One thing that I’ve noticed about the Republican/Conservative movement in the US is that their worldview revolves around their own victimization. In their view, they are the hardworking, self-sufficient, and god-fearing, but are constantly harassed, undermined, and underappreciated — in effect, victims. What forces are they victims of? The “mainstream media”, the big-city liberals (“who want to tax-and-spend, but distain the flyover area of the United States”), liberal professors, activist judges, an excessively litigious society and the lawyers who feed it, the ACLU, gays (who “undermine the institution of marriage”), environmentalists (“trying to promote the myth of global warming, undermining our oil-based economy, and caring more about the spotted owl than a hardworking lumberjack with a family”), affirmative action (“giving jobs and education to blacks, latinos, and women even though they’re less qualified”), feminists, welfare (“government forcably takes my money through taxes to give to lazy bums who need to get a job”), France and the UN (“who undermines American power and the ability of the nation to protect itself”), atheists and secularists (“who take our Christian foundation and heritage from the schools and government”), and Muslim terrorists. I can’t say that I completely disagree with all their complaints – although I disagree with 80% of their supposed victimization. However, the conservative media very much plays on these themes by promoting and exaggerating stories where conservatives are victims, producing a skewed view of the world — thus reinforcing feelings of victimization, and promoting the idea good Americans will be victimized to an even greater degree if they don’t fight back. Phrases like the “moral majority” is meant to invoke a sense that a immoral minority has undo control over their lives, control that they (political and religious conservatives) as a majority should “rightly take back”. “Taking back our country” is a very common theme for US conservatives – it invokes the idea that their territory has been captured, that they have been victimized, and they need to strike back. Conservatives have created phases like “liberal agenda” or “gay agenda” evoking images of sneaky, duplicitous people working for their demise.
The whole strategy is pretty sneaky. Afterall, how do you make the wealthiest, whitest people in the world feel like victims? You tell them that they are being treated unfairly and discriminated against by liberals in this country. Oddly enough, they were even proclaiming their own victimization while they controlled the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate (in 2004-2006).
It’s also notable that conservatives rarely express any regret over the history of Blacks or Native Americans, but they are quicker to point out the extent to those groups bring problems on themselves (for example, through crime, drug/alcohol abuse, broken families, less respect for education). Why is this the case? Because to acknowledge historical wrongs would be to present Blacks and Native Americans as victims. This would lower the relative victimization status of conservatives (who are primarily White). Afterall, when everyone in the world is a victim, it’s a harder to have righteous indignation over your own victimization, and you might even discover that other people’s victimization is greater than your own.
Further, the mindset of victimization is something which justifies all sorts of actions which aren’t even-handed or fair. By producing and enhancing feelings of victimization, people more quickly justify actions through “they did it to me first”, or “this is what we have been forced to resort to”. Victimization is actually a powerful force which is apparent in a wide variety of political movements. Several readily come to mind: the violent Black power movement in the US during the 1960s (which sprang from the righteous indignation of the oppression of Blacks), Israelis and Palestinians are both quick to appeal to their victimization as legitimization of their actions, the Nazi’s promoted the view that they were victimized by the Jews to legitimize actions against them, and White Supremacist groups promote articles involving crimes of Blacks against Whites. I bring up those examples specifically because they involve real or perceived victimization which results in legitimizing violence against “their enemies”. Of course, my point is not so much to compare American Conservativism to these movements as illustrate the role victimization can play in political movements and how powerful it can be in legitimizing unfairness. Perhaps the most amazing example of “perceived victimization” is the Nazi movement itself. The Nazis did their best to make Germans feel like victims of everyone around them. They talked about how good Germans were victims of the Jews. Here’s an actual quote from a 1934 book for German schools (five years before the beginning of World War 2):
The goal of the Jew is to make himself the ruler of humanity. Wherever he comes, he destroys works of culture. He is not a creative spirit, rather a destructive spirit.
How is that evident?
The work of Aryan peoples shows a true creative spirit. The Jew is mostly a merchant, as he was for millennia in the past. There are no Jewish construction workers in Germany, no smiths, no Jewish miners or seamen. Nearly all major inventions were made by Aryans.
How has the Jew subjugated the peoples?
With money. He lent them money and made them pay interest. Thousands and thousands of Germans have been made wretched by the Jews and been reduced to poverty. Farmers whose land had been in the family for more than 100 years were driven from their land because they could not pay the interest.
The Nazis played heavily on other examples of their own victimization around them: the terms of the World War I’ Treaty of Versaille was considered unfair to Germany (allowing Nazis to paint Germans as victims of unfair treatment by their neighbors), the burning of the Reichstag (German Parliament) was used as evidence that the communists were working against the country. The Nazis even faked an invasion by Poland in order to justify the invasion of Poland in 1939. The lesson is very clear: if you can convince people that they are victims, you can “justify” all kinds of atrocities against their neighbors. The Nazis exploited actual unfairness, and exaggerated it to the point that they could actually convince Germans that they should eliminate the Jews and begin an aggressive war to conquer large parts of Europe. In essence, victimization releases people from the belief that they should be even-handed and fair with others.
It’s difficult to breakdown this mentality of victimization because such ideas can be perceived as “attempting to obscure the fact that I am, in fact, victimized; ultimately leading to the promotion of a liberal agenda”. And complaints that conservatives are not being even-handed are followed up by counterarguments that conservatives are only responding in kind, or that their unfairness is less significant than unfairness of “their enemies”.
While I fully agree that victimization propaganda plays a large role in lots of movements, I happen to think conservatives have the least valid claim to victimization, and I’m amazed by the degree to which the right wing media will ignore facts contrary to the “republican victimization” idea, and exaggerate actual instances of republican victimization.
As for a few examples of perceived victimization, here’s a sampling of articles on the the right-wing Townhall.com website:
“What talk radio has accomplished in shaking up the ‘establishment’ media in the last 20 years, Townhall.com is doing within the realm of the Internet today.”
Do you want President Rodham Clinton?
What can you do to fight?
Kennedy, stop assault on judiciary!
No leniency for leftist hatemongers on campus
The affirmative action myth
Mexico rides roughshod over America’s courts
Excerpt from the first page of The Criminalization of Christianity: Read This Book Before It Becomes Illegal!:
There is a war going on for the future of our country. Most people don’t know that. What they may not know is that if Christians lose, the result won’t be just public policy with which we disagree; it’ll be a prison sentence for those who disagree.
We’ve all seen the attack coming. They year I was born, the Supreme Court said that kids can’t prey in school — at least not out loud. Can’t talk about God — at least not the real one — in school. If you want to use the name of Jesus, you’d better be taking it in vain or be in another country … like Russia.
In 1997, my friend Bob Knight, who directs the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America, gave a speech that opened my eyes and changed my life. He made a statement that, quite frankly, I didn’t believe. He said, “The ultimate goal of the homosexual movement is the criminalization of Christianity.”
There’s plenty of false claims in the above section. First, it is entirely legal for students to pray, proselytize, and even sing religious songs in school talent shows. Though I hear this kind of claim made over and over – that schools allow no religious discussion at all. What is illegal is having teachers lead children in prayer or proselytize. I’ve seen right-wing media actually claim that this is unfair; they think it is unfair that taxpayer-paid Christian teachers cannot proselytize to children who are not Christian! (I had even seen one case where a teacher offered extra credit for attending a Bible study – which is also against the rules.) I have to wonder how Christians would feel if Muslims or Wiccans were allowed to proselytize to their children in the classrooms. They’d be up in arms, of course, yet they think it’s entirely fair to reverse the situation and proselytize to other people’s children for Christianity. The most common claim, however, is simply that the schools “muzzle” students from talking about Christianity – which is completely false.
Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America
Publishers Weekly Summary:
The Supreme Court is speeding the country on the road to tyranny, according to this jeremiad from Levin, a conservative constitutional lawyer and radio talk show host. Levin argues that the Constitution is under siege by “judicial activists” obsessed with remaking America to reflect their personal political and moral philosophies. Liberal judges who view the Constitution as a document whose meaning evolves over time are at odds with the founding fathers’ “clear and profound vision for what they wanted our federal government to be.”
Christian Broadcasting Network article:
The Criminalization of Christianity
It is a story that has the Christian community on the edge of its seat. In Philadelphia, 11 Christians were arrested and charged under Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law (the Ethnic Intimidation Act), for preaching the Gospel. The arrests took place at a homosexual event last October, and five of the 11 still face serious criminal charges.
While I’m all for free speech, and doubt that these Christians should’ve been brought to court, it’s interesting to see how the Christian Broadcasting Network will twist [going to a gay pride parade with giant signs and telling homosexuals that they are sinful and that God hates their sinful ways] into “making preaching Christianity illegal”.
There’s even urban legends being sent around via email. I actually received this claim from my aunt, and sent her back this link debunking the myth that a national monument actually omitted the word “God” from a speech Roosevelt gave in 1941.
Claim: A display at the National World War II Memorial omits key words from a speech by President Roosevelt
This kind of exaggeration and hyperbole is extremely common in the US right-wing media. The goal: make “good, god-fearing people” feel like victims, even if it means making absurd claims that people are trying to outlaw Christianity.
There are, of course, a bunch of some stories you *won’t* be hearing from the right-wing media.
In 2005, a conservative judge ruled that a divorced couple who practice Wicca cannot teach their child Wicca, saying instead, that they had to teach him “a mainstream religion” (by which he obviously means Christianity). It created national attention. I can only imagine how the right-wing media would play on this story if the judge had ruled that a divorced Christian couple cannot teach their child Christianity.
You won’t hear about the cases where the ACLU fights for the rights of Christians.
The case where a student is kicked off the basketball team for refusing to recite the Lord’s Prayer.
The case where a Jewish family flees Delaware school district’s aggressive Christianity.
You won’t hear about atheists being discriminated against, and run out of town. And, a number of Christians had no problem with it – because atheists were evil, afterall. The second video shows a “panel” of commentators – two Christians and a Jew – dismissing any idea that atheists are victims in this case.
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