Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Michael Tomasky: an Actual Honest Member of the Betlway Press

Tom Brown asks me if I worry about being the victim of Islamic terrorism:

Mike, are you afraid of being the victim of a radical Islamic terrorist?

I'm not. I'm just not at all. Not that I'm immune from changing my mind, but I'm not feeling any fear at all right now. So I'm having a hard time understanding the palpable fear at these Trump rallies. Is the right wing press again? Is it because I don't spend my day reading about hair brained conspiracy theories?"

The answer is no I'm not. I am afraid of what FDR talked about-fear itself. That there will be a wild overreaction to any mass shooting or act of terrorism where the perpetrators are Muslim. 

I think the reason the base is so scared is that they are Christian bigots. It's no more complicated than that. 

What's more I'm skeptical about is that there is this terrible fear among Americans the media talks so much about. The media has the if it bleeds it leads mentality and they love these moments of extreme bellicosity-they fan it. 

But outside the GOP base I'm not convinced everyone is checking under their beds for Muslim terrorists. Refreshingly, Michael Tomasky admits this whole thing is just a little bit whipped up. 

"So did President Barack Obama reassure a nation on edge? Well, no. But is the nation really on edge? As a member of the media I know I’m supposed to say yes, but is it really true? I wonder. This weekend, millions and millions of people went to malls, went to big-box stores, went to cineplexes, went to restaurants, went to bars. How much time did most of these people spend “on edge,” worrying that they were going to be shot to pieces by a terrorist?"

"Possibly a little more than the previous weekend, but still probably not much. I took my young daughter to dinner Friday. It occurred to me (several times) that she might throw a tantrum because the food wasn’t sliced the right way. It never occurred to me that a terrorist would kill us, and indeed, none did".

"But you’re kind of not allowed to say this sort of thing if you’re in the media, because it’s somehow seen as insensitive to the anxieties of the American people, or something. But what if the media are exaggerating those anxieties? We surely are. We turn it into theater. And presidents have to respond to theater. Huge part of the job."

So the media itself is complicit in the atmosphere in which a Donald Trump is created and makes such wild proposals. I hate to say it but even after complimenting Tomasky I'm a little uneasy by this post of his.

, Tomasky likes the President's new narrative that Muslims need to police themselves-or else. Or else what? Or else suspicoun against them will be warranted?

I hate even more to criticize the President as he and his Administration are the good guys here. They are desperate to tamp down on this. But it's sort of sobering for Muslims that this is what their friends are saying-that Muslims everywhere are responsible for what evil any Muslim anywhere does.

The best response to this is this line by Paul Waldman.

"In case you’ve been wondering “How far can Donald Trump go?”, here’s today’s answer:"

"Donald J. Trump called on Monday for the United States to bar all Muslims from entering the country until the nation’s leaders can “figure out what is going on,” an extraordinary escalation of his harsh rhetoric aimed at members of the Islamic faith in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif."

“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine,” said Mr. Trump, the leading Republican candidate for his party’s 2016 presidential nomination.

“Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump confirmed the authenticity of the statement. Asked what prompted it, Mr. Trump said, “death,” according to the spokeswoman.

"Isn’t is about time people in the white community stood up against this kind of extremism?"

And you know, it's not just Trump. What the recent attacks both in Paris and last week in San Bernandino show is that it doesn't take much for the climate to turn very reactionary.

Yesterday even Josh Marshall quoted approvingly a commentator who said this.

"I don't really know that this possible, but I do think that the public now wants something more than a call for calm and some weak sauce gun control measures, and if Obama isn't willing to give it to them, the risk is that they will vote for someone like Trump or Cruz who will."

"What might a response that reassures the public look like? I don't know. A six month moratorium on Syrian refugees, maybe. Perhaps, an increase in surveillance of Muslims in the U.S. through some sort of increased community engagement program. A new public initiative to combat "Islamist Terror" -- yes, using that language, despite its costs, to signal commitment."

"None of these make a lot of sense as policy. But I worry that if Obama doesn't do something like this, then when the next attack occurs (not if, but when), the political consequences and ultimate response might be a lot worse."

So Obama is no doubt taking this stance with Muslims to avoid something even worse like a six month moratorium on refugees. But it shows that the entire conversation is moving further to the Right.

If Tomaksy is right as I think he is, it's less a question of any organic fear on the part of Americans than the media's deliberate attempt to make people fearful and create this environment.

UPDATE: What's really sobering is that one of these two attacks wasn't even on us. I don't worry about being hit by terrorists because the odds of this are not none but very slim. Yet, in a country like Syria or Iraq it is very much a live possibility.

Can you imagine what our politics would look like in that case? 


  1. O/T: Mike, with all the craziness on the right, I did notice this:
    And it made me sad. It reminds me that there's some left craziness too... quietly (relatively speaking) doing a bit of damage, especially (perhaps) on college campuses.

  2. Yes I haven't had a chance to discuss this too much lately but what's going on with college campuses today is just nuts. That that email is that egregious that she has to resign is absurd. But it's today's college campuses apparently.