Friday, 13 April 2012

vilification as a political tool

so mitt romney has all but won the republican nomination. hardly a surprising result, not really a heartening one. while on current polling, he's behind mr obama, that's after months of republican candidates hating on each other and spending millions to do it (or having other people spend it & do it via those PAC things). once the party rallies behind their candidate, and they will - as will the big money, i don't think it's going to be such an easy win.

and on the other side, the democrats will start their own campaign in earnest, part of which will involve having their own PACs and their own attacks on romney. they will have to do that, simply because that's the way the system is now set up and because the other side will be doing the same.

the thing that worries me though, is that the attacks on mr romney will involve a whole sale attack on the mormon religion and everything mormon. i expect that mormons will presented to us as the wierdest thing ever, and we will be encouraged to dislike them. i find that really problematic.

it's not that i agree with mormonism or most of the aspects of the faith. it's not that i think religions are above scrutiny and critique. but i am against vilification of a whole group of people as a political tool and a political attack. because you know what it reminds me of? the whole political attack on mr obama, which is actively continuing even now, for being a secret muslim. and the only way that attack could possibly work is if everyone believes that being muslim is a terrible thing, and that all muslims are evil people. that attack involves a whole heap of distortion, misdirection, and misinformation that is unrelenting and has a widespread impact on the lives of ordinary people in a way that is incredibly harmful.

mormons aren't likely to get that level of an attack, for several reasons. one is that in america they are mostly white and they sort of come under the category of christian, so they have the privilege that comes with that. also, the republicans won't be doing the attacking, and they have shown themselves to be particulary vitriolic and not overly concerned with the truth.

but on the other hand, looking at the deeply misogynist and nasty attacks on hilary clinton that came from the left, when she was running against mr obama for the democratic nomination, i'm not particularly hopeful. in fact, i'm rather dreading it.

there are plenty of reasons to attack mr romney that are related solely to his own personal characteristics and abilities (or the lack thereof). from the things he says, he is clearly out of touch with most americans and the difficulties they face in their day to day lives. he doesn't seem to have much of a clue about women or the issues that are important to them. he has a lot of money, but he hasn't given out any signals that he will be an erstwhile and competent manager of the economy. i could go on and on.

i accept that some of his opinions and even his personal characteristics are as a result of his religious upbringing. they have surely had an influence on his thinking - it's impossible that it would be otherwise. to that extent, it would be acceptable to probe how much of his religious background is going to affect policy development and direction. but again, that's not the major concernt here. the main issue i have is with outright vilification of all mormons, so that people will come to the conclusion that being mormon is a terrible thing, therefore mr romney is a terrible person simply for being one.

that kind of thinking is lazy and bigoted. but it somehow has a lot of widespread appeal. and while it probably won't be said openly, a lot of this campaign is going to have the subtext of mormon vs muslim, no matter how much mr obama tries to assert his christian credentials. political campaigns are never pretty, but somehow i think this is going to be a partucularly ugly one.


Christian Mormon Kiwi in Waikato said...

"one is that in america they are mostly white and they sort of come under the category of christian"

SORT of christian? Really? Wow.

This is particularly ironic given that it is in a post that calls for tolerance of Mormonism.

I have never met a Mormon who did not identify as a Christian. Not a kind of Christian, not a semi Christian, but a Christian.

If you can't see how this is offensive, please imagine if somebody called you "Sort of a Muslim".

I can only presume you didn't really mean this because it is so out of step with the rest of your post but please reconsider this.

The people who describe Mormons as non-christian or semi-christian are those who engage in the attacks you are decrying here! Mormons view themselves as christians and it is not for anybody else to tell them they are not if that is their identity.

Please, I ask you to reconsider this statement in the name of tolerance and religious understanding

Yours sincerely

A Mormon Kiwi

stargazer said...

thanks for sharing your views on this. i guess i did come to that phrasing from the viewpoint of the majority of christians who don't recognise any prophets after jesus. i think the equivalent wouldn't be to call me a sort of muslim, but to call someone from a group like qadiyani's (you'll probably have to google that) a sort of muslim, because one of the basis tenets of muslim belief is that there was no prophet after muhammad (pbuh). the vast majority of muslims don't even consider qadiyani's sort of muslims, and i guess it comes down to the fact that this group has appropriated the word "muslim" without complying with one of the most basic aspects of being muslim.

i guess there is always going to be tensions with how a group defines itself, who gets to fit into that defintion and who falls out of it, and who gets to decide all of the above. sort of similar to the arguments of who gets to call themselves a feminist or not.

however, having said that, i absolutely understand how you feel about this, i accept that what i have said is offensive and apologise for that.

perhaps these comments are sufficient to let people understand the issues involved, so i'll leave the original as it is so that people can see where i have erred.

Brett Dale said...

Democrats don't play the religious card, they will promote President Obama's good work.

The GOP would've if Romney was running for the Democrats.

stargazer said...

i guess you haven't caught up with the changes to the american system brett. the democrats don't have to do it. any group can set up a PAC, there's no limit on funding it, and they can attack who they like pretty much how they like.

Christian Mormon Kiwi in Waikato said...

"i guess there is always going to be tensions with how a group defines itself, who gets to fit into that defintion and who falls out of it, and who gets to decide all of the above. sort of similar to the arguments of who gets to call themselves a feminist or not."

Here's my philosophy.

If somebody says they are a women, they are, no matter what the majority thinks.

If somebody says they are queer, they are, no matter what the majority thinks.

If somebody says they are a christian, they are, no matter what the majority thinks.

If you want to exclude some muslims from Islam based on their beliefs that is very sad but it is not for me, as a non-Muslim, to judge.

I only ask that you don't judge me, or any other Mormons, even Mitt Romney (who BTW I would never in a zillion years vote for if I was an American... but in the same way I hated attacks on Sarah Palin for her gender, I hate attacks on Mitt Romney for her religion) because some other christians are bigoted to our religion even as we accept them as christian.

Blues Traveler said...

Stargazer I have to take issue with your discussion of "Qadiyanis".

First, as you would know if you googled it, the Ahmaddiya do not refer to themselves as "Qadiyanis". That's a term used by other Muslims to exclude them and is considered quite insulting. I'd ask you please not to use it.

As for the idea that Qadiyanis are "appropriating" (your words) Islam I would urge you to travel to Indonesia and meet the same bright, spiritually alert Ahmadiyya children that I did, who practiced the Islamic principles of love and tolerance even as their community is subject to beatings and attacks while police look on. If after doing so you would want to tell those children that they are "approprating" Islam then I guess I can't stop you, but I think they would pray for your understanding even if you don't recognise their prayers.

stargazer said...

thank you for your comment. i'm not really interested in debating your beliefs, and whether or not they fall into the definition of muslim. i think a lot of others have spent a lot of time on that, and there's really nothing new for me to say on the topic.

i do take issue with you trying to use children as part of your argument. children are of course innocent and only repeat what the adults around them teach them. i wouldn't dream of attacking children, though i might certainly have things to say to the adults teaching them.