Monday, December 17, 2012

Strategies of Fear

One grows weary of the far right and its cries of alarm at every turn of the road,  it's creation of "enemies of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," yet it's a tactic as old as time, a tactic long-practiced in America.

When I read the following from 1919, a missive sent to America on New Year's Eve by the U.S. Attorney General, Mitchell Palmer, I thought I was reading an editorial piece from Fox News.

It's instructive to read, so here it is:

Twenty million people in this country own Liberty bonds. These the Reds propose to take away. Nine million eight hundred and thirty thousand people in the U.S. own farms and 3.8 million more own homes, which they would forfeit. Eleven million have savings accounts in savings banks and 18.6 million people have deposits in our national banks at which they aim. There are hundreds of thousands of churches and religious institutions all of which they would abolish. In other words, 110 million hard-working and saving Americans who own property, love liberty and worship God are asked to abandon all the ideals of religion, liberty and government which are the outcome of the struggles of their fathers and their own development and to place themselves, their homes, their families and their religious faith in the keeping and their property under the domination of a small group of Lenins and Trostskys. The [Red] movement will not be permitted to go far enough in this country to disturb our peace and well-being or create any widespread distrust of the people's Government. It will fall away before the light of popular knowledge and appreciation of its aims and purposes.*

On January 2, 1920, in thirty-three cities, twenty-three states, "radicals" were caught up in a net of fear, in the name of peace. Thousands were arrested, detained, and many badly treated. Ultimately, of the thousands promised by Palmer to be deported, only 556 aliens were deported, mostly for immigration violations that had nothing to do with "sworn enemies of America," Bolshevism and anarchism.

Palmer, of course, had political aspirations, and what better way to win the heart of America than to create "enemies," and then defeat them.

In the long run, it's a tactic that never works, but in the short-run, creates havoc and suffering.

*Savage Peace by Ann Hagedorn, p.421.

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