March 11, 2011
They can’t win on the issues so they run on fear. New York Republican Congressman Peter King’s attempts to demonize Islamic Americans didn’t draw the reaction he intended. The campaign pitching fear on a theme of Muslim American radicalization was met with backlash. Of the 7 witnesses only one represented law enforcement. A dramatic moment came when Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) one of only two Muslim Congressmen was overcome with emotion as he concluded his testimony referencing a Muslim paramedic Mohammad Salman Hamdani who died heroically responding to the World Trade terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 200l. Ellison met with Hamdani’s mother before the hearing.
It seems Americans never learn. The Congressional hearing on Islamic Radicalization was an attempt at the same fear mongering and spread of misinformation seen too often in American history. Senator Joseph McCarthy stoked fears of communism with his hearings in the 1950s thus coining the phrase, McCarthyism, making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. We saw the same fear mongering when the Japanese were rounded and placed in detention camps. And when Chinese men were deported without due process while enduring a century plus of racist framing and large scale discrimination. Blacks, Latinos, and now Islamic Americans have all come under this type of attack with prevailing stereotypes and discrimination, and misinformation.
While Republicans ignore history using the same old playbook, it would behoove Americans to remember and pay attention. Smith’s hearing might have been better served inquiring into all home grown terrorism rather than trying to demonize one ethnic group. Why are anti abortion activist bombing clinics and assassinating doctors? Why are White Supremacist organizations infiltrating the Tea Party or planting a roadside bombs along a MLK parade route? Congressman King chose to discredit non-Muslim acts of terrorism, including hate crimes.
The Washington Post Fact Checker assigned two Pinnochios to Peter King’s facts, meaning: Significant omissions and/or exaggerations and possible factual errors. A politician can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people.
Voters take heed. The Republican playbook is getting old. Unfortunately the same old plays still work: lies and disinformation without evidence.