I normally associate fear with many conservative positions: Fear of minorities and the poor. Fear of losing a job or a home. Fear of terrorist attack. Fear of cities and those that have different lifestyles and backgrounds. This fear of the other that haunts U.S. culture through history.
But what I’m feeling from the right in the current presidential election cycle is anger, not fear. Anger at people who accept government benefits—except for themselves, of course. Anger at Muslims and at Arabs (two different things). Anger at unions. Anger at anyone who wants to raise their taxes. Anger at women who have abortions and even at women who use birth control.
There have been so many Republican candidates who had fed this anger and then fed off of it that I don’t know where to start: Certainly, Mitt deserves notice for his “47%” comments, delivered in the smooth corporate style that Bertram Gross once called “friendly fascism.”
But even at his worst, Romney is so genteel. I’m talking about bitter, hateful words that seem to spew from the mouth like spitfire from an automatic weapon—Rick Santorum, Paul Ryan, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Todd Akin are the A-team of the angry candidates, but other Republican celebs fomenting anger include Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Jack Welch, Jack Nicklaus and Sarah Palin.
I have experienced this anger in the tweets I receive whenever I write something critical of Romney or right-wing positions. I must preface this remark by mentioning that I get very polished and enlightening tweets on a regular basis from a dozen or so conservatives who vehemently oppose my views—vehemently but with civility.
But I am getting a very large number of tweets from Romney supporters, global warming deniers and those who want to lower taxes on the wealthy and end Social Security/Medicare/Medicaid that manifest anger, and in many cases contain nothing more than angry invictive. Over the past few months every grammatical tense of all the common four-letter vulgarities have been tossed my way, along with a number of other usually tedious and gratuitous insults and an occasional veiled threat involving firearms.
I especially like when people infer things about me or my life, for example that I was a hippie, that I didn’t study in college (I won the scholarship as the outstanding student) or that I am not financially successful (when I have earned a great living running a business for more than 20 years).
But my favorite tactic of the angry birds attacking me on Twitter is “machine-gunning tweets,” by which I mean sending eight or nine tweets in a row. I can understand wanting to string some tweets together to make a point that requires too much detail for the 140-character Twitter limit. When machine-gunning tweets though, the tweeter is not building an argument, just sending a series of disconnected statements, all dripping with hostility.
(I can’t say if the progressives and centrists who tweet me are angry—they tend to agree with what I have written, so why would anger leak into their communications to an ally? They may display hostility when they tweet those with whom they disagree. I do know that a lot of them express fear when they tweet me—fear that Social Security, Medicare or food stamps could be eliminated, fear that we’ll restart our torture gulag, fear that they’ll lose reproductive rights, fear they’ll lose basic civil rights. But I can’t say what the underlying emotional tone is when they tweet conservatives.)
The switch from fear to a mean-spirited anger came with the ascension of the Tea Party, which studies show basically comprises wealthier than usual whites living primarily in distant suburbs and rural areas.
Both anger and fear have an object and that object is the other. We fear the other. We hate the other. The other in the United States (as in many countries) are racial minorities and newcomers (AKA immigrants). It is truly a propaganda tour de force, though, that the Republicans have gotten away with adding poor people, those who receive government benefits (except for those that the hater receives), school teachers, union members and intellectuals to the list of the despised other without large numbers of people realizing that the list now includes a majority of all Americans.