, let's all hope some fool publishes poor quality cartoons of Mohammad and then, when the Islamic world catches fire, we can use that fury to show how they have none of our values; none of our tolerance. People who act like that should never get the bomb. The world will end. We must do whatever it takes to prevent that. If it means invading another country or spending an extra few hundred billion, then this is what patriots do.
Think congressmen will draft their sons for the next war?
Want to get rid of Social Security, a program that has kept millions out of poverty? Tell everyone the system is broken, it will never be solvent, and they'll eventually lose all their money. Treasury bills are worthless, only dumb foreigners want them. Scare them into scrapping it for the certainty of the stock market. Doesn't that always go up?
Want to avoid everyone asking
for a one-payer government-run health plan, you know, the kind congress has, the one President Bush has and Hillary has and Chuck.... This is too easy. Tell them it can't work. In such a system you won't get to pick your doctor, you'll see a stranger, you'll wait longer, you'll be given the wrong tests, the wrong results, and they'll operate on the wrong limb. Wrong diagnoses and deaths will result.
Want to prevent Americans from going to Canada for cheaper pharmaceutical prices? Tell them Canadian warehouses are not safe and standards are not strict. Who knows what they do to those drugs when we're not looking. Only Americans know how to make American drugs safe. Say it on television in a presidential debate so people will really believe you. Fear foreign drugs.
Want to shift trillions from the middle class to wealthy people and your friends? It's easy. Tell everyone that without tax cuts there'll be no new jobs.
Repeat the warning a hundred times, 'No new jobs means that when you lose yours you'll be poor, lose your home, and your enviable life style. Your kids will be unemployed and your future uncertain.' Only permanent tax cuts can save us.
And the best part of all this is that we can let the schools wither away from lack of funding. Then people won't even have the smarts to see through the fear...