I recently watched a segment on Rachel Maddow’s show about how the US State Department is seriously trying to combat the propaganda ISIS puts out online. They’ve hired a full time social media/policy wonk, who happens to be Muslim, to manage what I guess they call hackers to take down and otherwise interfere with ISIS websites, Facebook pages and twitter accounts.
Another purpose of the State Department program is to counter ISIS propaganda and explain how much damage ISIS is doing to innocent people, most of whom are Muslim. The State Department “messaging” team is working overtime to convince anyone tempted to join ISIS or help them financially not to do that. ISIS plays off grievances that young people have, especially their lack of economic opportunity in the societies where they find themselves. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims and folks of other religions have been displaced by civil war and find themselves helpless and frustrated.
As I watched that story, I couldn’t help thinking that our goal as Progressive Democrats is similar to what the State Department is doing. There are millions of American voters who are manipulated by Republicans, who prey on their fears and prejudices. As far back as Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” writers have pointed out how voters vote against their own best interest because they are inundated with lies meant to keep them ignorant of the damage being done to them by Republicans. Kansans re-elected Gov. Brownback despite the damage his policies have done to the state’s credit rating and employment rate. Why is that?
In Missouri, similarly, voters continue to put people in charge whose main goal is to destroy the middle class and push more and more wealth up the income ladder. Why is that? Republicans want to privatize everything regardless of consequences to the general population. They are adamant in refusing to expand Medicaid despite 300,000 Missourians without health insurance. They continue to weaken organized labor every chance they get. They cut taxes for the upper class and corporations and then say they wish there were more funds available to support education. Well, there would be more money available if they hadn’t overturned Gov. Nixon’s veto of their huge tax cut last year.
They play on the fears of people. They use the “big government” boogie man to convince voters that some nameless bureaucrat is coming to take their freedoms away. The biggest lie is that Obama wants to take away their guns. The next big fraud is that “illegal aliens” are going to take their jobs and marry their daughters. And, of course, there is always the threat of Sharia Law replacing the American Constitution.
Why do people fall for this stuff? Republicans haven’t beheaded anyone yet, but the damage they are doing with their lies is only a matter of degree.