Yes, The Heritage Foundation's Anti-Muslim Benghazi Freak Show was Ugly, But the Real Story is the Role Played by Panelist Brigitte Gabriel
Once again, the Right-wing in America shows us who they really are. We should not be surprised.
On Monday, the "serious" thinkers at the Heritage Foundation hosted a panel on the faux Benghazi scandal. A Muslim-American woman named Saba Ahmed dared to ask a question about the panel's stereotypical assumptions regarding people of her faith. They harangued and bullied her. The Benghazi fetishists in the audience clapped with approval.
American movement conservatism is racist and xenophobic. In a healthy political society, the treatment which Ahmed received at the Heritage Foundation would be an outlier. It is not. Bigotry and racism are the trademarks and brand name of the Republican Party in the Age of Obama. To deviate from those values would cost the Republican Party the support of its voters.
The ugliness of the Tea Party GOP and its media is now expected by the America people. Thus, there is no consequence or substantial punishment for their bad behavior. Moreover, because of the extreme political polarization that the Right-wing media has helped to nurture, create, and expand, there is a whole public which embraces such bad behavior as proof of ideological purity and virtue. Compromise and civility are markers of weakness for the authoritarian bullies on the Right. Normal politics is imperiled because the basic principles that make it possible are no longer mutually shared across the divides of party and ideology in the United States.
Saba Ahmed's treatment at the Heritage Foundation has been much-discussed. However, the more interesting, and I would suggest even more important aspect of Monday's events, is the role played by panelist Brigitte Gabriel.
People buy the sizzle not the steak. Pointing out the ugly Islamophobia of the American Right-wing as exemplified by the Heritage Foundation's panel on Benghazi is easy and satisfying.
The more useful task is to detail who the players and participants are in a episode of political theater. Because politics is professional wrestling, every member of the show has a role to play.
The role can be explicitly detailed and told to the participants on a panel, news show, rally, or like event. The participants' performance can also be a direct reflection of their temperament, track record, and style.
The most "entertaining" moments in political theater are likely a function of both those variables.
Brigitte Gabriel, born Nour Saman, is a professional bigot and bomb thrower. Brigitte Gabriel's own (and some say discredited) personal life story as a Lebanese Christian whose family was threatened by "Islamic militias", gives credence and legitimacy to her Islamaphobia and hatred.
Brigitte Gabriel is proof of my observation that like black conservatives, women who hate feminism, and gays and lesbians who hate themselves, one of the easiest and fastest ways to become rich in America is to be a member of a marginalized group and to publicly criticize and disparage said group for the benefit of the Right. Professional excuse-making for the bigotry of movement conservatism is great work if you can get it.
Brigitte Gabriel's guiding principles in that role are summarized by her quote that she speaks up for, "what many in America are thinking but afraid to say out loud, for fear of being labeled a racist, bigot, Islamophobic, or intolerant."
Brigitte Gabriel is the character she embodied on the Heritage Foundation panel.
It is rumored that mafia hit man and serial killer"The Iceman" Richard Kuklinski was initially hired to be a leg breaker and debt collector. However, Kuklinski so enjoyed violence and hurting people that he was not able to moderate and control his behavior. Killing was joy for him.
The Right-wing propaganda machine deploys the likes of Brigitte Gabriel as the tip of the spear for their racism and bigotry in post civil rights America. The verisimilitude of her anti-Muslim bigotry is real because she is being herself "with the volume turned up".
[Saba Ahmed's role in the theater that was the Heritage Foundation panel, and Republican politics more generally, is very curious as well.]
"Public opinion" is not natural. It is shaped, massaged, and manufactured by elites and other actors. If the American people want to understand why the public discourse has become so ugly and coarse, and the political system so broken, they will need to ask basic questions about the players and stars in the show. Suspension of disbelief by the audience is the foundation, the buy-in, for a good and entertaining movie, play, TV show, or book. When pushed to the extreme, such a habit is a disservice to the common good and a healthy political culture and society.
The masses are asses. They were not necessarily born that way, someone had to teach them to behave in such a manner.