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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Politics of fear in media obsessed by viewer ratings

Republicans are obsessed with creating fear.  

Senator Margaret Chase Smith gave her Declaration of Concience Speech on June 1, 1950

Whenever the right wing extremist politilcal party leadership tries to offer a hopeful message, the candidate who tries to be enlighted, is shut down like a nuclear reactor with a blinking warning light. 

When President Obama speaks to tone down incendiary war rhetoric, he's accused of not being tough enough. If he fuels the negative rhetoric, he's immediately asked about when the US will put "boots on the ground" in Syria and Iraq?  He's walking a political tight rope; but at the end of the line, the fact is, fear is motivating the media to create even more of it, because people seem oblivious to facts. It's like fear is becoming addictive and the anditodes to healing it aren't working.

Right now, the media is giving right wing political candidates plenty  of air time, because the synergistic impact of negativity, based on bad news, fueled by ignorance rather than truth, are combining to expose fear as a commodity. 

It's like conservatives and right wing pundits are saying, "Let's see how high our fear generating TV ratings can boost us today".

Here are some facts that I know, even though I'm not an expert on any of the issues.  Nevertheless, I am somewhat knowledgeable about the difference between truth and fear. In fact, the more truth prevails, the less fear has the power to create panic. 

Fact number One:  I'm not afraid of Syrian refugees.
Syrian refugees are not terrorists.  I'm certain of this.  
Obviously, there are some terrorists who have taken advantage of a fearful situation by pretending to be refugees.  Nevertheless, the vetting process for refugees to enter the US will actually lock these criminals up rather than allow them legal entry into any country.  I have no fear of Syrian refugees entering America. 

Fact number Two: I'm not afraid of Mexicans.
Mexicans are hard working people. Donald Trump used incendiary rhetoric to raise racist fear against Mexicans, who are integral to American history, certainly predating the formation of the United States of America. Mexicans, and other Central American immigrants and migrants, don't leave homes where their families lived for many generations, just so they can find welfare benefits!!  
I've seen Mexican immigrants at work. They are dedicated to earning their pay, so they can help their families to have a better way of life than the one they left in their corrupt homelands. I have virtually no fear whatsoever of Mexican and Central American immigrants.

Fact number three: I'm not afraid of Muslims or people who practice Islam.
In my opinion, there's been more violence inflicted on people who are Muslims than the other way around. Those radical Islamists who belong to Al Qaeda, or the other evil terrorist groups, are not practicing Islam. Rather, these extremists, who join terrorist groups, aren't practicing the Islam religion but, rather, using the religion's founder, Mohammed (died 632 AD) as an excuse for inflicting jihad. These crazy people are getting away with creating fear toward all Muslims because, frankly it's almost impossible to read the Koran (their missle) and, therefore, we don't understand the beliefs. Although I don't understand the Koran, I have no fear of Muslims.

Fact number four:  I'm not afraid of the US government!
I'm an American citizen, born with inalienable rights (ie, rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws). Indeed, "I Pledge Alliegence, to the Flag, of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for Which it Stands, One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All".  In fact, the US government is created to build a "more perfect union" (says the Constitution), guaranteed for all citizens. Although I'm not afraid of the US government, what causes me concern is the potential for right wing extremists to obscure the US Constitution and replace the laws with paranoia.  

Honestly, I'm the last blogger in the universe to pick on the media when the problem the viewing public has is driven by their own inability to understand truth.  After all, the media is supposed to just report the news but not to create the news. 

Nevertheless, when profit is the end result of media ratings, it's difficult to believe the practice of stoking fear is in the best interest of the public. Most busy people just don't take the time to access objective or truthful information. Therefore, fear rules in the vacuum when truth is unavailable.

There was a time in the 1950s when the right wing GOP led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, decided who in our nation was a subversive or a "communist". The "McCarthy era" is remembered with extraordinary disdain because of the fear and paranoia the stupid Senator's public hearings caused.  One of the most influential opponent of Senator McCarthy was the Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith.  As a Republican, Senator Smith stood up to her own political party to call our Senator McCarthy for his intolerance.
Senator Chase gave a Declaration of Concience speech on June 1, 1950 and here is what she said: (I was reminded about the important relevance of this speech by Dr. Dora Mills, who posted excerpts of the content on her social media site.)

Statement of Senator Margaret Chase Smith
June 1, 1950

"Mr. President:  I would like to speak briefly and simply about a serious national condition. It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear.

It is a condition that comes from the lack of effective leadership in either the Legislative Branch or the Executive Branch of our Government.

That leadership is so lacking that serious and responsible proposals are being made that national advisory commissions be appointed to provide such critically needed leadership.

I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism. I speak as simply as possible because the issue is too great to be obscured by eloquence. I speak simply and briefly in the hope that my words will be taken to heart.

I speak as a Republican, I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.

The United States Senate has long enjoyed worldwide respect as the greatest deliberative body in the world. But recently that deliberative character has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.

It is ironical that we Senators can in debate in the Senate directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to any American, who is not a Senator, any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming an American -- and without that non-Senator American having any legal redress against us -- yet if we say the same thing in the Senate about our colleagues we can be stopped on the grounds of being out of order.

It is strange that we can verbally attack anyone else without restraint and with full protection and yet we hold ourselves above the same type of criticism here on the Senate Floor. Surely the United States Senate is big enough to take self-criticism and self-appraisal. Surely we should be able to take the same kind of character attacks that we dish out to outsiders.

I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its members to do some soul searching -- for us to weigh our consciences -- on the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America -- on the manner in which we are using or abusing our individual powers and privileges.

I think that it is high time that we remembered that we have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution. I think that it is high time that we remembered; that the Constitution, as amended, speaks not only of the freedom of speech but also of trial by jury instead of trial by accusation.

Whether it be a criminal prosecution in court or a character prosecution in the Senate, there is little practical distinction when the life of a person has been ruined.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism --

The right to criticize;

The right to hold unpopular beliefs;

The right to protest;

The right of independent thought.

The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know some one who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn't? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.

The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as "Communists" or "Fascists" by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others. The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed. But there have been enough proved cases to cause nationwide distrust and strong suspicion that there may be something to the unproved, sensational accusations.

As a Republican, I say to my colleagues on this side of the aisle that the Republican Party faces a challenge today that is not unlike the challenge that it faced back in Lincoln's day. The Republican Party so successfully met that challenge that it emerged from the Civil War as the champion of a united nation -- in addition to being a Party that unrelentingly fought loose spending and loose programs.

Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and the suspicions that are bred in the United States Senate to spread like cancerous tentacles of "know nothing, suspect everything" attitudes. Today we have a Democratic Administration that has developed a mania for loose spending and loose programs. History is repeating itself -- and the Republican Party again has the opportunity to emerge as the champion of unity and prudence.

The record of the present Democratic Administration has provided us with sufficient campaign issues without the necessity of resorting to political smears. America is rapidly losing its position as leader of the world simply because the Democratic Administration has pitifully failed to provide effective leadership.

The Democratic Administration has completely confused the American people by its daily contradictory grave warnings and optimistic assurances -- that show the people that our Democratic Administration has no idea of where it is going.

The Democratic Administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism here at home and the leak of vital secrets to Russia through key officials of the Democratic Administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.

Surely these are sufficient reasons to make it clear to the American people that it is time for a change and that a Republican victory is necessary to the security of this country. Surely it is clear that this nation will continue to suffer as long as it is governed by the present ineffective Democratic Administration.

Yet to displace it with a Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I don't want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny -- Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.

I doubt if the Republican Party could -- simply because I don't believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren't that desperate for victory.

I don't want to see the Republican Party win that way. While it might be a fleeting victory for the Republican Party, it would be a more lasting defeat for the American people. Surely it would ultimately be suicide for the Republican Party and the two-party system that has protected our American liberties from the dictatorship of a one party system.

As members of the Minority Party, we do not have the primary authority to formulate the policy of our Government. But we do have the responsibility of rendering constructive criticism, of clarifying issues, of allaying fears by acting as responsible citizens.

As a woman, I wonder how the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters feel about the way in which members of their families have been politically mangled in Senate debate -- and I use the word 'debate' advisedly.

As a United States Senator, I am not proud of the way in which the Senate has been made a publicity platform for irresponsible sensationalism. I am not proud of the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle. I am not proud of the obviously staged, undignified countercharges that have been attempted in retaliation from the other side of the aisle.

I don't like the way the Senate has been made a rendezvous for vilification, for selfish political gain at the sacrifice of individual reputations and national unity. I am not proud of the way we smear outsiders from the Floor of the Senate and hide behind the cloak of congressional immunity and still place ourselves beyond criticism on the Floor of the Senate.

As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the Communist design of "confuse, divide and conquer." As an American, I don't want a Democratic Administration "white wash" or "cover up" any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt.

As an American, I condemn a Republican "Fascist" just as much as I condemn a Democrat "Communist." I condemn a Democrat "fascist" just as much as I condemn a Republican "Communist." They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country. As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.

It is with these thoughts I have drafted what I call a "Declaration of Conscience." I am gratified that Senator Tobey, Senator Aiken, Senator Morse, Senator Ives, Senator Thye and Senator Hendrickson, have concurred in that declaration and have authorized me to announce their concurrence."

Library Hours:
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Please call (207) 474-7133 for more information concerning resources available at the
Margaret Chase Smith Library.

As a result of Senator Chase's speech, the McCarthy era was finally  challenged by the voice of reason. Although the "communist" hearings continued, the public became increasingly skeptical about the process and Senator McCarthy died in 1957, in disgrace.

Americans surely need another voice of reason to create a new paradigm for hope, and to destroy the paranoia currently being sold to the American public, through right wing media.

It's time for Republicans to end to their politics of fear and call, instead, for supporting progressive public policy based on truth.

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