The Wrong Psychology

Fine. McCain & Co. wanna talk psychology, let’s talk psychology.

Let’s talk about the massive psychological manipulation the right wing engages in, and why it’s crippled this nation’s ability to believe in charting a new course.

Take a trip back in time with me to 2002, when the Iraq War was just a sadistic twinkle in Bush’s eye and his long parade of breaking the law in the name of national security was just beginning:

THESE ARE scary times. Al Qaeda terrorists prepare to attack American civilians. A desperate and paranoid North Korea builds an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

And how does our government respond? The Bush administration declares an urgent need to invade Iraq.


The domestic scene is just as surreal. Rank opportunism rules. In the name of preventing terrorism, the Bush administration has employed a politics of fear to create the most extensive national security apparatus in our nation’s history.

Military tribunals. Mandatory registration. Mass detentions. Electronic surveillance. Government secrecy. Executive privilege. Office of Total Awareness. Perpetual war.

Folks, this is the stuff of such dystopian novels as Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” or George Orwell’s “1984.” As a historian, I hear echoes of voices from the past — survivors of Nazi-occupied nations, dissidents who disappeared in Soviet prisons, Japanese Americans ordered to internment camps, political activists persecuted under McCarthyism.

No, none of these historical analogies is appropriate — yet. But we civilians have just as much responsibility to protect our liberties as do combat soldiers. And right now, we are governed by an administration that wields far too much power — simply because it can.

Fifteen months ago, we discovered that two immense oceans can’t protect us from attacks on our own soil. Afterward, a traumatized people wanted to trust their president. But our leaders have taken advantage of our fear. The Bush administration has planted the seeds of a security state that can, without judicial oversight, congressional opposition, and popular resistance, grow into a repressive government.

And what’s happened since? Every time we move in the direction of sanity, the drums of fear are beaten, the voices of reason get drowned in the frenzy, and insanity continues apace. You saw what happened with FISA.

It’s all about fear and the exploiting of it. Fear of terrorism. Fear of blacks. Fear of gays. The list could go on for hours. What it really comes down to is this: the neocons are terrified of losing power. We’re kept in perpetual fear because it’s the only way the power they’ve grabbed won’t be taken from them.

Look what happened last summer when reason tried to rear its head:

It had to happen. President Bush’s bungling of the war in Iraq has been the talk of the summer. On Capitol Hill, some of the more reliable Republicans are writing proposals to force Mr. Bush to change course. A showdown vote is looming in the Senate.

Enter, stage right, the fear of terrorism.

Yesterday, the director of national intelligence released a report with the politically helpful title of “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland,” and Fran Townsend, the president’s homeland security adviser, held a news conference to trumpet its findings. The message, as always: Be very afraid. And don’t question the president.

It’s a clear pattern with these people. Just check out what they were up to in 2006, when they realized Americans were losing their fear, might actually elect Democrats, and – gasp – could even start fussing about unchecked government intrusion into our private lives:

It is the sheerest luck, I know, that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales looks (to me) a bit like Jerry Mahoney, because he fulfills the same function for the Bush administration that the dummy did for the ventriloquist Paul Winchell. At risk to his reputation and the mocking he must get when he comes home at night, Gonzales will call virtually anyone an al-Qaeda-type terrorist. He did that last week in announcing the arrest of seven inferred (it’s the strongest word I can use) terrorists. I thought I saw Dick Cheney moving his lips.

The seven were indicted on charges that they wanted to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI bureau in Miami. The arrests came in the nick of time, since all that prevented mass murder, mayhem and an incessant crawl at the bottom of our TV screens was the lack of explosives, weapons or vehicles. The alleged conspirators did have boots, which were supplied by an FBI informant. Maybe the devil does wear Prada.


Does it matter? Yes, it does. It matters because the Bush administration has already lost almost all credibility when it comes to terrorism. It said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and there were none. It said al-Qaeda and Iraq were in cahoots and that was not the case. It has so exaggerated its domestic success in arresting or convicting terrorists that it simply cannot be believed on that score. About a year ago, for instance, President Bush (with Gonzales at his side) asserted that “federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted.” The Post looked into that and found that the total number of (broadly defined) “terrorism” convictions was 39.

This compulsion to exaggerate and lie is so much a part of the Bush administration’s DNA that it persists even though it has become counterproductive. For instance, the arrest of the seven suspects in Miami essentially coincided with the revelation by the New York Times that the government has “gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans.” Almost instantly, the administration did two things: It confirmed the story and complained about it. The Times account only helped terrorists, Cheney said.

Extraordinary timing, was it not? This is how they operate. This is all they have to offer America: fear and placebos. The “cures” they offer for our fears and our economic woes (pre-emptive wars and a gas tax holiday) do nothing but psych Americans into thinking they’re being taken care of. Meanwhile, the country rots away from untreated disease.

The only thing wrong with this country is that we fall for this shit. That’s why one of McCain’s buddies had the poor taste to say that a terroris
t attack would be good for McCain’s campaign
– they know Americans run to Daddy when that happens, because Daddy talks tough and tells us everything will be just fine if we only do everything he says.

You know who else says that to people? Rapists. Murderers. Criminals who want to control the behavior of their victims. Terrified people don’t try to change their situation. They’re too busy trying to survive.

Time we remember that. Time we cured ourselves of this pathological fear the cons have instilled in us. Hope is also a frightening thing – hope may not work out – but hope is what we need. Change is what we need.

Don’t let Republicon fearmongering scare you into submission this time.

The Wrong Psychology