There is a nefarious movement seeking to associate Barack Obama with “Arab” in the hope that this will cost him the election. This is part of a general increase in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim expression in American culture — both the instrumentalization of hate for political purposes and its frightening resonance with popular fears.
Arab-baiting takes place in public accusations aired on Fox News, and in Youtube videos, such as this slideshow that seeks to explain Obama is actually 7/16ths Arab and therefore misrepresenting himself as an African-American.
A slightly less ludicrous and potentially more dangerous accusation is their attempt to taint Obama by linking him to “terrorist” professors, meaning Arab scholars who dare question American and Israeli policies from a position of learning, and actual, rather than imagined knowledge. One pathetic proponent of this linkage is American Thinker, which has been running attacks on Rashid Khalidi, and trying to use Obama’s past acquaintanceship with the Columbia University professor as a political point of attack. The blog, which claims to value thinking, refuses to publish one critical comment on that post (the one I submitted days ago is yet to go up, and likely never will).
Daniel Pipes appeared on Fox’s Hannity’s America (the scariest kind) to make the same claim. The report was actually beautifully constructed propaganda, full of colorful montages, emotional and visceral background strings, and lastly, no one to speak in defense of the friendship (that would be too fair and balanced).
It rested on insinuations and speculation about Khalidi’s membership in the PLO, role in organizing Ahmedinejad’s speech at the campus, as well as enormous unsubstantiated assumptions (such as the indefensibility of Israel’s displacement and occupation of the Palestinians). The highlight insinuation was that Obama is getting cues from Khalidi. The professor’s use of “sore” to describe Israel-Palestine in an article preceded Obama’s use of it as well. Though this dated back to June, 2008, there was no attempt to explain how Israelis themselves don’t see it as a sore. Meaning, it is a charge with no substance.
So it came as no surprise when yesterday, at a townhall meeting with supporters in Minnesota, McCain was booed after correcting a woman who called Obama “an Arab”. Perhaps even more disturbing was his response that “no, I have to tell you. Sen. Obama is a decent man.”
With such a hateful climate — symbolized with the wide distribution of 28 million “Obsession” DVDs aimed at showing Islam as a threat to America — it is little wonder hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims persist. A Mosque in Ohio was attacked with noxious gas. This past week, a Muslim was pistol-whipped by a masked man in the bathroom of an Illinois bathroom. Anti-Muslim graffiti which read “kill all Muslims” and a swastika were scrawled on the walls.
Fortunately, the campus of the small Christian college came out to support the victim. They represent the chief obstacle to this mounting hate.
Though I can only guess that vilifying Islam, Arab politics and respected scholars and linking Obama to them leads to ethnocentric alarmism, and hate crimes, I think this is safe to assume. This is frighteningly close to the types of hysteria that has caused serious violence and destabilization in other parts of the world. While many would hope this is constrained by the rule of law in modern America, in the case of continued economic downturn, this will not be a pretty country for foreigners and minorities.
This may sound like a mirror image of their alarmism, except that the logical end of my alarmism is tolerance and rational discourse. The logical end of their’s is a exclusivist society with no tolerance for difference.
As the Politico article linked above makes clear, no elite nor media have addressed these attacks, but as long as Arabs and Muslims are used as political wedges, the candidates need to address this before xenophobic loonies get too crazy. The safety of millions of Arabs and Muslims is at stake — the irony is that no one will recognize these hate crimes for what they are, terrorism. And political rhetoric should not fuel this.
[tarboush tip: Kumar]Filed Under 2008 elections, american politics, mccain, media, obama, video, Will