“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt (March 4, 1933) – from his inaugural address
Roosevelt may have been speaking about the stock market at the time, but, those words make a profound statement and carry a much broader meaning. Roosevelt wanted people to know about how fear can intensify one’s emotions and obscure reason. More importantly, he wanted people to know that fear can be used as a deceptive tool.
Fear mongering is the term we now use to describe the broader context of what Roosevelt was talking about. Specifically, it’s the deliberate act of using fear to sway the opinions of people. The feared object or subject is often overstated or blown way out of proportion, and the pattern is usually one of repetition and continuous reinforcement. In other words, if you say something enough times, or for long enough, people will start to believe it no matter how absurd it is.
Having said that, when it comes to scaring people, conservative Republicans in the United States are in a league of their own. Figuratively speaking, they’re like the New York Yankees of all fear mongers.
In early April, I wrote a post titled Rachel Anne Maddow Happens to be a Rhodes Scholar. It contained a link to an episode of her MSNBC show where she takes on Koch Industries over the multi-millions Koch spent funding global warming denial and scepticism.
You can get to it here:
Well, Maddow happened to be a guest on the David Letterman Show in early August where she had some interesting things to say about conservative politics in America:
“Scaring white people is good politics on the conservative side of the spectrum, and it always has been. The idea is you sort of rile up the white base to be afraid of an “other” to be afraid of the scary immigrants or scary black people. Somebody coming to take what is white people’s rightful property. Or rights. And you get them riled up so they feel like they need to vote in self-defence, and they vote for conservative candidates because of that fear. I mean we’ve been doing it for decades.”
She goes on to say,
“It should get better. And the way it’s going to get better is not by slime balls being less slimy. There’s always going to be Breitbarts and Fox Newses. That’s going to happen…”
Incidentally, Andrew J. Breitbart is like the Karl Rove of webmasters. He was recently in the news, rather than producing his own for a change, for his involvement in what was dubbed the 2009 ACORN video scandal. What he essentially did was hire a woman to pose as a prostitute and interview members of a group that he and his conservative friends wanted to ruin. While the woman mingled and asked questions, the man posing as her boyfriend secretly videotaped it all. It was kind of like Taxi Cab Confessions without the waiver, only worse. Brietbart then edited the videos in such a way as to provide absolute maximum embarrassment to the group, which it did. The slimy tactic worked and it ruined them.
This is how Wikipedia describes the Breitbart victims:
ACORN was a collection of community-based organizations in the United States that advocated for low and moderate-income families by working on neighbourhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing, and other social issues. ACORN had over 400,000 members and more than 1,200 neighbourhood chapters in over 100 cities across the U.S., as well as in Argentina, Canada, Mexico, and Peru.
“That 20-minute video ruined 40 years of good work,” said Sonja Merchant-Jones, a former co-chairwoman of one of ACORN’s recently closed chapters.
Maddow suggests that the best antidote for dealing with such slimy conservative fear mongers is just by sheer mockery of them.
So, I decided to pitch in.
Check out this recent CNN broadcast where a conservative Republican congressman from Texas goes off the deep end trying to defend nonsense:
Rep., Louei Gohmert Goes Berserk On Anderson Cooper!!!
It’s hard to believe that this knuckle-head used to be a judge.
But, then again, it was in Texas.
Is it any wonder that prison populations in the United States have soared?
When you put “el stupidos” into positions of power you get statistics like these:
- There were 52 executions in USA in 2009.
- Since 1976, USA has executed 1223 prisoners.
- 462 of the executions (38% of all executions in USA) took place in Texas.
- Of the 38 jurisdictions in USA that currently have death penalty statutes, Texas executes prisoners at more than 14 times the average rate.
- USA has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world.
- USA has the highest total documented prison and jail population in the world.
- In 2008, 2,304,115 people were incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails.
- In 2008, over 7.3 million people or 1 in every 31 adults in USA were either in prison, in jail, on probation, or on parole.
- The United States prison population has quadrupled since 1980.
- 44% of all prisoners in the United States are black, even though only 12% of the population is black.
- In twenty states, the percent of blacks incarcerated was at least five times greater than their share of resident population.
- 70% of prisoners in the United States are non-whites.
- Nearly three-quarters of new admissions to state prison were convicted of nonviolent crimes.
- The single greatest force behind the growth of the prison population has been the national “war on drugs.”
- The number of incarcerated drug offenders has increased twelve-fold since 1980.
- In 2000, 22% of those in federal and state prisons were convicted on drug charges.
- Nearly one million of those incarcerated in state and federal prisons, as well as local jails, are serving time for committing non-violent crimes.
- As of 2008, the United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world at 754 persons in prison or jail per 100,000 adult population.
- By comparison, Canada’s incarceration rate is 116 per 100,000.
- By comparison, the rate for Switzerland is 76 per 100,000.
- By comparison, the rate for Sweden is 74 per 100,000.
- By comparison, the rate for Norway is 66 inmates per 100,000.
- By comparison, the rate for Finland is 64 per 100,000.
- By comparison, the rate for Denmark is 63 per 100,000.
- In 2006, the United States spent nearly $69 billion on corrections.
- It is estimated that 1 in 9 state government employees in the United States works in corrections.
- The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population and 23.4% of the world’s prison population.
Incidentally, the last statistic on this list reminds me of another:
In 2009, the International Energy Agency released the 2007 numbers for carbon dioxide emissions per capita for over 140 countries, regions, and economies. According to the numbers, the United States, with less than 5% of the world’s population, is pound for pound the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide via the burning of fossil fuels. The United States is responsible for roughly 20% of the oil and coal burning that’s going on in the world right now. Bear in mind, that’s without factoring in that around 33% of China’s emissions were due to the production of exports rather than consumption, and the United States plays a large role in that.
You can download the 2007 IEA numbers for free at: