What the Hell Was That Ground Zero 'Mosque' Uproar Really About, Anyway? The Future of the Conservative Movement
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All this leaves the conservatives right back where they were in 1990 -- still flailing around trying to find their next scapegoat. And at this stage, there's nobody really left to pick on but the Muslims. They've got all the perfect attributes for a solid long-term enemy: brown, Not Like Us, we've actually been in a war with some of them, and they're mostly so far away that it's unlikely that any red-blooded conservative will ever actually have to acknowledge one as a fellow human being. Apart from the messy downsides like war, debt, world approbation, continued terror, and so on, the right wing is starting to see the Muslim Threat as potentially the best thing that's happened to them since the Communists.
"Teachable Moments" -- Conservative Style
Having identified such a great potential target, the next logical step was to whip up public outrage and give people emotionally satisfying reasons to adopt this group as a worthy object of hate. Fortunately for the right wing, conservative PR folks have made an art form out of creating calculated, protracted media crises that drag on for weeks, during which they get to suck up all the news time and create "teachable moments" that put some new agenda item on dramatic public display.
Take two past examples: Terry Schiavo and the Minutemen. Both were ginned-up controversies carefully designed to create a public crisis around a new right-wing political initiative. The goal in both cases was to create a public outcry that someone in a back room somewhere hoped would galvanize the nation into mass political action.
Sometimes this works; sometimes, it doesn't. Schiavo was a spectacular failure. Americans of all persuasions took one look at that situation and recoiled: it turned out nobody in the country wanted Congress and/or the Southern Baptists making their end-of-life decisions for them. But the Minutemen's summer campouts on the border succeeded in bringing immigration and border security to the front burner, ultimately feeding into the militancy of the Tea Party and leading to the building of the border wall.
And that's what the Ground Zero Mosque tantrum was -- yet another conservative PR confection designed to put a new boogeyman on the public agenda. (And the media, as usual, went right after the fake throw -- again. My dog is too smart for that trick, but our corporate media can be counted on to go for it every time.) The right wing has put us on notice that after nine years, they've abandoned Bush-era restraint where Islam is concerned, and are now declaring the entire Muslim world to be the new Devil who will fill that yawning void at the center of their cosmology.
As a target, Muslims were just too tempting to resist any longer. They can be killed with impunity. They can be used to justify endless war. As a demon, they're likely to have tremendous staying power: after all, in the white, straight, Christian enclaves where most American conservatives live, Muslims are far rarer on the ground than even gays, Latinos, or liberals.
It doesn't have to be this way, though. American Muslims (including our homegrown Black Muslims, who are collateral damage in all this) are strong and well-organized, and they're already fighting back. They're taking steps to define their faith in the public mind, rather than let conservatives do it for them; and to make themselves and their cultures more familiar to the average American. (This was, in fact, the ultimate goal of building a Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan in the first place.) The hate campaign can only last as long as most Americans don't know a few Muslims personally. The sooner that ignorance is fixed, the sooner this nonsense stops.