Hate Your Neighbor

July 10th, 2017 12 Comments

By all means, hate your neighbor. Please, feel absolutely free to do so.

Let’s pretend your new next-door neighbors are Muslims. You don’t know them all that well, perhaps you’re even suspicious of them at first, but gradually, over weeks and months and years, you begin to get a sense of them as just, well, neighbors, neighbors who happen to be Muslims. The mother never goes out without a headscarf, even when she hurries to your house to tell you your dog is loose and running toward the highway, or that your son just went ass over teakettle on his bicycle. The father smiles through his beard when he rings your doorbell and hands you a piece of mail that got mixed in with his, and he makes a comment about the expected snowfall. On the fourth of July, you all stand out in your respective backyards oohing and aahing at the fireworks display, and when it’s over there’s that sense of shared pleasure in a moment, shared pride in your community, your country. Your daughter and their daughter play together regularly, and their little girl is a frequent visitor in your house. The father gives you a can of Fix-a-Flat when you come out one day and find your rear tire is low, and when you take a new can over to pay him back, he waves it off as unnecessary. Perhaps you don’t watch the Super Bowl together, but they are good neighbors.

And then one day the government announces it is going to summarily execute all Muslims. Not arrest, not deport, not round them up and incarcerate them, as FDR did with the American citizens of Japanese descent. Just…execute.

It would take one of those rare and sick individuals with a severely psychotic anti-social personality not to rise up in horror, but perhaps, for other reasons, you won’t.

When Hitler started working his way to power on (among other things) a wave of anti-Semitic feeling, he carefully spent years making sure the press, his press, and his minister of propaganda, demonized all Jews. Not only were all the economic ills of Germany blamed on Jews (instead of the mentally negligible and megalomaniacal Kaiser who had led Germany into World War One and so destroyed his own country), but the blood libel about ritually sacrificing Christian children to make matzos (a libel that had its genesis several centuries before the birth of Christ, making it even more ridiculously offensive) was resurrected, discussed openly in newspapers as if it were a matter of course not even to be doubted, let alone argued.

It was, as the world knows all too well, an effective technique, but it required the collusion of the press. And more, it required the active and willing participation of the press, because as Saul Alinsky taught in Rules for Radicals, “He who controls the language controls the masses.” Or, to put it another way, as Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, taught, “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

And those two simple statements bring us to what we laughingly refer to today as journalism.

In order to make the average, normal, healthy human being rise up and kill his neighbor, or sit back passively as his neighbor is slaughtered by others, there has to be a process of demonization that convinces the masses that the selected group, whatever group it is that has been selected to be the enemy, is evil. This is what Hitler did with the Jews. (It is also what Hitler’s actions ultimately and unintentionally did for the Nazi’s, actions that were in fact so atrocious they caused first Great Britain and eventually the United States to oppose him.)

But if the selected group is not evil (and has not committed any atrocities) the process must be started more slowly by first dehumanizing the selected group. To dehumanize you must first portray the group’s beliefs or religion or ethnic practices or skin color, or some other quality that is integral to them as a whole, as being wrong, unhealthy, bad for everyone who is not a member of that group, perhaps even evil. And how do you do that? Easily enough if you control the language. You claim the moral high ground.

Claiming the moral high ground for your ideology equals dehumanizing all who disagree with you, which will eventually lead to demonizing all who disagree with you. “It’s the right thing to do,” was used by Obama to dehumanize everyone who disagreed with him. (If they disagree with me, they, the others, must want to do the wrong thing, the evil thing, which makes them, ipso facto, wrong and evil.) It was used that way in a clunkingly awkward moment in Star Wars: the Force Awakens when the hero (played by John Boyega) takes off his helmet and reveals he is not a robot (as I had assumed all clone troopers were), but a human, and since he is covered with the blood of a fellow clone trooper, we immediately realize, hey, these guys are actually humans in white outfits, not robots, which makes their destruction a little less abstract, a little less impersonal, a little less entertaining. To assuage any qualms the viewers might have about the wholesale slaughter of living, breathing, sentient entities—and by way of homage to Obama—the hero solemnly tells the pilot he has just rescued he has done so because, “It’s the right thing to do.”

Oh, okay. Now it’s alright to mow down clone troopers en masse.

It’s a technique that has been employed throughout all of history: dehumanize first, then demonize.

Consider the controversy a month or so ago involving The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. Another Missouri newspaper, the Columbia Missourian, published an op-ed piece by a purported journalist and professor emeritus of the Missouri School of Journalism named George Kennedy. The article, entitled, The NRA’s influence is a danger to us all [sic: no caps], compares the NRA to ISIS. There are statistical inaccuracies and falsehoods I won’t bother to enumerate, but the thrust of Mr. Kennedy’s article is that more Americans are killed by other Americans wielding guns than are killed by Islamic jihadist terrorists, and that because the NRA supports the Second Amendment, and because the NRA pressures politicians to uphold their oath of office and support the entire Constitution, which happens to include the Second Amendment, that makes the NRA more dangerous than ISIS. First you dehumanize, then you demonize.

It’s Mr. Kennedy’s sick opinion and since he writes a weekly column for the Columbia Missourian, they have a right to print any opinion piece they want, if that’s their ideological belief. It is fundamentally dishonest, because it places the responsibility for America’s murder rate on guns and the NRA, rather than on drugs and gangs, but that’s not the point. Mr. Kennedy has the right to express any dishonest and hateful view he wants. What he does not have is the right to demonize well over five million of his fellow Americans simply because they hold a different point of view.

And this is where the story gets interesting. A conservative woman, Stacy Washington, wrote a column in another paper to which she was a contributor, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in which she blasted Mr. Kennedy’s assertions on a variety of levels, factual and ideological. Her column was promptly suspended by the Post-Dispatch, and the column was removed from the paper’s online site. The reason for the suspension and removal given by the Post-Dispatch is that Ms. Washington had failed to disclose that she is a supporter of the NRA; not a paid employee or—to use the Post-Dispatch’s word—a “shill” for them (“shill” implies secrecy and clandestine actions, and Ms. Washington has never made a secret of her support for the NRA), but just a supporter.

So what you have here is a professor who quotes a biased, factually incorrect anti-gun organization (“Gun Violence Archive”) who is allowed to not only express his opinion, but also to demonize America’s oldest gun-rights organization and its members by comparing them unfavorably to an extreme “religious” organization that believes in killing anyone who does accept their beliefs, that beheads men, burns them alive in cages, throws gays from rooftops, believes rape is perfectly fine and sanctioned by their prophet, teaches supporters online how to make bombs, slaughters countless thousands of men, women, and children, sells children as sex slaves, crucifies children who don’t wish to join them, and commits more inventive and nauseating tortures than I’m willing to chronicle. That’s considered acceptable by the press.

But if a conservative objects to the demonizing of a pro-Second Amendment organization that supports the Constitution, and that has done more to promote gun safety and to reduce accidental gun deaths than the federal government and all anti-gun organizations put together, that kind of opinion is immediately silenced.

The message sent clearly by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is that the First Amendment is only applicable to people who think the way the Post-Dispatch wants them to think (“control the language”), and demonizing your neighbor—in ways that would get them put out of business if they had said such things about Muslims—is perfectly acceptable if your neighbor is a member of the NRA. After all, it’s the right thing to do.

The next time you watch the news or read a newspaper demonizing the NRA and its well over five-million members (I am one), or the roughly 100-million gun owners in this country (I am one), remember that unless you live in a progressive enclave like San Francisco or New York City, where guns are effectively banned, Second Amendment and the Heller decision be damned, you probably have an NRA member or a gun owner living next door to you, and we deserve better than to be compared to ISIS barbarians.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Bravo, sir.

    I, too, am a member of the NRA and gun owner. In fact, I was an NRA member for years before I bought a gun. My father never owned a gun (depression era city boy from Philadelphia) and was a card carrying NRA supporter the last several years of his life.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That is absolutely ridiculous…comparing a NRA member to ISIS…how do people think these days? I so agree with everything you said JP…it’s a scary world we live in…

    Nancy Gallinger

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good point. I too have been reminded of Hitler’s rise to power & his control over the press. The recent journalist have failed and have in a way become yes men. If people could see or understand how propaganda has been handled in the past, they could be in guard. I am disappointed in how far journalism has fallen but the sad thing is is it didn’t get that way over night. Also why do they hate on guns? I mean you can kill with just about anything and if you don’t pull the trigger, the gun is not going to do anything.
    MH

  4. Anonymous says:

    It isn’t just the NRA and gun owners that the liberal media uses this tactic with. I am white, a Christian, a Conservative, from the ‘Deep South’ (you know, that place where we are all racists!), and to top it off, I voted for Trump! So right now I am, according to the liberal media, the worst sort of human being. I am ‘privileged’ somehow because I’m white, I am bigoted and intolerant because I’m a Christian, I am a racist because I’m from the south, and I’m a Nazi because I voted for Trump. You know how that makes me feel? Some days I cannot even bring myself to look at this propaganda machine known as Facebook or watch the news because of all the hate I see directed towards people like me. Never mind that I am a working, tax paying, law abiding citizen who has never intentionally done any harm to anyone else in my life. But according to them, I am the enemy. And sadly, their brainwashing works as I see it everyday in the hate filled comments on Facebook coming from some of my fellow American citizens who now hate people like me. I even saw one Liberal woman suggest that Trump should be impeached and all the people who voted for him rounded up and ‘dealt with’. Who really sounds like a Nazi?

    • Anonymous says:

      I understand completely. I’m a minority and a woman and I voted for Trump. And yes I do not like this racism card on any front because we’re all humans and Americans and we should be able to vote and voice our options without this holier than thou junk. It is too bad how much people have and really I’m not sure they fully understand it themselves. Oh and here is one person that doesn’t think your a Nazi..people really need to go look up or actually read some history before they start name calling.
      Best wishes!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well stated. The analogy to Hitler and Nazi’s is spot on.

    Clearly this agenda is motivated by far more than an irrational fear (in this case it is called Hoplophobia) and is more about an ends to a means. That being the extermination of anyone who might present a threat or impediment to the building of the Marxist/Progressive/Liberal/Socialist Utopia.

    The question remains, can the Republic survive this never ending assault or are we headed to a Civil War? If the latter, then thank God for the 2nd Amendment!

  6. Anonymous says:

    https://youtu.be/tPNDBEuKCdY

    “Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
    Go ahead and cheat a friend.
    Do it in the name of heaven,
    You can justify it in the end.”

  7. Anonymous says:

    I don’t own a gun and I’m not a member of the NRA but I still believe in the

    2nd amendment as well as the NRA. The reason is because I believe

    people like you, and my cousins as well as a lot of other people I know

    should have the right to own guns.

    I will stand up for that right as well as all the rest of our rights that our

    founding fathers gave us.

    Thank you, JP!

    Bonnie Whitlatch

    • Anonymous says:

      This page is doing that malfunction again where when I type something in the comment box, the little submit button disappears, so I have no other option but to leave an erroneous reply.

      I’m late to the comment party.

      Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Vivien Leigh’s death, and I surmise it was for this commemoration that her last film, Ship of Fools, was on television last week. Have you seen it? If not, the plot can be summarized as, it is the story of various passengers on an ocean liner bound from Mexico to Germany just pre-World War 2, and the interaction between the various classes and ethnic groups onboard. Jose Ferrer please a Nazi sympathizer who dehumanizes and thusly demonizes juice to everyone he speaks to (and he tries to speak to as many as he can). It is thought by the Jewish passenger and the dwarf that the crew is keeping them segregated from the Nazi sympathizer while dining and various other activities. When the Jew helps the Nazi sympathizer, the Nazi sympathizer speaks again almost apologetically about how the Jews are at fault for all of the world’s current troubles. The Jew says to him, “Yes, yes. I know. The Jews and men riding bicycles.”
      “Men riding bicycles? What does that have to do with anything?”
      “Exactly, ” says the Jew before he departs.
      The movie concludes with passengers disembarking at the German port, and the last line is spoken by the dwarf, who breaks the fourth wall and addresses the camera directly in a close-up: “I can hear you all saying to yourselves, ‘But what does this have to do with me? Nothing!'”

      This came to mind reading the 1st half of this blog entry.

      This week on 1A host Joshua Johnson facilitated a discussion about the conversation about guns. He made it very clear this was not a conversation about guns, but rather, a conversation about how we converse about guns. And this, I believe, is more the salient issue then the guns themselves, as you describe in this post. But it’s probably not limited to how we discuss only this issue, but how we interact in general. And perhaps this can be ascribed in part to the proliferation of social media. Before we virtually interacted with potentially hundreds to thousands of strangers, we would just flip them off in traffic or pound an armrest on a chair. Our social and communication skills do not meet the prerequisite for engagement through the depersonalization of electronic devices. The state of affairs seems very sad to me, but then it also makes me wonder if communication really has reached an zenith in lacking skills and civility, or if the problem always existed at this level and just has the opportunity to rise to the top through exposure.

      In trauma therapy, one of the first steps in processing is to identify the underlying negative cognitions that are related to the trauma. These are divided up into a few categories, but they are namely responsibility and safety. People have to feel safe in order to communicate at their best; if there is a threat, it activates the fight / flight switch and your cognitive skills begin to dwindle. This is my only explanation for why a professor would ascribe irrelevant correlations in an illogical argument. Fears shut down ears.

      Michele

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh, Lort. That was supposed to read, “Jose Ferrer please a Nazi sympathizer who dehumanizes and thusly demonizes Jews,” not juice! Damn talk to text!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Gettin’ in on this even later, but…..I think this mobbing tendency in humans is deeply instinctual, and overrides reasoning. It appeals to people by making them feel a part of a group, the “us against them” phenomenon. And very often, people listen more to the INTENSITY and DRAMA of what’s being said, without paying very close attention to the ACTUALITY of what is proposed by propaganda, which usually is preposterous. But the Nazis certainly have no monopoly on those tactics! I see/hear them at my workplace almost daily! And am often a bewildered victim of such, rather like that great Mark Twain quote where a lie has made it halfway around the world before the truth has had a chance to get up and get his shoes on! Peoples dependence on social media devices, like babies with paciphiers, hasn’t helped this problem any either…..L.B.

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