The point that I want to make in Fear Shows Us Who We Are is not to “be nice to your neighbors.” I hoped to spotlight a specific kind of immoral behavior. Let me clarify by first discussing a few things that are not on point.
Nazi Germany didn’t fear Jews. But for a variety of reasons, wanted them all dead. Similarly, residents of Tasmania back in the day were not scared of Aboriginals. They just wanted them wiped out. Both were terrible events, but not to my point. In neither case was there an individual or group who were in a state of paralyzing fear and thought that committing genocide would save them.
Imagine a hostage situation. Let’s say a group of school children are being held hostage by terrorists. If Seal Team 6 bursts in, kills all the terrorists, and frees the kids, we don’t think of that as an act of cruelty.
But what if there were no terrorists and a group of misinformed vigilantes burst into a Sunday school class and killed all the teachers? Good intentions plus Stupidity does not equal Heroism.
Which brings me to Pizzagate.
Edgar Maddison Welch entered the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., on December 4, 2016. He was armed with a rifle and claimed to be there to investigate and rescue children allegedly being trafficked as part of the baseless Pizzagate conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory falsely accused the pizzeria and its owner of being involved in a child sex trafficking ring, with unfounded connections to high-ranking officials, including those associated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Edgar was not being heroic. He was not acting to save himself, but I suppose he gets a sliver of credit for trying to save others. Except that he was an idiot for undertaking his “rescue” without making any serious effort to fact-check. Hostages in the basement… of a basementless building?
Why did he do it? Because his tribal leaders relentlessly told him that Pizzagate was real. Humans are funny. The more we hear something, the more we think there must be some truth in it.
Who would do that and why? People who had something to gain by vilifying the supposed ringleaders of the “blood cult.” And wouldn’t you know it? All the satanic leaders were prominent Democrats. Can you guess who was spreading the rumors?
Now, we’ve arrived at the kind of Fear-begets-Cruelity that I’m talking about. Winston Smith was truly scared of something truly scary. Pizzagate Edgar was worked up, as opposed to viscerally terrified, by a fiction spoonfed to him to provoke violence against a target. The fact that Edgar didn’t bother to verify before acting is what moves him firmly into the Idiot camp.
Let’s consider two cases I mentioned in my previous post. In the racist and war-frenzied world of 1942, it didn’t take a lot to convince people that just because “Japs” lived among us didn’t mean that they wouldn’t take Japan’s side in the war. This is closer to Winston Smith than to Edgar Welch because there was no campaign of lies to convince people that their Japanese neighbors might be dangerous; it was “obvious.” If we can make ourselves feel a little safer by destroying their lives, what the Hell?
The current situation at our Southern Border is different, arguably worse. Why worse? First, because the “danger” is being promoted for political gain. Second, because, like all good lies, it contains a grain of truth. Any informed person will know that our immigration policy needs to be improved. But describing these poor souls as murderers, rapists, and — wait for it — cannibals?
So why is our Border situation worse than throwing Japanese Americans into concentration camps? It’s not practically worse. It would be hard to pick a “winner” between the two victimized groups. But it’s morally worse because whipping up well-meaning, usually kind Americans into a fearful state just to have a political wedge issue should earn the perpetrators their own reserved section in Hell.
To close: If you find yourself scared of something to the point that you are willing to inflict misery on others to placate your fear, you’d better be damned sure that you’re scared of something real.