American hysteria is a wondrous thing to behold.
By William Boardman -- Reader Supported News
"This president needs to rise to the occasion
BEFORE WE ALL GET KILLED!"
Our hysteria is usually obvious in retrospect, whether the freak-out is over witches, labor unions, or communists. Hysteria is not always so easy to perceive as it happens or, in this case, as it is happening right now with ISIS-centric Islamophobia running rampant around the nation's terror-drenched reptilian brain.
The collective rush to do "stupid stuff" kicked in with the mass-pavlovian response to cleverly-marketed, ISIS-produced infomercials featuring the beheading of two Americans (earlier beheadings of non-Americans failed to have the same effect). But killing Americans in the collective mind's imaginary Islamistan hits the reflexively violent smack in the patriot-plexus and has them screaming for blood vengeance over an horrific but strategically meaningless bit of savagery. [Funny how the equally savage killing of other Americans with a chokehold in New York or a hail of bullets in Ferguson has so much less impact on rampant public moral outrage.]
That psychic selectivity over what savagery is objectionable and what is tolerable has a long American history, as illustrated by natives receiving blankets full of smallpox and all the other gifts of manifest destiny. Given the American pre-disposition for morally selective high dudgeon, the media manipulation of the mindset of the United States by slick snuff films begins to look savvy, strategic, and morbidly effective. From the perspective of ISIS, this bit of theatrical propaganda has succeeded beyond reasonable expectation: it has inflated the threatening image of ISIS from the reality a relatively small, regionally contained, regional band of pathological fundamentalists and their more numerous allies of convenience (which, from time to time, have included the U.S. and other NATO members).
In little more than a month, ISIS (aka ISIL, or IS, or Islamic State, or Islamic Caliphate) has changed little on the ground, while its image in American minds has morphed into a ginormous, imaginary monster capable of throwing a terrifying shadow of fear across the American continent thousands of miles away. This is not a rational perception, even though the president feeds into it (even if he knows better). This is panic, deeply rooted in comic book thinking.
Comic book thinking: never hard to find, but not always dominant
The Governor of Texas and other fear mongers, like Judicial Watch and Fox News, would have you believe there are agents of ISIS, the Islamic Caliphate, crossing the Rio Grande and making themselves at home in the American homeland undetected -- except by these fearless watchdogs. They also cite a rightwing provocateur who crossed the Texas border in terrorist costume and may have gone undetected. Republican Senator John McCain fulminated in comic book style about this imaginary security breach. The Homeland Security people say they detected him and knew he was a buffoon.
The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee had hear more than enough by mid September. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of California used the 9/11 anniversary to imagine a worst case scenario: "I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kurdistan tomorrow." With considerably bloodier clarity and recklessness, the 76-year-old showed his tough willingness to send young soldiers to die in Iraq yet again, urging "our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later."
In an article about ISIS, the National Review published some articles of faith with headings like: "the growth of the Islamic State," "the Success of the Islamic State," and "the ascendancy of the Islamic State." The writer made an intellectually dishonest anti-Obama/pro-Bush argument rooted in unreality in which he characterized President Obama as an Islamist apologist and an unreliable war maker. That may be just as well in a world where "the success of the Islamic State" and, even moreso, "the ascendancy of the Islamic State" are hobgoblin projections of comic book fear with no objective reality.
The success of Fox News is built on comic book thinking. For example, on September 17, Fox touted an "intelligence bulletin from the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange" warning, somewhat incoherently: