White House Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders would like us to believe that it doesn’t matter whether the anti-Muslim videos retweeted by President Donald Trump are real or not because, she says, when it comes to Muslims “the threat is real.” Excuse me? Did the White House Press Secretary really claim that truth, reality, and accuracy in reporting are unimportant? That it’s ok for the President to stir up bigotry, hatred, and fear by spreading lies about the “Muslim Threat” and so-called Islamic terrorism?
Tell that to the parents of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-
A Hostile Environment
The FBI reports that hate crimes targeting Muslims have doubled in the past two years and that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups tripled in 2016 alone. While there are dozens and dozens of documented incidents, the true extent of the problem is nearly 2 in 3 crimes of hate go unreported, and cases of discrimination are difficult to prove. A recent survey by the Pew Trust revealed 50% of American Muslims have experienced at least one incident of bigotry over the past year.
Many in the Muslim community describe feeling as though they are living under siege. Half of young Muslims responding to a recent poll say they fear for their personal safety and since Trump became President nearly 1 in 5 have Muslims under 30 have made plans to move abroad if necessary. Muslim women have even reported being scared to leave their homes wearing a headscarf since Trump was elected.
This uptick in hostility and fear comes amidst a protracted campaign of misinformation about the extent and danger of Muslim extremism and so-called Islamic terrorism that has only intensified in the past year and a half. Truth matters, and the truth is the “Muslim threat” as described by Trump, Huckabee, the Republican Party, and the cadre of right-wing talk radio host and right wing TV news shows is greatly exaggerated. The threat from immigrant Muslim terrorism that Trump claimed to be protecting us from with his Muslim travel ban is infinitesimal.
Since 9-11, fewer than 100 American have been killed by Muslim terrorists in the US. In fact, in the past 15 years, toddlers have killed more people in the US than Muslim terrorists. In fact, you are more likely to die by choking, police violence, animal attack or a heat wave than by a Muslim terrorist. And as for those scary immigrants, you are more likely to die by shark attack, asteroid strike, earthquake, your own clothing, your furniture crushing you, or even legal execution.
Most Terrorists in America are White
Of course, the other truth that is being ignored, is the fact that most terrorists in America are white men and are associated with white supremacy groups. The New America Foundation, which has been tracking deadly terror incidents in the US since the Sept. 11 documents a nearly two-to-one ratio of attacks by far-right extremists to Islamist extremists. And the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented that white supremacy and neo-Nazi groups are flourishing in America.
The Fruit of Scare Tactics
Given the government’s mandate to protect it’s citizens, you have to ask why are Trump and the right-wing establishment are demonizing Muslims rather than dealing with real threats like gun violence which is the cause of nearly 33,000 deaths a year.
Perhaps the answer lies how the far right has succeeded in mobilizing the Republican base and dividing the Democratic base. A recent Yale study found that fear over bodily harm is the primary predictor of conservatives values. Trump’s personal appeal cashed in big time on voter anger, fear, racism, and bigotry.
With an economically disastrous and unpopular tax plan being voted on in the Senate in the next few days, Trump needed a swell of support from his base and a distraction to preoccupy those of us on the left. What better way to keep the left too busy to call our Senators than getting us embroiled in a discussion of racism, bigotry, Trump’s irresponsibility, the international impact of these tweets, etc.
Even more important, he needed the support of his base, which consists mostly of people who will be seriously hurt by his tax proposal. He needed to drum up the fear of foreigners, of different religions and races, that gives him a pass to do pretty much whatever thing he likes. While his base is focused on the “Muslim Threat,” the Republicans can pass a tax bill that gives huge windfalls to the ultra-wealthy and corporations, makes life more difficult for some 80% of the American population, especially for the poor, rural white voters who were Trump’s mainstay.
So what if the videos were fake, Sanders says, the threat from Muslim terrorists is so much more important than the threat from your own government increasing your taxes, taking away your health care and the subsidies your family farm depends on, and adding trillions of dollars to the deficit without any promise to ensure rising wages. What’s really important is we just have to stick together and support Trump no matter what.
And, if you agree with that, then you probably believe that War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.