CSotD: Weaponizing Fear Itself


(F)irst 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. — FDR, March 4, 1933

Roosevelt was lucky to have been elected at a time when the nation was so clearly in a state of disaster that his promises of improvement could be couched in frank admissions.

By contrast, Steve Sack is perfectly correct that democracy is in deep peril, but we don’t have the kinds of undeniable evidence — like having nearly a quarter of Americans unemployed — that bolstered FDR’s call for a combination of bold reform and for courage.

What we have instead is the nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, paralyzing terror against which Roosevelt warned, and it seems not to be the result of a genuine crisis but, rather, of a deliberate campaign.


John Deering (Creators) depicts the way the Good Ol’ Boy intimidation tactics masquerade as reasonable behavior. It seems to fool the other Good Ol’ Boys, because if Good Ol’ Mitch says he was going 80 and the (deleted) says he was only doing 45, who you gonna believe, eh?


Anyway, as Chris Britt (Creators) points out, we gave those ungrateful bastards a second holiday, and what thanks do we get?

I particularly like this cartoon because, while Britt is not the only one to point out the conflict between approving the holiday while suppressing votes, he doesn’t use the metaphor of cutting the chain in one place while forging new links in another.

The dumb, brute obstruction he depicts is more to the point, and, besides, not only are chains a symbol that suggests more active restraint, but they are also a deeply personal one that, I think, might better be left to those whose ancestors wore them.

Anyway, dumb brute obstruction is more in keeping with the Good Ol’ Boy atmosphere in Deering’s cartoon, that oh-so-reasonable dialogue that makes the beating which follows seem so sadly necessary.

It was all going so smoothly until he resisted arrest.

Which is how intimidation works, and you don’t have to be a racial minority to know it, as long as you aren’t in the middleclass mainstream.

I remember when I lived in a house that we learned was under FBI surveillance, which prompted a House Rap to come up with a plan.

One proposal was to absolutely clean out any trace of drugs, but it was quickly pointed out that, if they really wanted to bust us, they’d furnish their own evidence.

As for that racial element, I was walking through a very grim neighborhood in Chicago back in ’68 when we came upon an animal control officer loading a dog into the van while some small African-American kids stood on the crumbling sidewalk weeping. Their mother comforted them, saying, “Oh, now, don’t cry. He’s just going to jail for a few days.”

I don’t think that’s quite “How the Other Half Lives,” but it’s how enough “other” people live that we need to wake up and pay attention.


As Man Overboard so casually depicts it, we don’t need chains, and it isn’t a matter of hate.

My goodness, we don’t hate anyone.

It’s a matter, rather, of not getting it and not wanting to get it and finding ways to avoid getting it and how many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry?


Or, as Pat Bagley phrases the question, how many ways can you hear people cry before you stop hearing only what you choose to hear? Is this corrupt inability to hear deliberate or is it bred in the bone?

Knee-jerk, elitist reasoning is hardly new. FDR was accused of being a socialist, even a capital-C Communist, for his New Deal proposals, and the only reason the fascisti aren’t targeting Social Security and Medicare more actively is because they fear a risen people, not in the streets but in those partially closed voting booths.

Pause for a book plug: I’ve been reading Sarah Churchwell’s “Behold, America” and I strongly endorse it. She lays out the roots of “America First” and of “the American Dream,” and I kinda sorta knew most of that history but having it put in its own context has been a revelation.

Which brings us to the new bugaboo: The rightwing continues to flog “socialism” as a horrific threat — Good lord, imagine educating children and paving roads! — but the latest threat is even more terrifying.


Tom Tomorrow isn’t letting the polo-shirt, tiki-torch crowd pretend this latest distraction is unintentional.

I would certainly agree that the people at the top of the pile, the people most actively spreading and exploiting the fear of Critical Race Theory, know it’s a phony threat, just as they know the Big Lie of a stolen election is a fraud.

And just as they know both falsehoods will be accepted and passed on by the useful idiots between that very top leadership echelon and the compliant, gullible masses who will be panicked into obedience.


The question, posed here by Paul Fell, is at what level do we cross over from the deliberate liars to the the gullible co-conspirators?

We’re already seeing school board meetings disrupted by stupid, angry people who have been flummoxed into believing (A) that Critical Race Theory is a very bad thing and that (B) it is being taught in classrooms. Addressing the latter issue first, it’s not only not being taught to children, but it’s far too complex a concept for them to grasp.


Which latter point ties into the perspective Gary Varvel (Creators) raises, which is that our nation depends on never admitting that racism exists, and on teaching American History not so that our children, our future citizens, will understand who we are and how we got here, but so that they will believe we are good and just and that our government should be obeyed.

This is not deliberate falsehood. Rather, it is a childish belief in magical thinking, and, while Peter Pan is a delightful fantasy, the world depends on the Wendys who grow up and embrace their responsibilities.

And who love their country, but hand it no participation trophies.



3 thoughts on “CSotD: Weaponizing Fear Itself

  1. Many commenters have pointed out that virtually nobody raging about Critical Race Theory can define it, or give an example of it, or point to a single instance of it being taught anywhere short of upper-division university classes. The imaginary conversation in my head goes like this:

    Me: What is it about CRT that has you so upset?
    Enraged Person: It teaches kids to hate America.
    Me: If it did that, that would be terrible! But it doesn’t.
    EP: It teaches kids that all white people are evil racists!
    Me: If it did that, that would be terrible! But it doesn’t.
    EP: It teaches kids that America was built on the backs of slaves!
    Me: Isn’t that true?
    EP: Well, yeah, but they don’t have to make a big deal out of it!

  2. One of my absolute favorite songs by the late lamented Phil Ochs.

    Somehow I found a version of Power and Glory with a Fife and Drum intro and backup singers. I only have it on tape.

    I play it every 4th of July. And I tear up every time.

    This should be our National Anthem.

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