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Fires are Harder To Put Out Than They Are To Start

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Fires are harder to put out than they are to start. The constant meme out of the McCain campaign has been that Obama is a Muslim, hates the United States, is a person to be afraid of, and now that he is a terrorist. It has put John McCain in the unenviable political position of having to defend the character of the man he is running against. However, that is unlikely to do anything to put out the fire that has been started.

McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate was a naked play to garner the support of the so-called Republican base - narrow fundamentalist Christians. Let me be clear that NOT all Fundamentalist Christians (and not even the majority of them) are "radical" (meaning wanting to take over the government of the United States and reshape the country into a religious fiefdom). However, that is the base that McCain went after. It is the "base" that George Bush supposedly captured.

Starting with the meme that Obama was a Muslim schooled in madrassas, the seed was planted that he was a "born and trained" terrorist. Even the long term relationship with Reverend Wright was not portrayed as proof of his Christianity, but was "proof" of his hatred of the United States. (Regardless that it should make no difference even if Obama was Muslim.) Repeatedly, McCain and - as a drum beat - Palin, have told the groups they are speaking to that they are "scared" of Obama. More recently, it has been the constant meme that Obama consorts with "terrorists" - namely Bill Ayres who was a leader of the Weatherman Underground 40 years ago.

As the carefully crafted memes aimed at inspiring fear of Obama in relationship to race, terrorism, and anti-Americanism, have been accelerated, the crowds at McCain-Palin political rallies have seemed more of a mob than a political rally. The more vehement the rhetoric, the more attractive McCain and Palin have become to the racist "right." It was predictable. It was intentional. It has not stopped.

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Here are a few videos of what has been happening.

Here is a CNN report on Palin accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists."

Here is the DemocracyNow report about crowd response to Palin pushing the Obama-terrorism "connection."

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Here is video from a McCain rally where the carefully instilled memes are repeated back from the crowd - clearly a political "success" for the McCain campaign.

Which has brought McCain to the point of defending Obama's character.

While I respect that McCain is publicly stepping back from the hateful rhetoric, at the same time, the memes are being reinforced with McCain approved ads such as this one:


Of course, underlying all of this is the issue of race. The McCain campaign doesn't even need to play the "race card" because it is embedded in the "American" consciousness. They just need to hint and it comes to the surface. This is obvious in crowd comments using racial epithets and saying that terrorism is "in his blood line."

The reinforcement of both racism and bigotry has been called up numerous times by surrogates of the McCain campaign mentioning Barack Obama as Barack Hussein Obama. The Hussein is stressed to make a Saddam Hussein / Muslim / terrorist connection, but the use of his middle name plays an other important rhetorical role. Namely, that middle names are most frequently used to denote serious criminals - particularly murders (John Wayne Gasey) and assassins (John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald). The use of the middle name preconditions a perception of wrong doing and threat. Imagine the impact of the repeated use John Sidney McCain or Sarah Louise Palin.

The selection of Palin itself has been used as a racial rallying point - for "whites." Palin's constant reference to "Hockey Moms" and "Joe Sixpacks" are not neutral by any stretch of the imagination. They are intended - and do - promote the idea that Palin is of and politically/culturally embraces a "white" stereotypical identity. Her constant repetition of that mantra is more than a subliminal "white" rallying cry. Combine that with her telling those coming to see her that Obama is "scary," un-American, hates the nation, and is actively associated with "terrorists," they have created an explosive "mob" mentality. The "threat" of Obama is to the (white) Hockey/Soccer Moms and the (white) Joe Sixpacks.

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This fire has been started and fed by McCain, Palin, the McCain campaign, and the various "swift boat" groups supporting them. Now they have a very unsightly (and potentially dangerous) conflagration on their hands. It is clear from the booing of McCain as he attempts to tamp down the fire that many of "his people" see such statements as backsliding and traitorous - or only for "show." The latter interpretation will likely prevail as the campaign continues to make the "terrorist" "anti-American" campaign ads. It is reinforced by the drumbeat question of "Who is Barack Obama?" A question - within the manufactured context - that reinforces the idea that he is part of a covert terrorist cell bent on destroying the (white) United States. A message apparently being reinforced out of at least one McCain Campaign Office.

In an interview with Galyle Quinnell (the woman who said she didn't trust Obama because he was an Arab and McCain corrected), she has pages and p[ages of "bad stuff" about Obama, and that it is being distributed through the McCain campaign office in Shakoppe, Minnesotta where she volunteers. She has passed this information onto hundreds of people. She does not know why McCain attempted to deny Obama's Arab origin, or said Obama was a "decent" person. From news reports, Andy Martin was the originator to the rumor about Obama being a Muslim - and other negative and incorrect information.

The McCain campaign has built and poured gasoline on the fire. It is highly unlikely they can bring that fire under control - even if they really wanted to.

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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.

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